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Chengdu Travel Guide

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  • Chinese Name: 成都
  • Chinese Pinyin: Chéngdū (/chung-dew/)
  • Location: Southwest of China
  • Population: (2010) 14,000,000
  • Languages: Mandarin
  • Tel Code:028
  • Time Zone: (UTC+8)
  • More Chengdu Facts

"The young shouldn't come to Chengdu and the old shouldn't leave."

This ancient Chinese saying about Chengdu still has truth to it today. Chengdu is a place which the young may find very comfortable and lose their ambitions, but for the same reason the elderly should stay here. Once in Chengdu you will feel the relaxed atmosphere. People go about business without getting rich on their minds.

Chengdu has been found to be much older than previously thought. The Jinsha excavation site shows us that Chengdu was an important gathering place for people4,000 years ago. For those interested in Chinese culture there are many great stories that come from this ancient city.

Home of the Giant Panda

Although Chengdu’s long history looks quite formidable, from the Giant Panda’s perspective we are all mere visitors stopping by for an afternoon tea. These mystical gentle giants have roamed the area for sometwo million years. The most unique thing about this bear is its sudden conversion into vegetarianism.

Chengdu is panda city. Pandas are used to decorate the city and you can find them in a variety of forms; such as panda hats, panda purses, panda shoes, etc. The panda place that everyone needs to go to is the Panda Research Base, because sometimes you can find tiny pandas there.

Sichuan Cuisine

tang yuegong hot potSichuan Hotpot

Around the world many restaurants serve dishes and call them Sichuan (Szechuan) Cuisine. However in Chengdu you’ll find Sichuan Cuisineis much deeper and well developed. Of special interest is the "Sichuan Peppercorn" or "Numbing Pepper" which natives of Chengdu pour down their throats because of the pepper’s apparent medicinal properties.

The Sichuan peppercorn is just one of the materials key to Sichuan food that cannot always be found outside of China. Sichuan cuisine is known for its strong flavors. Don’t be surprised if there are more hot peppers in the dish than anything else, and you’ll know it’s done right if everything is floating in oil. Taste is more important than health in Chinese cuisine.

Gateway City

Chengdu’s geographical location makes it a good hub for further travel to many parts of the world. Chengdu’s Shuangliu International airport is among one of the busiest airports in the world. In 2012 this airport moved an astonishing 30 million passengers!

The Shuangliu International airport has followed Beijing’s example by constructing an absolutely massive new terminal. You can find flights from Chengdu to 96 domestic and 52 international destinations. Of course Chengdu also has very busy bus and train stations as well. This is a city that can easily provide a nice pit stop when traveling further away.

The Gateway to Tibet

potala palace

Although you can find a clear boundary line between Sichuan and Tibet on a map the reality is that once you step foot in Chengdu you have already started your journey into the mysterious Tibetan world. There are many ways to get to Tibetan areas from Chengdu. Chengdu is your most surefire way into Tibet (especially for flights with more than anywhere else).

Even in Chengdu you can sample Tibetan food and meet Tibetan people. Don’t be surprised if they invite you to their hometown in northern Sichuan. Just a short bus ride out of Chengdu will take you to many villages with mostly Tibetan people. One such place that is a must-see is Jiuzhaigou nature reserve.

Gateway to China's Most Scenic Area - West Sichuan

The areas to the west of Chengdu offer breathtaking natural scenery. Jiuzhaigou National Park and Huanglong National Park are well-known for their clean lakes, waterfalls, colorful ponds, snow-mountains, and gorges. The Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou travel route is one of China’s best scenic itineraries. Another off-the-beaten path to cover the stunning scenery in the region is from Chengdu to Daocheng and Yading. This is a popular photography travel route.

Planning a Chengdu Trip

Giant Buddha, LeshanThe Giant Buddha in Leshan, Chengdu

Travelers comes to Chengdu firstly for the giant pandas and the Buddhist temples on Mt. Emei.

Highlights You Should Not Miss:

  • Cute giant pandas — you can even work as a panda keeper!
  • Mt. Emei for its Buddhist culture and mountain views
  • The Giant Buddha in Leshan, the largest Buddha statue in the world
  • Enjoy a cup of tea in a local teahouse with local people

How to Arrange Your Itinerary

The First Day: Arrive in Chengdu. Have a cup of tea at a riverside tea house; and enjoy local Sichuan opera while having your tea.

The Second Day: Visit the giant panda center and get close to the delightful pandas, then walk along Chengdu’s Kuanzhai (‘Wide-Narrow’) Lane, a old street with lively local life.

jinli old streetJinli Old Street, Chengdu

The Third Day: Visit the Giant Buddha in Leshan.

The Fourth Day: Visit Mt. Emei. Take in its Buddhist culture and enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.

See China Highlights' best selling 5-day Chengdu tour, or let's help customize a tour for you.

Planning Your China Tour Including Chengdu

For a first time trip you may not want go to Chengdu as there are more popular places to go, like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Guilin. Chengdu is a good second time destination, which is not as popular and crowded as Beijing and Xi’an.

A classic China Chengdu tour is to enter by Shanghai, then fly to Chengdu, and then to Guilin and Yangshuo, exiting via Hong Kong. This is a natural route, combining some of the best natural and manmade sights in China.

Other popular options are combining Chengdu with a Tibet visit or a Yangtze cruise, as Chengdu is the most popular and bookable air gateway to Tibet, and also near Chongqing. The more popular downstream Yangtze cruises start in Chongqing. A Chengdu route with a Yangtze cruise and Tibet is quite expensive, as it combines two relatively expensive options.

See below the most popular China tours including Chengdu.

Chengdu Travel Tips

Post Offices

  • Zip Code: 610000
  • Shuwa Street Post Office: 25 Shuwa North Street, Chengdu
  • Mengzhuiwan Post Office:346 Shuanglin Road, Chengdu
  • Shawan Post Office: 71 Shawan New Road, Chengdu
  • Yiguanmiao Post Office:6 Yongfeng Road, Chengdu

Currency Exchanges

You'd better exchanges your currency in Bank of China, or the Hotel you stay in. Don't trust any peddler in the street who provides you the service, as they may give you counterfeit currency.

Useful Telephone Numbers

  • Tourism:028-96927, 028-86622065, 028-86764621 (Fax)
  • Public Bus: 028-85073535, 028-85076868
  • Taxi: 028-86636630

Cyber Cafes

You can find cyber cafes all around the streets and lanes of Chengdu, especially around colleges and universities. The charge is CNY 1.5 to CNY 2 per hour. If you don't bring your laptop to China, these cyber cafes can be one of your choices to get in touch with your friends and families.