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Travel Guide Asia China Guangdong Guangzhou



The Pearl River at night

The Pearl River at night

© All Rights Reserved BKW

Guangzhou (廣州) is a large industrial city on the banks of the Pearl river with a population of between 8 to 13 million depending on what areas you include. Many overseas Chinese trace their heritage to this city. The city was traditionally known to westerners as Canton during the period of foreign occupation and still has a strong expat community today. Originally settled in the 3rd century BC the city grew in importance over the millenniums. The city is the centre of southern Chinese culture and a major export centre. Even during the height of oppression during communist area this city still had trade shows and export fairs.

Now Guangzhou has grown to be the third largest city in China (behind Beijing and Shanghai) and is a modern city. It is also close to Hong Kong and Macau making it very convenient to or from travel there.

Every year from the second half of April to the first week of May and from the second half of October to the first week of November, the China Import and Export Fair is held in Guangzhou. Travel should be avoided at these periods as hotel rooms become scarce and more expensive. Transport prices also rise.

There is a free monthly english magazine called that's PRD covering the pearl river delta region. It writes about the latest events and things to do. The magazine can be picked up free from many expat locations including Starbucks. It is a valuable resource to get to know the city and places to go for visitors.




Although Guangzhou is 6,000 square miles, the metro system does a good job connecting the city and its districts.

City Proper

  • Yuexiu (越秀)
  • Liwan (荔湾) has many tourist sights and shopping areas. Also located here is Shamian Island.
  • Haizhu (海珠) is a fast-growing district with many high residential buildings. In the centre by Haizhu square is a very large market selling goods to exported.
  • Tianhe (天河) district was only established in 1980 has become known as the new city centre. The majority of schools and universities are located here along with a newly developed science park. Characterised by modern skyscrapers and the main sports stadium, it has many opportunities for shopping (including the popular Tee Mall). CITIC Plaza is currently the eighth tallest building in the world. Also located here is the Guangzhou East Railway Station (for direct trains to Hong Kong).

Greater Guangzhou

  • Baiyun (白云) The international airport is located here.
  • Huangpu (黄埔)
  • Huadu (花都)
  • Panyu (番禺) is located on the outskirts of Guangzhou. There is a water park and zoo here.
  • Nansha (南沙)
  • Luogang (萝岗区)
  • Zengcheng (增城)
  • Conghua (从化)



Sights and Activities


Flower Pagoda at the temple of the 6 Banyun Trees

Flower Pagoda at the temple of the 6 Banyun Trees

© All Rights Reserved BKW

  • Temple of the 6 Bayan trees houses a tall pagoda.
  • Haitong temple

Sights and Activities

  • Night cruise on the Pearl river - See the gregariously luminescent city from the river. Enjoy the breeze and the view from the roof of the boat. Tickets cost RMB40-80 and lasts 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Shamian Island (沙面岛) was a French and British concession during the 19th century. As such it retains a unique look of colonial China, with trees lining roads and old European-style buildings.
  • Statue of 5 Rams in Yuexiu Park - The Statue of the 5 Rams in Yuexiu park is the symbol of the city of Guangzhou. You will find its likeness on billboards, advertisements, city emblems and many other things associated with the city of Guangzhou. Costs RMB5 to enter.
  • Baiyun (White Cloud) mountain (白云山) offers views of the city. A good place for hikers to visit.
  • Chen Family Ancestral Temple is not really a temple in the traditional sense. Rather it is a large (15,000metres2) family shrine containing the best example of local 19th century architecture. Ornately decorated and beautiful.
  • Guangzhou Zoo
  • Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall is a large park & theatre dedicated to the father of the Chinese Republic. Also the site for plays and productions.
  • Guangzhou Peasant Movement Institute
  • Museum of the Mausoleum of the King of Southern Yue
  • Guangzhou city museum


Parks in China are often a hive of activity. There are many opportunities in Guangzhou to go strolling through the parks and witness old people dancing or exercising. Though strangely (to western standards anyway) parks require a small entrance fee, usually RMB1-4.

  • Dongshan park has a big lake in the middle.
  • Martys' park has a few monuments to the fallen soldiers of WWII and a small lake where you can hire swan-shaped pedalos.


Shopping is plentiful in Guangzhou. Ranging from modern malls selling designer brands to local markets selling export goods to markets selling animals. Haggling is expected in smaller shops and markets while the prices posted in department stores are final.

  • Shopping at the pedestrian only Beijing street ("Lu") - look at the center of the street and you will find archeological digings of the streets history under glass cases. Lined on both sides of the street by Chinese high street stores, Western brands and smaller local shops. Buy anything from clothes to shoes to fake bags here.
  • Shopping at Shangxia Jiu street ("Lu") - a walking street many shops.
  • Haizhu Square ("Guangchang") - take the metro to this stop and go to exit C. There is a very large market selling export goods here. Excellent place to pick up gifts and souvenirs for cheap. Haggling here is not welcome unless buying in bulk.



Events and Festivals

Guangzhou celebrates the same festivals that are common throughout the rest of China, including:

  • Chinese New Year or Spring Festival
  • Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival

The China Import and Export Fair or Canton Fair occurs twice a year (April-May and October-November). Travel should be avoided at these periods as hotel rooms become scarce and more expensive.




Guangzhou is situated near the tropic of Cancer. The temperature rarely reaches 0 °C but during winter can drop to 10 °C. Winter can be deceptively cold given most buildings are not equipped with double glazing or central heating. However during the summer the temperatures can reach 40 °C and the humidity and pollution can be very high. The city experiences monsoon season from April to September.



Getting There

By Plane

Baiyun International Airport (广州白云国际机场) (IATA: CAN, ICAO: ZGGG) is located quite a distance outside of the city. It's one the biggest airports in China and also one of the fastest growing airports in the world. Flights arrive/depart from this modern airport to many destinations around the world and within China. A long bus or taxi ride (about 1 hour) is required to reach it from the city centre. However taxis and shuttle buses are readily available just outside of the terminal.

By Train

Two train stations are located within the city. The main train station is good for short national travel, while the east train station serves longer national travel and direct trains to Hong Kong (or the border).

12 daily trains to/from Hong Kong (Kowloon) are available on roughly a hourly schedule. The journey takes 2 hours and costs RMB210. Alternatively 16 daily trains to/from Shenzhen are available (1 hour, RMB75). From here the border can be crossed by foot into Lo Wu metro station in Hong Kong or vice versa. Note there is a seperate area to buy tickets to Shenzhen and Hong Kong (Kowloon). Trains are air-conditioned and it is not neccesary to book tickets beforehand.

Be careful to avoid the rush around Chinese New Year as the stations typically will be packed with millions of migrant workers returning home. As this is possibly, for many, their only extended vacation for the entire year this is not an exduration of the word "million". Riots occured here during the 2008 travel season when 500,000 passengers were stranded in Guangzhou.

By Car

Self driven car travel is not recommended in China. If you wish to use this mode of travel it is best to hire a local driver with local knowledge.

By Bus

There are many long-distance bus stations around Guangzhou. Overnight (sleeper) buses may be available for longer journeys. Destinations include Guilin, Yangshuo and Nanning. Bus tickers tend to sell out faster than train tickets so it is recommended to buy tickets up to 3 days in advance.

Many daily shuttle buses operate between Hong Kong and Guangzhou (2.5 hours). Tickets may be purchased at Hong Kong International Airport (Terminal 2).

To go to Macau, get a bus to Zhuhai (3 hours). The bus staion in Zhuhai is just across the road from the Macau border.

By Boat

Several companies offer ferry service from Hong Kong to Guangzhou by going up the Pearl river. However, most travellers perfer the more convienent services of the bus and train companies. The Hong Kong International Airport offers ferry service from the airport SkyPier to Guangzhou.



Getting Around

By Car

Car rental prices and insurance are quite high in most of China. Most companies will rent cars to people with Chinese drivers licenses. International licenses are not accepted. Also navigation through the busy & chaotic streets can be extremely difficult.

Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive. However most drivers only speak Cantonese or Mandarin.

By Public Transport

Guangzhou has a modern, efficient and expanding subway system. Ticket prices depend on the distance you wish to travel and can be purchased through multi-language vending machines in the stations.

The bus system can be somewhat difficult to navigate for travellers not able to read Chinese as there are many different companies that share the same stations. Therefore the signage, routes, times, cost, etc. vary quite significantly. However, they are a fast and inexpensive way to get around town.

By Foot

Some parts of Guangzhou is pedestrian friendly. Normally streets are over-crowded, dirty, hot and the air is polluted. However it takes a brave soul to cross some streets. Therefore, many busy streets have overpass pedestrian cross over bridges.

By Bike

Due to the sheer number of bikes in China, there are dedicated bicycle lanes. However cycling may still be daunting due to the number bikes and cars.




Guangzhou is the home of Cantonese cooking; a style that has widely been exported throughout the world. Most westerners will find many dishes familiar to them as "Chinese food". However, be forewarned that many food items that westerners find distasteful (such as dog, snake, etc.) will be on clear display in open air markets. You can also find many western franchises such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut and KFC.




Be sure to pick up the free that's PRD magazine to find the best places to go out.





  • White Swan Hotel - exclusive and best hotel in Guangzhou. Located on Shamian Island.

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




Most jobs require Mandarin or Guangdonghua (Cantonese). However like many places around China, it is relatively easy to get a job as an English teacher in a school, university or firm. No prior knowledge of Chinese is required. The employer will usually apply for your work permit.

It is also possible to be a teacher of another foreign language but opportunities are somewhat rarer. French is probably the second most common required teacher.




Keep Connected


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.


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.


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.

Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 23.1270407
  • Longitude: 113.341527

Accommodation in Guangzhou

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


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