Xiamen - Shantou - Guangzhou in June 2011

Would appreciate advice on the following please:

1)  recommendation for hotels in Xiamen and in Shantou and in Guangzhou

Criteria - with budget <US$80/night and have easy access to food and shopping

2)  is it better / safer to travel from Shantou to Xiamen by bus or by train?  (I understand that train takes about 6.5h whilst bus takes about 4 hours.)

If we travel by bus, where to board the bus and do we need to buy the ticket in advance?

3)  How big is Guangzhou?  Is it expensive to get from railway station / bus station to a hotel in the city area?

4)  Any advice for ladies travellers - in terms of safety, etc.

Thanks in advance.

 

The heart of Xian is the area within the city  wall, especially the neighborhood surrounding the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. In that neighborhood there are a few large department stores as well as some shops and stalls that sell souvenirs. Among the big stores are Century Ginwa Shopping Mall (Shiji Jinhua); Kaiyuan Shopping Mall (Kaiyuan Shangcheng);  Minsheng Department Store (one one Xidajie or Western Ave and the other on Jiefang Lu or Liberation Road); and Parkson (Baisheng) Department Store. Behind (north of ) the Drum Tower there is a street (Beiyuanmen Street) where there are numerous small vendors of souvenirs and food stalls. Search for hotels located in the general area and you should be able to find hotels meet your budget requirement. For example, Grand Mercure Xian on Renmin Square, Grand Noble Hotel, Arum International Hotel, and so on. It has to bee said that since the area around the Bell Tower and Drum Tower is the heart of Xian, it is always busy and crowded.

Major shopping areas in Guangzhou include Beijing Pedestrian Shopping and Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. These streets are off Subway Line One and Subway Line Two. Another busy commercial center is Tianhe; this is close to the intersection of Suway Line One and Subway Line three.

Actually there is no direct train link between Shantou and Xiamen and it's not worth the trouble to make a train connection. This leaves you coach. Highway distance between Shantou and Xiamen is about 300 km, so a bus ride should last 3-4 hours. It is generally safe to travel by bus. Avoid evening buses if possible. Some coaches are nicer than others, so you may want to check out before hand. Also look into how much luggage the bus can handle. Bus fare should be around ¥100 and there should be quite a few departures during the day. The departures are from Shantou Central Bus Station (Shantou Qiche Keyun Zhongxin Zhan) and arrivals are generally at Hubin Bus Station in Xiamen (Hubin Qiche Zhan).

Generally one should be able to get a bus ticket and go; to be on the safe side, you may look into whether it is necessary to purchase your ticket in advance. Shantou Central Bus Station is located at No. 61 Taishan Road; tel.: (0754) 8881 7729 and 8633 0677; they may not speak English though.

A larger group may also hire a vehicle and a driver to send the group to Xiamen, but some negotiation needs to be done for that.

Guangzhou is one of the biggest cities in China, with about 10 million people. So it is a large and busy city. To get around, there buses, taxis, and subways.  Fare for city is minimum, a couple of Chinese dollars. For subway, it's a few Chinese dollars, starting with 2. It's a good idea to stay at a place that is not too far from a subway station. Mind you, however, public transportation is often heavily loaded, so be prepared. If necessary, you can take cabs. Taxis charge ¥8 for first 3 km and ¥2.4 (or so) for each additional km. 

It is generally safe to travel in China, even for female travelers. violent crimes against foreign visitors are very rare. The most common kind of crime in China is theft, pocket-picking and so on. So one should watch one's valuables and belongings at all time, especially in crowded places such as stations, city buses, stores, etc. Of course, one should always use common sense. For example, for female travelers, do not go to places where there are few people all by yourself. Actually there are not a whole lot such places in Chinese cities; there seem to be people around all the time. Still, one should not let one's guard down.