A Gweilo primer to travel into deep China. And a cTrip Primer, too

Tomorrow, Saturday 13, is departure day. Gentlemen, start your engines! The Xinjiang is waiting (or should I say, should be waiting? keep on reading about reservations) for the Gweilos.

For a Gweilo, to organize a trip in China without any help is a piece of cake… at least on paper.

You just go to The-Mother-of-all-Travel-Webs: cTrip , a Chinese travel colossus, and, without moving from your couch, in three clicks you get your bookings, for flights, for trains, for hotels, for tours, for whatever you may need… but, as it occurs often in China, nothing is what it seems to be.

cTrip seems a “plain vainilla travel web” but it has some oriental twist… everything looks alike what we, Gweilos, know, but it is different.

After an afternoon perusing cTrip, I thought that I have got:

– Two flight reservations, paid in full
– Two train bookings, fully paid too
– Three hotel rooms in different places and different dates, with only my name as guarantee.

Well, looking carefully, what I got was:

a.) a mail from cTrip which said that as only the airline issues the tickets, I should receive confirmation that the ticket has been bought and I am actually booked in the flight in the next 24 hours.

I got them, so, apparently it worked

b.) a mail from cTrip saying train tickets must be picked up at major train stations, so, either I needed to pick up at the train station with my passport and the reservation number written on the email. Eventually, cTrip may bring them to my hotel for a (small) fee.

As I stay only one night at the hotel, and then I will take a train, I will need to be first time in the morning at the station.

c.) hotel rooms bookings were easier: I chose hotel, dates, room type, cTrip calculated the total amount. Next to it, a big yellow button. Book? I did. No need of an advance payment, nor a guarantee credit card. An email wiht the reservation number, my name, the number of people and rooms and the address of the hotel, say:

Tianyuan International Hotel
Dirección: 迎賓大道26號
Dirección local: 迎宾大道26号
Teléfono: 0998-2858888

Will this work? Will I ever find the hotel?

Who knows 🙂

I cannot write (yet) a “cTrip Primer for Dumbs” but I may expose what I’ve learnt

Plane reservation with cTrip. How does it works?

It is almost like in the Western web pages, you select your flight, you pay, and… are you booked on that flight? Short answer is no. cTrip sends you a message saying that they will confirm your booking in the next 24 hours. In my case, confirmation came, so, I ignore what happen if they are not able to get the bookings. Do they transfer you to another flight? do they reimburse the money? I have no idea.

Train reservation with cTrip. How does it works?

In cTrip you may book trains 1 month in advance. 1 month and one day, impossible, booking is closed. In my case, one month less two days before train departure, all sleepers were sold, and only “hard seats” or “standing remain”. So, be careful!

Trains have 4 classes,

– Hard Seat
– Soft Sleeper
– Hard Sleeper
– Standing

Guess what are the two my ass will have knowledge with?

Moreover, train reservation is not like flight reservation. A lot of train stations probably are not networked, so you need to bring a true, old fashioned ticket, that you need to pickup at a major train station, with a reservation number and your passport. This may take several hours, because you need to wait for a manned ticket office, because automatic ticket machines only recognise Chinese id. cards (which is logical).

For a (small) fee, cTrip may pick the ticket for you and leave it at your hotel. Quite a better option

Hotel Reservation with cTrip. How does it works?
Easy, you select hotel, dates, room type and you are all set. You should pay in advance only if you select a “late check in”

Will this work? we’ll see

So… Ready, Steady… Go!

And, tomorrow (if I am able to understand how to access the blog with my tablet), I will present to you the Garmin inReach tracker (and SOS – and Seventh Cavalry) caller I am so proud of