It is very easy to travel by plane, train, bus, and car from Shanghai to other Chinese cities and villages. Within the following pages you will find various descriptions of destinations that students have chosen to see during past semesters at the NYU Shanghai program. These villages and cities within China include: Beijing, Chengdu, Guilin, Hangzhou, Hongcun, Huangshan, Jiuzhaigou, Xidi, Xitang, and Yangshuo.
One important thing to remember is that China is HUGE! While it is relatively easy to book flights or train rides, students often miscalculate the time that it will take to travel from Shanghai to other destinations. For example, the train ride from Shanghai to Beijing is approximately twelve hours non-stop; however, a flight from Shanghai to Beijing only takes about two hours. Keep these times in mind when you are planning weekend trips!
Making flight or train reservations can be somewhat tricky for students who have never traveled around China, as you may run into issues because of a language barrier. The NYU in Shanghai staff is happy to assist students who wish to purchase weekend travel tickets. However, make sure you ask for assistance at least a few weeks in advance to allow for processing time.
Have an idea of sites you want to visit and things you want to do during your trip. Do some research on travel blogs and communities. You should ask friends and family who have traveled before about places they enjoyed the most. Read through site-specific guide books like Lonely Planet, Let's Go, Rough Guide, Rick Steves, or Frommers.
Book all travel far in advance. However, do not book anything until after the first week of classes. You may find there are NYU-sponsored trips already in place.
Located north of Shanghai, you can travel to Beijing on a short, direct flight or take the cheaper option: the 12 hour overnight train. Beijing is the center for Chinese government and politics, thus their buildings and points of interest are older and rich with ancient Chinese history. You cannot leave Beijing without exploring the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Ming tombs, the new Olympic stadium, and of course the Great Wall. There are many hotel chains located in Beijing, so lodging is not a problem.
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province and serves as an economic and transportation center. Although it is older than Shanghai, Chengdu is home to great shopping, tourist sites, and of course, amazing Sichuan-style spicy food. While visiting Chengdu, make sure to check out the Sichuan Opera and the Panda Breeding and Research Center, where you will have a chance to see pandas up close and even take a picture with one! Chengdu is also the main inland access to Tibet, so combining those two trips together during spring break is very feasible.
Chongqing is like Shanghai on steroids. There are more people, brighter lights, and more buildings. It is the largest municipality in China, with 30 million people, the population of the entire country of Canada. From Chongqing, you can board a cruise down the Yangtze river and get a good look at the three gorges, an absolutely gorgeous site.
The city of Guilin is located in Guangxi Province, near another popular travel destination mentioned in this guide, Yangshuo. Located on the west bank of the Li River, Guilin boasts many beautiful views and water sports destinations. Students traveling to Guilin and Yangshuo should definitely take advantage of the bamboo rafting opportunities. Being situated along a mountainous region, Guilin also offers hiking adventures for those athletic tourists! One of their most popular hiking adventures is a trip up to Moon Hill, pictured below. Take time out to enjoy the beauty of China’s countryside.
Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province is renowned for its natural beauty and the artistic influences of its historic inhabitants. The West Lake is the center of Hangzhou, with boats that can take you from bank to bank to explore the multiple pagodas, hiking trails, and the Buddhist carvings inside the Feilai Feng Caves. Hangzhou is also home to the oldest Buddist Temple, Lingyin Si, and has gained a notable reputation for its teas and silk. Hangzhou is great for a two day vacation because is just a three hour train ride from Shanghai. Feel free to take a trip to the Long Ji Rice terraces, too. We must warn you, though, that it is a 3-4 hour bus ride to the mountain village. Students loved Hangzhou because it allowed them to leave the hustle and bustle of Shanghai and enjoy a peaceful afternoon with clean air and the relaxing comfort of nature.