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Can I Still Buy Tickets and Tours to the Beijing Olympics?

SmarterTravel

The short answer: Yes, but it’s late, and you’ll probably have to throw money at your travel arrangements&#8212and take whatever event tickets a tour operator can score for you.

Who’s selling

A quick online check shows quite a few tour operators still selling Olympic packages. Some are strictly for Beijing; others add visits to different tourist spots in China, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanking, and Hong Kong.

I checked with a few of the larger and better known sports and event specialists, and most of them are promoting Olympics tours and packages. Those include China Travel International, CoSport, Roadtrips, Sinohotel, and Sports Traveler. All offer five-night and longer packages, with prices starting in the range of $4,000 to $5,000 per person. These are just a few of the many possibilities; Google “Olympic tours” and “Olympic tickets” and you’ll see dozens of others.

As far as I can tell, the Olympics tour operators have stopped trying to outguess the fuel situation and do not include air transportation in their posted tour rates. Most of them will arrange air, but at whatever fares they find when you’re ready to buy.

Minimal packages include hotel accommodations, at least one event ticket on most days, local transfers (hotel-game venues), and some local sightseeing. All offer extra nights in Beijing; most offer other regional tourist stops. Prices are all per-person based on double occupancy, with the usual stiff single supplements.

And posted prices are “from” rates, which are just the beginning: Higher rates may apply depending on the dates you travel and events you select. Most operators include only low- to mid-level event tickets, with stiff surcharges for the most popular events and the finals. Some bundle their most popular tickets only with longer minimum stays and/or their most expensive hotels. And those “from” prices always apply to the least expensive hotels available; accommodations prices for the big international-chain hotels are much higher. All in all, most travelers should figure that getting in on the Olympic action will cost $15,000 or more per couple.

Tickets only

TicketLiquidator and TicketCity post tickets, but some are available only in large groups or bundled with hotel accommodations. You do see a few individual event tickets for sale on eBay; apparently, they’re sold by speculators in various countries who bought up tickets allocated to local markets.

The hotel gouge is in

As in prior Olympic games, local accommodations have hiked prices dramatically for the Olympic season. Five times the norm or higher seems to be the going rate. I couldn’t find anything for less than $1,000 per night (per person, double occupancy), even at a two-star hotel, and rates at most mid-priced hotels start in the range of $1,500 to $2,000 per night, based on double occupancy. Top-rated hotels easily run double those figures.

If you can arrange your own tickets and air travel, you can cut your accommodations cost by renting an apartment. Homestay Beijing and ToRent post apartment rentals starting at around $200 a day, although most are well above that figure; and most require a minimum seven-day rental.

At the lowest end, you can check out the hostel supply at Hostelworld or one of the other similar sites. Current postings start at around $50 per night for a dormitory-style bed, but some low-end hotels offer rooms starting near $100.

How to buy

Getting exactly the mix you want&#8212dates, events, seat locations, and accommodations&#8212is a daunting challenge. My suggestion is that you start looking at some of the larger websites, then calling with more specific requests. And working with a good travel agent could also save you a lot of grief and hassle.

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