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> Travelling in China - tips
bougainville
post May 22 2007, 09:39 AM
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I wondered if anyone'd help me with a few doubts i have regarding travelling in China, e.g.

- Is it necessary to book my train tickets as early as possible (Beijing- Xian; Xian - Chongqing; Wushan- Shanghai) or 1-2 days in advance's enough?
Hard sleepers are preety popular and August / September's the high season for people travelling around the country (school holidays, etc.) Is it difficult to book with sensible price for foreigners?

- Any good hostels to stay at in Beijing, Shanghai or Xian? Negative experiences/ rip offs are welcomed too...

- Most reliable agency to book your Yangtze cruise deal in Xian / Chongqing, please?
Approx. prices?

Thx a lot for your advice & tips in advance. Any help's much appreciated guys.
Ciao,
Bougainville.
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His Royal Monkeyness
post May 22 2007, 12:19 PM
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I travelled there in August a couple years ago. You should be ok booking your train tickets just a couple days prior. Allow a little more time for soft sleepers. I got stuck in the 'cattle car' once - that sucked. Other times I was able to get a good seat same day. To ease things, write down in Chinese where you want to go, what type of seat and time (Lonely Planet had translations printed in their book). Then you can just show that to the ticket seller to make the purchase quick and easy.
The queue for trains is an interesting experience. Everyone waits around in a waiting room then when it's about time to get on, people start to queue. Once they open the gates though it's a mad frenzy of pushing and shoving (even old ladies) to get on. If you've got a reserved seat, just hang back and let them go.

I stayed at a good hostel in old town Beijing. Can't remember the name though (ya, i'm a big help).
Xi'an has a nice YHA right in the middle by the Bell Tower.

Chinese culture has some things that we as westerners consider rude, but is just normal for them. People spit all over. I got so sick of hearing guys suck of phlegm. (shudder) Kids will just squat and pee wherever. The overpopulation seems to make people have to push, shout, whatever to be seen/heard. So you will get people trying to cut in the queue (use your elbows). It's a great country and the people were all very helpful to me.


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rbisset
post May 22 2007, 03:22 PM
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Booking train tickets in China is an exhausting experience. People pushing in everywhere, complete lack of English speakers but still good fun. I'd recommend booking tickets for the next journey when you arrive in a new town. I was travelling around October and it was pretty busy. I actually got the train to Shanghai from HK the day before National Day along with what seemed like the entire country. Still managed to get a bed no problem.

Hard sleepers are fine. I wouldn't waste your money getting a soft sleeper as they really aren't that much better. When I tried getting a ticket from Xi'an to Yichang it was a nightmare. 4 days before I wanted to leave I went to the station and could only get a hard seat! Don't get them!!

I think the stations are in cahoots with the hostels/hotels for commission. The hotels always seem to be able to get you a sleeper even if you can't at the station, albeit at an inflated price. Still not too much though, maybe only a couple of dollars.

As His Monkeyness mentions there are a few customs that really start to grate. The constant hawking of phlegm starts at sunrise and keeps going all day, surprisingly I found it was mainly the old women! The kids with the "crack pants" pissing/craping in the street are pretty foul and the complete lack of public order in relation to queuing is hard to take.

That said it is a fantastic country. History is everywhere, except Beijing where it's all being torn down and replaced by shiny new skyscrappers, and the hard travelling makes it even better when you look back on the experience biggrin.gif


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kandis
post Jun 25 2007, 05:10 AM
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As far as I understand it, train tickets don't go on sale for about a week before you want to leave. (Unless you know someone who knows someone...)
Sometimes it is a little bit difficult to get tickets before national holidays, but it still usually possible.
I prefer the soft sleeper... but I'm a bit of a princess. The soft sleepers are in a cabin with a door and only holds 4 occupants. The hard sleepers have no door and holds six. The no door thing is tough because there is a designated smoking room on the train and the smoke filters down the hallway. If we had our door open you could smell it. Also, people walk up and down the halls at all hours of the night, so if you plan to sleep a little, and not worry about your luggage, I would spend the extra 50or so yuan.
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lraleigh
post Jun 25 2007, 05:56 AM
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I highly recommend staying at the Far East International Hostel in the southern hutongs. One of my favorite places to stay. Good to meet people there and the neighborhood is charming. Fairly close to the Forbidden City too. And you can rent bikes. Beer is cheap, etc. etc. Go there. You won't regret it.

Watch out for the scams around Tiananmen though, especially the college students who try to take you to see their art in the gallery and those who want to be your friend as a group then take you to an expensive "tea shop" hidden behind another shop. Save yourself the trouble and don't go in.

Book from the train stations to avoid commissions plus for the "experience of waiting in line" You can butt in line too, if you want (I'd pass).

Enjoy.
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technotrekker
post Jun 25 2007, 08:13 AM
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Don't overlook the bus option either on short to medium length journeys, especially between main cities. There seems to be new highways everywhere, the buses are pretty much brand new and the bus stations I witnessed were some of the best I've seen. A lot of their trade surplus is being spent on transport it seems.

I took an overnight coach from Nanning to Guangzhou, of which they had services leaving evey half an hour until 2am. I got on and was delighted to find all the seats were actually little bed capsules! Dozed off to slumberland thinking I'd never seen that on a bus before and woke up 8 hours later at destination. Sweet!

Have fun,
tt


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charlotte850505
post Nov 14 2008, 04:17 AM
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I'd recommend booking tickets for the next journey when you arrive in a new town. if you travelling around October and it was pretty busy. you'd better got the train to Shanghai from HK the day before National Day along with what seemed like the entire country.
a book or some maps will be more help ,Don't overlook the bus option either on short to medium length journeys, especially between main cities. There seems to be new highways everywhere, the buses are pretty much brand new and the bus stations
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chinaguy
post Nov 18 2008, 10:50 PM
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If you want to travel in china you really want to check it this website for china attraction :http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/
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shangguan
post Dec 25 2008, 09:06 PM
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I have lived in China for five years, speak fluent Chinese, and have traveled extensively and when it comes to getting a train ticket in China I still shudder. It is always a nightmare and after standing in line for an hour or two, you never know if you can even get a ticket. Tickets are sold one week in advance usually. During Chinese festivals they sell out within hours usually, so you'll probably need to get to the train station well before they open the doors (there will already be a line outside) and run for the nearest window and even doing that, your ticket is rarely for the day you want, and you probably won't get your first choice of ticket type. I usually just go through a hostel to get my tickets. They always seem to be able to get tickets (friend of a friend sort of thing) and they are a whole lot cheaper than going through a hotel or travel agency. Even if I stay at a hotel I go find a hostel to get tickets. I once got stuck in Beijing for two extra weeks waiting to get a train ticket home, but that only happened once.


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rauri
post Dec 25 2008, 10:43 PM
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QUOTE(scottshangguan @ Dec 25 2008, 09:06 PM) *

I have lived in China for five years, speak fluent Chinese, and have traveled extensively and when it comes to getting a train ticket in China I still shudder. It is always a nightmare and after standing in line for an hour or two, you never know if you can even get a ticket. Tickets are sold one week in advance usually. During Chinese festivals they sell out within hours usually, so you'll probably need to get to the train station well before they open the doors (there will already be a line outside) and run for the nearest window and even doing that, your ticket is rarely for the day you want, and you probably won't get your first choice of ticket type. I usually just go through a hostel to get my tickets. They always seem to be able to get tickets (friend of a friend sort of thing) and they are a whole lot cheaper than going through a hotel or travel agency. Even if I stay at a hotel I go find a hostel to get tickets. I once got stuck in Beijing for two extra weeks waiting to get a train ticket home, but that only happened once.

Oh that would not be good at all! I always heard that the transport there was improving greatly, but i can understand if it's such a rush as you say, especially with the amount of people getting around there. What's the easiest way of transport there?
Train, bus, taxi? Oh and the costs, which is most efficient.
thanks in advance smile.gif


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Traveling to China at the end of 2009. Any recommendations or tips would be well appreciated :)
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shangguan
post Dec 26 2008, 01:04 AM
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QUOTE

Oh that would not be good at all! I always heard that the transport there was improving greatly, but i can understand if it's such a rush as you say, especially with the amount of people getting around there. What's the easiest way of transport there?
Train, bus, taxi? Oh and the costs, which is most efficient.
thanks in advance smile.gif


Transportation has improved greatly, but is not yet to western standards. Up until recently the train was a great deal cheaper than flying, but recently plane tickets have become far more affordable and in some cases are actually cheaper than the train. I still like the train better though. I feel it is much more personal and I always end up making friends on them. Plus it is nice to sit and watch China pass by. You can see things on the train that you'll never see on an airplane.


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rauri
post Dec 26 2008, 01:07 AM
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QUOTE(scottshangguan @ Dec 26 2008, 01:04 AM) *

QUOTE

Oh that would not be good at all! I always heard that the transport there was improving greatly, but i can understand if it's such a rush as you say, especially with the amount of people getting around there. What's the easiest way of transport there?
Train, bus, taxi? Oh and the costs, which is most efficient.
thanks in advance smile.gif


Transportation has improved greatly, but is not yet to western standards. Up until recently the train was a great deal cheaper than flying, but recently plane tickets have become far more affordable and in some cases are actually cheaper than the train. I still like the train better though. I feel it is much more personal and I always end up making friends on them. Plus it is nice to sit and watch China pass by. You can see things on the train that you'll never see on an airplane.

Ah yeah i see. I would prefer to get a Train ride as well. I'll fight through the crowds looking like this: frantics.gif . Although that wouldn't help getting a ticket, i must get a Phrase book for Mandarin and Cantonese before i go just incase im not always with my Friend who is chinese


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Traveling to China at the end of 2009. Any recommendations or tips would be well appreciated :)
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shangguan
post Dec 26 2008, 01:16 AM
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QUOTE

Ah yeah i see. I would prefer to get a Train ride as well. I'll fight through the crowds looking like this: frantics.gif . Although that wouldn't help getting a ticket, i must get a Phrase book for Mandarin and Cantonese before i go just incase im not always with my Friend who is chinese


If you want to travel by train just step into a hotel and get the desk workers to write what kind of ticket you want and where you want to go on a piece of paper. You can then hand that to the person at the window. It is best to have them write options so that you can downgrade if the ticket type you are looking for is sold out and then cross your fingers.


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peter47
post Nov 8 2010, 12:06 AM
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Hi

When I was making our tentative travel arrangements before we left home, I thought it might be fun to take trains most of the time. Keep in mind that China is a huge county - bigger than the US. But I quickly realized that we couldn't afford the time to take trains everywhere (going from Hong Kong to Beijing would have taken three days by train).

Buses : Except for the tour buses, which I think are always fantastic, forget about using them for transportation. They have plenty of them around the cities, but they are definitely for the locals.

Taxis : The way to get around. They are very, very inexpensive. A twenty minute ride in Beijing was about $2 or $3 dollars.

There are different kinds of taxis. Some more expensive than others (but still very inexpensive). The real inexpensive ones look like large bread boxes on wheels. The hotels won't even let these in to pick up their guests. We were told to avoid them, and we did.

You should also know to NEVER, NEVER leave your hotel without making sure to have the name and address of the hotel written in Chinese characters. Also have someone at the hotel write down where you want to go in Chinese Characters.

Thanks


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