China Road Travel

tianluHighway in Tibet

Highways in China reached a total mileage of 3,457,000 kilometers (2,148,080 miles) by the end of 2006. Almost all towns, counties and cities are accessible by highway. Therefore, buses can actually take you anywhere. Road conditions are usually very good. However, please be prepared that the road conditions can be very poor in remote areas.

Numerous bus departures make bus tickets more available than train tickets. Buses are also often cheaper than train travel when going the same distance.

How to buy tickets

Tickets are sold at the bus station and need to be booked in advance. You simply need to go to the ticket window and tell the clerk your destination and the number of tickets needed. Or, you can ask someone to write down the Chinese name of your destination and show it to the clerk.

Unlike trains, buses do not have different classes within a single vehicle; however, ticket prices vary according to the condition of the bus, and the price difference is not very large. It is always advisable to choose the more expensive ones, for they are cleaner, more comfortable, and probably air-conditioned.

How to find your bus and get on

People working at bus stations hardly speak any English, but they are usually helpful. If you are not sure where your bus is or which bus is yours, you can show your ticket to the worker and he/she will lead the way.

What’s inside the bus

Usually an express non-stop bus is clean and air-conditioned, and has safety belts and one attendant. The windows are shut. A bottle of water and sometimes a local newspaper is provided for free to each passenger.

Other buses are tolerably clean, and have no attendant. These buses stop along the way to pick up passengers. The windows are open and the air conditioning might not be on. There will be no water provided for free to passengers, but you can buy some for yourself.

None of the above buses are equipped with washrooms, so you need to be prepared and go to the washroom before the bus leaves. Long distance buses, however, do stop along the way for a rest. You can use this interval to breathe some fresh air and use the washroom quickly. Please make sure that you take everything with you.


Pickpockets are ubiquitous at the station and even on the bus. Please keep your luggage and valuables securely attached to yourself, and don’t leave them unwatched in any case.

In case you get car-sickness, besides your usual way to relieve this discomfort, you can also prepare some cut ginger and smell the pieces every now and then. Many Chinese people use ginger to relieve car-sickness.