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China's Natural Wonders

DAY 1: OVERNIGHT FLIGHT   Depart from the USA.
DAY 2: BEIJING   Arrive in China's exciting capital city, meet your tour manager and begin to explore your new surroundings.
DAY 3: BEIJING   Start your day joining locals in their Taiji exercises before visiting the majestic Temple of Heaven. Then discover the relics of the Forbidden City, a maze of buildings that was off-limits to the public for 500 years, followed by a stroll through historic Tiananmen Square. In the evening enjoy a Peking Duck dinner, one of the country's most celebrated culinary traditions.
DAY 4: BEIJING   Journey to the impressive Great Wall, the world's largest man-made structure, with a view of the Olympic site en route. Take a cable car and hike a section of the wall before returning to Beijing. This afternoon you will share stories and bring joy to disadvantaged children during a service activity at a local school. After dinner enjoy a spectacular Kung Fu Show, highlighting one of China’s oldest martial arts.
DAY 5: XI'AN   This morning enjoy time to experience more of vibrant Beijing at your own pace. Then transfer to the airport for your afternoon flight to Xi'an.
DAY 6: XI'AN   Today unearth part of China’s history with a visit to the life-size Terra Cotta Warriors, burial guardians of China’s First Emperor. View the Bronze Chariot and see a Circle Vision movie. This afternoon you’ll improve the environment and give back through participation in a community tree planting eco-activity around the local neighborhood.
DAY 7: YA'AN   Board a plane for your morning flight to Chengdu. Upon arrival, transfer through scenic countryside to Bifengxia Valley, nestled in the green mountains of western Sichuan. Arrive at the Bifengxia Valley Giant Panda Research Base and begin your service project. During a volunteer orientation, learn about the pandas and how to care for them from staff who have dedicated their lives to the conservation of this unique endangered species. Arrive at your hotel in Ya'an for the evening.
DAY 8: CHENGDU   Today spend a full day engaged in service projects at the Giant Panda Research Base. Activities vary based on what is needed, but may include cleaning the habitats, assisting with the garden, preparing food, feeding the pandas or assisting the Research Base scientists with data collection. Journey back to Chengdu this evening.
DAY 9: SHANGHAI   This morning fly to Shanghai. Begin to explore with a tour of some of the city's most noted sights, including the business district called the Bund and a silk workshop where you will observe the process for making this luxurious textile. After dinner, tonight's highlight is the famous Shanghai Acrobatic Show.
DAY 10: SHANGHAI   Start your day with a visit to old Shanghai's Yu Yuan Garden, the only fully restored classical Chinese garden in Shanghai, and the Jade Buddha Temple. Then see modern Shanghai's City Planning Exhibition Center and the Shanghai Museum. Spend your final evening abroad exploring Xin Tian Di, a pedestrian district popular with the locals, known for shopping, dining and entertainment.
DAY 11: DEPARTURE   Depart for the USA.

Thank you for offering China. I hope to tweak this trip and get a teacher from my school to take a group next summer.

Linda B.
Group Leader 2013

What to See


3.3 Shopping Center, 33 Sanlitun Beijie, Cháoyáng
Browse contemporary boutiques for accessories and other small tokens to remind you of your trip. Catered to a younger crowd, you can find this shopping center in the midst of Sanlitun.

Beijing Silk Store, 50 Dazhalan Jie, Chóngwén
Wrap yourself in the world's finest silk. This Beijing staple has been supplying silk since 1840. Try on and purchase beautiful designs or buy by the meter to construct your own.

Beijing Arts & Crafts Central Store, 200 Wangfujing Dajie, Chóngwén
Also known as 'The Artistic Mansion,' this is a shopping lovers dream. Find jewelry, paintings, glass, calligraphy, fans, and more. If you're searching for jewelry, Beijing is known for its high quality jade, and all should come with certificates of authenticity.


Amy Lin's Pearls & Jewelry, 580 West Nanjing Rd
Enter this friendly, English-speaking store to find the best pearls the city has to offer. Their inventory includes freshwater pearls and treasured black Zhejiang pearls. You can also visit the other floors in this building to find some Western-inspired designer knockoffs. 

Blue Shanghai White, 17 Fuzhou Rd, The Bund
A small boutique for hand-painted porcelain goods like tea cups and vases. There's also dazzling wooden furniture.

Duoyunxuan Art Shop, 422 East Nanjing Rd
For the artist in you, shop here for extraordinary art supplies and calligraphy tools. The other floors of this building house shops that sell art books and antiques, and they even have a calligraphy gallery to inspire your next work of art.

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National Art Museum of China, 1 Wusi Street
Once a building for Peking University, this art museum open to the public in 1959, but has recently been refurbished.  There are constantly changing exhibits of both traditional and modern Chinese art, with a lot of examples of contemporary artists.

National Museum of China, 16 E Chang'an Street
Just east of Tiananmen Square is this new museum, ready for the 2008 Olympics.  The building combines the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the Museum of History.  There are multimedia exhibits like movie clips, memorabilia and a wax figure display.


Jade Buddha Temple, 170 Anyuan Lu
This temple is the most famous in all of Shanghai for it serves host to beautiful jade statues of Buddha which were brought to China from Myanma in 1882.  The temple itself was built in the traditional Song Dynasty style.  The temple was saved during the Cultural Revolution of China when monks plastered paintings of chairman Mao on the doors.  Today, more than 70 monks live here.

Longhua Temple & Pagoda, 2853 Longhua Lu
The Longhua Temple and Pagoda are some of the oldest temples in Shanghai, built in 241 AD.  The pagoda has dramatically curved eaves and stands seven stores high.  From the top you have wonderful views of the city and surrounding countryside.

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The Forbidden City
Acting at the imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty until the Qing Dynasty, The Forbidden City is located in the middle of Beijing.  It has remained relatively untouched, as the modern city grows around it.  It is suggested that you arrive early, when the gates open at 8:30 am, so you can enjoy walking around the vast courtyards without it becoming too crowded.

Tiananmen Square
The largest square in the world should be one of your spots while touring Beijing.  It is definitely a spot where you'll find yourself lingering, seeing all the of the visitors experiencing the same sights.  There is a flag raising and lowering ceremony at dawn and dusk that is definitely worth seeing.

Temple of Heaven
Known as one of the greenest places in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven is surround by a vast public park where local residents like to practice tai chi.  The woods surrounding the ancient temple are very peaceful, and a great place to find solitude.  The temple was whee the emperor would pray ever year for a good harvest and fair weather.

Summer Palace
Another incredible palace constructed by the Qing emperors, it is relatively easy to visit via Tiananmen Square or the Temple of Heaven.  There ae extensive gardens and ruins to explore, and especially along the back hill area you should find secret ruins and caves, separate from the main tourist bustle of the front hill.


Century Park, 1001 Jinxiu Road, Century Ave
The largest park in Shanghai begins at the end of Century Ave.  There is a large central lake with boat rides, as well as bicycle rentals for the paved pathways.  There is also a nice area for flying kites which the locals tend to do often.

Huangpu River Cruise, 219-239 Zhongshan North 2 Road
There are many operators offering cruises of the river, and the prices vary.  It all depends on how long you want the tour to be.  There are nice views of the Bund neighborhood and other riverfront activity.  The most popular is the quick 30 minute cruise which departs hourly.

Shanghai Botanical Gardens, 997 Longwu Road
A great place to escape the concrete and steel of the city, the Botanical Gardens gives you the chance to get up close and personal with tropical flora.  On the northern side of the gardens, you'll find a memorial temple built in 1728 dedicated to Huang Daopo, the father of Shanghai's cotton industry.

Old Shanghai City
This area of the city contains some of the oldest historical buildings and twisting alleyways. The city is doing major renovations, and locals say that many of the historic buildings are going to be torn down, so now is the time to visit.  Take the metro to Huangpi Lu.
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Fu Jia Lou, 23 Dong Si Shi Tiao
Located in the Dongcheng district, this place is a cheap and pleasant Chinese diner.  The menu is written on pieces of wood and hung from the rafters.  A great stop for lunch or dinner, the is fresh and the service is fast.  Open daily.

Golden Cat Dumpling City, East Gate of Tuanjiehu Park
Dumplings, or jiaozi, are the favorite of the locals in Beijing.  This courtyard diner attract many locals as they have over 30 different fillings.  From the traditional pork, fish and beef to interesting flavors like pumpkin, dill and eggplant, there is definitely something that will suit your tastes.  Prices are cheap and its open daily.

Baihe Sushi, Bei San Huan Jimen Qiao
Located in the Xicheng West district, this vegetarian restuarant is popular amongst health food aficionados and even the occasional Buddhist monk.  The environment is clean and friendly and one can order from a large variety of tasty vegetable and soy dishes.  Open daily.


Bì Feng Táng, 1333 West Nanjing Road
This dim sum joint is decorated with wicker and bamboo and always seems to have an active vibe to it.  It's the busiest during the morning and also late at night, as locals come in for that last meal before heading home.  There is nice outdoor seating too.  The restaurant is part of a small chain, so a few more branches can be found throughout Shanghai.

Bund 12 Café, 12 Zhongshan East No 1 Road
While in the Bund and looking for some coffee, try this café located in the old HSBC building.  The white hall corridors haven't really changed since the 1930s, so the café has a charming terrace and casual atmosphere.

Marco Polo, 632 East Huaihai Road
There are a few branches over Shanghai, but if you're in the French Concession, head over to this bakery for some fresh bread, cake, and pastry snacks.

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Curious about travel with ACIS? Find out answers to your burning questions below.

For Group Leaders and Teachers:

see all FAQs
Can I bring my family members or colleagues along?

Certainly. You have three different options:

1.      Assistants
Family members or colleagues may travel as assistants (even if minors, though children must be five years or older to travel in an ACIS group), according to the terms of the Group Leader Stipend Chart.* Assistants must be 21 years old and have at least five participants to their name to be eligible for the Experience Bonus.

2.      Family/Colleague Discount
Family members or colleagues may take a 20% discount from the program fee. These participants will not count toward your free trip, stipend or other group leader benefits. Like all paying participants, they are subject to mandatory fees (registration, tax, etc.) as well as full payment deadlines.

3.      $150 Child Discount
For children under the age of 12, you may take a flat $150 Child Discount (plus the 20% Family/Colleague Discount) off their program fee, but they will still be subject to mandatory fees. The child's registration will not count toward your free trip, stipend or other group leader benefits. The minimum age to travel with an ACIS group is five years old.

*Anyone can become an assistant to the group, provided they have at least one full-paying participant to their credit.

Can a paying participant become an assistant?

Yes. This must be done no later than 65 days before departure and an ACIS Assistant Registration Form must be submitted. Assistants added or canceled within 90 days of departure will be charged a $100 late fee payable either by the applicable assistant or the group leader. Please inform us immediately of these changes in writing.

What if my assistant must cancel?

Please inform ACIS immediately. We regret that if the cancellation occurs within 65 days of departure, we will charge the canceling assistant a $150 late cancellation fee and may not be able to accommodate a substitute assistant. If the cancellation is within 45 days of departure, the assistant must pay a $250 late cancellation fee (see ACIS Assistant Registration Form for policy) and their stipend credits are not transferable. Please always alert us in writing as soon as possible when an assistant cancels.

Do I receive travel insurance as a group leader?

Every ACIS Group Leader receives coverage under our most enhanced protection plan, the Ultimate Protection Plan complimentary for any tour they lead.

What if the group leader must cancel?

A mutual effort is made to find a qualified substitute teacher or other adult who will assume full group leader responsibilities. Participants who choose not to travel with the replacement group leader are subject to the standard cancellation/refund policy

Can I stay on after my group returns home?

Yes. An Alternate Return Request Form must be completed and returned to ACIS no later than 90 days before departure. You will be responsible for any additional flight costs, and must arrange for a responsible adult (preferably an assistant) to take charge of your group on the flight home. You must obtain written permission from a parent/guardian of each participant, naming the adult in charge. There will be a $150 charge for any change made within 90 days of departure, and no changes are possible within 65 days.

Can I stay in a single room?

Single accommodations are provided free of charge for group leaders who have eight or more paying participants counted to their credit AND who do not travel with a spouse or an assistant of the same sex. For those traveling in 2010/2011, see our Service Guarantee. In the unlikely event that a single room is not available, ACIS will reimburse you $20 per hotel night. Eligibility for the single room is based on the standard 1:6 prorate and is non-transferable. If the above does not apply, you may also elect to pay a surcharge of $40 per hotel night for a single room. Single rooms are not available aboard cruise ships, overnight ferries or trains, in China, Africa, Russia and most residence programs.

For Students and Parents:

see all FAQs
What airline do we fly?

ACIS groups travel on scheduled flights, using all the major carriers. These include American Airlines, Air France, Aerolineas Argentinas, Alitalia, Finnair, British Airways, British Midland Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Aer Lingus, Icelandair, Iberia, Spanair, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines Ltd., Northwest, Air New Zealand, Olympic Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Taca International Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, United Airlines, US Airways, Air Europa, and Virgin Atlantic. You'll receive flight information as your departure date approaches.

How many people travel in a group?

ACIS groups average anywhere from 35 to 45 participants traveling together on a bus, led by an ACIS Tour Manager. Small groups are often combined to create one bus group. This is the group with whom you share your travel experience. You eat your meals together, stay in the same accommodations, and travel together on the bus. It's an opportunity to make lifelong friendships!

Tell us more about the tour manager.

"Tour manager" is an important term in educational travel. It refers to your bus group leader, who is rigorously trained and specially selected to assist your group while overseas. ACIS Tour Managers are famous for their multifaceted roles, both educational and logistical. An ACIS Tour Manager is part commentator, counselor, troubleshooter, advocate, and stopwatch! He or she supervises hotel check-ins, directs the bus driver and leads educational activities.

Most importantly, ACIS Tour Managers are travel gurus. They thrive on sharing their passion and love for the cultures of the world, giving you the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of those who live and work there. Over the years, we've employed university professors, film directors, journalists, musicians, business professionals, and other creative achievers. Our tour managers are consistently recognized as top in the industry. You'll receive more information about your tour manager as your departure date approaches.

Your ACIS Tour Manager maintains a professional relationship with the group but is not directly responsible for enforcing discipline or the ACIS behavior guidelines. That is the responsibility of the your group leader. It is your tour manager's responsibility, however, to report to your group leader any infractions and to be sure that ACIS behavior guidelines are adhered to.

Where do we stay?

ACIS groups stay in three- and four-star conveniently located hotels. We place a priority on booking hotels in good locations and safe areas, with convenient access to both local attractions and public transportation.

Students generally stay in rooms with two or three beds. During peak travel periods, hotels sometimes add an extra bed to accommodate heavy bookings. ACIS attempts to prevent this but cannot guarantee that it will never happen. Some hotel rooms in France have a Grand Lit (an oversize double bed for two) instead of twin beds. Those who have paid the adult surcharge stay in double rooms in hotels but not on overnight ferries or trains.

An ACIS bus group is typically made up of two, three, or four groups from around the U.S. who quickly get to know each other and feel part of one overall group. Depending on the mix of male and female students in the bus group, students may be rooming with participants from other groups. Don't worry, this is a great way to meet new people and make some new friends!

The group leader will create a variety of rooming combinations before you leave, in order to make it easier for your tour manager to work out the rooming when you check in to your hotel.

Check-in time at most hotels is early to mid-afternoon. If you arrive overseas early in the morning, you likely have time to change money and do some exploring before you check in.

What will we have to eat?

You will enjoy a variety of meals en route, mixing both native and familiar cuisines depending on your area of travel. Keep an open mind and be willing to sample everything—that's what travel is all about!

Most days you will be served a continental breakfast that includes a variety of fresh rolls, cereal, pastry, butter and jam, coffee, tea or hot chocolate. In Australia and China, you will be served an American-style hot buffet breakfast. On trips to the Americas you may be served the traditional rice and beans. In some hotels in Britain, eggs or other items may be included. In Europe, the larger hotels sometimes serve eggs and other American-style breakfast items for an extra charge.

On most ACIS trips, you will enjoy lunch on your own. Be adventurous and experiment. Many travelers do what the locals do; instead of having an expensive restaurant meal, they buy fresh ingredients at a local market, then put together a sandwich and have a picnic lunch in a city park.

On most tours, beverages at dinner are not included. The are included on tours to China, Costa Rica, Peru, and occasionally other destinations. Sometimes your waiter may put soda or mineral water down on the table without being asked. Be aware that you will be charged for any beverages you consume.

Although ACIS will try to accommodate special-needs meals including kosher, vegetarian and low salt, we cannot guarantee all requests.

How much spending money will I need?

Spending needs vary depending on personal habits, but a typical allowance is $50 per day. This allows for lunch, snacks, soft drinks, postage, souvenirs, local transportation during free time, free-time activities, and optional excursions not already included in your itinerary. Most ACIS participants carry ATM cards, travelers checks and credit cards. ACIS has compiled all the information you need to know in Money Matters.

What should I pack?

Our advice is to pack light—you won't regret it! You will be responsible for carrying your own luggage on and off the bus, in and out of your hotel, and onto trains. Bring comfortable, practical clothes that you can wear more than once, with a few nice pieces thrown in.

Remember to pack clothes that you can layer as the weather can be unpredictable. Lastly, try to avoid bringing new shoes. New shoes can be tough to break in and you’ll want to make sure your shoes are comfortable and reliable. For more information specific to your trip, log into My Account for a detailed packing list.

What about calling home?

Calling home from overseas can be expensive and obtaining local phone cards can be complicated and time consuming. The best way to call is with an ACIS eKit Global Phonecard or Global Mobile Phone. Using the eKit card can save you up to 70% on international and U.S. long distance calls compared to pay phones and hotel phones. Simply charge up your eKit card with the credit card of your choice and it will be ready for use. In addition to cheap calls home, the ACIS eKit Global Phonecard offers you email, Voicemail, the ability to listen to email over the phone and much more!

Another option is the ACIS eKit Global Mobile phone. With a variety of pre-paid plans available, this mobile phone can save you up to 70% on global roaming rates.

Do I have travel insurance?

Yes. Your ACIS Registration Fee includes coverage under our Basic Protection Plan. ACIS recommends you upgrade your insurance coverage by purchasing the Ultimate Protection Plan designed specifically for you travel needs. With the Ultimate Protection Plan, you may cancel for any reason up to the day of departure and receive a cash refund. You will also receive expanded travel protection while on tour.

I am signed up for an ACIS tour. How do I access my account?

You can get your latest account information online—any time, any day. To view your most up-to-date itinerary and account status, just, log in to My Account with your Account ID and password, which can be found in the upper-right hand corner of your invoice. If you have forgotten your password or have additional questions about your account, contact ACIS Client Services at accounts@acis.com.

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