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Backpacking in China

A trip through China is probably one of the absolute backpacker highlights that Planet Earth still has on its agenda for adventurers. Traveling in China is not always easy, but not necessarily more problematic than in other countries. You can travel luxuriously and comfortably or simply and cheaply. It all depends on your wallet and the time you have available. Even if the language sometimes forms a hurdle here and there, it also has its charm.

Exploring the country with hands and feet is something different. Many a friendship was already made in this way and still holds. Backpackers who travel to the land of the rising sun should be fit and well equipped. Surely you can find the super gigantic metropolises any kind of medical help in case of emergency, but who wants to spend his whole China trip there? You’ll only get to know the real China with its culture, which is sometimes strange for Europeans, deep inside the country. And exactly there the journey can become a bit more arduous.

Backpacking in China - Landschaft

Backpacking in China – Landscape

Experience China

You should definitely bring enough time for backpacking in China, because the distances from one highlight to another can be enormous. China is about as big as the USA or the whole of Europe from Portugal to the Urals. That is 4 500 km from north to south and similarly many from west to east. You can surely count yourself on five fingers how the climate looks like there. To bring it down to a common denominator: Everything is there. Hot and cold, piss-hot, lukewarm, temperate, tropical, whatever you want. If you don’t want to experience cold, you don’t have to. The same applies to the heat.

Backpacking in China - Frauen

Backpacking in China – woman

When backpacking in China, you will come across a number of gigantic geographical highlights, all of which are of course worth a visit. Once on China’s longest river, the 6400 kilometre Yangtzekiang, or up to the 8,000 metre high Himalayas. The Qinghai Lake with its 4500 square kilometers could also be a small sea. But whether you want to storm the peaks in Tian Shan, Pamir or the highlands of Tibet, or experience the harsh desert climate in the Gobi desert, is up to you.

In the truest sense of the word, your breath will stand still when you visit some backpacker destinations. In Beijing, the 28 million, (or 30 or 40 million) metropolis, because you can’t breathe, and while crossing the tower karst landscape in Guilin in southern China, because of the breathtaking beauty. You can combine adventure with culture on your tour. After all, you are touring through the oldest still active culture in the world.

Chinese culture has existed for 4,000 years. You can’t necessarily experience the beautiful modern China or penetrate the national parks and get to know the wild China there. The Imperial Summer Palace and the Eight Outer Temples are not quite wild, but both are part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Visit the sandstone landscape of Danxia Shan (Geopark of the Global Network of National Geoparks of UNESCO) in the Nanling Mountains or the bizarre Shunan Bamboo Sea (Shunan Zhuhai). Once you have them, there are more than 100 other parks waiting for you, where you can also find a lot of Buddhist culture.

However, you can travel through China relatively safely and if you want to contact your loved ones at home, buy a SIM card. Apart from China Mobile and China Unicom, all other cards work as well.

Culture in China

All the culture you have experienced so far is nothing compared to the Chinese culture in terms of age. Even if the Egyptian and others should be the same age or older, they are extinct. But China’s old culture is still alive. However old it may be, there are people behind it and they are very changeable and adaptable. In just two generations, the Chinese have brought together a leading economic power from a backwoods agricultural state.

In doing so, however, they have made little reference to the ethics and morals preached by their own Buddhism, but have adopted Western capitalism with little scruples on the basis of hunger for power and greed – which, however, is covered by a perfidiously archaic backward state system. One works hand in hand, according to the motto: The one crow does not take an eye out of the other, so long that it does not exaggerate.


Backpacking in China - Guilin

Backpacking in China – Guilin

However, there have been European cultural influences for a long time. And not exactly the best. The English showed the Chinese how to legally become the biggest drug dealer in the world. Also the other European states did not stain themselves during the colonial time exactly with fame there. Nevertheless, the Chinese is in itself rather a recipient of orders and a cripple.

How else could hundreds of millions of people be commanded over thousands of years by a few megalomaniac princes and a single emperor trapped in a golden cage? It’s nice that there is a countercurrent, the teachings of Confucius. Today, however, the theses of Sun Tzu in his bestseller Art of War are far more important. Even in the economic field, the book has become a classic. How sad.

Backpacker Route in China

Backpacking in China can be an adventure. You can enjoy super luxury and modern traffic technology in the big cities and a few hundred kilometers further on you can enjoy deepest bitter poverty with partly still archaic social systems. You will encounter the cultural legacies of a still existing over 4,000 year old culture.

Let’s take a look at what you can see during a short or long backpacker trip through China. The selection is representative, as you can hardly make the big leaps from one destination to another with little money and little time. But you can come back again.

Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)

  • 2 days Peking explore dirty cultural metropolis
  • 2 Days Guangzhou – experience one of the richest cities near Hong Kong
  • 2 days Guilin Chinese and foreign visitors are enthusiastic about river and mountain world.
  • 2 days getting to know historical Nanjing
  • 2 days to explore China’s largest city Shanghai. Shopping is totally announced.
  • 2 days experience the Vendig of the East Suzhou
  • 2 days to discover the oldest former ruler city Xi’an with the clay warriors and many other historical sights.
  • Spend 2 days in Marco Polo’s former governor’s city of Yangzhou.
  • 1 day to visit the Great Wall
  • 1 day island holiday on Hainan
  • 1 day to Mount Everest – look up,, the ascent takes a bit longer

Route 2: Backpacker Intensive China Trip (up to 40 days and more)

The complete route, if it exists at all, includes besides the above-mentioned backpacker destinations

  • 2 days Peking explore dirty cultural metropolis
  • 2 Days Guangzhou – experience one of the richest cities near Hong Kong
  • 2 days Guilin Chinese and foreign visitors are enthusiastic about river and mountain world.
  • 2 days getting to know historical Nanjing
  • 2 days to explore China’s largest city Shanghai. Shopping is totally announced.
  • 2 days experience the Vendig of the East Suzhou
  • 2 days to discover the oldest former ruler city Xi’an with the clay warriors and many other historical sights.
  • Spend 2 days in Marco Polo’s former governor’s city of Yangzhou.
  • 1 day to visit the Great Wall
  • 1 day island holiday on Hainan
  • 1 day to Mount Everest – look up…. the ascent takes a little longer.


  • 2 days Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve – here live the funny Panda Bears. Furthermore you have the possibility to explore untamed wilderness and nature in more than 100 Chinese national parks.
  • 2 days Leshan Buddha statues at Mount Emei
  • 2 days to climb Mount Tai a holy mountain
  • 3 weeks Tibet
  • 3 days in Turpan to get to know the Uighur culture
  • 1 day Yungang caves with hundreds of thousands of Buddha statues experience
  • 1 day Chongqing’s visit to UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Dive 3 days into the mountain world Zhangjiajie
  • Enjoy 2 days of wild nightlife in Macau

Travel times in China

There is no really optimal travel time for China, since the country stretches over several thousand kilometers in all directions. Usually the temperatures are like in Central Europe, if you are exactly on this latitude. Exceptions are the mountain regions. Then different parts of the country lie only in monsoon regions. It then pisses from October to April. From May to about October the monsoon blows into the country and in China it is summer. In the southwest the winters are bearable. If you go to Mongolia, you have to dress warmly. In Tibet it can also get a…cold. In central China it is usually warmer than in the north. Rain falls the whole year. If you always want it warm, then off to the south, because there you are practically already in the tropics.

Backpacker Budget in China

China is gigantic in terms of land area, but you don’t need a huge travel budget per day if you want to discover China in a backpacker way. The prices are moderate by Asian standards. Of course it always depends on where you are in China right now. In Hong Kong you will have to spend a bit more not only for the overnight stay than in the remote mountain regions. Assume that you can manage quite well with 25 to 30 Euro per day. It is best to always take the night transport when changing the place, then you save an overnight stay in a hostel or wherever.

The overnight stay in a guesthouse pays between 8 and 20 Euro depending on the standard. For the food you don’t pay more than between half a Euro and 3 Euro if you eat at street stalls. The same applies to drinks. If you want to see some of the sights, you’ll have to put a few euros on your side. Admission to the Great Wall costs around 6 euros. The entrance fee to the Forbidden City is around 10 Euro. If you want to see the Sound Army, you have to pay about 20 Euro. Do you even know that you don’t have to tip in China?

Domestic fares in China

If you don’t have much time for your backpacker tour through China, then you should fly. After all, you sometimes have to cover huge distances. It’s best to take a look at the English pages of the local and international Chinese airlines. Also in China there is a high and a low season, so it makes little sense to talk about prices here. Here are a few airline pages that are worth a look: Chongqing Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Chengdu Airline and Hebei Airline. There are numerous discount promotions throughout the year that you can take advantage of. Unfortunately, you can’t book domestic flights long in advance. Only from 2-3 months before the start the dates will be announced. Flight delays are well known in China. So plan cleverly.


Backpacking in China - Landwirtschaft

Backpacking in China – Agriculture

Rail travel in China

If you are in a hurry and the flight is not for your backpacker budget, take the CRH high-speed train. You can recognize it by the train numbers plus the letters “G”, “C” or “D” in front of it. Otherwise there are a lot of different train types with different comfort and prices. The fastest and most expensive are the trains from the G series. These trains thunder with 300 km/h for example from Wuhan-Guangzhou, Beijing-Shanghai, Haerbin-Dalian and many others. The trains from the C series are not much slower. At 300 km/h they go from Beijing to Wuqing, then on to Tianjin and then to Tanggu.

The D-lines drive a little slower through the country with a lukewarm 200 km/h. There are other species, which drive slower and slower. Otto Normalo takes the common trains anyway, which don’t go more than 100 km/h. You can choose between hard and soft beds and hard and soft seats. Standing is also allowed. Unfortunately, no railway official can speak English. You have to buy your tickets with your hands and feet. This also applies to the bus.

Bus travel in China

Long distances are best covered in Sleeper Buses. You don’t sit while driving, you lie down. Some bus tours take about 10 to 20 hours. Be prepared for a long trip. Have a look at the page of Dragon Bus China. There you will find complete offers with transfers and overnight stay. The system is completely adapted to western travellers and backpackers.

Backpacker Accommodation in China

As you can imagine, there is nothing that does not exist in China. And that also applies to the accommodations. From the Superluxus Hotel in Shanghai to the bamboo hut in the mountains, you will be able to spend the night on your backpacker trip through China, depending on your budget. Take a comfortable bus or train and spend the night during the endless journeys. This saves a lot of money. Although in the backpacker category the cost of a bed is not too high. In countries like Taiwan or Singapore you have to lay down a lot more – on average mind you.

Star hotels don’t necessarily meet the German standard, but they don’t differ much either. You can look around for guesthouses, or you can look for hostels. But also private accommodations are available in all price ranges. It is important to know that your passport and visa are in order. There have already been reports of problems in this regard. Only go to bed in legal accommodation. Also in China there are a lot of illegal hostels where your passports and even more disappear. When you’re almost broke, look for so-called Zhùsù or Dorm Rooms.
Let’s have a look at the average prices for a bed in a dorm at Hostelworld in different Chinese cities.

  • Beijing 11 Euro
  • Shanghai 9 Euro
  • Xi’an 7 Euro
  • Chengdu 6 Euro
  • Hangzhou 8 Euro
  • Kunming 6 Euro
  • Guilin 5 Euro
  • Guangzhou 10 Euro
  • Yangshuo 5 Euro
  • Lijiang 4 Euro

Bed and Breakfast is also available. Why not? The English have been selling their drugs in China for decades. However, an overnight stay in a B & B costs a little more. In Shanghai about 35 Euro – for two mind you. In Xi’an you pay only 15 Euro, while in Hangzhou you pay 24 Euro for a room. In Guilin, the room costs just under 10 euros. Double in Yangshuo. In Lijiang you have to pay 30 Euro again. But as I said. They are single rooms with a lot of comfort.

Camping in China

In China camping is by no means unknown. In some regions even culture. At the Mongols in the Xilamuren steppe, for example, you can still sleep in jute tents. Also in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region there are camping possibilities. However, everything is often quite basic. But that’s what you surely want. You can also camp at the top of the mountains, in Hebei Province, at Mount Xiaowutai for example. Usually this is free of charge. Even outside Beijing there are campsites. And you can also camp on the Great Wall.

Backpacker Trips, Tips & Highlights in China

A backpacker trip through China is certainly one of the greatest adventures the planet has to offer. For European habits you will get to know extreme cultural customs and also see geographical natural wonders that will take your breath away. What is the best way to get to know the Middle Kingdom? A few treks and routes are recommended. Plan your route and destinations exactly, otherwise you will lose a lot of time travelling from one destination to another. Not that anyone asks you after your journey: “And what have you seen? And you answer: “the train window.”

Spend a week near Hong Kong or travel along the Yangtze River or the Yellow River. The region along the Great Canal is also worthwhile. Head over land to Tibet or follow the trails of the Long March. You can also travel parts of the Silk Road or fight your way over the Karakoram Highway through the Himalayas. How about following in the footsteps of Marco Polo? There are enough trips of this kind for your backpacking tour. Away from the gunshot you’ll move as you fight your way through the interior of Manchuria or Mongolia.

Backpacking in China - Berge

Backpacking in China – Mountains

Backpacker Highlights in China

There is a lot to experience on your backpacker trip through China. Let your feet spoil once with an original foot massage. The pedals are then like new. Also a full body massage has it in itself. And if you need a haircut, try a Chinese hairdresser. Your scalp has never been pampered like this before – especially not at this price. Of course you can also take a Chinese course or learn the old characters. It’s like meditating.

Go to dinner with a real Chinese and let him order. He will show you the true variety of Chinese cuisine. Take a close look at the old districts of the cities and visit a KTV. This is Chinese Karaoke. Laughter guaranteed. There you will also get to know people quickly. In any case use the simplest means of transport for a while, that is China pure. A visit to a Chinese tea house should also be on your agenda.

Backpacking in China - China Mauer

Backpacking in China – China Wall

Backpacker Insider Tips in China

There are enough top destinations in China, but of course also a lot of unknown or little visited places. However, it is sometimes difficult to get there. But what else can you do to see the extraordinary? Get to know the cradle of Shaolin Kung Fu, which you will meet in the old cities of Zhengzhou, Dengfeng and Kaifeng. The cities Lanzhou, Dunhuang and Jiayuguan lie along the old Silk Road, which also leads through the Gobi Desert. If you want to ride, then you should go into the seemingly endless grasslands of Huitengxile. There you can still race across the steppe with the Mongolian riders. The trek from Zhejiang to Anhui leads through a bizarre rocky landscape over the 15 kilometre Hui Hang Trail.

On camels with two humps you can ride down the Great Wall of China in the cities Hohhot and Baotou. Visit the stone carved monastery in Emeishan National Park or visit the fascinating rice terraces along the Honghe River. Take a detour into the mountains of Tashkurgan or take a boat trip from Lanzhou to the Bingling Temple. A world cut off from modern civilization awaits you in the autonomous region of Sanjiang Dong, which nestles against the province of Guangxi. Russian influences await you in the city of Manzhouli. You’ll find endless marshland in the Zhalong Swamps. Thousands of square kilometres are under water and host an exotic flora and fauna.

Food & Drinks in China

For most people, eating in China means breaking new culinary ground. You can forget pretty much everything you know from the local Chinese restaurants. You won’t even get a glimpse of the true Chinese cuisine there. With many dishes animal welfare would also be on the mat. Also the food culture itself has nothing in common with the western one. You can smack, slurp and burp at the dining table in China during your backpacker trip.

If you are invited by a Chinese to eat at home with your family, leave something on the plate for heaven’s sake, otherwise the man will lose face. It would expose him because he couldn’t offer you any more. Don’t leave the chopsticks stuck in the rice either, because that’s only common at mourning ceremonies. Otherwise, be prepared for dishes that can also twist your stomach. There is no silence at the dinner table. They babble what they can.

Food in China

In China there are different kitchens, which all have their peculiarities. Let’s have a quick look at them.
There is the extremely hot Xiang cuisine from Hunan and the versatile Cantonese Yue cuisine. But with the latter a dog sometimes comes on the table. The spicy Chuan cuisine from Sichuan will certainly taste good to you. The often vegetarian dishes are based on spring onions, hot chillies, salty soy sauce and ginger. Almost like in Thailand.

Other cuisines are the Min cuisine from Fujian and the northeast Chinese Lu cuisine. In the Shanghai area, fish, seafood and sweet and sour sauces are served. Then there are also Confucian dishes and Tanjia dishes. Not everyone’s business is chicken feet, all kinds of insects, swallow nest and shark fin soups. Try meat a la Kanton-Art or Baozi with pork and sauce.

As there are at all a variety of Chinese sauces, Chinese recipes with noodles, Chinese vegetarian recipes, Chinese salads, Chinese recipes with rice and other delicacies. Some classics are Shanghai rice, fried rice with pineapple, Oyako-don, Mantou with black glutinous rice or rice rolls of glutinous rice. Don’t be biased and fight your way through the palette. You sometimes need years to have tasted everything.

Drinks in China

A man’s society sometimes gets drunk heavily when he eats. At home in the circle of the family this is less the case. The warm Shiaoxin (rice wine) is often served on the table. Sometimes nothing is drunk at all. Many restaurants serve Chinese wine (not exactly top quality), Chinese beer (much better) or baijiu (schnapps) or liqueur (headache guaranteed). The beer is good in China, because the best German-based beer is produced in the former German colony in Qingdao. The tea is top class. Enjoyed mainly green tea and jasmine tea, but also the oolong tea. Yellow, white and black teas are of excellent quality.

Backpacking in China - Rucksackreisen

Backpacking in China – Backpacking trips

Backpacker Visa and Vaccinations in China

The entry requirements for German nationals are not exactly complicated, but you should make sure you have all your papers up to date. If you get in trouble with the authorities in China, it can mess up your whole trip. Entry is possible for Germans with the following documents according to the Foreign Office:

  • Passport: Yes
  • Provisional passport: Yes
  • Identity card: No
  • Temporary identity card: No
  • Passport for children: Yes (with photo)
  • Still valid child ID according to old model: No


Travel documents must be valid for another 6 months at the time of applying for the visa and must contain at least two visaable pages. The visa must be applied for at the Chinese mission abroad or at one of the “Visa Application Service Centers”.

Vaccinations & Medical Information

Make sure that you have the latest minimum vaccinations when you enter China. You should know that in China there can always be a seasonal outbreak of dengue fever around the Canton region. Dengue is usually not fatal, but 2 weeks fever is no fun either. Unfortunately you can’t vaccinate against it, you can only protect yourself. If you come from a yellow fever infection area, a valid yellow fever vaccination is mandatory. If you come from Germany this is not a requirement. Malaria is well known in the south of China.Save

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