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Top Cheap Destinations in China

Last updated by meimeili at 2013/12/11; Destinations: Shanghai,Xi'an, Guilin

China has long been considered a budget destination for all types of travelers. However, since its rise into the international spotlight, the development of China’s economy also means that many budget activities and places may not be as much of the case anymore. Still, there are plenty of affordable and economic things to see and do and engage in within China even if in places generally known as luxury such as Hong Kong and Beijing, the capital. Here we present our top recommendations on how to have a good time in China without destroying your wallet!

1. Macau

Macau is known today as the Las Vegas of Asia and certainly its gamut of internationally ranked casinos and entertainment areas can make for fun ways to pass your days. But if you do not want to play with chance and risk with your money, there are still many things to do in this region which is an ex-Portuguese colony. The old town is a bustling area of commerce and gastronomy with some parts hyper restored and resembling the streets of Portugal as you walk down, and other parts seemingly unchanged from the old days.

People watching and window shopping doesn’t get much better than here in Macau. Strolling in quieter residential areas, you will see a fascinating aesthetic mix of Chinese and Portuguese styles, both in architecture and evidence of daily life. This is also where you may find many authentic fusion restaurants that serve Cantonese-Portuguese food. Complete you day visiting historic sites such as Sao Paulo Cathedral and the Portuguese Fort. Ferries from Hong Kong are quick, frequent, and affordable, making Macau ideal for both a daytrip and longer stays.

•    Getting there:

o    Ferry: Ferries from Hong Kong (found at Macau Ferry Terminal, China (HK) Ferry Terminal, or Hong Kong International Airport) arrive into Macau Ferry Terminal; Ferries from China (Fu Yong Ferry Terminal at Shenzhen Airport, Taipa Temporary Ferry Terminal, Macau-Jiangmen, and Wanzai Customs Port) arrive into Macau Ferry Terminal; from Macau Ferry Terminal take Bus Lines 1A, 3, 3A, 10, 10A, 10B, 12, 28A, 28B, 28BX, 32, or AP1 depending on where you wish to go in Macau

o    Bus: long distance buses from Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, and Gongbei bus station in Zhuhai also arrive into Macau

o    Air: there are international and domestic flights arriving into Macau International Airport

2. Beijing

Beijing may be the capital which naturally makes one think about the higher cost of living in the nation’s hub. However, the capital also means more choices for things to do and a wider divide between the cost of activities. There are countless cheap and affordable hotels and hostels to be found with varying degrees of comfort and amenities, and this applies to restaurants and bars as well. In terms of things to see and do, Beijing’s public parks are must-visits such as Beihei Park and Ritan Park.

Here you can really garner an understanding for daily life and what the Chinese value in terms of physical and spiritual wellbeing. A cheap (but safe!) bicycle rental to discover the winding alleyways of a typical Beijing hutong is another quintessential Beijing experience. Taking the bus and metro system around the city is very cheap as well, allowing you access to the farthest corners of the capital. Finally, shopping in the large, popular markets is always fun, where you can find knick knacks and souvenirs of all price levels. When shopping, bargaining is key!

•    Beihei Park

o    Address: 1 Wenjin St, Xicheng
o    Phone: +86 10 6403 3225
o    Entrance: 10 Yuan April 1 to October 31, 5 Yuan November 1 to March 31; through ticket 20 Yuan April 1 to October 31 and 15 Yuan November 1 to March 31 which includes entrance to Qionghua Islet and Circular City, excluding Qionghua Cave and Shanyin Hall
o    Hours: 6:30am to approximately 8:00pm depending on the season
o    Getting there: Subway Line 4; Bus Line 5, Zhuan 1, Zhuan 2, 109, 124, 202, 211, 614, 619, 685 or Trolley Bus 101, 103, 13, 42, 90 Inner Line, 90 Outer Line, 612, 623, 609, 701, or Trolley Bus 107, 111, 118, 204 Inner Line, or 204 Outer Line

•    Ritan Park

o    Hours: 6:00 am – 9:00 pm (Winter); 6:00 am – 10:00 pm (Summer)
o    Getting there: Subway Line 1 or 2; Bus Line 639, 640, 44, 750, 800, 28, 43, 126, 804, 9, 99, 673, 666, 403, 1, 120, 728, 205

3. Shanghai

Shanghai may be China’s second city behind Beijing but it is actually more expensive than the capital on the whole. Still, compared to many other top cities in the world, traveling in Shanghai is a steal. Taking advantage of the first class public transport system to discover daily life, tickets for the metro, bus, and ferries are all very cheap.

The ferries from the Bund offer great views of Shanghai any time of the day but particularly in the evening. Similarly, renting a cheap bicycle is a good way to learn about this city. Try drinking tea and learning about traditional Chinese tea culture at one of the old speakeasy-style taverns such as those around Yu Garden. And surprisingly, dining in Shanghai can be a very affordable experience especially when considering the price versus quality and variety of the food.

•    Yu Garden

o    Address: 218 Anren St, Huangpu
o    Phone: +86 21 6326 0830
o    Getting there:
?    Bus: Bus Line 11, 26, 64, 304, 736, 801, 920, 926, 930, or City Sightseeing Bus
?    Subway: Subway Line 10

4. Hong Kong

What do you expect when you think of one of the most important and prosperous cities in the world? Lots of things to do on a budget? Well there certainly are! While hotels and hostels may take up a good part of your budget, the rest of your days can be rather cheap. Food, especially the authentic street-level kind, is certainly economic as well as market browsing such as at the Ladies Market, Temple Street, Apliu Street, and Bird Market in the Kowloon District, and Stanley Market on Hong Kong Island.

As well, this most urban of urban settings has dozens of beaches and trails for visitors to enjoy. The Dragon’s Back trail across the mountains ridges on Hong Kong Island is a popular one, and the beaches known as Shek O, Big Wave Bay, and Repulse Bay make for wonderful daytrips. Take one of the cheap and frequent ferries to nearby islands such as Lantau Island and Lamma Island for even more hiking, beach, and dining excursions. Finally, walking in very social areas such as Central, Soho, Wan Chai, and especially the skyline walkway of Tsim Tsa Tsui never result in a dull time.

5. Xian

Old is new again. Xian, one of China’s oldest cities, is one of its fastest growing and popular tourism destinations. It is a beautiful place with the historical charm to keep you there. Hotels and hostels are cheaper than what you will find in Beijing and Shanghai and other large urban areas in China, and the food and drinks here are very affordable whether you eat at a street stall or in a restaurant. The Muslim Quarter is a particularly colorful place to indulge in a shopping experience in an environment that has been uniquely influenced by the local Islamic population.

Walking along the infamous Xian City Walls may cost 54 Yuan for adults and 27 Yuan for students, but it is something you cannot miss while here. Shaanxi Historic Museum, known as one of the best in China, is free for visitors; you can see artifacts that span the whole of Chinese history. To learn about the local history more in depth, visit the Shaanxi Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum whose entrance is also free. Otherwise, just soak in the antique air and relish in the atmosphere of such a significant destination!

•    Muslim Quarter

o    Getting there:
?    Bus: Bus Line 4, 15, 32, 43, 45, 201, 205, 206, 215, 218, 221, 222, 251, 300, 604, 610, or 611
?    Subway: Subway Line 10

•    Xian City Wall

o    Hours: 8:00am to approximately 7:00pm depending on the season
o    Entrance: 54 Yuan; 27 Yuan for students
o    Getting there:
?    Bus: Bus Line 6, 11, 12, 23, 46, 215, 239, 302, 600, 603, 608, 713, 910, K600, K618, Wulong Special Line, and others depending on the gate which you aim to access
?    Subway: Subway Line 2

•    Shaanxi Historic Museum

o    Address: 91 Xiaozhai East Rd, Yanta
o    Phone: +86 29 8525 4727
o    Entrance: 4,000 free ticket per day (2,500 tickets before 2:00pm and 1,500 tickets in the afternoon)
o    Hours: 8:00am to approximately 6:00pm depending on the season
o    Getting there:
?    Bus: Bus Line 5, 19, 24, 26, 27, 30, 34, 400, 401, 521, 527, 701, 710, 721, 722, or Tourist Bus You 6, or You 8 (610)

6. Guilin

If nature is your interest, then you cannot miss visiting Guilin. This is often, hands down, considered one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas in all of China and the world. No matter where you go in Guilin, the stunning views are certainly free, so don’t forget your camera! Cycling in the countryside is a fun and non-obvious way to see the surroundings. It is easy to rent a cheap bicycle to do so. You will see beautiful paddy fields and orchards tucked between the mountains, and see what rural life is like in this country.

Also, there are some cheap boat trips that weave between the mountains available along the Li River, and even longer ones that continue to Yangshuo. Come in the autumn during the changing of the colors of the leaves for a truly spectacular natural show. Yangshuo Park makes for a great place to learn and practice tai chi from the old masters that go every morning. Finally, back in town, be sure to patron the free Guilin Art Museum to see some of Guilin's finest landscape paintings.

•    Guilin Art Museum

o    Address: 15 Jiefang West Rd, Xiufeng
o    Phone: +86 773 288 3088
o    Hours: 8:30am to 5:00pms
o    Getting there: Bus Line 11, 33 or 99

7. Karakul Lake, Xinjiang

It can be easy to forget the northern mountains region when considering a trip to China. Karakul Lake is 3,600 meters above sea level and nestled in the Pamir Mountains about 120 miles from Kashgar. Here, you will be very far from the bustle and noise of China’s large urban cities. It may not be easy to get here, but once you do, you will feel like you are in another world. There are traditional animal herders that heel to camels, yaks, and similar creatures. Depending on the time of the year and the weather, the color of the lake may vary hues. So while it may take some money to get out here due to suggestion that visitors arrive with a tour group, camping or hiking around the lake makes for an unforgettable experience in real, off-the-beaten-path China.

•    Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm
•    Getting there: best via guided tour

8. Burma Road, Yunnan

The original Burma Road was 717 miles and ran from Burma (also known as Myanmar) with southwest China, created during World War II. It was used for military purposes at the time. On the Chinese side, the road starts in Riuli which is now full of fantastic jade markets. It ends in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province and known for its traditional flavor. Discovering the areas between the 2 head destinations is sure to be a highlight for adventurous and curious travelers. For example, Dali offers old school style cafés, and the countryside is dotted with temples, waterfalls, villages, and much more. This region in China is among the most affordable in the nation, while an official hike along the Burma Road with a group will cost you much more, though certainly worth the time and money if you are out here.

9. China’s wild rivers

Traveling China via its legendary rivers can be a fun and educational experience. Certainly it will be an exciting trip! The Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Mekong River are known around the world and a trip by river offers views and glimpses into Chinese life and history rarely seen. Consider taking an economic cruise or two, or even hopping from village to village by small transit boats, with the latter more economic than the former. You can also go fishing, walking, and exploring around the endless banks. Between learning about typical life and gazing at the breathtaking scenery, you are sure to be caught off guard by the power and beauty of China’s rivers.

10. Hainan Island

Hainan Island is largely recognized as the Hawaii of China. It draws visitors with its clear, blue beaches such as Sanya Beach and keeps them there with the pleasantly lazy atmosphere. Found just east of Vietnam, Hainan Island is recommended for a stay that is at least 2-4 nights. It is warm all year round, which is why so many visitors flock here during China’s otherwise bitterly cold and snowy months.

Come during a festival such as the Surfing Hainan Open in November or the Coconut Festival in late March to early April. Indeed, surfing is a very popular sport here and you can find cheap instructional lessons by roaming the beachsides and speaking with some professionals. Take a hike, discover old villages, or just relax in this beautiful escape of a destination!

•    Getting there:
o    Air: Haikou and Sanya have airports with regular flights to various Chinese cities; there are also some flights from Southeast Asia.
o    Train: trains run daily from Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai and end at Haikou and Sanya
o    Boat: you can take a boat directly from the mainland, or take a bus and the bus will also take the ferry across.