Image: Beijing's Forbidden City
Peter Parks  /  AFP/Getty Images
Get an early-bird discount on an eight-night package tour, including round-trip airfare, eight nights' accommodations, local transportation, and guided sightseeing tours from $1,998 per person.
updated 9/19/2007 11:30:29 AM ET 2007-09-19T15:30:29

The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, eight nights' accommodations, local transportation, and guided sightseeing tours from $1,998 per person — plus taxes and fees of about $300.

When: Depart Apr. 9, 2008; add $40 for departures on May 7 and May 21.

Gateways: Los Angeles, San Francisco; add $100 for Phoenix; $140 for Chicago; $180 for D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia; $280 for Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale.

The fine print: Airport-hotel transfers, hotel taxes, daily breakfasts, some meals, domestic flights, local transportation by private bus, and sightseeing with admission included. Airport taxes and fuel surcharges are additional and come to about $300 per person. Group size limited to 20 people. Based on double occupancy; single supplement $478. A tourist visa is required for U.S. citizens entering China. You can apply for a visa at a local Chinese embassy for $100 or let China Travel Service handle your application for $130, a price that includes both the visa fee and the company's handling charge. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: Oct. 31, 2007; afterwards the rate increases by $100 per person.

Contact: China Travel Service, 415-352-0388, chinatravelservice.com.

Why it's a deal: The lowest multi-city fares we found for flights following this tour's itinerary in early April were $1,485 from San Francisco (Air China), $1,633 from Los Angeles (Air China), $2,537 from Phoenix (multiple airlines), $2,315 from Chicago (Air China), $1,758 from New York (Air China), and $2,707 from Atlanta (multiple airlines), according to a recent search on Kayak. For $1,998 per person — plus around $300 in taxes and fees — China Travel Service covers the cost of airfare, plus all hotel accommodations, some meals, and guided sightseeing tours with entry. You should also keep in mind that prices for hotel rooms in Beijing will likely climb as the Olympic fever builds and rooms are booked up. Buying a package like this one well in advance will help you avoid exorbitant fees and limited options down the road.

Trip details : This eight-night air/hotel package to the ancient cities of Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai includes round-trip international airfare from the U.S. to China on United Airlines, plus all domestic flights within China, as well as local transportation within each city by private bus, guided sightseeing tours with entry, and 16 meals in total throughout the tour.

When you arrive in Beijing, company representatives will meet you and escort you to the Capital Hotel, a 22-story tower in central downtown, just a five-minute walk from Tiananmen Square. Eight restaurants inside this modern building serve an array of Asian and Western food, and the hotel's facilities include a gym, an indoor swimming pool, and a sauna.

After breakfast the following day, you'll tour the Forbidden City, home to Chinese emperors for more than 500 years, and then spend the afternoon wandering the spectacular grounds of the Summer Palace, comprising more than 3,000 pavilions, towers, bridges, and corridors. Weather permitting, the group will cruise adjacent Kunming Lake by riverboat before enjoying a banquet featuring Peking duck, a local specialty.

The next day brings a visit to the Great Wall and several Ming Dynasty tombs, and as well as a tour of a cloisonné factory, which produces the colorful enamelware Beijing artisans have been perfecting since the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 A.D.). In the afternoon, you'll view some of the Olympic venues, with stops at the athletic training facilities of Beijing Sports University, and learn about the innovative bird's-nest design of the National Stadium, where the games will commence next August.

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You'll fly on either Air China or China Eastern airlines for the hour-and-a-half flight to the ancient city of Xi'an, where you'll spend two nights at the central Grand New World Hotel, with a gym, a swimming pool, and a tennis court. Local sightseeing highlights include the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a holy site for Buddhists, as well as visits to the ancient city walls and to the show-stopping Terracotta Warriors and Horses — a Qin Dynasty archeological marvel made up of more than 6,000 life-size statues.

Transfer to the airport early the next day for your two-hour flight on either Air China or China Eastern Airlines to the skyscraper-filled city of Shanghai, where you'll spend the remainder of your trip at the 309-room Crowne Plaza Hotel Fudan, which offers amenities that include a sauna, a whirlpool, a gym, and a swimming pool. While in Shanghai, you'll visit the bustling shopping district along Nanjing Road, stroll amongst the 400-year-old Yu Garden's picturesque ponds and pavilions, and gawk at the famed Jade Buddhist Temple, home to a three-ton statue of the Buddha carved from a single piece of white jade.

Slideshow: Beijing booms You'll be free to spend the final day in Shanghai (or its surroundings) as you choose. One option is to take a day-long tour of nearby Suzhou, a city often referred to as the Venice of the Orient because of its many picturesque ponds, streams, and canals.

You can extend your stay in China by adding extra nights in either Beijing or Shanghai. Rooms at the Capital Hotel in Beijing currently cost $154 per night; at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Fudan in Shanghai, rooms cost $160 per night.

This China Highlights package is just one of several discounted pre-Olympics packages that China Travel Service is promoting. Other (more expensive) options include 14- and 19-day tours with cruises along the Yangtze River.

Before you go, check the weather forecast, the exchange rate, and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.

This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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