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Urumqi (乌鲁木齐, ئۈرۈمچی), also written as Ürümqi, is the largest city and capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. For centuries Urumqi has been a stopping point along the Silk Road. Until recently Urumqi was a small trading post in the desert nestled next to the nearby mountains. In the last 20 years the city has exploded as a boom town with 5-star hotels springing up everywhere. This is mainly due to the growth of the oil and mining industry in the deserts and mountains of Xinjiang.
Another factor is Urumqi has become a major transport hub between Northeast and Central Asia, including rail lines and pipelines all the way to Almaty in Kazakhstan. The city is worth a day or two as there are plenty of sights to see. If you are looking for the Indiana Jones adventure this is not the city for you, most of the old town has disappeared and what little remains is becoming a victim to development.
Urumqi has a semi-arid continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Daytime temperatures range from around 30 °C in July and August to -7 °C in January, while night during these times are around 18 °C and -17 °C respectively. Temperatures of +40 °C and -40 °C have been recorded! With less than 300 mm of precipitation a year and around 7 hours of sunshine a day, you are likely to have good weather in Urumqi, although it's not advised to visit between November and March because of the extreme cold. The heat in summer is more bearable.
|Avg Max||-8.4 °C||-6.2 °C||3.7 °C||16.7 °C||24.3 °C||28.8 °C||31.2 °C||30 °C||23.7 °C||13.6 °C||2 °C||-6.1 °C|
|Avg Min||-17.9 °C||-15.9 °C||-4.9 °C||5.2 °C||12 °C||16.8 °C||19.1 °C||17.7 °C||11.8 °C||3.4 °C||-6 °C||-14.4 °C|
|Rainfall||8 mm||8 mm||18 mm||29 mm||28 mm||36 mm||20 mm||16 mm||24 mm||22 mm||17 mm||10 mm|
Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport (URC) is located about 30 minutes outside of town. China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines are the main carriers in this airport. The airport serves all major Chinese cities and plus many flights to nearby countries. Some of the main destinations include Ulan Bator, Almaty, Astana, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Baku, Kabul, Chengdu, Kashgar, Xi'an, Kunming, Nanjing, Chongqing, Bishkek, Lanzhou, Islamabad, Tbilisi, Tehran, Nanning, Novosibirsk, Moscow, Osh, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Dalian, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Xiamen, Istanbul, Seoul, Yekaterinburg, Fuzhou, Guangzhou and Dushanbe.
There is some fast food on the second floor of the airport, so if your hungry you can get a cheap snack. Be careful of the taxi drivers hanging out at the airport because they have been known to scam people by rigging their meters. A taxi ride to the city center so should only cost about 30 to 45 RMB.
There are two trains a week connecting Almaty in Kazakhstan with Urumqi in China. On Mondays and Saturdays, trains leave Almaty at 10:40pm, arriving in Ürümqi on Wednesdays and Mondays at 7:00am. From Ürümqi, trains depart just before midnight at Mondays and Saturdays, arriving in Almaty on Wednesdays and Mondays around 10:30am.
Taxis are widely available throughout the city. The starting fee is RMB 6.00 for the first 3 kilometres, and RMB 1.3 for every kilometre thereafter.
Public buses are reliable for getting around to most places within the city, however, there isn't any English announcements. A light rail system is currently under construction. The test runs for lines 1 and 3 had been conducted with success in August 2011, and should be in full operation by the end of the year.
Like many of China's northern cities, downtown Urumqi is well connected by a network of underground passages for pedestrians, which comes to be very useful in the winter months.
One of the odd parts of Urumqi is that very few people ride bikes. This is due to the extreme winters.
Urumqi restaurants come to life after 8:00pm. Travellers usually go to the Wuyi Night Market and nible on food that's sold at the many food stands selling everything ranging from Kebabs to meat shaved from boiled heads of sheep. Regular fare popular among westerns are:
Many local Muslim owned restaurants do not serve beer or other alcoholic drinks in Xinjiang including Urumqi. However, many hostels do have a bar attached, and you could get a beer for as little as RMB 3-5. There is a bar street located on Gongyuan Bei Jie (公园北街), if you are interested in checking out the local night life scene outside of your hotel or hostel.
|White Birch International Hostel||No. 186 Nan Hu Road||HOSTEL||-|
|Xinjiang Youth Hostel International||No.186 NanHu Road (Beside Nanhu Square)||Hostel||65|
|Central Hotel (Yi Tian Yang)||177 Ming zhu Road||Hotel||-|
|Maitian International Hostel||No.726 Youhao South Road Red Hill||HOSTEL||72|
See also International Telephone Calls
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. 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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