Author Topic: China : Getting Around - Cheap  (Read 2723 times)

Offline WuffRuff

  • Traveller
  • **
  • Posts: 85
China : Getting Around - Cheap
« on: Sep 20, 11, 04:59 AM »
What is the cheapest way to travel around China, in terms of intercity.
The train prices seem pretty expensive.
Maybe buses are cheap?
Has anyone taken inter-city buses?
How much are they?
Is the bus network developed and accessible?
Will it be super cramped?
Where can I get tickets?

I wonder if any Chinese person here has tried hitchhiking around China.
I met a person on my last travel who had travelled around China through hitchhiking for 6 months and he said it was very easy and people were really friendly.
But as I am Chinese, I'm not sure how this will work out for me as they may think that I am local and I don't know what else they will think if they think so.
« Last Edit: Oct 14, 11, 07:21 AM by Karel »

Offline calvin2224

  • Traveller
  • *****
  • Posts: 210
Re: Cheapest way to travel around China & Hitchhiking
« Reply #1 on: Sep 20, 11, 03:46 PM »
Actually you can get a lot of your ideas from Chinese travel forums, assuming you read Chinese. Chinese travel resources are richer than this forum, and fairly detailed, right down to bus schedules and fare prices.
I find travel by train to be fairly cheap, if you disregard the high-speed services. However domestic air-travel can be very competitive compared to train tickets during the low season.
I am of the opinion that public transport in China is well-developed for a country of its size and geography. A connection can always be counted on, though frequency and efficiency may be an issue sometimes. I was pleasantly surprised that I could take a bus from Chengdu to a backwater like Danba, for instance. Buses for long-distance usually have numbered seats, and they operate out of designated bus terminals.
So far, I have not been identified outright as a foreigner. The fun of it is that so long as one speaks reasonable Mandarin with no English or foreign language words scattered within, one can pass as a Chinese from out of town. In the north, they would think I was a southerner. In the south, they would assume I was a southerner from another province, a Taiwanese or HK at worst. It takes a stretch for them to guess that you are not of Greater China. I have been mis-identified as a Tibetan before, though probably in jest.
I don't advocate hitch-hiking anywhere in the world :)

Offline rawrrr

  • Newbie
  • Posts: 3
Re: China : Getting Around - Cheap
« Reply #2 on: Aug 18, 12, 05:08 PM »
Hey, I'm new to the forum. This post seem to be rather long ago, but I would like to share my experience...

Anyway, I travelled independently in China for several months, relying on either flights or intercity buses.
Intercity buses varies depend on region & distance travelled, of course, for eg, from Shenzhen to Xiamen, a sleeper bus costs RMB 200+ (I can't remember now), while a bus from Zhongdian to Lijiang costs much cheaper (I can't recall...less than RMB100??). One problem I had during my trip in Yunnan, most of the buses I took were without air-condition or with aircondition, but they were switch off during winter! and the locals often smoke in the bus with no windows open in the window. I couldn't stand it and opened an inch of the window beside me and it sucked out most of the cigg smokes, so I got most of the smoke instead.

Anyway, I buy my bus ticket at the bus terminals, but I think your hostel/hotel can do it for you for a minimal booking fee.

I found the bus (intercity or not) was rather reliable if you are going to places on the beaten path. I can't vouch for off-beaten track places.

With regards to hitchhiking, I hitchhike twice during my trip (I'm a female). THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT I ADVOCATE HITCHHIKING IN CHINA or follow what I did, but I would like to share my experience for those who are curious.
My first time was after my 2-day trek at the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan. The hostel at the end of the trek tried to sell me & my companion bus tickets back to Qiaotou at RMB 40 per person. We declined and instead, flagged down a truck passing by the hostel heading the same way. We suss the truck driver out to be rather decent & negotiated a fare of RMB 20 for both of us. I did this only because I did a lot of research (based on other traveller's account) that it is possible to hitchhike on this route.

The second time I 'hitchhiked' was in Kaiping, Guangdong. I was travelling alone, with an outdated guidebook at hand without much info on this place, and the budget hotel I stayed in did not provide much info to get to the place I want to see. Wanting to be a cheapo & not wanting to follow tours to see the watch towers in Zili Village & Li Garden, I took a local bus which dropped me off in the middle of the road, it took me an hour to walk to Zili Village, there were just farmlands all around. By the time I reached the place, it was only an hour till closing time (I started the day late). I stayed till closing time and only realise I may not have any transport back to town area when I see other tourists boarding their respective tour buses. I told the ticket staff about my problem and he suggested that I take their their staff bus (I paid nothing for this). The bus dropped me off at the junction from where I was dropped off earlier in the day and there was not a single bus or transport that would stop for me. I thought I was resigned to walking on the road till I reach town (the sun was setting then,and it was several km away), when I heard a small car honk and stopped by the road. It turned out to be this local guy who saw me at Zili Village and he offered to take me back to town. He dropped me off at the centre of the town where I could walk to my budget hotel. I tried to pay him for the ride to show my graditute but he refused to take it. I remember his kindness till this day.

On both occasions the drivers can tell that I'm not a local (I'm of Chinese ethnicity, but due to unfortunate circumstances, I am unable to speak nor read Chinese beyond speaking very basic conversational phrases) due to my terrible Chinese and I spoke to them using broken Chinese and charades. Nevertheless, they were very friendly and even give me tips on travelling to my next destination.

But please, I really do not recommend hitchhiking to anyone, unless you are doing it out of desperation to get out of a situation like I had unfortunately gotten myself into.

« Last Edit: Aug 18, 12, 07:52 PM by rawrrr »