It happens the moment you step off the plane…culture hits and the rush of being in China takes over. Sights, scents and language perk up your ears and the adventure begins. To make the most of this experience your itinerary needs to be filled with authentic excursions and insights that cannot be replicated in the classroom.
To achieve the best options for school groups visiting China requires years of experience. Working closely with our partners on the ground in China, Travelbound can tailor your school’s itinerary to not only include the centres you want to explore but provide authentic experiences that taps into Chinese culture and traditions. We caught up with Drin to share with teachers how the team in China provides authentic travel experiences across the country for schools travelling from the UK.
Hi Drin, please tell us a little bit about your role in working with Travelbound?
As Marketing Director of our company in China, I supervise our co-operation with Travelbound through my experience of over 30 years in the travel industry. Travelbound is our oldest and most valuable partner who we have been working together with for over 20 years. We are very happy and proud to keep such a long term and friendly co-operation with Travelbound and look forward to a closer co-operation with Travelbound for another decade.
We are passionate about providing school groups with authentic cultural experiences. How do you feel school trips to China’s greatest cities can best benefit young learners?
China was a great power in history like Great Britain in the 19th-20th century. Chinese culture has deeply influenced East Asia and South East Asia for over 1,000 years. China has wonderful writing system and tradition back to 2,000 years ago so we can easily understand our ancestors’ thoughts from that time. It is amazing if you compare China with other ancient civilizations such as Egypt and India. As representative of the oriental civilization, if we divide the world into East and West and if UK students could only visit one country in the world, I think it would be China. China would open a new window for young learners and help them better understand differences between distinct cultures to help build a global view in their life.
Through your 30 years’ of experience, what have you found to be the most popular excursions for school groups?
The school groups that join us always want to visit the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army at Xian, and the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai. The panda sanctuary in Chengdu is also increasingly popular. These combine once in a lifetime experiences, one of the world’s wonders and a deep insight into China’s ancient civilisation.
How do schools get around the cities? Does this vary between Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and trips to Mount Tai and Qufu?
There are many different ways to get around the major Chinese cities, including internal flights, the bullet train or overnight train, and coach transfers. Taking the 1.5-2 hour flight between Beijing, Xian and Shanghai cuts down on travel time but tends to be costlier. Some school groups opt for the day-time bullet train, which can take 5 hours between Beijing and Shanghai, 6 hours between Beijing and Xian, and 2 hours between Beijing and Mount Tai. The overnight soft sleeper train will take 12 hours between Beijing and Xian or 15 hours between Xian and Shanghai. School groups will be divided into 4 passengers to one private cabin). Between Mount Tai and Qufu, school groups can take a 1 hour coach drive.
What can you offer Travelbound school groups venturing on a single city or multi-centre tour?
Schools will receive a local guide service for a single city tour where our local guide will look after the groups and assist in offering tour information, meal arrangement, co-ordination with hotel and coach drivers. For multi-centre tours, we will add a national guide for groups of over 20 passengers. Our national guide serves like a tour leader playing a very important role especially during transfers between cities on flight or train journeys.
What should students be aware of prior to travelling to China?
China is a very big country similar to the USA in latitude, very cold in winter like Norway and very hot in summer like Spain. We therefore suggest schools and students check weather forecasts before coming to China.
Food in China is quite different from Chinese food in UK. You will find much more variety of food in China. Even for the same dishes you may be very familiar with such as “sweet and sour pork”, you will find a different taste in China as Chinese food abroad has changed towards Westerners’ taste. Breakfast will be a Chinese and Western combination buffet at the school’s hotel, while lunch and dinner will be Chinese food at a local restaurant. If students are tired with daily Chinese food, we can arrange 1-2 Western fast food meals such as MacDonald’s or KFC for variety.
China’s customs are usually related with various traditional festivals, especially Chinese New Year. The date for Chinese New Year is different every year, usually between mid-January and mid-February and lasts for 15 days. Other Chinese main festivals are the Lantern Festival (last day of Chinese New Year), Tomb-sweeping Festival (early April), Dragon Boat Festival (June), and the Moon Festival (September).
What is a must-see for any school group visiting China?
Like with the popular excursions for schools, I feel you cannot skip visits to the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army, the Oriental Pearl Tower, Chinese traditional gardens in Suzhou, and time with the pandas. They are unique experiences which will live long in the memory of your students.
What advice would you give teachers booking a school trip to China?
I would suggest teachers read a few books about China, especially about China’s history from 1840 to 2000, and watch a few Chinese movies before coming to China. It would help teachers better to understand China’s past, present and future, so they can pass the ideas to students during the trip.
To find out more about school trips to China, or to start planning your next adventure, contact the Travelbound team on 01273 244 572 or contact us online.