- Days: 30 days
- Period: End of September untill end of October
- Weather: As the weather and seasons in northern China are very different from the south it can vary a lot. In general we had good weather and not a lot of rain. Most of the rain was in the southern part. Also the temperature was good. In general very comfortable (between 18 and 25 degrees). Only close to Laos the weather changed and it got warm and humid. On the Tibetan plateau you are on high altitude. Here is was quite cold at night.
- Days: about 3 weeks
- Period: July
- Weather: Warm and sometimes very hot. We had also some days with rain.
- Travel: This was not an overland trip but a backpack trip with public transport.
Currency: Yuan (RMB)
Internet: Available in a lot of hotels, restaurants and even service areas. Some services as Google, blogspot and facebook are blocked. For facebook we used the app "Open Door" which worked very well. Be sure to have it installed before you enter China.
ATM's: In all cities ATM's for visa available.
Creditcards: We did not use our card except for getting cash at ATM's.
Safety: China is a safe country and camping on parkings in crowded places is no problem.
Prices (October 2014)
Value Money: €1 = 7,60 Yuan
Fuel: diesel is 6,88 Yuan per liter (about € 0,91 )
Camping: China has no real campsites. So camping means staying on parking lots near hotels, restaurants or touristic places. About half of the time this was for free and the other times we had to pay a parking fee (between 10 and 60 Yuan per night). On most parking lots there was a toilet but never a shower. We also stayed in a hotel a couple of nights. Price for a basic hotel is between 80 and 120 Yuan (this is for a room with tv, hot shower, airco and wifi.
Prices: Eating out is very cheap. Toll and sightseeing however is pretty expensive.
- Discount for eldery
and students: For
eldery and students there often is a huge discount at sightseeing
spots. In most places eldery and students could get it for just half of
the normal price. The age for eldery varies. It was often 60 years but
sometimes 62. To get the discount you must show your passport. To get
the discount for students you must show your student pass. As fas as we
know there is no discount for stone forest in Kunming.
valid = 30 days from date of entry (single entry). Visa valid for 3 months.
Visa was obtained at the Chinese embassy in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia). For waypoint see data Mongolia. Getting this visa here was quite a hassle as in August and September (when we were there) huge crowds of Mongolian students are also trying to get a visa and queueing is not their habit. If you want to get it do not be polite. Embassy is open from 9:30 tot 12:00 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (for application). Pickup only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 16:00 and 17:00. Price is 30 USD per person. Some nationalities can have express service (you must pay extra) but then you can pick up your visa on the same day. For Dutch, Swiss and German this express service does not apply. For other nationalities you must ask. Normal procedure is 5 working days. Make sure to check the visa dates when picking up your visa. Despite all the right paperwork we were only issued a 7 day visa. As it was the mistake of the embassy they made a new one which we could pick up two days later. This mistake was also made with other travellers. To apply you need two pictures, a copy of your passport, a copy of your Mongolian visa, application form, a flight ticket and an itenerary with hotel bookings for at least half of the days spent in China. These last two papers were arranged by our agency and were accepted immediately. The embassy is very strickt and many people in the line were send back for not having a ticket or hotel reservations. Visa must be paid in cash at a bank on the other side of the street. With the receipt you can pick up your visa. Here at this bank it can be extremely crowded but as a foreigner you can ask for VIP service. They then bring you to a private office and serve you immediately.
Entry:At Erenhot (coming from Mongolia). When you travel in a group crossing the border is only possible when the group is complete and you need your guide to wait for you in order to get into the border zone. Once in the border zone we just followed the instructions of the guide and were stamped in quite fast. The cars took a bit more time. Maybe when you can get it very early it can be done in one day, but often the procedure is spread across two days. Day 1 is for all borderworks and on the morning of the second day your Chinese driving license and number plate can be picked up. Then you are ready to go. In our case all was done by our guide. We only had to wait. In case the border procedure is spread across two days (like in our case) you will not be able to sleep in you car one night. The car has to stay in the borderzone where camping in prohibited. We left our car and went to town where we stayed in a hotel. Note that China in not very dogfriendly and most hotels do not allow dogs in the rooms.
Exit: At Mohan Pass (going to Laos). Exit was quick and easy. Half an hour maximum. Note: When you travel in a group you must also leave a group.
Self driving in China
Visiting China with a foreign car is expensive and demands a lot of organisation. As a tourist with own car you need an agency to organise this for you. The company we used was www.chinaoverland.eu. This agency arranged all the permits and paperwork, insurances and all documentation you need to get your visa. Through this organisation we were able to form a group in order to share the costs of the obliged guide. The price we paid was around 1530,- per person (and that was for traveling with a group of 10 people and two cars). In order to prefend a lot of discussions about the route the agency made a proposal and did the communication with all the parties untill everybody was agreed.
Agency = our experiences with the agency are good. Before the trip communication was always quick and all documentation was organised good. Also in the country the borderworks and checkpoints on the road were always hassle free. If you book a trip like this do not expect that the agency arranges all your nights. The list with hotels is just to get your visa and once on the road the guide has to find places to stay day by day. This can be a hotel but if you prefer camping this will mostly be parking lots as bushcamping is not allowed everywhere and bush is hard to find in crowded China. Note that parking lots are busy, noisy and sometimes dirty. You often have no privacy and do not expect facilities like toilet and shower. If you find one with a toilet that is a bonus.
The guide = We were lucky to have a guide that really liked travelling himself. He was very enthousiastic and always joined us when sightseeing and although it was not his job he even guided when sightseeing and gave a lot of information. As it comes to organising this was much harder for him as we were his first big group and also the first group that wanted to sleep in our vehicles. So our guide needed to find different places to stay than he was used to. This was sometimes difficult and many of our group were unsatisfied as they had other expectations. Despite the agreement our guide did not bring camping gear. Afterwards is it understandable why as there were hardly any spots suitable for pitching a tent. So except for a few nights we always stayed in places with hotels in the area.
The trip = the trip was good and the itinerary a good mix of culture and other places. The travel times however were very long and most of our 30 days were spent driving. The whole trip was on a tight scedule. Due to some issues within the group our driving days were longer the normal so in our case there was only little time for sightseeing left. When you book a trip with other travellers be aware of the other cars (what would be the average speed) and are there dogs in the group. In our case an old slow car and two dogs where two major causes for delay. Download the intinerary from our trip as arranged by China Overland here
- In general=
Although we did like the trip it was also very tiring. At the end we
really had enough of all the discussions and were glad to be on our own
again. Be aware that travelling in a group of 10 individual travellers
who all have their own way of travelling can be hard. A strong leader
would help but our guide was not such a person. Wrong expectations of
how it is to travel in China were a big issue and caused many
unrealistic demands that our guide could not meet of course. To enjoy
China Overland, prepare yourself well and be flexible.
China without a group
For many years China could only be visited with a guide, but the world is slowly changing. China without a guide seems to be possible. see link
China has a really good infrastructure and all express ways are multi lane smooth highways. Around Lijiang and to the Tibetan Plateau the roads are smaller national road but also these ones are sealed and mostly in good shape. Only towards Lijiang the national road was badly damaged.
Fees for Toll roads, briges, tunnels and ferries
Most of the express ways are toll roads. In China toll is pretty expensive and it really adds up. Because of a national holiday we could travel one week for free but normally the total amount of toll for the 6500 kilometers would have been around 250 Euro. National Holiday was from the 1st to 7th of October.
Highlights or not
Yungang Grottoes: Entry fee = 120 RMB per person. This is a huge area with many temples and caves with statues of Buddha. Nice place to visit.
- Hanging Temple: Entry fee = 124 RMB per person. As entry fees in China are expensive we had to be selective. Therefore we only saw this temple from a distance but did not enter here. For a nice view of the temple hanging on a cliff you do not have to pay. Visiting the place should however be a great experience.
- Chinese Great Wall: We visited the wall at Badaling. Entry fee = 60 RMB per person (that is with some group discount). The great wall is a must see and this place was not very crowded. We practically had it to ourselves. The parking here would also be a good place for camping. For a more larger piece of the wall you better go to Jingshanling. We were here in 2004. Here you can make a very long but nice walk on the wall and the views are magnificent.
- Beijing Forbidden city: Great place and a must see.
- Beijing Drum Tower: Nice building. Note the scedule because at certain times the drums are played. This is really worth a seeing.
- Beijing Temple of heaven: Very nice temple to visit
- Beijing Hutong: This are small living quarters with nice old buildings. Some hutings are restored now but you should definitely visit one or two. Last time we visited the hutong around Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street which is near the Drum Tower.
- Beijing Tianenmen: This is the big square in the center of Beijing with the famous portrait of Mao overlooking the place. Nice to place to walk around. Especially after dark.
- Pingyao: Ancient Chinese City. Very nice place. You should at least be here a whole day. Entry fee = you can visit the city for free but to visit some old buildings you have to pay.
- Prime Minister's Mansion in Yangcheng: Entry fee = 120 RMB per person. Although very different it can in a way be compared to the forbidden city. We really liked this place and there are hardly any foreign tourists. We camped on the parking here.
- Shaolin Temple: Entry fee = 100 RMB per person. This temple is the cradle of the martial arts form Kung Fu. Well trained men give an impressive demonstration here. We liked the outdoor show. The indoor one was less good and very commercial. There is also the temple you can visit. We camped on the parking here. Very quite at night and you get to see the men doing their training at dawn. They do this on the parking.
- Xian Terra Cotta Army: Like the Great Wall a must see. We have no recent info on entry fees as we did not visited it in 2014. We were already here in 2004.
- Xian, old muslim quarter: Nice area to wander around with many food stalls. No entry fee here.
- Sanxingdui museum: Entry fee = 80 RMB per person. Great place for anyone who likes art and old artifacts. Not being a great fan of musea for us it was not very special. Got stung by many small flies here. So wear socks if you visit this place.
- Chengdu Panda Base: Entry fee = 58 RMB per person. The panda is the national symbol of China. Although the animals are kept in enclosures we really liked visiting it. The pandas are cute and if you are lucky there are small babies to see. The center also offers a lot of info on the breeding programm and there are good restaurants with many bamboo dishes. If you want to have enough time to visit all the places you need about half a day. They allow camping on the parking (is quiet but a bit dirty).
- Chengdu old center and tea houses: Chengdu has a nice old center which is great to visit at night. It is beautiful lit with great restaurants and a lot of tea houses where you can have a real tea ceremony. No entry fee to visit the old town.
- Leshan Great Buddha: This is a huge buddha statue carved out in a rock overlooking the river. There are two ways to visit. You can see the statue from close by but due to its size it is hard to see the statue as a whole then or you can go on a boat trip and view it from the river. Both experiences are great but different. Both are also the same price which is 70 RMB per person. We went on a boat trip and saw it from the river. We liked this. The best time for a boat trip is at the end of the afternoon. The sun is on the right side then. Note that the last boat sails at 5 p.m. We camped on the parking here and this is a great place with a beautiful view of the city on the other side of the river.
- Luguhu Lake: Entry fee = 80 RMB per person. Nice area with small villages. We expected traditional villages but they were rather touristic. Nevertheless a nice place with great views of the lake. Traveling from north to south this was one of the first places that was less crowded. Had a bit more countryside feel to it.
- Lijiang: Ancient city. Entry is free of charge. In 2004 we really liked it but the years really changed this place. The old streets are still nice but it is very commercial now. We liked Pingyao more.
- Roundtrip around the Tibetan Plateau: This part of China was amazing. The landscapes are great. From high snow capped mountains to a canyon where the Mekong starts its way south. Note that you will have to drive up to about 4300 meters. People and houses are different here. Feels definitely more like Tibet.
- Dongzhulin monastry: Entry fee = 22 RMB per person. Small but nice monastry that is still in use. It is very authentic and there are only few tourists. It was the best monastry of the whole trip. When we were there they blew the horn and then all monks came out wearing red robes and yellow hats. This was around 11.30 a.m. This monastry is on the Tibetan Plateau.
- Shangri-la, Songtem Monastry: Entre fee = 115 RMB per person. This is included the shuttle bus that will bring you from the parking to the monastry and back. This monastry looks like the one in Lhasa. Can be crowded but still definitely worth a visit.
- Tiger Leaping Gorge: Entry fee = 65 RMB. Small narrow gorge. Although the gorge is not very special it is nice to drive through it and visit the rapids. Being more in nature is a nice change after so many crowded cities.
- Dali: Another city with a nice ancient center. Feels less old than Lijiang and Pingyao. Visiting the old town is free of charge.
- Kunming, Stone Forest: huge place with stone formations. We visited is 2004 and did not visited again in 2014. To us it was not very special but others from our group liked it a lot. Entry fee is expensive and no discout for students or elderly here.
- Boat trip from Guilin to Yanshou: A great boattrip on Li-river that winds through the famous karst formations. We only did this trip in 2004. Definitely worth doing.
When you opt for camping you can check nearby hotels for having a shower. Many hotels rent rooms per hour and you sometimes can bargain.
- For people traveling with a dog: note that China is not very dog friendly. Most hotels do not want dogs in the room.
- You might long for some good
salty bread after being in China for a while. In this case check out
Bakery 88 in old town Dali.
Grid: Lat/Lon hddd°mm.mmm"
|CN-CAMP01 - N40°06.743 E113°17.187
Bushcamp on the street in Datong, not the best spot
CN-CAMP02 - N39°39.739 E113°42.391
Bushcamp on the parking at the Hanging temple. Good quiet parking for camping
CN-CAMP03 - N40°25.464 E115°45.833
Bushcamp between trucks. Not a good spot
CN-CAMP04 - N39°58.759 E116°23.022
Bushcamp on the parking of Chinatown Mall. A noisy spot but will do. Toilet and wifi in nearby restaurants. On the 3rd floor of nearby JingMing hotel is a sauna with shower (expensive), parking fee is 60 Yuan per day
CN-CAMP05 - N37°12.186 E112°09.978
Bushcamp on public parking near the gate of the ancient city. Convenient spot for visiting the city. No toilet or shower. Nearby hotels rent rooms per hour for shower. Parking fee is 40 Yuan per day
CN-CAMP06 - N35°30.892 E112°34.574
Bushcamp on parking of Prime minister's mansion. After the tourists have gone a good quiet place, but no toilet and shower. Small parking fee required
CN-CAMP07 - N34°30.715 E112°56.678
Bushcamp on parking of Shaolin temple. Very quiet at night. No toilet and shower. Great spot to see the Kung Fu training at dawn. Small parking fee required
CN-CAMP08 - N34°23.398 E109°16.944
Bushcamp in the street in quiet neighbourhood within walking distance of the Terra Cotta Army. Parking in front of small hotel. Parking fee is 30 Yuan. For another 20 Yuan per person you can have a shower in the hotel. Wifi available (we had reception in the car)
CN-CAMP09 - N33°46.600 E108°29.212
Bushcamp on the parking of a service area. Not very nice but ok if you have no other option. Toilet available
CN-CAMP10 - N32°17.750 E105°32.405
Bushcamp on the parking of a service area. Extremely noisy. Not a good place. Toilet available
CN-CAMP11 - N30°43.972 E104°08.674
Bushcamp on parking near Panda Center in Chengdu. No costs, quiet but no toilet and shower
CN-CAMP12 - N29°33.416 E103°46.277
Bushcamp on parking at Giant Buddha. Only toilet available. No shower. Good place for camping and after dark very nice view of the city. Parking fee is 15 Yuan
CN-CAMP13 - N27°48.209 E102°18.345
Bushcamp on the street close to the lake. No toilet no shower. Quiet spot but they are still building here, so area will change soon
CN-CAMP14 - N27°44.500 E100°49.005
Bushcamp on a parking at the lake. Very nice place for camping. You have to pay small fee to the owner. No toilet and shower on the parking. Toilet and shower (for small fee) available at a hotel nearby. Also wifi here
CN-CAMP15 - N26°52.185 E100°14.388
Bushcamp on the parking near South Gate of ancient town Lijiang. No toilet and no shower. Parking fee is 37 Yuan per day
CN-CAMP16 - N27°50.980 E99°42.193
Bushcamp on the parking of the temple in Shangri-la. Good quiet spot. Toilet in building nearby. Toilet possible in hotel around the corner. Very quiet in the night
CN-CAMP17 - N27°52.570 E98°59.843
Bushcamp on parking in a village. No toilet and no shower but nice views and very quiet.
CN-CAMP18 - N27°18.482 E100°13.245
Bushcamp on a field on the south tip of the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Very nice spot but no toilet and no shower.
CN-CAMP19 - N25°41.433 E100°10.053
Bushcamp on parking of bus station near South Gate of Old Dali. Very crowded place nearby good and cheap hotels. We got a room and only used the place for parking. Small fee required. Hotels nearby also rent rooms per hour for shower
CN-CAMP20 - N24°57.749 E102°39.204
Bushcamp on parkingnear a lake in Haigeng park in Kunming. Parking fee is 25 Yuan. Toilet available but no shower. Quiet spot
CN-CAMP21 - N23°25.510 E101°40.950
Hotel on the way between Kunming and Laos border. Price 100 Yuan for a room (2 persons, airco and wifi)
CN-CAMP22 - N22°11.090 E100°52.338
Bushcamp near the straat. Not a good spot
CN-CAMP23 - N21°11.455 E101°41.330
Hotel in Mohan. Good parking facilities (they also allow camping on the parking). Good room with tv, arico and wifi. Price 120 Yuan per room per night for two people.
CN-GORGE - N27°11.543 E100°06.710
Rapids of the Tiger Leaping Gorge
CN-KLOOSTE - N28°15.900 E99°13.910
Authentic and very nice Tibetan monastry. Dongzhulin monastry.
CN-LA - N21°11.220 E101°40.693
Border between China (Mohan) and Laos (Boten)
CN-PANDA1 - N30°44.130 E104°08.494
Parking at Panda breeding center in Chengdu
CN-SANXING - N31°00.284 E104°13.223
CN-SHOWER - N34°25.834 E112°55.422
Showers at a service area near Shaolin Temple
CN-SUPER01 - N34°14.712 E108°57.507
CN-SUPER1 - N27°52.843 E102°14.925
Wallmart Supermarket in Xichang
CN-TOYOTA - N30°52.201 E104°11.795
Toyota garage in Chengdu
CN-TOYOTA2 - N27°53.603 E102°13.817
Toyota garage in Xichang
CN-TOYOTA3 - N27°50.725 E99°41.835
Toyota garage in Shangri La
CN-VILLAGE - N27°27.257 E99°49.063
First Tibetan village on the way from Lijiang to the Tibetan Plateau
CN-WALL - N40°20.534 E115°58.880
Great Wall at Badeling. Parking also suitable for camping
CN-WATER - N27°10.775 E100°05.915
Tap for water. Can fill up the car here
CN-YUNGANG - N40°06.530 E113°08.310