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Chengdu

Travel Guide Asia China Sichuan Chengdu

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Introduction

Chengdu 'Take Away'

Chengdu 'Take Away'

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Chengdu (成都), the capital of the Sichuan province, is steeped in history dating back thousands of years. In the early 4th century AD, the 9th Kaiming king of the ancient Shu moved his capital to the city's current location from today's nearby Pixian. The name Chengdu was given to the city, meaning "become a capital".

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Sights and Activities

  • The Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre is easily accessible by tour (around 70 RMB per person including entrance fee) and is bookable in any hostel. You can wander around, seeing pandas munching bamboo and lazing around, you can also have your picture taken with pandas, but this is a rather extortionate amount of money (around 2000 RMB)!
Panda!

Panda!

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  • Chengdu Opera is famous for it's 'changing faces' perfomance, and often also features fire eaters and unusual light arrangements; The shows are almost performed on a daily basis and tickets can be booked through hostels.
  • Leshan Buddha the biggest Buddha can be visited on a day trip from Chengdu. It will take you the best part of 3 hours to travel there and the same back but it is well worth the journey. The easiest way to do this trip is to head to the south bus station in Chengdu. inside buy a ticket to Leshan (costing about 44 Yuan each way) this is a straight highway bus taking you direct to Leshan this part of the journey is about 2 hours and leaves the south bus station every half hour. After you arrive in Leshan you need to get the number 13 bus that stops infront of the station by the water fountain this will cost you 1 yuan and take you on a nice sceninc tour through the city this takes a little over 30 minutes be careful not to get off at the pier for the boat trip the Buddha itself is further down the road you can't miss it there are signs everywhere. Then get off and enjoy. Reverse for the journey back.
  • Sichuan Cooking Lessons the province is famous for its spicy dishes, so if you love to cook this is a must. Classes can be booked through hostels.
  • Chengdu Tea Houses China is famous for its tea houses and Chengdu has the best tea houses in China. The tea house in People's Park is the most famous, located on the shore of a lake, amidst green swaying trees.

Further A Field

  • Jiuzhai Valley National Park is a 45-minute flight from Chengdu or 10 hours scenic bus ride. In the north of Sichuan, in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Jiuzhai Valley and Huanglong UNESCO World Heritage Sites are said by many to be China's most picturesque sites. Home to the giant panda, Sichuan golden monkey and Sichuan takin among 300+ others, this is one of South West China's most important biodiversity zones.

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Events and Festivals

China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.

Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.

Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.

The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.

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Weather

The best time to visit Chengdu is from March to June and from September to November, however with a warm climate and average temperature of 15 °C-16 °C, Chengdu remains pleasant and relatively dry the year round. Summers can be hot though with temperatures over 30 °C.

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Getting There

By Plane

Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) is located 16 kilometres from downtown Chengdu and is one of the biggest and fastest growing airports in China. There are dozens of airlines serving both Chinese cities as well as destinations in the eastern part of Asia, like Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Bangkok and South Korea. Destinations further away include Amsterdam served by KLM, Los Angeles served by China Eastern, and San Francisco served by United.

By Train

There is one train a day to Lhasa, depending on the time of the year. Chengdu is also well connected to Xian, with connections onwards to Beijing. The journey takes around 16 hours overnight.

By Bus

There are three bus stations in Chengdu, and they serve different destinations.

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Getting Around

By Car

Official taxis are either green or blue and are equipped with meters. An available taxi will display an illuminated sign with Chinese characters in its dashboard. The meter is turned on by tilting the sign, make sure the driver does that and if not, you can try to do it yourself and the driver usually gets your point. Some taxi drivers may try to offer you a fixed price but don't take it unless you know it's cheaper than with the meter on. Taxi drivers don't speak English nor do they understand the map, so have an address written in Chinese with you. Drivers don't know many street names so it's best to have the address to some well known place close to your destination. Collect taxi cards from hotels and restaurants and show them to the drivers, and when close to your destination start instructing by pointing with your hand. This method usually gets you there - some drivers however will not follow your instructions or get angry for you traveling a longer distance than what they expected.

Taxi fare is ¥8 on flagfall for the older taxis ¥9 for the new ones, and increase at ¥1.9 per km after the first 2 kilometers. For rides from 10 to 60 km the km fare is increased by 50% to compensate the taxi returning empty. During night time the starting price is ¥1 more and per km price is ¥2.20. Waiting price for the taxi is one km fare per every five minutes, and the meter counts traveling with speed less than 12 km/h as waiting time. Taxis often refuse to accept ¥100 bills so try to have some change on hand.

Taxis can be difficult to find depending on the area. There are also unlicensed taxis in the city but they're quite hard to notice. If you use one, know your destination and expected price and negotiate the fare beforehand.

By Public Transport

The first line of the Chengdu Metro opened in October 2010, and the system has expanded rapidly since then. The fare for a single ride is ¥2-5 depending on distance. You can purchase tickets from machines (English available) with ¥1 coins or ¥5 and ¥10 notes. Ticket booths are also available if you don't have suitable notes. A contactless metro card is worth buying for the convenience, and for the 10% saving on all journeys. It's also available in the form of a cute panda-keyring, if that's your style.

When entering the metro you need to put your bags through an x-ray machine. The ticket is flashed by the gates on the reader on your right side. You need the ticket to get out as well so keep it safe. When exiting the ticket is placed into a slot that collects it. Again this slot is on the right side of the gate, so pay attention since it's very easy to accidentally open the gate next to you. When exiting, you must wait behind the yellow line until the passenger in front of you has passed and the gate shows it now accepts your ticket. If you're beyond the line the gate won't let you through and you need to back away for it to accept you as a new passenger.

  • Line 1 runs north-south through the city center along Renmin Rd, connecting the North and South railway stations.
  • Line 2 runs from the northwest to the southeast of the city, interchanging with Line 1 at Tianfu Square Station. This line serves Chengdu East Railway Station.
  • Line 3 runs from Chengdu Junqu General Hospital to Taipingyuan, interchanging with Line 1 at Moziqiao, with Line 2 at Chunxi Road, and with Line 4 at 2nd Chengdu People's Hospital.
  • Line 4 runs from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Park to Wannianchang, interchanging with Line 2 at Chengdu University of TCM & Sichuan Provincial People's Hospital. It serves the future site of Chengdu West Railway Station (not yet built).

Chengdu has an extensive bus system. At each bus stop, there is a list of the bus lines coming through on this road, and on some city maps the whole network is displayed. However, the bus lines and maps only use Chinese characters, and even if the bus announces the station, it will usually only be in Chinese. Tickets are ¥1 for non-aircon (now very rare) and ¥2 for air-conditioned buses. The fare is paid by putting the exact amount to a metal box next to the driver. No change is given, so make sure you have exact change. Normally, you enter via the front door, and alight by the rear door. On the new articulated buses, you can enter at either the front or rear door, with the middle door designated for alighting only.

By Bike

Most guest houses have bicycles for hire. Check for technical problems before starting out unless you want to be held responsible for it later. If you leave your bicycle, do so in one of the designated "bicycle parks", where it will be guarded over for a small fee. If you can not find such a place, be sure to lock it securely against some structure. Be careful as the bike traffic flow can be intense.

In 2016, Mobike and other companies introduced city-bikes which can be used and paid for via a smartphone app.

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Eat

The locals' favorite snack is fresh pineapple, peeled and sold on a stick by vendors on every other street corner. While generally it is recommended to avoid fresh fruit in China due to water contamination, here if you ask for them to peel a fresh pineapple (not one of the ones already peeled and waiting in a tank of water), it is probably fine and also delicious.

You will find no shortage of delicious and fiery Sichuan food in Chengdu. Most of the food is quite spicy, be sure to specify whenever you order: non-spicy (不要辣; búyàolà), a little spicy (微辣; wēilà) or 'old' (very) spicy (老辣; lǎolà). If you are not accustomed to it yet, a bottle of sweetened soy, almond, peanut, or cow milk, or something else sweet will work much better than water to quell the fire. If you are used to the hottest of authentic Indian or Thai food, the level of spiciness in Sichuan food should be no problem at all. However, Sichuan food also makes heavy use of Sichuan pepper (花椒; huājiāo), which looks like but is not a true peppercorn, and causes your mouth to become somewhat numb. Sichuan pepper is added in most spicy dishes. If you can eat spicy food but do not like Sichuan pepper, you need to order so (不要花椒; bú yào huājiāo). However, Sichuan pepper (in addition to causing numbing) has an important citrusy taste that it adds to foods and authentic Sichuan tastes bank on the play between the flavours of both Sichuan pepper and chili peppers, and it is strongly recommend you at least try the authentic versions with the Sichuan pepper before deciding for yourself.

The spiciest food in Chengdu is hotpot (also called steampot or steamboat), although the tradition originated in Chongqing, so it is not really Chengdu food. Sichuan hotpots are basically a big pot of soup and spices simmering in a hole in the middle of your table. Patrons choose from a large selection of meats, vegetables and other add-ins. Most popular include: lamb, mushrooms, beef, tofu, quail eggs, potatoes and various others (pork, green vegetables, fish balls, carrots, and even pig's brain!) You can choose spicy pot or non spicy pot. With spicy hot pots, unlike eastern hot pots, the soup is NOT for drinking; instead, fish out your cooked items with chopsticks (do not fish the liquid out with a spoon, it is too spicy even for locals to drink; the fished out vegetables will be spicy enough), dip them in the small bowl of oil provided to each person, and enjoy.

You may also find the local food too oily or too salty for your taste, and may want to advise your server accordingly.

There are also a lot of weird local snack type of food, such as spicy dragon prawns (look like very small crayfish; 麻辣龙虾), spicy snails (香辣田螺), Chongqing duck neck (久久鸭脖子), Bangbang chicken (棒棒鸡), spicy rabbit meat (二姐兔丁). These ones are so delicious and you must try them. But you need to ask a local to take you to the right place. Quite often you will find that the small restaurants and shops offer the most delicious and cheapest food. If you want to find even cheaper food options, street vendors are the way to go (though the Chengdu police have been doing their best to extinguish this long tradition and you may have trouble finding them these days). Serving everything from barbeque (烧烤) to steamed breadrolls(馒头), they are a cheap and offer a great option for a quick bite to eat.

If you are less adventurous but still like Chinese food, or just tired of Sichuan food, there are a number of Cantonese and Hong Kong restaurants, including Lei Garden near Shangri-la Hotel.

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Drink

A popular district of bars, also known as the bar street, is located by the southern shore of Jin River next to Anshun Bridge. The well known Lan Kwai Fong from Hong Kong started its business in the mainland of China in 2010 and the first city is Chengdu. The area is located a little north-west from Anshun Bridge.

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Sleep

Budget

Travellers rating of these accommodations and many others include:

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Chengdu or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Work

Job postings for English teaching are located in many guest houses, at Western bars and restaurants, anywhere foreigners congregate.

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Learn

Private Chinese language lessons are available for ¥40-85 per hour. Ask for a referral at one of the universities, or from another student. Textbooks for learning Chinese are available at many local bookshops.

Bear in mind that the Mandarin spoken by the locals amongst themselves is South-Western Mandarin. This is substantially different from Putonghua or Beijing Mandarin, Taiwan Mandarin or Singapore Mandarin that foreigners and overseas Chinese typically learn. However most locals will speak Putonghua with you if you speak it.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Wangba (联网) means internet bar in Chinese. Almost every town will have an internet bar or gaming center. The best way to spot an internet bar is to look for the 网(ba) character, which means net, and large digitized images of computer game characters. Often, there will be a sign saying Green Power in English at the entrance. Most gaming centers cost about RMB3 an hour. You prepay at the main desk and are then given a plastic card or a piece of paper. Once you are done you return the card or piece of paper and get reimbursed for the money you didn't spend. Be prepared for a place that might be dingy, basic and messy. Internet bars in China tend to get crowded starting in the late afternoon to the late evenings.

Some hotels provide access from the rooms that may or may not be free; others may provide a wireless service or a few desktops in the lounge area.
Also, quite a few cafes provide free wireless Internet service. Some cafes, even provide a machine for customer use.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to China is 86. To make an international call from China, the code is 00.

When making international phone calls it is best to buy an IP card. They typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper. There is no warning before the card runs out of minutes.

If you already have a GSM 900/1800 cellphone, you can roam onto Chinese networks, but calls will be very expensive (¥12-35/minute is typical). If you're staying for more than a few days, it will usually be cheaper to buy a prepaid Chinese SIM card; this gives you a Chinese phone number with a certain amount of money preloaded. Chinese tend to avoid phone numbers with the bad-luck digit '4', and vendors will often be happy to offload these "unsellable" SIM-cards to foreigners at a discount. If you need a phone as well, prices start around ¥100/200 used/new. Chinese phones, unlike those sold in many Western countries, are never "locked" and will work with any SIM card you put in them. China's two big operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. Most SIMs sold by the two work nationwide, with Unicom allowing Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan usage as well. There is usually a surcharge of about ¥1/min when roaming outside the province you bought the SIM, and there are some cards that work only in a single province, so check when buying.

Post

China Post (中国邮政) is the official postal service of the People's Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau of the People's Republic of China (website in Chinese only), and has more details about price to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. The Chinese postal service is very good. Remember that in more remote places usually only one post office in a city can handle sending international boxes or letters. Also many times it might be worth having the name of the country you are trying to send to in Chinese characters, because small town people might not know what Estonia is in English. Post offices have a striking green logo and can easily be found everywhere in the cities. They are mostly open every day (including weekends!) from 8:00am to 6:00pm, though small offices might have shorter opening times, while the bigger ones in central and touristic areas are sometimes open during evenings as well.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 30.67
  • Longitude: 104.071022

Accommodation in Chengdu

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Chengdu searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Chengdu and areas nearby.

Contributors

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Chengdu Travel Helpers

  • PandaSis

    I traveled here alone last year and worked as a volunteer in a Panda reserve so can tell you what's good to visit here and how to organize trips in the surrounding area.

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