Last Modified: 30 Mar 2016
Beijing to Xi'an
Trip code: CDOA
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2016
If you're looking to combine China's highlights with some of the country's hidden gems and don't have much time to spare, Xi'an to Beijing is the perfect way to do it. Get an authentic glimpse of life in provincial China, revisit the country's Imperial past in Chengde and stroll along the Great Wall. From the moment you arrive in bustling Beijing, China will amaze and surprise you with the magic of old-world wonder and modern mischief.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
- Our Basix style trips are designed for travellers who want exceptional value, plenty of free time and having the flexibility to choose where and how their time and money is spent. By working plenty of free time into the itineraries and keeping many of the activities optional, we aim to make travel possible for those on even the most slender of budgets. After all, why pay for an activity or excursion you wouldn’t otherwise be interested in? Or a level of comfort you don’t require? As a wise person probably once said, a bed's just a bed when there's exploring to be done.
Day 1 Beijing
Border Information: if joining in Beijing, you will most likely enter China at Beijing Capital International Airport.
There will be a group meeting today at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception with more information about this important meeting. The rest of the day will be free to explore the incredible city of Beijing!
In Beijing we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Hotel for the night: Hu Guo Si Hotel
Hu Guo Si Hotel
No 125 Hu Guo Si Street
Xicheng District 100035
Head out to see an acrobatic or martial arts show in Beijing, always an incredible mix of athleticism and choreography CNY 250
Discover all about the varied and interesting history of China at the National Museum, with its huge collection of over a million artifacts CNY
Explore the vast Temple of Heaven, once the site of an annual religious ceremony conducted by the Emperor to pray for a good harvest CNY 10
Visit the beautiful Tibetan-style Lama Temple (Yonghe Temple) in Beijing CNY
See the iconic modern 'Bird's Nest' Stadium, the centrepiece of the 2008 Olympic Games CNY 50
About Beijing: Beijing is the throbbing, bustling capital of the vast Chinese universe. It controls the whole country and little goes on without Beijing's authority. It's a great place to visit as a traveller as there's a huge amount to see and do. Take a tour of the Forbidden City and learn about the history of the Ming Dynasty, or discover the wonders of the Summer Palace. With so much on offer we recommend you allowing yourself plenty of time in this amazing city, it's worth allowing yourself a few extra days here before or after a trip with us.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Beijing
Today we will head out on the Beijing metro to the city centre's famous Tiananmen Square, which we will walk through and then take a tour of the Forbidden City. We will then have a free afternoon to further explore the many sights, sounds and flavours of Beijing.
Head out on a guided tour of the colossal Tian'anmen Square and the Ming Dynasty imperial palace of the Forbidden City in Beijing - Included in Kitty
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Chengde
This morning we will start our journey with a drive to the city of Chengde.
Drive time - 4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
On Day 4 we will have a full day to explore the Puning Temple and the famous Imperial Summer Resort.
In Chengde we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the Puning Temple, modelled after the famous
Samye Monastery in Tibet, and see it's incredible
thousand-arm wooden Buddha statue
Included in Kitty
See the beautiful Putuo Zongcheng Temple, modelled
after the famous Potala Palace in Tibet
Explore the incredible Imperial Summer Resort in
Chengde, a vast park with a variety of gardens, pagodas,
temples and palaces from various regions of China
Included in Kitty
See the curious and seemingly-impossible Sledgehammer
Rock near Chengde (if time allows)
See the phenomenally-positioned Shuangta Shan Twin
Pagodas, mysteriously constructed on the summits of two
free-standing rock monoliths (if time allows)
About Chengde: Chengde is located in Hubei Province, the heavily populated
region that surrounds Beijing. Once a royal city, this 18th century imperial
resort town has plenty of historic monuments to boast about. The imperial
family would have moved here during the hot summer months, because of the
cool and refreshing mountain air. There are many historical sites to explore,
including the regal gardens (the largest in China), the Imperial Summer Villa
and a profusion of temples. Many of the temples and monasteries have a
Mongolian and Tibetan feel, this is largely because of the legacy of Emperor
Qinlong, who wanted to assimilate both regions into his empire. In recent
years, mirroring the city's history, Chengde has become a very popular weekend
retreat for the wealthy of Beijing - and so it's home to some excellent
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 5 Jinshanling
This morning we will have a short drive to one of the world's most incredible sights - the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China! We will have time this afternoon to thoroughly explore and walk along the Great Wall.
In Jinshanling we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Driving time - 2 hours.
Activity Approximate Cost
Fully explore the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China at
Jinshanling, one of the most spectacular stone sections of
Included in Kitty
Walk all the way along an unrestored section of the Great
Wall from Jinshanling to Simitai (if open to the public)
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 6-7 Datong
Today we will drive to the city of Datong in China's Shanxi province. (Driving time - 7-8 hours).
On Day 7 we will head out of Datong in the truck on an included visit to the awe-inspiring Yungang Buddha Caves.
In Datong we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
Activity Approximate Cost
See the phenomenal, gravity-defying Hanging Monastery,
built hanging from a cliff 75m above the ground over
1500 years ago
Included in Kitty
Visit the stunning wooden pagoda of Fogong in the village
of Yingxian, the oldest of its kind in China (if time allows) CNY 60
See the beautiful and ornate Nine Dragon Screen, a
screen of glazed tiles depicting nine multi-coloured
Explore the phenomenal site of the Yungang Caves, a
network of 252 caves containing over 51,000 incredibly
crafted sculptures of Buddha from the 5th and 6th
centuries - Included in Kitty
About Datong: The historic city of Datong dates back nearly 2500 years. The
main attraction here is the Yungang Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage
complex of 21 caves
containing over 50000 statues, some of which are the oldest of this type in China.
Looking at the rock art you will be able to pick out influences from an
amazing variety of different cutlures, including Greek, Persian, Indian. Close to
the caves you can also visit the Hanging Monastery, which dates back over 1400
years, beautifully located right on the edge of a cliff. The monastery consists of
over 40 different halls and is home to an impressive array of bronze, stone, clay
and iron statues.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 8-9 Wutai Shan
This morning we continue to the stunning mountainous area known as Wutai Shan, one of the holiest sites of Chinese Buddhism and a major centre of pilgrimage in the country. We will have an included visit to the incredible Hanging Monastery en route. (Driving time - 5-6 hours).
On Day 9 we will have a full day to explore the area and visit its incredible array of temples and religious sites.
In Wutai Shan we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the myriad of temples at Wutai Shan, one of the
Four Sacred Mountains of Chinese Buddhism Included in Kitty
About Wutai Shan:
The sacred mountain Wutaishan, located in Shanxi Province, is believed to be
the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri, and for a thousand
years it has been a focus of transnational pilgrimage for the Chinese, Tibetans,
Mongols, and Manchus alike. This multi-culturalism, endemic of Himalayan art,
is reflected in the objects in the exhibition coming from Nepal, Tibet,
Mongolia, and China, including paintings, sculptures, masks, book covers and
features a six-foot wide woodblock print, a panoramic view of Mount Wutai
filled with temples and miraculous visions.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Pingyao
We will then drive to China's best-preserved ancient walled town, Pingyao. We
will stay for 3 nights in Pingyao, giving us plenty of time to explore this ancient
town and surrounding sites such as the Mian Shan Mountain Resort and the
Zhangbi Underground City.
In Pingyao we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
Drive time - 6 hours.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 12 Lijiashan
Today we continue our journey to visit the ancient village of Lijiashan, famed
for settlement of cave dwellers and still home to more than 600 families.
Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the old town of Pingyao, a well preserved walled
city that offers a fantastic glimpse into 'Old China' Included in Kitty
Visit the incredible Shuanglin Temple near Pingyao, with
its 2000 colourful sculptures of various gods and warriors CNY 25
Visit the 10th-century Zhenguo Temple, one of the oldest
wooden buildings in China CNY 25
Take a day trip to the photogenic Mian Shan Mountain
Resort, and explore the incredible array of buildings and
Take a day trip out to the impressive Wang family
compound and the Zhang Bi underground village near
Pingyao is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese
city, founded in the 14th century. Its urban fabric shows the evolution of
architectural styles and town planning in Imperial China over five centuries. Of
special interest are the imposing buildings associated with banking, for which
Pingyao was the major centre for the whole of China in the 19th and early 20th
will stop en route for an included visit to the Black Dragon Temple just outside
In Lijiashan we will stay in a cave room, run by a local family and set up for
Please note that some caves include a traditional 'Kang Stove bed'. The Kang
bed is a hollow platform made from bricks that is used both as a bed and as a
work area, these are common in remote villages in Northern China. In winter a
coal fire can be lit under the bed, providing a huge amount of warmth day and
night and it is very common for the whole family to sleep on one large bed.
This means there may be times that members of the group may have to share 1
large bed with others in the group.
Drive time - 3 hours.
Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the beautiful and ornate Black Dragon temple near
Lijiashan Included in Kitty
Stay overnight in a local guesthouse built into a cave, in
the cliff-side village of Lijiashan
Included in Kitty
Lijiashan, located in China's Shanxi province is famed for its cave houses. This
remote 550-year-old village, hugging a hillside set back from the Yellow River,
has hundreds of cave dwellings scaling nine storeys.
Cave house (1 nt)
Days 13-14 Yan'an
Today we make our way to the city of Yan'an. Yan'an is famous for being the
ending point for those on the 'Long March', and became the CCP headquarters
for a brief period. During our time here we have an inluded visit to the
Revolutionary museum and the CCP Headquarters site.
In Yan'an we will stay in a local hotel.
Drive time - 5 hours
Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the Revolution Museum and the Yangjialing
Headquarters site, the former headquarters of Mao Tse
Tung's Communist Party during the revolution
Included in Kitty
When the diminished communist armies pitched up here at the end of the Long
March, it signalled the beginning of Yan'an's brief peroid in the sun. For 12
years, from 1935 to 1947, this backwater town was the CCP headquarters.
During our time here we will have a chance to step back into history as we
explore the area.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 15 Xi'an
Today we will drive to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi
province and the end of the 'Silk Road'! On arrival we will have a free
afternoon to explore the city of Xi'an, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers,
pagodas and Muslim Quarter.
In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Drive time - 5 hours.
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern
city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to
the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk
Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls which you can climb and walk
or cycle along, a unique way to experience the city. For a different view, haul
yourself to the top of the Bell or Drum Towers in the centre of the city. Thanks
to Xi'an's long and colourful history, the city is full of beautiful temples and
museums and interesting cultural and historic sites, the most famous of which
are probably the 2000 year old Terracotta warriors. Home to many Hui people,
an ethnic Muslim minority, the city also has a unique Islamic flavour,
particularly in the streets surrounding the Great Mosque, best explored by foot.
Once you've worn yourself out with a hard days sightseeing, you can head out to
the night markets to try some of the many tantalising local specialties on offer.
Pao mo is a lamb broth that you break flat bread into, or try hand pulled
noodles or hot pot. Later on, try your luck at karaoke, hugely popular here, or
head down to the South Park to live it up with the locals as they dance,
practice martial arts, play games, fly kites and watch the world go by.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 16-17 Xi'an
This morning we head out of Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous
Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour. We
will return to Xi'an for a free afternoon to further explore this diverse city.
Activity Approximate Cost
Wander through the atmospheric Muslim Quarter and visit
the Xi'an Great Mosque, the first mosque constructed in
China CNY 30
Visit the mind-blowing Tomb of Emporer Jingdi of the
Han Dynasty, containing 50,000 doll-sized terracotta
figures CNY 90
Visit the ornate 14th-century Bell and Drum towers,
which originally marked the sunrise and sunset CNY 40
Walk or cycle around the Ming Dynasty Xi'an City Wall,
the largest city wall in the world CNY 80
Learn about the fascinating history of the ancient
Chinese capital of Chang'an at the Shaanxi History
Museum, without doubt one of the finest museums in
China CNY 30
Visit the impressive Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an's most
famous landmark dating from the Tang and Ming
Dynasties CNY 80
Visit the Forest of Stelae Museum, a collection of 3000
stone tablets of Chinese calligraphy that has been
collected here since 1057 CNY 50
Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors,
an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the
Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife- Included in Kitty
Visit the huge former Tang Dynasty royal palace of
Daming, and explore its vast parks and gardens CNY
Border Information: if leaving in Xi'an, you will most likely exit China
at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport.
Today is a free day to further explore the city of Xi'an.
Please note that if you are leaving in Xi'an, today is the last day of the trip and
there is no accommodation included tonight.
Hotel (1 nt)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
We must emphasise that the routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only. We intend following the route detailed but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. Or it may be because we find a better, more interesting route. While actually en route, unexpected hospitality, a local festival or a great place to chill out can determine our exact route and itinerary on any given trip.
Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate, from hot deserts through to cold of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up, and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step-up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring. You need to judge if you are physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large, our Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping, so that life is not too rough.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and all included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases.This Kitty price indicated on the trip notes below is indicative only. Please refer to the 'Check availability' page on the website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
Kitty does not cover food while staying in hotels and hostels.
We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.
As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
Tipping is entirely voluntary. The crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.
Maximum of 22 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (15 nts), Cave house (1 nt)
Dragoman overland trips are designed for shared accommodation, whether camping or staying in hotels, ranging from twin to multishare. The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. Each route is different - on some we use a mixture of campsites and wild camps; on others we also use hotels.
In Asia it is often not practical to camp when staying in towns and cities, so we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hotel stops depends on the route and area.
Campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. We will also arrange as many village or local homestays as possible, allowing us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Roads in Asia can be very rough which makes for long, slow travel days. It is however all worth it for the spectacular scenery and novelty of truck travel!
The step up into the overland truck, while not overly high can become tiring and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down at least 8-10 times a day, as can the constant setting and packing up of camp.
On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.
While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. Dragoman trips use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. Our crew are chosen for their leadership skills, and most importantly have a passion for the region and its people.
We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader and crew; however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders
On any Overland trip, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. Our overland trip leaders will organise the group into smaller groups of two or three who will take turns in the daily shopping and cooking, vehicle cleaning, disposing of rubbish, etc. There are also a number of other jobs that need doing e.g. collecting water and firewood, luggage loading, supervising the kitty and food stores, which may be assigned to particular people or on a rota system according to group size, make-up, and so on. You must come prepared to 'pull your weight' and share in these duties; you will become very unpopular with other group members if they have to do your share. The more you put into a trip, the more you'll benefit.
Hu Guo Si Hotel
125 Huguosi Street
Phone: +86 10 6618 1113
Joining point description
In the ancient part of the city close to Gong Wang Fu prince garden, Bei Hai Park and the Forbidden City.
All rooms have private bathroom, air-conditioning and TV. There is also a restaurant on site.
Joining point instructions
From the airport you can take the shuttle bus to Xidan. The full route takes about 10 minutes and costs CNY16. From the stop you can walk approximately 2km north to the hotel, or take a taxi.
Alternatively you can take a taxi. It is recommended that you take an authorised taxi from a taxi station, which are located outside terminals 1 and 2. A taxi should cost up to CNY100.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Skytel International Hotel
NO.325 south Street
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
CHINA (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
VERY IMPORTANT - Dragoman will require a scan of your passport photo page as soon as possible after booking for all trips in China, please send this to us as soon as you can.
Citizens of the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and all EU countries will need a visa to enter China as a tourist for up to 90 days.
You will need a Letter of Invitation from a Chinese agent in order to make the visa application, and you must obtain the visa in advance. You cannot obtain the visa at the border in any circumstance.
Firstly you will need to apply for the Letter of Invitation through the online visa support documents application form at The Visa Machine – please make this application at the link http://dragoman-visa-support.thevisamachine.com/ as soon as possible after booking or at least 4 months before your trip departs. This form is used to apply for any Letters of Invitation that are needed for a visa application – the service is completely free of charge. These can take several weeks to issue, and will be emailed to you once they are ready.
After your Letter of Invitation has been issued, you can use this to apply for the visa in advance at any Chinese Embassy. You can either apply yourself directly to the embassy, or hire The Visa Machine to make the application on your behalf (which is recommended, especially if you are applying for several visas). Dragoman will also provide a letter confirming your participation in the trip and a list of our hotels, which you may need for the application – in some cases the Chinese Embassy may ask for a day-by-day itinerary with the hotels listed, which we can provide when needed.
It is recommended to apply at the Chinese Embassy in your home country, as your application is far more likely to be approved. Although there is no official reason why you should not be issued a visa at any Chinese embassy, their consular officials are notorious for constantly changing their minds about whether they will approve a visa for ‘nonresident’ applicants, and it depends heavily on the political climate of the time.
IMPORTANT NOTE - Please NEVER mention Kashgar, Urumqi, Turpan, Lhasa, Xinjiang or Tibet anywhere on your Chinese visa application form – this will almost certainly result in your application being rejected. When filling out your Chinese visa form, please only declare the places that are listed on your Chinese Letter of Invitation once it is issued.
If you are asked to provide a host in China on your visa form, please use the details of the Chinese agent that issued your Letter of Invitation (this will be printed on the letter).
You will not need a China visa if you are entering Tibet from Nepal (Northbound Tibet trip), but you will need a China visa if you are going to Tibet from Xi’an (Southbound Tibet trip). Please see the Tibet note for details on the visa requirements for travelling through Tibet.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
Your clothes and equipment should be appropriate for the conditions you are travelling in. On overland trips Dragoman will provide all camping equipment apart from sleeping bags and ground mats (except on routes between Nairobi and Cape Town where ground mats are provided).
PERSONAL MEDICAL KIT:
All of our trucks have a fully stocked medical kit onboard for use in emergency situations only. Therefore in addition to this we recommend that you purchase your own personal medical kit.
Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt socket so to charge your iPod, MP3 player, camera, laptop and mobile phone you will need a DC 12 volt adapter - the type that can be used from a cigarette lighter in your car. Please be aware that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle´s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets and the majority of the campsites we stay at have electricity points, so please bring along your normal charging adapters as well. You will need to ensure that you have the correct country adaptor for your specific charger.
Although this trip is designed to stay in hotels every night, because of the unpredictable nature of overland travel, we may camp for a night or two and you should be prepared to bring along a sleeping bag and a roll mat.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
There have recently been a number of isolated cases of Bird Flu in Asia. While the risk to travellers is very low, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of local authorities and the World Health Organisation. WHO recommends basic hygiene practices to limit the risk of infection:
• Avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms
• Avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces
• Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
• Do not attempt to bring any poultry products back
• Do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds
• Exercise good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing
For further information please visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/avian_influenza/en/index.html
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet western standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling. There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world.
Any personal effects that are left on the truck, even if they are stored in the safe, are left at your own risk and Dragoman cannot be held responsible for any damage or theft that may occur.
The safety of our passengers, leaders and operators is a major priority. With this in mind we monitor world events very closely. By the very nature of the adventure travel that we take, there are risks and hazards that are inherent in our itineraries. Dragoman makes operational decisions based on informed advice from a number of sources:
- The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice
- Reports from other travel companies and local suppliers
- Leaders reports from off the road
- Local contacts we have built up over 30 years of experience
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. You should always make yourself aware of the travel advice before you book and again before you travel.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for men and women.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader or local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon Offset C02-e 697.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.