China Tours
Updated January 25, 2020

$49 China Tours: Are They Legit?

How to Travel Cheap

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If you found out about a deal that would only cost $49/person for an 8-day tour of China, you would jump on it, right?

After all, who WOULDN’T want to visit the Middle Country for less than the cost of a tank of gas?

I researched online and checked out a few Chinese travel agencies to get more details on this seemingly too-good-to-be-true deal.

Here’s the gist on the $49 China 8-Day Tour

The Chinese government is subsidizing these deals for overseas Chinese (living in, say, the United States) as well as their family and friends to promote consumer spending inside China.

That is how tour groups are able to offer such an unbelievable price: $49 for hotel stays for 8 days and 7 nights, internal transportation, meals, and entrance fees / guided tours to popular attractions.

So, the good news is that this is a legitimate tour with several benefits, not the least of which is extremely little money out of pocket.

But remember the “there is no free lunch” axiom? That caveat applies here as well.

Here are the benefits:

  • It’s a cheap trip and a fantastic value! All of your hotel, dining, and attraction expenses will be covered under this program. So, if you are truly frugal and disciplined, all you have to spend for 8 days in China is $49 (if you are an overseas Chinese) or $199 (if you are not) plus the cost of your airfare. You will not find a deal like this anywhere else. If you are short on funds, this is a fun and cost-effective way to visit China.
  • You will stay in really nice 4-star or 5-star hotels that go for $100+ a night, although they will likely be outside the immediate city centers. Just on hotels alone, you would have more than “made back” the cost of the trip.
  • You won’t have to worry about your itinerary and you will be led to the most popular attractions. There is very little planning you would have to do on a trip such as this.
  • You will have the opportunity to meet with overseas Chinese folks and maybe even practice some Mandarin!

But beware the caveats:

  • These tours have mandatory “shopping visits,” which makes sense as the tour’s purpose is to promote more spending in China. Every day, you must spend a couple hours a day at stores and malls that the tour guides take you to. You don’t have to buy anything, but the sales pressure can be pretty heavy. Plus, your time is not your own during those hours. If you miss these tours, you will be fined. This means you can’t take off to do your own activities.
  • The tour guide may only speak Chinese Mandarin and/or Cantonese. You will have to pay an additional surcharge for an English guide.
  • Airfare isn’t cheap! From Los Angeles to Beijing, tickets can easily cost $800 per person for economy class. The costs are even more expensive if you are flying from the Northeast or the Midwest. There is no point in spending this money if you won’t be enjoying yourself on the tour.
  • Your restaurants and hotels will be predetermined for you. This aspect isn’t different from that of any other set tour but is something to keep in mind nonetheless. The food, according to reviews I have read, is not that great with the exception of breakfast. Several ads have described lunches and dinners as “local flavor banquet,” and while I love Chinese food, the food that I find the least appetizing is Chinese banquet food.
  • Your time at the attractions will be more limited than if you are traveling independently or if you are traveling with a “normal-fee” tour group. Your guide may be good or not, but his or her main incentive will be to pack you inside shopping malls or stores instead of providing good commentary on the attractions.

The bottom line: this is a great deal if you want to see China on the cheap and stay in nice places, as long as you don’t mind the less attractive aspects of the tour. If you are interested, here are some reviews and tour descriptions. Your local Chinese travel agency would also know more about these deals.

Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in July 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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