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SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

toronto
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SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

I have booked this tour with a friend for the period of March 28-May 31. I was skeptical at first, however, now that I look at all the posts, it really seems like a legitimate deal. It will be hectic, but for the price, it seems unbelievable! If anyone has further tips, please advise? Thanks.

Lighthouse Cove...
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1. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

On your return, please advise ASAP as to the quality of this tour. My husband and I are also considering booking a 13 day tour with SNA but, as you, are sceptical.

toronto
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2. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

SNA "Educational" Tours/SNA Tours UPDATE!

We arrived from Beijing last night (April 3rd, my birthday!) back home to Toronto! This tour was absolutely fabulous for the amount we paid and I have no words to express how beautiful Beijing is and its wonderful people(s)!

First, the Doubletree Hilton Hotel was fabulous (keeping in mind, what we paid!)... The rooms are clean and the staff are exceptional. The breakfast (daily) is absolutely fabulous, fresh and as a world traveller who generally stays in 5 star hotels, I was greatly impressed with the breakfast - the pastries are out of this world, including, fresh mini pancakes daily with chocolate sauce, maple syrup, etc... fresh omelettes, fresh ingredients, etc.!

I was not too happy with our tour guide (unprofessional comments!), but a great guide, nonetheless! The buses were comfortable - our tour group was 22 people (Group A) and the other tour group, who did not travel with us (Group B), we met up at the end of the week for a combined "optional tour" day (will talk about it later!)...

The tour was exhausting, but absolutely AMAZING AND FABULOUS, again, keeping in mind what we paid! We were out of the hotel @ 8:30 a.m. and back every day between 7-8 p.m., totally exhausted but exhilarated and excited! All the sites were fabulous.. It was very chilly and cold on some days, however, we had fabulous sunshine every day - no rain, as most of the tours are outdoors - we lucked out!

All meals were provided daily - great buffet breakfast at the hotel, lunch and dinner at local restaurants, which were "controlled" restaurants, i.e., not dirty or "freaky" meats were provided! Wonderful food - although personally, I was tired of Chinese food every day.. I like my hot and spicy restaurant! There is a "Papa John's Pizza" next door to the hotel - not bad pizza, if you feel like it... Also, the bakery beside the hotel is absolutely out of this world - great pastries to take back to your room for coffee...

We opted for the "free day/optional tour" with SNA as they covered the Beijing Zoo, the Lama Temple and 2 amazing flea markets! The Zoo was great, as we focused on the beautiful pandas (we lucked out as they were playing outside and pooping as well (lol!), we got some amazing shots!)... The Lama Temple is great, as the "world's tallest" Buddha is on-site and it is made out of one tree trunk - quite a sight to see! You do not have to take this optional tour, as you can discover Beijing on your own, especially for those of you who are staying more than 5 days.. Ours was a tight schedule, thus, we opted for that to cover the sights!

The downside(s)/cons: Tours are always restrictive, i.e., there were more than 2 sights covered daily, including the jade factory, silk factory and the tea house and as they were mixed in with the main sites, one could not opt out of these "touristy" factories/outlets.. As we all know, these are all touristy and there is a great push to purchase stuff from these so-called "government-controlled shops/boutiques"... Despite this, we did purchase some great stuff and got great deals with enough haggling/bargaining, which is the norm there... The prices are atrocious, however, you can bring them down quite low if you like something!

All I can say is that I will be looking for great deals on GROUPON again - totally impressed and in awe of the service we had! All in all - FABULOUS & AMAZING TRIP and SNA was great overall - I give it a 9.5/10.. As noted above, once we met the Group B tour guide - we were impressed, as she was well-spoken, professional and fun - ours made some derogatory and racist comments (I will be sending an e-mail to SNA tours informing them of same!)... ENJOY EVERYONE as this is a great deal/trip! If anyone has more time, my suggestion would be to extend your days, i.e., maybe 1-2 days of independent shopping in flea markets, travel the subway (trains and subway system is great), discover Beijing on your own with the hotel's assistance and then go to "Shian" where the Terra Cotta warriors are - we could not make it, as we had time constraints/work schedules, thus, we came back home after a 5-day trip. I am most definitely going back to discover more of China on my own, next time around!

Lighthouse Cove...
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3. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

Wow, KausernToronto, a wonderfully informative and timely post - exactly what I was hoping for! We will book with Groupon. I was worried about "hidden charges" over and above the Groupon price - were you content with the total fees charged, at the end of the day? As we are at the far west end of the province, we will have to fly from Detroit so we do expect the additional airfare.

Miami Beach, Florida
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4. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

After you cut through all the pros and cons, it all boils down to the use of your time. If you have precious vacation time, limited to a few weeks a year, then most probably you would want to spend as much meaningful time each day looking at China's finest sights.

On the other hand, if you are retired, and time is not of much concern, then you might not care about 1/4 of each day spent on forced shopping stops where a kickback commission of 40-50% goes to the guide and driver. At no time are these "government-sponsored" or controlled. At no time is your tour subsidized by any government entity. These are oral representations of guides to enhance your willingness to buy-buy-buy at these well overpriced tourist stops.

On these "bargain-basement" tours, you spend about 25% of your time either traveling to/from or in these high-priced stores. The guide will tell you they are "on the way" to the next major sight, but how would you know? Another oral representation by a guide who makes $1 for every $2 you spend. So what do you suspect?

So if you are retired, you do not mind that for every four days, one is wasted in showrooms of forced shopping, labeled tea tasting, Chinese medicine diagnosis, jade carving demonstration, silk processing factory, etc. But you might resent less than one hour actually spent on the Great Wall or in the Forbidden City, the same as the time spent in the tourist trinket store "on the way."

The food question is simply this. Because the tour company wants to please as many customers as possible, they provide a lot of cafeteria-style food, family style. The meals are not the culinary delights you should have in China. Instead they are pre-ordered, fast and cheap. That is why they taste bland and you tire of them quickly. Just think of memories of the finest Chinese meals you had back home as you eat the stuff they feed you on your Chinese bargain tour.

You will be kept busy, so you will think you did a lot. You will be encouraged to socialize with your fellow tour-goers, and your guide might be very entertaining as she/he narrates the tour. So in the end, you will agree you had a great time overall.

But did you see China at your leisure, like a few hours at a uncrowded section of the Great Wall? Was your time wisely spent each day? Did you sample exquisite Chinese cuisines? Were you allowed to explore each city on your own, or were you carefully hustled along?

Truly, you get what you pay for. If you understand the considerable shortcomings of a bargain-basement tour, and time in on your side, then go for it!

toronto
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5. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

I am unsure why you are so skeptical/negative about all this! It was our choice and all I can say is that, I am fully aware and knowledgeable of the pros and cons of guided tours, etc.. bottom line: FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE BOOKED WITH SNA TOURS - please go AND YOU WILL HAVE A FABULOUS TIME.. This trip was a "great flavour of Beijing and its peoples"!

toronto
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6. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

RV8APilot: Thanks.. you will have a fabulous time, all in all, especially with the price we paid.. in total, for both of us, our trip cost $1,500 (Canadian, including the extras) and we both spent approximately $500 in shopping which we were hoping to! Tips are unnecessary, as we SNA had it covered.

We did not have to pay any additional fees/costs, other than the 200 Yuan for our optional tour to the Beijing Zoo and the Lama Temple - this equates to approx. $30/each for the bus ride and tickets to the Zoo and Lama Temple and, above all, we were taken to the 2 main "flea markets"! This was the only day we were not provided lunch and dinner which was fine with us - as I was totally sick of Chinese food! Just make sure you have a hearty breakfast on the optional day tour and/or you can skip this tour entirely and experience Beijing on your own.

Enjoy your trip - you will NOT be disappointed - as noted, it is an intro/flavour to China!

Indiana
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7. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

In the spirit of full disclosure, KausernToronto has never posted on anything besides SNA and has posted the same glowing review on three different forums. Shill or Big fan? You decide.

Lighthouse Cove...
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8. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

I absolutely agree with your basic premise and wish that all the time spent with a knowledgeable guide would be devoted to the sites. However, from experience, I know that these shopping stops are not limited to bargain bus tours. Recently, we spent 3 weeks in Egypt on a deluxe private tour (2 couples only) arranged at many times the price offered here. We objected to the shopping component at every site but each tour guide at each site tried the same thing. Last Fall we arranged another deluxe tour (two people with private car and driver) in Rajastan, India at about 5 times the SNA price and even specified ahead that there was to be no shopping component. Again, at almost every site the local tour guides tried to take us to their local specialty tourist shop, the only difference being that they were slightly more easily dissuaded (due to our prior arrangement, perhaps, but who knows?) It appears to come with the territory of being a tourist rather than a traveler, I suppose. Sometimes it's worth it to be able to go on the cheap just for a taste and then to return on one's own another time to those places that really intrigue.

toronto
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9. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

My premise/point for this forum was SNA Tours and the price we paid for the tour - definitely on the CHEAP. Again, we all have choices whether we wish to purchase something or not.. In all fairness to SNA/tour guide and/or whoever collects the "middlemen" bucks, the boutiques/factories did not push any sales.. rather, there were certain people in our group who just sat on the sidelines and observed... so, no pressure as you would have at the flea markets!

I also wish to add that the tour guide arranged hotel room massages for me and my friend for 200 yuan ($60) for a 90-minute massage.. Again, we were fully aware that she was getting a "cut", but we enjoyed the massage and booked the same ladies for another 2 nights - this was great after long touring days... very relaxing!

Hangzhou, China
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10. Re: SNA Tours - 7day/5 night tour of China

I am with SoBeSparky this time, I hate shopping tours especially hiding one, I ususally would pay off driver and guide an extra tip for let me stay in the van during shopping hour when I join in a group tour.

And Kauserntoronto is in all ways an agency from SNA tours to me... Otherwise a common tourist would not know this much about prices costs, expenses of everything especially someone only went China for one or two times.

I am a Chinese local and love travel, I dont know this much about China...