I like hiking in a small groups rather than large ones, although I’m also out a lot only with my wife. The problem with large groups is the pace they move at. For example, Mutianyu Great Wall opens at 8:30am. Tour groups arrive at around 10:30am when the attraction is at the busiest time. Independant tourists may get to Mutianyu on opening when it is quiet.
Although major attractions in Beijing have group tours window where they could buy group tickets a bit faster (group tours have a different line to get into attractions as well), you will have to stick with group timings. Group tourists are still at Mutianyu when it’s heaving while Independant tourists leave Mutianyu before lunch and have the rest of the day in Beijng. Although large groups can be good fun, in my opinion 10 is the ideal maximum for large groups.
With a smallish group, there’s more group bonding and people support each other, more personal attention and interaction with each other. Tour leaders can manage difficult sections more easily. Small groups has less visual intrusion into the environment, more interaction with local community and other tourists.
With a private guide, chances are your guide will be very knowledgable and you can time your visits to your interests, have all your questions asked and hopefully answered. You can spot a special sight or stop somewhere just for amoment of tranquility away from the crowds. Your guide can give you a lot of help with eating, getting around and shopping. Beijing traffic can be horrendous at rush hours, so plan your transit times effectively.
Bus tour might save a bit of money but they do so at the expense of rushing you from place to place, regardless of your individual interests. It can take quite awhile for them to do all the pick-ups (and drop-offs at the end) as the bus will stop at different hotels/hostels before leaving the city. Small group tour take you where you want to go, when you can go which won’t cost you too much (rather than share a tour guide with 20 others on the bus).
Related Tours: Gubeikou to Jinshanling Hike
Related Link: Simatai Reopen
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