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Travel to China

Flying to China

Flights to China are served by Air China (www.air-china.co.uk). British Airways (www.ba.com) and Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) also run direct flights to China from the UK. Autumn, when tourist numbers are down but the weather in many regions remains pleasant, is a good time to find flights. Fares can be higher in and around peak holiday seasons such as Chinese New Year.

Flight times

To Beijing: from London - 10 hours; New York - 14 hours.

Flights are often overbooked, so you're strongly advised to re-confirm your return flight reservations.

Departure tax

Included in air fare.

Travelling to China by Rail

International services run from Beijing to Moscow on both the Trans-Mongolian Railway (via Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia) and the Trans-Manchurian Railway (via northeastern China). The Trans-Siberian route runs from Moscow to Vladivostock, and from here you can also cross into China, although the other two routes are more direct. Non-stop, the journey by train takes around one week. Allow more time if coming from London or other locations in Western Europe. Train timetables can be found at Man at Seat 61 (www.seat61.com).

From Vietnam to China it is possible to take a train which travels from Hanoi to Beijing. There is also a daily overnight train service between Hanoi and Nanning, in Guangxi province. 

There are also four weekly services from Beijing to Pyongyang in North Korea. Owing to demand, it may be necessary to book up to two months in advance. A regular train service runs from Hong Kong to Guangzhou (Canton). There are several trains daily.

In Hong Kong, MTR (tel: +852 2688 1333; www.mtr.com.hk) has express trains running from Kowloon to Guangzhou. There are also services between Shanghai-Kowloon/Hong Kong (journey time - 19 hours) and Beijing-Kowloon/Hong Kong (journey time - 24 hours).

Further information on rail services is available from the Chinese Ministry of Transport (www.moc.gov.cn, in Chinese only).

Note: Travellers on the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian Railways are strongly advised to search their compartments and lock the doors before departure, owing to an increase in smuggling via this route.

Driving to China

Travelling to China overland is possible, if arduous. China borders multiple countries including Nepal, Mongolia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Laos, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and India. Border posts are subject to unexpected closures however; the rules change all the time and these should be checked thoroughly before making a journey by road.

Crossings for foreign nationals coming from Russia into China are limited to the Zabaykalsk/Manzhouli border in Siberia. It's advisable to take the advice of a local travel agent and have them organise the necessary paperwork and visas. Within China, tourists are not permitted to self-drive and must use a driver booked through a travel agent.

Getting to China by boat

China has a huge number of ports. More than 120 of them are open to foreign ships, but these are almost exclusively used for the import and export of goods and containers. International cruise ships do make use of the most prominent ports, though, with Shanghai, Qingdao and Tianjin among the most popular stop-off points.

Ferry operators

Several major cruise lines offer cruises to China. There are regular ferry services linking Chinese ports with Kobe in Japan and the west coast of Korea (Dem Rep). There are regular ferries between Shanghai and Osaka in Japan. Regular ferry services also operate between Weihai, Qingdao, Tianjin and Shanghai in China to Incheon in Korea (Dem Rep).

There are regular fast ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau and a number of towns and cities in Guangdong province, including Shenzhen and Zhuhai, operated by Chu Kong Passenger Transport Co (tel: +852 2858 3876; www.cksp.com.hk) and TurboJET (tel: +852 2859 3333; www.turbojet.com.hk).

Two ferry companies run regular services from Japan to Shanghai: the Shanghai Ferry Company (www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp) and the China-Japan International Ferry Company (www.shinganjin.com/index_e.php). There are also several weekly ferry services between the Chinese coast and South Korea.

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