I'm thinking of going to China between mid August - September until the beginning of January, until possibly mid-October. Then I will be working my way south towards Vietnam, Loas and finally Thailand during that month which will see me fly from Bangkok back to the UK in early Jan.
I haven't done any travelling by myself before so this is quite vague, but I'm going to tell you what I've figured out and I would be grateful if any of you point out things I may have missed or should check out along the way, it would be very much appreciated!
Budget wise for this whole trip I have roughly £4,200 to spend on food, transport and everything else, this excludes the cost of flights and accommodation (averaged that it would be £1,000 to stay in hostels at roughly £5pn for 4 months).
I've worked out flights to be about £1,000 RTN (if anyone knows any cheap flight websites, I've been using Opodo let me know) and Visas £150 for all 4 countries, I'm thinking of going to each Embassy in London and getting the visas done there and then. Can I do this or do I need to book an appointment, file for a visa for per country and get that processed before being able to apply for another? The reason for this is that I wouldn't mind making a trip to London for a weekend and getting them all done in that duration, can I do this. If not is there a better alternative?
Are there any specialist travel agents I can go to which may be able to locate a better deal for flying?
Fly to Shanghai, stay for a week; explore the nightlife, check out the City God Temple and Yu Garden, any other suggestions?
From there it's a train from Shangai to Tai Shan, Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, Xi'an, Guilin, Guangzhoul and finally Hong Kong; stopping at each city along the way for a few days, not sure how to gauge my duration for each city, are there any places I mentioned which serve significant importance and are worth staying for more than 7 days?
Hopefully be able to see all the touristy places which have already been mentioned on the Travel Guide like the Terracotta Warriors, Great Wall, Tannamani Square, what other places which haven't been mentioned could I check out, mainly ones which aren't polluted with tourists?
I'm still trying to figure if I can simply catch a bus from a city close to the Vietnam border like Nanning and ride straight in or are there any cheaper alternatives.
I will be spending the last two months exploring Vietnam, Laos and celebrating the new year in Bangkok, Thailand. I haven't got round to these areas just yet, but if anyone been to either of these countries are there any places worth a look? How far in advance should I pre-book in terms of hostels and train travel, I was thinking of getting the first two weeks sorted before I just free style the rest of my journey, is that a good idea?
Hopefully your head hasn't exploded by the time you have read all this.
kayak is a lot cheaper than opodo. Book flights ASAP as prices go up if booked late (I already have flights booked for December).
September and October into early November can be very wet in Asia as it is still the monsoon season. You are coming back early January? Do you like bad weather when you could be sunbathing on a Thai beach? Go early November and come back March.
Most of your hostel stays will be more than £4 a night. Hostelbookers is best and cheapest. Next is hostelworld.
Hong Kong is very expensive for accommodation. Possibly your best bet there is the New Chungking Mansions, which is quite central and handy for the subway, which makes getting around easy.
Not really that much in Shanghai. Do visit the museums, and the Rose Garden. The city is easy to walk around.
Beijing is worth several days for all the sites, sights and the nearby Great Wall at Badaling.
In China, if someone asks if you want to see the tea ceremony, turn around and walk away fast. It is a way of ripping off tourists where you taste a few different types of tea and they demand about £50 equivalent.
China is a BIG place and trains are not cheap. I found it not much dearer to fly (by just turning up at the airport, booking, and waiting a while for the next flight). There are a number of cheap airlines in Asia, like AirAsia (think Ryanair).
Normally with visas, you drop your passport in one day and pick it up 2-3 days later, in the morning. China visa they will want a timeline of your stay there. You make something up as they don't check on it.
Vietnam and Laos you can get a visa on arrival, which may mean some queuing (take some passport sized photos with you).
There is a train that runs most of the way down the coast of Vietnam which is good.
Thailand you get 30 days visa free on arrival by air (but only 15 days by land). No hassle. This includes day or arrival and day of departure as one day each. You can leave and come back for another 15 or 30 days.
Thailand is very cheap but December to April is high season so needs to be booked fairly early. Lots of 7-Elevens there. Pop into one and get two burgers, chicken or beef, then you can pile on as much lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumber as well as ketchup and mayonnaise as you want for just over 40 baht, about 90p.
You might want to pop down to one of the many beach places and chill out there for most of a month while they're all freezing back home.
Do be careful of pick pockets, especially in Bangkok. Some ways to take money with you:
Thanks for the advice, I still wish to travel from September to Jan. I heard Chinese weather is good in September till November, by then I will hopefully be making my way south towards Thailand.
Kayak saves me some money compared to Opodo so thank you for that. When you mentioned turning up to the airport to book a domestic flight in China, was this book and flying on the same day? I've been looking into train travel and I haven't found it too expensive the most expensive trip I came across was Shanghai to Jinan at £70 on China Travel Guide, are they more expensive buying on departure?
I am Vietnamese and live in Ho Chi Minh city now. You can go from China to Viet Nam ( capital Ha Noi) by bus. Many interesting place in my country. Hope you come here.
Hi Nancy, thanks for getting in touch.
I heard that there's a train which goes all the way along the coastline to Ho Chi Minh, can I easily get there via both bus and train?
I'm looking to do 18 day adventure in China to take in the main sites aroudn start of October and then onto Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos (not in that order!) was a bit concerned about the weather in China so reading what you say hopefully it won't too wet!
Check this out for heading to China in Oct, sounds like a good time to go. But watch out for the beginning of the month:
Thanks for the info Rambot!! Much appreciated!