When backpacking in China, you should definitely make it to the Guangxi Province to tour Guilin and Yangshuo. It’s commonly known as one of the most beautiful places in the Land of Dragons which surprises its visitors with stunning Yangshuo River, Diecai Hill, Reed Flute Cave and Longsheng Rice Terraces.
Is Guilin backpacking a friendly place? Yes, it is! There are few things to bear in mind when heading there though:
- Never sign up for organised tours from your hostel or any other travel agencies around the city.
- Stay at budget hostel and avoid Chinese hotels which might be even ten times more expensive.
- Eat from street vendors.
- Walk a lot and explore the city on foot.
You might find this mini-guide to backpacking in Guilin useful and necessary when visiting the city and nearby areas and the prices attached will allow you to estimate how much money you roughly might spend a day when in Guilin.
Hostel recommendation: Ming Palace International Youth Hostel.
Price: $6 a night, dorms.
Hostel review: This was one of the coolest hostels on this planet, located just out of the centre of Guilin. Plenty of space to chill out after a day’s exploring, including a deck outside. The bunk beds were comfy and solid and each had its own light and access to a plug socket which is very important when travelling with all your gadgets. Each bunk had its own lamp, small shelf and extension lead so you could charge your electrical items in peace. Bathroom in the room was adequate, there was a bathroom in each dorm room and one on the floor of dorms. One last cool thing about this hostel was the fact that you could graffiti on the stairwells, so obviously as bloggers we were happy to make full use of this as a free promotion opportunity.
- Street food
Approximate price: $6-$10 a day.
- Breakfast: there is a nice restaurant nearby the hostel where you can get a proper breakfast on the cheap. The prices start from 1 RMB ($0.16) for a dumpling and a bowl of congee. The best breakfast option would be one boiled egg, you tiao (fried bread stick), soy milk with some sticky rice.
- Dinner and lunch: there are plenty of local restaurants where Chinese food is served. You should definitely try Guilin noodles. They are thick and spicy, served with peanuts and veggies.
Overnight bus and train.
The cheapest way of transport is to take an overnight train or bus. The ride takes between 6-12 hours depending on the place you travel from. From Dongguan city it took me 12 hours and I paid RMB200 ($32) per person.
Getting to Guilin from the airport ($3.26).
There is a bus from the airport to the Aviation Hotel from 6:30am-9:00pm. It costs RMB20 ($3.26) and takes around 45 minutes to an hour to go each way.
The flights usually take around 1 hour 25 minutes and cost from RMB650 to RMB1000 ($160) round trip.
Local Guilin Transport.
Bus travel ($1- $3.26)
Bus travel is simply the best way to get around Guilin and the surrounding area. Again, there is no point getting on a tour when you can spend RMB20 ($3.26) on a bus to Yangshuo . Bike rental ($6.50)
We rented two bikes (tandem and regular bike) for RMB40 ($6.50) total for 2 hours in Xingping. That’s definitely the best way to see and experience the scenery in Xingping. You have to put down a deposit (RMB200 ($32) per bike) but this is standard at all bike rental places in China.
The good news is that Guilin has a lot to offer when it comes to sightseeing. There are plenty of budget activities you can do when visiting the city:
Yangshuo River Cruise ($13) and Xingping ($1.32) – amazing scenery, highlight of your stay. After bargaining, we can easily get 1 raft for RMB80 ($13) and spent over 1 hours cruising.
Reed Flute Cave ($15) – getting here costs only RMB1 ($0.16) by local bus. The cave ticket costs RMB90 ($15). There is a Chinese guide but each of the rock formations inside has some English translations you can giggle at. Around the cave area itself, there’s not all that much to do but the scenery of the famous Guilin mountains is easily visible.
Seven Star Park – is the largest park in Guilin, over the river and it costs RMB75 ($12) to go in and boasts the famous “Camel Hill” and wild monkeys which steal bags of bananas from stupid Chinese tourists.
Longsheng Rice Terraces ($30) – A tour including entrance fee, guide and a 3 hour stop at Longsheng from our hostel costs RMB450 ($73). The Rice Terraces will surprise you with its beautiful view and breath-taking scenery, so don’t forget to take your camera to capture its beauty.
Xingping – If you want to see the scenery featured on RMB20 note, you should go to Xingping. It is easy to get there by bus and the ticket costs only RMB8 ($1.32). It’s charming and even more beautiful than Yangshuo.
The Sun and Moon Pagodas (free) – located on Banyan Lake in Guilin and they just look amazing at night. The moon pagoda stands seven storeys high which is a glass tower whereas the Sun pagoda is copper decoration, consumed 350 tons of copper.
Although Guilin is one of the most popular travel destinations is China, it can be still affordable for both – budget backpackers and holiday makers. As long as you stick to local street food, walk everywhere and avoid travel agencies, you will have a time of your life without spending much money!