Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Writing about travel in China

I write articles about travel in China for Suite101.com. Here's a few of my latest articles which will be helpful if you're headed to the Middle Kingdom:
  • Learn Chinese online is a review of some of the sites where you can learn how to speak Mandarin online and, best of all, for free.
  • If you get sick in Beijing, where do you go? Here's a list of some of the clinics which treat foreigners with Western medical techniques.
  • A quick primer on Chinese vegetables.
  • Chinese papercuts make great inexpensive souvenirs, and they're practically weightless in your luggage!
  • Trains in China provide an efficient way to move around this huge country.
  • The Wangfujing night food market, pictured here, is one of my favorite places to eat in Beijing. It was one of the first China travel articles I wrote for Suite101.

I'm not the only one who writes about China travel for Suite101. Here are some others:

  • Solange Hando is the feature writer for Southeast Asia and China. She gave a very positive review to my Parents Guide to Beijing, on sale at GuideGecko. Order your copy soon if you'll be giving it as a Christmas present. And don't forget to order a copy of DIY Beijing while you're at it.
  • Mistie Shaw is an American who now lives in Luoyang in central China where she teaches English as a second language.
  • Bridget Coila is another American who now lives in Beijing. Some of her articles offer tips on nightlife and the arts.

If you're planning a trip to China, check out my website for more articles, tips and recommended reading. If you have questions about China, please feel free to email me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Beijing guides in Frankfurt!

There were almost 2,500 books on China on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair last month, and mine were among them. China was the honored country at this year's fair, which is the world's largest, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

Parents Guide to Beijing and DIY Beijing are listed on page 146 under travel guides in a 202-page book of all the books about China at the fair. I was very excited that my books were displayed with all the China books as well as at the GuideGecko booth. GuideGecko is a Singapore-company which specializes in travel guides. GG's Daniel Quandt encouraged me to get my books ready in time for the fair, and has just sent me pictures of them on display at the fair.

Daniel sent me these photos of my books at the fair.

If anyone on your Christmas list is planning a trip to Beijing, Parents Guide or DIY Beijing will make excellent gifts. Check them out on GuideGecko.

For more information about travel in China, check out my website. And please feel free to email me with any questions you have about traveling in the Middle Kingdom.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Saving on travel, part 5

You've arranged for your plane tickets and hotels, now it's time to figure out what you're going to see at your destination. And, yes, it's possible to cut costs here.

If you've booked through an agency, they'll give you lots of options for day tours. However, it's generally cheaper if you book them once you arrive at your destination. Or, it likely is possible to get to an attraction by public transportation, which means you can sightsee on your schedule, not a tour company's.

First, do an online search for free things to do at your destination. You'll be surprised at what comes up. For our trip to London in 2003, we snagged free tickets to a performance at a top West End theatre. That show turned out to be the highlight of our trip. If you're going to New York City or Los Angeles, you can get free tickets to tapings of game and talk shows, and sitcoms. This involves planning ahead with ticket requests, however.

Many museums have free days or stay open late one night a week when admission is free. We saw a wonderful exhibition of photos by Charles Dodgson who, using the pen name Lewis Carroll, wrote Alice in Wonderland, at a San Francisco art museum; the exhibit even included a picture of the little girl who was his Alice.

If you can't get in free, get in with a discount. After you've checked out the free things to do, do a search for discount tickets for attractions. We saved big this way when we visited Cadbury World in Birmingham, England, last spring. I'd printed out a page of discounts to attractions around England, including one for a 20 percent discount at Cadbury World (I later found out no one pays full price at Cadbury because hotels have discount tickets to distribute to guests.). On top of that, Cadbury gave us their senior discount, so we ended up paying 8 pounds for a 13-pound ticket. Plus, we were given so much chocolate, we suffered from chocolate overload!

If it's available, always use a senior discount. In some countries, the discount is only offered to residents, but in others, the discount applies to anyone. Always ask, especially if the admission board does not list senior discounts. (In England, senior discounts come under "concession" or "OAP" ticket prices.) In China, where only the Chinese can read ticket prices, just show your passport for discounts of up to 50 percent. The senior discount there is only good for basic admission; a lot of attractions inside charge a separate fee, so you'll need to figure out if you want a regular full-meal deal ticket or just pay separate admissions to one or two things inside.

In the United States, American citizens can buy lifetime passes for free admission to federal facilities, such as national parks and interpretive sites. The passes, which are not very expensive, also are good for discounted campground frees.

Looking for Christmas gift ideas?

My travel guides, Parents Guide to Beijing and DIY Beijing, make perfect gifts for anyone contemplating a trip to the Chinese capital. Or how about a CD of a walking tour in Beijing -- I've written seven. Check them out on my website.