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China on a Shoestring Tour

Highly recommend Encounters Travel. Entire tour was conducted without a hiccup, tour guides were amazing - friendly, highly knowledgeable, courteous and nothing was too much trouble to ensure our trip was of a high standard.

Chook31, 23 Oct 2018

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China on a Shoestring OVERVIEW

TOUR SUMMARY

25 days

Hong Kong to Hong Kong

From

A$2945 (p/p)

Country(ies): China

Tour type: Shoestring

Group size: Min: 7 | Max: 20

Accommodation: Hostels, camping & overnight train

Meals:

Transport: Trains, buses & public transport

Highlights: Bright lights of Hong Kong, active adventure in Yangshuo, cute Pandas, the Terracotta Warriors, Kung Fu monks of Shaolin, bustling Beijing & Great Wall of China, rural landscapes of Fujian & Hangzhou, night out in lively Shanghai

This 25-day full circuit of China take in all the major sites and more. An amazing budget china tour that covers Hong Kong, Chengdu, Beijing & Shanghai, along with plenty of off-the-beaten track adventures and activities along the way.

Starting and ending in the dazzling city of Hong Kong, we take you on a budget tour of China beginning with Yangshuo and its towering karst mountains, green fertile fields, and a long list of adventure activities to try out. It's then on to Chengdu for an encounter with the endangered but equally endearing panda bear.

Next we drop in to Xi'an for a shot of China's rich and ancient cultural history, and a visit to the world famous Terracotta Warriors. Continuing on to Dengfeng, home to the iconic Shaolin Temple, it's all out kung fu madness, with a chance to watch and even train with the masters of martial arts. Eventually we reach Beijing, China's bustling capital, and from here we take a trip out to the unmissable Great Wall of China and a night camping on the walls, and also enjoy a spectacular sunset and sunrise.

Heading towards Shanghai we spend a little time in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province amongst the beautiful bamboo forests and crystal clear lagoons, before reaching the world's biggest city. A night out in Shanghai is an experience you'll never forget. We finally work our way back to Hong Kong, stopping off in Fujian en route to sample rural China at its best.

ITINERARY

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Day 1 Meet in Hong Kong

Our tour starts early morning at 7am at the Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei in Hong Kong, where you'll meet your tour leader and the rest of the group. Leaving your luggage at the inn, we'll take the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak for a great view over Hong Kong and our pre-trip meeting. Returning to the hostel, we'll then head to the train station to catch the bullet train to Guillin and then on to Yangshuo.

OVERNIGHT:

Yangshuo hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

Private Room Supplement (CHSHCS)
Extra day in Hong Kong - pre-tour


Day 2 Yangshuo, bamboo raft cruise

Today we enjoy the stunning rural setting of Yangshuo with a cruise down the Yulong River on board bamboo rafts. Kick back and put your feet up as you gently float down river. In the evening enjoy a nice cold beer on the rooftop bar at Monkey Jane's hostel.

OVERNIGHT:

Yangshuo hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 3 Yangshuo, cooking course

An optional challenge today is to cook up some traditional Chinese foods at a friendly and practical local cuisine institute, where you can try your hand at one of the many tasty local dishes as you try to master the skills of Chinese cooking. There are plenty of other optional activities to choose from to fill your day.

OVERNIGHT:

Yangshuo hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 4 Yangshuo, free day (optional excursions available)

You day if free today to relax and enjoy the idyllic setting, or alternatively you can try your hand out at one of the many adventure activities on offer. These include rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, mountain biking and more. You can also jump on bikes to explore the surrounding countryside.

OVERNIGHT:

Yangshuo hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 5 Yangshuo, train to Chengdu

Today we make our way by train to Chengdu, situated in the heart of Western China in Sichuan province. Sichuan province is renowned for its beautiful countryside, there are many attractions on offer and the food is amazing. We transfer by metro to your hostel.

OVERNIGHT:

On board sleeper train

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 6 Chengdu, blind massage option & Chinese lesson

Chengdu has plenty of sights and experience to keep you busy during your stay. Today you can start with an optional massage from a blind physical therapist to help ease the stress of the overnight train journey. Later in the afternoon we take a lesson in Mandarin to help you master the basics of this complicated language. In the evening you might like to head out to experience a night out in Chengdu and perhaps try the traditional dish of Sichuan Hotpot for dinner.

OVERNIGHT:

Chengdu hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 7 Chengdu, Panda breeding centre

We take you on a tour of the city today, including a visit to the The Panda Breeding & Research Centre to see these incredible shy and endangered animals up close and perhaps a visit to Chengdu's Tibetan quarter to experience the many Tibetan shops and cafes. Plenty of other optional excursion are available to book locally including a trip to Leshan, to see the world's largest stone Buddha.

OVERNIGHT:

Chengdu hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 8 Chengdu, free time (optional excursions available), then train to Xi'an

After some free time in Chengdu where you can visit WenShu monastery and a traditional Chinese tea house, we board the train to Xi'an, cultural capital of China. Start and end of the famous "Silk Route", Xi'an is like a history book of China and the perfect place to explore the countries rich and interesting culture.

OVERNIGHT:

Xi'an hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 9 Xi'an, optional cycling tour

Today there is the option to take a bike ride over the city walls, an excellent way to get you bearing and a good overview of the city. In the evening is free for you to enjoy, perhaps try a dinner of local street foods at the Muslim Quarter and relax after dinner by visiting the local Silk Road market nearby.

OVERNIGHT:

Xi'an hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 10 Xi'an, Terracotta Warriors tour

Today we take you to visit the legendary Terracotta Warriors, row upon row of life-size statues stand silent guard over the burial place of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. In the evening you'll have the chance to visit the Star Sun home for people with disabilities and to volunteer. Then it's time for a night out Chinese style!

OVERNIGHT:

Xi'an hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 11 Dengfeng, optional kung fu lesson & show

This morning we board the public bus to DengFeng, the closest village to the Shaolin Temple. The rest of the day if free to take an optional kung fu lesson & show at a local children's Home run by the Shaolin Temple. Here the monks teach the children to be kung fu masters. All proceeds go directly to the children's home. We also have a second Mandarin lesson to help brush up on your language skills.

OVERNIGHT:

Dengfeng hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 12 Dengfeng (optional excursions available), overnight train to Beijing

The day is free to explore more of Dengfeng and it's surrounding. You can visit the world famous Shaolin Temple and watch the masters of Kung Fu perform their amazing feats set amongst the beautiful temple courtyards. We'll take a hike to Dharma cave, spiritual centre for Buddhist pilgrims, before we board the overnight train to Beijing.

OVERNIGHT:

On board sleeper train

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 13 Arrive in Beijing, Mandarin Challenge & Great Wall

Arriving in Beijing, we transfer to our hostel and check in. We start the day with a Mandarin lesson where you'll learn the basics of this intricate language. Next it's time to take the Mandarin Challenge! Use your newly learned Mandarin to complete challenges around Beijing's ancient streets and alleyways. It's a great way to explore the city and the winning team earns a prize.

Late afternoon we visit one of the wonder of the world, the Great Wall of China. To obtain permission to access the locals only sections of the unrestored Great Wall, we enjoy a mandatory meal at a local farm. We'll then hike on totally unrestored sections of the Wall where we set up camp on a deserted section of the wall. In the evening we take in sunset in this ancient and dramatic setting (Please note, due to cold weather before the end of April and after September, we stay in a guest house near the Wall instead of camping, but still return to the Wall to watch sunrise in the morning. Between April and September monsoon rain may also mean we are unable to camp on the wall.).

OVERNIGHT:

Great Wall camping

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 14 Beijing, free day (optional excursions available)

After sunrise on the Wall we return back to Beijing. Back in Beijing the rest of the day is free for you to explore at your own leisure or try one of the many optional tour available (see the Options tab for all available local options). Perhaps you could visit the Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium, or enjoy the incredible Beijing Acrobatics Show. For dinner tonight there is a chance to taste Beijing's signature dish Peking Roast Duck, enjoyed exclusively by royalty in ancient times.

OVERNIGHT:

Beijing hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 15 Beijing, free day (optional excursions available)

Today is a full free day to see more of Beijing like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. In the evening you could explore the WangFuJing night market where you can push your taste buds to the limit and sample many foods you'll have never tried before, like scorpion, bugs and more.

OVERNIGHT:

Beijing hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 16 Beijing, free day (optional excursions available), then overnight train to Hangzhou

Our last day in Beijing is free to do some more sightseeing or perhaps test your bargaining skills with a visit to the Fake Goods Market. Finally we board the overnight train to Hangzhou.

OVERNIGHT:

On board overnight train

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 17 Arrive Hangzhou, transfer to Moganshan, lagoon trek

In the morning we arrive in Hangzhou train station and transfer to Deqing. We stop en route for you to get some local breakfast. Arriving in Deqing and take a private bus to Mogan Mountain, famed for its bamboo forests.

OVERNIGHT:

Moganshan hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 18 Mogansan Peak option, transfer to Shanghai

This morning there is an optional hike through the beautiful bamboo forest to the summit of Moganshan Peak. Returning to the hostel for lunch we then catch the bullet train to Shanghai where we transfer via metro to your hostel.

OVERNIGHT:

Shanghai hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 19 Shanghai, free day (optional excursions available)

Today is a free day in Shanghai where you can explore this vibrant and interesting city at your leisure. Alternatively you can choose to take one of the many optional sightseeing tours on offer like an optional day trip from Shanghai to ZhuJiaJiao Water Town, a Chinese equivalent to Venice (see the Options tab for all available local options).

In the evenings, you can enjoy Shanghai's lively bar scene, and perhaps try out the largest bar crawl in China "the Drunken Dragon Pub Crawl". If you're looking for something a little more sophisticated try sipping champagne in a hot tub on the rooftop of a skyscraper, taking in Shanghai's spectacular skyline.

OVERNIGHT:

Shanghai hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 20 Shanghai, free day (optional excursions available)

Today is another free day in Shanghai. There's lots to do to keep yourself busy, with plenty of sightseeing and shopping on offer. Alternatively you can let us do it for you and choose to take one of the many optional sightseeing tour available (see the Options tab for all available local options).

OVERNIGHT:

Shanghai hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 21 Shanghai, free day (optional excursions available)

Today is another free day in Shanghai. There's lots to do to keep yourself busy, with plenty of sightseeing and shopping on offer. Visit the Propaganda History Museum, the only one of its kind, or perhaps take a stroll down TianZiFang, a local artisan's lane set in an old-style residential area in the heart of Shanghai. Alternatively you can let us do it for you and choose to take one of the many optional sightseeing tour available (see the Options tab for all available local options).

OVERNIGHT:

Shanghai hostel

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 22 Train to Fujian

This morning we take the bullet train to Nanjing in Fujian province. This mountainous province boasts perhaps some of the most beautiful, and untouched natural scenery in all of Asia. Home to the Hakka minority, tonight we'll stay in a traditional roundhouse, known as a Tulou and enjoy the generous hospitality of the locals.

OVERNIGHT:

Nanjing Tulou roundhouse

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 23 Fujian, roundhouse & tea plantation tour

This morning we take a walking tour around the UNESCO World Heritage Site and enjoy exploring the neighbouring round-houses and the stunning countryside. We will also sample the locally grown tea in a traditional tea ceremony, and swim in a local lagoon. Later in the day we take time to visit a tea factory and surrounding plantations where you can see tea being made and buy some from the factory itself.

OVERNIGHT:

Nanjing Tulou roundhouse

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 24 Fujian, cycling tour

We start the day with a cycling tour to a nearby village famous for its beautiful rivers and mountain scenery. The afternoon if free to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings and chat to the friendly locals. In the evening take the night train to Guangzhou.

OVERNIGHT:

On board sleeper train

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

None


Day 25 Hong Kong, tour ends

Arriving at the Yes Inn @ Causeway Bay in Hong Kong at around 22:00, our tour ends here. Congratulation on completing your epic 3,393 mile journey around China. If you don't have anything else arranged and would like to spend time exploring Hong Kong we can arrange extra nights and activities like a day trip to Macau.

OVERNIGHT:

N/A

MEALS:

None

EXTRAS:

Extra day in Hong Kong - post-tour


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Included:
  • All accommodation as stated in the itinerary in basic hostels
  • All transport and transfers in trains, buses & public transport
  • Sightseeing tours as detailed in the itinerary
  • Visa invitation letter
  • Entry fees to included activities and attractions
  • Bilingual western and local adventure leaders

Excluded:
  • International flights (available on request)
  • Visa fees
  • Travel insurance (compulsory, available on request)
  • Airport arrival & departure transfer service (optional on request)
  • All meals
  • Optional activies
  • Drinks, snacks and other personal expenses (e.g. laundry)
  • Tour guide tips
  • Any other items not mentioned above

Gallery


Dates and Prices

This tour is also available for booking privately for travel anytime through the year, and we can also customise the itinerary to fit your personal requirements. Please contact us for details and prices.

Start Date
End Date
Price (P/P)
Offer price
Note

23rd of Oct 2019

16th of Nov 2019

A$2945

-


Book this tour in less than 3 minutes!

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30th of Oct 2019

23rd of Nov 2019

A$2945

-


Book this tour in less than 3 minutes!

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Accommodation

The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often on this tour. From time to time we may exchange these for similar properties at the same level. In general, specific hotels cannot be guaranteed on our group tours, but you may select your preferred options if you are booking a tailor-made trip.

Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei

Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei

Hong Kong


Only a 1-minute stroll from the bustling Temple Street Night Market, Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei offers accommodation centrally located in Hong Kong. Guests can find a wide selection of local food in the surroundings.

Local rating

Our rating

 Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei

Only a 1-minute stroll from the bustling Temple Street Night Market, Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei offers accommodation centrally located in Hong Kong. Guests can find a wide selection of local food in the surroundings. Free WiFi is accessible in the entire property.

Yes Inn @ Yau Ma Tei is within a 10-minute walk from MTR Yau Ma Tei Station and the Ladies Market. The nearest airport is Hong Kong International Airport, a 30-minute drive away.

Each room here is air conditioned and comes with a TV. Some rooms feature a seating area for your convenience. For your comfort, you will find slippers and free toiletries.

There is a 24-hour front desk at the property, where luggage storage is possible. Staff here are also glad to help with trip arrangement.

Yangshuo 11 hostel

Yangshuo 11 hostel

Yangshuo


Located in Yangshuo in the Guangxi Region, 200 yards from Yangshuo West Street, Yangshuo 11 Hostel features a garden and sun terrace. There is a restaurant, a shared kitchen and snack bar at this property.

Local rating

Our rating

 Yangshuo 11 hostel Yangshuo 11 hostel

Located in Yangshuo in the Guangxi Region, 200 yards from Yangshuo West Street, Yangshuo 11 Hostel features a garden and sun terrace. There is a restaurant, a shared kitchen and snack bar at this property. Guests can also hire a car or a bicycle to explore the surroundings. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property.

Yangshuo South Bus Station is 0.9 miles from Yangshuo 11 Hostel, while Impression Liu Sanjie is 1.1 miles from the property. Guilin Liangjiang International Airport is 41.6 miles from the property.

Each room at this hostel is air conditioned and is equipped with a flat-screen TV and DVD player. You will find a kettle in the room. A TV is provided.

This property offers 24-hour front desk, luggage storage and ticket service. Guest can also spend some quiet reading time in the library and relax in the game room.

Mr Panda Hostel

Mr Panda Hostel

Chengdu


Mr Panda Youth Hostel is located in Chengdu, 1.2 miles from Chun Xi Road. This non-smoking hostel offers 2 dining options and cosy rooms with a private bathroom. Free Wi-Fi is provided in public areas.

Local rating

Our rating

 Mr Panda Hostel Mr Panda Hostel

Mr Panda Youth Hostel is located in Chengdu, 1.2 miles from Chun Xi Road. This non-smoking hostel offers 2 dining options and cosy rooms with a private bathroom. Free Wi-Fi is provided in public areas.

Simply furnished, rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a work desk and wardrobe. Shower facilities and slippers are in the en suite bathroom.

Available for breakfast, Snake Bar serves a variety of local dishes. Light snacks and drinks are offered at Mr. Panda Bar.

Recreational choices include playing a game of darts, or enjoying games in the activities room. Luggage storage services are provided at the 24-hour front desk, while staff at the tour desk can assist with ticketing arrangements.

Han Tang Inn Hostel

Han Tang Inn Hostel

Xi'an


Han Tang Inn is a boutique hostel situated inside a traditional residence in Xi'an City Centre. It offers bicycle rental services and a 24-hour front desk. Massage services are available.

Local rating

Our rating

 Han Tang Inn Hostel Han Tang Inn Hostel

Han Tang Inn is a boutique hostel situated inside a traditional residence in Xi'an City Centre. It offers bicycle rental services and a 24-hour front desk. Massage services are available.

Han Tang Inn is a 10-minute drive from Xi'an Train Station and Bell Tower. Xi'an Xianyang Airport is a 35-minute drive from the inn.

Dormitories and rooms each have an attached bathroom with hot shower facilities and a hairdryer. A TV and tea/coffee-making facilities are provided.

The inn provides luggage storage facilities, fax and photocopying services. The tour desk provides booking assistance for Mount Huashan and the Terracotta Warriors, among other places. Laundry services are available.

Bandeng Guest House

Bandeng Guest House

Dengfeng


This basic but comfortable guest house is just a short walk from the main Shaolin temple. It has clean well equipped rooms and wifi as well as its own on site restaurant.

Local rating

Our rating

 Bandeng Guest House Bandeng Guest House

Leo Hostel

Leo Hostel

Beijing


Leo Hostel, one of the top-rated hostels in China by Lonely Planet, is a 10-minute walk from Tiananmen Square. The hostel with traditional characteristics offers comfortable accommodation, a tour desk, a library and massage service.

Local rating

Our rating

 Leo Hostel Leo Hostel

Leo Hostel, one of the top-rated hostels in China by Lonely Planet, is a 10-minute walk from Qianmen Subway Station (line 2) and Tiananmen Square. The hostel with traditional characteristics offers comfortable accommodation, a tour desk, a library and massage service.

Located in a Hutong market street, Leo Hostel is a 10-minute walk from Forbidden City and a 12-minute walk from Qianmen Square. Capital International Airport is about 30 minutes' drive away.

Guestrooms are all air-conditioned. They have either en suite or shared bathroom facilities. Each dormitory room has free security lockers.

Guests who wish to travel can make sightseeing and ticketing arrangement at tour desk. Car or bicycle rentals are also available. Laundry, dry cleaning and concierge service are all provided. After a day of tours, playing a game of billiards seems nice.

The on-site restaurant and the 24-hour bar serve a variety of local and international dishes for guests to enjoy.

Xiwuli Lodge

Xiwuli Lodge

Moganshan


Moganshan Xiwuli Lodge is a small lodge in beautiful bamboo forest. Rooms are clean and comfortable and the lodge can accommodate up to 16 people, all rooms are air-conditioned. It offers a wonderful BBQ & brunch service, served by its Korean chef.

Local rating

Our rating

 Xiwuli Lodge Xiwuli Lodge

The Phoenix hostel

The Phoenix hostel

Shanghai


Located a 5-minute walk from People's Square Subway Station, The Phoenix Hostel Shanghai offers rooms with free wired or Wi-Fi internet.

Local rating

Our rating

 The Phoenix hostel The Phoenix hostel

Located a 5-minute walk from People's Square Subway Station, The Phoenix Hostel Shanghai offers rooms with free wired or Wi-Fi internet.

Phoenix Hostel is a 15-minute walk from The Bund, Yu Yuan Old City and Xintiandi. Shanghai Pudong International Airport is 28.6 miles away.

Basic rooms are air-conditioned and come with a cable TV and tea/coffee-making facilities. Rooms come with either en suite or shared bathroom facilities. Hairdryers are available for loan.

Fax, photocopying and ticketing services are available for convenience. Guests can watch a DVD in the library. The hostel has a tour desk and 24-hour front desk.

Local dishes are served in the hostel's restaurant. Room service is also available.

WanheKezhan Tulou

WanheKezhan Tulou

Fujian


A tulou is a traditional round house and is quite basic but makes a unique and interesting place to stay whilst in Fujian. The rooms and beds are clean, and the staff service is very good & friendly. You can enjoy traditional food in the dining room.

Local rating

Our rating

 WanheKezhan Tulou WanheKezhan Tulou

Options

Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination you‘re visiting. However, we do also offer some extra options to complement the tour and add some additional sightseeing or activities, or some extra time at either end of the tour.

All accommodation based options (e.g. Single supplements, extra nights, cruise upgrades) should be booked and paid for in advance so that we can make the appropriate arrangements. Other options may either be booked and paid for in advance or while you are on the tour, though we recommend booking in advance to ensure there are no issues with availability.

Many options are priced the same throughout the year, but some may incur single or high season supplements - full details are given on the tour reservation form or on request.

Private Room Supplement (CHSHCS)

Private Room Supplement (CHSHCS)

Min numbers: 2 Adults


This option books a private single, twin or double room in all the hostel accommodation throughout the tour. You only need to add this if you don't want to stay in a shared dorm room. Prices are per person based on two people sharing.

Price from
A$535
per person

This option books a private single, twin or double room in all the hostel accommodation throughout the tour. You only need to add this if you don't want to stay in a shared dorm room. Prices are per person based on two people sharing (so double the displayed price if you want a single room).
 Extra day in Hong Kong - pre-tour

Extra day in Hong Kong - pre-tour

Min numbers: 2 Adults


This option adds an extra day to the start of your tour, staying in the same hotel as the main tour itself (subject to availability). Your airport arrival transfer is not included. Prices shown are per person and based on two people sharing.

Price from
A$70
per person

This option adds an extra day to the start of your tour, staying in the same hotel as the main tour itself (subject to availability). Your airport arrival transfer is not included. Prices shown are per person and based on two people sharing.

Note: Single room and peak season supplements apply.

 Extra day in Hong Kong - post-tour

Extra day in Hong Kong - post-tour

Min numbers: 2 Adults


This option adds an extra day to the end of your tour, staying in the same hotel as the main tour itself (subject to availability). Your airport departure transfer is not included. Prices shown are per person and based on two people sharing.

Price from
A$70
per person

This option adds an extra day to the end of your tour, staying in the same hotel as the main tour itself (subject to availability). Your airport departure transfer is not included. Prices shown are per person and based on two people sharing.

Note: Single room and peak season supplements apply.

Tour Notes

The detailed Tour Notes below have been written to give you some more detailed information about how the tour runs, what to expect, and how to prepare for your holiday. We recommend downloading an up to date copy of these shortly before you travel in case of any changes.

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  1. Accommodation

Our Shoestring China tours are based on basic but comfortable and fun hostel accommodation. These are safe and have good showers, internet, washing machines, and real Chinese character. Like hostels around the world, they tend to be most popular with young travellers aged 18 to 35 who are travelling on a small budget and who are keen to meet people and make new friends in the lounge or bar. While these are subject to change, the main hostels we use are: 

  • Yangshuo 11 international Hostel Yangshuo – 11 Lian Feng Xiang West, Street YangShuo, GuiLin, GuangXi, Yangshuo
  • Mr. Panda Guesthouse Chengdu – Mr Panda Guesthouse, 75 2nd Ring Road North, Chengdu (Tel: +86 028 8662 8336)
  • Shuyuan hostel Xi’an – Shuyuan Youth Hostel, No.2 West Shuncheng Road (Tel: +86 029 8728 7720)
  • Bandeng Guest house Shaolin – Bandeng Guest House (Tel: +86 159 3871 9599)
  • Leo Hostel Beijing – Leo Hostel 52, Da ZhaLanXiJie, Qianmen, Beijing (Tel: +86 010 6303 3318)
  • Xiwuli Lodge Moganshan – Xiwuli Lodge, Houwu Village, Paitou Township, Deqing County (Tel: +86 1865936 9855)
  • Phoenix Hostel Shanghai – Phoenix Hostel 15-17 South Yunnan Road Shanghai (Tel: +86 021 6328 8680)
  • Camping/Tulou stay Fujian – WanheKezhan Tulou (Tel: +86 1395 9628 178)

Accommodation is in shared dorm rooms with all bedding and linen provided (this includes sleeping bags and mats during camping excursions at the Great Wall). Luggage is tagged, recorded and stored at the hostels while you are out on day excursions.

Camping at the Great Wall is only available between April and the end of September.

Upgrades to private rooms are available at the time of booking or up to 4 weeks before departure. Prices are per room (so couples can split this price between them): HK-HK 25 days = $780; BJ-BJ 18 days = $380; HK-HK 16 days = $350; SH-SH 18 days = $380; HK-BJ 15 days = $350.

Important Note:
Accommodation is not included in the standard tour itinerary for the night before Day 1 of your trip or for the night of the last day of your trip.
If booking your own accommodation for these pre/post-tour nights we recommend the hostels listed above. If you are booking accommodation in Hong Kong we recommend doing this as far in advance as possible as it can get very expensive if you leave it until close to your check in date.


  2. Airport transfers
Airport transfers are not included in the price of the tour. However, they are available on request if required. Prices are given per vehicle (up to 4 people), and if you would like a bilingual guide to meet you and travel with you from the airport to your destination (or vice-versa) this can also be arranged for an extra fee (generally GBP 20 / US$25) each way. This airport transfer service is available from and to the following airport locations: Guilin, Chengdu, Xian, Beijing, and Shanghai.

  3. Group Size/Tour Leaders/Guides

The group size on our budget China tours is min 5, max 20.

Each trip is accompanied by a mixture of western and local tour leaders who are all bilingual in Mandarin and English. Local tour leaders are often young professionals who work for a couple of seasons after graduating university. They are highly educated and thoroughly trained, but as they are doing it more for personal experience rather than to make money, they are cheaper, helping to keep the tour cost down, and some may argue, are more enthusiastic than the ‘career tour guides’ used by most tour companies in China.

Tour leaders tend to be specialists in their own local region and generally do not accompany the group between the main cities of locations on the tour. Instead they will look after you throughout your time in each main hub and then get you settled onto the train to the next location where you'll be met by your next tour leader.

This tour is run in conjunction with our friends at The Dragon Trip, so you will be joining travellers booked with them.


  4. Joining instructions

Hong Kong:
The joining point is the Yes Inn @ Causeway Bay (hostel). The address is 2nd Floor, Nan Yip Building, 472 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay. The building entrance is nearby the Stanley mini bus station on Tang Lung Street. Click here for directions to Yes Inn.
The meeting time is 7.00 am sharp in the lobby. Please check out at the front desk and have your bags packed and ready to go in the lobby before 7.00 am. If we haven’t seen you or heard from you by 7.00 am, then we do need to leave without you. Please note that we will return to Yes Inn for 10.30 am to pick up anyone who missed the 7.00 am departure time. At 10.30 am, we must leave in order to cross the border with mainland China and board the train to Guilin. This is the last chance to meet your group in Hong Kong – if you miss this, it will be your own responsibility to catch up with the group in mainland China.
Please bring details of your travel insurance along with you to the pre-departure briefing so that we can contact your insurance company on your behalf in the event of an accident.
If you miss the 7 am meeting time, please immediately contact us by calling us on any of the emergency telephone numbers on your tour confirmation voucher.

Beijing:
The joining point is the Beijing Heyuan Courtyard International Hostel. The address is 1 Zhiqiang Beiyuan, Wenhuiyuan Road, Hai ian, 100088 Beijing. Tel. +86 10 6227 7138. If you are travelling from the airport by subway, take the airport express to DongZhiMen metro station, then get on the subway line 2 and get off at JiShuiTan metro station. From Jishuitan station A exit, turn right and go to north on XinJieKou WaiDaJie. Cross the street at the first intersection. Continue north on XinJieKouWaiDaJie, then turn left at the large Chinese-style gate, on to WenHuiYuanLu, shortly after passing the China Film Art Research Center, turn right when you see the red sign for ZhiQiangYuanXiaoQu. Our hostel is ahead on your left.

If you have spent the previous night in the hostel, please check out at the front desk and have your bags packed and ready to go in the lobby by 10.45am. The meeting time is 11.00am in the lobby. Please bring details of your travel insurance along with you to the pre-departure briefing so that we can contact your insurance company on your behalf in the event of an accident.
If you miss the meeting time, please immediately contact us by calling us on any of the emergency telephone numbers on your tour confirmation voucher.


  5. Trains

Due to the huge size of China and the excellent quality of the public rail network, we use train journeys extensively on our Shoestring tours in China. Typical train times are given below, though these are subject to change:

  • Guilin to Chengdu is from 12:50 – 13:30 the following day
  • Xi’an to Beijing is from 19:30 – 9:00
  • Beijing to Hangzhou is from 19:30 – 8:30
  • Shanghai to Fujian (day train) 10:00 – 18:00
  • Fujian to Guangzhou 22:00 – 7:00

You will have your own sleeper seat on each overnight train journey (full flat bed). We try to ensure that all our travellers are booked in the same compartement so you can have fun getting to know each other better, play some games, and share a few drinks.If you or a fellow traveller have a seat that is not with the rest of the group, the tour leaders have a process in place to try to switch seats. In some stations they will be able to board the train and arrange a seat swap with another passenger. In other cases you can make use of the emergency phone that we provide to accompany every group, and the tour leader will then use this to speak in Mandarin to the conductor or directly to another passenger to help arrange a seat swap. This normally works very smoothly and without incident.

Upgrades to a four-berth soft sleeper are also available (you must book this with us at least 1 month before departure). Please contact us for details and prices if required.


  6. Tipping
Tipping in China is not customary and is not necessary. Of course, voluntary tipping is completely up to you, but in places like restaurants, bars or taxis it is extremely rare.

  7. Health and Vaccinations

You should ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including emergency evacuation and repatriation.

Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary according to the country you are visiting and where you are travelling from. We recommend you contact your GP/medical practitioner or a travel clinic for current information on vaccinations needed for your destination.  You should ensure that you are up to date with vaccines and boosters recommended for your normal life at home, including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions.
In addition, additional courses or boosters normally recommended for the countries in this region are:

China: Hepatitis A. Malaria map. Malaria risk is low throughout the year throughout the country apart from areas that border Myanmar and Vietnam which have high risk.  It is not generally present in Hong Kong unless contracted abroad. Yellow Fever vaccination certificates are required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission and for all travellers having transited through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission
Hong Kong: Hepatitis A. Malaria is not generally present in Hong Kong unless contracted abroad. 

Malaria: Vaccinations are not available against Malaria, which is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can be very serious and sometimes fatal. You should avoid mosquito bites by covering up bare skin with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers and applying insect repellents to exposed skin. When necessary, sleep under a mosquito net. Mosquitoes are most active during and after sunset. You should consult with your GP/medical practitioner/travel clinic about the most appropriate malaria prophylactic medication to take for the regions you are visiting. In general the lowland regions Bhutan are considered malarial zones, while higher altitudes including central Bhutan including Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Bumthang are not. Nepal is considered mainly low risk with prophylactics not normally required.

Yellow Fever: This disease is spread by infected mosquitoes that bite during the day. A Yellow Fever Certificate of vacinnation may be required as a condition of entry depending on which country you are arriving from, or that you have travelled or transitted through recently (including connecting flights with stopovers of over 12 hours). You can view a World Health Organisation map of areas where the virus is present in monkeys and therefore a potential risk to humans. Please ensure you have this certificate with you and to hand if necessary. Please inform us of any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or asthma and any prescription medicine you may be taking. We also need to know about any food allergies or physical disabilities that you may have.


  8. Passports and Visas

Passports should be valid for at least six months after your departure from the country. Please do not bring an almost full or almost expired passport. Visa arrangements are the responsibility of the traveller, and requirements are subject to change by the local authorities.

If you renew your passport between the time you book and your final travel date, please let us know as soon as possible. When purchasing your train tickets in China, we must have the details of the passport that you will be carrying while you are on the trip.

In general, all nationalities (except Singapore, Brunei & Japan) need to apply for and obtain a China tourist visa before entering Mainland China. Most nationalities are not required to have a visa for travel solely to Hong Kong. If your flight into Hong Kong connects in mainland China (for example, in Beijing or Shanghai), you will need to tell the Immigration officer in the airport NOT to cross out a single-entry visa, as you are only transferring. If the Immigration officer crosses out a single entry visa, you will encounter difficulties when you start your trip with us and need to cross the border from Hong Kong back into mainland China.

In order to apply for your China tourist visa to travel on this tour, you will need the following:

  • 2 passport photos
  • an invitation letter (which we will provide)
  • an itinerary (you can download and provide these tour notes for this)
  • photocopy of your passport 
  • a completed visa application form
  • a confirmed flight/train ticket with entry and exit dates shown clearly

Please send us a scanned / photographed copy of your passport identity pages as soon after booking as possible so that we can start to arrange your invitation letter. We also need a copy of your passport in order to book your accommodation and train tickets in China, so please ensure we get it as quickly as possible. We'll send your visa invitation letter to you together with a detailed itinerary as soon as its ready. You should then apply for your visa within three months of your travel start date.

Visa application form assistance:
You can download a copy of the official China visa application form here.
Please note the following when completing the form:

  • You must print the form off as double-sided. This is an embassy requirement.
  • Please fill the form out using black capital letters.
  • In Chinese culture dates are written in the order of year / month / day, so please follow this on your form.
  • 1.9 - Leave this blank, it is not referring to your passport number.
  • 2.1 - Tick the Tourism box.
  • 2.2 - Unless you plan to enter Mainland China again before or after your tour with us, you will require a single entry, 3-month visa.
  • 2.4 - Please write the number of days of how long your tour in Mainland China will be. For example: China on a Shoestring - 25 days, please input 24 days here (Day 25 is in Macau and Hong Kong, both of which are not in Mainland China). Highlights of China should be 15 days, and Beijing to Shanghai Expres should be 9 days.
  • 2.5 Please enter the following addresses and phone numbers in the ‘Detailed Address’ column according to your itinerary.
            1. Yangshuo 11 international Hostel NO. 11 Lian Feng Xiang West, Street YangShuo GuiLin GuangXi, Yangshuo
            2. Mr Panda Guesthouse 75 2nd Ring Road North Chengdu Tel: +86 028 8662 8336
            3. Shuyuan Youth Hostel No. 2 West Shuncheng Road Xian Tel: +86 029 8728 7720
            In the fourth row, just write the following note: “please see detailed itinerary for further accommodation details”
  • 2.8 Please enter the following:
            Name of Inviter: Shanghai Zhonglei Travel Service Co. Ltd.
            Address of Inviter: 822 Zhennan Road, Shanghai, China
            Contact Telephone Number of Inviter: +86 21 6150 3200
            Relationship with applicant: Tour Operator
For further information on your visa requirements, please either contact us or your local Chinese embassy/consulate.

  9. Voltage

A variety of different electrical sockets can be found in China (Type A, C, I), with the majority accepting two flat pins. Voltage is 220V. Plug sockets in Hong Kong are three flat (like UK) or round pins (Type G, D). Universal adaptors are available in most airport shops if you don’t have one already. Most hotel & hostel rooms have electrical sockets where you can re-charge cameras, phones etc.
If you have US appliances (110 volts) you will need a voltage converter as well as a plug adapter.


  10. Money

The Chinese currency is Renminbi, shortened to ‘RMB’ (‘the people’s coins’). RMB is also referred to as ‘yuan’ or ‘kuai’. You can generally withdraw money in RMB from ATM machines all over China using your home debit/credit cards – just make sure you’ve told your bank that you’ll be travelling there in advance and be prepared to pay a percentage conversion / commission fee. Alternatively, you can carry cash round with you and convert into RMB in banks in in Honk Kong or mainland China. Travellers cheques also remain widely accepted.

Food in China is very cheap. We advise you to budget approximately 80 RMB per day for food in great local restaurants your tour leader will suggest which they know are safe and tasty. If you want to eat cheaper than this you can by eating more simple dishes like fried rice/noodles which come in at less that 10 RMB per meal. As an example of prices of everyday items:

  • Small bottle water- 2 RMB
  • Basic Chinese meal- 35 RMB
  • Drink in a night club- 70 RMB
  • Beer in a restaurant/hostel 10-20 RMB
  • Coke/soft drink - 6 RMB
  • Taxi- 10 minutes- 20 RMB (taxi prices vary depending on the city, but are very cheap compared to Europe/North America)

  11. Internet & Communication

Language: While there are nearly 300 living dialects in China, today's modern mainland China has a dominant dialect which is Mandarin. All schools teach in Mandarin, politics, business and the national media all use Mandarin and the entire middle class and above speak it fluently.  There remain many people who don't speak or understand it well though, but if you're going to learn some 'Chinese', then Mandarin is the dialect to go for. You will find that Chinese people will love you if you do try and speak in their language - your efforts will definitely be rewarded. You don't need to read Mandarin to get by (which is a relief!), but learning some words and phrases is very useful. If you are struggling, then most public places (eg. stations) have an official English speaker on hand to help, and 12-18 year old school children are also a great help as they learn English at school and are invariably delighted and keen to help out. You can also check out Pleco: This is a great tool - a free dictionary to help you communicate in China. You can download it from the Android Market or App Store.

Internet: Wi-Fi and computers are available for use in all hostels used on our Shoestring tours. Some websites are blocked in China, including Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. If you would like to use a VPN while in China to access the internet it is much easier to do this before you leave. Two examples of free options you can access via your device are Betternet or ExpressVPN.

Phone: You can use your mobile phone in China, as long as it has been unlocked for international usage. If you want to use your phone while in China, we recommend bringing an unlocked handset and then buying a cheap prepaid SIM card from one of China’s main 3 mobile phone providers (these are China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom). You can buy these directly from their retail outlets, but in order to do so you will need to show your passport. SIM cards can then be recharged at most convenience stores and roadside newspaper stands (for around 100 RMB).  Most SIM cards can be used for 3G/4G data, texting and domestic calls. Your tour leader can help you with this. 


  12. What to take

As this is a Shoestring tour with plenty of travelling from place to place including on and off trains, we strongly recommend packing light. Suitcases are OK, but you will find a rucksack or holdall much much more convenient and easier to transport around. Low cost laundry is readily available hostels, and bear in mind that much of the world's clothing is made in China, so cheap replacements and extra items are readily available if required. If you are returning to Hong Kong at the end of your tour after starting there, you can leave a main bag in Hong Kong for the duration of your trip for HK$300.
We recommed you bring:

  • Sandals / Flipflops
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • T-shirts
  • Shorts/skirts
  • Swimming costume
  • Lightweight waterproof
  • Towel
  • Washbag
  • Sunglasses, sunhat and aftersun
  • Camera & charger
  • Socket adapter
  • Copies of your travel insurance policy, credit cards, passport and visa (also email a copy of these to yourself)
  • Small first aid kit including paracetamol, disenfectant, medicine for diarrhoea
  • Books and other entertainment for the night trains (bring electronic gadgets at your own risk)
  • Small day pack
  • If travelling in October to April, bring a hat, gloves, warm coat, jumper and warm trousers
  • Your passport & credit card!

  13. Booking & Payment

If you would like to book a place on this tour, please complete the online reservation form on our website (via the Dates & Prices tab on the tour page). You may make a deposit or full payment online, or just hold a reservation if you prefer (full payments are due 8 weeks before departure). We will then contact you with more details about how to complete your booking. Payments may be made by debit or credit card (subject to a card processing fee), or by making a bank transfer, or posting us a cheque/bank draft. Full details will be provided in your booking confirmation email. Please contact us if you would like any more information or have any questions before making a booking.


  14. Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our tours and needs to cover personal accident & liability, medical expenses and repatriation, travel delay & abandonment. We also strongly recommend that you take out cover against cancellation and lost/stolen baggage. Personal medical insurance does not normally provide sufficient cover and is generally not suitable for travel on our tours. You will not be able to join your tour if you have not provided us with details of your insurance or if you arrive without cover in place (no refunds will be due in this event). More information...

You may arrange your own insurance, or you can take advantage of a comprehensive policy that we can arrange for you through Endsleigh Insurance which has been designed to be suitable for our tours. The policy is available to travellers of all nationalities and you do not need to live in the UK  to take out the policy. For full details of cover provided, prices and to apply for one of our policies, please complete travel insurance application form.
Note: Any country that borders the Mediterranean is considered as 'Europe' for the purposes of travel insurance (including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco). If you are doing a tour that visits one country in 'Europe' and one that is 'Worldwide' (for example, an Egypt and Jordan tour), then you need a 'Worldwide' policy. When completing the form you should enter your travel dates including any extra days involved in overnight flights or connecting travel between your home and the tour. Our policies are not able to cover any extra time or activities other than your tour and options booked with us and your travel to & from home.

Note - to comply with insurance sales regulations, our travel insurance policies are only available to customers booking directly with us. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to arrange your own insurance.

If you plan to arrange a hot air balloon flight locally, or do some scuba diving during your tour, you should check the small print in your policy to make sure these are covered (these are covered in our policy). Please also check the maximum altitude that you will be reaching and that full cover including emergency evacuation is provided up to this altitude.

If you are taking expensive camera gear or other electronic equipment with you then please check the coverage and the fine print of your policy to ensure that you have sufficient cover.

IMPORTANT:  We must have your travel insurance details (policy number and type of insurance) before you depart or you may not be allowed to join the tour.  If you haven't told us already, please let us know the details when you can. You should take a paper copy of your insurance policy with you as you may be asked to show this at the start of the tour.


  15. Financial Security

We are a UK registered company and an ABTA Member (Y4447) and you can be confident when booking with us that your money is safe and protected.
Financial failure insurance is also provided through Affirma to protect all customers for the land portion of your tour.
Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.


  16. Responsible Tourism

It is impossible not to have an impact on the local environment, cultures and eco-systems when you travel. However, it is very possible to try and ensure that these impacts are as limited, or positive as possible. We are committed to ensuring that we try to leave our host countries in a better state than we found them and encourage and assist our travellers to help us with this.
The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.

  • Don't prejudge: Things in different countries will almost certainly be different. That doesn't make them worse or inferior, just different.
  • Communicate: Don't expect locals to speak your language. Take the trouble to learn a few words or phrases of the local language. Don't worry about sounding silly. Most locals are patient and accommodating and appreciate you making the effort to communicate in their language.
  • Conserve energy: Be careful not to waste valuable resources. Use local resources sparingly. Switch off lights, air-conditioning and fans when you leave the hotel room and don't waste water. Remove superfluous packaging. Many countries have far less efficient waste disposal systems than ours. Remove packaging from newly acquired items before leaving home.
  • Don't litter: No matter how untidy or dirty the country you're travelling in may look to you, avoid littering, as there is no need to add to the environment's stress. Many of the countries we visit have a tough challenge dealing with rubbish and waste. Please consider taking home as much plastic waste as you can (e.g. water bottles).
  • Choose environmentally friendly products: By using environmentally friendly (bio degradable) sun creams, shampoos and detergents you can help reduce pollution.
  • Respect local customs and traditions: As you are a guest in these countries, you should also comply with the local customs. If you are friendly and well mannered, the locals will reciprocate and it will only enhance your experience. It's important to follow dress and behaviour guidelines especially when visiting religious or sacred sites (your tour leader will advise you how best to do this).
  • If a client commits an illegal act the client may be excluded from the tour and Encounters Travel shall cease to have responsibility to/for them. No refund will be given for any unused services.

All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).


  17. Follow Us Online

You can stay in touch with us online by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We post updates on relevant travel news in our destination countries, special offers and discounts and other interesting travel related news and information.
www.facebook.com/encounterstravel
www.twitter.com/encounterstravl (yes, without the 'e')


  18. Before you travel

It is important when considering and preparing to travel anywhere in the world that you have a good understanding of the country you are visiting, its laws and customs, and the possible risks and situations that may occur. This includes specific risks related to your itinerary (eg. does it involve water & can you swim, are you fit enough for the activities included), as well as more general risks such as terrorism and natural disasters.

General details and links to more information about health risks, visa requirements, money, and travel insurance are given in these tour notes. We recommend that you re-read all these before your departure as well as the small print of your travel insurance policy so you know exactly what is covered and what is not.

You should take copies of your important travel documents with you and ideally also store them online securely as a backup. Make sure that you have given us your emergency contact details and told that person where and when you are travelling. Ensure you take enough money with you and that you have access to emergency funds.

Finally, you should read through and stay updated with the current official government travel advice for your destination. We are registered partners with the UK Foreign Office's 'Travel Aware' campaign which provides further useful and invaluable information.

'Travel Aware' campaign

Reviews

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China on a Shoestring & Country Reviews

Product Review


Posted 21st of Aug 2018

Exceptional tour and value!