Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

Here at Exodus we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can ensure our trips continue to be the best they can be. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of the trip you're interested in, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

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  • Reviewed May 2018
    John Floy

    Walking the Great Wall; and Xi'an

    We recently returned from the Great Wall tour and the extension trip to the city of Xi'an to see the terracotta warriors (14th-26th April). The Great Wall experience opened our eyes to the hinterland of Beijing where we trekked the rugged sections of the wall, some of them challenging, staying in local homestays along the way. The families who run the homestays provided authentic hospitality in the most fantastic locations in and around national parks. Throughout our trip, under the inspirational leadership of our guide Jerry (who looked after our every need with inexhaustible attention to planning and detail) we learnt about China's fascinating history and culture as well as entertaining asides on the economics of China. The weather was brilliant. Following the tour of Beijing (mainly Forbidden City) at the end of the walk, we took the extension to Xi'an, under a new guide. The sleeper train from Beijing was an extra experience (it was fine!) not to be missed. The terracotta warriors are housed in a purpose-built heritage site; the numbers and scale are massive; you feel you are right back in the 2nd century BCE during emperor Qin's rule. Xi'an is also worth exploring, including the city wall, which is in perfect condition. Food on the Great Wall was excellent - invariably eating in local restaurants along the way - all food freshly cooked and washed down with the ubiquitous "cold beer"; always with fast and friendly service. This review is just a snapshot of a truly memorable holiday. Well done again Exodus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Difficult question. Some parts of the Great Wall after a steep ascent revealed wondrous scenery. The terracotta warriors are so life-like and the scale and detail have to be appreciated. Connecting with local people far removed from our British culture and way of life.
  • Reviewed May 2018
    Steve Johnson

    Very good - just a few tweaks

    Overall, we LOVED this trip and would highly recommend it. Just a few minor complaints, many of which are unavoidable (but some could be addressed): - Air pollution was pretty bad on some of the days (though not all). Obviously, Exodus can't do much about this, but future travelers should be aware. I had heard the air quality had improved significantly since the 2008 Olympics, and that might be...but it was still pretty bad. - Plumbing! Other than the Beijing hotel, every single guest house we stayed at had plumbing issues (and it wasn't just our rooms - the other travelers in our group had the same issues). You name it - scalding/freezing shower water, no water pressure, drainage issues. It seems like these SHOULD be pretty easy to fix, and yet.... - WIFI - there are many sites that are banned in China, but others (CNN, EPSN, local news sites) are accessible...when you can get a signal. Most places we stayed at *claimed* to have wifi, but the networks were slow at best, and in most cases unusable. - Food - generally pretty good at the guest houses, but there was not much variety (suprisingly). - Tai Chi - it was nice to have a Tai Chi lesson, but the instructor stood in the front of the group which made it difficult for those of us in back to see her. She should have been in the center, or if possible elevated on a platform or stage so everyone could see her. - Crowds - on the final day we went to the Forbidden City in Beijing at what seemed like the worst possible time: Sunday afternoon. The crowds were ridiculous. If possible, Exodus should try to arrange this tour early on a weekday morning to avoid (or at least lessen) the crowds. Again, all these complaints are minor. Overall, we loved our experience and would recommend it to anyone considering it!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The first day on The Wall - just the exhilaration of actually being there!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jerry was good - he spoke a bit quickly and was a bit difficult to understand at times, and was quite opinionated on some topics...but overall quite good. Very patient and good sense of humor.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The hiking gets a bit intense - be sure you are in good shape!
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Louise Taylor

    Our China experience

    Truely wonderful, the Great Wall was full of twists and turns, ups and downs , it’s more than I expected. The food was amazing , and we were made very welcome by all. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who loves mountains as the scenery is second to none , I did the Xi’an extension; great fun seeing the 8th wonder of the world something I won’t forget! To top off this trip we were blessed with WEE WON English name JERRY. He is a true ambassador to his country. He was there 24/7 , full of energy and a graduate in economics, history, and tourism! Thank you exodus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The first sight of the Great Wall brought a tear to my eye , the length history and reason for it’s being there !

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jerry is an ambassador of knowledge in his country, he is a great speaker and very organised, never late, and should be used for any extensions after this trip ;

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    My advice pack light, wear good walking shoes , there are high climbing up stairs, and slopes down , so a head of heights is needed, and be a little fit or may struggle with pace .

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This trip isn’t just walking the Great Wall , you get the experience of culture, traditions, and to enjoy their food ! We had the opportunity to see a kung foo show , and other evening activities, each activity was brilliant and memoriable .
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Ian Tucker

    Great Wall and Xian

    Great Trip. Hiking the wall was the highlight of this trip. The group got on really well together. The hotel hosts were great. Jerry the guide was fantastic. He knew his job so well. Great guy. The walking was tough at times. The extension to Xian was also good. I would recommend this trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing how big and how long the wall really is.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jerry was so good. He got everyone in the right place at the right times. He made the group feel at ease. This is my third trip with Exodus and he has been the best group leader I have had.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Hiking can be tough at times. There are a lot of steps to go up and down.
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Maureen Lamb

    Wishing I was back in China

    I loved this holiday. I'm missing being outside all day, walking surrounded by great scenery, lovely company, apricot blossom, learning about a culture I knew very little about, the food..... I hadn't travelled with Exodus before, but would definitely do so again. I'm really glad that I was able to do the Xi'an extension. After walking the wall and sightseeing in Beijing I really wanted to see more, and was not disappointed.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I loved all of the walking, even in the rain. Seeing the local guides look as though they were out for an afternoon stroll while we were puffing and panting was certainly impressive. I found the wall and the Terracotta Warriors to be on a scale I had not been able to imagine. Cycling around the city walls of Xi'an as the sun went down was delightful.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Jerry Wu was excellent. We benefited not only from his knowledge patience and enthusiasm but his local contacts and friendships. Jerry clearly felt a real responsibility for us, even writing potentially useful questions in Chinese and English for our journey to Xi'an. These did in fact help us. He ensured we had as good a holiday as possible, and stayed safe. In addition he has a wonderful sense of humour. Michelle our guide in Xi'an was also knowledgeable and really helpful. She took us off the tourist track for a meal after our visit to the Terracotta warriors. I never knew noodles could taste so good.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't be fooled by the apparently low number of miles walked, as the video clip on the exodus website shows, the walk is steep up and steep down, my calf muscles certainly knew about it. I wondered whether to take walking poles, as I hadn't used them previously. Took them but didn't use them, I did however use my hands and knees. I packed a woolly hat, gloves, a sun hat and sun cream and used them all - the woolly hat and gloves to sleep in one night! The weather certainly changed quickly. I took a sleeping bag liner, which was well worth packing. If rain is a possibility a rain cover for your day rucksack looks helpful. I imagine if you love coffee it would be worth taking your own supply. I really enjoyed the additional activities - Tai Chi, the Kung Fu show, the Acrobat show, all great fun.
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Duarte Rocha

    A great hike and a small taste of China that leaves you wanting more.

    I enjoy hiking and love the Far East for its culture so this trip was a good choice when comparing length, cost, activities and travel involved. The majority of the time was spent hiking the Great Wall (6 days). A worry I had before setting off were that it could be quite monotonous spending all your time walking on a wall but I was pleasantly surprised to find that each day and usually multiple times during the same day the terrain would vary from fresh reconstructed parts of the wall to sections that were ruins and had not been touched for hundreds of years. The constant ups and down, with some sections being *very* steep, some minor scrambly sections, areas that looked to have a sheer drop to one side and also not really knowing what was coming next as you headed around a corner or over a ridge made for a fantastic hike. The scenery was amazing, seeing the Wall snaking over the beautiful mountain ridges for miles into the distance leaves you in awe of the sheer scale of its size and human effort that went into building it. The apricot trees were blossoming and the skies were blue for most of the trip. Walking the untouched areas meant that for the majority of the trip we were the only group walking the wall which added to the experience and lessens that feeling of "being a tourist". One day we did walk a beautiful but touristy part of the wall that was fairly packed with visitors but this was a nice experience, especially the huge groups of local school children who wanted to practice their English skills with us and take selfies with members of our group. At the homestays the local families were friendly and welcoming and the food provided was outstanding, and quite different to the usual fried Chinese food you may be used to in the UK. Our final day was spent in Beijing, visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City which is a worthwhile experience and along the way we attempted Tai Chi, visited a Taoist shrine, saw a Kung Fu and an acrobatics show as well as some shopping in town. This was just a small taster of the China experience and it did leave me wanting to visit other parts of that vast country at some point. I've been on a few Exodus tours and I've been fortunate once again to have shared this one with an extremely friendly, kind and funny group of people that made the trip all the more enjoyable.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Great Wall of China is immense and the views of it passing over the mountains for miles on end are breathtaking.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jerry Wu is one of the best leaders you could wish for. Very knowledgeable about the history and culture of the locations we visited. He would often break into long but entertaining, funny and enlightening monologues telling us of his personal experiences in China. Our welfare and enjoyment was always his number one concern and so we always felt we were in very safe, organised and capable hands.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    One thing I wish I'd researched before leaving is access that access to certain web services are banned in China so you may need to find an alternative or a work around so you can use translation or messaging apps while on the trip. I don't believe O2 has a 4G contract with the local telecom services in China so if you have a travel bolt package with them your data speeds will be slow. Wifi is available at the hotel and homestays but they can also be quite slow. The taxi drivers don't speak a word of English. Make sure you have the name, address and tel no. of the hotel you are staying at written in Chinese characters to show the driver in order to prevent a potential faff at the airport. Also, use the officially licensed taxis, they are very cheap and wont charge over the odds compared to drivers standing at the airport arrivals (This generally holds true for many places around the world). I wore running trainers for the hike and was glad I did - they are more flexible, have good grip for fairly flat surfaces and light, I felt they suited the terrain better especially in the dry season. The homestays usually had boiled eggs as part of the breakfast but they do not provide salt so bringing some along might be an idea. Chop sticks are your only option for some of the meals. Be prepared for squat toilets and make sure you have some warm clothing and waterproofs, mountainous areas can see drastic weather changes - on our trip the temperature dropped at least 10 C degrees literally overnight and went up again the day after. Plenty bottled water is provided by the driver or available at the homestays and you can pay for them (cheap) at the end of your stay (honour system). Beers in most places cost around £1 for a 660ml bottle, the hotels in Beijing may charge 3 x that much. The local "fire water" is an acquired taste but guaranteed to liven up an evening.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was overall a fantastic trip, the week flew by in no time but it was extremely fulfilling.
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Howard Perkins

    Even better than expected...

    We chose this trip as something that was a bit more special than just trekking in Europe, where we would also be in a completely different culture. It exceeded our expectations in just about every way. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, the Wall is simply incredible (in the true meaning of the word). Whenever the Wall headed up some impossibly steep ridge, the question "How did they manage to build this bit?" was immediately followed by the question "Why?". Secondly, we had really good weather with only a few hours of cloud/drizzle on the whole trip. Thirdly, this was one of the best groups I've been part of and finally, the trip leader Jerry was excellent. So I know we were lucky, bad weather and limited views would definitely detract from the experience.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    All those views of the Wall following ridge after ridge as far as you can see.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jerry was one of the best trip leaders I've ever had. Totally committed to us as a group, but what stood out for me was that he gave us a fascinating insight into Chinese culture, drawing on his own background whenever necessary. But be warned - if you ask a question, be prepared for a very full answer!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the trip notes! The daily distances are not very far - but you're either going up or down, usually quite steeply. There is very little flat walking. If you have dodgy knees think carefully. You also need to be comfortable on uneven, steep and exposed terrain, especially where the Wall is ruined. Hands are needed in places. I took walking poles, but didn't use them. Jerry recommended a single walking pole, so that you had a hand free for holding on. A lot of the group wore walking shoes - but I think walking boots are more appropriate. The accommodation outside of Beijng is fairly basic. Some people had squat loos, some had a western style seat. In one homestay, toilet paper goes in the bin and is not flushed. None of the tap water is drinkable (even in Beijing). If that sort of thing puts you off, then this isn't the trip for you. However, every room was en-suite and mostly everything worked. I've stayed in a lot worse. There was very little heating and it was surprisingly cold in the evenings/overnight (2nd week April) to the extent that on one night I slept in my down jacket. The food was a lot better than expected and always plenty of it. I personally don't like spicy food but there was still enough choice. There also seemed to be enough vegetarian options too - although perhaps a more limited choice. It's worth practising with chopsticks before you go or else you might be quite hungry! Jasmin tea is the only drink served with meals - but most places you could buy soft drinks or beer. Coffee or milk are not readily available so if you are addicted, take some sachets. Everywhere advertised wifi - but the speeds were really, really slow. There are also several western sites that aren't reachable. If you can't survive without Facebook (really?), then set up a VPN before you go. Finally, just go with the flow and have a great trip!
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Dominique Hopes

    Great Wall trip-can not recommend enough!

    Travelled alone on the trip, met some incredible people and shared some phenomenal walks! Exodus made real effort to give us the full China experience, rural walks and tourist excursions. Already booked my next trip!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Rural walks with amazing scenery

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Humourous, knowledgeable and have plenty of cultural facts. Could have done with a second person as sometimes half the group fell behind as slightly held up the rest of us!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do everything, take on all challenges and you'll be amazed what you can achieve.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you to all involved. Feel the community blog aspect could have been highlighted to those booked as only found one person before my trip which was a shame as a solo traveller.
  • Reviewed June 2017
    Joseph Carraway

    Great Wall, great tour

    Walking the Great Wall is a great tour with a good mix of activities. I go on theses trips to do some good trekking, but it is also nice to see the important tourist sites in Beijing. What is nice about this itinerary is that you do Beijing, spend time away and then finish in Beijing giving you a nice balance and not spending too much time in the big city. The guesthouses are a unique experience and are run by the nicest people I have ever come across. I highly recommend the Xi'an extension as the Terracotta Warriors are a must see, and Xi'an itself is very different with a lot of charm and character.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Overall I enjoyed the day with the spider wall the best but really the highlight for me was any day away from the touristy, restored parts of the wall. That combined with a really great group made the trip exactly what I wanted.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jerry is one of the best leaders you could possibly ask for. He is very knowledgeable and has a good sense of humor to keep things interesting. We had many issues with our itinerary due to the Silk Road Conference, but he handled all the changes well.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Check the weather before you go to ensure you are prepared. I would recommend some electrolyte supplements for those extremely hot days.
  • Reviewed June 2017
    Ferenc Suhai

    Walking the great wall

    Before going on the trip the highlight was for me of course the wall and the scenic views but this all changed and the whole experience was the people I was travelling with the teamwork and friendships I made.. has left a positive impact on me and at the moment all I can think about is the next trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The sense of achievement personally and of the group when reaching a high point and then getting photos of the views stretched out below.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Great.. an original genuine character made the trip an enjoyable experience for me

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read trip notes I did and used blister plasters at early stage and managed to keep feet from getting any worse than just a bit sore.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    My own feelings of trip it gave me more than I expected it was always going to be taking on a section of the wall and then being rewarded with amazing views but the group I was with were just amazing. I would love to meet them all again at some other challenging great location they have left their mark on my mind my memories and in my heart.
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