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Chinese cheapies

A week in Beijing or Hong Kong $499, or swing by Shanghai for $599
/ Source: Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

China is cheap these days, my friends, the culturally rich and vastly ancient Middle Kingdom still suffering from dismal tourism numbers since the long-gone SARS epidemic put it out of favor last spring. That's why we're still seeing $499 price tags on week-long air-hotel vacations, including departures from the East Cost for well under $600, to the sprawling capital Beijing with its fabulous Forbidden City and nearby Great Wall, the glittering commercial megalopolis of Hong Kong, or the combo nineteenth century port-cum-emerging city of tomorrow Shanghai.

InsertArt(2035083)IF YOU’VE dreamed of seeing China and have just been waiting for the right time to visit this 5,000-year-old land, that time might very well be now. Roundtrip airfare, airport transfers, five nights’ lodging, and daily breakfast have rarely come more cheaply. Your only decision will be Which city—Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong—and which trip to pick: absolute lowest cost, or more-bang-for-your-buck activities. (Keep in mind none of these trips includes the Chinese visa, which costs $80 and you have to apply for yourself.)


That absolute price champ is (, which for bookings made by Oct 30 is charging $499 for five-night Beijing or Hong Kong trips with San Francisco or Seattle departures (for other gateways, scroll down), $599 for Shanghai with departures from most major California cities, New York/Newark, Seattle, or Honolulu.

In Beijing you’d be staying at the massive and modern Best Western (, and the deal is good for travel from Nov 1 to Mar 25. Try like crazy to book this one for midweek flights, as any flight on a Friday to Monday adds another $100 on to the cost. Taxes and government fees will add around $100 per person to the prices below, and the airport in Beijing charges about $11 in departure taxes.

Here are the base prices-per person based on double occupancy-from a few major US gateways cities (dozens more available):

$499—San Francisco or Seattle

$529—LA, Honolulu, New York

$649—Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Orlando, Philly, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Tampa

$799—Boise, Bozeman, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans

The Shanghai edition with lodges guests at the Pacific Luck, a three-star hotel on Wusong Road just north of where the road crosses Suzhuo Creek to become the city’s set-piece waterfront promenade known as the Bund. This trip is on for Nov 5-Mar 17. Taxes are again $100 per person, plus $11 departure tax; the weekend surcharge is $60 each way for Friday to Sunday flights.

Here are the costs from those sample major US gateways:

$599—New York, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Burbank, Honolulu, Oakland, Ontario (CA), San Jose, or Orange County

$724—Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Orlando, Philly, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Tampa

$824—Boise, Bozeman, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans

Lodgings for the Hong Kong deal are in the Newton Hotel (—on Hong Kong Island, just up the street from Victoria Park, with a rooftop pool overlooking Victoria Harbour a block away—on departures from Nov 16 to Dec 25 and Jan 1-Mar 17. But you get more than air and hotel on this deal; a half-day city tour is included. Add to the base prices below those $100 per person in taxes, plus a Hong Kong departure fee of $6.50, and $60 each way for any Friday to Sunday flight.

Here, again, are prices from those major gateway examples:

$499—San Francisco or Seattle

$549—LA, Honolulu, New York

$624—Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Orlando, Philly, Minneapolis, St,. Louis, Tampa

$749—Boise, Bozeman, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans


If that included city tour of Hong Kong piqued your interest and you find you’re interested in more activities, excursions, and free lunches with your vacation package, you can pay a bit more—but get a bit more—by booking with Pacific Delight Tours ( The only drawback: there is only one departure per city per month (well, two per city in November) at most prices.

InsertArt(2035081)Five-night Beijing packages start at $648 on monthly departures Wednesdays Nov 12-Mar 17 for lodging at the modern Rosedale Hotel & Suites ( It costs $768 to leave on a Sunday, and the lodgings are at the deluxe State Guest Hotel Presidential Plaza (

Beyond the air and hotel you also get two day-long tours, including lunch: one of the city’s greatest sights (Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, boat ride on Lake Kunming, Temple of Heaven), the other out of town to visit the Great Wall and Ming Tombs.

To visit Shanghai you pay $658 on monthly Monday departures from Nov 10 to Mar 22 for the airfare and five nights in the five-star Hua Ting hotel & Tower—a bit on the outskirts, but quite posh. You also get on the first day a sightseeing tour (lunch included) of the Shanghai Museum, Jade Buddha Temple, Nanjing Road, and the riverside Bund, lined with the nineteenth century buildings of the European colonial era.

If the glam and shops of Hong Kong are more your speed, you can pony up $528 for airfare and five nights at the Newton Hotel from jan1-Mar 25, of $738 and stay at the Miramar Hotel from Nov 16-Dec 31. But the real bonus here is the free extras you get

All of these city packages are priced per person based on double occupancy, don't include taxes (which range up to $100), but do cover roundtrip airfare from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Honolulu, or New York City. To any of the prices above, add $120 for departures from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Indy, La Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Orlando, Philly, Portland (OR), Sacramento, Tampa, Washington, DC, or other major gateways.

{Editor’s Note: Have you ever been to these three Chinese cities, or traveled to Asia with Pacific Delight Tours or Do you have a money-saving hint, tip, or anecdote that would be helpful to other travelers? We'd love to hear it and possibly reprint it in our letters to the editor column. Simply click here to send a letter to our editors.}

Copyright © 2003 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

Associate Editor Reid Bramblett writes travel guidebooks for Eyewitness, Frommer’s, and the Idiot’s and For Dummies series (yes, both of them). He joined the Budget Travel staff in 2002.