Wish to travel to China and not know how to make the arrangement yourself? Well, it's simply a click away.
I hate travel on a group tour. And I often feel the packaged tours are too restricted with regard to where I'd like to spend more time and what I'd like to see. In addition, due to time restriction, what I'd like to eat will also be configured. All in all, a lack of freedom.
As I'm fluent and conversant in Chinese, it is quite easy for me to get around China. Still, there are things to plan ahead of a trip. For example, two major reservations needed to be made ahead so as to save $$$. One for air tickets and another for hotel accommodations. I found Ctrip.com (Chinese edition) to be my key site for doing these. Most of the time, the prices of air tickets are cheapest compared to travel agents since the site sourced in bulk for their clients. Same for hotel accommodations. The beauty of it all is that with one click you can find hotels as remote as cities in Xinjiang province and some out of the ward locations. And the best of it all is that you don't even need to provide a credit card for guarantee!
Well, most of the time except for a few times when the hotel concerned is almost fully booked. The only thing I can think of which you will or probably might need would be to provide a local telephone number. Other than that, you are set to go. Simply register with an email account and some personal details. Even for purchases of ticket, the ticket can be paid COD.
For air tickets:
Do not order one unless you are ready to make a purchase. You cannot hold a seat without paying for it within 24 hours of making the reservation. Once reserved, it has to be issued on the same day, else you lose the reservation. That's pretty standard for China and Asia.
Most tickets are only priced at a good discount about 2 weeks to 4 weeks in advance. That's also the general rule. Peak periods like a week holiday during the National Day celebration period (Chinese Public Holiday: 1st week of October) and also during the Chinese New Year celebration period (about a week before and during Chinese New Year) translate to high prices for air tickets. Best to avoid these 2 periods for travels in China. Everyone in China will be traveling and hotels will be fully booked. Things will be expensive and service quality will drop.
Book early and you can always cancel it on the day of arrival before 6 pm if you so desired.
You can only book a hotel for yourself. Not 2 or 3 for the same day.
Read up on reviews if you are able to read Chinese. I think English reviews on this site are few but you can always check them on other online sites for feedback.
So there you have it. Easy as ABC.
I like to use CTrip.com for the fact that it's not only convenient and easy, it has toll free number for me to talk to its staff when some surprises popped up like a delay in flights and even on the plane they are able to help me change my preplanned arrangement. Other than that, there is a frequent user system where you accumulate points and can further redeemed for free hotels or goodies. It's an especially useful site if you are able to read Chinese. Their users are very vocal and give great feedbacks to the hotels they have stayed in. Great site!
P.S. If anyone needs help with Ctrip, write me personally and I'll see what I can do to help. There is an English edition of the site although I have not checked on the prices and am not sure if there is a difference. Often, in China, anything in English spells more (expensive, that is ;-))!
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About the reviewer
I'm a traveler at heart & have been nicknamed Travel Queen by friends & colleagues alike. Traveling has been my life passion for the last decade or so. As we enter a new decade, I'm excited … more
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CTrip.com International Ltd. is a Nasdaq listed company specializing in China Travel services. Its main business is conducted online but its operations are labor intensive. The travel service provider links many hotel operators and airliners with their broad base of customers through their online site. The company also sells packaged tours. Ctrip targets mostly business and leisure travelers who do not travel in groups. It acts primarily as agent and does not take inventory risks. As with other agents, it's a commission based business.