Last Modified: 08 Oct 2014
Yangzi & Beyond
Trip code: CBKR
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Mega monster China stretches for more than 9 million sq km, is home to 1.3 billion people, 800 McDonald’s restaurants and spans five time zones. It may sound like an impossibly colossal country, but the historic and cultural gems dotted all over this cultural melting pot make China one of the most exciting and diverse travel getaways. Be wowed by huge cosmopolitan cities, humbled by the welcoming folk of smaller communities and taken aback by the historic glory of past emperors and dynasties.
TRIP CHANGE FOR 2015:
From 1st January 2015 the order of some destinations on this trip has changed in order to simplify train and flight ticket bookings. The changes are as follows:
Day 8 Overnight train Yichang to Xi'an
Day 9 Xi'an
Day 10 Xi'an
Day 11 Fly Xi'an to Beijing
This trip is run by our experienced sister company Peregrine Adventures. Your group is therefore likely to be a mixture of Intrepid passengers and other like-minded international travellers.
Table of Contents
- Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Days 1-3 Shanghai
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting in the evening of Day 1.
You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're 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 these details to provide to your leader.
Blending 21st-century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai is the vibrant pulse of new China.
Head out on a walking tour of the city's historical areas such as the Bund, with its spectacular array of art deco buildings, and the busy Yuyuan Bazaar and Yuyuan Garden.
Catch a performance by the famous Shanghai Acrobats.
Take the chance during your free time to:
Visit the Propaganda Museum for a fascinating look at China's revolutionary past.
Ride the Shanghai Maglev Train to a top speed of 430 km/h and travel 30km in under 8 minutes.
Get a glimpse at the future development of the city at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre.
Go across the river to take in the sights of Pudong - the modern financial centre - with its amazing skyscrapers such as the iconic Pearl Tower and the world's highest observation deck on the 100th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre.
The impressive Shanghai Museum houses one of the best collections of Chinese bronze and artwork - you could easily spend the whole day here discovering the various exhibitions.
On day 3 we take a day trip to a nearby town.
Head out of the big city to a town where ancient times live on (approx 2 hours). Zhouzhuang is one of the best preserved and easiest to visit of the regions "water towns". Set amid a network of canals, stone bridges, family mansions and cobbled alleyways, Zhouzhuang is a pleasure to wander around and you'll soon see why it is so popular with the locals too! We'll spend some time exploring with our leader before free time on your own and returning to Shanghai for the night.
- Shanghai - Walking tour
- Shanghai - Acrobat show
- Zhouzhuang - Walking tour
- Shanghai for Food Lovers Urban Adventure - CNY300
- Old Shanghai Urban Adventure - CNY350
- Shanghai - Shanghai Museum - Free
- Yuyuan Gardens - CNY40
- Urban Planning Exhibition Centre - CNY30
- Maglev high speed train (round trip) - CNY100
- Propaganda Museum - CNY20
Bund Riverside Hotel or similar (3 nts)
Day 4 Chengdu
Fly from Shanghai to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province (approx 3 hours)
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).
We don't have too much free time here, but make the most of it and:
Take in a performance of traditional Sichuan Opera, which is characterized by its unique solo singing, refined acting, rich percussion and irresistibly funny comedians.
Spend some time in People's Park or Tianfu Square. Say hello to the giant Chairman Mao statue and watch locals singing, dancing, playing sports, doing tai chi. Stop in a tea house for a drink, massage or for the brave - a traditional ear cleaning.
Visit the Wenshu Temple - famous for its nearby teahouses and restaurants where you can sample a vegetarian meal made from recipes the monks have followed for thousands of years.
- Sichuan Opera - CNY200
- Wenshu Monastery - CNY5
- People's Park - Free
Garden City Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Days 5-7 Yangzi River
Visit the Giant Panda Breeding Chengdu Research Base to witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endearing endangered species. There are about 50 giant and red pandas at the base, some of which can be viewed by the public, and you may even be lucky enough to see newborns taking their first steps in the nursery.
Take a train to Chongqing (approx 4 hrs), then transfer by bus to our Yangzi River dock.
The mighty Yangzi is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world.
Spend two full days and three nights on board a superior tourist class boat, cruising through the Three Gorges en route to Yichang. We use standard cabins on this trip which are simple and clean, twin-share with private bathroom facilities. Full board is provided while on the boat with typical Chinese cuisine. Please note that depending on the composition of the group you may be required to share a cabin with your leader or another traveller from outside of your Intrepid group as tour groups are not permitted to book single occupancy on the Yangzi boats. For those who have booked a single supplement, it's not available on the Yangzi River boat and you'll be required to share for this section of the trip.
The gorges are spectacular and most travellers enjoy their time on the Yangzi boats but some words of warning are necessary.
The Yangzi River region is one of the most industrialised and rapidly developing areas in China. We travel on Chinese tourist boats rather than luxury tourist vessels. We like to call it a river trip, rather than a traditional cruise. The Chinese authorities oversee the travel of all boats on the Yangzi, and we've found that quality and stability of service (including that of the food served on board) isn't high on their list of priorities. We do everything we can to ensure standards are maintained for our river trip but some things are outside our control. We use a range of different boats, depending on availability and the date of our departure. All boats are of a standard which complies with our required safety standards, although the size and age of boat varies from trip to trip. As the departure times of the boats are subject to frequent change this can mean that we need to make some changes to our itinerary and at times we've been unable to see all three gorges due to the boat schedule or poor visibility. Any changes made will be done with the aim of giving you the best possible Yangzi experience but we'd like to forewarn you of the possibility. Your leader will update you of any changes at your group meeting.
- Chengdu - Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
- Yangzi River - Three Gorges boat cruise
Overnight Boat (3 nts)
Days 8-10 Xi'an
We end our Yangzi cruise in the city of Yichang.
This is the site of the massive and controversial Three Gorges hydroelectric project and you'll have the chance to visit this incredible feat of engineering - by far the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.
Yichang is a small city by Chinese standards with infrequent flights. We transfer to nearby Wuhan to board our flight to Xi'an (approx 2 1/2 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.
Travel by private van to visit the place that has made Xi'an famous around the world - the Terracotta Warriors. It takes around an hour to get there and we'll hear all about this 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.
Your leader will take you on a short walking tour of the city centre, showing you some of the highlights such as the Bell & Drum Towers, Muslim Quarter, the City Walls and Gates.
There'll also be free time to visit some of Xi'an's other sights and activities such as:
Visit the impressive Tang Dynasty Small or Big Wild Goose Pagodas. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is in a scenic area which also includes the Shaanxi History Museum and Da Cien Temple and is very popular with locals especially in the evenings when there is a nightly light & music show around the many fountains. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is inside the Jianfu Temple and Xi'an Museum is also nearby.
One of the oldest mosques in China, the Great Mosque in Xi'an features an unusual blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Still in use today, the mosque serves as a place of worship for Xi'an's large muslim population, made up predominantly of the Hui minority. Although non-Muslims are not allowed within the main hall itself, a visit during one of the five daily prayer times adds another dimension of spirituality, no matter what your religion.
Xi'an is still surrounded by city walls along which you can climb and walk or cycle around for a unique way to experience the city.
Catch an overnight soft sleeper train to Beijing (approx 12 hrs).
Please note our transfer is unable to drop us directly at the entrance of Xian station due to traffic regulations. You will be required to walk with your luggage for approximately 20 minutes.
Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are closed compartments with three-tiered bunk beds (six to a compartment) and sheets, pillows and a blanket provided. Luggage storage space is inside the cabins. Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available it's advised to carry some of your own, keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. We recommend bringing a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available three times a day, and there are often snacks available on the train along the way. You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train. While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where, due to ticket availability, the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. If the group number doesn't divide into four then you can also expect that some group members will be sharing a compartment with other travellers.
- Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
- Xi'an - Walking tour
- Active Xi'an Urban Adventure - CNY300
- Real Xi'an Gourmet Urban Adventure - CNY320
- Great Mosque - CNY25
- Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
- Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
- Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
Union Alliance Hotel or similar (2 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)
Days 11-14 Beijing
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
Marvel at Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.
We take an early morning trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall (approx 2 hrs drive from Beijing). An incredible piece of engineering, it stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it is still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements, and an iconic destination. It's a 30 minute climb up some steep steps to the wall itself but well worth the effort! There is also the option of taking a chair lift or cable car to the top and back if you are after a more leisurely experience and great views. We'll have a few hours to explore the winding wall before heading back to the city for the afternoon. Please note that the wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity.
The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more. Join in some of the activities or just wander around the park.
Visit the imperial residence where emperors and empresses once trod at the magnificent Summer Palace.
There are so many other things to see and do in Beijing that you might like to stay some extra days and, among other options:
Take a walking tour through Old Beijing along the ancient network of alleyways and lanes known as hutongs. These are a world away from the imperial splendours, but lend great atmosphere to this energetic city.
Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- Beijing - Forbidden City
- Great Wall - Mutianyu section
- Beijing - Temple of Heaven Park
- Beijing - Summer Palace
- Real Beijing Gourmet Urban Adventure - CNY360
- Lama Temple - CNY30
- Beijing Art & Architecture Urban Adventure - CNY590
- Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY510
Dong Fang Hotel or similar (3 nts)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
- CBKR Yangzi & Beyond - Single Supplement (CBKR)
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. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
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.
At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
You will be expected to carry your own luggage, including moving about busy public transport hubs, up stairs and escalators and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable In some locations it may be possible to hire porters. Please ask your trip leader for help to arrange this if possible but be prepared to manage your own luggage.
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.
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 of Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD).
The exchange rate is pegged to the USD at 7.8:1. ATMs, currency exchange and facilities to change travellers' cheques are widely available in Hong Kong.
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're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's 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. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
In China specifically, tipping is not compulsory, but is expected in the travel industry and is considered a way of showing appreciation for great service.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants, markets, and taxi drivers - tipping is not customary and is not expected by the locals.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$5 per day for local guides depending on their service and their involvement with the group.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$2-US$4 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$4-US$6 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
At your group meeting on Day 1, your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your group leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip. Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
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.
Please note, during the winter season (Dec-Mar) the itinerary might change slightly due to the Yangzi boat schedule changing departure days.
Maximum of 16 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. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
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.
A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please refer to your booking agent for further information. The Single Supplement does not apply to nights on overnight trains or Yangzi river cruise.
Bund Riverside Hotel or similar (3 nts), Overnight Boat (3 nts), Dong Fang Hotel or similar (3 nts), Union Alliance Hotel or similar (2 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt), Garden City Hotel or similar (1 nt)
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
We use soft-sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys on this trip. Compartments are clean, with padded berths (four to a room), sheets, pillow, blanket and boiling water available. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available three times a day, and there are snacks available on the train along the way. While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. While railway services are rapidly being modernised in China, some train journeys in particular between less visited destinations may use older rolling stock and the carriages of a more basic standard.
YANGZI RIVER BOAT:
This trip spends time on the Yangzi. The boats and cabin arrangements on the Yangzi are controlled by the Chinese Authorities which means on occasion you may be required to share a cabin with passengers from outside your Intrepid group or with your group leader. All cabins are twin share. For those who have booked a single supplement, it's not available on the Yangzi river boat and you'll be required to share for this section of the trip.
BEDS AND ROOMS:
Some travellers have reported that hotels/accommodation in this region tend to have harder bed mattresses than those they are used to at home. Passengers that require a soft bed should consider bringing an inflatable camping mattress or sleeping mat.
Smoking is prevalent in China and hotels generally do not offer specific non smoking rooms. Larger hotels with central air conditioning will sometimes transport the smell of smoke between rooms. While we ask our hotels to ensure our rooms are ventilated well before occupation in some cases this is not possible.
WIFI, in room, or in public areas of accommodation is not as common as travellers may be used to in other regions.
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.
12 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
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.
On the Yangzi River cruise, the variety of menu options may be limited and out of our control.
Train, Private Bus, Bus, Plane, Boat, Overnight sleeper train
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group 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.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest 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.
Australia: No - Not required
Belgium: No - Not required
Canada: No - Not required
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: No - Not required
New Zealand: No - Not required
South Africa: No - Not required
Switzerland: No - Not required
United Kingdom: No - Not required
USA: No - Not required
Please note that Hong Kong isn't considered part of China for visa purposes.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
MAINLAND CHINA & HONG KONG:
Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival and Chinese visas can be difficult to obtain outside your country of residence. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements.
Please make sure if you have a transit anywhere in China before arriving at your destination that you check with your Airline to see if the transit will use your Chinese Visa. You need to make sure your China visa will cover you for any transits made.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Kashgar, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
606 InterChina Commercial Building
33 Dengshikou Street
+86 10 6406 8022
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Hotel List - this will be sent to you by Intrepid or your travel agent at time of booking. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that your trip visits
* Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not
* Itinerary – please print off a copy of your specific trip itinerary from our website www.intrepidtravel.com and include it with your application, marking the dates you will visit each destination if required
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS
Intrepid requires you send the following at the time of booking, at least 30 days prior to travel:
*Clear, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport
Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well.
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip:
Day 2 - Exit Hong Kong at Lo Wu and enter China at Shenzhen
To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website to be very useful - http://www.timeanddate.com
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 and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (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.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
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.
In China, clean and safe drinking water is widely available for free in hotels, restaurants and bus and train stations.
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.
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. 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 group 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 group 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 UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
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 and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
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!
Pay attention on all roads, even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Traffic can be very noisy and horns are used to signal turning, overtaking and to announce going through intersections.
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.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
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 group 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 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$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
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.
Carbon Offset C02-e 1853.00 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.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.