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I get cheated so you don’t have to….

This of course happens not only in Zhangjiajie (张家界but also in other cities like Beijing where there are a lot of tourists. (Zhangjiajie is where the movie director, James Cameron got his inspiration for his movie, Avatar.) The CNTO (China National Tourism Administration)  seems to not able to clean it up.

Basically, I signed up with Jun-Air Travel Pte Ltd for 4 adults and 2 kids for a tour. You sign up with a Singapore agency, it should be regulated right? Should be good right? I was wrong! They do sub out to local agencies in China so everything is still based on profits!

These shopping trips keep the price of your sightseeing artificially low. I have taken many local Chinese tours and shopping is pretty much part and parcel of a lot of tours. However, Zhangjiajie’s situation seems to be worst because:

1) Things are fake or price inflated – We were brought to 5 different “shopping trips” to buy (fake) jades, (fake) medicine, silk and tea (the last 2 items seems legit). These are not part of the original itinerary.

Tea Shop

Probably real tea, with super inflated price.

2) Kidnapped – We were NOT allowed to leave the shop until someone buys something. It’s horrendous when you think there are children on this trip. So if no one in the tour group barges, then it will be at least a 120 mins kidnapped in the room.

3) Detour from sightseeing – these shopping trips disrupt the sightseeing trip. We had to come out of the mountains once to go to the medicine place, and only to go back to the mountains again. If we have not done that, we would have saved at least 90-120min of travelling/walking time per shopping trip, excluding the time we were trapped in the room.)

4) Fines – The briefing form has a fine print that says there is a fine of RMB$300/place for skipping the shopping trips.

itinerary given during briefing (Only given in Chinese)

Itinerary given during briefing (Only given in Chinese)

The fine was not mentioned during the briefing, it is only on closer inspection that we saw it and the paper (mentioning the fine) was given during the briefing AFTER the full payment was made. (N.B. I am not against such ‘shopping trips’, perhaps there are people who wants to go, BUT to impose a fine is not right. To refuse ‘to leave’ from the venue until the time is up is definitely not right given kids are on the trip.

In fact, one of the shopping trips we went, everyone bought a lot because the quality was good and the prices were reasonable.

5) Several sights was skipped/changed – The tour guide used ways / lied to skip sights in the itinerary to accommodate the shopping schedule.  She says the dragon king cave was closed but when I check with a local Chinese; it wasn’t closed. (Eventually she brought us to the yellow dragon cave after much protests; see attached.) But skipped other sights like changdeShi Wall, changde lake in lieu of “shopping”. I think if the group is not savvy online, they could have been cheated. From what I overheard in the conversation, they used this plot frequently.

after negotiating for half a day, the tour guide reluntantly brought us to the cave and make every sign this

How to not be cheated:

  • Do not go for ‘free’ or very cheap local tours in China; chances are they needed these shopping trips to finance the bus, sights, tour guide, etc.
    • By the way, we paid good money to Jun-Air for this trip, they over-promised on a lot of things, eg. the best cruise-liner, no additional fees which are not true though.
    • Jun-Air probably did this because there weren’t enough people for this trip. Faced with possible cancellation;  hence loss of profits, they rather do this to earn money.)
  • Check all fines prints
  • Do your own homework and maybe read this blog 🙂 . With knowledge, you can counter any lies from the guide or company.
  • Apparently, this is so rampant that it has damaged the industry. There are tours which use “no shopping trip” as a selling point.


The next post: How jade shop uses psychology to scam you!