China has a dense and intensively used airline network. Air China no longer has the monopoly of all routes and there are several regional airlines. There has been major investment in airport construction and the acquisition of modern fleets.
In flight catering will depend on the time and duration of your flight. Security checks are carried out routinely – as they are all over the world now – and therefore you are often required to arrive at the airport well in advance of the stated departure time. Your local guides will advise you about this.
For all the progress which has been made in aviation in China, it is often difficult to get accurate timetable information well in advance of your departure and even once the timetable has been published, apparently arbitrary and late changes are made to scheduled flights.
We therefore are often obliged to plan itineraries for you with a strong proviso that the flights may be subject to change, we will of course notify you if this is brought to our attention prior to your departure.
When we are discussing your programme we do try to include at least one short train journey. Travel by rail in China is an exciting affair, the stations are always busy, and the railway network is an essential part of the transportation infrastructure, although use of the private car is expanding at a tremendous pace and there is a growing motorway network.
Travel by rail is also a good way to acquire a sense of the distances between large towns and the importance of the rural economy. We will be using soft class accommodation on the trains, which is the Chinese equivalent of first class. In some parts of China there has been little investment in new rolling stock and railtrack, while in others improvements have meant that a journey which was once an overnight journey can now be achieved during the day-time.
For overnight journeys accommodation consists of four berth compartments, where clean bedding is provided by the carriage attendant. There are toilets at either end of the soft class carriage and wash-hand basins. You can usually obtain hot water and Chinese tea from the train attendants. It is a good idea to bring a few tea bags or some sachets of instant coffee. Tissues, wipes and a small hand towel will also be useful. In the way of things now in China, you will be invited to buy snacks, souvenirs, drinks, Chinese newspapers etc. The restaurant cars serve beer and mostly Chinese food of reasonable quality.
HINT Luggage may be stowed under the berth or on a shelf adjacent to the top bunk, we always recommend that you put all that you require for the night into a small rucksack.
Our favourite railway journeys:
Beijing – Ulan Bator (capital of Mongolia) 24 hours
Shanghai – Suzhou – just over an hour
Beijing – Shanghai – overnight (some two berth compartments may be available)
There is now an extensive motorway network reaching into many remote parts of China, and roadside facilities are greatly improved.
Buses & Coaches
In each city we will have a bus for the exclusive use of party. They are usually air-conditioned and comfortable, some of the buses used are imported makes, others have been produced in China by joint ventures between Chinese and overseas motor manufacturers.
Minibuses or cars will be available for individual travellers or small groups of 4-5 people. The average daily availability is 10 hours or 150 kms, unless previously agreed otherwise. Supplements may be payable if these parameters are exceeded. Four-wheel drive vehicles are used in mountainous or difficult terrain.