Planning a Trip
From Guilin's airport 30km (19 miles) west of town (located on Nixon Rd. in honor of the U.S. president who visited in 1971), flights connect to Guangzhou (1 hr.), Beijing (2 1/2 hr.), Shanghai (2 hr.), Kunming (1 1/2 hr.), and Chengdu (70 min.). There are also international flights to Seoul (4 hr.), Bangkok (2 hr.) and Hong Kong (1 1/2 hr.). Tickets can be purchased at the Minhang Dasha on Shanghai Lu (tel. 0773/384-3922), and also at travel agencies or hotel tour desks. Dragonair has an office at the Guilin Bravo Hotel, Ronghu Nan Lu 15 (tel. 0773/282-3950, ext. 1150). Airport shuttles depart from the CAAC office every half-hour from 6:30am to 8pm for ¥25 ($3.25/£1.65); they also meet incoming flights. Taxis to the airport cost around ¥120 ($16/£7.80). Many expats simply skip Guilin altogether in preference for a weekend in Yangshuo as the taxi fare is only ¥200 ($26/£13) direct from the airport.
Train travel to and from Guilin is very convenient, although the surrounding mountainous topography means that destinations farther afield often require several days' travel; also, sleeper tickets for those destinations are often difficult to come by. The city has two railway stations, though the main one used by most travelers is the Guilin Huochezhan (tel. 0773/383-3124) in the southern part of town. The T6 to Beijing (24 hr.) departs at 5:23pm, the K38 to Guangzhou (13 hr.) at 8:30pm, the K150 to Shanghai (26 hr.) at 4:28pm, and the K155 to Kunming (via Guiyang, 30 hr.) at 2:08pm. The route from Guilin to Guangzhou is recognized as being a flagship journey for overseas tourists and so the staff are handpicked and the carriages are spotless. If you want to try the comforts of a Chinese train, then this is one of the best routes to choose. For Chengdu and Chongqing, change trains at Guiyang (18 hr.). There are trains throughout the day to Nanning (7-8 hr.). The T5/905 from Beijing to Hanoi stops in Guilin (only four sleeper berths are available from Guilin). It's best to have a travel agent or your hotel tour desk arrange tickets because they are extremely difficult to come by.
The Guilin Bus Station (Guilin Qichezhan; tel. 0773/382-2153), just north of the railway station, is in an appalling condition. One would have expected the road transport hub of China's most popular tourist city to be an architectural and logistical showpiece. In reality, it is dirty and run down, with overcrowded waiting rooms full of tin spittoons looking out on a snarled-up bus yard. From here large, air-conditioned direct (zhida) buses go to Beihai (7 hr.; ¥150/$20/£9.75) at 8:30am, 9:20am, and 10:20am; to Longsheng (3 hr.; ¥35/$4.55/£2.30) every 40 minutes from 7am to 7pm; to Nanning (5 hr.; ¥80/$10/£5.20) every half-hour from 7am to 7pm; and to Guangzhou (9 hr.; ¥150/$20/£9.75) at 9am, 11am, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm. Regular minibuses run to Yangshuo (1 hr.; ¥15/$1.95/£1) from the bus station and outside the railway station. A luxury air-conditioned bus to Hong Kong (tel. 0773/585-7088) now runs every Friday evening, charging ¥350 ($46/£23) one-way, ¥600 ($91/£46) round-trip. It departs from the Guilin Guishan Hotel on Chuanshan Lu at 7pm, stops at the Yangshuo Paradise Hotel at 8pm, and arrives at Huanggang in Shenzhen at 7am. After passengers go through Customs and Immigration, the bus continues onto Sha Tin, Kowloon Tong, and Tsimshatsui in Hong Kong. For the return, the bus simply retraces the route, departing from Hong Kong's Tsimshatsui at 4pm and arriving in Guilin the next morning around 7am. There are plans to increase the frequency of this service, but beware, for the moment, this is an arduous and treacherous night's travel, with road conditions and driving skills that you may not be used to.
Guilin is a compact area and is easy to get around by foot or bicycle. Bikes can be rented at most hotels, including the Bravo Hotel and the Sheraton, for ¥25 ($3.25/£1.65) to ¥50 ($6.50/£3.25) per day plus a deposit of ¥400 ($52/£26).
Taxis cost ¥7 (90¢/45p) for 2km (1 1/4 miles), then ¥1.60 (20¢/10p) per kilometer. After 4km (2 1/2 miles), the price jumps to ¥2 (25¢/15p) per kilometer. From 11pm to 7am, the fare is ¥7.80 ($1.05/50p) for 2km (1 1/4 miles), then ¥2.40 (30¢/15p) per kilometer until 4km (2 1/2 miles), and ¥3 (40¢/20p) per kilometer after that.
There are also several buses geared toward tourists: The free bus no. 58 from 8:30am to 4:30pm runs from Nanxi Park in the south to Reed Flute Cave, stopping along the way at Elephant Hill, Seven Star Park, Fubo Hill, and Diecai Hill. Another free sightseeing minibus travels a similar loop from Seven Star Park to Reed Flute Cave between 8:40am and 4pm, but passengers are required to show their entrance tickets to at least one of the sights.
CITS at Binjiang Lu 41 (tel. 0773/286-1623; fax 0773/282-7424) has full-day city tours with English-speaking guides for ¥200 ($26/£13) per person. The CITS Panda Bus picks up daily from the Fubo, Sheraton, Bravo, and Royal Garden hotels. CITS can also organize Li River cruises for ¥460 ($60/£30), day trips to Yangshuo by bus for ¥280 ($36/£18) per person, and overnight trips to Longsheng Minority Village and Terrace Fields for ¥550 ($68/£29) per person. The concierge at the Sheraton Hotel, Binjiang Nan Lu (tel. 0773/282-5588), can arrange all of the above, as well as nighttime cormorant fishing trips for ¥120 ($16/£7.80) and evening cultural performances for around ¥180 ($23/£12).
For information on hotels and sights, there are Guilin Tourism Information Service centers around town, most noticeably outside the railway station (tel. 0773/382-7391) and in the Central Square (Zhongxin Guangchang; tel. 0773/285-4318).
Banks, Foreign Exchange and ATMs -- Bank of China (open Mon-Fri 8am-noon and 3-6pm) is at Shanhu Bei Lu 5. It offers forex and an ATM.
Internet Access -- Visit the third floor of Lequn Shouji Cheng at Zhongshan Zhong Lu 49, corner of Lequn Lu. Internet access is 24 hours, at ¥2 (25¢/15p) per hour. Dial-up is tel. 96163.
Post Office -- The main post office (open 8am-8pm) is at Zhongshan Zhong Lu 249.
Visa Extensions -- The Gonganju (PSB; tel. 0773/582-9930; open Mon-Fri 8:30am-noon and 3-6pm) is on the east side of the Li River south off Longyin Lu.