Beijing to Bangkok
Please, help me plan my route.
Myself and a few friends are planning a trip for next summer. We are thinking of taking the Trans-Siberian railway form Moscow to Beijing, and this stage of the trip appears to be fairly simple. However, once we get to Beijing, we are hoping to travel south to Thailand, via Laos and possibly Vietnam, and hitting Bangkok and one or two islands. Ideally, we would like to travel overland (mainly to keep costs down). We only have about a month or so in the summer and don't know a great deal about the region, especially China (including the language!). I was wondering if anyone could provide a rough sort of itinerary that we could follow, perhaps with one or two places of interest in China to break up the trip. I would also be grateful if anyone could give me an insight into the logistics of traveling in this area- will we be able to travel by bus/ train with limited language ability?
Many thanks in advance for any help.
Generally speaking China is not a difficult country to travel in, because it is very organised. People are also, in general, helpful and friendly. But, very few people speak English and of course signing in Chinese doesn't make it easier. Another factor is the size of the country. So my advice is to plan well ahead, using for example web resources (a very good on is travelchinaguide.com which has lot's of information for travellers). A suggested itinerary would be to go to Xian (terracotta warriors and wonderful city) and from there take a train to Guilin (beautiful scenery). Both cities are quite friendly to tourists, but that doesn't mean that people (even in hotels etc) will speak any English. One month however is very limited time for the journey you are planning, you will spend most of the time travelling and won't have time to experience the places you visit. Even without staying anywhere the trans-sib plus China will take at least two weeks in travel time. Also China is not very pleasant in Summer - very hot and humid, and it is the rainy season. I don't know too much about Indochina, but I know the weather again is not ideal at that time. Some places may be fine though, as the monsoon hits different parts of the area differently.
I got the train from Hanoi Vietnam to Bejing which took 46 hours, they do reverse service too which goes through and stops at Guilin. Hanoi is for me the best place in Vietnam as I found it was full of culture compared to the rest of the country, again personal choice, but also its no effort to see Ha Long Bay and stay on a junk for a couple of days then go trekking another couple of days in Northern Vietnam in Sapa all this is organised from Hanoi, so you would really feel youve done something in Vietnam. China is huge, but there are many over night trains to every destination and they can be OK comfortable. I went from Beijing through to Shanghai all by train and saw great travel hot spots along the way.
The fact you want to cover China, Loas, Vietnam and Thailand in just one month over land, I agree with greek gal you need to plan this carefully, its the travelling between places that takes the most time. Please look at my blogs for places of interest along this similiar route, it took most of this year to do properly. From Hanoi and Loas there are plenty of options to travel to Bangkok, and there are alot of budget flights, if you find yourself pushed for time. We found travelling from January through to September we some how got all the good weather.
Andyb, Friendly tip. Put a profile of yourself on rather than just join to ask a question. You will probably get more advice when people think you are going to use the travelblog site for your trip.
I agree with the above comments especially on the time front. 4 weeks is a long time to experience places, though not if 3 and half weeks of it are spend on trains and night buses. Also acclimatisation to both time and climate will take some of your initial time.
I guess you gotta think what you really want out of your time. Culture, relaxation, specific sights etc. Are you able to go back after 4 weeks and have some time at home to recover from fast/heavy travelling or is it straight back to work? We always think that it's better to see fewer places properly than to see more places but be rushed and not really see them as you would really want to.
Travel within SE Asia is cheap, Airasia.com being one of the budget airlines. Gotta ask yourself what value you put on your time and what is cost effective from time/money point of view.
Good luck for your trip and I'm looking forward to reading your blog and seeing your pics.
My wife & I did similar in June this year - China, Laos & Thailand over 4 weeks. If your month includes the Trans-Siberian you do not have enough time. We scaled down our itinerary bc of vastness of China - were not keen on 4x 20hr+ train trips. We went to Beijing, Pingyao, Shanghai and Yangshuo spending 3-5 nights at each place. See Blog for things done & tips. As we were time poor we flew a lot of legs; we found it was cheaper to book internal flights on the ground. Also saw long distance buses kitted out with triple bunks if you looking for cheap but we did not use any.
LP made it easy as it has the Mandarin for destinations throughout the book and you’d show people where you were trying to get to. Beijing West train station has an english counter to book tickets, definitely go sleeper class & non smoking. We were the only westerners in our hard sleeper carriage (take food) - the conductor told us when to get off. Highly recommend the day tour we took to the great wall (Jinshanling and Simatai -see blog), and Yangshuo for a few nights.
Laos is a mongrel to get to from China. We had booked from KunMing to Luang Prabang then Laos Airways collapsed. A Bus does same route but takes 26hrs? maybe. Options to fly via Hanoi & BKK. We used a Bangkok Air airpass; Guilin-BKK-KohSamui then BKK-LuangPrabang rtn. Have to have 3 flights, pre-booked and costs US$100 per leg cheap for international flights at time. There are trains BKK to Vientiane and China to Vietnam. We had to cut VangViang & Vientiane from Itinerary bc time; 5 nights in Luang Prabang wasn’t enough, highly recommend.
From Bangkok a bus & ferry service connects Koh Samui, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao, very easy to get around, winged accom.
Have a heap of tips & recommendations if your interested.
Thanks a lot for the tips! I'm thinking now that we're going ot have to fly for some of the journies. The only thing is that it seems to be a problem is getting flights (or at least reasonably priced flights) from Beijing. Have seen loads of cheap flights from the more southern Chinese citiesw, but not of the low-cost airlines that i've found seem to go there. I'd also be prepared to travel to Xian then fly from there. Does anyone know of any good low-cost airlines in this region?
Thanks again for the responses- really good of you!
I don't know if it is the cheapest but this Chinese site (also in English) is what my good English friend who lives in Xa'ian uses all the time, they provide etickets or you can collect at the airport. They also have good prices for hotels too. elong.net
I've just had a look at that website Claire and it looks really good.. shame I can't find anything for my travels there as I'm doing an Interprid tour of China but it is very cheap! As for the original post, my travel plans incorporate those as we are travelling from Beijing down to Bali, we plan to go down the Vietnamese coast to Cambodia and then to Thailand and then onwards but we've got 2 months to do it all rather than 4 weeks but then we're not planning any airtravel and yours looks like it will need a lot so you can see all you wanna see! check out that website the above traveller mentioned. x
I remember using this airline from Shanghai to Denpasser (Bali) it was through an agent and the one way flight cost $190.00....I have just tried looking in their international destinations and can now not find Bali! Wouldn't hurt to go into a travel agent in Beijing and ask if they can find it. Its a new airline and the flight we took could have been a special trial destination offer?? But no harm in enquiring here too.
Remember in Vietnam they have the hop on hop off sleeper buses that start from Hanoi and go round the coast to Ho Chi Mihn. I think it cost about $32 in total, always pay that extra £10 and get the sleeper bus as alot of the time we saw stranded travellers who bought the sit down bus (that the rock hard seats did not recline) and were told it had been cancelled and had to pay an extra $10 for each additional bus trip on the sleeper. The sleepers always turned up, they also broke down alot too, gove yourselves plenty of time, as if you have a connecting flight to catch as you may or may not get there in time.
I was actually researching this exact route today! (Lucky you!! haha)
This is what I found...
You can go direct from Beijing to Hanoi, Vietnam or make some stops along the way. All prices are 4 berth air con trains. (US$ and O/N = overnight)
Beijing -> Xi'an 13hr O/N $56
Xi'an -> Shanghai 16hr O/N $63
Shanghai -> Hong Kong 20hr O/N $110
Hong Kong -> Hanoi, Vietnam (this journey combines train and bus) 3 days $130
Now from here you can take a bus into Laos but it takes about 3 days. I would suggest getting a cheap flight through airasia to Bangkok.
Bangkok -> Chaing Mai O/N $25
Chiang Mai -> Luang Prabang, Laos 2 days on the slow boat + bus
Now you can get another cheap flight from Luang Prabang to Bangkok or KL (which are the central hubs for AirAsia).
How do you want to get home?
Most of those trains are overnight so you're not losing a lot of time but from the flight prices I looked up you can save a fair chunk of change.
Hope this helps 😊