For travellers willing to step outside their comfort zone, who don’t mind being thrown in at the deep end. Just the ticket for those aged between 18-35 or anyone young at heart with an open mind, an eye on the budget & a nose for adventure.
Explore the world on two feet - or two wheels! Our active trips range from classic treks & trips where walking forms an integral part of the itinerary to cycling tours offering a totally new perspective on a destination. All our active trips are fully supported.
Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group.
This document contains essential information that you need to prepare for, as well as information you will need during your holiday with us.
We ask that you read it carefully and that you take the document with you on your holiday. It contains information on visas, vaccinations, spending money, etc, as well as a detailed, day by day itinerary of your trip.
International flights, departure taxes, visas, insurance, meals unless indicated, drinks, optional additional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay. We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival and Chinese visas can be difficult to obtain outside your country of residence. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements.
Itinerary: Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
606 InterChina Commercial Building
33 Dengshikou Street
+86 10 6406 8022
* Hotel List - this will be sent to you by your booking agent. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that your trip visits
* Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not
* Itinerary – please print off a copy of your specific trip itinerary and include it with your application, listing the dates you will visit each destination
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
We require you to send the following at the time of booking, no later than 60 days prior to travel: Clear, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport
Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well.
Many governments publish up-to-date travel advice for countries around the world. Information is gleaned from both local and international sources as well as ‘friendly’ governments, and the notices are often on the cautious side. Sometimes there will be conflicting information. For example, the Australian, UK and Canadian governments may agree on the nature of the advice; however, frequently they do not. And sometimes the views expressed by a particular government can be coloured by political considerations. We will monitor these travel advisories closely and may alter itineraries or cancel trips as a result. However, it is also your responsibility to stay informed and form a balanced view. We recommend that you visit the websites or contact the departments listed below. Unless otherwise stated, it is not normally the intention of the relevant government travel advice to dissuade you from travelling. Rather, it is to inform you of where and when you should exercise caution to avoid problems. Please also note that, as a responsible tour operator, we maintain constant links with our ground operators and your safety - at all times - is our paramount concern. You can check your government's latest travel advice at one of the links below:
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
U.S. Department of State New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended
Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please consult your doctor or a travel health specialist. The choice of vaccinations can depend on a range of issues including the specific destination, the duration of the trip, your personal health and of course what vaccines you have had before.
Routine Background Vaccines: We strongly endorse current public health recommendations that all travellers should be up-to-date with their routine vaccines such as tetanus, diphtheria, measles/mumps/rubella, polio and influenza, and paediatric vaccinations for children.
Travel Vaccinations: While the food and water-borne diseases such as hepatitis A and typhoid will apply to most of our travellers, other travel vaccines such as hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis and cholera may apply to select travellers, especially long-term travel. Travel health experts can advise on what is required and also what is not required!
It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting – or any which may be required by your home country upon your return. To find out which, if any, vaccinations are mandatory or recommended for your destination contact your local doctor, immunisation centre or medical centre for up-to-date information. If you need to arrange vaccinations or a supply of preventative medicine (e.g. malaria tablets), you should contact your doctor at least two months before you depart. Some inoculations require more than one visit and can take several weeks to administer the full course.
For travellers from Australia and New Zealand, we recommend the Travel Doctor-TMVC clinics (see www.traveldoctor.com.au or phone 1300 658 844 for an appointment in Australia). Travellers from countries other than Australia and New Zealand should contact similar organisations or their travel doctor for advice. General health and vaccination information is available to all travellers at
www.traveldoctor.com.au/travelreport. Some vaccines require more than one dose, so arrange for your visit at least 4-6 weeks before you travel.
You should be issued with an International Certificate of Vaccination booklet that records each vaccination. Always carry this with you on your travels; it could provide essential information for doctors in the event that you fall ill whilst travelling.
We recommend that you photocopy the main pages of your passport, your airline ticket, itinerary, insurance policy, traveller’s cheques and credit card. Keep one set of photocopies with you, separate from the originals. Leave one set of copies at home with family or friends. It is also worth taking some extra passport photos with you in case of additional visas, permits or other unforeseen paperwork.
No particular level of fitness is required for this holiday. Please be aware there will however be some long days travelling on the train, where you will be sitting down for extended periods. Participants should be reasonably healthy; anyone with respiratory or cardiac problems, or over the age of 55, should fully consult their medical adviser prior to booking and we may require full medical clearance.
Remember - the lighter you travel the better! A soft-sided duffel or sausage bag is the ideal form of luggage. It is recommended that you keep your luggage weight around 15kg and certainly no more than 20kg. A small or medium-sized backpack (45-50 litres) is another good option, but preferably one without a frame.
When packing, consider cultural differences which may mean that some attire that we wear at home is not appropriate when travelling and may be offensive to the local people. When visiting sites of religious significance, modest clothing should be worn. Sandals, thongs, flip-flops or jandals are appropriate footwear in the tropics.
When you pack your clothing, consider the climate at the time of year you are travelling and any specific requirements for your trip as at certain times of the year some of the items suggested in the list that follow may not be necessary. Laundry facilities are available in some destinations.
Below is a list of equipment and documentation that we suggest you take with you. Please use this checklist as a guide when packing for your holiday.
It is a good idea to take a small medical kit with you, and you should consider packing the following items:
Antibiotics, Lip-balm, moisturiser, sunscreen, headache tablets, antiseptic (e.g. Betadine), anti-diarrhoea tablets (for changes in diet and water), laxatives, band-aids/moleskin/dressing strips for blisters, small scissors/tweezers. Note that moleskin is particularly good for blisters and can be obtained from any pharmacy.
It is also recommended to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any less common prescribed medications that you may be carrying.
Diarrhoea Stomach upsets are not uncommon when travelling through new destinations (usually a 24 - 48 hour 'bug') and this may cause diarrhoea, leading to dehydration. Should you develop a stomach upset you should eat only in moderation and drink plenty of fluids. It is a good idea to carry a couple of sachets of rehydrants with you (such as Gastrolite). We also suggest that you carry one of the common anti-diarrhoea tablets such as Imodium.
Sunstroke It can be quite easy to get sun burnt when you are not accustomed to the sun in new climates. You should take sensible precautions such as wearing a hat and using a good UV sunscreen. Finally, drink plenty of fluids - preferably water.
Water In general, water is not safe to drink in the areas through which we travel. Bottled Water is widely available and most travellers prefer to drink this. Your guide can assist you in regards to the relative safety of tap water and the availability of bottled water on each tour. When walking, or in hot conditions, you must make a conscious effort to maintain your hydration, drinking as much water/tea as possible to offset fluid loss.
The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao). There are many fake notes in circulation and for this reason it is best to break your big notes in larger stores, rather than on the street with local vendors.
Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.
You will need to take money with you to cover sightseeing, entrance fees, meals and drinks. Other costs to consider are drinking water, tips, laundry, souvenirs, additional activities during free time and possible delays. It is much better to come with more than you would expect to spend and to end the trip with a surplus, rather than being caught short! It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies that could happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and be reimbursed later by your insurance company. This is the situation where having a credit card can be useful. How Much Money? In our trip notes we have suggested an appropriate allowance for additional meals. This does not include alcoholic drinks, e.g. beer. In addition to this you should carry sufficient funds for optional activities, additional sightseeing, shopping and tips. As a guideline we suggest that you allow $US15-20 per day (or maybe less!) in Asia would allow you to eat and drink reasonably well. Emergency Funds In the unlikely event of an emergency of a personal nature or unforseen changes to the Gecko's schedule, we recommend you have access to an additional US$300 to cover any costs that may arise as a result of these events.
We recommend you allow a figure of between US$100 and $150 for your DRINK and SNACK requirements. Use a higher figure particularly if you are travelling during the hot season when you will require more fluids.
In addition you should carry sufficient funds for extra sightseeing and optional activities. On average people spend approximately US$80. If you decide to take optional excursions using the services of a local guide and a private vehicle you will need to budget for more.
Shopping is a personal thing that, again, varies enormously. On average, people spend between US$100-125 on jewellery and other souvenirs.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket
Although the culture of tipping may not be part of your own culture it is nonetheless part of the culture in this area of the world and it is often the way someone such as a waiter makes a living. Tipping has become an accepted part of tourism in China. On our trips your tour leader can advise you on this matter, however, as a guideline we would recommend US$1 to US$2 per person, per day for a local guide. Taxi and rickshaw drivers do not expect a tip. If you are unhappy with a service, of course, you are under no obligation to leave a tip. However, if the service has been satisfactory, please consider our advice above. Also in regards to tipping your Leader we suggest the following: US$2-4 dollars for local guides; US$2-3 dollars for drivers; US$3-6 dollars for tour leaders. Please note there is no need to tip in restaurants in China but you are of course welcome to.
Like many tourist-orientated regions in the world, most parts of Asia have developed a culture of tipping, especially in tourism. Tipping is a token of appreciation for a job well done. Certain nationalities still find it quite uncomfortable when confronted by this custom. To avoid embarrassment and to protect you from the sometimes seemingly endless soliciting of tips, your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then the tour leader pays the tips and keeps a record of all money spent (except restaurant tips). At the start of your holiday we collect for the tipping kitty and we ask that you contribute roughly US$2 per person per day (your tour leader will advise an exact amount at the Welcome Meeting). Your tour leader can then distribute tips along the way, as appropriate, to local guides and hotel porters, etc. This kitty is not designed to provide a tip for your tour leader.
Your tour leader works hard to ensure you have a great trip, so please don't hold back if you feel they have earned a tip for their efforts. If you would like to reward them for their services, you can choose to do so individually or make a group presentation at the end of the tour. An appropriate amount to tip the tour leader is about US$3 per person per day.
Beijing Capital International airport is located north-east of Beijing, 25 km from the city centre. One of the biggest airports in the world, it is relatively easy to navigate and many signs are written in English. Most international flights arrive at Terminal 3.
For more information about Beijing Capital Airport, please go to http://en.bcia.com.cn/
An arrival transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Transfers cannot be arranged on arrival. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you plan to arrive earlier, this arrival transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through your booking agent.
If you have pre-arranged an arrival transfer with us, our local operator, Ms Qi (Ms Chee), will have sent a driver to the airport who will be holding a sign withour company logo and your name on it.
If you arrive at Terminal 2, please meet your driver at the entrance/exit #7 after you go through the baggage claim area. If you arrive at Terminal 3, please meet your driver in front of the white jade screen wall with the dragon pattern, after you walk through Exit B. Exit B is the only international arrival gate in Terminal 3. Please note that Beijing Airport is very crowded so please be patient. If you have any problems finding the driver go to the information desk near your exit and ask them to call Ms Qi at (+86) 13671299816.
By taxi (the easiest option):
Metered taxis are available outside the airport terminal building. You can follow the airport signs to reach to the official taxi stand. The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotels takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour and should cost around CNY120 (include CNY10 for the airport expressway toll). Show the taxi driver the address of the hotel in Chinese characters as shown below. **PLEASE AVOID TAXI DRIVERS WHO DON'T WAIT IN THE TAXI LINE FOR CLIENTS AND APPROACH YOU IN THE QUEUE CLAIMING THEY USE METER**
By airport express and taxi:
You can follow the airport signs to reach to the airport express station. Take the airport express (CNY25, service time: 06:20 to 22:50) to Dongzhimen station. It is suggested to hail a passing by taxi to go to your hotel. It will cost around CNY30 from Dongzhimen Station to your hotel. Show the taxi driver the address of the hotel in Chinese characters as shown below. **THERE IS NO TAXI LINE AT THIS STATION. AVOID USING TAXIS THAT ARE WAITING JUST OUTSIDE THE STATION EXITS. THEY DON'T USE METER AND TEND TO OVERCHARGE. **
Generally, your room will be available from around midday. Sometimes it may be available mid-morning but this is in no way guaranteed. If your flight is scheduled to arrive in the early morning you may have to wait until a room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's pre-tour accommodation; which will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12.00 noon unless you have made prior arrangements with the hotel Reception. If you want to keep your room for longer you may have to pay an additional charge.
Please ask first if you want to take someone's photograph. This is just a normal courtesy and if you are refused permission please abide by that person's wishes. At certain ancient sites, and in most museums, photography (video or still) may be forbidden, or may incur an extra charge for camera-use. Do not take photos of buildings, structures and personnel of potential military significance (including airports, bridges, and police stations).
Travelling with us can provide you with some really rewarding travel experiences. Our tours visit countries where travel modes and lifestyles are often not as sophisticated as our own. There is also a laid-back attitude amongst workers and there will often seem to be huge amounts of red tape and bureaucracy when doing the simplest things. You will enjoy your trip much more if you slip into the rhythm of local life and are prepared to take things as they come.
In most countries even the smallest quantity of an illegal substance is considered a very serious offence and can carry lengthy jail terms. Avoid any contact with illegal drugs. Don’t put yourself and others at risk and never carry bags or luggage for other people. Any person found to be carrying or using illegal drugs will be asked to leave the trip immediately without the right to any refund.
The gap between the rich and poor in China is enormous, resulting in a diverse range of living costs across the provinces, making it easy to choose your own budget. On average, you can live comfortably on a budget of about RMB 130 (Approx US$16 a day), excluding sightseeing. The cost of food and drink varies according to destination, type of meal and setting. Meal prices range from RMB 5 for a bowl of local noodles, to RMB 20 for a very local banquet and up to RMB 100 for a good quality meal in the larger cities. Beer and water range from RMB 2 (very local establishment) to RMB 40 (bars and classy restaurants). Generally the larger cities on the east coast are much more expensive than, the smaller rural places in the West and down South. Tea is the most common drink and in some places like Chengdu, you can get great bottomless cups of green tea for RMB 5, whereas in places like Beijing, you could easily get caught paying for a high quality tea for anything up to RMB 100.Taxis are the most convenient way to travel and vary in price for different cities, for example flag fall is RMB 7 in Xian as opposed to RMB 12 in Beijing. Most standard fares will range between RMB 10 – RMB 20. Internet can cost anything from RMB 3 in a local smoke filled internet café up to RMB 1 per 1 minute in a hotel business center. International Postage Stamps cost about RMB 5International Phone Card cost about RMB 50 for about 8 -10 minutes.Foot or Body Massage are a great way to fill in time between the sights and range from a bargain RMB 30 up to Y180 per hour in a more up market place in Beijing or Shanghai. Note that dining out and night clubbing in Hong Kong is a lot more expensive than China, with meals ranging from HKD $30 for basic noodles to HKD $60 -$100 basic Chinese meal at market and from anywhere up from HKD $150 - $500 for other dining options. A beer at the market will cost about HKD $15 as opposed to about HKD $30 - $50 in a bar.
China is a developing country whose infrastructure, values, customs and standards differ from what you are used to at home. Please bear this in mind as you are travelling in this exciting country and respect the fact that you should not impose your standards and expectations on the culture there. The driving habits in China are something for which you ought to prepare yourself for!
Occasionally it may be necessary to amend this itinerary for reasons beyond our control, such as bad weather and poor road conditions. Changes to flight and train schedules can sometimes occur, which may also lead to changes to this itinerary.
When travelling during local holiday periods, be prepared for some inconveniences. This is especially so during the Spring Festival holiday period (Chinese New Year) and the National Day Golden Week.
In 2014 Chinese New Year day is on Friday 31st January, ushering in the Year of the Horse. All days from 30th January to 5th February 2014 are designated as public holidays. In 2015 Chinese New Year will be on 19th February (Year of the Sheep) and in 2016 it will be on 8th February (Year of the Monkey). The greeting in Mandarin for ‘Happy New Year’ is ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, whilst the greeting in Cantonese is ‘Gong Hey Fat Choy’. China’s National Day is on 1st October and this ushers in a 7-day national holiday known as Golden Week. During these holiday periods, most businesses will be closed as the local people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during these holiday periods, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required.
Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class, which are six bunk beds set out in an open cubicle compartment. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths. There are urns or thermos flasks for making hot beverages. It is quite possible that our group may be divided over a series of different compartments and we may also have to share our compartments with other passengers on the train. Train travel is an integral part of the China travel experience and offers some of the best chances of meeting and making friends with the locals.
By employing and training local tour guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour guide’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.
This is an ‘adventure’ trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of the local culture. Please be open-minded.
Please note that on your tour you may link up and travel with passengers booked on other tours within our China and South East Asia program.
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1.
You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
As we will depart for the Great Wall on Day 2 of this trip we highly recommend arriving a few days earlier in order to have time to see some of what Beijing has to offer. Some suggestions are:
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
Catch a performance of the world renown Beijing Acrobats.
The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.
Pick up a bike for the day. You'll need comfortable clothes for cycling. Helmets may not be available for hire - if you wish to have a helmet you'll need to supply your own.
A metro ride can take you to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence and the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.
Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.
Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY250
Beijing Art & Architecture Urban Adventure - CNY590
Beijing - Forbidden City - CNY60
Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY480
Kung Fu show - CNY180
Lama Temple - CNY30
Summer Palace - CNY40
Temple of Heaven - CNY40
This morning, we'll take the bullet train from Beijing to Shanhaiguan (approx 2.5 hours) for our journey to the eastern end of Great Wall.
Arriving around noon we transfer from the station to Dongjiakou Village. You'll have the time to take in the beauty of the countryside and talk to the locals to find out what Great Wall means to them. This section has not been renovated, and there are some parts that you'll need to walk through the forest so we recommend long sleeve and pants for this walk. You'll need reasonable fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip (approx. 4-5 hrs walk). There are many steps and slopes on the way so be prepared for a tough climb in sections. The views and experience though are a real highlight for all our travellers. Tonight we'll stay with the local families, so the standard will be very basic - shared bathroom & multi-shared accommodation. Also if the group size is large, the group will be split into different homestays.
The next day we head back to Shanhaiguan for a very different Great Wall experience as we explore the Old Dragon Head section from different angles. Spend an hour or two on the wall, then go to the beach to view the wall rising from the sea, an view nowhere to be found in any other part of China. You'll also have the chance to stroll around the old Shanhaiguan town and try out the local snacks on the street. Tonight, we'll stay in a local hotel in Shanhaiguan city.
Take the fast train back to Beijing before the overnight train to Xi'an (approx 13 hours).
Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face-to-face with the country and its people as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe, hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins). Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's advised to carry some of your own; keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standard you are accustomed to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
Great Wall - Shanhaiguan section
Great Wall - Dongjiakou section
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.
Your leader will take you on a short walking tour of the city centre, showing you some of the highlights such as the Bell & Drum Towers, Muslim Quarter, the City Walls and Gates.
Explore Xi'an's most famous site - the Terracotta Warriors. It takes around an hour to get there and you'll hear all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots, all standing in battle formation, were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public.
Visit the impressive Tang Dynasty Small or Big Wild Goose Pagodas. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is in a scenic area which also includes the Shaanxi History Museum and Da Cien Temple and is very popular with locals especially in the evenings when there is a nightly light & music show around the many fountains. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is inside the Jianfu Temple and Xi'an Museum is also nearby.
One of the oldest mosques in China, the Great Mosque in Xi'an features an unusual blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Still in use today, the mosque serves as a place of worship for Xi'an's large muslim population, made up predominantly of the Hui minority. Although non-Muslims are not allowed within the main hall itself, a visit during one of the five daily prayer times adds another dimension of spirituality, no matter what your religion.
Catch an overnight train to Shanghai (approx 16 hrs).
Xi'an - Walking tour
Terracotta Warriors - CNY150
Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
Great Mosque - CNY25
Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
Arrive in Shanghai and take the subway to our accommodation.
We have a full day here to explore. Don't worry if you don't fit everything in as we will be returning to Shanghai to conclude our tour and highly recommend adding on a few extra days. Some things you might like to do during your time here include:
Join your leader for a walking tour of historical Shanghai including the Bund with its spectacular array of art deco style buildings, the narrow winding lanes of the Nongtang or the European-influenced French Concession.
Visit the Propaganda Museum for a fascinating look at China's revolutionary past.
Get a bird's eye view of the city from the Pearl Tower's observation decks.
The impressive Shanghai Museum houses one of the best collections of Chinese bronze and artwork - you could easily spend the whole day here discovering the various exhibitions.
Wander the Yuyuan Gardens. These famous classical gardens were completed in 1577 by Pan Yunduan, a government official of the Ming Dynasty.
Shanghai - Walking tour
Travel by public bus to Huangshan (approx 6 hours), otherwise known as Yellow Mountain. We will stay here in a local guesthouse for the next two nights.
The 72 peaks of Huangshan provide some of China's most stunning scenery. The paths are steep and often slippery, so you will need good fitness and suitable hiking shoes. How you explore the mountain is up to you, and either way can be taken by cable car. The eastern steps are shorter (7.5km, approx 3-4 hours), but with less spectacular views. The western steps take longer (15 km) and is more difficult. We recommend taking the cable car up, exploring the trails at the summit and then descending via the western steps.
Please note that Huangshan is subject to dramatic changes in weather. You will need to be prepared for mist, fog, rain and cool temperatures. September & October are considered the best months to visit Huangshan weather wise. In any season you should ensure that you take enough clothing, food and water supplies as well as extra money in case the weather changes and you need to take the cable car instead of hiking. As one of China's premier sights, you should also be prepared for crowds of domestic tourists during public holidays, although at any time of the year there can be long waits for the cable car.
After taking in the iconic beauty of Huangshan, which despite the crowds and unpredictable weather is a rewarding destination, we return to our guesthouse for a well earned rest.
A long travel day by public transport takes us back to the big smoke of Shanghai.
Celebrate the end of your time in China with a night out in one of Shanghai's chic bars or restaurants or stay and extra few days to explore more.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact us. We are here to help you!
17th March 2014
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