On May 21, 2019, I travelled to China for 11 days (technically 9 because of flights) using China Southern Airlines on my first ever group tour via Nexus Holidays. It was booked through Flight Centre as the “11 Day Beautiful China Tour”, including flights, daily breakfast and a range of fun activities to see how amazing China is. I have been travelling overseas since I was a year old, which makes this just over 27 years’ experience of flying on airplanes. I highly recommend China Southern Airlines. The service was 10/10, they made sure you were hydrated throughout the flight, their customer service was excellent and their food, not as bad, however better than other airlines. It was enough to fill us up for the long-haul 11+ hour journey.
I just need to skip straight to China; we will leave out the stopover and flight journey as it is not important. First thing first, do not ever use Nexus Holidays. This is something I will repeat throughout my review because it was appalling and considering I was not the only member of the group to feel this way that says a lot! If I could make this review a 0 star rating, I would.
Nothing coincided with the itinerary that we were given via Nexus Holidays. Before we left, we were meant to receive our confirmed itinerary two weeks before our departure date. We did not get it. Having emailed Nexus Holidays a week before our departure date (hoping they would send it by then), we were told our itinerary was updated and the same as before. This turned out to be a lie and our itinerary was completely different from everyone’s in the group. This meant we had different hotels listed and a different journey mapped out.
Our first guide of the tour was Lily. She met the group at Beijing Airport when we landed at 11:15pm, and brought us to the hotel that was an hour away.
This is where one of the first issues stems from, how Nexus deal with the hotels. The issue being how far the hotels were throughout the journey, how the staff members could not speak English and how far away they were from nearly any kind of human civilisation.
Hotels, Hotel Staff & Tour Guides:
Our hotel in Beijing was very nice. We stayed at the Riverside Hotel for three days that was situated in the Beijing International Garden Expo Park. As a Transformers fan, it was pretty cool to see a gigantic Bumblebee standing in the lobby, with his eyes glowing blue as it neared dark. Unfortunately, no matter how lovely the area and the hotel was, the staff could not speak English, it was more than an hour away from all the places we wanted to travel to (such as Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City). This meant that if we did not participate in any of the ridiculously over-priced activities, it would be more than an hour back to the hotel via taxi.
The buffet breakfast in the mornings was filled with a variety of foods. This ranged from Western breakfast to various Asian cuisines. Unfortunately, we were subjected to pay 100 CNY or $21 AUD every night we were there for the buffet dinner because we were so far away from every single place, including places to eat at. The food was terrible and many of the dishes were the same as what we had for breakfast (with some new ones). Much of the food available during dinner was cold and flavourless. When asked by our tour guide Lily how the food was, we replied that we did not enjoy it. She looked at us unhappily and walked away with a huff to her posture.
Lily who was our tour guide for Beijing, however informative she was about the various of places we went to, was also quite rude when we decided to take a day off and gave our negative review of the buffet dinner.
Three days later, our next journey was meant to be a high-speed train to Wuxi, but since our itinerary was completely wrong; it was a high-speed train to Hangzhou instead (which was meant to be our last trip before we went to Shanghai). Our tour guide for the rest of this tour was Maggie.
Then we stayed at Jinjiang Metropolo Hotel in Hangzhou (Xihu Wenhua Plaza Branch). This was by far the worst hotel we ever stayed. The staff were extremely rude and could not speak English. I could not for the life of me, figure out why Nexus continuously puts us in hotels where the staff cannot speak English. We tried to get more pillows as there were three of us in one room and my bed did not have pillows. After trying to ask with the translator app, they told us they have any more pillows. They laughed at us and turned away to chat to each other in Mandarin, especially since they could not understand us. Thereby, not giving us the customer service that was required of them. These were young staff members, but they were extremely rude! Nexus Holidays, putting us in a dump. Not to mention the fact we could not sleep the whole night due to a flying cockroach in the room.
Our hotel in Wuxi was quite a lovely one this time, the Jinjiang Grand Hotel, situated within a bustling city-scape, surrounded with food places and an open-spaced shopping mall that was amazing to walk around in (besides the obstacle of the torrential rain that turned us into drowned rats).
We had a Western Buffet dinner in Suzhou at our hotel that we paid for. The best food we have had so far in our China trip. The seafood was unbelievably amazing and overall a nicer change.
In Shanghai, Maggie took us back to our hotel (it took over an hour to reach our hotel), and told us that it was a great location, surrounded with many food places and convenience stores. We arrived at the Orange Crystal Hotel (Shanghai International Tourism Resort) next to the Wild Animal Park.
It was a literal industrial area. The Orange Crystal looked lovely inside, which was a more pleasant view than the rubbish that was outside, but when we arrived at our room, that was a different story. As soon as we opened the door, a foul stench hit us like a freight train. The smell was if no one ever cleaned the toilet (just that smell, but it was everywhere), and it wafted throughout the room and into the hall. We were choking it was that bad! We marched down there and told Maggie what was wrong. She spoke to the Manager for us and he told her that there were no more rooms available and he would get a cleaner to come and do a “deep clean”.
We walked outside while they cleaned the room. There was a car repair shop next to the hotel, a long divider separated most of the road in front of it, and across the road were a row of shops. The shops smelled as if it was situated inside a dumpster, stray cats were walking everywhere, and the place was filthy enough that it made me gag. We did not buy any food from the restaurants as we did not want to get food poisoning, except cup-a-noodles from the store for dinner because everything else in the area (room service in the hotel was finished for the night) was downright ghastly, a major change to the other hotels we previously had. We went back to our hotel room, opened the door and once again the smell was still there, just as strong. We called once more and said that nothing had changed and they did not want to do anything about it or change our rooms (even though they changed the rooms for other members of the group with similar issues). The service was terrible.
Later that night, I called for an extra blanket that I needed as I had a thin one, and it was a downright hassle because they either said they would arrive with the blankets (they did not no matter how many times I called) or came only once with the thinnest bed sheet. Later that night I stomped down to the reception and angrily told them that I had been ringing and ringing and no one came despite saying so. I told them their service was despicable and rude. I think I scared them a bit considering they tried to avoid eye contact the next day. I rarely blow up like that with anyone, but that night it was extremely bad to due how the staff were treating us.
Another negative was the pricing of the activities that actually cost less than what Nexus Holidays advertised. As an example, in Beijing, one of the extra activities was the Panda House Tour. This meant visiting the Panda House at Beijing Zoo. Nexus Holidays asked us to pay $80 AUD when it was in fact 20 CNY or $4.20 AUD. Where exactly is all that extra money they wanted us to pay going? I had looked up the prices previously on the bus and was not sucked into it. Another was the Forbidden City, which we paid $80 AUD for before the trip, when in fact the price was 60 CNY or $12 AUD. Can you believe the price difference?
Our first outing was to the Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City (an extra activity). A bustling, over-crowded area, filled with salespeople wanting to see various hats and cameras everywhere looming over you in a 360 direction atop poles. It was a nice place otherwise, especially the Forbidden City as it was a place I have wanted to visit for so long.
The next day we ventured to the Great Wall of China, where it was breathtaking. We were only allowed an hour and a half to walk the Wall due to a limited time (and an unfortunate fall from one of our group members who luckily came out great after a stint at the hospital).
Our first stop in Hangzhou was the West Lake where we took a boat ride to see its scenic views. Here we had a guide for this specific activity, Ping where she droned on and on about her boyfriend. She was very lively and I was enjoying the story of how lovers were created while meeting at West Lake, but to keep droning on about the relationship with her boyfriend was tiresome and that was when I zoned out of the entire boat ride.
The next day was a coach ride to Wuxi where we had a pre-booked activity for the Jiangnan Dumpling Lunch. This was the worst dumping lunch I have ever been to with barely any dumplings to show and the broth of the soup tasted like water. It was not worth the money at all. The same day we ventured to Nanchang Street that is composed of both ancient and modern architecture juxtaposed with the waterside town. This was a highlight of the trip, reminding us of a little Vienna.
In Shanghai and on our second last day, I took the day off to go to Disneyland for the whole day. I went with three other members of the group by taxi in the morning, which took about 25 minutes to arrive. Nexus had charged the group $200 AUD to go to Disneyland, whereas I paid $81 AUD for my ticket online (thankfully one of the members of the group told me about this or I would not have gone. Thank you Ashley). Where on Earth does the rest of the money go?
Nexus Sales Tactics:
After the Great Wall, we were subjected to the Cloisonné Factory that is famous for traditional enamelware. This is the first of many sales tactics that Nexus Holidays pushes on you. Being trapped to stay in a group where you hear the history (the only interesting part) of how and when they were created, but also at the same time, droning on about how much they were and how we should buy them. I did not buy any. We told Lily that we would not be attending the tour the next day, which included the Summer Palace. She was not happy.
Afterwards was a classic Nexus activity, the Dragonwell Green Tea Plantation. Another sales tactic. They locked us in one room and gave us tea that literally tasted like tuna mashed in water and started droning on about how they make it, the medicinal uses (apparently it can cure cancer, what a revolutionary tea) and why we should buy it. The sales representative spent the next 45 minutes buzzing about the prices and the kind of assortments you would receive (including so-called discounts and bonus extras) free if we bought it. It was amazing to see this woman promote the Dragonwell Green Tea, acting as if she was promoting in front of a camera, ready to have hordes of customers vying to buy this revolutionary cancer-curing tea. Complete BS and many fell for it. Unbelievable. Thankfully, I did not attend the Chinese Medicinal Clinic, as that is the similar type of scam.
We took a coach to Suzhou and visited yet another sales tactic of Nexus, the Pearl Exhibition. This time we were literally locked in a room as they showed opened up a clam and took out pearls (which they gave us), and then proceeded to drone on about the various jewellery and creams with their prices.
Do not ever travel Nexus Holidays. I feel as if the reviews have been somewhat altered to reflect the positive reputation of their company, but after my first experience with following a tour group, I will never go in a tour again. They put you in hotels that are extremely far away; the staff in the hotels are rude and cannot speak English, Nexus charge an extraordinary fee for extra activities that are actually cheaper online and they include ludicrous activities that are part of your itinerary with salespeople shoving products in your face and take money from you. While I enjoyed the group members of my trip (and have since become friends), and while Shanghai was literally the best thing about my holiday (except for the horrible hotel they put us in and too short a stay), I will never go in a group and never use Nexus Holidays again. Thank you Nexus for putting me off tour groups as it was an enlightening experience.