April in China

Old Feb 9th, 2018, 06:33 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
April in China

We are planning Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, flying in and out of Shanghai--2 weeks beginning last week of April. We are open to advice regarding overnight trains, domestic air, hotels, where we might need tour guides, etc. All tips appreciated! We could travel from Shanghai to Beijing first, then Xian, or the reverse. Doesn't matter. Or does it? Ready to start locking in some reservations. Thanks in advance for any and all suggestions!
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 9th, 2018, 07:09 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 14,858
Likes: 0
Received 22 Likes on 4 Posts
We have been to China three times and always have used their domestic air carriers, China Southern and China Eastern. In Shanghai we have stayed in the French Concession, but many prefer being right on The Bund. I recommend Intercontinental in French Concession and the Fairmount on The Bund.
Beijing- liked the Grand Hyatt, excellent location. Xian- also stayed at Hyatt.
Beijing and aurrounding area- guide to Forbidden City, one of the Great Wall locations and Ming Tombs( same day.)
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Old Feb 9th, 2018, 05:00 PM
  #3  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Have you already booked your flights? If not, consider flying into Beijing and out of Shanghai or vice versa.

You don't need a guide for the things you are most likely to want to see on this trip; I'd strongly encourage you to explore your options for visiting them on your own using public transportation.

My trip report is out-of-date, and travel conditions have changed since I was there, but you might find some useful information in my trip report nonetheless:
Thanks for helping make my trip to China amazing!

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 05:22 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 314
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Understand that there is a public holiday on May 1 and most places will be packed for at least 3 days. For any inter-city transportation around these dates, it is better to book ahead.
Weather should be very good though.
CanadaChinaTraveller is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 06:43 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you. Will look at French Concession area. Booked with cancellation possibilities near the Bund. We are a little bummed about the early May holiday as that is during our 5 days in Beijing. Guess we will roll through it. Strongly leaning toward doing most stuff on our own. Any insight on taxi transfer to and from airport? Thanks, kja, for the trip report. We booked a very low airfare out of LAX, hence the in and out of Shanghai plan. Giving the price of intercity travel, it might have been a wash! The big details are easy to nail down. I tend to worry about the little things. Exchange $$ before we go? Again, THANK YOU!

Last edited by shillmac; Feb 10th, 2018 at 06:48 AM.
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 09:11 AM
  #6  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by shillmac View Post
Exchange $$ before we go?
I wouldn't -- just use ATMs when you get there.
kja is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 11:05 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
kja, I've just finished your full report. Wow. Such detail. What excellent information! I did find it a bit intimidating in that no way do I have time to learn a little Mandarin (do I?) and prepare in the way you obviously did. Honestly, I don't know where I'd start. When riding the metro, was there signage in English? The one thing I kept thinking while ready of your experiences is "whoa, I could never manage so well". So now am a bit more nervous than I was! I do concede that I need to order a travel guide, and prepare notes with suggestions for restaurants in each city. My husband is not a chopsticks user. Can he manage? So many questions. I can definitely see the benefit of noting hotels addresses in Chinese for taxis. It all just seems so daunting. I would love to do it the way you did, but will probably just stick to the more touristy areas for our 2 week trip. I think I know what the highlights of Xi'an are (with 4 nights there, we are planning a day hike of Huahang), and Shanghai (people's square, the bund, Nanjing road, whatever museums we can manage to include as we have less time there). Of course, Beijing for the Forbidden City and Great Wall.
Knowing what you know about our itinerary, what other highlights would you suggest we do not miss in Beijing? Also, interested in catching a show or two while there. So grateful for your help.
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 11:06 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
kja, I've just finished your full report. Wow. Such detail. What excellent information! I did find it a bit intimidating in that no way do I have time to learn a little Mandarin (do I?) and prepare in the way you obviously did. Honestly, I don't know where I'd start. When riding the metro, was there signage in English? The one thing I kept thinking while ready of your experiences is "whoa, I could never manage so well". So now am a bit more nervous than I was! I do concede that I need to order a travel guide, and prepare notes with suggestions for restaurants in each city. My husband is not a chopsticks user. Can he manage? So many questions. I can definitely see the benefit of noting hotels addresses in Chinese for taxis. It all just seems so daunting. I would love to do it the way you did, but will probably just stick to the more touristy areas for our 2 week trip. I think I know what the highlights of Xi'an are (with 4 nights there, we are planning a day hike of Huahang), and Shanghai (people's square, the bund, Nanjing road, whatever museums we can manage to include as we have less time there). Of course, Beijing for the Forbidden City and Great Wall.
Knowing what you know about our itinerary, what other highlights would you suggest we do not miss in Beijing? Also, interested in catching a show or two while there. So grateful for your help.
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 11:22 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
kja, I've just finished your full report. Wow. Such detail. What excellent information! I did find it a bit intimidating in that no way do I have time to learn a little Mandarin (do I?) and prepare in the way you obviously did. Honestly, I don't know where I'd start. When riding the metro, was there signage in English? The one thing I kept thinking while ready of your experiences is "whoa, I could never manage so well". So now am a bit more nervous than I was! I do concede that I need to order a travel guide, and prepare notes with suggestions for restaurants in each city. My husband is not a chopsticks user. Can he manage? So many questions. I can definitely see the benefit of noting hotels addresses in Chinese for taxis. It all just seems so daunting. I would love to do it the way you did, but will probably just stick to the more touristy areas for our 2 week trip. I think I know what the highlights of Xi'an are (with 4 nights there, we are planning a day hike of Huahang), and Shanghai (people's square, the bund, Nanjing road, whatever museums we can manage to include as we have less time there). Of course, Beijing for the Forbidden City and Great Wall.
Knowing what you know about our itinerary, what other highlights would you suggest we do not miss in Beijing? Also, interested in catching a show or two while there. So grateful for your help.
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 11:27 AM
  #10  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm glad you found some useful information in my trip report, but fear that you have taken some of the wrong messages to heart. You should not have any trouble in the cities you plan to visit -- I went WELL off the track you will be taking!
  • Many people go to China without speaking any Chinese (although I would urge you to at least learn thank you, hello, etc.).
  • The metros in Beijing and Xi'an are clearly signed in English and very easy to use, and I'm sure that's true for Shanghai, too.
  • Most restaurants will have Western utensils, in plastic if nothing else, or you can even buy a spork ahead of time to take with you it that will help set your minds at ease.
  • DEFINITELY have the name of your hotel written in Chinese characters with you at all times.
With 2 weeks, you really don't have time for anything but the more touristed sites; if anything, you won't have time for all of them, so do your research to decide what YOUR priorities are! I found Frommer's and Eyewitness best for China -- see if you can find one that included Peter Neville-Hadley as one of the editors. He added links to his on-line guide to Beijing to this recent thread under his screen name, temppeternh:
First China Trip

If I may suggest a different way of looking at my experiences: If I could manage places where few Westerners go on my own and with almost no Mandarin, surely you and your husband can manage major cities visited by enormous numbers of Westerners every day?

Hope that helps!

Last edited by kja; Feb 10th, 2018 at 11:27 AM. Reason: to correct a typo
kja is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 02:08 PM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
kja, thanks for the encouragement. Obviously, I needed that mind reset. We have traveled Europe, parts of the Middle East, South Africa, and live part of the year in Central America, so we are not strangers to travel. For some reason, I am thinking of China as being more difficult, perhaps because it has been a few years since I have been responsible for so much of the planning and prep on my own. Perhaps because it is culturally so different from most areas we have visited, who knows? So I do want to keep it simple, but also have it well organized ahead of time. I'll pick up the Eyewitness, am sure that will help. I am thinking I will feel better if I book our train and domestic air travel ahead of time. I do admire the way you saw so much of what you set out to see off the beaten bath without too much difficulty. Makes for very interesting reading! Thank you for taking the time!
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 02:08 PM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
kja, thanks for the encouragement. Obviously, I needed that mind reset. We have traveled Europe, parts of the Middle East, South Africa, and live part of the year in Central America, so we are not strangers to travel. For some reason, I am thinking of China as being more difficult, perhaps because it has been a few years since I have been responsible for so much of the planning and prep on my own. Perhaps because it is culturally so different from most areas we have visited, who knows? So I do want to keep it simple, but also have it well organized ahead of time. I'll pick up the Eyewitness, am sure that will help. I am thinking I will feel better if I book our train and domestic air travel ahead of time. I do admire the way you saw so much of what you set out to see off the beaten bath without too much difficulty. Makes for very interesting reading! Thank you for taking the time!
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 02:24 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Of course you are right. That does ease my mind a bit. I don't know why this trip has me fretting, as we travel frequently. China just seems very different culturally- -and of course linguistically --than any other countries we have visited. The experience you gave yourself, however, off the beaten path, is admirable. It is incredible that you saw almost everything you set out to see with not too much difficulty. I have already ordered the Eyewitness book and will make some decisions from there. Please, if you think of anything else, however small, that might help, I'd appreciate your feedback.
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 02:34 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well, as you can see, I am having internet difficulty today! Thought I'd lost a message. Let's just pretend the multiple and repetitive posts didn't happen.
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 03:00 PM
  #15  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
No worries about multiple posts -- we've all done it.

If I were traveling to China today, I would book trains and flights in advance. (I didn't take any flights within the country, and train reservations were a very different beast when I traveled. Today, one can easily book ahead.)

If I had been interested in staying in Western hotels (I wasn't), I would probably have booked them in advance, too.

FWIW, I was daunted by the idea of traveling to China, too -- it took some wonderful Fodorites to convince me that I could actually manage on my own. The way I traveled on that trip was definitely outside my usual comfort zone! (I like to reserve everything, and plan everything -- and I mean everything! -- in advance.) But I hope you can tell that I thought my time in China worth every moment, and it certainly has made my subsequent trips much easier as I learned how much could be accomplished on the fly. But really, these days traveling to Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai shouldn't be any more difficult than traveling anywhere else in the world.

Some tips:
  • Don't tip, even if people act like you should.
  • When using a taxi to travel within a city, insist that the driver turn on the meter before you leave the curb.
  • Don't take tours unless you find that you honestly, truly, absolutely can not visit a place on your own.
  • If you prefer, you can eat "western" food, or "Chinese" food that isn't Chinese at all, but is thought to be by many Westerners, or foods of almost any cuisine imaginable -- but do consider trying some real Chinese food while you are there. It's almost impossible to find anything similar outside of China!
  • Remember: Its adventure, and any moments that feel difficult at the time will likely make for great stories later.
Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 06:28 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks so much. . .all helpful. Right now, my selected itinerary puts us in Beijing April 29-May 4. Our full days would be April 30, May 1-3. Realizing that, because of Labor Day those days will be the absolute worst time, I'm wondering if we would benefit by going to Beijing first (April 25-30), then to Xian, ending in Shanghai. That would put us in Xi'an April 30-May 4. Might we expect holiday crowds to be less of a problem in Xi'an? I'm worried about huge crowds at the Terra Cotta Soldiers. Bad timing on our part, but it is what it is. Thoughts on that? I've got free cancellation on all hotels, so could rearrange them if necessary.
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2018, 06:51 PM
  #17  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm sorry, but I really can't comment on your timing. I hope that more knowledgable Fodorites will chime in -- and wish you well with your planning!
kja is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2018, 06:01 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 314
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I won't make a difference where you are as you are visiting tourist attractions in every place.
CanadaChinaTraveller is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2018, 07:38 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Okay. I was afraid of that. We will manage! Many thanks!

Last edited by shillmac; Feb 11th, 2018 at 07:40 AM.
shillmac is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
bebbie24
Asia
8
Apr 21st, 2014 12:59 AM
Gpanda
Asia
125
Aug 31st, 2009 10:31 AM
csdmxp
Asia
4
Aug 22nd, 2009 09:13 AM
nonrevvi
Asia
8
Sep 5th, 2005 09:05 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information