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There are many modes of transport you may use to get to Guilin; still more ways to get around it when you're there. Air and rail links, as well as bus services, are manifold given the attraction of Guilin as a tourist destination both for Chinese and for visitors from abroad.
Upon arrival, taxis are plentiful and cheap, while getting about under your own steam with a bike is always an option given the flat terrain between Guilin's characteristic karst peaks.
Nonetheless, it can all be a little confusing for the first-time visitor and so here is our guide to getting there and getting around once you've arrived.
Flying is the most convenient way to travel to Guilin. There are many domestic airlines serving Guilin from many parts of China. Direct flights to and from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Macau and Thailand are also available, as well as others as Guilin's airport increases its options for international travel.
Guilin's small airport, Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, is 30 kilometers west of the city (about a 40 minute, 80 to 100 yuan taxi ride). Most large hotels have a shuttle bus service available (with prior notice). Other airport shuttles cost 20 yuan and operate without a fixed schedule. A shuttle bus (20 yuan) leaves for the airport every 30 minutes from the CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China) building on Shanghai Road.
|From||To||Travel Time by Airplane (Approx.)|
|Beijing||Guilin||3 h 10 min|
|Shanghai||Guilin||2 h 55 min|
|Chengdu||Guilin||1 h 35 min|
|Zhangjiajie||Guilin||1 h 45 min|
|Hong Kong||Guilin||1 h 30 min|
China's vast railway network is largely concentrated in the east of the country, tending rather to peter out the further west you travel. Guilin is well-catered for, however, and now has high-speed links to several Chinese destinations making the rail option still more comfortable and convenient, albeit somewhat more expensive.
Guilin has many High-speed railways. And the newly opened Guiyang–Guangzhou High-speed Railway makes it possible to travel from Guilin to Guangzhou within 3 hours, or go to Guizhou to discover the ethnic group culture in about 2 hours.
Map showing train stations and routes around the Guilin area.
There are three railway stations in Guilin city.With the addition of Yangshuo Station, also opened in 2016, now there are four train stations you can choose from in the area.
Intercity express coaches arrive and depart from the long-distance coach station, one bus stop north of the main railway station on the main Zhong Shan Road. This proximity is handy should you want to compare prices and journey times in deciding between taking a coach or a train, the distance between the two being a fairly easy walk of a kilometer or less.
Ticket prices on coaches tend to be cheaper than on trains, but there are some penalties for using them. Roads between cities tend, sometimes, to be less than ideal and the ride can be bumpy. Toilet facilities may be absent, and stops few and far between.
Short-range buses may also be caught from the long-distance bus station, the price range usually in the area of RMB10 to RMB 20. For further information on two of the more popular destinations, travel there, and transportation once you arrive, see our items on Yangshuo and Longsheng.
Coaches to more popular destinations, Yangshuo in particular, may also be caught from the railway station or street-side, but be warned; such services can be on rickety, aged rolling-stock, and journey times may be excessively prolonged as passengers are touted for at every street corner along the way.
Moreover, such services do not appear to understand the idea of a bus being 'full', and a crowded bus for an hour or two, particularly when you find ducks and chickens amongst your fellow passengers, can be something of a strain.
The most popular and spectacular way to get from Guilin to Yangshuo is by taking a tour boat down the Li River. For further information on the cruise, see our Li River Cruise item, and contact us if you would like us to make the arrangements for you.
These may be single-or double-decker with little seeming rhyme or reason for why this route is one, that the other. Most of the rolling stock has been upgraded in recent years, but you may still find some services with elderly charabancs which, in their clattering progress, you may fear you'll end up getting out of and pushing.
If you can't identify a bus number from the front readily in its approach, try having a look on the rear-view mirror on the sidewalk side and squinting.
Getting On and Off
Buses don't need to be flagged down. Usually they will invariably stop. Okay, in theory there's no need to flag a bus down, but you may want to anyway if they appear to have forgotten they invariably stop.
Most buses have a front entrance, strictly entry-only; and a mid-exit, equally limited to the purpose. Don't try and get on in the middle or off at the front.
When getting on the bus, look both ways. Electric bikes and other side-of-the-road users are notorious in Guilin for going every which way but up. The same goes when alighting. For safety's sake, put your head — carefully — out the door and check in both directions first if not getting off in a crowd.
Most buses have maps of their routes inside, and if you sit by the sidewalk-side window you will be able to see the names of stops as you pass them and to chart your progress if you find it difficult to decipher the Chinese announcements.
Guilin's bus service makes life simple for the traveler. In the vast majority of instances, there is a flat rate payment of RMB1 or RMB2, regardless of the distance traveled. What distinguishes the two services is the latter having air conditioning.
The price is often marked clearly at the entrance to the bus, particularly if the route is RMB2. Pay as you enter. No change will be given, so be sure to have the right amount.
If you are staying for a while, it may be worth picking up an electronic bus pass.
There is a tendency for people to barge onto buses, though year by year the problem is ebbing. More and more people, (most notably younger men), are inclined to hang back, some so politely that you may find yourself doing to 'After you, no, after you' dance.
There was a time when people would also barge their way off the bus as if fearful there would not be room on the pavement, but thankfully this has seen a still more marked decline.
All buses are strictly non-smoking and, unusually for non-smoking areas in China, the vast majority of smokers abide by the rule.
It is usual to stand and give a seat for people in obvious need, such as the elderly or women in an advanced state of pregnancy. However, there is also a tendency to give up seats for children who seem quite old enough to look after themselves.
Buses can be exceptionally crowded, particularly during the rush hour, and no limit to the number of standing passengers is adhered to. Please be wary in these situations, and at crowded bus stops in busy periods — it is a pickpocket's paradise.
Taxis are relatively inexpensive compared with other cities. However, be warned; you may find that you are charged an additional RMB1 or RMB2 over the price on the meter given local bylaws on fuel surcharges.
It is best not to take a taxi from those waiting within the railway station concourse. The drivers there have a habit of bargaining rather than using the meter, so flag one down from the road outside the station. Click here to learn how to take a taxi wisely.
Guilin has a comprehensive bike sharing system. There are over 2,00 bike rental stations and over 7,000 bicycles around the city. Visitors can rent a bicycle and enjoy one-hour’s free bicycling. It is enjoyable to wind along the Li river and enjoy plenty of scenery.
However, if you are using a bicycle in the city center, please be wary. Chinese drivers can be rather anarchic, and though Guilin is well-served by bicycle lanes on main roads, getting across intersections can be risky, while some drivers quite like the idea of using bicycle lanes as short cuts. Beware also the silent but deadly electric bikes, particularly when they're heading the wrong way.
If you are considering coming to Guilin and find all the options for travelling about the city rather daunting, or if you are here already and have had enough of trying to work it all out for yourself, China Highlights can offer you the option of private transport with English-speaking guide on a customized tour, tailored to your own specifications. Why not contact us and see what we can do for you?