Backpacking China

Want to experience a different kind of backpacking trip? Well, then how about a trip to China!

China isn’t an ideal destination for backpackers (yet), but is, without a doubt, one of the greatest adventures that planet Earth has to offer. Why? There is hardly any other culture that is more different from the European culture you may be used to. A trip to China will give you a whole new perspective on our habits. Some Chinese customs may seem strange at first, but they will quickly open your mind to new ways of thinking and living.

With 1.4 billion inhabitants, China is the most populated country in the world. Hong Kong and Beijing, cities of superlatives, are overwhelming. Far away from these modern mega-cities on the east coast, you’ll find a wide variety of natural wonders and cultural treasures in the sparsely populated rural areas of the country.

The landscape is incredibly diverse and is a paradise for nature lovers and explorers. China is a vast country, so you should plan your route in advance. But don't be intimidated by the long distances, because the Chinese infrastructure is well developed. China is quite safe, accommodation is cheap, and you can look forward to eating excellent local food. So, nothing should get in the way of your trip to one of the most exciting countries in the world.

We’ll show you the best route and our recommendations for backpacking in China.

See below for the perfect China itinerary for an unforgettable trip:


Important Basics

Official Language (Chinese )
EnglishChinese
HelloNǐ hǎo (nee-how)
GoodbyeZàijiàn (zai-jian)
ThanksXièxiè (she-uh she-uh)
YesShì de (she duh)
NoBù (boo)
Capital city

Beijing

Form of government

People’s republic with a one-party system

Phone Country Code

+86

Currency

Chinese Yuan

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 15 to 24 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature at night: -5 to 8 degrees Celsius

Fun Fact

Chinese is considered to be the oldest language still in use.

Cities

Hong Kong

Although the metropolis has its own currency (the Hong Kong dollar), it has been part of the People's Republic of China for over 20 years and is a Special Administrative Region.

Hong Kong is located on both an island and mainland China, offering a mix of the metropolitan and rural. The island is probably what you imagine when you think of Hong Kong: a bustling western, cosmopolitan city with more shopping centres and dining opportunities than anywhere else in Asia.

Explore the hip district of Soho or take the Peak Tram to the highest point of the city for some stunning views. Discover traditional Kowloon on the mainland, take a stroll through Chinese markets, and admire the fascinating skyline of Hong Kong Island.

The rural side of the city can be seen best on Lantau Island, home to a huge Buddha statue, numerous hiking trails, and beaches.

An overnight stay in a ten-bed dorm costs 15 euros.

While you’re in Hong Kong, don’t miss out a trip to Macau, which is only about an hour away by ferry. Known as the Las Vegas of Asia, Macau attracts tourists with its countless casinos, great shopping, and adventure centres, as well as spectacular entertainment that is out of this world.

Guilin

Drive from Hong Kong to Guilin for 30 euros.

The southern Chinese town is situated in the middle of a picturesque river landscape. An absolute must-do is a boat trip on the Li River, which flows through a beautiful karst hill landscape.

Check out Guilin’s largest green area, Seven Star Park, located on the banks of the Li River, home to a highly recommended street food scene. Visit Ludi Yan, also called Reed Flute Cave, where you can experience impressive limestone formations in a kaleidoscope of colours.

Visit the nearby Shanhu Lake, where you’ll find the most famous rock formation of Guilin: Elephant Trunk Hill. Another highlight is the rice terraces at Longsheng, just north of the city.

Sleep at a hostel in Guilin in a five-bed dorm for six euros per night.

Zhangjiajie

Continue by bus for about 30 euros to Zhangjiajie.

The city is the perfect starting point to explore the region’s enchanting landscape. One of the countless attractions is the longest and highest glass bridge in the world – the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge. Make sure to visit the National Park near Zhangjiajie, too, where you’ll find impressive rock landscapes from the movie Avatar.

Another highlight is Tianmen Mountain, considered to be one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. If you’re not afraid of heights, take the cliff-hanging Glass Skywalk for a completely different view of this famous landscape. Climb up the Stairway to Heaven, take the longest cable car in the world to the top of the mountain, and enjoy the view over the famous 99 curves of Tianmen Mountain Big Gate Road.

Spend the night in a hostel for five euros in a four-bed dorm.

Chengdu

Continue on by night train to Chengdu for approximately 55 euros.

The metropolis draws in travellers with its numerous attractions and rich historical heritage. The best view over this dynamic city is from the West Pearl Tower, the city’s highest building, standing 339 metres tall.

Another highlight is the vast New Century Global Center, which houses numerous shops, a water park, an ice rink, a reconstructed Mediterranean village, and even a 5-star hotel. In addition to ultra-modern shopping centres, Chengdu is also home to picturesque streets and many of the famous traditional tea houses. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Wenshu Temple, located in a beautiful park with hundreds of Buddha statues, are also worth seeing.

An overnight stay at a hostel costs five euros for a six-bed dorm.

Xi’an

Take another night train for about 30 euros to reach your next stop: Xi’an.

The former Chinese capital was the starting point of the Silk Road, the most renowned trade route in the world.

The most famous sight is the Terracotta Army, with over 7,000 detailed life-size figures of soldiers. The Muslim quarter with the Great Mosque, which is one of the largest Islamic mosques in China, and the Muslim Quarter Bazaar are also worth a visit.

Walk along the ancient city wall that surrounds the entire old town and visit the Drum Tower, which is colourfully illuminated in the evening, for a magnificent view over this former imperial city.

You can stay at a hostel in Xi'an in an eight-bed dorm for four euros per night.

Luoyang

Travel to Luoyang by train for 10 euros.

The city has a fascinating history as it was the capital of nine ruling dynasties and is now a hub for higher education.

See historical relics and artefacts and learn about the city’s rich cultural past in the Luoyang Museum. Head a bit east of Luoyang to visit the Temple of the White Horse, thought to be the first Buddhist temple in China and considered as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism.

During your time in Luoyang, check out the Longmen Grottoes, also called Dragon’s Gate Grottoes, with their fascinating stone sculptures. The Grottoes are not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also one of the finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art.

At a hostel in town, an overnight stay in a six-bed dorm costs just four euros.

Beijing

Head to your last stop, Beijing, by night train for approximately 30 euros.

Tradition meets modernity in China’s capital and there is an endless list of things for you to explore, including the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven – one World Heritage site after the other.

The most famous attraction in Beijing is the Great Wall, twisting across 6,000 kilometres of China’s northern border. A visit to the Great Wall is an absolute must-do on every trip to China. We recommend a day trip to the Mutianyu section. After walking thousands of steps (don't worry, there’s also a cable car), you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view over the Yanshan Mountains, the beautiful, natural neighbour of this winding wall. A tour here includes a visit to the Ming tombs in the Changping district, a visit to a jade carving workshop, and a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The tour also includes return transfer, entrance fees, guide, and lunch, and only costs only twenty-five euros per person.

A hostel in Beijing costs just 10 euros per night for a six-bed dorm.


Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Although the metropolis has its own currency (the Hong Kong dollar), it has been part of the People's Republic of China for over 20 years and is a Special Administrative Region.

Hong Kong is located on both an island and mainland China, offering a mix of the metropolitan and rural. The island is probably what you imagine when you think of Hong Kong: a bustling western, cosmopolitan city with more shopping centres and dining opportunities than anywhere else in Asia.

Explore the hip district of Soho or take the Peak Tram to the highest point of the city for some stunning views. Discover traditional Kowloon on the mainland, take a stroll through Chinese markets, and admire the fascinating skyline of Hong Kong Island.

The rural side of the city can be seen best on Lantau Island, home to a huge Buddha statue, numerous hiking trails, and beaches.

An overnight stay in a ten-bed dorm costs 15 euros.

While you’re in Hong Kong, don’t miss out a trip to Macau, which is only about an hour away by ferry. Known as the Las Vegas of Asia, Macau attracts tourists with its countless casinos, great shopping, and adventure centres, as well as spectacular entertainment that is out of this world.

Guilin

Guilin

Drive from Hong Kong to Guilin for 30 euros.

The southern Chinese town is situated in the middle of a picturesque river landscape. An absolute must-do is a boat trip on the Li River, which flows through a beautiful karst hill landscape.

Check out Guilin’s largest green area, Seven Star Park, located on the banks of the Li River, home to a highly recommended street food scene. Visit Ludi Yan, also called Reed Flute Cave, where you can experience impressive limestone formations in a kaleidoscope of colours.

Visit the nearby Shanhu Lake, where you’ll find the most famous rock formation of Guilin: Elephant Trunk Hill. Another highlight is the rice terraces at Longsheng, just north of the city.

Sleep at a hostel in Guilin in a five-bed dorm for six euros per night.

Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie

Continue by bus for about 30 euros to Zhangjiajie.

The city is the perfect starting point to explore the region’s enchanting landscape. One of the countless attractions is the longest and highest glass bridge in the world – the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge. Make sure to visit the National Park near Zhangjiajie, too, where you’ll find impressive rock landscapes from the movie Avatar.

Another highlight is Tianmen Mountain, considered to be one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. If you’re not afraid of heights, take the cliff-hanging Glass Skywalk for a completely different view of this famous landscape. Climb up the Stairway to Heaven, take the longest cable car in the world to the top of the mountain, and enjoy the view over the famous 99 curves of Tianmen Mountain Big Gate Road.

Spend the night in a hostel for five euros in a four-bed dorm.

Chengdu

Chengdu

Continue on by night train to Chengdu for approximately 55 euros.

The metropolis draws in travellers with its numerous attractions and rich historical heritage. The best view over this dynamic city is from the West Pearl Tower, the city’s highest building, standing 339 metres tall.

Another highlight is the vast New Century Global Center, which houses numerous shops, a water park, an ice rink, a reconstructed Mediterranean village, and even a 5-star hotel. In addition to ultra-modern shopping centres, Chengdu is also home to picturesque streets and many of the famous traditional tea houses. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Wenshu Temple, located in a beautiful park with hundreds of Buddha statues, are also worth seeing.

An overnight stay at a hostel costs five euros for a six-bed dorm.

Xi’an

Xi’an

Take another night train for about 30 euros to reach your next stop: Xi’an.

The former Chinese capital was the starting point of the Silk Road, the most renowned trade route in the world.

The most famous sight is the Terracotta Army, with over 7,000 detailed life-size figures of soldiers. The Muslim quarter with the Great Mosque, which is one of the largest Islamic mosques in China, and the Muslim Quarter Bazaar are also worth a visit.

Walk along the ancient city wall that surrounds the entire old town and visit the Drum Tower, which is colourfully illuminated in the evening, for a magnificent view over this former imperial city.

You can stay at a hostel in Xi'an in an eight-bed dorm for four euros per night.

Luoyang

Luoyang

Travel to Luoyang by train for 10 euros.

The city has a fascinating history as it was the capital of nine ruling dynasties and is now a hub for higher education.

See historical relics and artefacts and learn about the city’s rich cultural past in the Luoyang Museum. Head a bit east of Luoyang to visit the Temple of the White Horse, thought to be the first Buddhist temple in China and considered as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism.

During your time in Luoyang, check out the Longmen Grottoes, also called Dragon’s Gate Grottoes, with their fascinating stone sculptures. The Grottoes are not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also one of the finest examples of Chinese Buddhist art.

At a hostel in town, an overnight stay in a six-bed dorm costs just four euros.

Beijing

Beijing

Head to your last stop, Beijing, by night train for approximately 30 euros.

Tradition meets modernity in China’s capital and there is an endless list of things for you to explore, including the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven – one World Heritage site after the other.

The most famous attraction in Beijing is the Great Wall, twisting across 6,000 kilometres of China’s northern border. A visit to the Great Wall is an absolute must-do on every trip to China. We recommend a day trip to the Mutianyu section. After walking thousands of steps (don't worry, there’s also a cable car), you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view over the Yanshan Mountains, the beautiful, natural neighbour of this winding wall. A tour here includes a visit to the Ming tombs in the Changping district, a visit to a jade carving workshop, and a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The tour also includes return transfer, entrance fees, guide, and lunch, and only costs only twenty-five euros per person.

A hostel in Beijing costs just 10 euros per night for a six-bed dorm.

China Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Hong Kong
Home - Hong Kong
Flight
300
ten-bed dorm
15
2. Hong Kong
Hong Kong
-
ten-bed dorm
15
3. Hong Kong
Hong Kong
-
ten-bed dorm
15
4. Hong Kong - Guilin
Hong Kong - Guilin
Night bus
30
5. Guilin
Guilin
-
six-bed dorm
5
6. Guilin
Guilin
-
six-bed dorm
5
7. Guilin - Zhangjiajie
Guilin - Zhangjiajie
Bus
30
four-bed dorm
5
8. Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie
-
four-bed dorm
5
9. Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie
-
four-bed dorm
5
10. Zhangjiajie - Chengdu
Zhangjiajie - Chengdu
Night train
55
11. Chengdu
Chengdu
-
six-bed dorm
5
12. Chengdu
Chengdu
-
six-bed dorm
5
13. Chengdu - Xi’an
Chengdu - Xi’an
Night bus
30
14. Xi’an
Xi’an
-
eight-bed dorm
4
15. Xian
Xian
-
eight-bed dorm
4
16. Xi’an - Luoyang
Xi’an - Luoyang
Train
10
six-bed dorm
4
17. Luoyang
Luoyang
-
six-bed dorm
4
18. Luoyang - Beijing
Luoyang - Beijing
Night train
30
19. Beijing
Beijing
-
six-bed dorm
10
20. Beijing
Beijing
-
six-bed dorm
10
21. Beijing - Home
Beijing - Home
Flight
300

Total price.

Flights 600,00
Transportation 185,00
Tours 25,00
Accommodation 116,00
Total926,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Baozi: Similar to dumplings, these buns are prepared with different fillings and are steamed afterwards. The dough is mostly made of wheat.

Jianbing: This item is like a crêpe, but is filled with meat and fish and then pan fried. Soybean paste and chilli are also a part of this breakfast.

Soups

Hot and sour soup: This soup is said to come from Beijing and, as the name suggests, is characterized by a mixture of hot and sour spices. It consists of cooked chicken and lots of vegetables. Depending on what you prefer, there are also other spicy versions.

Dao Xiao Mian: This is a traditional Chinese noodle soup consisting of knife-cut noodles, meat, and cooked vegetables. Leek is the most essential ingredient here.

Main courses

Kung-Pao Chicken: Chicken, chilli, and lots of peanuts are mixed together to make this delicious main course. It’s quickly become one of the most popular dishes for locals and tourists alike.

Map Doufu: Also known as Mapo tofu, this popular Chinese staple can be mixed with vegetables, salad, and spicy chilli.

Fried noodles: Noodles are usually prepared in a wok and flavoured with condiments like soy sauce. From fish to meat or vegetables, there are many variations to choose from.

Peking Duck: This crispy, roasted duck is prepared with honey and sugar and has a typical sweet and savoury taste.

Sichuan Hot Pot: Also known as Chinese fondue, this dish is made with beef or seafood and a spicy broth. Vegetables and salad are served as a side dish.

Drinks

Bubble Tea:  This trend has been in Europe for a while but in China, it is still iconic. Even the locals love it, and you can buy it cheaply on the roadside. And yes, it tastes much better than the imitation version you find at home.

China

The exchange rate for 100 Chinese Yuan (CNY) is around €13.04 (as of February 2020). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of Living 

Food

Free Time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

Try everything on the menu. It’s best to try a little bit of everything – and make sure to praise the cook after each meal.

Learn to eat with chopsticks. This not only is a local tradition, but also is an excellent way to fully experience the culture.

Be on time. The most essential thing in China is treating others with respect. Therefore, punctuality is key when meeting Chinese people – and it’s always better to be a little too early than too late.

Donate money when entering a temple. It’s said to give you good karma, and that’s what we all want, isn't it?

Don'ts

Don’t point your chopsticks at other people. This is considered to be very rude and is an absolute no-go.

Don’t use the numbers 4 or 14. In China, the number four is related to death and should never be mentioned or even used.

Don’t walk behind a praying person when visiting a temple. It’s best to keep some distance as not to break any rules.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

Yes

Vaccine

Robert-Koch-Instituts

Additional Remarks.

Travel documents must be valid for six months at the time of visa application. Please also inform yourself about the current entry regulations regarding the corona virus. You can find up-to-date information about this on websites such as the Foreign Office

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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