1. What are the new security rules for taking liquids on flights?
2. What standard of accommodation is provided on group tours?
A: To increase passenger safety there are new rules about taking liquids, aerosols and gels on flights into and out of Australia. Each container of liquid must not exceed 100ml. All containers must be sealed in a transparent, one litre plastic bag. You are only allowed one bag. Any resealable bag of one litre capacity or less is allowed.You may still carry through the screening point any required prescription medication. Baby products and non-prescription medicines that you need for the flight are also allowed. Proof of need may be required.When you get to the screening point, you will have to surrender any liquids, aerosols or gels greater than 100ml that you still have with you, including duty free. The new rules also introduce random frisk searches as part of the screening process. Please prepare your plastic bag before you check-in so you will still have time to put any containers that are too big into your check-in luggage. The new rules apply to drinks, creams, perfumes, sprays, gels, toothpaste, lipstick, lip balm and similar substances. If you need further information, please visit www.dotars.gov.au
3. What meals are included?
A: In main cities you will stay in superior accommodation with modern facilities and private bathrooms. Most hotels provide twin bedding however if a double is preferred, a request will be made but cannot be guaranteed. Triple share is usually two single beds and a rollaway bed. In more remote regions, where international standard hotels are infrequent, we endeavour to accommodate our clients in the best available hotels. Sometimes if we release a ‘special’ the hotels selected are good quality 3-4 star properties. Our hotels are not listed as ‘similar’ or ‘indicative’ as we are committed to providing accurate details so you will know exactly where you will be staying and what you have paid for. Cabins onboard our Yangtze River cruises are based on superior standard on the Executive Deck and include the ‘Boutique Lifestyle Package’. In our ‘Premium China’ range, the Yangtze River cruise is based on an Executive Suite plus a range of exclusive services. Our 7 night Mekong River cruise onboard ‘La Marguerite’ is based on a guaranteed balcony cabin ‘B’ category. Please check individual tours for categories of overnight Halong Bay cruises and cabin berths for overnight train journeys.
4. What do I do if I have a food allergy or intolerance?
A: Daily breakfast is included on all group tours and is buffet style, served at your hotel. Lunch is provided at local restaurants when part of a daily sightseeing tour. Usually one dinner is included in each city which allows you the flexibility to discover local cuisine to suit your taste and budget. For cruise itineraries, the meal inclusions do vary therefore we suggest that once you have selected your preferred tour you may like to refer to the (B/L/D) notations on the itinerary.
5. What about drinks?
A: If you require special meals due to religious, dietary or medical limitations, you need to be aware that the local restaurants cannot guarantee special meals and are often inflexible in this regard. In larger international hotels, in the major cities, the choices and understanding maybe easier and there are also many familiar restaurants. You are permitted to take a reasonable supply of snacks and food items which will last throughout your tour.
6. How big will the group be?
A: Local tea is commonly served with meals and there is a variety of soft drinks, local and imported beers and wines available for purchase. You should not drink the tap water, bottled water is inexpensive and readily available. If you like a 'cuppa', you may like to bring along a small supply of tea bags, coffee and milk powder. Most rooms have electric jugs or thermos flasks of boiling water to make hot drinks.
7. What is the average age on a group tour?
A: Depending on the tour selected, most group departures permit a maximum of 25 people. We recommend that you check at the time of booking as some tours, including our ‘China Encounters’ operate with a minimum of 2 passengers. Sometimes if a ‘special’ is released or a tour is particularly popular and therefore attracts a greater number of bookings, we will consider splitting the group to ensure the comfort of our clients.
8. Are the tours suitable for elderly or disabled people?
A: Providing you are fit to travel, there are no age restrictions on our tours. A reasonable estimate of average age would be 40-65 years with an increasing number of young professionals and family groups adding to the mix.
9. If I am travelling by myself, do I need to pay a single supplement?
A: General good health and fitness are essential as most tours involve a lot of walking with many stairs a common fixture at temples and pavilions. Whilst on tour your sightseeing will follow a prearranged itinerary to ensure all sites are visited. On most itineraries, a lunch stop is included at a local restaurant for around 1-1.5 hours with sightseeing usually completed between 4-5 pm. Regrettably, for a disabled traveller who requires a wheelchair, it can be very difficult to accommodate their needs as most sites are not wheelchair accessible . Traditional Asian architecture often has high steps across doorways, raised pavilions and uneven ground. Not all group transport is equipped to handle wheelchairs, some restaurants are located on a higher floor with no elevators and only recently-built or international chain hotels have made provision for wheelchair accessibility and rooms with disabled facilities. If you are considering a group tour which has a cruise component, please be aware that whilst there is often assistance provided, embarkation/disembarkation and shore excursions are usually via steps or across pontoons. Whilst onboard, most cruises have lift facilities but some areas of the ship may have limited access.
Our aim is to inform you of the limitations during a group tour, however we would be happy to tailor make a private tour for you and thereby include suitable vehicles, guides, hotels and appropriate sightseeing. We do require a travelling companion to accompany a disabled client throughout the tour who is able to physically assist as required.
10. What about transport while I'm in each city?
A: If you are joining a group tour as a single traveller and choose to occupy a single room you will be required to pay the applicable single supplement cost. If you advise us at the time of booking that you would like to share a room with another member of the group, your request will be noted and we will do our very best to match you with a suitable travelling companion. However, if we are unsuccessful, you will be required to pay the single supplement at the time of balance payment.
11. Do I need a visa ?
A: If you are joining a tour package, an air conditioned coach or minibus (depending on the group size) is provided. If you have arranged a private tour, a vehicle for the sole use of yourself and/or travelling companion/s will be used. If you have time to explore on your own some major cities, like Beijing and Shanghai in China, have good subway systems with route maps in the carriages and station signs in English. Fares are very low and it can be fun to take the subway, just for the experience. Similarly in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, it is fun to discover the local sights at your own pace and take the time to enjoy the beauty and culture of your destinations. Always remember that if you venture out of your hotel, please make sure you have the name of your hotel and address in the local language in case you get lost! Taxis are fairly inexpensive but again make sure you take your hotel details with you.
12. Do I need vaccinations?
A: As visa requirements differ for specific countries, we suggest that you contact our office for the latest information. As a general rule, we will process your application as part of our service to our clients.
13. Do I need to take out travel insurance?
A: Currently there are no compulsory innoculations unless arriving from an infected area. However, it is recommended that you check with your doctor or travel advisory service, like Smart Traveller, for updates and suggested precautions. It is sensible to have a current tetanus vaccination (valid for 10 years) and protection against Hepatitis A (or A/B) is recommended for travel everywhere. It is best to bring a supply of medication to combat common ailments such as headaches, upset stomach or colds. You are permitted to take any prescription medicines for personal use and a doctor's letter explaining their use is useful if queried by Customs.
14. What should I pack?
A: It is highly recommended that all clients purchase travel insurance at the time of making their reservation. Please check with your travel agent or our office for further information
15. Do I need to dress formally for dinner or evening entertainment?
A: Casual clothing is appropriate at all times although clothes that are too revealing are still frowned upon in all Asian countries. Try to pack lightly as your trip may involve an amount of personal baggage handling as porters are often not available except in larger hotels. For security reasons it is essential that your baggage can be locked whilst during air transportation between cities.At times, you may not be able to check into your hotel room immediately or be able to access your main bags. To ensure your comfort, a change of clothes in your hand luggage to coincide with local weather conditions is always handy. All personal toiletries should be taken with you and small packets of tissues or wet wipes are recommended. A small medical kit containing medication to alleviate common ailments is suggested.
16. What about electricity and plugs?
A: Whilst on tour, casual and comfortable is the general rule and it is not necessary to dress formally for dinner or for any of the included evening shows. Generally, if time permits, you are able to return to your hotel to freshen up before going onto dinner or a show. Sometimes it may be necessary to go straight to the selected dinner venue if your day of touring is particularly long or local conditions have necessitated the need to continue straight to dinner. If you are booked on a Yangtze Cruise, dress is also casual throughout the day, however some travellers enjoy wearing smart casual evening attire whilst onboard.
17. What about money matters?
A: As plug sizes vary between cities and countries, it is best to check with your travel agent or our office at the time of booking. To ensure you won’t have any problems, it is advisable to purchase a multi-function adaptor from large department stores, luggage outlets or duty free stores
18. How much money do I need to I take?
A: Generally, most major credit cards are accepted in large stores and restaurants and hotels. It is recommended that a supply of local currency with a mix of larger and smaller denomination notes are carried with you for local purchases where credit cards are not accepted. Most hotels provide a money exchange service for in-house guests. It is advisable that you check the latest currency advice before travelling as fluctuations can occur and recommendations change.
19. Do I need to tip?
A: Often a difficult one to answer as personal spending by travellers is varied and at times, unpredictable. As a general rule, if you are joining a group tour, all sightseeing and entrance fees are included. As we visit all the main sites, there's no need to allow for the cost of extra 'optional tours'. Breakfast and lunch is included on all group tours and we have one dinner in each city, so you will need to pay only for the occasional evening meal and how much you spend will depend on where you choose to eat. If you choose to dine at an up market restaurant or hotel, the cost would be equivalent to a similar venue at home but in local eateries, A$10-15 per person should be more than enough. Tipping of guides and drivers is an accepted practice in Asian countries but it should always be in recognition of good service and the amount offered is one of personal choice. Personal spending money for drinks and snacks and souvenir shopping is difficult to estimate. Souvenirs and local handicrafts, Western-style clothing and fashion accessories are comparatively inexpensive and you may end up buying more than you'd expect. Sometimes a little extra spending money is worthwhile and you can always bring it home if you don’t spend it!
20. What about the shopping?
A: While tipping has now become an accepted practice in Asian countries, it should always be considered a gesture of appreciation for good service and not an obligation. It is an incentive to guides to maintain a high level of service, helpfulness and friendliness and we strongly believe in allowing our clients a choice in the matter. Therefore we do not include in the tour price a fixed amount to cover all potential gratuities as it removes the element of choice or incentive. Due to a directive from the US based Victoria Cruise company, tipping is now a compulsory inclusion for any client whilst onboard a Yangtze River cruise and has been included in the tour cost. Small “Aussie” gifts always come in handy for local children and are a wonderful gesture of goodwill and friendship.
21. Does everyone speak English?
A: A wonderful array of local arts and crafts, including ceramics, carved jade, silk, cloisonne, paintings, scrolls and paper items like fans and lanterns are popular choices throughout China and the Indo China region. Shopping in Shanghai is always a popular as many brands of clothing and footwear, ranging from market stall offerings to designer labels are great buys. Whilst on any of our group tours, there will be time to shop at the souvenir stalls and arts and crafts shops and in your spare time the local markets and department stores are worth a visit. As prices don't vary greatly from one region to the next, a good rule to follow is that if you see something you like and are happy with the price, then buy it. It is usually not advisable not to wait until the next city to purchase the item as you could be disappointed. Be very careful if buying videos, CDs or DVDs or anything electrical which you cannot check for quality and suitability. It is a case of ‘buyer beware” as once purchased it is impossible to obtain a refund and we are unable to send defective items back on your behalf. Please keep in mind that Helen Wong’s Tours do not recommend any specific stores or markets and take no responsibility for the quality of items that our clients purchase whilst overseas.
22. What are the toilet facilities like on tour?
A: In the larger cities, English is more widely spoken in areas frequented by tourists but there are still some areas where you will need a little patience and understanding when trying to converse with locals. Whilst on tour, all of our guides are English speaking and undergo annual examinations to review their language and communication capabilities. If you are considering travelling independently, without assistance from our company, please keep in mind that you may encounter problems with communication when trying to organise local accommodation, transportation and places to eat. For those who do not wish to join a group tour, but still want the freedom to travel independently, may we suggest our Encounter tours or alternatively a tailor made itinerary to suit your personal requirements.
23. Can I use my mobile phone in Asia?
A: All of our hotels have western style bathrooms and toilets. Obviously in the more remote areas, they may be a little more basic, but clean and simple is common. Whilst sightseeing, toilet facilities at restaurants and local tourist sites can vary and we would recommend that you always carry tissues, wet wipes and small bottles of disinfectant gel with you.
24. How many guides will accompany a group tour?
A: We suggest that you check with your service provider for advice regarding the available service and global roaming options whilst on tour.
25. Is my group tour guaranteed ?
A: In each city, a professional English speaking local guide will provide you with their personal insight of the attractions and history of their city. Their wealth of intimate knowledge and unequalled understanding of the local culture and customs are to be appreciated when providing an invaluable high standard of service to our clients. All tours with a minimum of 10 people will also be provided with a friendly English speaking National Guide to accompany the group throughout the tour. Your National Guide will be committed to ensuring your holiday runs smoothly and will personally attend to any need that may arise.
26. When will I get my documents back?
A: For China group tours, we have ALL guaranteed departures with a minimum of 2 persons on selected tours marked with a symbol ‘Minimum 2 persons’. Programs without the symbol will have a selection of specific dates that are also guaranteed for 2 persons – these are marked with an underline.Group tours in our Vietnam, Cambodia , Laos and Myanmar program are ‘guaranteed departures’ with a minimum of 6 persons. Please check our website for tours that are guaranteed to depart or call your travel agent or our friendly reservation team at Helen Wong’s Tours.
A: Generally travel documents are returned to passengers between 10-14 days prior to departure.