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10 Useful Tips for Travelers to Harbin, China — Updated 2018

the sun island. International snow sculpture art exhibitionSnow sculpture on Sun Island

We've put together a page full of 10 practical travel tips for visitors to Harbin (哈尔滨 Hā'ěrbīn /hah-uhh-bin/) to help make your experience better and smoother

The first thing you should know is that it's very very cold in Harbin in winter, but it has the world's largest Ice and Snow Festival. If you like Disney's Frozen, you should consider going.

1. Harbin's Best Attractions Include the Ice World.

Siberian tigers and many other animals are in the Siberian Tiger Park.

It is important to plan which events and attractions you want to go to before you arrive, so you can book tickets beforehand at these very popular places, and also better schedule your arrival and itinerary. We can help you.

Far and away the best event is the huge ice sculpture competition of the Ice and Snow World. Next would be the very large snow sculptures at Sun Island Scenic Area. If you really want to see more ice sculptures, then the display in Zhaolin Park is an option.

But Harbin is also known for skiing at Yabuli (we can take you on a Club Med Yabuli Skiing Tour) and the great Russian architecture around St. Sophia where you can also go for Russian and international food and drinks.

Harbin also has a huge Siberian Tiger Park with literally hundreds of Siberian tigers.

2. Winter Is the Best Time to Visit Harbin.

Yabuli Ski ResortYou can go skiing in nearby Yabuli Ski Resort.

Winter's best for the ice and snow sculpture festivals in the city and Yabuli Ski Resort — China's biggest and best for skiing.

For the best sculptures and less crowds: The ice and snow sculptures look their best in January. During the Chinese Spring Festival vacation period, there are huge crowds, and you might want to specifically avoid Chinese New Year holiday dates. In 2018, that's February 15 to February 21.

For the best Chinese experience: However, if you want to see Harbin and all the crowds celebrating in surprising traditional ways, then do come during the holidays and maybe also during the Lantern Festival day (March 2, 2018).

3. Find Out the Winter Festival Dates, Etc.

ice sculpture, harbinThe huge ice sculptures are life size.

There are actually three different main festival venues for the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. The dates vary. It officially opened on Jan. 5 in 2018 with fireworks at the Ice World.

  • Sun Island Scenic Area only displays snow sculptures that can be only visited during daytime. Dec. 21, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2018, 8:30-18:30. Adults 240 RMB, children between 3.9 and 4.6 feet (1.2-1.4m) 120 RMB, and free for children under 3.9 feet.
  • The Ice and Snow World displays the big ice sculptures that are internationally famous.  It is best visited when they are colorfully lit at night. December 22, 2017 to early March 2018, 11:00-22:00. Adults 330 RMB, children between 3.9 and 4.6 feet 200 RMB, and free for children under 3.9 feet.
  • Zhaolin Park displays about 1,000 smaller ice sculptures and ice lanterns as part of a competition in the park. It too is best visited at night, but the sculptures are far smaller and more artistic. January 5, 2018 to early March, 2018, 10:00-21:00. Adults 150 RMB and free for children under 3.9 feet.

4. Know How to Dress in Harbin.

Harbin is located where cold Siberian air currents blow through in the winter, so temperatures are down to -30° C (-22° F).

For your safety and comfort, it is imperative that you dress for the weather. Though clothing is relatively inexpensive in China, you might not find the style or size you want quickly.

Wear a suitable coat that is longer than thigh length and windproof. Make sure it has a thick hood or bring an additional thick hat that covers your ears and a face mask too.

Color-wise, it is a good idea to wear dark colors to absorb sunlight for added warmth, protect eyes from snowblindness, and help people see your better in the snow. Consider snow glasses, or open your eyes narrowly

Wear snow boots or warm waterproof booots that have good traction so you don't slip. This is important. Choose boots that are comfortable for walking around in the big display fields. Bring thick gloves too. 

For more, see our January Harbin Weather page.

5. Plan Ahead for Internet Access.

Make a phone call from China

Some software won't work in China, e.g. Google, WhatsApp... without a VPN. You may consider using Chinese software. See Best VPNs for China and The 10 Best Apps To Install Before Going to China.

The Internet is available, but can be slow or blocked. You can get free Wi-Fi at the hotels, restaurants, and cafes most foreigners would frequent. Ask us if you require a portable Wi-Fi hub. For more, see Internet Access in China.

6. Plan How to Protect Your Expensive Electronics.

Bring an adapter.Bring adapters for your equipment.

Temperatures as cold as those in Harbin can damage electronics. It might just be best to leave expensive equipment at home. Or plan how you'll keep your e.g. camera warm outside.

Power drain: Power drain on cellphone, camera, and other batteries occurs in freezing temperatures. The answer is to keep them well padded and protected from cold, e.g. in an inside pocket. Extra batteries (also protected) are also advisable.

Electricity in China is 220 volts, 50 Hz. You might need a transformer. Sockets in China are usually for two or three thin pins. Some hotels can provide commonly used adapters and phone chargers for guests. All others, bring yourself.

Power Supply Adapters in China>>>

7. Money and Access to It.

TippingThe Chinese currency is yuan or RMB.

The easiest way to get yuan in Harbin is simply to use bank ATMs.

The main Bank of China branches are best for currency exchange:

  • Heilongjiang Branch,19 Hongjun Jie, Nangang District
  • Zhaolin Branch, 37 Zhaolin Jie, Daoli District
  • Daowai Branch, 185 Zhongyang Dajie, Daoli District

Click to see more about ATMs in China and China Currency Exchange.

8. You'll Probably Need a Visa.

72 hour visa deskMake sure you have a visa, if you need one.

At the Harbin airport, many nationalities can apply for 72-hour visa-free transit. As you must have an onward ticket to a third country, and Harbin has few international flights, this is unlikely to be suitable.

Those who want to travel outside the region or stay longer must arrange for a visa. We can arrange your tourist visas economically and quickly. Contact us for more information about visa requirements.

9. Decide How to Get to Harbin.

high-speed trainsHigh-speed trains increasingly provide viable non-flight access to out-of-the-way places.

Harbin is in an out-of-the-way corner of China, with no direct flights from far away. Flight and train tickets are in such high demand during the Ice and Snow Festival that you must book in advance.

Option 1. Fly To Harbin

If you're not flying via HK or a nearby Asian city (for the visa-free option), you should take a plane to Beijing first. The easiest way to Harbin is a 2-hour flight from Beijing's international airport.

Note: Around the Spring Festival holiday, roundtrip Beijing-Harbin flights jump to at least about 300 USD.

Option 2. Take a Train to Harbin

Trains from Beijing to Harbin are reasonably plentiful, but tickets sell out quickly, especially around Chinese New Year. Our train booking staff will be buying with the first Chinese buyers when they become available, so book early with us (we have a 99% booking success rate). Your options are:

  • Bullet trains: G-class takes about 7 hours, first class 133 USD, second class 86 USD; D-class about 8 hours, first class 67 USD, second class 50 USD.
  • Overnight trains can prove more economical, convenient, and comfortable: Z trains take 10 hours or more; K and T trains 14 to 18 hours — 47+ USD for a hard sleeper, 72+ USD soft sleeper

10. Know How to Get Around Harbin.

ice and snow worldThis ice "city" is just a part of the Ice and Snow World.

Metro: Harbin has two metro lines, operational as of early 2018.

Taxi: Taxis are convenient for going around the city. They charge 8 RMB for the first 3 km (2 mi). It costs RMB 100-130 between the airport and the city.

Buses to Zhaolin Park: 4, 8, 23, 53,114, 132, 201, and 206 go to Zhaolin Gongyuan (Zhaolin Park).

Buses to the Ice and Snow World: 13, 29, 126.

Read more about Harbin Transport.

Popular Harbin Tours

Russian architecture in Harbin

Contact us for a customized tour, travel help, visas, and information.

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