Travel Insights: How to plan your trip in China
This article has first been published on our AES blog in August 2020. To read more exciting articles on various Asia-related topics, please click here.
The author Max Dietl is currently pursuing his M.Sc. in Psychology at LMU in Munich and lived in China for about one year.
Step 1: Where to go is always a difficult decision
Vast and diverse, China has a lot of places worth visiting! For instance, you could consider travelling along the Old Silk Road. Mathias Horsch wrote an amazing blog article about his 4000km travel route in China. Check it out here.
Step 2: Buy train tickets
There are many ways of buying train tickets for your trip in China. Please keep in mind that there exist a lot of different trains which differ in their speed, comfort and so on. You can have a nice overview clicking on this link. Option #1 is going to the local ticket office where you can buy your tickets by cash (always remember to bring your passport) and also maybe get some recommendations which train is the most suitable one. These offices exist in every city.
Option #2 is to go directly to the train station and buy your ticket there. It is good to know that there are often lines for foreigners where it is easy to buy a ticket in English. If not, have a look at the phrases below which may help you in a stressful situation ;)
Option #3 (and maybe the most convenient one to book beforehand) is using an APP for your trip. From my personal point of view, I can recommend “Trip.com” / “C-trip” (in Chinese) to get an overview of the cheapest offers and possibilities to travel. Important here is that you can use a foreign credit card to do your bookings – always nice if you don’t have a bank account in China. It is also really easy to cancel your bookings by using the English-/German-speaking service hotline. But notice that you have to get your ticket at the train station printed. That can also take some time.
Step 3: Book a hotel / accommodation
Next step on our journey is the selection of a suitable hotel / apartment / hostel.
Here, I can also warmly recommend “Trip.com”. It is easy to search a location near the places you want to visit and apply filters.
Another really good APP (which surprisingly also works in China) is “AirBnb” which you probably know. There are many really cheap possibilities to spend a night in the selected city. Beneficial here is that you probably have contact with the landlord / roommate etc., so you can already have a quick exchange what to visit and get some input from locals.
Step 4: Go to the train station
Most important thing here: Be there early enough!
It is often the case that you have to go through passport control, luggage control or anything else – and this can take a lot of time. Also, lines in front of the ticket offices can be long. Train stations can be – in comparison to European ones – really large and vast in size (as you can see on the right). So, keep in mind to walk longer distances inside the train station than you would expect! Trains will depart perfectly on time, so you should not expect a train to be late in China.
Due to the fact that there are also the possibilities of Bus and Flight for travelling in China, I want to shortly summarize my thoughts on these transportation systems.
一路平安！Have a safe trip!