By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: We would like to spend a 3 to 4 day stopover in Beijing, China & Tokyo, Japan before heading further south. Would you recommend a preplanned tour of Beijing and Tokyo or would we be okay exploring those two cities on our own? We are afraid the language barrier might be too great to explore on our own.

A: Exploring Beijing says Barbara Huang of the China National Tourist Office can be done on your own. "There are a lot of people who can speak English in Beijing." For hotel bookings, Barbara recommends that you prebook before you arrive to Beijing.

For a list of Canadian tour operators specializing in trips to China, visit

Over in Japan, the Japan National Tourist Organization has a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section "FAQs" available at their web site,

For instance, concerning language, the JNTO responds, "Traveling in a country where you don't speak the language can be both challenging and rewarding. But even if you don't speak any Japanese, finding your way around Japan needn't be difficult. English is widely spoken throughout the country, particularly in major cities and tourist centers.

Announcements on public transportation are frequently made in both Japanese and English, and signs generally include decipherable roman characters or an English explanation.

A comprehensive range of tourist services also provides a helping hand to foreign visitors in Japan." For other travel-related questions on Japan, contact the JNTO office in Toronto. They are located at 165 University Ave Toronto ON M5H 3B8 or call 416-366-7140


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