I just returned from Turkey and just loved that country . I am from Bangalore, India.
Now I am suffering from travel bug and wondering where to go next .
China? Vietnam ? East Europe ?
I am 63. This time my wife said - you better go on your own. And I have never travelled on holiday alone .
So, may be I am thinking - should I , can I travel alone , say to China ? Beijing - Xian - Chongqing , Yangtzee river cruise - Yichang - Shanghai .
I have got the route worked out .
I have seen small travelling groups plans for this route . As a single person do I pay more for accommodation etc.
Need advice , how difficult it is to travel alone in China . The food part , language , what is best time of the year . Will two weeks be enough .
Nothing like knowing that you have friends at some of these places to say Hello and exchange a few smiles.May be drop at a Chinese home . May be share Indian or Chinese food at some restaurant.
Will appreciate any advice , suggestions from the forum members.
Thanks with a
Bangalore , India
Travelling alone in China has some difficulties, but as many others you will be able to do it on your own too.
Let me highlight some of the difficulties and the solution:
- Most people in China don't speak english and they don't use latin alphabet most of the time.
- Best is to buy a good guidebook (Lonely Planet is a good one as it indicates the name of towns/food/etc with Chinese characters too). Usually these books have a small phrase section at the back for help. They may not understand when you try to pronounce the name of your destination or the food that you want, so the best is to point at the characters. Luckily, Chinese are very patient and willing to help foreigners. You will also pick up some basic words that will help you. Most hostels/hotels accommodating foreigners speak english and they are well aware of language barriers and difficulties foreigners face. So, they are the best place to get info, arrange small trips/tickets, get things you may need write down for later help.
2) Getting around:
- beside language barriers, on popular routes (such as yours), (especially train) tickets are sold out quickly.
- you can check out train tickets here
you can buy them 5-10 days before departure at the train station or at ticket offices. Your hostel/hotel should be able to help you to find the nearest place. Write down all the details and show them at the ticket office. Sleeper (hard / soft) class are comfortable and convenient way to travel on long distances. Thanks to China's developing speed/bullet train network, you may be able to shorten your journey. On bullet trains only seats are available.
- by place: best is to check www.elong.com for prices, schedules.
You can purchase your ticket online.
- by bus: for short distances, very easy to travel and buy tickets. You just have to point at your destination at the ticket office.
- taxi: relatively cheap, you have to flag down a taxi on the street, and show your destination written with chinese characters.
- public transport: large cities have excellent bus/metro network. very cheap. you will just need a map and some guidance from your hostel/hotel.
- chinese food is cheap, excellent and extremely diverse. Indian food is almost non-existent. however, local menus are printed with chinese characters. only certain restaurants with foreigners have enlgish menu - however, they are not the best for quality and price.
- luckily, a lot of restaurants' menu come with the photo of the meal. your best solution will be to use a phrase book or learn some food that you like (again, ask hostel to teach you, write down the name).
- you can find hostels/hotels in all range. Hostels are the best places to get info and usually have double rooms, however they are a bit overpriced. Local hotels offer better quality in many case, but english is lesser spoken, although some of them do speak english in tourist towns. You can easily look for and find lodging yourself too. You can also negotiate price at local hotels.
I hope this helps. It may sound a bit challenging, however it's part of the fun and on the other hand it's not as bad at all as it sounds. You will learn quickly that it is very possible to travel own your own.
Have a nice trip!
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Thank you very much for all your valued suggestions . I will surely use them while visiting China , hopefully soon.
In the meantime I will do some google search to find out about hotels , travelling between cities by train etc. Group travels being offered by some travel agencies seem really expensive.
Have to get that extra courage to travel alone in a land I do not know much about.
Where are you from ? You have made lots of efforts to answer in detail many of my questions .
Thanks again for that .
My Best Regards
You're very welcome.
Just a tip to make the start of your journey easier. I recommend Dream Travel Hostel for its excellent location. You can make reservation online on hostelworld, hostelbookers or any other similar hostel website. It is right next to a large hutong area (historical alleys) which is the one of most interesting scenes in beijing. Also near a popular lake and shopping/bar street with lots of tourists, lama temple, and bell/drum towers. Great restaurants around, but the ultimate experience is to get some snack, bbq stickers in the hutong, where locals eat (expect to pay 8-20 yuan for a meal). On the street of the hostel, there is a small train reservation office, next to the post office (ask hostel, they will show you).
It is also easy to get from there to famous tourist spots, such as the forbidden palace, tiamnen square. Hostels in beijing can organize trips for you to summer palace or to the great wall.
It will cost you app 80-100 yuan to take taxi from airport to the hostel. If you don't like the hostel (you can take private room), there are some budget but nice hotels nearby for 250 yuan a night. (In other cities you can find hotel room for 50-70 yuan, center of beijing is relatively expensive for lodging).
Again, it is an excellent location and very convenient to start exploring beijing and organize your trip going forward.
I recommend in general - to combine large cities with visits to the countryside. Around beijing, there are numerous places where you can find rural life. So, try not to stick to the typical package tour routes as they are relatively boring and less interesting.
Let me know if you have any more questions.
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Hi Kichikacha ,
Is this your name or you have another name, I have always wondered.
Thanks again for your information. This is inducing me to plan in more detail to my China trip and I have loads of questions .
The route I am looking at is Beijing , Xian, Chongqing, Yangtzee river cruise , Yichang and then Shanghai .
This must be the regular tourist route . If I am missing anything , let me know .
So the tour will possibly be in November , for about 18 days .
I found some sort of accommodation in most places . Both trip advisor and Travellers point are very helpful . I will go for single private rooms.
Should I travel between cities by train ? Night trains ? I will try to find train schedule and distances between the cities. Are train journeys safe for individual travel ? Also for luggage ?
How easy it is to change currencies / Does International debit/ credit cards work ? Can I draw local currency from ATMs in these cities by using International debit card .
Everyone says Hunan province is beautiful. I am missing that from my route. May be next time .
Can I survive with Chicken and fish as main diet ? Are there the fast food US restaurant chains in these big cities ?
What will be the best way to visit rural areas . i think language will be a huge problem .
Any other advice you can offer will be most welcome .
I like the idea of staying in Hutong area of Beijing as you have suggested.
Will keep asking more questions , please bear with me for that .
Unfortunately, I have very little knowledge about the most popular route - Xian, Chongqing, Yangtzee river cruise , Yichang - even though I have been to 20 provinces in China. So, I won't be able to help you with this itinerary.
However, I know that all around Beijing and Xian, you will be able to find amazing landscapes and villages. I will send you a link of a tour company, not for commercial interests, just because they organize plenty of trips around Beijing and they give you good description or photos of the area. Also, i hear they are more popular among expats living in Beijing than first time tourist to Beijing.
In any case, what I recommend is that you contact a travel agent through your hotel/hostel and try to pick the tour that is not among the most popular destination. I.e. don't take the tour to crowded parts of great wall but to the lesser known ones. I guarantee that the level of experience will be multiple. Same for any other places of interest, villages in rural areas.
I am sure that you will find hidden/lesser known gems in Shaanxi province other than Xian or the terracotta warriors.
Some interesting places around Beijing (one day trip):
- Chuandixia Ancient Village: try to spend a night there, there are some other nice villages nearby
- Great Wall sections such as Jinshanling or Simatai.
Some areas I recommend in Beijing:
- Tianmen Square, Forbidden Palace
- Jingshan park (nice view)
- People's house (parliament)
- The Egg (cultural center)
- Bird Nest, Olympic stadium
- CBD, shopping areas (to see the modern Beijing)
- Summer palace
- Capital museum of Beijing
- 789: art galleries in a large factory site
- Museum of Shanghai (amazing collection)
- Jin Mao (great view to the world's tallest hotel lobby) or the Word Financial Center (second highest floor in the world) skyscrapers.
- Maglev train to airport, 430km/hr...
You will be surprised that even though most tourist are familiar with the above, you will still see very few foreigners visiting some of these places.
November might be very cold in Beijing/north of china, the temperature can drop below zero.
This link will give you all info you need re train schedule, etc: http://www.chinatravelguide.com/ctgwiki/Special:CNTrainSearch?method=1
Trains are very safe, efficient and comfortable. Hard sleeper is good too, soft sleeper is very comfortable. Trains have restaurants and sell good food. You can also have instant noodle soup, as hot water is provided.
In any sizable city you will find ATMs and they accept international cards. ICBC bank for example is a good one. I wouldn't bother with exchanging $ or other hard currencies.
KFC and McDonalds are everywhere in big cities and are crowded. They are cheaper than elsewhere, but you can easily buy a proper meal from the price of a burger and chips.
Large cities will also have international cuisine, although way too overpriced.
Chinese food has probably the largest variety in the world, so I am sure you will find something you'll love. In worst case just ask for a Kung Pao Ji (chicken). Again, chinese food is excellent!
Have a nice journey!
China is a beautiful blend of natural beauty. Nature here is bountiful with magnificent mountains of Guangxi Zhuang, deserts like Xinjiang and rivers as Yangtze. Man has erected splendid structures like 'The Great Wall of China,' beautiful bridges, structurally planned buildings and other monuments. This makes it one of the worlds most sought after tourist spot and the reason for people to travel to China. Beijing, the capital of China is a must-see during your travel to China. Cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou are extremely beautiful. The most popular destinations in China are: The Great Wall of China, which is one of the seven wonders of the world; Tiananmen Square; the Forbidden City of China. The famous temples of Shibaozhai and Yangtze River, which is a very astounding natural marvel.
People of China are very gentle, hardworking and thoughtful. Their main religion is Buddhism and Taoism. Most people speak Chinese and local people do not understand English very well. This can cause a little problem for the tourists. Other languages spoken here are Korean, Tibetan, and Mongolian.
Thanks a lot
Thanks for joining the conversation with your valuable inputs.
Yes, my travel plans are taking shape with all the advice I am receiving .
China is such a big country and with so much to see , I think I need to start with a trip to see as much as I can . Choices are between the regular tourist route and the beautiful and natural not so frequently travelled locations.
I located Hangzhou in the map , may be it will be better to travel there from Shanghai.
You are based in Tibet , that must be an enchanting place .
Thanks again and have fun wherever you are