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Getting Around


Foreigners bear an additional 50% when purchasing airline tickets in China. It is a regulation imposed by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the only exemption provided is for foreign residents with all the necessary paperwork. You are required to produce your passport for inspection when reserving and purchasing tickets, and when boarding.

The CAAC is an umbrella organization for the numerous carriers and subsidiaries that service countries such as China Eastern, China Southern, China Northern, Great Wall, and Yunan Airlines. Discounts are available for students, teachers and senior citizens. An airport tax of about Y50 is payable on all domestic flights. A combined timetable is published by the CAAC twice a year in addition to the individual carriers’ own timetables.


Extensive long-distance buses provide the traveler with a means of sampling the varied lifestyles throughout China as the buses make regular stops in towns and villages along the way. Government operated bus services are generally safer and more reliable than the private ones. A particular concern for the traveler may be the horror stories of bus travel in China. Accidents are frequent and seats at the back of the bus have the reputation of being able to send you airborne due to almost nonexistent shock-absorbing systems on the buses.

A relatively safer mode of travel is by train along the 52,000 kilometer railway network, which reaches into every province in China except Tibet. They tend to be crowded but are comparative in prices to bus travel while providing significantly better safety. Domestic boat travel is fast fading with improvements in bus and train services but there are still popular boat trips like the three day boat ride along the Yangzi River from Chongqing to Wuhan and the Li River trip from Guilin to Yangshuo.

In the cities, buses are abundant and fairly cheap but are apt to be packed to sardine can-like conditions. Taxis are commonly available in larger cities but they tend to converge in tourist areas in smaller towns. Meters are rarely used and a fair amount of haggling is necessary if you do not intend on being taken for a ride in more than one sense. Motorcycle-taxis provide a cheaper alternative but are far more suited for the adrenaline junkie. There are also motor-tricycles similar to the tuk-tuks of Thailand and pedicabs. The cheapest option would be to rent a bicycle and get a work out while sightseeing at the same time.

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