on July 21, 2005
To begin with, readers should know that this guide was severly pared down, which explains why there are so few budget hotels and budget restaurants listed. Many section writers knew plenty of cheaper hotels and restaurants, but due to space limitations the decision was made by the publisher to list only the upper-level accomodations. This is partly because Frommer's really isn't geared towards the budget traveller.
The Beijing section is excellent, and you should go with their recommendation of staying at the Far East International Hostel, or the hotel across from it.
I am suprised by the review that felt that the authors had never been to China. In fact, all of the authors were actually foreign residents of China. While this means that they have a more intimate understanding of their region, it often means that they are less focused on the area as a travelling destination, which may explain why they don't go into the kinds of historical and cultural detail that a travel writer (who is experiencing the city differently) might.
Also, it means that much of the recommendations for certain sections of the book are not at all written from a traveller's perspective. In particular, the section on Chengdu focuses nearly all of its restaurants in the middle-south of the city. After hearing locations described in terms of their proximity to the US Consulate three times, it certainly makes me suspect that the writer of the section spent a long time there. In fact, 7 of 12 of the restaurants were located no more than half a mile from the consulate. Good luck finding a description of many places to eat within a 30 minute walk of the fairly popular Dragon Town Hostel (which, although offering pretty good accomodation, was not mentioned at all in the guide) located slightly northwest of center.
As other reviewers have noted, the section on Shanghai is pretty worthless. Even the editor of the book will tell you this. Against his recommendation, the publisher cobbled on a highly shortened version of the already out-of-date Frommer's Shanghai into the Shanghai section of the book. It is out of date and not all that helpful as a guide.
For those who travel to a new place just to try the food, you'll love this book. It has an entire section in the back listing common dishes, dishes unique to featured restaurants, and specialities. The listing includes Chinese characters and pinyin.
If your travel plans include Beijing, this book is a must. If you're going only to Shanghai, choose any other book.
on November 4, 2004
We just took a trip to China, and brought this book as our primary guide. In the store it looked like the best of the bunch, full of details, lots of info to help us find a hotel and get prepped for the trip, but once we got there it was not useful at all.
Our biggest problem was the lack of Chinese characters for any of the places. We took taxis most places, and they would look at the pinyin (romanized) names and addresses in the descriptions section and either not understand or flat out refuse to take us. It was VERY FRUSTRATING not having the Chinese characters, and not having the Chinese addresses. We later realized that the characters for the names were on the map pages, however not all places were on the map, and the full addresses and Chinese street names weren't listed, so it still wasn't what we needed. Not only that but the maps were hard to find, as they were buried in the middle of the descriptions and we kept flipping past them. Even after I'd dog-eared them.
Secondly, once we got out of Beijing, most of the information was way out of date, or flat out wrong! For instance, we went to Kunming, and the first restaurant we tried to go to wasn't there anymore, and the other restaurant had the wrong address! Fortunately our taxi driver figured out it was talking about a vegetarian restaurant that was nearby. At that point I was extremely glad we had a Chinese speaker with us! Otherwise we would have never found it. Not only that, but when we tried to go to the Stone Forest, it recommended to take the train, but the train they mention apparently doesn't run anymore, and the ticket-seller told us that the other train (later in the day) was a really bad option, very slow, and that we should take the bus. We ended up hiring a car for the day.
The only thing we ended up using (successfully) from our trip to Kunming was the location of the internet cafe. It was China Telcom, and so not likely to change, and even so the only reason we found it was because it was near the post office, which (unlike the cafe) was listed on the map.
It's also worth noting that the hotel we stayed at in Beijing, which was absolutley wonderful, the guide said wasn't worth our money. Fortunately we had our friend to go scope out nice places ahead of time for us (we wanted something really nice, as it was our anniversary), and after looking at about six places, she decided the Grand Hotel Beijing, with a view of the Forbidden City, was the nicest, even though the guide didn't recommend it. That and the St. Regis, whose location wasn't as good for being a tourist. It turned out our hotel was one of "the" hotels to stay at in Beijing, and got all kinds of positive comments from her Chinese friends. Go figure.
All in all I was very dissapointed with this guide. We got sick of being led to places that either didn't exist or had the wrong address listed, and after a while our friend who spoke Chinese refused to even use it, and we went and found a local travel agency everywhere we went. I don't know what we would have done if she hadn't been there, since hardly anyone in Kunming spoke good English.
on July 17, 2004
My copy of this title has the Chinese in large, useful characters right next to the maps. Only if there's no map for a small town is the Chinese listed in the back, with the information for each town handily grouped together in alphabetical order.
And like every other guide book, the map for a town is in the middle of the text talking about that town. So what's hard to find? The hotels and places to see are right next to the map in most cases. And since the towns only have one map, what's to guess about which maps things are on?
I don't know about the Beijing and Shanghai guides, but of course there will be a lot of repeated information. The sights don't change, after all. The best place to eat is the same. Bus 47 still runs the same route. Of course lots of the information is the same. What do you expect?
But what I do agree on is that this books is waaaaay more accurate than any other I looked at. I'm no fan of the usual schmaltzy Frommer's style, but this book really tells it like it is. It has the most extensive, detailed and accurate practical information of any guide I've seen, including the do-it-yourself budget guides.
And while we're on the topic of Chinese, note that for every recommended restaurant there are recommended dishes, and the characters for them are given so you can just point to them to order. There's also a good long list of Chinese favourites you can buy anywhere.
And while the major destinations are covered, this guide also scores with some remote rural destinations I've not seen covered anywhere else, including LP. Even if you don't want to go there, it's fascinating to read about the real China away from the regular tourist routes.
You know, the first thing you want to check out when you buy a guide is the author biogs. Most of the writers on this guide speak Chinese and have lived in China. It really shows. All the LP and Rough guide readers were borrowing my copy all the time and making notes.
on June 1, 2005
I just returned from a solo trip through China and the Frommer's Guide was an excellent reference for both planning the trip before I left and for exploring the areas while I was there. The information provided in the beginning of the book ("Best of China" "Planning your trip..") helped me to focus in on what I wanted to see and how I could best do that, while the city sections provided a wealth of useful information on neighborhoods, orientation, and fast facts for the area. The bi-lingual listing of accomodations, attractions, etc. came in handy several times with taxi drivers and helpful citizens (I tore pages out of my book at each city visited to travel lightly. I especially enjoyed (and used) the highlighted sidebars (i.e. "A Great Hike on the Great Wall" "To Cruise or not to Cruise") as these messages were especially timely in light of what is happening now with China's rapid development. These sections, and most of the information in general, I found to be objective and true descriptions of what I encountered in China. The book, of course, was one of several tools (including internet postings, site reviews, transportation schedules, reading other books, learning a few Mandarin phrases, etc.) that helped to create a successful trip full of wonderful memories; however, after doing lots of note taking and reading from the other sources, it was an easy choice to make Frommer's the only book that made the cut as part of my carry-on. I was never disappointed and I'd recommended it to other travelers...Happy Journeys : )
on October 14, 2004
I took Frommer's China 1st Edition on a brief visit to China 4 weeks ago. As time was short, I needed all the help I could get to see as much as possible.
The Southeast section was accurate, clear and entertaining. I travelled easily from Xiamen up the coast, seeing recommended areas on the way to Shanghai. Peter Neville-Hadley's directions were detailed and spot-on in every area.
However, the Shangai section was a disappointment. I wasted a lot of valuable time trying to find sites. Directions such as 'walk a few blocks southwest of the Bund' are useless. Street names, please, with the nearest metro station indicated, not vague red dots stuck on an out-of-date map. My conclusion was that the writer of this section had no knowledge of Chinese and had not been in Shanghai for many years.
Looking through other sections which covered areas I had visited on previous visits suggest that the other chapters are as accurate as the southeast section. So use this book, but cut out the Shanghai section before you leave home.
on September 17, 2006
Frommer's "China Complete" tries hard to include a lot of information, but there's just not enough room in "only" 800 pages to pack it all in. Let's face it, China is too big a country to be covered adequately by an all-in-one guidebook. I'd definitely go for more specialized, regional and city, guidebooks whenever you can find them.
For something more inclusive, though, I can suggest two possibilities, especially for first-timers: (1) "Frommer's China: The 50 Most Memorable Trips" and (2) "The Eyewitness Travel Guide to China." The Eyewitness Guide is very attractive and informative visually, while "50 Trips" has excellent descriptive text and not a single photograph! You could decide which one to buy, depending on your own preferred orientation (visual or text). Both do a fine job of describing China's many cultural sights: temples, palaces, gardens, and more. They are cultural guides, rather than "Frommer's Complete" all-things-to-all-people approach, but I prefer them for that very reason. In trying to do too much, "Frommer's Complete" doesn't really fit the bill.
on July 18, 2010
I've been reading many different guide books in preparation for my trip to China. Unfortunately Frommer's is one of my least favorite so far.
Pros of Formmer's: it has a lot of information. I especially like the little random fact/history excerpts and how it provides itineraries based on the amount of time you have in China. It also gives you many foreign resources in China (tour guides, transportation etc) since those are definitely scam free, reliable and have high quality of services.
Cons: It doesn't give a lot of options if you are a young, budget traveler or if you want to get up close and personal with the Chinese culture. For example, there are way more expensive hotels and restaurants than there are cheap local places. But the thing that bothers me the most is the general attitude of the book. The book has an incredibly mean and condescending attitude of China and the Chinese people (especially the not as Westernized mainland China). A lot of descriptions of cities and places are laced with sarcasm, backhanded compliments and straight out negative comments that makes me wonder why these tour destinations are even worthy of mentioning in their book. The general attitude I get from the Frommer's guide is one of helping the superior westerner see one or two sights that are worthy of making the trek to an otherwise terrible country. It makes me realize why other countries have the stereotype of the rude American tourist.
Basically, if you are the kind of tourist who does not want to be immersed in the Chinese culture and simply want to look at the famous must see sights while feeling like you took a vacation to San Fran Chinatown then this book will be perfect for you. (definitely for people who prefers to not have ANY risk of being scammed, lost or confused and for families who need to have reliable, stress free plans) Frommer's has lots of information on the super touristy destinations and how to go through China without ever having to talk to a none english speaker (save for the very rural towns but I wouldn't recommend you going to those places in the first place if you dislike none western culture). But if you are feeling adventurous (and cheap!) and want to get a true understanding of what China is like, not just a cursory Westerner's experience, then I would suggest a different guide book.
on January 13, 2012
I use Frommers guides frequently, but ever since Mr. Frommer sold the series, it has gone downhill. The China guide is terrible. I was in China for one month and used Rough, Lonely Planet, Fodors, Frommers and Eyewitness. Frommers was the worst. Few Chinese names/address, and the ones that they have are listed in the back of the book. Very inconvenient. Recommendations tended to favor more expensive places. But the worst thing in my mind was that the information was terribly out of date. China is changing very quickly, but many places in the book referred to 2006 and the 2008 Olympics in the future-tense ("The road should be completed by 2006" etc.). Helloooooo!!?? This is the 2011 Edition! Because the info is years out of date, it could impact not just restaurants and lodgings, but planning as well. I wanted to visit one town, which Frommers said was something like 12-hours from Beijing. So I was about to give up on visiting this town (Pingyao) due to the long time in getting there. Well, this info was old. My Rough Guide and Lonely Planet (as well as the internet) noted that by taking the fast train and bus, I could get there in 4 hours, which made it entirely doable. If I had relied only on Frommers, I would have missed out.
on May 4, 2005
This book has horrible advice for travelers going to China. The hotels it regards as "cheap" were usually about 4 times more expensive than the hotels I found for myself. It gives very little interesting information about cities aside from the mainstream information the author probably found on the internet. It does have some good information such as bus, train and taxi info, but aside from that it's pretty useless. I looked in my friends Lonely Planet book on the other hand, and it was filled with useful information that no one would know unless actually exploring the places in particular. It also gave really good suggestions for cheap places to stay and eat. Outside major Chinese cities, paying more than ten dollars a night for a hotel is stupid, or even paying more than two dollars for a personal meal is simply getting ripped off. But Frommers couldn't seem to find anything under $40 for hotels, even in a town where every second bulding was a hotel (and the place I'm referring to the hotels were only $5 a night, if you knew how to bargain a little, another thing not really mentioned in the book) and the cheapest meal they usually suggested would run you about $10. The book also didn't have information on many cities I was visiting. All I can say about this book is "shame". Go with Lonely Planet instead.
on July 7, 2014
This book is a good overview on China. Also it gives helpful information on restaurants, hotels, attractions, and the like. Be aware that China is so vast with a huge population that no one book can possibly cover all of your hotel, restaurant, etc. options. That said, this book is a great start to a most enjoyable trip.