Sunday, 15 June 2014

My Experience To Shanghai Under Groupon Deal

Now I have returned from a 6D4N Shanghai trip purchased from groupon. I will share my experience here so that those who are interested can know what to expect.

This is how the groupon travel deal work for this particular trip to China:
  1. Before buying the groupons, fill up an online inquiry form & send to groupon, stating preferred travel dates & number of travelers
  2. Awaiting reply from groupon
  3. Settle doubts and inquiries through emails with groupon staff
  4. If available travel dates are suitable, proceed to purchase groupon.
  5. Email groupon staff with attached proof of payment or purchase.
  6. Fill in a travelers detail form provided by groupon staff, with name, IC, passport number & expiry date, preferred room type & vegetarian meal etc.
  7. Groupon will book & pay for the Airasia air tickets, using your email.
  8. Log in Airasia website to manage your booking eg. baggage allowance, in-flight meals, pick-a-seat, and make payment.
  9. Apply Visas by yourself
  10. Local tour agent will contact or email you regarding the final itinerary, travel detail, contact & name of tour guide in China about one week before departure.
  11. Just board the plane and the tour guide will wait for you in the airport of your destination.

This trip is a 6D4N trip with 2 night time flights.

Day 1: Airasia X flight departing KLIA2 7:25pm, arriving Shanghai Pudong airport 12:35am
Day 2: Shanghai - Suzhou
Day 3: Suzhou - Wuxi
Day 4: Wuxi - Hangzhou
Day 5: Hangzhou - Shanghai
Day 6: Airasia X flight departing Shanghai Pudong airport 1:35am, arriving KLIA2 6:55am

So it is actually 4 days 4 nights trip excluding time on flight.

       Shanhai - Suzhou - Wuxi - Hangzhou - Shanghai

As we went to 4 cities, it ended up that we only spent little time in each city as most time were wasted while traveling on bus. Traveling between Wuxi-Hangzhou and Hangzhou-Shanghai took about 3-4 hours each.

       Shanghai's traffic

The summary table below compares the itinerary given by groupon before purchasing the groupons, by travel agency before departure and the actual trip.

Groupon Travel Agent Actual
上海 新天地 新天地 Cancelled
Shanghai 石库门 石库门 Cancelled

城隍庙 城隍庙 城隍庙

东方明珠塔(外观) 东方明珠塔(外观) Omitted

乘坐敞篷双层巴士 乘坐敞篷双层巴士 Omitted

逛南京路 逛南京路 逛南京路

上海同仁养生 上海小蜜蜂珍品堂 上海同仁养生

上海鸿润珠宝 天脉艺术博览中心

苏州 金鸡湖 金鸡湖 金鸡湖
Suzhou 圆融时代广场 圆融时代广场 圆融时代广场

苏州鸟巢 苏州鸟巢 苏州鸟巢

唐伯园林 藕园 藕园

苏州丝绸工厂 苏州丝绸工厂 苏州丝绸工厂

无锡 灵山大佛 灵山大佛 灵山大佛
Wuxi 灵山梵宫 灵山梵宫 灵山梵宫

紫砂壶博物馆 紫砂壶博物馆 紫砂壶博物馆

万达广场 万达广场 万达广场

蠡湖公园 蠡湖公园 蠡湖公园

珍珠养殖场 珍珠养殖场 珍珠养殖场

杭州 乘船游西湖 乘船游西湖 乘船游西湖
Hangzhou 苏堤 苏堤 Omitted

南宋官窟遗址 南宋官窟遗址 Omitted

西湖龙井茶 西湖龙井茶 西湖龙井茶


We made a terrible start to our trip, as the Airasia X flight from KL to Shanghai was delayed for 4 hours! So when we reached Shanghai it was already 5am.

After reaching Shanghai then only we knew that we have 20 persons in our group.

Because of the delay, the China tour guide suggested that we went straight to hotel to rest and cancelled the visit to Shanghai XinTianDi 新天地 as according to him, it is just a place to "drink coffee". Thus ShiKuMen 石库门  which is also in that area was also missed. We only went to ChengHuangMiao 城隍庙 in Shanghai in the first day.

Later I found out that XianTianDi is not like an ordinary shopping complex and is worth a visit.

       Shanghai: Commercial area at ChengHuang Miao

The subsequent visit to Suzhou & Wuxi went well according to schedule but for Hangzhou, we only viewed the SuDi 苏堤 at west lake from very far away and did not go to 南宋官窟遗址 without being told. We went to XiHu Museum 西湖博物馆  instead.

For the last day, we actually still have plenty of time in Shanghai in the afternoon. However, we were sent to 2 "shopping stations" which were 上海同仁养生 (Chinese Medicine) &  天脉艺术博览中心 (Jade & Jewelry). 

Without being informed, we were not brought to board the double-decker tourist bus and view the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai as stated in the itinerary.

The worst thing is, those two "shopping stations" in Shanghai are obvious "black shops" for me. The staffs in the jewelry shop even acted according to script like a drama in front of us.

Other "shopping stations" such as silk, pearl, teapot, tea leaves were alright but I guess most tourists may not be sure whether those products sold are real or fake, especially when the price can be marked down tremendously.

       Suzhou OuYuan: Home of the rich

For the issue of changes in tourist spots, it is earlier mentioned in groupon that the itinerary given is subjected to change so we have nothing much to say.

However, we have paid RMB450 per person for 4 recommended tourist spots or events and it ended up that we only went to half of them. We have lodged complaint to the Singapore-based travel agency but I don't think we can get our money back.

苏州观前街 Omitted
无锡三阳广场 Omitted
杭州西湖之夜歌舞秀 Yes
上海黄浦江游船 Yes

       Hangzhou: Beautiful West Lake

For the accommodation, I was initially attracted by "5-star Sheraton Hotels" in the groupon. I think this is misleading because they are very unlikely to give you Sheraton or Four Points for the whole trip. For me it is just a sales trick.

The hotels that we stayed in were not too bad though .

Groupon Travel Agent Actual
Four Points Shanghai 宝龙喜来登 宝龙喜来登
Four Points Suzhou 威联豪生 威联豪生
Sheraton Wuxi 君乐大酒店 君乐大酒店
Four Points Hangzhou 金马饭店 金马饭店

We were given one Sheraton hotel to stay in Shanghai for the first night, just to please us I guess.

However, this hotel is not in Shanghai and it is actually in Suzhou. So after we arrived at Pudong International Airport at the easternmost part of Shanghai, we traveled about 1.5 hours west to this hotel in Suzhou to rest & for breakfast. Then we traveled another 1.5 hours back to Shanghai and shortly after lunch we have to travel back to Suzhou. I would rather be given other hotel with more strategic location.

Breakfast were taken at hotels and we were provided lunch and dinner. As expected the meals were so-so with cheap stuff.

       Simple and taste ok

Are there any hidden charges?

Our tour guide said that our bus driver was very tired driving us around and we should not let him carrying our luggage up & down from the bus. So he suggested to pay RMB15 per day per room to hotel staff to help us to move the luggage from the bus to our room, and back to the bus later. No one dared to say no I guess.

In Wuxi Lingshan grand Buddha area, we were suggested to take special vehicle for RMB25 per person to roam the area. As the place is large and we have elderly who couldn't walk too much, it was acceptable.

In one of the hotel buffet breakfast, I was asked to pay RMB48 for each of my children. After complaining to the tour guide and negotiation with hotel manager, finally I still needed to pay for one of them.

So these were the unexpected extra charges in this tour, and they are not too much actually.

       Wuxi: Lingshan Grand Buddha

In summary, as we rarely travel abroad, it was still a great experience for us. As you can expect, it was quite rush and we were not able spend more time in places we like. The number of places that we went were also limited due to time wasted at shopping stations & traveling on the bus.

I can feel that the main aim of the local tour guides are not bringing us to see the beautiful places in their cities, but only to guide and persuade you to spend in those shopping stations.

So, if you can afford to pay for better quality trip, go for a trip without shopping stations but it will surely cost much more than this. 

If you want to save money, I think this type of groupon travel deal is still worth a try.

       Shanghai: HuangPu Jiang 

The groupon looks cheap at RM1738 for 2 adults, or RM869 per person. 

How much did I spend for 4 adults & 2 children in this particular tour?
  • Groupon x 2 = RM3476
  • Air tickets & tour fees for 2 children = RM1576
  • Airasia manage booking fees = RM759
  • Compulsory "recommended" tour = RM1160
  • Tippings & extra fees in China = RM605
  • Visas & travel insurance & passports = RM1184
  • Transport between Penang & KLIA2 = RM605

Total = RM9365, or RM1561 per person. (excluding shopping in China)

Compared to RM3000 per person to Taiwan I estimated earlier, it is a 50% saving.


  1. I think if you go on the normal 9days7 nights tour of Shanghai, Suzhou, wuxi and Hangzhou, the costs would not differ that much. For adults, it would be RM2300 to RM2600 depending on the dates. At least you get decent travel agencies, all spots on the itinerary and also decent food.

  2. I guess so, I'll learn from this experience :)