This summer we have been travel in China. It was a decision taken from one day to the next, since at first neither of us had China in the top 10 list of possible destinations, but once the trip was completed, the truth is that we loved it and we are looking forward to getting to know other parts of the country
We fly with Hainan Airlines, since we saw a flight in and out by Beijing for € 630 in the middle of August. It's not bad at all. We decided to make a short route because we only had two weeks of vacation and, on the other hand, as you all know, China is very big. Later we were changing the initial route on the march to find problems with transport, because August is also the month of vacation for the Chinese and, as many travel through the country, we find that there were no seats left for some train journeys . The itinerary finally looked like this:
15-day itinerary through China
Day 1: Beijing Tian'anmen, the Lama Temple and the Olympic Stadium
Day 2 Beijing Forbidden City, Bei Hai park, Jingshan and Lake Hou Hai
Day 3: Beijing and the Great Wall in Mutianyu
Day 4: Datong
Day 5: Datong (Hanging temple and Yungang Grottoes)
Day 6: Pingyao
Day 7: Pingyao and Xi'an
Day 8: Xi'an (Terracotta warriors)
Day 9: Xi'an (Ascension to Hua Shan)
Day 10: Xi'an and Luoyang
Day 11: Luoyang (Shaolin Temple and Longmen Grottoes)
Day 12: Luoyang and Beijing
Day 13: Beijing (Nanluogushian and Wangfujing area)
Day 14: Beijing (Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace)
Day 15: Return to Barcelona
Although the ideal route would have been: Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, Luoyang, Xi'an and back to Beijing.
How to process the Chinese visa in Barcelona? (June 2012)
In Barcelona the visa is processed at the consulate of China from 9.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. (Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Thursday). You must submit a completed form, with a photo ID and passport with a minimum validity of 6 months. As there is usually a lot of queue, I went at 8 in the morning and only had 10 people ahead. Once they open the door, a security guard checks that you have the documentation correctly filled in and paste the photo into the form (if you have not previously pasted it).
Inside there are three windows: one for passports, one for visas and another for collecting documentation. You have to go to the visa window, where you deliver the documentation and passport and give you a receipt for that you enter the amount of the visa in the BBVA account of the consulate cash. He Single-entry tourist visa costs € 30 (currently € 96.55), of two tickets € 45 (currently € 111.55) and of multiple tickets with a validity of 6 months € 60 (€ 126.55). If urgently requested, you have to pay more. The visa can be collected in one week.
For processing the visa for China in Madrid you have to do it through the Center of Chinese Visa Application Service. On this website you will find all the updated information to get the visa to travel to China.
How to go from Beijing airport to downtown?
To go from the airport to the center you can go in shuttle bus and train. We went in the airport express, since the plane landed at 5.30 am and at 6.35 am the first train leaves. It costs 25 yuan and connects the airport with the subway station of Dongzhimen /东直门(L2 / L13) and Sanyuanqiao7 / 三元桥 (L10). The last one leaves the airport at 11 p.m. and the station Dongzhimen from Beijing at 10:30 p.m.
You can also go by taxi, which with a meter can cost between 80 and 100 yuan.
How to get around Beijing?
The way more comfortable is the subway. Fast, new and with air conditioning. The ticket costs 2 yuan for the first 6 kilometers (currently 3 yuan) and can be purchased at vending machines (which also have an English menu) or at the ticket office. It is best to bring a subway map from home with the stations written in Latin characters. In the subway the stations are written in hanzi and in Latin characters, but the plans do not abound on the platforms and it will make your life much easier to have one always at hand. You can download, for example, this map of the Beijing subway. Once you arrive at the destination station, I advise you to look at the maps in the lobbys which exit is closest to the point where you are going. The reason is that there may be a lot of distance between some exits and others and thus avoid going around the silly.
You can also move in bus. It costs 1 yuan (currently 2 yuan) the first 10 kilometers, although it is difficult to know where it goes or where it stops.
It is not easy to stop a taxi in China and not get me to take you either. Many times if the race is not high enough or the taxi driver does not happen, they will take you. The taxi stands by raising the arm at mid-height and gesturing for the open palm to approach the ground. My technique to get them to take me to the end was to stop the taxi, get in, close the door and, once inside, show him the address where I wanted to go. It worked quite well, with some exceptions. In general, taxis work with a meter (see below). In Beijing the flag drop is 10 yuan and in the rest of the cities we visit 6. If you are not lucky enough to know how to speak Chinese, it is very important to have the address written to which you want to go in Chinese because many do not understand Latin characters.
On the other hand, taxi drivers in central Beijing are a world apart. Many want you to pay them a super inflated fixed price. For example, to go from Wangfujing to Sanlitun, which with a meter is about 20 yuan, they came to ask us 200. With them it is better not to even negotiate. You will always have the subway.
Where to sleep in Beijing?
With so much change of itinerary, we ended up sleeping in four different hotels in the capital of China, each of a different category, so here you have options for all budgets:
Red lantern House It is located in the area of the Northern Lakes, although walking is quite far. The nearest metro stop is the Jishuituan (L2 / 积水), which is about fifteen minutes walk, or the station Xizhimen (L4 / 西直门) which is about twelve minutes. We booked a double room with shared bathroom for 200 yuan. The room was small and had an air conditioner that made quite a lot of noise. He Red Lantern House is fine because it is in a hutong Nothing touristy, but it's quite fair. Of course, for € 25 a night I don't know if you can ask for more in Beijing.
Traditional View Hotel The double room with bathroom cost us 359 yuan and included breakfast (which I thought was a little sparse). It is a five-storey hotel decorated with traditional Chinese style furniture. We liked the room, but best of all is the location of the hotel: a few meters from Nanluoguxiang. The nearest metro stop is the Beixinqiao (L5 / 北新桥).
Michael's House Hotel It is a small hotel built in the traditional Chinese style near the metro station of Jishuituan (L2 / 积水). It has few rooms around an interior patio decorated with taste and very comfortable to read or write. The double room with breakfast costs about 560 yuan and includes breakfast. This was one of my favorite hotels of the entire trip, although perhaps the price is a bit high. You can read a more complete review here.
Hilton Wangfujing hotel The last night of our trip we decided to have a great time and stay at the hotel Hilton Wangfujing. It is located a few meters from Wangfujing Street, one of the big shopping streets of the city and a few minutes walk from Tian'anmen Square. The hotel is a five star hotel with incredible facilities and a very complete breakfast. The room, which was standard, had 50 square meters. What a shame that the Wifi It is not included in the price. I leave the review we made of the hotel.
What to visit in Beijing?
Beijing is a very big city and with a lot to see. We spent almost six days and we had many visits for next time. Just be prepared to pay admission for everything. Broadly speaking, this is what we visited in Beijing:
Lama Temple: 25 yuan, audio guide: 50 yuan (subway C exit)
Olympic Stadium Zone
Forbidden City: 60 yuan (from November to March: 40 yuan); Audio guide: 40 yuan. Hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Entrance to the clocks room: 10 yuan, and to the treasure area: 10 yuan
Bei Hai Park: 20 yuan
Coal Hill Park (Jingshan Park): 10 yuan. Here are some beautiful views of the Forbidden City
Heaven Temple. Entrance to the park: 15 yuan; Entrance to the whole enclosure: 35 yuan. summer Palace. Full entry: 60 yuan; Alone to the park: 30 yuan.
Hou Hai area (Northern Lakes)
Sanlitun shopping areaWangfujing shopping area
Excursions from Beijing: the Great Wall of China
In China there is a must see: the Big Wall. From Beijing you can visit several sections: Badaling, Mutianyu, Juyongguan, Simatai and Jinshanling. Almost all hostels and hotels in Beijing organize excursions to the Great Wall. We were recommended to visit the area of Simataibut in August they were still restoring it and finally we visited the part of Mutianyu for free, since it is quite easy. To do this, you must first go to the bus station of Dongzhimen You have to get off at the metro station Dongzhimen /东直门(L2 / L13) and follow the signs that indicate: Bus Transfer Hall. In the end we will arrive at the bus terminal and there you have to go up to the bus number 916 It costs 11 yuan. The bus will leave us in the town of Huairou. Once there, you have to negotiate with a driver or taxi driver to take you the 17 km that separate the city from the wall. We pay 60 yuan one way. To get off, we share a taxi with a couple of Spaniards and pay 50 between the four.
As well you can go directly from Beijing to the Great Wall with the bus number 867 It costs 16 yuan. The bad thing is that it has a very bad schedule. He leaves Dongzhimen at 7 am and arrives in Mutianyu at 8.30 a.m. Back he leaves Mutianyu at 14 h and arrives in Dongzhimen at 16 hours. This bus runs from March 15 to November 15. On the way back, we were waiting 45 minutes and it did not appear. Some taxi drivers told us that, since the road was under construction, it did not work. Go to know.
Once at the foot of the Great Wall you have to buy the entrance for 45 yuan. From the ticket office to the Great Wall you can walk up an ascent of about 30 minutes, by cable car or chair lift and get off at slide (Do not miss the detailed entry on this fun invention). Both the cable car and the ski lift-slide option cost 60 yuan round trip and 80 yuan round trip. We opted for the slide option, of course!
The section of Mutianyu that can be traveled consists of a kilometer and, if taken calmly, is quite accessible for everyone. In our case, the extreme humidity of August was a great difficulty for us and the ascent became a bit complicated in some sections.
How to buy a train ticket in China?
Train tickets can only be purchased 10 days in advance (currently they can be purchased 60 days before online and 58 days before at the stations) and if you travel in summer it is essential to have the tickets purchased because the routes run out. Almost all hostels and hotels have a train ticket reservation service for a small commission (highly recommended if traveling in August). They can also be purchased directly at the box office. In the small stations it is quite simple, there are a couple of lockers and that's it. The most complicated thing is to make you understand. In the big ones it is more complicated because there are exclusive lockers for students, for the military, for all the public, to change the ticket and to get your money back, indicated in hanzi, and you can end up going around the station like a fool, as it happened to us in Xi'an. To be able to buy tickets online at official Web You have to have a Chinese credit card and it is only in Chinese. In the web seat 61 You will find information on agencies that sell Chinese train tickets online.
The tickets can be changed without cost once, so if you have to change them more times you cancel them and buy a new one. You can cancel and ask to be reimbursed by paying a small commission, which varies depending on the price of the ticket.
Here you have a useful phrase so you can buy the tickets on your own. If not, you can also kindly ask a Chinese who speaks English to write it to you.
我 要 两张 从 大同 去 平遥 硬卧 火车票 ， 车号 是 K7807。10天7点45分钟。
I want two train tickets in class hardsleeper from Datong to Pingyao on the K7807 train from 07:45 to the 10th.
In red they are written in hanzi the names of the cities Datong and Pingyao, the train number, the day and the hour. In blue the category. You can change the data you need and you can buy the tickets at the ticket office. These are the Chinese names of the cities we visit and glossary related to train tickets:
Hard sleeper: 硬卧
Soft sleeper: 软卧
Hard seat: 硬座
Soft seat: 软座
First class: 一等 座
Second class: 二等 座
To go from Xi'an to Luoyang by bullet train you have to leave the station North Xi'an (Xi'an bei 西安北) and the station is reached Luoyang Lonmeng (洛阳龙门).
For more information about trains in China you can check the Seat 61 website.
How to check the schedules of Chinese trains?
Chinese train tickets cannot be purchased online, but there are several websites where you can check the timetable. We use this website.
How to read a Chinese train ticket?
Here you have a couple of train tickets with written instructions. The first is from the high-speed train between North Xi'an and Luoyang-Longmen and the second is from the "Sleeper" berth train from Datong to Pingyao. When buying a train ticket it is necessary to carry the passport and, when going to the station to catch the train, I recommend you to be at least 45 minutes before departure. In some stations there can be a lot of chaos to pass the security check and board, and the Chinese trains always leave very punctual.
How to go from Beijing to Datong?
There are several trains that connect Beijing with Datong in about seven and a half hours, some of them night. In our case, if possible we prefer to sleep in a bed rather than a train, no matter how much berth. So in the end we decided to go to Datong by bus. Theoretically, there are about four and a half hours away, and there are several buses in the morning. We arrived by taxi to the Liuliqiao bus station (六里桥 客运 主 枢纽) at 7.15 am and they gave us a ticket for the one at 8.20 h. The bus was quite new and very comfortable and, in addition, it was stopping every hour and a half in service areas to be able to go to the bathroom, which used to be quite clean. When we left Beijing we found a big traffic jam, which in the end took us to reach Datong five and a half hours.
Where to sleep in Datong?
In Datong we slept in the Datong Youth Hostel. Very well located but the first night they had overbooking and they wanted us to sleep in the luggage store (where they had two bunk beds, for the modest price of 60 yuan each). In the end, after negotiating we agreed to sleep separately in a dormitory of 6 people for 50 yuan a night / person. The next day we were given the double room with bathroom that we requested. The night cost us 120 yuan.
What to see in Datong?
The hostel is in the Hua Yan Si street, which also gives its name to a Buddhist temple. The area is completely remodeled and there are many shops and restaurants.
Excursions from Datong
Yungang Hanging Temple and Caves As the first day we lost it with the delay of the bus and other adventures, the next day we hired an excursion to visit the two star attractions of Datong: hanging temple and the Yungang Caves. We hired the excursion at the CITS agency, which is in an alley leaving the train station on the right hand side (follow the indications). The excursion costs 100 yuan and only includes transportation and guide. Tickets are paid separately. The entrance to the hanging temple costs 130 yuan and for Yungang caves 150 yuan. It starts at 9 in the morning and the guide speaks English.
On the other hand, Yungang caves are easily accessible from Datong. The number 3 bus that leaves the train station leaves you at the same gate of the enclosure (costs 1 yuan). However, accessing the hanging temple is more complicated and more on the same day.
The Yungang caves are impressive and I recommend everyone to visit them, but the hanging temple disappointed me a bit (see corresponding entry) and more knowing how expensive and difficult it is to access it.
How to get from Datong to Pingyao?
Although there are night trains, we decided to go by day train to get a little more rested. We went in bunk hard sleeper, which looks a lot like the 3AC Tier class of India, on a six-hour journey where you enjoy life on Chinese trains. The train did not have air conditioning, but it did have fans that started at about 11 in the morning. Pingyao station is very small and there we came to look for a kind of tuk-tuk He left us at our hotel for 20 yuan.
Where to sleep in Pingyao?
In Pingyao we sleep in Yide hotel. It is in a house of the Qing dynasty built in 1736, although the last remodeling dates from 2008. The rooms have Kang-style beds and exquisite decoration. In addition, it is close to one of the main streets, but not in it, which does not hear any noise at night. The hotel has a restaurant with a very careful decoration and delicious food. The friendliness of the hotel employees who helped us solve the transport to Xi'an (more on this subject in the entrance dedicated to Pingyao) is also to be ruled out. The double room costs 520 yuan. Here you can read a more extensive review of the Yide hotel.