My trip to China march/april 2013
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Dec 4, 2012 4:03 PM Last Post By: JPDeM
Nov 21, 2012 2:17 PM
My trip to China march/april 2013Hi all,
Maybe some of you will remember my first post about volunteering in China. I made some progress with my travel itinerary: I would like to volunteer for 3-4 weeks with IVHQ in Xi'an. After that I will be going to travel around China. IVHQ programs start 4/18 March or 1/15 April 2013. My preference is for 4 or 18 March depending on climate and national holidays, not yet finished reading on that subject. Suggestions?
So after my few weeks of volunteering, I would like to travel: until now I have the following itinerary:
Xi'an -> Pingyao, (I was thinking of about 3 days...)
Pingyao -> Beijing (stay in Beijing for about 5-6 days)
Beijing -> Shanghai (stay in Shanghai for about 2-3 days)
Then comes the part where I have some more trouble getting travel ideas...
Is a flight/long train ride to chongqing to do a yangzi river cruise, worth it? Is it a absolutely must see, it's listed as number 5 in Lonely Planet China? Or do you think there is more then enough scenery in the Nanning/Guilin area?
Otherwise I would take a train to Nanning/Guilin, to get to Yangshuo. Because of the beautiful nature, see some rice terraces. Stay there for about 4 days.
After Guilin/Nanning I would like to get to Hong Kong, stay there for around 3-4 days, to see for example the peak, do some shopping for electronic gadgets.
Most sectors I would like to do by train, in hard sleeper / soft sleeper class, depending on my budget. Are there any sectors in my itinerary that are strongly advised not to travel by train but by plane?
I also got a practical question (for the people that have already visited China/Asia) about money in China/Asia: How widely accepted is a Maestro card in China/Asia, with a 4 digit PIN? In my LP there is a short section about it, but it is more in general about ATM's. Maestro is widely accepted in Europe, in Holland everyone pays with a Maestro debit card, hardly any Mastercard credit cards are used. There is no real good information in the website of Mastercard (Maestro is part of Mastercard). So can I get money from a Chinese ATM with my Maestro card? Also are ATM's in China "international friendy", so can they be set to English as language?
Nov 21, 2012 5:07 PM
1Is the Yangtze cruise worth it? Probably not.
There is more than enough to see in and around Yangshuo, Guilin and the rice terraces. Fly from Shanghai to Guilin to reduce travel time. China Spring Airlines offer cheap flights.
Cash is still king in China, especially if you are on a budget. The ATMs do have an English language screen once you insert your card. Use the big banks, such as Bank of China and China Construction Bank, and it should be ok.
Nov 21, 2012 5:32 PM
2Yangzi cruise was worth it many years ago. Unless you are a senior citizen who wants a rest and don't mind watching trees grow, you'd better skip it. You will already have great scenery in the Guanxi province. Understand however that if you are there in April, the rice terraces are not at their best. As I recall, they start planting rice in May.
3 days may be much for Pingyao. Look at Datong on your way to Beijing.
Every ATM, even in small places, will offer english as an option. You will find ATMs everywhere, probably more than where you come from. They are usually all international friendly. If you have a problem just alk to another one 50 meters away.
Nov 21, 2012 5:52 PM
3While I agree with most of the above esp re "cash is king", I want to offer a word of warning: Do no run out of cash as sod's law will have the next ATM you find either out of cash or not accepting foreign cards. I once "rescued" a couple who had this problem in Songpan - the only ATM that accepted foreign cards ran out of money over the weekend and they couldn't pay their bus fares out of town!
Very very few places will accept your credit card.
Nov 21, 2012 6:20 PM
4The above is right about the issue with credit card in smaller towns but in Beijing (where I live) I use my credit card every day.
Nov 21, 2012 10:52 PM
5"Is a flight/long train ride to chongqing to do a yangzi river cruise, worth it? Is it a absolutely must see"
--Yes, Yangzte Rriver cruise is worthy visiting and it is really a must-have.
"Or do you think there is more then enough scenery in the Nanning/Guilin area?
--Yes, Guilin is another must-see, which is materpiece of karst landscape of China with breathtaking scenery endowed.
“Are there any sectors in my itinerary that are strongly advised not to travel by train but by plane?”
--Since March and April are not the hot season for China travel, so some discounting airtickets could be as cheap as the train ticket. Before going, just check the cheap flights on website to see which is more time-efficient and wallet-friendly.
"So can I get money from a Chinese ATM with my Maestro card? Also are ATM's in China "international friendy", so can they be set to English as language?"
---Yes, you could withdraw money from the ATMs in China with your master card. Each ATMs screen has language selection button. just press English, then English version would appear.
Hope these helps.
Nov 22, 2012 11:51 AM
6Thanks for answering my questions.
About the Yangzi river cruise, a lot of tour packages include a Yangzi river cruise. So that's why I'm considering to do it also. Of course it mostly depends on what my preferences are, e.g. do I like nature? It's also quite expensive, time consuming, I expect boats overcrowded with tourists (e.g. a boat to Liberty Island in New York, but I expect worse.), a lot of seniors/people older than me doing a tour packages. I still have some time to decide on that part, at this time I'm roughly sketching my itinerary so I can book my airfare in December.
I will indeed consider Datong, I will look up some information about it.
About the money: I think I will exchange about 100 Euros to Yuan, when arriving at the airport. It's quite confusing but Maestro is part of the MasterCard business, but it's not a credit card. It's a debit card. Since I couldn't find anything about it on the website of my bank in The Netherlands (called ING) about paying and withdrawing money from ATM's in China, I began to worry. Totally forget about using Google, which came up with this on Wikipedia: "In China, Bank of China uses Maestro as its "international" debit card system. Also, certain Bank of China ATMs will present the user with Japanese or Korean language options upon insertion of a Maestro card."
So I think I shouldn't be to worried, i.e. I will take some more cash money with me to smaller places like Pingyao.
I got a few questions for now: while on my trip I would like after to go to a beach for a few days, to get some sun shine, tan in the sun etc. etc. My lonely planet says Hainan is the best beach in China. So I can do that like after Guilin/Nanning take a train to Hainan/book a airfare to Hainan. Stay there for a few days (3-4 or so to get a some sunshine). About the climate, I should be fine: 25 degrees, the end of April/beginning of May, the rain season hasn't fully started yet. What is it like in reality in the end of April/beginning of May? Although the temperature can be 25 degrees Celsius, the sun has to shine. Is Hainan a good choice? Or should I really go more south to i.e. Thailand if my wallet allows that?
Last question for now. Lonely Planet says that a 30 day extension to your tourist visa is fairly easy to get. When I fill in my visa application for China, fill in my complete itinerary. Hand it in to the Chinese Embassy in The Netherlands it's well over 30 days. Do they still give you a 30 day visa? Forcing visitors to get in potential trouble by getting a visa extension while they are in China or changing there itinerary. Or will they give you a 60 day tourist visa, when you mention it on your application?
Nov 22, 2012 1:07 PM
7There are a couple of reasons why cruise company put these cruise on their itineraries. First, it makes their life easy. They put you on a boat and don't need to worry or do anything for a few days. Second, This USED to be a nice cruise until the area was flooded for the construction of the Three Gorge Dam. The water level was increased significantly many villages along the was disappeared under water and a couple of millon people were displaced. There are so many things to see in China that this is now a waste of precious time.
It is true that Hainan has the best beaches in China but I do not consider these world class. It is also super expensive. When I was there I thought I had left China as the prices were so different. Check the weather here last April: http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/ZJSY/2012/4/23/MonthlyHistory.html Pretty warm and not much rain. Understand that May 1st is a national holiday in China so it will be packed pretty much everywhere.If it was me I would go to Thailand.
About the last question, I am not sure, They always gave me 90 days visas. You will probably get more than 30 days if you ask for that.
Nov 22, 2012 3:59 PM
8Visa length - depends on many factors including your nationality, whether you have had Chinese visas before, the individual visa office foibles, or even whether the visa clerk who handles your application is having a good or bad day. All you can do if provide all the information requested, and attach as long and as complicated an itinerary as possible. If you put down 45 or 60 days, you might get that time, or you might only get 30 days. Do you need a special visa for the volunteering part?
Nov 22, 2012 5:03 PM
9I got a few questions for now: while on my trip I would like after to go to a beach for a few days, to get some sun shine, tan in the sun etc. etc. My lonely planet says Hainan is the best beach in China. So I can do that like after Guilin/Nanning take a train to Hainan/book a airfare to Hainan. Stay there for a few days (3-4 or so to get a some sunshine). About the climate, I should be fine: 25 degrees, the end of April/beginning of May, the rain season hasn't fully started yet. What is it like in reality in the end of April/beginning of May? Although the temperature can be 25 degrees Celsius, the sun has to shine. Is Hainan a good choice? Or should I really go more south to i.e. Thailand if my wallet allows that?
hainan is not a beach. it's an island. it's a province. it has some nice beaches, if you
like that sort of thing. climate? warm. yesterday 11/23, it was 33 degrees. it can be
expensive if you go to the resort area of sanya. hotels along the beach will run 300-500
rmb, but you can still find some cheaper places a few blocks away in the 80-120 rmb
range. but the beach will be crowded with chunk-style pasty russians and mainland
chinese wearing high heels on the beach. oh, those crazy chinese! there are other
beaches around the island with few visitors and much lower prices. personally, i
wouldn't waste my limited time in china hitting the beaches, too much other stuff to
see and do. thailand for the beaches.
Nov 22, 2012 5:59 PM
Dec 4, 2012 3:24 PM
thanks for responding to my topic. I will see if my budget allows me to go to Thailand for some "sunshine". I roughly sketched my itinerary:
I will be in Xi'an for a month. Take a train from Xi'an to Pingyao (I prefer train 2672 based on present train schedules, so an overnight train).
In Pingyao I will stay for 2 nights, did some Googling and it seems that that will be enough.
Then take a train from Pingyao to Datong (I prefer train 2672 based on present train schedules, day train).
Stay in Datong for 2 nights.
Then take a train from Datong to Beijing (I prefer train K4/K616 based on present train schedules, day train).
Stay in Beijing for 5 nights.
Then take a train from Beijng to Shanghai (I prefer train G13/G15, highspeed railway, more expensive but I want to experience a bullet train ;).
Stay in Shanghai for 2 nights, will that be enough?
Take a flight to Guilin, should be around 700 Yuan. Get to Yangshuo
Stay there, explore scenery for 4 nights.
Take a train from Guilin to Shenzhen (I prefer train K950/K951 based on present train schedules, overnight train).
Cross border from Shenzhen to Hong Kong.
Stay in Hong Kong for 4 nights, and maybe get to Thailand for the beaches.
I got a few questions:
Stay in Shanghai for 2 nights/3days, will that be enough to see most of the highlights?
Also I did some research about traveling by train in China, I will have a choice about ending my volunteering project 15 April or 29 April. If I choice the first I will be in Guilin around the 1st of May. I read that the first week of May can be hard to travel by train in China. How hard is it in reality, to buy a Soft Sleeper ticket on that route? Guilin to Shenzhen?
If the first week of May can be hard to travel, it is not advisable to end my volunteering project the 29th of April? Then most of my travel is in the first week of May.
Another question: I read train tickets can be hard to buy if you depart from another city than the city you are currently staying. I’m staying very short in Pingyao/Datong, only for 2 nights each, making it hard to buy tickets for the following sector. I checked the website chinahighlights.com to search for tickets, for the day after tomorrow. So the 7th of December, they not available for soft sleeper class on my train I prefer. They are still available between Datong and Beijing, but that is no guarantee they are available when I go traveling in China. Does anybody know around here if it’s possible to buy tickets for the following sectors in advance in Xi’an, I read it might be possible from larger cities: Can I buy my ticket to Pingyao around 10 days before departure. Is it possible to buy a ticket from Pingyao to Datong and from Datong to Beijiing from Xians foreign ticket boot before traveling to Pingyao? It could give me a lot of peace of mind instead of arriving by train, and immediately joining to ticket queue and also I think there isn’t even a English speaking ticket booth in small places like Pingyao and Datong.
Dec 4, 2012 4:03 PM
122-3 days in Shanghai is enough.
Yes May 1st is a holidays and just about everybody has a few days off and often will add some vacation days to it. The most popular attractions are the one not too far from big cities. Train travel at that time is a challenge. Weather is perfect though! Still do-able if you plan carefully.
About tran tickets, you can buy any segment from anywhere in China. Tickets go on sale 12 days prior to departure date for online purchases and 10 days prior for physical sales at train stations or tickets booths. One small thing is, when buying or picking-up tickets in a city other than the departure city you have a minimal extra charge of 5RMB. If you want a very specific train, you'd better buy as soon as they are available. You can have a friend help you buy them online while you are there or get an agent to do it for you (some charge as little as $10 per ticket).
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