Last Modified: 25 Apr 2016
Xi'an to Kunming
Trip code: CDOD
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2016
Discover hidden China on this adventure beyond the tourist trail. Journey through the Yunnan and Sichuan regions and discover a fascinating mix of people all the way to the final destination, Kunming. See breathtaking sights like the Terracotta Warriors, the Three Gorges and the Tiger Leaping Gorge and have an unforgettable encounter with China's iconic panda. This trip from Xi'an to Kunming is an incredible introduction to the region.
Table of Contents
Day 1-2 Xi'an
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
The trip starts with a welcome meeting at 6pm in our joining point hotel in Xi'an:
Xi’an Garden Hotel西安唐华宾馆
40 Yanyin Road (to the east of Dayan Pagoda), Xi'an
+86-29-87601111 Fax: +86-29-85261998
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
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.
The next day we have an organised visit to see the Terracotta Warriors.
The most popular attraction in Xi'an, and the place that has made the city most famous around the world, is the Terracotta Warriors. The Warriors are certainly an incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public. More pits were recently opened so you may even be lucky enough to see archaeologists at work, carefully unearthing and restoring these ancient relics.
- Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour
- Wudang Shan - Purple Cloud Monastery
- Xi'an - Great Mosque - CNY25
- Xi'an - Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
- Xi'an - Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 3-4 Wudang Shan & Xiang Fan
Drive to Wudang Shan Mountain Reserve. We will spend some time either today or tomorrow exploring Wudang Shan. Overnight in local hotel.
Wudang Shan is an important site for followers of Taoism; a 1600 m mountain, liberally dotted with Taoist temples. To really understand this place you need to understand the principles of Taoism, which would realistically involve a huge amount of careful study - but the basic underlying principles are the "Ways of Nature", essentially the bond that unites man and nature. Taoists believe in "Wu Wei", which roughly means that no action can be done that runs contrary to nature. This is a pretty wide remit, subject to many interpretations, but it's core principles can be seen clearly at Wudang Shan. Here man lives in harmony with the mountain. This is a great place for a hike, exploring the mountain, visiting the temples and meeting some of the Taoists who have made the pilgrimage here. Wudang Shan is also famous for its martial arts; Wudang boxing was created here and subsequently developed into the modern Tai Ji. It may be possible to organise a visit to the local martial art school situated at the base of the mountain.
The second morning here is free to further explore this area, before a short drive on to Xiang Fan. Depending on time, we will also try to stop at the Purple Cloud Monastery en route.
- Wudang Shan - National Park
- Wudang Shan - Purple Cloud Monastery
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 5-6 Yichang
Half day drive from Xiang Fan to Yichang, where we will catch our first glimpse of the mighty Yangzi river. Yichang is a pleasant city and we will stop here for 1 or 2 nights, depending on the ferry schedule. Either way we will have time to explore a little. Whilst in Yichang we stay in a friendly local hotel.
We arrive in Yichang, a relatively small city by Chinese standards that offers a great chance to see typical everyday Chinese life and to really get inside the urban culture.
The second day here is free to explore Yichang and the surrounding area, preparing for our 3 day Yangzi River Cruise.
You can checkout a local produce market, visit a park, have a traditional reflexology foot massage or a great value manicure or pedicure, get your hair washed the local way at a neighbourhood barber (with a head massage included) or play table tennis at an outdoor court.
Overnight in local hotel or on ferry.
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 7-9 Yangzi River
We travel on a local ferry boat used by local people, a much more authentic and interesting way of travelling than on a tourist cruiser. But this definitely doesn't mean slumming it, as most of the local ferries have now been upgraded to good quality accommodation and are often retired cruise boats. We stay in shared cabins (4 members of the group to each cabin) with private bathrooms and air conditioning where possible.
The journey itself is along this great river through the most stunning scenery of the Three Gorges, the Qutang, Wu and Xiling Gorges. The boats usually stop at the Fengdu (Ghost City), Shibaozai Tower, home to the Lanruo Dian (Orchid-like Temple) and at the three Lesser Gorges. However due to local conditions, stops cannot always be guaranteed.
- Yangzi River - Three Gorges boat cruise
Overnight boat (3 nt)
Day 10-11 Dazu
Disembarking from the ferry first thing in the morning, we re-join the truck. Then it's a short drive to Dazu, where we visit the Bei Shan and Baoding Shan caves, famous for their brightly coloured friezes and carvings. We will stay in a comfortable hotel overnight.
- Dazu - Bei Shan & Baoding Shan Caves
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 12-13 Chengdu
Today it's another short drive on to the city of Chengdu, where we stay for the next 2 nights in a comfortable local hotel.
It might be one of China's biggest cities but Chengdu has preserved plenty of its traditional flavour and visitors can still find famous tea houses, numerous markets and some of the most interesting food in China. If you like it hot then this is the place to be as Sichuan food is known the world over for its spicy flavours. Must tries are huoguo (hot pot) and mapo doufu (spicy tofu).
Visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding - a non-profit organization engaged in wildlife research, captive breeding, conservation education, and educational tourism. There are about 50 giant and red pandas at the base, some of which can be viewed by the public.
After our early morning visit to the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre the afternoon is free to explore the city.
- Chengdu - Panda Breeding Centre
- Chengdu - Sichuan Opera - CNY200
- Chengdu - People's Park - Free
- Chengdu - Wenshu Monastery - CNY5
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 14 Leshan/Emei Shan
Today leave Chengdu behind as we make our way to Emeishan visiting Leshan to see the Dafo Buddha on the banks of the Min River en route.
Leshan is home to the world's largest outdoor seated Buddha. 'Da Fo' - the Buddha - is carved into a cliff face and is 71 metres tall.
Arrive in Emeishan in the late afternoon. We stay here for the next 2 nights in a local hotel.
Emei Shan is one of the holiest places in China. At just over 3000 m high, this mountain has been a centre of pilgrimage for over 1800 years.
The next day is free to relax and explore Emeishan. There is the option of a hike up the holiest mountain in China.
- Leshan - Giant Buddha
- Emei Shan - Day trek
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 15-17 Panzhihua
Today we start our drive south towards China's Yunnan Province. We camp en route tonight in or near Panzhihua.
Located in the upper region of the Yangtze River, is the Industrial city of Panzhihua. The mining operations in this city are nothing short of magnificent. It is a contrasting place, as it is surrounded by rolling hills and lush forests, which make Panzhihua a great place for exploration.
Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nt)
Day 18-19 Lijiang
Arriving in Panzhihua in the early morning on the train, we re-join the truck and continue on to Lijiang, arriving in the late afternoon or early evening. We stay in Lijiang for 3 nights in a friendly local hotel.
The World Heritage-listed town of Lijiang is home to the Naxi people - a matrilineal society descended from Tibetan nomads. You can still see Naxi around town in their distinct blue clothing, especially at the morning markets.
By day Lijiang shows its traditional side - cobbled streets, tiny alleyways and quaint wooden bridges across the canals - which attract literally millions of (mostly Chinese) tourists a year to the Old Town. By night, the contrast with the timelocked surroundings couldn't be more stark as the town becomes party central with karaoke bars and flashing lights!
Explore the Mu Palace, enjoy a traditional Naxi music culture show or wander around the old town and make a wish like the locals do - by sending a candle down one of the many canals on a delicate flower-shaped boat.
The second day in Lijiang is free to relax and explore. You may wish to take an optional trek in Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest gorges in the world. The entire gorge is 16 km long and rises up to 3,900 m above the waters of the Yangzi, one of the most important rivers in China.
It is usually possible to organise a 2 day trek through the gorge, staying overnight in one of the local guesthouses. It’s a beautiful trek that is achievable by most active people. The highlight for many if staying in the homely guests houses along the route – a great place to relax in the peace of the mountains.
If you do not chose to trek, you'll spend these nights in our friendly local hotel.
- Lijiang - Optional Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
- Mu Family Mansion - CNY45
- Lijiang - Naxi Orchestra - CNY120
- Bike hire - CNY20
- Black Dragon Pool - CNY80
- Jade Dragon Snow Mountain & cable car - CNY240
Hotel (2 nt)
Day 20 Dali
Drive from Lijiang to Dali. We stay in Dali for the next two nights in a friendly local guesthouse.
Dali has long been a favourite destination for foreign travellers and backpackers, the laid back atmosphere is enhanced by the spectacular surroundings - snow capped mountains on one side and the vast Erhai Lake on the other.
While much of the old town is being renovated to improve the living conditions for locals, there are still enough cobblestone streets and original stone buildings lining the alleyways inside the old city walls to make wandering around here a real pleasure. Many have been converted into little shops, cafes and bars so you never have to go far to find a place to chill out with a drink.
The next day in Dali is free for activities and giving more time to explore the town and surrounding area.
- Erhai Lake boat trip - CNY84
- Three Pagodas - CNY121
- Cangshan Park & cable car - CNY150
- Bike hire - CNY15
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 21 Kunming
Morning drive from Dali to Kunming. The trip finishes on arrival in Kunming. We anticipate arriving early afternoon but suggest that you don't book an onward flight until the evening to allow for any delays.
Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, is known in China as "the city of eternal spring" due to its temperate climate. It's a thoroughly modern city, home to a population of about 6 million - but despite it's size it's actually pretty laid-back - so it's an enjoyable place to while away an afternoon. The Yuantong temple is definitely worth a visit, at over 1000 years old it is the largest Buddhist temple complex in Kunming, or treat yourself to a hair cut from one of the outdoor barbers who offer their services around the Tang Pagodas.
- Kunming - Yuantong Temple - CNY6
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.
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.
Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour
Wudang Shan - Purple Cloud Monastery
Wudang Shan - National Park
Yangzi River - Three Gorges boat cruise
Dazu - Bei Shan & Baoding Shan Caves
Chengdu - Panda Breeding Centre
Leshan - Giant Buddha
Emei Shan - Day trek
Lijiang - Optional Tiger Leaping Gorge trek
Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
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.
Maximum of 19 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.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1nt), Guesthouse (2nt), Hotel (14nt), Overnight boat (3nt)
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 hostels or hotels. Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), we use hostel or hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hostel and 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. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, which allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
Please note that camping is participatory, which means you will be expected to set-up and pack down your own tent.
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.
All meals while camping are included.
Ferry, Overland vehicle
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 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.
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.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:
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.
The vehicle has fully lockable doors and windows, which is an obvious advantage, but it will probably be necessary to guard it at times and everyone should be prepared to share in this responsibility.
In most areas there is very little to fear from the point of view of violence. But in all areas 'tourists' are a tempting target for pickpockets and con-men. Always be aware of this and be especially careful when leaving banks or money-changers, in any crowded areas, etc. NEVER leave things lying around - they will almost certainly get stolen. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to always be security conscious and to take all necessary precautions. Great inconvenience and distress can be caused by having your documents or possessions stolen.
A few of our past group members have had the unhappy experience of having their belongings stolen before the trip starts. Beware of carrying your passport and other valuables around with you in cities. We strongly suggest you deposit your valuables in your hotel safe on arrival.
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.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
Skytel International Hotel
NO.325 south Street
Kingworld International (Jinhua Grand) Hotel 昆明锦华国际大酒店
96 Beijing Road
Finish point description
Nestled in the heart of Kunming City Center, the Kingworld International Hotel (also known as Jinhua Grand hotel) is an ideal spot from which to discover Kunming. Each room has a bathtub, in room safe, fan and ironing facilities- the hotel also offers car parking (additional charges apply), a restaurant and meeting facilites.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
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.
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.
Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:
LUGGAGE AND LOCKERS:
Although you will not have to carry your main bag long distances, you will need to help load and unload them onto the truck. For this reason we recommend that you use a backpack or soft bag rather than a heavy suitcase. During your trip your main luggage will be kept in the back locker, so you will also need a small daypack. This can be used to carry your camera, water bottle and other personal effects for daily use. Please be aware that due to the constant dust and vibrations your luggage bag will be subject to extreme wear and tear.
The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different-sized lockers, however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is a maximum of 20kg. Backpacks should not have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.
Please bring a sleeping bag (4-season is recommended - check what the weather will be like over the dates you are travelling), sleeping mat and a pillow as these items are not provided.
Most of our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras every couple of days. We always recommend that you carry an extra battery for your camera just in case. Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt “cigarette lighter” socket which may be used at the crew’s discretion, however, do bear in mind 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. Hotels and many campsites have electricity and charging of batteries is advised before checking out the following day.
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe and the safe on the overland truck to store the bulk of your money, passport, and airline tickets. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
We strongly recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
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 end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
Climate and seasonal information
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.
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.
Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
As a rule we recommend you don't drink tap water, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of different minerals than the water you may have at home. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for visitors drinking the tap water can result in illness. Generally this isn't serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it's enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday. Bottled water is widely available and your leader can recommend safe alternatives when available. Water consumption should be about three litres a day. Rehydration salts, motion sickness tablets, and diarrhoea blockers are available from many pharmacies.
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
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.
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 has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
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.
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 by wearing sleeves and long trousers. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
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:
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in China include:
* Beijing Huiling offers innovative services to youths and adults with learning disabilities and teaches people to respect what those with disabilities can do, rather than what they can't. Their activities and training facilitate independence and improve daily living and employability skills in a family-like group home environment.
* Xi'an Huiling provides adults with learning disabilities opportunities to develop their personal abilities and life skills, enabling them to achieve independence as a fully integrated member of the community.
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