It had been on my mind to start getting some information on tour companies on this web site for a while. A reader had written in complaining (rightly) that I didn't cover this subject well and I had been mulling over how best to do it when a kind operator (and also blog reader) from China Odyssey Tours wrote to see if I would review their services. As my dear readers know, I was planning a trip with my family anyway so I took them up on their offer.
Since I've been in China for so long, I'm wary of tour companies. (I have a - sometimes false - sense that I don't need any help and can do it all myself when it comes to trip planning.) Using a tour company has 2 components. One is the planning component and if you've got someone helping you who has good suggestions and is willing to work with you and your needs, then this is a sign of a good agency. China Odyssey Tours scores very high here. The other aspect is your guide and with any tour, you could be in a great location with a bad guide or a bad location with a great guide. This will color your tour significantly. We enjoyed our guide and thought he did well despite our last-minute changes and needs.
Read all about our experience with the company:
Photos: top - one of Qingdao's famous beaches; bottom - raising a glass of Tsingtao at the International Beer Festival. © 2010 Sara Naumann, licensed to About.com.