I am traveling in China at the end of April/beginning of May with 3 friends. We are flying into Beijing and have about 12 "unplanned" days before getting to Hangzhou.
I would like to have a "plan as you go" approach to travel, however I am concerned with availability of hostel rooms/train tickets. Would you recommend planning the route and booking everything before arriving in China? Or is it fairly easy to get train tickets a day or two beforehand?
I know there will be a definite language barrier, especially when traveling to the less populated areas. How challenging is it to get around the country? Would you recommend a tour company? Is there any tour companies in China that take a "backpacker" approach?
These are the areas that I would love to visit (although I know that this is impossible in 12 days): Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Chongquing for Yangtze River Cruise, Yangshuo, Hong Kong
Can anyone suggest the best places to visit and a route to take/how to get to these places?
Thanks for all your help!
In many cases you need to be in the city of departure to purchase train tickets, so it can be tricky to prebook lots of train travel. What we often find is to arrive somewhere and then book our departure relatively quickly. Trains do seem to almost always be full, so the earlier you book the better. Some hostels will arrange tickets for you.
Have a look at ctrip.com has English website and cheap flights.
Xi'an is a city you can visit relatively quickly - seeing the terracotta warriors is a good day out, and just mind blowing! Aside from the Muslim Qtr and City Wall, there's not loads to do in Xi'an itself. 2 nights would be plenty.
Chengdu - the panda sanctuary is amazing and given it is spring, there will be loads of babies, who are SOOOO CUTE!! The Leshan Buddha is also worth visiting but is a full day trip.
Most of the Yangtze River cruises are a couple of days - so maybe this is what you skip, as you are on a boat, looking at scenery. Haven't yet done it myself, and it is on the wish list, but I'm not limited by time!
You are missing Shanghai... I live here and think it is a pretty amazing city - but it is just that, and not really off the track China!
We are going to Yangshuo in the first week of April and I can't wait - I have been waiting so long to go there because it looks so beautiful.
We have found that most of the time we can book hostel accommodation about 2 days in advance. This doesn't work however if there are any Chinese holidays. Look at the accom here on travellerspoint.
Hope that is of some help - Hangzhou is gorgeous too - make sure you get up into the tea plantations!
Thank you so much. Your advice was incredibly helpful! I did forget to mention Shanghai, but we are going there after Hangzhou on our way back to Beijing!
better suggest you come west of china such as sichuan ,yunnan .This places represent original of china culture and ethnic minorites custom , alos you can explore wild panda in west of sichuan
you could aviod crowded city sleeping , such as chengdu m find cuntryside or villge sleeping , feeling more traddtional culture
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If you're booking hostels, do it online (hostelworld is good) and sooner rather than later if you're there in April. I'm travelling in May and have missed out on a cheaper room at the hostel I am staying at in Beijing. The start of May also incorporates the Labour Day holiday period, so taking precautions around this busy time will save you a lot of heartache...
I'm also taking the approach of booking my trains and hostels a couple of cities in advance and working from there, as you never know what may happen in the interim. I have also been recommended time and time again to book my train travel as early as possible as not to miss out on a hard sleeper - 12 hour train journeys in a seat will wreck your holiday.
If anyone else has advice regarding these matters I would appreciate some feedback, as these are tips I've picked up from friends and travel books, websites, etc
Well while traveling to the China you may consider the following advice:
The wet season runs from May to November.
China is subject to earthquakes. Follow the advice of local authorities.
You should not attempt to travel to Tibet without appropriate permits.
Yes, the 5/1 labor day weekend usually gets crazy at some of those main tourist attractions. Good hostels fills up quick so suggest you to book ahead during that period.
12 days for the cities mentioned is definitely doable, however you might have to rush it by visiting mainly the tourist sights.
Try to make some local friends at the hostels, they are usually friendly to foreigners. They will definitely help you out in case you run into language problems for need help booking stuff.
The most economic way I will suggest for your route is:
Beijing to Xian you can take the sleeper train (250~400rmb), same for Xian to Chongqing (200rmb), this saves you two nights lodging. Chongqing to Chengdu is only 2 hrs train ride. Then Chengdu to Yangshuo you should fly. Then Guilin to Shenzhen you can take a overnight train as well (250rmb). You can cross the boarder from Shenzhen to Hong Kong and just take the metro to HK island.
Tips on Yangshuo to save you some time: when you landed guilin airport, take a taxi or bus directly to yangshuo, there are really nothing much to see in guilin and can save you some time by skipping the tourist traps.
Hope that helps!
I'm going to travel in China for a month during May as well, my planned route is:
Shanghai --> Hangzhou --> Chongqing --> Chengdu --> Kunming --> Dali --> Lijiang --> Yangshuo --> Hong Kong
Best luck to both of us~ Let me know if you have other questions.
Thank you all! Does anyone know if China Construction Bank ATMs are common? Seems like I can use a Bank of America debit card at those ATMs with minimal fees, but I don't know how likely it is that I'll find one to use.
I spent a few days in Beijing last year, the train system within the city is pretty good. I would recommend where ever possible to take this option. The Summer Palace in Beijing is a must see but there are different prices for entry depending on how many activities you want to do within the venue, it is a huge area and you could spend days in there!
I had trouble with some of the taxi drivers also, even with a map, plus the traffic is so congested that sometimes its not even worth getting into one.
Generally I found that if you just turn up to tourist place without a guide there are plenty that will ask you if you want one when you get there, I think they are worth it they can give you some really good info and you can ask them for other travel advice along the way.
Hope this helps.
Yes China Construction Banks are quite common - they are readily available all over China too.
Look for UnionPay in a card at home because this is the international transaction system that is most common here.