YLW Friends - your travel partners!


I was thinking: what would be one single thing that would make budget traveling easier and more enjoyable? Then I noticed how many college students in China want to practice their English with foreign tourists. Then, I put those two together and came up with the idea of YLW Friends.

Imagine you had someone in each (or most) cities in China who could make a reservation at a hostel or buy train tickets for you! Wouldn’t it be great that you have a telephone number of a person who can go to the hospital with you in case of an emergency, or someone who can suggest what places to visit or which bus to take? Basically you have a network of friends all over China and if you need them you get in touch with them, if you don’t need their help you do things on your own.

On the other hand, Chinese college or university students will be able to meet new people, make new friends, practice their English (and many will appreciate that opportunity), and make some money. They would agree to provide the four basic services (listed below) at the rates which are posted on this web site. If travelers need additional service they would negotiate the price with YLW Friends (for example travelers may want to hire them as guides, or ask them to go shopping with them, or hire a taxi for a day for them…).

The list of YLW Friends would be maintained at this web site. YLW Friends would be listed according to the city where they live (provide services). Travelers would check this web site and make contact with YLW Friends through the bulletin board. Both YLW Friends and travelers need to register and get their Bulletin Board nick name. YLW Friends will have their photo on the web site along with their English name and Bulletin Board nick name (YLW Friends’ personal information will be kept confidential. Only when Travelers contact YLW Friend at that point YLW Friends may decide to give them their e-mail address, real name, telephone number, whatever they feel comfortable with).

It should have been clear by now but I will emphasize that this web site or its owner won’t see any financial gain by putting in contact travelers and YLW Friends (Chinese students). Travelers will pay YLW Friends directly for their services so travelers should be happy, students should be happy and I will be happy because I made it possible.

These are the basic services YLW Friends would provide:

  1. buying train/air tickets for travelers: Y20,
  2. escorting travelers to/from the train station/airport to the centre of the city (or their hostel): Y30 (travelers will cover transportation costs),
  3. booking a room/bed for travelers at hostels/hotels: Y20,
  4. serving as an interpreter for travelers: Y40 for the first 60 minutes, Y50 for each hour after that (waiting time included in those rates).

These rates can be adjusted, this is just a general proposal, based on the actual current charges for same services (2007).

YLW Friends are free to provide any other services to travelers but the fee they will charge will be negotiated between travelers and YLW Friends.

YLW Friends can engage their friends to deal with travelers (in case they don’t have time available on their own) however they will have to:

  • make at least one contact in-person with the travelers, and introduce their friends who will act on their behalf,
  • make sure their friends are familiar with the YLW Friends Terms of Service (which means their proxies can not charge more than the posted rates, for example),
  • be aware that negative feedback from the travelers will affect their rating even though it was their friends who dealt with the travelers (which may result in consequent removal of their name from the YLW web site).

Information for Chinese students who want to become YLW Friends.

As an integral part of the selection process you will:

  • write a short paragraph explaining why you want to become an YLW Friend (to test your written English, because you will communicate with travelers mostly through e-mail),
  • provide YLW with your home telephone number (land-line number, where you will receive a call and be interviewed to confirm your level of spoken English),
  • provide your name (in Chinese and pīnyīn), and also your English name and address (all your personal information will be kept confidential; travelers will contact you through YLW bulletin board messaging system, which is anonymous, later you can provide the traveler with your cell phone number, e-mail address etc.. if needed),
  • provide photocopy of your student ID card (you will put it in the regular mail and send them to YLW), your e-mail address, contact telephone number and one passport size photograph (50 mm by 70 mm or close to that size) which will be published on the web site and also used to create your YLW ID card with your unique number. Only your picture, your English name and YLW bulletin board nick-name will be posted on the web site (YLW will keep all your personal information confidential),
  • you will download, print up, read and sign YLW Terms of Service Agreement and mail it back to YLW (along with a photocopy of your student ID card and your photo, as described earlier).

YLW Friends Terms of Services.

  1. By becoming an YLW Friend you agree to provide Basic Services to travelers charging no more than the current rates posted on the YLW web site,
  2. You will provide the Basic Services in courteous manner and to the best of your abilities, always acting in traveler’s best interest,
  3. When you deal with YLW travelers you will wear a badge with your legal name (written in Chinese and pīnyīn), English name and YLW logo (with your unique number, template will be e-mailed to you),
  4. When you wait for YLW travelers at the train station or the airport you will carry a sign with YLW logo (which will be no more than 50cm by 50cm and no less than 30 cm by 30 cm in size, file will be e-mailed to),
  5. When you provide services which are not listed on the YLW web site (the Basic Services) you will not use YLW logo, suggest in any way or make travelers believe that your service(s) are approved by YLW web site,
  6. You will respond to e-mails and return telephone calls (in China) no later than 24 hours after you receive them,
  7. You agree to provide proof of your student status once a year if you have less than 20 positive feed-back recommendations posted on the YLW web site; YLW Friends who have over 20 positive recommendations don’t have to provide that proof (they can provide services to travelers even after they graduate if they wish so),
  8. If your name is removed from the YLW web site you agree to surrender your YLW ID card and you agree not to use YLW signage for any of your subsequent activities,
  9. If you decide to stop providing services to travelers through the YLW web site you will notify YLW of your decision in writing,
  10. You will communicate any concerns or irregularities that you might have to do with your service and dealings with the travelers (who made contact with you through the YLW web site) directly to YLW staff.

YLW Friends walk-through (for Chinese students who want to become YLW Friends):

  1. Go to our Bulletin Board, choose a nick name and register,
  2. Send an e-mail message to YLW staff (you can do that through our contact page or through the bulletin board (send a PM message to long_way) and write a short paragraph about yourself (the purpose of this e-mail is to get basic information about you and also to test your proficiency in written English because you will have to communicate with travelers via e-mail, most of the time),
  3. After you receive a response from YLW staff you will provide your daytime telephone number in China (land-line number so that your address can be verified through the telephone number area code) and YLW staff will call you to test your spoken English.
  4. If successful in phase 3 you will download and print Terms of Service Agreement, photocopy your student ID card (only page with your name and picture) attach your picture and mail all these things to YLW staff (address will be provided). This step may seem to be unnecessarily complication but this is a test of a sort; those who are genuinely interested in their YLW Friend role will follow through, those who are not very interested won’t bother.
  5. After your picture, English name and Bulletin Board nick name are posted on this web site you may want to open one of PayPal accounts so that you can get paid for your services by travelers even before they meet with you in China. (If you open a Chinese PayPal account you won't be able to receive payments outside of China!)

Feed-back process (for travelers).

If you are a traveler who contacted an YLW Friend through YLW web site and received service, and you think that the service provided by YLW Friend was professional, courteous and helpful you can send an e-mail to YLW (see the template below!) and recommend that particular YLW Friend to other travelers.

In your e-mail you will provide your name (not necessarily your real name, but the name that you will recognize when a YLW staff member calls you to confirm your recommendation), daytime telephone number in the country of your origin and brief description of your dealings with YLW Friend in China.

If, on the other hand, you are not satisfied with the service provided by YLW Friends (or persons acting on their behalf) you will use the same template but In this case you will indicate who you dealt with and why you were not satisfied with the service. Again, YLW staff member will call you to confirm the complaint is coming from the stated person. YLW will notify the YLW Friend about the complaint at that point.

Individual feed-back scores (FBS) will be indicated next to the YLW Friend’s name so if you, for example, see something like this: John, john_xian, FBS:10-2 this can be interpreted this way: YLW Friend with his English name John and bulletin board nick name john_xian has received 10 positive recommendations and two negative recommendations (complaints). It’s up to you whether you want to contact John or someone else.

If YLW staff receive (within the course of one year) five or more complaints for an YLW Friend, or the number of negative feed-backs outweighs the number of positive feed-backs, the profile of that particular YLW Friend will be removed from the web site.

Feed-back template for travelers.

Please use this template (copy and paste this text into your e-mail program and then fill in requested information) and e-mail it back to YLW staff (through our Contact page or YLW Bulletin Board (long_way):

Traveler’s name:
(Real name or made up name, but please remember it when you receive a call),

Traveler’s Bulletin Board nick name:
(this is important so that we can see that traveler is someone who did not registered at our Bulletin Board just 5 minutes ago in order to send a positive or negative feed-back).

Traveler’s telephone number in the country of origin:
(Yes, we will call you and ask you for confirmation of information in your feed-back e-mail).

Name and Bulletin board nick name of the YLW Friend you dealt with:

Please explain if your experience was very positive or very negative:

And that’s all. If you have any suggestions or ideas how to make this idea work better please contact me by e-mail.