Really need some help with organising travel around China and I know, as usual, this will be the best place to ask some questions 😊
We havent decided on how long we are going to go for yet, as every time I open a book to read about China I just get so overwhelmed with the size of the country I have to close it after a few minutes!
We will be starting in Chinas south west, Yunnan, and the surrounding areas. Then we are hoping to work our way to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Xian to see all the 'touristy' sites!
* How easy is it getting the train around China?
* Also, how easy it to apply for a 60-90 day visa (UK citizen?) instead of just the standard 30 day visa?
* Where are the 'must see' places apart from the ones that I have mentioned above?
* How expensive is China, what would be a good daily budget?
* How easy is it to travel overland from S. E. Asia?
* What kind of route should we take from the South West to Beijing? Whats the best way to decide where to go....plan ahead, or just wing it!?
I think this is everything I wanted to ask.......well, it will do for the moment anyway.
Thanks in advance.
Vicki and Phil
Hi, I can't answer all your question but give some general commnet: China is huge, Chinese cities are huge too. Meaning that planning is essential. As you will go for a couple of months I would suggest you make an basic itinerary, with approximante time at each place. Then you can change it as you go. But you will soon find out that travel between places will take up quite some time. Thus it is probably best to limit the number of places you will visit, and spend at least a couple of days in each. Beijing and Xian has lot's to offer, so add more days there. Shanghai has less of sights but there are fantastic places in the area, Suzhou and Hangzhou you shouldn't miss. Huangshan mountain (if the season is right) is one of the most beautiful places you can visit.
Yunnan also is very interesting and the Kunming to Zhongdian (or Shangri-La) is at an altitude, so bearable temperatures in Summer but it rains a lot then. Between Yunnan and Beijing you can visit very popular Guilin with its great scenery (is very touristy). The nearby Guizhou province in my opinion is more interesting, and also has minority cultures, great scenery and great food. Hunan province has a National Forest Park that is a Unesco world heritage site, if you like scenery you shouldn't miss it. A cruise on the Yangtse river is also recommended, there are various price classes to choose from,takes 2-3 days.
What time of the year are you going? Summer is hot (very hot) and rainy in many areas, also typhoon season if you are planning for the coast. Spring and autumn are high season usually, winter can be cold. Avoid 1 May, 1 October and Chinese Spring Festival (usually in February). Trains is a good way to see China, if you are asking about getting tickets it is difficult to say something general because it depends on when and where your are going. During Chinese holidays next to impossible, some destinations sell out quickly - don't forget that Chinese people travel a LOT, as tourists and for other reasons. On shorter distances long distance bus is a good alternative, and for very long trips for example Yunnan to Beijing plane may be advisable. In general China is very cheap, lodging, food and train tickets cost a few euros (all depends on how cheap you want to go, you can get a simple meal for 5-10 yuan in canteens, and hostels are probably 50-100 yuan). However, entrance fees are in comparison VERY expensive, we are talking 100 yuan or more, depending on the site.
Good way to plan is to check the travel blogs on this site. There is also lot's of travel information (incl. prices and train time table) on the site travelchinaguide.com
Enjoy your planning and the trip
Thank you for all the info, I think Im going to have to make a note of all the places you mentioned and research them a bit.
As you said, we definitely need to come up with some sort of itinerary to make sure we get around everywhere in enough time.
We will be starting out in Yunnan around November time so will have to check out what the weather would be like then, am guessing its going to be hot as the rest of S. E. Asia will be and its so close? I know Beijing is completely different weather wise. To be honest the weather doesnt really bother us....I say that now anyway!!
Thanks for all the info, more research from books and travel blog etc is in order I think!!
November means winter in China, although Southern Yunnan should be fine, maybe not hot but OK. Most of the other places will be cold, so bring suitable clothes or buy when you arrive. You can buy everything you need cheaply almost everywhere in China (in cities, Kunming for example has huge shopping malls!). And I have been told that heating in hotels and hostels is only required in the area north of the Yangtse river. So be prepared.
Shopping sounds good in Kunming! Will more than likely buy warmer clothes if and when we need them, as I dont want to be carrying around bulky things when its going to be hot everywhere else.
Any recommendations for a company to use for a Yangtze river cruise, or is it best just to wait until we are there and shop around?
Am still plodding through all the place names you mentioned, slowly but surely, Im sure I will get some sort of itinarary eventually 😊
I think in southern Yunnan this time is fine and nice to visit. Majority of the places there are cold so i will suggest you to bring thick clothes or coat. Everything is cheap in China so you can enjoy do shopping while you were there.
Hello Vicki, I think you should check up on the Yangtze cruises as there are fewer boats during winter. There are lots of sites for cruises, one which has lots of information is chinadam.com. You could probably e-mail them and check on where and how to buy the tickets. I booked mine in advance as we were on a tight schedule. There is also a hydrofoil which you can take, of course you won't do any excursions etc. but if you are short of time or don't like the idea of a cruise it is an alternative.