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Chengdu Pro Travel Tips

As one of the most popular travel destinations in China, Chengdu is well-known for the giant pandas, and delicious Sichuan food like hot pot. Chengdu is a large but relaxed city, with many natural, cultural, and historical sights in and around it.

In order to make your trip as relaxed as possible, we've put together 10 handy tips to plan a trip to Chengdu.

1. Chengdu is really big!

Chengdu has grown immensely in the last decade and is a bustling hub for the entire of Sichuan and the rest of western China. Its current urban population count is at 8.2 million.

The city's main structure is made up of the three ring roads and Renmin Road. Get a map to take a look, but these main throughways should help to navigate at least a little.

2. Don't be upset if your language guidebook doesn't work!

People in Chengdu may not speak Mandarin. In Chengdu, most people speak the Chengdu dialect (a variation of the Sichuan dialect). For many, it sounds like everyone is fighting, but don't worry this is just normal conversation. The dialect is similar to Mandarin, but still strange enough to make Beijingers think twice, or just give up.

Here are some examples:

  • "four" (si-uh tone goes down a little then up) and "ten" (si-uh tone goes straight then down) sound almost the same. Hold up four fingers for four and make a cross with your index and middle fingers for ten.
  • Questions words like "who" (nago), "what"(shazi), "when"(haojiu), "why"(weishazi), and "how many"(haoduo) in Sichuan dialect are very different from what one usually learns in a Mandarin Chinese crash course
  • Some Chengduites have a thick accent when trying to speak Mandarin called "Chuanpu"

See more on Sichuanese — Chengdu's Mandarin.

3. The metro is the fastest way around Chengdu.

Take the Chengdu metro, but avoid rush hour if you can unless you like to be squeezed in like sardines. During rush hour there is also not much of a point taking a taxi or a bus, and biking will be as fast as driving!

4. Taxis are a good alternative outside of rush hour.

du fu thatched cottageDufu's Thatched Cottage

During rush hour some taxis are changing drivers so they will refuse you if you are not going the same direction. They may also advise you to take the metro instead of a taxi so you don't get stuck in a traffic jam.

Always keep some small change on you (1 RMB notes for buses, 10 RMB notes for taxis).

There are many "black taxis", illegal taxis. Although there have been cases of foul play they are useful when there are no other options.

Alternatively, if you buy a ticket to Dufu's Thatched Cottage, Jinsha Excavation Site, or Wuhou Temple you can take a free shuttle to other tourist spots.

5. Prepare for humidity.

Chengdu is in an inland basin surrounded by hills. So, depending on the time of year, Chengdu is usually stuffy due to its humidity. This humidity and pollution stick around leading to overcast skies most of the time.

As there are also large amounts of construction, you may want to bring a facemask if you are sensitive to dust. These construction-heavy areas do tend to be easy to avoid while traveling though.

6. And prepare for the hot or cold weather.

Chengdu wonton soup is eaten during summer and winterChengdu wonton soup is eaten during summer and winter

Because Chengdu weather can be extremely hot during the summer months (July is the hottest month), there is no heating indoors (with the exception of most modern hotels).

This means that outside and inside temperatures are about the same during the colder months (January is the coldest month), so bring a sweater or two if you are planning during the winter. If you think it might rain during your trip, we also recommend buying an umbrella when it isn't raining because the price of these can magically go up during the rain ...

7. Be ready to taste the unexpected! Sichuan cuisine in Chengdu is incredible.

chongqinghuoguoChengdu hot pot

Although some of the most famous Chinese dishes come from Sichuan (e.g. Kung Pao chicken), you'll find many other foods that you didn't expect.

Many dishes come with numbing pepper (Sichuan peppercorn). Don't be surprised if your mouth feels painfully numb suddenly! Sometimes the food looks spicy, but isn't, or doesn't look spicy, but is! Ask for food without any spice (bula) or just a little bit of spice (weila). See How to Survive Chengdu Hotpot.

There is lots of oil and not enough fiber. Grab some fruit, oolong tea, or fiber cookies. Be open to try new things (organs, feet, head), but always exercise caution.

We've put together some good restaurants in Chengdu if you don't know where to start.

8. Wi-Fi is everywhere, but you might need a VPN.

Now with the wonderful world of wireless Internet connections you'll find free Wi-Fi in many teahouses, businesses, restaurants, and so on. However, you'll need to ask for the password.

As with other cities in China, due to Chinese Firewall restrictions you'll need a VPN if you want to access internet services such as Google or Facebook. You can find the best VPNs here.

9. If you want to volunteer with the pandas or spend more time with them, plan and book in advance

Chengdu's amazing giant pandasChengdu's amazing giant pandas

The giant pandas are one of Chengdu's biggest draws, but you'll have to book in advance to be able to volunteer at one of the breeding sites.

Some of the more popular places to see giant pandas are further away from the city so if you are coming to Chengdu to do that do make sure you're planning ahead! You don't want to miss your opportunity to see these incredible animals.

See our guide to How to Plan a Giant Panda Tour.

10. Contact Us for Help Touring Chengdu

Chengdu's baby pandasChengdu's baby pandas

If you're planning a trip to Chengdu, contact China Highlights with your queries.

We are a full-service China travel agency, offering deals on Chengdu hotels, flights, and transport, and specializing in customizable, privately-guided, Chengdu tours.

Some of the more popular ones are a 2-day Panda Keeper and Chengdu Highlights Tour as well as a day-long Chengdu food tour — exploring Chengdu through your stomach.

Further Reading