First time to China, advice needed, please take a look at our one month route/itinerary..
We are planning an 8 month trip around Asia with our first stop possibly being Hong Kong for a few days, then flying to Shanghai and spending a month in China. We have put together this rough route/itinerary so far, but there are a few things we can't seem to find out and hoping you can help us -
How best to get from Chongqing to Guilin? I can't seem to find a direct train route, so have planned in a stop in Guiyang but then it still seems like a really long journey to get to Guilin from there?
How to incorporate a visit to Tiger Leaping Gorge/Lijiang? Is there anywhere else you would recommend visiting in the Yunnan province?
Ideally we would like to travel China overland to save money on flights.
We will then be leaving China by train from Nanning into Vietnam.
Itinerary so far is looking like this, starting mid October -
Are there any places on here we should miss out or add in, or anywhere above that is only worth staying in for a day or two?
Do you think all this is do-able in 30 days?
Thanks in advance for your help and advice!
Do-able in 30 days?
This is difficult to answer from my experience of travelling in China. If you have absolutely no trouble getting the train tickets you require for the days you want a couple of days before you travel then yes I think it's do-able. But in reality this might not be the case.
On our first trip to China (3 weeks) our route was
Flight -> Shanghai
We had trouble getting tickets from Suzhou to Tai Shan and ended up only getting standing tickets (8 hour journey overnight). For the Tai Shan to Beijing train we managing to only get seats (rather than sleeper), an overnight journey in seats isn't great when you're on a time budget as getting over the journey leaves you drained the next day when you should be enjoying a new city... Direct from Shanghai to Beijing might be easier though? The rest of our train journeys on that trip were fine, managing to get the tickets we wanted on the days we wanted.
On our second visit (last year) our route was:
Ulaan Batur -> Beijing
Nanning -> Hanoi
We took a month for this as we had two toddlers with us and we were travelling really slow. Again we had serious trouble getting train tickets for some of the legs. Beijing to Xian was fully booked for more than a week in advance and we had to pay more than double for tickets from the black market. The Chengdu to Guilin train was also fully booked for when we wanted to leave, so had to leave later than we planned.
Another thing to consider is the time getting your Vietnamese Visas in Nanning (I'm assuming that's where you'll get them?). it's closed on sat and sun so don't turn up at the weekend otherwise you wont be able to start the process till Monday. Same day service is available though but obviously costs a lot more than say a three day service (580RMB Vs 380RMB)
I think maybe the thing to do is be prepared to be flexible. Write out an itinerary but highlight the things you really want to do so if your plans have to change, you can bump off the unimportant things leaving you time to enjoy the things you want to do.
Most of all enjoy it, travelling China by train is amazing and ranks as a highlght of our travels. We'll make it back there soon hopefully to explore more of that vast country...
Your issue with finding a direct train fron Chongqing to Guilin, i've been looking also but for the opposite route.
I've found on a chinese railway site that there is a direct service between the two. As far as i'm aware from reading the site there are no changes of train or ought.
It does however take around 20 hours and there is only one train a day, going from Chongqing North to both Guilin and Guilin North, leaving Chongqing at 20:43 getting in around 5pm the next day.
I can send you the link to the website in private if you would like, just message me and i'll send you what information i have on it.
I'm also in planning for China, taking about 3 and a half weeks, to travel from
Hope this helps. I will follow this post for any more information anyone else has on this
Michael, thanks for your input and good to know that train travel is good in China, as we plan to do a lot of it! I have heard that you need to book onward train travel 2-3 days in advance to get the seats etc you want, as standing all night doesn't sound ideal! We are missing the mian holiday (1st week of Oct) so hopefully this will help as it will be a bit quieter..I think you are right though, we will select what our 'must see's/dos' are and then whatever else we fit in great, if we have to miss certain small things or places in order to see a 'must see' then so be it.
Once we know our exact entry/exit dates for China and sort the visa out, we can get our Vietnam visa (from the UK before we go) as our exit date in China will determine our entry date into Vietnam..just need to decide if we are getting our Chinese visa in advance here, or if we are going to start in hong Kong and sort it out there!
Dan, thanks for this, that bit is a nightmare to sort out isn't it, its the furthest overground route of our trip, but I think we may change our route slightly after xi'an to look something like this (therefore not having to do the Chongqing-Guilin leg) -
Shangahi - 3 days
Beijing - 4 days
Datong - 2 days
Pingyao - 2 days
Xi'an - 2 days
Jiuzhaigou - 2 days
Chengdu - 2 days
Lijiang/Tiger Leaping Gorge - 4 days
Kunming - 2 days
Guilin - 2 days
Yangshuo - 2 days
Nanning - 2 days
We may also fly the Xi'an - JZG route to save some time, as well as Kunming to Guilin..
Any other comments/advice on this route would be great!
I think I had the perfect one month itinerary put together by seasoned professionals who knew exactly what to see. My trip last month had a good balance of everything, historic monuments, breathtaking landscapes, ancient cities, and encounters with 10 different ethnic minorities. Do feel free to browse my blog if you don't mind spoilers. For my trip, I did absolutely no research beforehand, and didn't even know what we were going to see, so everything, and everyday was a surprise. Unfortunately my itinerary was designed for a road trip, and I suspect there is absolutely no way you could fit so much in using buses and trains. I look forward to your blog, it's going to be a spectacular trip.
I have traveled to China on six, seven trips (each time about three weeks or more) and I think you are trying to do too much. Although you can certainly do this it will be rushed. The travel between each place takes quite a bit of time out of your schedule. Do a realistic plan for how long each train/bus/flight will take including the going to and from hotel/hostel to the station or airport. Chinese cities are huge! As an example - to go to Jiuzhaigou in two days mean one day for flying there and one day for going back. If you take the bus it will be two days on the bus. It won't leave you much time for exploring. Also flights and trains get delayed, I don't think that happens more in China than elsewhere but on a very tight schedule like yours it can ruin the whole plan. And indeed, it is not always easy to get tickets.
I think you will like it more if you go a bit longer to each place. I really like Xian for example, it has a nice feel and its rich history is worth exploring further. I don't think Shanghai has so much to offer, although well worth visiting for a couple of days, but the surrounding cities like Hangzhou and Suzhou are wonderful, with many parks and gardens. And interesting history. These are a short train ride from Shanghai (or bus) but I would suggest to stay for a couple of days (Hangzhou is my favourite, with a beautiful lake and park landscape surrounding it, plus some very good museums). I didn't like Guilin very much, but the countryside is spectacular especially around Yangshuo. You may want to opt out on Sichuan, it is far away indeed, and you will get plenty of scenery from Lijiang and Yangshuo. I very much enjoyed going from Kungming up to Shangri-La through Lijiang. But it took us a week and we didn't have the time to hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Kunming itself is OK but probably not of great interest.
I think you will have a great time, I have found it easy to travel in China. But everything is much bigger than we Europeans are used to and there is a bit of struggle now and then, not knowing the Chinese language trying to navigate the streets in the huge cities. But that is part of the fun too and Chinese people are very friendly and helpful in general. As always in places where many Westerners go (Beijing and Shanghai, Yanghshuo) you will probably be targeted by scammers, so be a bit careful with who is approaching you with offers of art exhibitions, tea parties and special offers. But you are probably aware of this already.
I have just arrived and it seems is more challenging of what I thought. I am in Beijing, it is quit difficult to get you understood in English. And things do not happen as expected. So plan small. If you are coming to Beijing and traveling to Xian and Xining and Shangai maybe we can meet somewhere.
In response to: Msg #156213
We have lived here for 2.5 years and nothing goes as planned in China..bring a smile and your patience.
Train travel is good but you can only buy 10 days (at most) in advance and lots sell out, as there is a black market for train tickets in China.
You could spend a whole month just in Yunnan province as this is our favorite. Dali is cool and only a 4 hr bus ride from Lijiang.
You could head to Yunnan after Chengdu as their is a bus to Shangri-la(never been but supposed to be great). You can get to Vietnam from Kunming and it will drop you near Sapa, Vietnam by bus.
Hope this helps.
We spent a month in China and were lucky that we managed to get train tickets by booking a couple of days in advance. When we couldn't go by train and the journey was relatively short we took a bus.
We started in Hong Kong and made our way by train to Guangzhou. We then got a bus to Yangshuo and bus to Guillin. Train to Shanghai and train to Beijing (only the posh overnight one was left of this and it did cost but it was an experience!). We then got a train to Pingyao and bus to Xi'an as the train was sold out. Train from Xi'an to Chengdu. At this point I (Donna) got sick so we opted for a flight from Chengdu to Lijiang - we thought the flight was totally worth it considering how long the bus or train journey would be and it ended up being the same price. Our hostel booked this for us a few days in advance and threw in a free airport transfer too. Then in Lijiang we did Tiger Leaping Gorge and made our way to Kunming on our way back to Macau (by train) for a flight out.
Travelling in China can be difficult but we didn't have too many issues and didn't find this itinerary rushed at all.
With the last part of your plan, the Kunming - Guilin - Yangshuo - Nanning part, that doesn't seem to make much sense as you are going back on yourselves. Wouldn't it be easier to go from Kunming to Nanning and do Guillin and Yangshuo at the beginning before Shanghai? We tried to do a continuous loop so we wouldn't backtrack...just a thought?