Getting to Guilin
Most tourists find Guilin to be a popular stopover during their tour of China. Depending on whereabouts in China you are coming from, you have the option of either flying, taking a train, bus, taxi, or boat, to get to Guilin. If you are far away, and by this I mean more than a province or two away, I would strongly suggest going by plane. Air tickets for travel inside the mainland are quite cheap by comparison and obviously will get you there the fastest. If you don’t want to spend the extra money, and find that you have time to spare, perhaps you could check out a really “unique” cultural experience by trying your luck on the train.
Trains from G to Z
Trains in China vary in speed and comfort, and are labeled by letters. Trains G and D are the fastest, but operate mostly between the economically important cities in the west of China. The newest direct line from Shanghai to Beijing takes only around 5 hours, as opposed to the pervious overnight trains.
The slowest trains, Z and K, are also the oldest; these trains have probably been around longer than you. These turtles of the train world are most likely the ones you will take if you are traveling across the country. While they are equipped with beds and private sleeping cabins, don’t expect to be riding in luxury. If you plan on making a cross-country trip expect to be on the train for a long time; getting from Shanghai to Kunming, a major city in the south of China, can run around two days. Riding the slow cross-country trains can be an eye-opening experience, and if you want to get a real taste of what the Chinese working class are like, this is a great opportunity.
Boats are Best
If you are in the general area you can find a faster local train, and if you are only a city or two away from Guilin your hotel or hostel will be able to help you arrange for a bus or private car to take you into Guilin.
The absolute best way to get to Guilin, if you are close enough, is by reed boat on the Li River. This will run you around 200RMB but will give you, one of the fulfilling experiences you can have in the area. While the reed boats are not technically legal, they are monitored about as closely as knock-off bags in Shanghai. Because the boats have small motors you will be able to travel both up and down stream.
Iconic Scenery of the Li River
The views you will get to see during your voyage are absolutely beautiful. As you travel on the choppy waters of the Li River you will feel as if you are traveling into the past. The beautifully steep mountains remain largely untouched and their rugged sides show the wear of countless years. Many boatmen will make a couple of stops along the way. You will have the opportunity to step out onto some of the serene, shelly shores of the river to dip into the water, as well as have lunch at a small local restaurant overlooking the river.
Photographing Guilin River
Traveling on the Li River gives you the amazing opportunity to see first-hand the stunning scenery pictured on the 20 Yuan bill. Because the boatmen know the area so well, they will often point out the exact scene so you can take some top-notch photos. The ride is slow, giving you the chance to take enough pictures to max out your memory card and get a tan. You are very likely to see other tourists along the river diving off their boats into the water as well as local herdsman bringing their cattle to drink.
Bonus Stopovers – Daxu Village
If you are taking the boat from Yangshuo down to Guilin, you will have the added bonus of stopping in the historic Daxu village. The ancient village is very well preserved and is a true representation of Chinese architecture. From the village you can hop on one of the many small shuttle bikes that will take you over the bumpy roads into Guilin.
Whether to or from Guilin, a cruise on the Li River is an experience that absolutely must be in your itinerary.