Shantou, (汕头; Shàntóu), known as Swatow in the local dialect, is a coastal city and Special Economic Zone in Guangdong Province in China. It is located in the east of the province near the border with Fujian. It has a population of around 1,500,000 and a booming economy.
The city came to prominence during the 19th century when it was established as one of the treaty ports for trading with the West. In the 1980s it was designated as one of China's Special Economic Zones with tax breaks and other government measures to encourage development. See List of Chinese provinces and regions for more detailed explanations of "treaty port" and "special economic zone" if required.
Overseas visitors are not common in the rural areas around Shantou, and those of non-Chinese ethnicity will definitely be an attraction to residents. Those unaccustomed to this may feel intimidated. However, this is a very friendly type of attention, and unless you really dislike interaction with people you don't know, this will almost certainly be a highlight of your trip. Do not be surprised if people want their picture taken with you, or if they yell to friends and family to come look at you as well. Any sort of communication you attempt to make, especially in the local Teochew dialect, will almost always be happily received.
The airport which serves Shantou is called Jieyang Chaoshan International Airport (IATA:SWA) which in 2011 replaced Shantou Waisha Airport and hence the new airport uses the old airports IATA name, SWA, which has domestic connections with most of the major Chinese cities. It also serves international flights to Hong Kong, Bangkok on China Southern Airlines as well as to Singapore on Jetstar Asia and Taiwan. One can take a taxi or bus from the airport. The bus drops passengers off in Shantou at the Overseas Chinese Hotel, next to the China Travel Services bus station.
Guangzhou Baiyun Airport offer Intercity Bus service. You can stay at Shantou Tourist General Corporation. The price of the ticket is CNY20/per.
There is also an airport in Xiamen.
A high-speed bullet train line connecting Xiamen to Shenzhen via Shantou is now in service. Beyond Xiamen, it continues along the coast all the way to Hangzhou and Shanghai. From the ends of that line, there are good connections almost anywhere in China. It will take about 2.5 hours from the Chaoshan High Speed Rail Station (the closest one to Shantou, about 1 hour from city center by Bus #181, 10 Yuan) to Shenzhen North Station.
If you want to travel slowly or cheaply, the following choices may still be available:
|no.||type||start||station||time||destination||time||total||mileage||terminal||hard seat||soft seat||tourist berth||soft berth|
|N755||quick, air conditioning||guangzhou||guangzhou||08:50||shantou||17:28||8h38min||527||shantou||92.0||138.0||168.0||247.0|
|N762||quick, air conditioning||maoming||guangzhou||14:08||shantou||21:14||7h6min||535||shantou||92.0||138.0||168.0||247.0|
|N762||quick, air conditioning||maoming||guangzhou||13:53||shantou||21:14||7h21min||535||shantou||92.0||138.0||168.0||247.0|
By bus or car
Zhuhai (8 hours, ¥160), Guangzhou, Shenzhen (4-5 hours, ¥150) or Xiamen (4 hours, ¥100). There is fairly new highway that is on par with U.S or European expressways running between Shenzhen and Shantou (and beyond). However, food and gas stops are limited so make sure your gas tank is full if you opt to pass a fueling station. Note that restrooms are far below Western standards as well, particularly if you are female.
Some Hong Kong residents prefer to drive these highways in groups of 3-4 cars, as robberies sometimes take place along the road.
The Shantou Regency Hotel operates a coach service from Hong Kong. It takes 5.5 hours and costs ¥180 or HKD200. This can rise to HKD320 or ¥300 during the Lunar New Year period. Tickets can be purchased from the China Travel Service HK and one may board the bus in Sheung Wan, Yau Ma Tei or Fanling Station.
Shantou public buses can be highly variable and service frequency can depend on the whim of the operators, particularly during evening festival dates. Recorded announcements are made over the speaker system in Mandarin and Teochew, however the frequent use of the horn and general noise can make it difficult to understand.
On many services, one needs to notify the bus driver verbally if they would like to alight as the buzzers are inoperable.
Traffic in Shantou, as is common in this part of China, is chaotic at best. Do NOT expect vehicles to stop at red lights, as motorcycles and bicycles regularly go through red lights without slowing down. Also, do NOT expect vehicles to go with traffic, as cars, motorcycles, and bicycles regularly go AGAINST the flow of traffic (e.g. going southbound in a northbound lane). Furthermore, do NOT expect only pedestrians on sidewalks, as cars, motorcycles, and bicycles regularly zip along the sidewalk as if it is just another lane on the road. Also, watch out for motorcyclists who do not even slow down at red lights, with one hand on the steering handle and the other with a cell phone, talking. However, with all this, there are fewer accidents that one may expect given this chaos, mainly because people do slow down if they see you.
- The old town (In the western part of central Shantou). Most of the lovely historic buildings are so dilapidated that it seems like a European city that has been bombed. They are slowly being torn down and replaced with ugly modern buildings, so see it while you can!
- Shantou Museum 汕头博物馆 Shantou Bowuguan (In a large building near the western side of Zhongshan Park). This museum has the space for an impressive collection, but not all the exhibit halls are open. There are exhibits on Buddhist figurines and sculptures, paintings and calligraphy, ceramic wares, and relics recovered from a Ming Dynasty commercial vessel that was discovered in 2007 just a little way southeast of Shantou. Past temporary exhibits include photos of Shanghai of a bygone era,
- Buddhist Pagoda Mountain, In Chenhai.
- Coastal defense fort 石炮台公園免费. A fort by the sea, with replica cannons. You may be able to smell some interesting strains of mold inside, admire the moat and bridges, or go rollerskating in the middle of the fort (with Chinese techno music of course).
- Cultural Revolution Museum (Wenge Bowuguan). A surprisingly candid and straightforward representation of events. This is in the Tashan scenic zone, north of central Shantou, not to be confused with the other Tashan scenic zone, south of central Shantou. Other than a few sculptures, there's not much to see unless you can read Chinese.
- The former residence of Chen Cihong (North of central Shantou. If you go by bus, be sure to ask when the last trip back into town is, though if you miss it, you might still be able to catch a different bus by walking to the highway). A mansion (or a mini-palace) built in the early 20th century, still pretty much intact.
- Nan'ao Island. This is one of the most beautiful islands in China. It is not popular yet, mostly because of its inconvenient transportation. However, due to that, the island still hasn't been overdeveloped and has kept its original view. Here you can not only get the most gorgeous sea view but also a taste of the real life of fishermen in China. Besides that, it is a fantastic place to taste all kinds of seafood.
The transportation in the island is not that convenient but you can hire a car to drive you around it for whole day. The fee is usually cheap. It cost about 200-250 yuan a day.
- Shantou Founding Museum 汕头开埠博物馆 (Shantou Kai Bubowuguan) (In the original central part of Shantou, across from the renovated post office.). Not to be confused with Shantou Museum. This museum is devoted to the establishment of Swatow (Shantou) as a treaty port in the 19th century, and its subsequent history and daily life.
- Jin Yan Gate in Jieyang.
- Lotus supermarkets. There are at least four locations throughout the city.
- Suning Plaza Mall. A western-style mall that just opened in Oct. 2015, with Pizza Hut and the first Starbucks & Haagan Daz in Shantou. There are other cafes in this mall where one can overpay for coffee.
- Lotus Center. Another western-style mall that opened in 2015, with the second Starbucks to open in Shantou, and a Lotus supermarket in the basement. There are other places in this mall where one can overpay for their coffee.
- Lianhua Vegetarian Restaurant (莲花素食府 Lianhua Sushi Fu), Haibin Road, Dayang Group Building, west wing, ☎ 8530028. , 8520098Vegetarian chain restaurant also found in Chaozhou and Jieyang.
- Hotel Internationale restaurant, Jinsha Donglu near intersection with Dongxia Nanlu. On the 4th floor of International Hotel, this Chinese restaurant serves good dim sum and Hong Kong style dishes. Prices are also on par with those of Hong Kong.
Home Inn business hotels are a good choice for short and long term visitors. Rooms are new and clean and prices are around USD 30 per night.
- The hotel directly opposite the bus station is of acceptable standard. Rooms are clean and have TV, air conditioning and bathtub. ¥158 per night.
- Yi Jia Hotel, on Changjiang street 17 (汕头宜家酒店 长江路17) Really difficult to spot since it's on the 14th floor but this hotel is quite nice for the price. Rooms are large and well designed. 110/night double room 150/night triple room
- Garden Hotel, Wen Guan Road Cheng Hai, ☎ +86 754 5868888. The hotel is rated four stars, but is not on par with the same rank hotels in the West.