Guangzhou

Zhujiang New Town

Guangzhou (广州 Guǎngzhōu, traditional name:Canton, or just simply GZ) is the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China.

According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 12.7 million, making it the third largest city in China after Shanghai and Beijing. It is a part of the Pearl River Delta, which also includes Shenzhen, Dongguan, Hong Kong, Macau, Foshan, Jiangmen, Huizhou, Zhongshan and Zhuhai.

In the era of tea clippers, Guangzhou was known in the West as "Canton". The food and the language of the area are still known as "Cantonese" and it is perfectly acceptable to use either the western or Chinese terms interchangeably. The Cantonese are proud and hard working people known throughout China and the world over for their famous cuisine and talent for business. One thing you will notice in Guangzhou's city centre is that there isn't much of the horn-honking cacophony that is present in other Chinese cities. Cantonese drivers seem to follow the rules of the road a bit more than in other cities where it is generally more chaotic.

The city is famous for foreign trade and business doings, and holds China's largest trade fair, the Canton Fair. However, in between the seemingly endless skyscrapers, shopping malls and building sites there is a lot of culture and history. While Guangzhou is not usually high on the list of Asian tourist destinations, it is amazing how much the city actually has to offer.

Understand

At first sight, Guangzhou appears less as a city that is developing than one that is about to explode. Every corner seems to be packed with high-rise buildings, overpasses, and people running marathons. It can be overwhelming, and the initial instinct of many visitors is to leave as soon as possible. However, those that overcome this urge and stay around will discover a gentler and more personable side to the city.

As a major entry point for overseas culture for many centuries, foreigners are not the anomaly here that they are in other Chinese cities. Consequently, travellers are afforded more personal space and freedom. In addition, tucked away in the back streets, the old Guangzhou of traditional neighbourhoods still moves at an age-old pace, with families and friends often sitting outdoors enjoying tea and banter.

Guangzhou also has the largest urban park in China, an island of refurbished colonial buildings and some world class galleries and exhibition spaces. In addition, possibly due to the distance from the country's political centres, the citizens of Guangzhou have developed a laid-back and play-hard approach to life.

Today, Guangzhou is recognized as one of China's most prosperous, liberal, and cosmopolitan cities. However, despite being an international trading hub, there is still a lack of English signs. Outside of the business districts and tourist areas, very few locals converse well in English. It is highly recommended to bring a phrasebook. Navigating Guangzhou without a phrasebook or understanding of the language will prove to be a difficult task.

Guangzhou is often negatively referred to as the Los Angeles of China, thanks to its sprawl of highways, shopping malls, smog, traffic jams, diverse population and its comparatively high crime-rate. Despite claims of Guangzhou being a dangerous city, it is not dangerous at all, in comparison to any large western city.

Districts

Layout of Guangzhou
Western central Guangzhou in detail (Liwan and west Yuexiu)
Eastern central Guangzhou in detail (east Yuexiu and Tianhe)

After the restructuring in 2014, there are 11 districts in Guangzhou. Among them, Liwan, Yuexiu, Tianhe and Haizhu are the city's core.

The main tourist areas and metropolitan areas are in the northern part of the city and they include Liwan, Yuexiu, Tianhe and Haizhu.

History

Formerly known as Canton to the West, the city of Guangzhou has a history dating back roughly 2,200 years.

The symbol of Guangzhou -- the five Rams

A legend tells of five celestial beings riding into the area that is now Guangzhou on five rams carrying sheaves of rice. The celestials bestowed blessings on the land and offered the sheaves to the people of the city as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. After the celestials left, the rams turned into stone, and Guangzhou quickly developed into an affluent and influential city. Due to this legend, Guangzhou has gained several popular nicknames: Yangcheng (羊城; City of Rams), Suicheng (穗城; Sheaves of Rice City) and Wuyangcheng (五羊城; City of Five Rams). In addition, due to the abundance of flowers along the city's main thoroughfares, Guangzhou is often referred to as Huacheng (花城; City of Flowers).

According to historical records, the city was built in 214BC and was known as Panyu (番禺). The name Guangzhou actually referred to the prefecture in which Panyu was located. As the city grew, the name Guangzhou was adopted for the city itself.

As a major sea port, in 786 the city was sacked by the Persians. In 1514 the Portuguese were the first Europeans that arrived in Canton. They obtained a monopoly on the trade in China until the Dutch arrived in the 17th century. In 1711 the British East India Company established a trading post here. In 1757, the government designated the city as the only port allowed business transactions with foreign nations. This continued until 1842 when the Treaty of Nanking was signed, when four other ports were added. Losing the exclusive privilege pushed Guangzhou to become more industrialized later.

Guangzhou was also part of the so-called Maritime Silk Road that linked southern China with India, South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. As a result of its links with the Middle East, a mosque was established in the city in 627, and a small Muslim community continues to live in Guangzhou to this day. Additionally, the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism was born in Guangzhou and taught the famous Platform Sutra in the city. As a result, Guangzhou has retained a strong connection with this school of Buddhism, and the monastery where the sixth patriarch studied is considered a local treasure. The first Protestant missionary in China, Robert Morrison, entered Guangzhou in 1807. This started the spread of Christianity in the country.

When to visit

In terms of climate, the best time to visit Guangzhou is between October and November. Alternatively, April and May are also good months. Guangzhou has a sub-tropical climate with humidity levels at their highest in the summer. Temperatures can reach almost 40 degrees Celsius. Typhoon season is from June to September. Please note that the Canton Fair takes place annually during the Weeks from Mid-April to Early May and Mid-October to Early November, so finding accommodation at those times can be difficult and expensive. See the information section under Sleep.

Get in

By plane

Main article: Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

  Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (广州白云国际机场). Is 28km north of Guangzhou and is the most convenient airport to get into the city.

Flying to Hong Kong is another option, although transportation times are significantly increased owing to having to cross the border. From the Hong Kong International Airport, you can take cross-boundary coach to Guangzhou and other cities in Guangdong. These coaches include China Travel Service, Trans-Island Chinalink and Eternal East, fares range from HK$220–250 one way.

By train

Trains cover the 182 km (113 mi) from Hong Kong in about two hours, including a stop at Dongguan. Through trains to Guangzhou East Railway Station depart from Hong Kong at Hung Hom railway station in Kowloon and arrive in Guangzhou at the East station. Through train services are operated by Hong Kong MTR. The one-way journey price starts from HKD $190.

It is cheaper to take the Guangshen intercity train service (广深城际列车) from Shenzhen to Guangzhou East Railway Station. Some trips also stop at Guangzhou Railway Station. Shenzhen is right across the border from Hong Kong and thousands of people walk over the bridge between the two every day through Luohu (罗湖). Tickets can be bought at the Shenzen Rail Station in Luohu. The one-way journey price starts from ¥80.

A project is underway to link the entire Pearl River Delta area with high speed (300+ km/h) railway network. The Zhuhai-Guangzhou, Guangzhou-Shenzhen have opened in 2011, and the journey takes just 57 minutes and 35 minutes respectively. However, the stations are far from the city centers. A new long distance line from Guangzhou to Wuhan and Beijing is open. It travels through major cities such as Changsha and Shaoguan. It takes only less than over 3 hours for a journey to Wuhan, nearly 1,000 km away. One way ticket is from ¥490. The ride to Beijing takes approximately 7 hours. Guangzhou South Railway Station (广州南站) is the new home to the high-speed train services.

It is possible to book a train ticket from Guangzhou to Lhasa, Tibet. The 4,980 km journey takes 54 hours and 39 minutes and runs every other day from Guangzhou Station (广州站). A sleeper costs ¥923 and up. The last stretch is on the new Qinghai-Tibet railway; see also Overland to Tibet.

Bear in mind there are now three major train stations in Guangzhou. Countless travelers have gone to the wrong station and missed their scheduled trips, so be sure of your departing station, which is specified on the ticket.

Guangzhou also has several other stations such as the North Station and West Station. There are also name variations for each of the stations. Be sure to use official names to avoid confusion.

Although some signs are available in English, staff may not understand English well enough, except at the Guangzhou-Kowloon counter. Bring a phrasebook or a Chinese friend if you're planning on traveling deeper into China.

By bus

Coach services are available to bring passengers from Hong Kong International Airport to several locations in Guangzhou. Among the destinations are recognizable landmarks like Jinan University (暨南大学) on Huangpu Avenue (黄埔大道), Garden Hotel (花园酒店) and China Hotel (中国大酒店) (see hotel section). The trip takes about 3+ hours and costs HKD $250. There are also cross border bus terminals throughout Hong Kong. One of the Stations is at Austin Road and Canton Road near Kowloon Park. A one way ticket costs about HKD $100.

Domestically, it is possible to hop on a bus from any corner of Guangdong province and get to Guangzhou. There are also many options from nearby provinces like Guangxi, Hubei and Fujian. Here are some of the main stations in the city:

Please note that English and Chinese names of bus stations vary from one sign to another—coach terminal, coach station, bus terminal, bus station, passenger terminal or passenger station. Be aware that the different names may be referring to the same station.

By boat

There are two major ports - Zhoutouzui Ferry Pier and Dashatou Pier, and many other smaller ones.

Get around

Guangzhou has a fairly efficient and rapidly expanding public transportation system. If you intend to stay in Guangzhou for an extensive period of time, purchase a multi-purpose Lingnan Pass - Yang Cheng Tong (岭南通-羊城通) stored value card, similar to the Octopus Card in Hong Kong. The card can be used in selected metro areas in the Guangdong province. It can be used not only for public transportation (bus, subway, parking meters and some taxis), but also for public phones and designated shops, places of interests and certain vending machines. The card includes a ¥30 refundable deposit. You can purchase and recharge the cards in many places, such as some 7-Elevens, Metro customer service counters, and Tiantian Laundry. Returning your card at the end of the trip can be done at any Yang Cheng Tong service centers. The best locations include centers near metro station Gongyuanqian Exit J, Tiyu Xi Exit G, and East Rail Station exit HJ. It may be worth it to simply keep the card as a souvenir.

By metro

Guangzhou Metro

Guangzhou's Metro system opened in 1999 and has been expanding at a breakneck pace ever since. The network covers much of the city center and is growing rapidly outward. The fare ranges from ¥2 to ¥19. Most of the signs and announcements are in Chinese and English. The trains can become extremely crowded during morning and evening rush hours, especially on Line 3. Tickets can be bought from vending machines in the stations. ¥5 and ¥10 Bills or ¥0.5 and ¥1 coins are accepted. The charge for subways is by distance, unlike some places in the West, where a single fare can cover the cost of an entire trip. You can break up your big bills at the customer service counters. The ticket is a small plastic token, which you swipe over the blue reader at the gate to enter the platform, and at the exit where you insert the token into the slot like a vending machine. Most of these machines do not accept old or torn notes. If needed, tell the officer at the counter where you want to go and he or she will return your note with the requisite fare in coins and the rest in notes. It is easier to use Yang Cheng Tong (see details above). You also receive a 5%-40% discount when the card is used to ride the subway.

There are currently 9 lines in operation:

Line 1 is the most useful for tourists, running south-west to north-east from Xilang in Fangcun to Guangzhou East Railway Station in Tianhe. The line runs underneath Zhongshan Road in the city centre and is the most useful for accessing shopping areas and tourist sights.

Line 2 runs north-south from Jiahewanggang in Baiyun District to Guangzhou South Railway Station. This line is most useful for reaching Baiyun Mountain, Guangzhou Railway Station, Yuexiu Park and Haizhou Square. If you're staying in west or central Guangzhou, this line is also useful for reaching the airport by changing to Line 3 at Jiahewanggang.

Line 3 is a Y-shaped north-south line serving eastern Guangzhou. The 'main line' runs from Panyu Square to the Tianhe Coach Terminal Station, whilst the 'branch line' splits off at Tiyu Xilu and heads towards Airport South, via Guangzhou East Station.

Line 4 serves Guangzhou's eastern outer suburbs and runs from Huangcun in Huangpu District down to Jinzhou in Nansha. This line is most useful for reaching the Olympic Sport Centre and the University Town.

Line 5 runs east-west from Jiaokou (Liwan District) to Wenchong (Huangpu District) and follows the inner ring road through the city. Useful for reaching Guangzhou Railway Station, the Garden Hotel and Zhujiang New Town.

Line 6 runs on the north coast of the Pearl River. It is useful to reach Beijing Lu, Cultural Park, Huanghuagang, Tuanyida Square, and Dongshanhu Park.

Line 8 was formed out of the remnants of Line 2 following it's southward extension and runs east-west through Haizhu District from Fenghuang Xincun to Wanshengwei. Useful for reaching Sun Yat-sen University and Pazhou Exhibition Centre.

Guangfo Line is China's first intercity metro, connecting downtown Foshan with Xilang, where you can transfer to Line 1. Central Foshan can be reached in approximately 45–60 minutes from central Guangzhou. Transfers from GZ metro lines and Yangchengtong cards are accepted.

Zhujiang New Town APM is a driverless people-mover serving downtown Tianhe District and is the least-used line on the Metro (which is handy if you want to avoid the most crowded section of Line 3. The line has 9 stops running from Linhexi to Canton Tower and serves many tourist sights in the area including Guangzhou Opera House, Haixinsha Island (where the opening ceremony for the 2010 Asian Games was held) and the Canton Tower. Note that this line uses separate tickets (flat fare 2 yuan, 5% discount with the Yangchengtong card). Unlike other metro lines, you should insert your token at the entrance gate - the exit gates open automatically when approached.

By bus

There is also a comprehensive public bus service that covers Guangzhou from end to end. By far, it is the cheapest way to move around. Bus fares are ¥1 for the older buses and ¥2 for the air-conditioned ones, although the older buses have been mostly retired. Information at bus stops is mostly written in Chinese, although the current stop's name is also written in either pinyin or English (not always consistent with the recorded announcement in English) and stops close to subway stations are (usually) marked with the Guangzhou Metro logo, which is handy if you are lost. On-board announcements are made in Mandarin, Cantonese and sometimes English. Exact fare or a Yang Cheng Tong card is needed when boarding. If traveling on a quiet bus, it is advisable to signal to the driver that you wish to get off when approaching your stop by pressing the red buzzer next to the exit door or by saying "xia yi zhan you xia (pinyin:xià yī zhàn yǒu xià)," meaning "I'm getting off at the next stop" or simply "you xia (有下, pinyin:yǒu xià)." In Cantonese "you xia" is "yau lok(有落)."

Bus stops served by many routes are usually divided into multiple sections, each one with a different number. The stops are usually all on the same side of the road, one after another, but in some cases (such as Haizhu Square), the stops are found all over the place.

Buses are only handy for traveling within one district or for reaching suburban districts that are not served by the subway. Heavy traffic can lead to a slow, uncomfortable journey although they can be handy for a cheap but slow sightseeing tour. Trolley bus lines (Routes 101-109) are handy for exploring Liwan and Yuexiu districts.

Most bus routes run from around 6AM to 10 or 11PM, after which there are night buses with the prefix Ye (夜, night). The night route numbers are not related to the normal route numbers. The fare is usually ¥3. Virtually all night buses stop running around 1 or 2AM, and some start again around 5AM. In most cases, taking a taxi at night is a better idea.

Guangzhou has over 30 commuter express bus lines (高峰快线) run mostly during peak hours from major bus and subway interchanges to congested areas and outlying districts. Fares are from ¥1-4. There are also four special lines for University Town (大学城专线). You can find these in most major stations in the city that would take you to University Town. Fares are from ¥2-4. There are also 2 tourist bus lines (旅游专线) passing through many scenic spots in the city. Other special lines are: Lines to some commercial districts, shuttle buses for many different residential complexes such as Favourview Palace and Star River, and even complementary shuttle buses for some shopping center. The driver of a shuttle bus may ask for your receipts.

By BRT

The Bus Rapid Transit system went into service in early 2010. It is essentially a long segregated bus lane (not an elevated busway like in Xiamen) running along the Tianhe Road and Zhongshan Avenue corridor towards the eastern suburbs. Some intersections are traversed by bridges and tunnels, which cuts journey times considerably, but other intersections have traffic lights and therefore traffic jams, and crowds can be as dense as in Metro stations but with fewer doors and a narrower standing area compared to Metro trains.

All buses that use the BRT start with a B prefix (B1, B22 etc.), though some without the "B" stop nearby. When reading a bus route (in Chinese) you can see the BRT logo above each BRT station name, like the GZ Metro logo above bus stops that are near Metro stations. The B1 stops at every BRT station, but other B routes use any number of BRT stations (sometimes just one) and use normal roads the rest of the time.

If boarding a BRT bus at a normal (non BRT) bus stop, the normal fare of ¥2 applies, however you can transfer to other BRT routes for free, provided you transfer at a BRT stop. If boarding at a BRT stop, insert ¥2 (coins only) into the entry turnstile to enter the platform area; no payment is required when boarding the bus, and you can board at the rear.

As with normal bus routes, there is almost no English at BRT stations, and only the current station name is in pinyin. Overall it isn't much use to tourists.

By taxi

A blue Guangzhou taxi

This is the most popular way for foreigners to get around, and it is very affordable. The starting charge is ¥10 for the first 2.3 kilometers, or about 1.4 miles. After that is ¥2.6 for each kilometer. No fuel surcharge is added. A 50% surcharge is automatically added when the trip reaches 35 kilometers. A few of them also accepts Yang Cheng Tong as payment, but it is not preferred by the drivers. The taxi hotline is 96900. This comes in handy if you forget your valuables in a taxi. Save your receipt because it contains the taxi's identification number.

Most taxi drivers do not speak English or any other foreign languages, so be sure to have the name and address of your destination written in Chinese to show your taxi driver. Many are from the poorer northern provinces and do not even speak Cantonese. If your destination is not well known, have a nearby landmark included in the address, e.g. "across from the Garden Hotel."

Whilst the majority of taxis are the regular VWs and Hyundais found in almost all Chinese cities, there are an increasing number of 'London taxis' on the streets of Guangzhou (which comes as no surprise as the latest generation of London black cabs are built by Geely Motors in China). They are wheelchair accessible and can carry up to 6 passengers. Many people recommend using the yellow taxis as that company only employs local Guangzhou drivers who know the city well - other taxi companies usually hire migrant workers from other provinces who may not know where they are going.

Beware of taxi driver as sometimes, in addition to going around the block one too many times, they will also try to pass counterfeit bills. Pay close attention as to what they pay when passing toll booths. Good drivers will show you the toll receipts. Only add the toll amount to what is displayed in the meter. A trip between the airport to the East Railway Station will cost around ¥120-130.

Most people find taxi drivers in Guangzhou to be honest. However, during the Canton Fair near the Pazhou Complex, it is common to see drivers violate rules, such as refusal of service and pre-negotiating a price rather than using the meter. It is also difficult to find an available taxi elsewhere in the city.

Most taxi shift changes take place between 3-5PM. During this time, it is hard to find a taxi as many drivers stop working by displaying the "out of service (暂停服务)" sign before the end of the shift, unless you are going in their direction. Taxi can be also hard to come by during commuter peak hours of 7:30-9AM and 5-7PM. Finding a taxi during the evening or at night is usually not a problem.

When paying with ¥100 notes, ensure that the money does not leave your sight until accepted. Some taxi drivers will turn around, do something, turn back and hand you back fake notes instead, especially if you are foreigner on the way to the airport. In this situation there is almost nothing you can do.

By car

While driving in Guangzhou is an option, drivers unfamiliar with the driving conditions in China's large and densely populated cities should be aware that the experience can be extremely daunting and potentially dangerous. However, it is common in Guangzhou to rent a car that comes with a driver.

Car rental companies in Guangzhou:

See also Driving in China.

By motorcycle

Although a convenient way to navigate the city's back alleys and lanes, motorcycles are banned in the city center, and riding a motorcycle into these prohibited areas can lead to fines and possible confiscation of the bike. In addition to the central motorcycle ban, electric bicycles are banned from the city roads.

By bicycle

Due to the improvement of public transportation and increasing affordability of private cars, bicycles are in sharp decline in Guangzhou. In recent years, the government has been promoting this low-carbon mode of transportation. Over 100 rental outlets are now available along many BRT lines and subway stations. The rental fee is by the hour and up to ¥30 a day. One popular bike route is along the Pearl River on the Haizhu District side. Other dedicated bike lanes are slowly appearing in the city center, including Tianhe District. Yangchengtong Card is accepted in many public rental outlets.

New bikes are available in major hypermarkets from ¥200 for a cheap single-speed to around ¥800 for a 21-speed mountain bike, although quality leaves a lot to be desired. Giant and Merida are the two most common international brands (both are from Taiwan) and whilst a little more expensive (expect to spend over ¥1000 for anything with more than 1 gear), they offer something a little faster and of better quality. Get a decent quality lock too - bike theft is rampant!

Folding bikes are permitted on the subway (but not on buses) and can be carried in the trunk of a taxi at the driver's discretion, but non-folders are not permitted on any form of public transport other than the cross-river ferries. Bicycles are not permitted to cross the river via the Zhujiang Tunnel or Zhujiang suspension bridge, but are permitted to go on the public ferries for ¥1 (see below).

By ferry

The ferry is the cheapest way of crossing the Pearl River (Zhujiang). Ferries were very popular in the 1980s and early 90s, carrying tens of thousands of passengers across the river each day. Nowadays its popularity declines substantially, mainly due to the completion of several bridges on the Pearl River and the availability of other modes of public transportation. The river narrows when going through the city center (a little wider than the Thames in central London). It is usually faster and more convenient for people to use the bridges or public transport(metro, bus) to cross the river, rather than wait for the ferries. One ferry route that maintains its popularity plies between Huangsha Pier, situated by the seafood market next to Shamian Island, and the pier at Changdi Road on the Fangcun side. Ferries depart every 10 minutes from 6AM to 10PM. The fare is ¥0.5 for a foot passenger or ¥1 if you bring a bicycle. The fare can be paid in cash (no change given) or by using Yangchengtong Card. There are separate boarding gates for cyclists and pedestrians, and you pay at the boarding gate.

On foot

Due to the sheer size of the city, walking is not advisable if you are trying to reach destinations in different districts. However, walking is a great way of exploring individual districts, and treats such as markets, small antiquities shops and local restaurants can be found up almost every little alley. Walking along main roads can be a nightmare - construction work can result in some inconvenient pedestrian diversions. Open manhole covers or sidewalks blocked by huge piles of cement are common. Take caution when crossing roads, even when the light is green, as bicycles and cars routinely expect everyone to move out of their way and drive through blindly. Many major intersections must be crossed using complex underpasses and footbridges. Make sure you have a map with you. It is all too easy to get lost in the rabbit-warren of small streets and alleys, even if some street signs are also in English.

Talk

Locals in Guangzhou speak Cantonese as their native language, but due to the large number of migrants from other parts of China, many of whom do not speak Cantonese, Mandarin also serves as the lingua franca. As the Guangzhou dialect of Cantonese is far less influenced by foreign languages than that of Hong Kong, this is a good place to learn the language in its "purest" form. As Mandarin is the official language of mainland China and the medium of instruction in all schools, most younger locals will be bilingual in Cantonese and Mandarin. While Mandarin is sufficient for the average visitor, breaking into the social circles of locals would almost certainly require knowledge of Cantonese.

English is spoken by more people than in the rest of China (save for Beijing and Shanghai), but still not by the majority, so it is a good idea to carry your hotel's business card with you. To save yourself the hassle and agony when asking for directions, have names of your destinations clearly written down in Chinese by the hotel staff before venturing out. That said, many educated younger people will have a basic knowledge of English and staff at hotels as well as bars and restaurants widely visited by foreigners generally speak an acceptable level of English.

See

Landmarks

Chen Clan Ancestral Hall
Shishi Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral
Sun Yat Sen Memorial
Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, on Shamian Island

Museums and galleries

Parks

Yuntai Garden
Communist monument in Martyrs' Memorial Garden
Huanghuagang park for 72 martyrs

Theme Parks

Mountains

Learn

Buy

Locals on the run outside the Grandview Plaza in Tianhe District. In the background is the 80-story CITIC Plaza.

Street markets

If time and weather permit, walking is perhaps the best way to see the city as the back alleys, which are littered with antiquities, are not accessible by motorized vehicles. Most trades and goods categories are concentrated in a specific area or along one main street.

Malls and shopping centers

Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street
Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street

Do

Pearl River Night Cruise

Ride the public buses. Cheap and generally safe, but beware of pickpockets. The electric trams are even cheaper at flat rate of ¥2. Hop on to any one of the public buses. Drivers are generally very friendly and helpful. So long as you have sufficient small change for the journey, tell the driver you are in just for a joyride. (In cantonese Yau Cheh Hor literally meaning just for the ride or just for fun. Where the journey terminates, ask anyone what buses will take you back and request the driver to let you know when to get off. So long as you sit not too far away, he (sometimes she) will tell you. Don't worry, everyone is very helpful on these buses. Being paranoid about scams and perceived crimes takes the joy out of what would otherwise be a marvellous holiday.

*Daytime River "Cruise" As cheap as ¥5, you get a ride down to the last terminal at ZhongSan University and back. Just tell the ticket seller at the jetty, in front of Riverside Hostel,you just want a joyride. On your way back,you can get off on the other side of the river at the heart of the commercial district. After spending a couple of hours walking around or even dinner, it will cost you only ¥1 to cross back to the Riverside Hostel

Festivals

The Canton Fair

The Canton Fair (China Import and Export Commodities Fair) is held twice a year (spring and fall) in the Pazhou Complex at 380 Yuejiang Middle Road (阅江中路380号) (Metro Line 8 Xingangdong or Pazhou station). It lasts for several weeks each time for example, the Spring 2013 Fair is April 15 to May 5.

Through most of Mao's era from the first Canton Fair in 1957 until the "reform and opening up" under Deng Xiao Ping began in 1978 the Canton Fair was almost the only way Chinese and foreign business people could meet and make deals. It is still much the largest trade fair in China; the October 2012 Fair had over a million square meters (11 million square feet) of exhibit space, over 24,000 exhibitors, and over 188,000 overseas buyers. Around $32.5 million worth of business was done at that Fair, and almost certainly much more was done later from contacts made at the Fair.

If you are going to the fair, book a hotel well in advance. Hotels tend to be booked and expensive during the Fair. Metro is a good transportation option to go to the fair ground, and many hotels provide free shuttle services.

There are two lesser, but still important, trade fairs in Xiamen every year. These are scheduled so that it is possible to visit one of the Xiamen fairs and the Canton Fair in a single trip.

Eat

Cantonese cuisine is well known for its blend of color, fragrance, taste and presentation, and it is ranked among the top four in the country. In particular, dim sum, a delicate pastry, is famous for being simple yet delicious. Local customs, as well as a long history of contact with the West compared to other regions in China, have played a major role in the development and diversity of Cantonese cuisine. "Chinese food" in Western countries is usually Cantonese food, albeit slightly adapted to Western tastes, meaning that many Western visitors will be familiar with Cantonese food to a certain extent.

Authentic Cantonese cuisine is also famous throughout China for another reason Cantonese people tend to eat absolutely anything. A well-known Chinese joke is that they eat anything that has four legs other than a table, anything that flies other than an airplane, and anything that swims other than a submarine. In addition to that, various internal organs of animals are regularly eaten, such as the liver, kidneys, heart and even brain. This means that Cantonese cuisine is one of, if not the, most adventurous in China due to their expansive use of exotic ingredients, and their extremely broad definition of what is considered edible. This is how Guangzhou earned the distinct name of "Eating in Guangzhou (食在广州)."

What to Eat

Traditional

Vegetarian

Southeast Asian

  • Tianhe, 28 Tianhe North Road (天河北路28号时代广场2楼) (Metro 3 Linhexi; 2/F, Times Square),  +86 20 3891-0728.
  • GZTV Hotel, G/F, 8 Luhu Rd.
  • World Trade Center, 5/F, 371-375 Huanshi East Rd.

Indian

Western

  • Oggi Trattoria, 1 Tiyu East Road (天河区体育东路1号),  +86 20 8751-5882. 11AM-12AM. Come and enjoy their great pizza and pasta with choice Italian wine.
  • Oggi Pizzeria, G/F Tianlun Garden, Jianshe 4th Road (建设四马路),  +86 20 8356-1196. 24/7. The European theme style cafe and bar serves great pizzas and traditional Italian home dishes with wine carte and draught beer.

African

Foreign chains

Foreign fast food, ice cream and coffee chains are well established in Guangzhou. These include Subway (赛百味), Dairy Queen (冰雪皇后), Saizeriya (Japanese Italian Food Chain), Papa John's Pizza (棒约翰), KFC (肯德基), Pizza Hut (必胜客), McDonald's (麦当劳), Burger King (汉堡王), Starbucks (星巴克) and Häagen-Dazs (哈根达斯). Most of these can be found in the Zhengjia Plaza (See "Shop").

Convenience Stores

Convenience stores are on almost every street corner and most are open 24 hours. Major convenience store chains include 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, Circle-K and C-Store. Prices are a little higher than in local shops or supermarkets, particularly at 7-Eleven. Some FamilyMarts and Circle-K's do not sell cigarettes, but C-store does. Corner's Deli is a specialty food chain store with several locations in the city with a good selection of imported foods. One of the locations is at unit 6, Backstreet, CITIC Plaza.

Supermarket Chains

Carrefour (家乐福) This French hypermarket has four stores in Guangzhou. One of them is at Kangwang Road (康王中路656号) near Chenjiaci station. It is cheap and has a good selection of products.

Jusco (吉之岛)There are several locations including Tee Mall at Tiyu West Road and Linhe Middle Road near the East Train Station. This Japanese chain has a good selection of imported groceries.

Park 'n' Shop (百佳) This Hong Kong chain has several locations ranging from convenience stores to hypermarkets. The largest stores are in the shopping mall above Metro Changshou Lu Station and at Tianhe North Road close to the Longkouxi bus stop. It is a little more expensive but has a good selection of imported groceries.

TESCO This British hypermarket is located on Zhongshan 6th Road above the Metro Ximenkou Station. The store spreads over 4 floors and the price is reasonable.

Trust-Mart (好又多) The lower-end market has numerous locations in Guangzhou and it is recent acquired by Wal-Mart (沃尔玛). It will be soon re-branded to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has been upgrading the stores, and the prices while they are at it. This chain has a large stock of non-food items but the grocery selection is limited. It is often crowded on the weekends.

Vanguard (华润万家) This is the flagship operating supermarket chains of China Resources. It is the third largest supermarket chain in Hong Kong. It operates approximately 450 stores in China. There are over 20 stores in Guangzhou.

Lotus (卜蜂莲花) There are several locations ranging from convenience stores to hypermarkets. One of the locations is at 399 Chebei Road (车陂路399号).

Drink

Bar Street at Bai-E-Tan

When it comes to drinks, Guangzhou is one of the best cities in China to knock back a few. With a relatively large population of foreigners here, the city offers a wide variety of nightspots that cater to all tastes.

Tsing Tao and Zhu Jiang are the two major Chinese beer brands that are sold almost everywhere. Both are fairly standard light lagers. Carlsberg is also brewed in Guangzhou, which explains the reasonably large amount of Carlsberg taps in the bars.

Pubs

The Hill Bar
Cave Bar

Wine cellars

Dance clubs

Tea houses

The culture of tea drinking, also known as Yum Cha (饮茶), runs deep in Guangzhou. After all, the city was at the center of the massive tea trade that existed between China and Europe during the 19th century.

  • Yuexiu, #102, 17 Jianshe 6th Road (建设六马路17号102房),  +86 20 8376-6677.

Sleep

NOTE: Weeks from Mid-April to Early May and Mid-October to Early November (April 15th - May 5th and October 15th - November 5th) coincide with the annual Guangzhou International Trade Fairs. Hotel room rates are unreasonably hiked up anything between 200% and 400%, including hostels! If you're not travelling to see the Trade Fair, you might want to consider visiting some other time.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under ¥200
Mid-range ¥200-500
Splurge Over ¥500

Budget

Unlike many other big cities in China, Guangzhou has very limited choice of youth hostels. Most hostels in the city are illegally operated and unlicensed, mostly located in residential apartment buildings. The management usually discourages most socializing activity, worrying that any noise may lead to complaints from their neighbors and result in government crackdown.

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Guangzhou, which has been the first open port in China, is generally tolerant of different cultures. Crimes that target foreigners are not common despite the city's reputation for petty crimes. Pickpockets are active in shopping area and transportation hubs. Safety has improved a lot since the 2010 Asian Games but the best defense, as always, is to avoid flashing your valuables in public, wandering around alone late at night. Use only official taxis and change money at banks instead of grocery stores.

A Hong Kong Perspective

Hong Kong is a remarkably safe city, so much so that residents view neighboring Guangzhou as a wild and lawless city full of danger. While Guangzhou is indeed less safe than Hong Kong, it still rates favorably when compared to most Western cities. If someone in Hong Kong warns you not to cross the border, do take it with a pinch of salt. A short journey away is a new city certainly worth exploring without any major safety concerns.

As the richest province of China, it has attracted an enormous number of immigrant workers from other mainland provinces and some developing countries. Drug trafficking is a serious offense and foreigners are not exempted from the death penalty. The police is known for expanding its Arabic- and English-speaking forces to deal with the rising drug trade among foreigners.

Traffic conditions in Guangzhou have drastically improved in recent years and rules are practiced - relatively. However, like everywhere else in China, cars do not yield to pedestrians and zebra crossings are for display only.

Emergency numbers are: Police: 110; Fire: 119; Medical: 120; Traffic accident: 122

Connect

Cope

Consulates

Banking

ATMs that accept foreign credit or debit cards are common in shopping malls and tourist areas. Withdrawal is available in Chinese currency only. Most banks in the city center also accept exchanges from your local currencies to ¥. Your passport is required for this service. Some banks allow you to change back to your local currency with the original exchange memo.

Laundry

Few lower end hotels and hostels have coin-operated self-service laundry room. Self-service laundromats are not available on the streets, although dry clean and laundry stores are available to clean your clothes. Normally you can drop your clothes off and pick them up the next day. One laundry chain is Tiantian (天天洗衣), which is conveniently located in most Metro stations. There are many stores on Shamian Island that have laundry service. An average load of laundry costs about ¥100.

In other parts of the city, there are laundry and dry clean shops sprinkled throughout neighborhoods. An average load should cost no more than ¥40. If you are doing sheets and blankets, they should charge no more than ¥10 for a blanket, ¥30 for a quilt. Dry-cleaning a sweater is about ¥8.

Television

Guangzhou Television (GZTV) has an "English" channel, now called Guangzhou I Channel (but still "English" according to the Chinese name), offering entertainment and cultural programs from around the world, mostly dubbed in Mandarin and subtitled in Chinese. Hong Kong’s international channels, TVB Pearl and ATV World, available in most hotels, have a great selection of programs from the UK and US, plus news at 7:30PM and late (11PM or later) every day.

Newspapers and Magazines

The China Daily and/or Global Times are the two only English language newspapers available in Guangzhou (unless you go to a library), and both can be found on newsstands throughout the city. There are several bookstores throughout the city that sell current English and Foreign periodicals. The South China Morning Post from Hong Kong is also available by subscription only. South China TALK is a monthly English-language magazine based in Guangzhou.

Places of worship

All the religious sites listed in the See section are open to worshippers.

Gym

Guangzhou has over 15 branches of Total Fitness. One of the locations is at the 8th floor of Grandview Mall (Zhengjia Plaza 正佳广场). The Guangzhou Marriott (see sleep) has a complete new gym with Star Trac equipment, a swimming pool, tennis court, sauna and steam.

Health

Mail

China Post, the official post office, is your best bet for regular letters and postcards. For packages, other than the post office, there are many shipping centers around the city who are agents for DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT and EMS. There are usually shipping counters at higher-end hotels. Ask your hotel for the nearest shipping locations.

  • Shamian Post: Shamian 3rd Street (沙面三街) 9AM-5PM, closed on Sunday.
  • Liuhua Post: 151 Huanshixi Road (广州市环市西151号) between Guangzhou Railway Station and the Provincial Coach Terminal.
  • Taojin Post: 5 Taojin North Road (淘金北路正平中街5号) +86 20 8357-1583

Go next

Routes through Guangzhou

Changsha Shaoguan  N  S  END


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