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China 'on a Shoestring'

A chance to use your old b&w film for the pandas!

Book from € 1,499.-
GROUP SIZE: 6-24 | 20 DAYS


Visiting Beijing and Xi'an will give you an enviable insight into Chinese culture and history. You’ll sample not only city life but country life too, exploring rural settlements such as Yangshuo and Dali by bike, boat or on foot. We’ll travel through this magnificent scenery, using high-speed trains and private bus to ensure you fully enjoy this fascinating ancient empire. And we’ll do all of this at a very reasonable price!

Travel documents

Travelling with the correct travel documentation is your own responsibility. Please ensure your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the finish date of your trip.

For China, a visa is required for many nationalities in order to gain entry. Please check this information in good time before your trip commences as this information is always subject to change. You can check this information through a site such as this one. To arrange your visa, you should either contact your nearest Chinese embassy or use an agency such as CIBT.



Accommodation and transport

During this journey through China, we have access to a private bus, so we can stop at beautiful places along the way. All transfers between hotels and between train stations and hotels are included in the fare. Airport transfers are not included.

For the optional excursions to, for example, the Chinese Wall in Beijing or the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, we rent on-site transportation or join an excursion that is offered on the spot. This is done in consultation with the participants of the group.

The route from Chengdu to Lijiang is carried out by domestic flight, to save time. The flights are operated by Chinese airlines that usually fly with recently purchased equipment (mainly Airbus and Boeing). In bad weather conditions domestic flights in China sometimes experience delay and without prior notice the flights may be canceled. Make sure you put sharp objects in your 'large' baggage. 'Power-banks' must be carried in your hand luggage.

The routes from Beijing to Zhengzhou, from Luoyang to Xi'an, from Xi'an to Chengdu and from Guilin to Hong Kong are accomplished by high-speed train. These trains are both comfortable and fast!

During this trip we take one night train, for the route from Kunming to Guilin. You will have a reserved berth in a second class compartment. These compartments sleep 6 people with bunk beds (x3) on each side. The lower bed doubles as a sofa during the daytime. Linen is provided. Each carriage has a supervisor that checks tickets, carries out occasional cleaning, takes care of the music, makes announcements and is responsible for the affairs of the carriage. There are toilets (not always the cleanest) and washbasins.

For the Chinese, the train is the common mode of transport to cover these long distances and they make themselves at home. The Chinese spend their time eating, drinking, sleeping, playing cards, chatting, reading, or listening to music. Certainly no chance of getting bored! It is also the best place for a chat with an English speaking Chinese person, which you should find easily after a little searching.

NOTE*:  We need your passport info in order to reserve the train tickets. Please make sure these are up to date. You can do this via your my.shoestring account.

Our slideshow gives a good impression of the transport that Shoestring use in China.

*Please ensure we have your correct passport data no later than 6 weeks before departure. This is necessary for reserving the train tickets. These tickets are reserved by our agent referring to your legal name as it appears in your passport (maiden name for married women) and passport number. If these are not completed correctly, this causes problems because the tickets are not changeable and often can not be booked again.

NOTE: It is not allowed to carry a pocket knife in the train. If you are found with one, this will be confiscated.

Travel distances:
Beijing Airport to Beijing hotel: 45 km / 1 hour
Beijing via Zhengzhou to Yuntaishan: 693 km / 5 hours (high-speed train and bus)
Yuntaishan via Shaolin to Luoyang: 250 km / 4 hours
Luoyang to Xi'an: 380 km / 1½ - 2 hours (high-speed train)
Xi'an to Chengdu: 842 km / 4½ hours (high-speed train)
Chengdu to Lijiang: 749 km / 1½ hours (domestic flight)
Lijiang to Dali: 200 km / 3 hours
Dali via Stone Forest to Kunming: 490 km / 7½ hours
Kunming to Guilin: 1247 km / 18 hours (night train)
Guilin to Yangshuo: 65 km / 1½ hours
Yangshuo to Guilin: 65 km / 1½ hours
Guilin to Hong Kong: 910 km / 3½ hours (by train)
Hong Kong hotel to airport: 40 km / 1 hour

The information above is of course subject to change depending on local conditions at the time.

During this tour of China you'll stay in two-and three-star hotels in a 2-person room with a private bathroom.
Travellers who book alone will share a 2-person room. When we pair people in this way, we of course take into account that pairings should be of the same sex. A triple room is not possible during this trip.
You can also choose to sleep in a single room during the entire trip (excluding the night train). There is then a single supplement to be paid, to be added at time of booking. 

To gain a good first impression of the hotels Shoestring use in China, check out the slideshow of this trip.


Our tours are led by trained, local English speaking tour leaders. We know that our travellers appreciate being accompanied by these local tour leaders who, compared to their counterparts (living outside of the destination) have more detailed knowledge of their country. He/she knows the area well, can provide background information and ensure that the trip goes smoothly. He/she knows what to do if something were to go wrong, but is not a "walking encyclopedia". Therefore we would like to refer you to study a good travel guide (book) in advance of travel.

Your tour leader understandably expects a tip at the end, if she/he has completed the job well. Shoestring pay the tour guides a wage which is higher than that of most adventurous travel companies. Our guideline for tipping is between € 1, - and € 2, - per passenger per day (the equivalent thereof).


This holiday is classified as Category B

The difficulty of our travels varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an impression of the difficulty of a particular holiday we have developed a classification system.

Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.

China ‘on a shoestring’ is a Category B holiday. It can be made by any reasonably healthy individual. In the summer the trip is considerably more difficult than during the rest of the year. Although in the cities we stay in simple medium-priced hotels, remember that you are travelling in a developing country with much lower living standards than you are used to at home. Also, roads may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or owing to their state of repair, in which case a detour is unavoidable. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.

Nature of the trip
A visit to the cities Beijing and Xi’an consists of a succession of cultural and historical highlights. You can also fully experience Chinese rural existence during this fabulous trip; in places such as Yangshuo and Dali you can experience this by bicycle, by boat or by foot. We will travel the routes through the most beautiful parts of the landscape in our own bus, and the less interesting ones by train, so that you can enjoy this captivating ancient empire to the full extent. And all this at a very fair price!


We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible. 

Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here


Travel insurance, including medical repatriation insurance, is mandatory. It is not included with our packages and it is your responsibility to purchase suitable travel insurance. Make sure that it covers all the activities that you are likely to undertake, such as rafting and trekking. Many ‘free’ insurances that come with banking packages, credit cards etc, are quite often inadequate to cover you on our tours, so make sure you check the policy before you travel. You should enter your travel insurance details via your my.shoestring account and you are required to give a copy of your insurance policy to your tour leader upon arrival. Without proper insurance like this, you will not be allowed to join the tour as we will not be able to respond adequately in case of an emergency if you do not have the right insurance.


Shoestring International
Entrada 223
1114 AA Amsterdam-Duivendrecht, The Netherlands.                    

You can call us on number +31 20 6850203 or +44 (0)1306 744797 and email us at [email protected]           

Opening hours Monday to Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM (Local times in Netherlands).

Country information

More country information about China

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about China