We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

Little Rock...
Level Contributor
2,016 posts
66 reviews
Save Topic
Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

I was in China almost 20 years ago and I am sure much has changed, and now the country is more open to tourists. Not to diminish the importance, but my wife and I are not so interested in the busy tourist sights such as the Great Wall, The Three Gorges and the Terracotta Warriors. We would like to be as independent as we can using local private guides and drivers. I am sure that more people speak English now as opposed to 20 years ago. We would like to see rural countryside,small villages, the terraced rice fields, mountains and remote temples. We want to experience the people, the culture and especially their unique cuisine. This is what I remember the most from my past visit. I would like to find 3 or so places to stay vividly and then do day trips. Places such as Wuyuan in Jianqxi Providence, Jiuhuashan Holy Mountain in Anhui, Suzhow and Yixing in Jiangsu and the tea fields in Zhejiang ar what are of interest to us. Is this a realistic and practical possiblity? I have read that once you get outside the large cities like Bejing and Shanghi that travel costs are more reasonable. Is that a fair statement? If this trip is realistic and possible, where should we begin doing our homework and what are good reources. We absolutely do not want to be part of a tour group. I realize that this is a very wide subject, but I didn't know how else to ask since I do not see any similar posts. My last trip was a business trip and all arrangements were made for us, so I did not pay too much attention to the details.

Beijing, China
Level Contributor
47 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

when you travel around China now,the main costings are transportation,accommodation and entrance fees.The cost is not exactly cheaper in some other cities out of Beijing and Shanghai,but it more depends on where you eat,which hotel you stay at,etc.

Suggest you to visit West China.That is good for repeat travellers to do off the beaten tracks,where you can enjoys the snow mountains,the rice paddy,the ethnic minority groups and remote temples.

Little Rock...
Level Contributor
2,016 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

Daniel, Thank you for your comments. Do you have any suggestions how to get around within the country and good resources to start our homework? Is Lonely Planet a good research tool? Do you think hiring local guides and drivers in central locations is a good idea to then use them as a home base for 3-4 days each? What would you budget for meals, accomodation, and guides/drivers outside of the large cities?

Beijing, China
Level Contributor
47 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

CNY 120(US$20) is OK for three meals a day without any alcohol per person.CNY 200 is OK for twin share room of economy hotels in non-tourist area.CNY300-350 for city guide,and pay more for hiking guide.

I agree with you find a central locations as a base for 3-4 days short excursion,but this sometimes will make you a backtrack and waste time.

Beijing, China
Level Contributor
8,907 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

Yes, a lot has changed in 20 years but outside of some major cities, not that many people speak English. However, lack of Mandarin does not make independent travel impossible and plenty of travelers are doing it every day. The infrastructure has definitely changed for the better though too many high-cost entrance fees in the last couple of years have somewhat soured the party. Still, you seem have the right attitude for independent travel and can surely pull this off by doing your own major arrangements, then using local guides/drivers for tours, where it makes sense to do so. Two notes: there may be some days where it makes zero sense to engage a driver + guide. Also, parking yourself in one place for a few days and making trips in/out of there makes sense in some locations but not for others. It really depends on your itinerary. But I think the sort of time frame you are talking about can accommodate a lot more places and variety. You don't want to move too slowly and miss oppportunities, any more than you want to be too rushed, frantic, and exhausted.

I'm happy to come up with a suggested itinerary that fits what you want, but three questions:

1) What time of year are you wanting to do this trip? There are some places that definitely suffer from weather woes at certain times of the year.

2) Are you planning on routing a simple USA - China - USA or will you be routing to another Asian destination before or after? This has to do with China entry/exit gateways set up to avoid costly backtracking. Which in turn sets up the order of everything in between.

3) Three weeks or four? When it comes to China, it's a big difference.

I'm less concerned about budget since there are ways to control a good chunk of in-China spending, and there are backpacker-level, luxury-level, and everything in between. With the understanding that once you get into small towns and minor cities, luxury is in short supply and you may have to make do with "simple, clean, and comfortable."

Edited: 4:38 pm, March 23, 2013
Beijing, China
Level Contributor
8,907 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

Item 4): How fit are you? Obviously if you first went to China 20 years ago on a business trip, you're not a spring chicken any more. Best to lay it out now if you have mobility issues and can't climb, or other medical issues that might impact an itinerary or daily pacing of an itinerary. Or if you just have an energy quota per day that needs to not be exceeded.

Beijing, China
Level Contributor
8,907 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum used to be a good resource since it had one of the largest assemblages of collective wisdom. However, since the website owners did a Forum shutdown in December then returned it in January, minus most of the archived posts that comprised the body of knowledge, it is now much less useful than before. However, you shouldn't discount it entirely, there are still some posters on the Northeast Asia forum that have extensive experience traveling independently in just about every corner of China...and on low to moderate budgets.

Little Rock...
Level Contributor
2,016 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

Well put kvchina, We are not spring chickens but do a bit of travelling involving what I would call at least an average fitness level. We are not marathoners nor mountain rock climbers but well seasoned independent travellers that have taken trips like trekking with the Gorillas in Rwanda and going to the Galapagos which requires fitness. I am glad you asked the question because we do want this trip to be an adventure, but not a hiking trip with overnight stays in mountain huts. Thank you for the forum tip, I will check it out.

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
Level Contributor
32,030 posts
330 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

The rapidly growing network of modern train lines is putting more of China within reach of tourists with a time limit. I agree that western China, such as Sichuan, Hunan & Yunan probably offesr most of what you want. Jiuzhaiguo, Huanglong & Songpan in Sichuan, while touristy are stunning. From Songpan you can do 3day horse treks with local farmers. In Yunan you could base yourselves in Lijiang or Dali, trek Tiger Leaping Gorge & visit the Tibetan Monastery in ShangriLa.

Another area to consider is Yangshuo - hire bikes and cycle around the countryside or trek the rice terraces.

Blueys Beach...
Level Contributor
1,228 posts
274 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

My husband and I spent 3 weeks in Sichuan and Yunnan in November 2011. It was an unforgettable trip. I agree, Jiuzhaigou is stunning and breathtaking! Songpan is a Tibetan town still unaffected by tourism. Sichuan food is wonderful but you need to tolerate chilli. Yunnan also has a wealth of beautiful, traditional and interesting places to visit. We were told Spring is the best time for Shangrila and Lijiang, but then we had the pleasure of experiencing autumn foliage. I'd love to return in the Spring when rhododendrons are in flower.

On that trip my husband wanted to avoid large cities although I must admit Chengdu did not fit that description it was interesting and a jump off point to visit Jiuzhaigou.

Little Rock...
Level Contributor
2,016 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Possible or Even Practical Itinerary for 3-4 Weeks

Zhuhai & Marj H, Thank you for your posts. This sounds very close to what we are looking for. Our itinerary is probably closer to 3 weeks, however we are not under a time restraint, only a budget. What is the best way to research your suggestions, Zhuhai? Do you suggest total independent arrangements or an in country travel agent? or wait until we arrive to arrange? What is the best way to travel within the country? Of course some air travel is required since the distances are so great. Some light teking would be okay, but not the central point of our trip. What are your suggested resources to determine what we want to see and what is practical? What is the ideal time of the year for what we want to see from a cost and less touristy perspective? i'm a bit concerned about November as Marj H did as the weather could be a problem in aprts of the country.