Chengdu

Chengdu (成都 Chéngdū) is the provincial capital and largest city of Sichuan Province in southwest China.

Understand

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 10 12 17 22 26 28 30 30 25 21 16 11
Nightly lows (°C) 3 5 8 13 17 20 22 22 19 14 9 4
Precipitation (mm) 8 12 20 44 79 107 225 201 119 35 16 5

Chengdu is located on the edge of the fertile plains of the Red Basin in China's Sichuan Province. Due to its agricultural wealth, Chengdu is sometimes called the "Land of Milk and Honey". The Funan river bisects the city, although boat traffic, common until the 1960s, has all but vanished.

The greater city area is divided into five districts and 12 counties, altogether home to more than 14 million people. Chengdu has the reputation as a very "laid-back" city that emphasizes culture and relaxation and as a result of this and much green space is ranked one of the most livable mega-cities in China. It is credited with a good nightlife scene and contains many new western style buildings in the large city center.

Summer weather is hot and humid, as the city is surrounded by small mountains to the east and sits in the Red Basin. Furthermore, an hour to the west lie the foothills of the mighty Tibetan Plateau and the fabulously scenic mountains of west Sichuan.

The city is famous for its lack of sun, so don't come expecting to get a sun tan.

Get in

By air

Chengdu International Airport is located 20 km (12 mi) outside of Chengdu center and is one of the main air hubs in China, recently ranked 4th in passenger volume. It serves flights to/from most major cities in China, many smaller cities within Sichuan, and some international destinations including Amsterdam, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Osaka, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, and Singapore.

Bus #303 operates between the airport and the city center, costing ¥10, stopping at the Air China airline office on Renmin Nanlu (2. Section) next to the entrance of the Minshan Hotel (there is no bus stop! just look for a bunch of taxis/pedicabs, since they are also waiting for the bus. The last bus leaves the airport around 1AM.

Taxi fare from the airport to the city center averages ¥45. There is no extra charge for luggage or additional passengers. When going from the city to the airport, add an additional ¥10 to cover the toll on the Airport Expressway. If you intend to take a taxi from the airport, head for the domestic arrival area and exit the terminal where you should see the official taxi stand where you can queue for marked, green-and-yellow or blue-and-yellow taxis. Beware scammers and pirate taxi operators who are waiting to prey on foreign tourists with unmarked vehicles both inside and outside the terminal. Beware some who may sport official-looking, but fake, identification. The fare offered will often exceed ¥100, and if you bargain with them, you may find yourself sitting in the cab for a while until agreeing to raise the price back up.

By train

Train connections are available to Kunming in Yunnan, Chongqing and Xi'an.

Chengdu North Station (成都北火车站) (Chengdu Bei Zhan) (Line 1, Chengdu North Metro Station). Used to be called simply Chengdu Station but was changed when Chengdu East was opened. Handles most long distance services and most high speed trains to Chongqing

Chengdu East Station (成都东站) (Chengdu Dong Zhan). New station serving local Sichuan destinations and some services to Chongqing. Not to be confused with old freight station, slightly east of Chengdu North Station as marked on some older maps

Chengdu South Station (成都南站) (Chengdu Nan Zhan) (Line 1, Chengdu South Metro Station). (This station is currently closed.)

By bus

There are three bus stations in Chengdu, and they serve different destinations.

Chádiànzi (茶店子汽车站),  +86 28 8750 6610.

Destination Price (¥) Departures (HH:MM) Duration (HH:MM) Lunch-Stop Last Update
Hongyuan 108 06:30 10:00 Yes 2009/06
Jiǔzhàigōu (九寨沟) 121 08:00 10:00 yes 2009/02
Rìlóng (日隆镇) 69 06:40 9-12:00 yes 2009/02
Ruo Ergai 88 07:00 07:20 10:00 ? 2005/06
Sōngpān (松潘县) 74 06:30 07:00 07:30 8:00 - 11:00 (due to Wenchuan's earthquake repair) Yes 2009/11
Wòlóng (卧龙) 23 11:40 4:00 ? 2005/06
Langzhong (阆中) 46 7-18:30 (Hourly) 4:00 No 2009/10

Xīnnánmén (新南门汽车站),  +86 28 8543 3609. There is a tourist information center nearby where you can get free map of the city and ask bus to go to your accommodation's location.

Destination Price (¥) Departures (HH:MM) Duration (HH:MM) Lunch-Stop Last Update (YYYY/MM)
Daocheng 217.00 10:00 2 days ? 2005/06
Éméi Shān (峨嵋山) 45 07:00-19:00 (every 20 mins) 2:00-3:00 No 2012/05
Jiǔzhàigōu (九寨沟) 140 08:00 11:00 yes 2009/02
Kāngdìng (康定) 103/115/125 8AM-2PM (hourly) 7AM Yes 2009/10
Ganzi (甘孜) 172 7AM 2 days Yes 2009/10
Ya'an (雅安) 37/42 7:20AM-7PM (every 35mins) 2:00 No 2009/10
Lèshān (乐山) 46 7:20AM–7:35PM (every 30 mins) 2:00 No 2011/05

Wǔguìqiáo (五桂桥汽车站),  +86 28 8471 1692.

Destination Price (¥) Departures (HH:MM) Duration (HH:MM) Lunch-Stop Last Update
Chongqing 130 trips all day, every hour 04:00 yes 2009/10

Get around

Chengdu's rush hour traffic can be hellish. Plan your itinerary around not having to be on the road during these hours.

By metro

Chengdu Metro

The first line of the Chengdu Metro opened in October 2010, slicing north-south through the city along Renmin Rd and connecting the North and South railway stations together. The fare for a single ride is ¥2-4 depending on distance. You can purchase tickets from machines (English available) with ¥1 coins or 5¥ and 10¥ notes. Ticket booths are also available if you don't have suitable notes.

When entering the metro you need to put your bags through an x-ray machine. The ticket is flashed by the gates on the reader on your right side. You need the ticket to get out as well so keep it safe. When exiting the ticket is placed into a slot that collects it. Again this slot is on the right side of the gate, so pay attention since it's very easy to accidentally open the gate next to you. When exiting, you must wait behind the yellow line until the passenger in front of you has passed and the gate shows it now accepts your ticket. If you're beyond the line the gate won't let you through and you need to back away for it to accept you as a new passenger.

Line 2 of the Chengdu Metro has opened in September 2012. This line runs from the North West suburbs of Chengdu to the South East of the City, interchanging with Line 1 at Tianfu Square Station. This line is most handy to travelers arriving and departing via Chengdu East Railway Station.

Line 4 of the Chengdu Metro started operation on 26 December 2015. This line runs from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Park to Wannianchang, interchanging with Line 2 at Chengdu University of TCM & Sichuan Provincial People's Hospital and it servers Chengdu West Railway Station.

By bus

Chengdu has an extensive system of city buses plying the streets. At each bus stop, there is a list of the bus lines coming through on this road, and on some city maps the whole network is displayed. However, the bus lines and maps only use Chinese characters, and even if the bus announces the station, it will usually only be in Chinese. Tickets are ¥1 for non-aircon (now very rare) and ¥2 for air-conditioned buses. The fare is paid by putting the exact amount to a metal box next to the driver. There's no possibility to get change so make sure you have the exact amount of cash available. Normally, you enter via the front door, and alight by the rear door. On the new articulated buses, you can enter at either the front or rear door, with the middle door designated for alighting only.

There's no official route map on the Internet but there is a well functional service available in Chinese. Click on Chengdu on the map, then select the middle tab from (公交) from the search field. To show the route of a particular line, click 高级搜索 and type the line number to the search field that appeared on the right side. You can also select from and to destinations from the map via a context menu (the two topmost options) and the service shows the route with bus line numbers and also where to change the bus if needed. Classical bus useful for tourists are 1 and 99 (inside city), 300 (link between south airport to north railway station). You can also use the Google Maps app on your smartphone to plan your travel and it will tell you which bus and subway lines to take to your destination.

If you will be in Chengdu a while, you may want to purchase a transit card (公交卡). They are sold at all Hong Qi markets and at some pharmacies. Not only do you no longer have to worry about carrying correct change, but you get free transfers for two hours plus some discounts. The card costs ¥20 and can be loaded with three types of credit. The first is cash. You will receive a 10% discount off the cash fare when using your card's cash. So a regular bus ride will cost ¥1.80 instead of ¥2. You can also load credits (次) for this month and credits for next month. Each credit costs ¥0.50, and most bus rides use two credits (the increasingly rare non-aircon buses cost one credit). So most rides then cost you only ¥1. Credits expire at the end of the month for which they were designated, so it can take a little effort to not buy too many or too few. Note that some bus lines (usually higher numbered ones) and the subway only accept your cash balance (not credits), which does not expire. Other lines (usually those going way out to the suburbs) accept only cash. When you board the bus and tap your card, the display will show the number of this month's credits remaining (if you used credits) or the cash balance (if you used your card's stored cash value).

By taxi

Official taxis are either green or blue and are equipped with meters. A free taxi will display an illuminated sign with Chinese characters in its dashboard. The meter is turned on by tilting the sign, make sure the driver does that and if not, you can try to do it yourself and the driver usually gets your point. Some taxi drivers may try to offer you a fixed price but don't take it unless you know it's cheaper than with the meter on. Taxi drivers don't speak English nor do they understand the map, so have an address written in Chinese with you. Drivers don't know many street names so it's best to have the address to some well known place close to your destination. Collect taxi cards from hotels and restaurants and show them to the drivers, and when close to your destination start instructing by pointing with your hand. This method usually gets you there - some drivers however will not follow your instructions or get angry for you traveling a longer distance than what they expected.

Taxi fare is ¥8 on flagfall for the older taxis ¥9 for the new ones, and increase at ¥1.9 per km after the first 2 kilometers. For rides from 10 to 60 km the km fare is increased by 50% to compensate the taxi returning empty. During night time the starting price is ¥1 more and per km price is ¥2.20. Waiting price for the taxi is one km fare per every five minutes, and the meter counts traveling with speed less than 12 km/h as waiting time. Taxis often refuse to accept ¥100 bills so try to have some change on hand.

Taxis can be difficult to find depending on the area. There are also unlicensed taxis in the city but they're quite hard to notice. If you use one, know your destination and expected price and negotiate the fare beforehand.

By motorized pedi-cab

There are still some motorized bicycle-propelled pedicabs called san lun che (三轮车) which can take you moderate distances. Fix a price (¥5-¥15) in advance. The passengers ride behind the driver. The ride is fun, but san lun che are being phased out and are forbidden cross or ride on certain streets, and may be gone altogether soon. Until the year 2005, all of these pedicabs were modified bicycles actually pedalled by the driver. Today, virtually all are motorized, either by electric or gasoline powered engines.

By bicycle

Most guest houses have bicycles for hire. Check for technical problems before starting out unless you want to be held responsible for it later. If you leave your bicycle, do so in one of the designated "bicycle parks", where it will be guarded over for a small fee. If you can not find such a place, be sure to lock it securely against some structure. Be careful as the bike traffic flow can be intense.

See

A statue of Mao in Tianfu Square

In Chengdu

Greater Chengdu

Chengdu's Panda Base, located just outside the city, is a favorite of visitors

Do

For up-to-date information on activities, places and attractions you should check out the CHENGDOO citylife magazine's listings. You will find copies in most bars, restaurants, cafes, hostels and hotels.

Learn

The following universities accept foreign students with the proper visa:

Language School:

Tutoring:

Private Chinese language lessons are available for ¥40-85 per hour. Ask for a referral at one of the universities, or from another student. Textbooks for learning Chinese are available at many local bookshops.

Bear in mind that the Mandarin spoken by the locals amongst themselves is South-Western Mandarin. This is substantially different from Putonghua or Beijing Mandarin, Taiwan Mandarin or Singapore Mandarin that foreigners and overseas Chinese typically learn. However most locals will speak Putonghua with you if you speak it.

Martial Arts / Kungfu:


Work

Job postings for English teaching are located in many guest houses, at Western bars and restaurants, anywhere foreigners congregate. Also worth to check are GoChengdoo and their Chengdoo Magazine of which you can grab a copy from many places throughout the city.

The Peace Corps has its China headquarters in Chengdu, (Sichuan University Campus), and places highly selected and qualified U.S. Citizen volunteers in 2 year assignments throughout provinces in West China teaching English.

Buy

Supermarkets are located throughout the city, although the selection of imported foods is limited.

Eat

You will find no shortage of delicious and fiery Sichuan food in Chengdu. Most of the food is quite spicy, be sure to specify whenever you order: non-spicy (不要辣; búyàolà), a little spicy (微辣; wēilà) or 'old' (very) spicy (老辣; lǎolà). If you are not accustomed to it yet, a bottle of sweetened soy, almond, peanut, or cow milk, or something else sweet will work much better than water to quell the fire. If you are used to the hottest of authentic Indian or Thai food, the level of spiciness in Sichuan food should be no problem at all. However, Sichuan food also makes heavy use of Sichuan pepper (花椒; huājiāo), which looks like but is not a true peppercorn, and causes your mouth to become somewhat numb. Sichuan pepper is added in most spicy dishes. If you can eat spicy food but do not like Sichuan pepper, you need to order so (不要花椒; bú yào huājiāo). However, Sichuan pepper (in addition to causing numbing) has an important citrusy taste that it adds to foods and authentic Sichuan tastes bank on the play between the flavours of both Sichuan pepper and chili peppers, and it is strongly recommend you at least try the authentic versions with the Sichuan pepper before deciding for yourself.

The spiciest food in Chengdu is hotpot (also called steampot or steamboat), although the tradition originated in Chongqing, so it is not really Chengdu food. Sichuan hotpots are basically a big pot of soup and spices simmering in a hole in the middle of your table. Patrons choose from a large selection of meats, vegetables and other add-ins. Most popular include: lamb, mushrooms, beef, tofu, quail eggs, potatoes and various others (pork, green vegetables, fish balls, carrots, and even pig's brain!) You can choose spicy pot or non spicy pot. With spicy hot pots, unlike eastern hot pots, the soup is NOT for drinking; instead, fish out your cooked items with chopsticks (do not fish the liquid out with a spoon, it is too spicy even for locals to drink; the fished out vegetables will be spicy enough), dip them in the small bowl of oil provided to each person, and enjoy.

You may also find the local food too oily or too salty for your taste, and may want to advise your server accordingly.

There are also a lot of weird local snack type of food, such as spicy dragon prawns (look like very small crayfish; 麻辣龙虾), spicy snails (香辣田螺), Chongqing duck neck (九九鸭脖子), Bangbang chicken (棒棒鸡), spicy rabbit meat (二姐兔丁). These ones are so delicious and you must try them. But you need to ask a local to take you to the right place. Quite often you will find that the small restaurants and shops offer the most delicious and cheapest food. If you want to find even cheaper food options, street vendors are the way to go (though the Chengdu police have been doing their best to extinguish this long tradition and you may have trouble finding them these days). Serving everything from barbeque (烧烤) to steamed breadrolls(馒头), they are a cheap and offer a great option for a quick bite to eat.

If you are less adventurous but still like Chinese food, or just tired of Sichuan food, there are a number of Cantonese and Hong Kong restaurants, including Lei Garden near Shangri-la Hotel.

There are a number of stalls and hole in the wall type places all over town. Food here is dirt cheap, expect to pay no more than ¥8 for a meal, and the quality is good. Things to be on the lookout for are spicy bowls of breakfast noodles, (担担面; dandanmian), double cooked pork (回锅肉; húigūoròu), and dozens of dishes coated in "málà" the Sichuan chili spice famous the world over.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Chinese

Western

Chengdu has a few local Western restaurants. Service is always friendly, although you should expect occasional mistakes, such as appetizers served at the same time as your meal. Chengdu is just starting to get accustomed to Western tastes.

Drink

A popular district of bars, also known as the bar street, is located by the southern shore of Jin River next to Anshun Bridge. The well known Lan Kwai Fong from Hong Kong started its business in the mainland of China in 2010 and the first city is Chengdu. The area is located a little north-west from Anshun Bridge.

Also, on the southern bank of Jinjiang there is a row of bars between Renmin South Road and Xin South Road. Beers will cost ¥10-20 per bottle, but buying bulk cans will save you a good bit of money with special deals. There will also be street vendors selling various snacks. This makes for a good night with the clubs Babi II, Ta & Ta, and Soho just around the bend.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

The vast majority of Chengdu's mid-range hotels are not affiliated with a national or international brand and generally charge ¥300-700. The hotels in this category can generally put up the facade of the more luxurious hotels, but often suffer noticeably from deferred maintenance or haphazard customer service. Many are geared mostly towards Chinese and Asian tour groups. The hotels listed below are the best of the bunch with lobby staff who speak at least a basic level of English and usually offer a free Chinese breakfast.

Splurge

Chengdu's luxury hotels provide world class service at very reasonable prices. Business and leisure travelers can expect, at a minimum, to find fluent English speaking staff, Western and Chinese restaurants, full conference facilities, business center, sauna and concierge service at all of these hotels. Room rates are US$115–200 per night for a standard or deluxe room. The Kempinski and the Jin Jiang Hotel are generally the lowest price within this category.

Connect

Phone

China's country code is 86. Chengdu's area code is 28. Coin-operated pay phones are located throughout Chengdu, and calling cards can be purchased from many vendors. Local landline phone numbers are eight digits long; cellular phone numbers in Sichuan are eleven digits long and start with 13, 15, or 18.

Internet

Internet access can be found in most guesthouses and through cheap internet cafes all over town. Look out for Web-character 网 and the Bar-character 吧 in the Chinese name for internet bar: 网吧.

A large Internet cafe is located on the second floor of the Xinnanmen Bus Station (新南门汽车站), just 100 meters from the Traffic Hotel (交通饭店). The connection is fast and access is ¥2/hour.

Note that foreigners are usually not able to use the public internet cafés because one must register using one's Chinese ID card (身份证), which foreigners do not possess. This is not a problem at hotels and guesthouses.

Stay safe

Thieves are prevalent around certain areas of Chengdu. Be careful around the Yanshikou markets and especially around the North train station. There are also many thieves on crowded buses who use razors to cut open pockets and bags. Also watch your bag at all times when riding bicycles around the city, thieves like to run alongside bicycles at traffic lights and reach into bags.

Traffic can be hectic and motorists as well as cyclists have a complete disregard of pedestrians. Beware when crossing streets; even when the WALK sign is green, traffic taking a free right turn might try to run you over.

Cope

For such a big city, there's surprisingly little Western influence in Chengdu but certainly more than regional "rival" Chongqing. It's definitely not Beijing or Shanghai but this is changing fast with the arrival of more and more foreign students, teachers, and business people. This may be trying initially, as the level of English spoken is noticeably lower than other places, but it's also a blessing; carry a phrasebook and enjoy the authentic Chinese urban experience. The Western quarter, if there is one, seems to be around Kehua North Road.

Consulates

Police

If you need to make a visa extension, You can visit Chengdu Police Security Bureau but be warn of the 7 days delay. Most people in a hurry will try to do their renew in Leshan or Songpan where it seems delay is about 1h to 1d, if the (only) officer is here.

Go next

Families and those short of time might consider hiring a car with driver (¥300-900 per day, depending upon type of car and experience of driver, with cars booked at the luxury hotels the most expensive and highest quality).

Stone Elephant Lake

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.