Tour type: Shoestring
Group size: Min: 7 | Max: 20
Accommodation: Hostels, camping & overnight train
Transport: Trains, buses & public transport
Highlights: Sprawling Beijing, sunrise on the Great Wall of China, swimming in crystal clear lagoons, beautiful rural landscapes of Hangzhou, bamboo forests of Mogan Mountain, night out in lively Shanghai, amazing Chinese cuisine
Embark on an exhilarating 9-day budget China tour that immerses you in the contrasts of urban marvels and serene rural landscapes, offering a taste of China's diverse allure. This captivating journey spans from the historic capital of Beijing to the bustling metropolis of Shanghai, showcasing the best of this magical country.
The adventure commences in Beijing, China's sprawling capital, where travelers have ample time to explore a city steeped in history and culture. With its iconic landmarks like the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, Beijing provides a captivating introduction to China's rich heritage. The tour also takes a mesmerizing detour to one of the world's most iconic wonders, the Great Wall of China, where guests have the extraordinary opportunity to camp on a secluded section of the wall and witness a breathtaking sunset.
Leaving the city's bustling streets behind, the journey leads to rural China, specifically Hangzhou in the Zhejiang region. Here, adventurers can choose to embark on a trek to Moganshan Peak, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and a visit to Chairman Mao's former summer residence. A highlight of this leg of the journey is a visit to a stunning lagoon, inviting travelers to swim in its crystal-clear waters, providing a serene and rejuvenating experience.
The tour's grand finale unfolds in Shanghai, the world's most populous city and a vibrant hub of culture, commerce, and nightlife. Shanghai offers a dynamic contrast to the tranquility of rural China, allowing travelers to savor the energetic atmosphere and explore the city's myriad attractions. From sampling mouth-watering cuisine to indulging in shopping sprees, Shanghai is a sensory delight.
Throughout the journey, the tour maintains a budget-friendly approach, ensuring that travelers can experience the wonders of China without breaking the bank. Accommodations are chosen to provide comfortable lodging, allowing guests to rest and rejuvenate for each day's adventures.
Our tour starts at the Beijing Spring Time Hostel at 10 am, where you'll meet your tour leader and the rest of the group. We start 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 explor 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 suneset 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.).
Great Wall camping
Private Room Supplement (CHSHBS)
Extra day in Beijing - pre-tour
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.
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.
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.
On board overnight train
This morning there is an optional hike through the beautiful bamboo forest to the summit of Moganshan Peak. There's also an optional cycle trip available here (free of charge). Returning to the hostel for lunch we then catch the bullet train to Shanghai where we transfer via metro to your hostel.
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.
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.
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).
Today your tour ends and it's time to say goodbye to the group and new friends made.
Extra day in Shanghai - post-tour
Late bookings may sit separately to other travellers on trains and sleep in separate dorm rooms. No bookings are available within 20 days of departure.
The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often use 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.
Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination youre 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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 your tour includes car hire, ior 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.
Before purchasing any travel insurance, please check the coverage provided for situations related to Covid-19, and for the rules about government travel advice. Your normal policy may not be suitable. Details about our own policies cover levels are given on our website.
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:
We are a UK registered company and are committed to providing our customers with financial protection to provide peace of mind and to allow you to book with confidence.
We have therefore partnered with Trust My Travel Ltd., which provides financial protection services to over 2000 partners around the world. Funds paid to us by our customers are protected via an Insurance policy held by Trust My Travel. Each traveller and the description of services sold is declared against Trust My Travel’s insurance policy directly against our financial failure. In the event of our insolvency, you will be refunded for any unfulfilled products and/or repatriation to the UK (where applicable). Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.
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 this US CDC information about where the virus is present and follow the links to further information detailing which countries need you to have a Yellow Fever vaccination as part of their entry requirements. 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.
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.
All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).
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:
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.
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.twitter.com/encounterstravl (yes, without the 'e')
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.
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.
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.