Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Hong Kong; where East meets West. This lively and sophisticated city is a melting pot of culture and ancient traditions, which thrive harmoniously alongside towering skyscrapers. World-class transport and age-old markets make up the vibrancy of this unique metropolis.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 5pm for the welcome meeting followed by the opportunity to meet your fellow travellers over dinner (not included). There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Hong Kong at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), which is 40 minutes from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up at 9am on Day 2.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day the options are endless but you could go by underground to the waterfront of Victoria Harbour, and then on to Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon.
Panda Hotel (or similar)
Situated in a dramatic setting, Hong Kong is a lively, sophisticated city and an important financial centre. We spend the morning exploring this remarkable city on an orientation tour by metro, ferry and on foot; taking in sites such as Kowloon Waterfront, the Star Ferry, stock exchange, Des Voeux Road, Li Yuen St markets, Man Mo Temple and Bank of China.
The afternoon is left free for optional excursions. Public transport is efficient and easy to use. You can take a funicular railway to Victoria Peak or a launch out to a floating restaurant in Aberdeen Harbour. Alternatively explore the jade market or admire the latest sartorial and electronic fashions.
After a relaxed breakfast we will transfer to Hong Kong West Kowloon station and board the high speed train to Guilin. Our border formalities will be completed in Hong Kong and therefore we will need to be at the station a couple of hours before. The train journey will take three hours arriving into Guilin in the late afternoon. Guilin is known as the gateway to the stunning limestone scenery for which this part of China is known and was once an important transport hub of the Qin dinasty thanks to the construction of the Ling canal in 214 BC. After an orientation walk around Guilin it will be time for dinner.
Dan Gui Hotel (or similar)
This morning we head to MoPanShan Dock where we board our cruise to Yangshuo on the Li River passing paddy fields, villages and stunning limestone scenery along the way. Lunch is taken aboard the boat during the journey. An afternoon arrival into Yangshuo offers the opportunity to explore this laidback town - a contrast to the bustle of Hong Kong. During this free time you may wish to take one of the optional bike rides or walks in the surrounding villages. Alternatively you could head to one of the many limestone pinnacles around the town, the best known being Moon Hill. This evening you may choose to see an impressive sound and light show.
New Century Hotel (or similar)
Yangshuo has a lot to offer so most of the day is left free for you to explore at your own pace. You can walk into the surrounding karst summits or hire a bike and cycle through country back lanes. Alternatively, you can soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful riverside town. You may wish to practice your bartering skills in the local market or try your hand at Tai Chi, cooking or calligraphy. Later on today we fly to Xian.
HNA Business Hotel Downtown (or similar)
Our stay in Xian reveals the extraordinary continuity of Chinese civilisation. Xian (Changan) served 11 dynasties and was the very starting point of the Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe. We spend the morning on a sightseeing tour visiting ancient monuments including the Big Wild Goose Pagoda - a 7-storey, 64-metre high structure with superb views over the city - and the wonderful 15th century Great Mosque in the old muslim Hui District. The afternoon is left free and you may consider a relaxed cycle along the city walls.
After a relaxed morning we check out of the hotel and drive to one of the highlights of any visit to China - the magnificent Terracotta Warriors and Horses who guard the Qin Shi Huangdi Tomb. There are literally thousands of lifesize warriors, dating from 200BC. This dramatic find of the 1970s is considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the century. We should also have time to stop at the on-site factory to see how the warriors are made today. Later this afternoon we drive back to Xian train station for the overnight train to Beijing - a great way to cover large distances and travel as a local.
Our sleeping arrangements on the train are usually in 1st class 'soft sleeper' lockable compartments for 4 which have 2 sets of bunks. Hot meals and snacks are usually sold to your berth on overnight journeys. In times of large demand we may have to travel in 2nd class 'hard sleeper' which consists of open plan carriages with blocks of 6 beds in 2 triple bunks leading off the corridor. WC and washbasins are provided for shared use at the end of each carriage and clean bedding is provided. We try to ensure the group is accommodated in the same carriage and compartments although this will not always be possible, therefore at times you will be sharing with fellow travellers of different nationalities. The Tour Leader will try to accommodate the group as best they can, keeping travel companions together.
Overnight Train from Xian to Beijing
Simple Overnight Train
Upon arrival this morning we will drive to our hotel for breakfast and to store our luggage. The Tour Leader will try to arrange an early check in for the group, however this may not be possible. Kublai Khan made Beijing the capital of his mighty Asian Empire in the late 1200s and it has often played a central role since then. Nowadays, Beijing is China's capital and its political and cultural centre and all clocks in this vast country are set by Beijing time despite the westernmost regions being some 5000kms away.
This morning we plan to visit Tiananmen Square and the vast Forbidden City, the one-time home of the Ming and the Manchu (Qing) emperors and a treasure trove of eastern wares.
The afternoon is left free and there is the option to visit the Summer Palace an extensive imperial garden complex located outside of Beijing with a large boating lake and impressive palace buildings. There is also the option of seeing an acrobatic performance in the evening. You may also want to seek out a place to try Peking Duck.
Xiao Xiang Hotel (or similar)
Today we visit a renovated part of the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, a 2.5 hour drive north of the city. Began in the 3rd century BC by Shi Huangdi, thousands of conscripted workers laboured on it and many lie buried in its brick and stone ramparts. It is incredible to think that this wall spans the entire country! Here there is a 2km section to walk along with watchtowers and views of the surrounding countryside. En route we may also get to visit a cloisonné workshop where you can see examples of this ancient metal-working technique. We drive back to Beijing later this afternoon.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Beijing.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Beijing at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from either Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) which is 1 hour and 30 minutes from our hotel or Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) which is a 1 hour 45 minutes drive away.
China has primarily a temperate climate, with a wide spectrum of extremes due to its huge area. Summer months are hot and rainy though in the south the climate is tropical and we can experience rain at any time of the year, often falling in sharp tropical rain-storms which are heavy but short lived. Winter is colder and drier, temperatures in Beijing can be as low as -12c.
3 Pin Flat
Hong Kong enjoys more of a sub-tropical climate and the winter months tend to produce temperatures in the high teens, with January being more susceptible to cloud cover, with occasional rain and cold fronts.
3 main religions - Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism
Hong Kong - Victoria Peak tram, 88HK$ return (85 CNY) Yangshou -Sound and Light show 260 CNY; bicycle hire 50CNY; painting lesson 100CNY; calligraphy lesson 100CNY; cooking class 250CNY. Xian - City wall by bike - 100CNY, Tang Dynasty show and dumpling banquet - 300CNY Beijing - Summer Palace, 40 CNY entrance (private transfer costs currently not available so may not be possible)
Lightweight raingear is required all year round. For winter departures warm sweaters, gloves, scarf, hat, warm coat, thermal underwear will be required.
Comfortable shoes with good grip for the Great Wall and our sight seeing and orientation walks. Plus something comfortable such as sandals for downtime.
One main piece of lockable baggage and a shoulder bag. Remember, you are expected to carry your own baggage - so don't overload yourself and a suitcase with wheels will make life easier especially when using public transport.
Ear plugs and an eye mask for sleeping are always a good idea for travel and you may find them useful on the overnight train. A small torch and water bottle for day to day use are advisible. Public toilets may lack toilet roll and soap so it is a good idea to bring some tissues, wetwipes and hand sanitiser.
Bus, Boat, Flight, Train
As tourism developed relatively recently in China, accommodation is usually modern, spacious and comfortable, albeit rather generic. Most hotels are large and purpose built and though rarely characterful, you can generally rely on good facilities. In Beijing, Xian and Hong Kong the hotels that we use are of international style generally with business facilities, restaurants and bars and all mod cons, though few have pools. In other cities and large towns the standard is similar although on a lesser scale. In small towns or villages where tourism is less prevalent, the hotels we use are smaller and facilities are more limited, though we generally stay in the best place in town. Rooms will still be en suite but rooms can be basic. Plumbing and electricity supplies can be somewhat erratic and although the welcome is warm, service levels may be less efficient than you might expect. Please be aware that the beds in China are often quite firm and may take a few nights for you to get used to. We take an overnight train from Xian to Beijing, berths are usually in 1st class 'soft sleeper' lockable compartments for 4 which have 2 sets of bunks. Hot meals and snacks are usually sold to your berth on overnight journeys. In times of large demand we may have to travel in 2nd class 'hard sleeper' which consists of open plan carriages with blocks of 6 beds in 2 triple bunks leading off the corridor. WC and washbasins are provided for shared use at the end of each carriage and clean bedding is provided. We try to ensure the group is accommodated in the same carriage and compartments although this will not always be possible, therefore at times you will be sharing with fellow travellers of different nationalities. The Tour Leader will try to accommodate the group as best they can, keeping travel companions together. The majority of hotels in China offer check in from 12noon. On days where we will arrive on a sleeper train the Tour Leader will try and arrange an early check in for the group, however this may not be possible. Our hotels in Beijing and Xian enjoy relatively central locations in these large cities, within walking distance of the Temple of Heaven and the Muslim Quarter respectively.
Rice and noodles are a staple and usually provided at every meal time. For anybody with a restricted diet - such as gluten- or dairy-free - please note that these products are often not available in China and we strongly recommend you bring specialised foods from home. In any case please always inform us of any special dietary requirements before departure. Generally vegetarians are well catered for but you may find a more restricted choice as many soups are made with meat stock.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
China: A visa is required by all nationalities. A single entry visa should be arranged in advance of travelling. From 1st November 2018, British Passport Holders will be required to present themselves in person at the Chinese Visa Processing Centre in London, Manchester, Edinburgh or Belfast on the day of application, to provide biometric information (fingerprints). At time of writing in Sept 2023 the Belfast centre remains closed. We understand that applicants over 70 years old may not be required to attend in person to provide biometric data, but we suggest you enquire with the Chinese Embassy. Appointments can be booked and forms completed via www.visaforchina.org In order to apply for your Chinese visa you will need to submit supporting documents from our local supplier confirming your itinerary and travel arrangements, which we will obtain on your behalf. So that we can provide this for you, and to ensure all local arrangements are in place, we require a copy of your passport no later than 8 weeks before you are due to start your trip. Once we have your passport copy we shall process and pass on the documents you require 6-8 weeks before your trip, please be mindful of this when applying for your visa. If you require the supporting documents earlier than this, please contact Explore so we can arrange this. Passengers wishing to extend their stay in China should be aware that current visa regulations only allow foreigners to stay in the country for up to 30 days. Please consider this when planning your trip. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. Passengers with flights that transit via Beijing or Shanghai airports (Beijing Capital International airport, Shanghai Pudong International airport and Hongqiao International airport) should take note of the following: Citizens of certain countries holding a valid passport, a visa for their final destination and a transit flight ticket with a confirmed departure seat and date leaving within 72 hours to a third country (region), may be exempt from a transit visa, provided that their stay within the Beijing or Shanghai administrative regions does not exceed 72 hours. On arrival at Beijing or Shanghai Airports please head for immigration and look for a desk marked Transit Visa Exemption. Please have all your necessary travel documentation on you such as your onward tickets, passport etc. as you will need to show this to the immigration officer. Please ensure you state to the immigration officer that you want to transit without visa. This is especially important if you do not want your Chinese visa to be invalidated. You will then be given a stamp called a transit pass (Hexagon Shape) rather than the normal regular immigration stamp (Oval Shaped). Please refer to your local Chinese Consulate for a list of countries that are eligible for the 72 hour transit visa exemption within Beijing and Shanghai airports. Nationalities that are not eligible for exemption may need to obtain a double entry visa and should seek further advice from their local Chinese Consulate. Registering with the Chinese authorities You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Chinese authorities enforce this requirement with regular spot-checks of foreigners\ documentation. If you\ re staying in a hotel, they will do this for you as part of the check-in process. Please ensure that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity from the date of return to your home country.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus and polio. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Travellers may wish to take immunisation against Japanese Encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.