No credit, no problem

So buying plane tickets in China is not an easy proposition.  I don’t think any of us remember when you actually had to use a travel agent in America to get a plane ticket, but that’s still the norm here.  Even though there is a profusion of travel websites, most of them still require you to book online and then wait for the deliveryman to show up in person, and then you pay them in cash.  I guess credit card penetration here is still low enough that it makes more sense for these companies to hire deliverymen than to just charge you online, but still it should at least be an option (without a ridiculous 3% credit card surcharge!).

The two main websites are elong.com (elong.net for English) and ctrip.com, but as far as I can tell the prices are not the best deal you can get.  I got a ticket from Shanghai to Tokyo then Tokyo to Beijing for about 3000元 (roughly $440) at the local travel agency inside Tsinghua’s campus, whereas the best deal I found online was over $600.  And then booking the ticket from Beijing to Bangkok was even worse; first I thought I found a really good deal on elong.net but then when I booked it, it turned out the ticket was already unavailable.  I ended up booking through one of the random agencies (ruyijipiao.com) that have a page filled with ads, some of which are valid and others not, and ended up getting a ticket on an Egypt Air flight.  Apparently Bangkok is the layover on the way from Beijing to Cairo or something.

Anyway both of these tickets necessitated multiple trips to the ATM in order to pull out enough cash to pay for them.  And the ironic thing is that they were both etickets!  I wish they could have just taken my credit card and emailed me the receipt or something, I’m sure that would have saved us both some pain and effort.

Anyway, for those of you in or around Asia this summer and are up for some traveling, here’s my itinerary:

  • Until 7/9: Beijing
  • 7/9 – 7/16: Bangkok, maybe Chiang Mai
  • 7/17: train or flight from Beijing to Suzhou
  • 7/17 – 7/24: Suzhou, daytrips to Shanghai
  • 7/24 – 7/27: Shanghai
  • 7/27 – 7/31: Kyoto
  • 7/31 – 8/5: Tokyo
  • 8/5 – 8/18: Beijing

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    ~ by therandomoracle on June 25, 2008.

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