Transport To, From and Around Guilin
Traveling to and From Guilin By Air
Unless you’re coming from a southern city, it’s probably easiest to reach Guilin by air. Train journeys from major destinations to the north can be painfully long.
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (桂林两江国际机场)
Located about 28km south-west of the city center, Guilin’s airport is a fairly small and oddly designed affair, but runs efficiently enough. Facilities include a business center, ATMs and a number of overpriced, poor-quality restaurants and cafes. As a very popular destination for Chinese tourists Guilin is well served domestically, with regular connections to all major cities in China. It is also gaining in international routes with direct flights to Seoul, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Macau. In 2008 the budget airline Air Asia began flying to Guilin (from Kuala Lumpur), making Guilin easily accessible to those on a jaunt around south-east Asia.
Guilin Liangjiang Airport website: www.airport-gl.com.cn (Chinese only)
Getting to and from Guilin Liangjiang Airport
By Bus: Shuttle buses depart from Guilin airport to the Civil Aviation Mansion in Guilin’s center after each flight arrival (more or less). The price is ¥20 and the journey takes around 40 minutes. Buses to the airport leave from the Civil Aviation Mansion every half hour from 6:30am, with the last service departing at 9pm. The Guilin Civil Aviation Mansion is at #18 Shanghai Lu (by Minzhu Lu).
Tel: +86 (0773) 284 5355
By Taxi: There’s a taxi rank right outside arrivals. Drivers might try to negotiate a price but will give in if you insist on using the meter (you’ll have a harder time convincing them on the way to the airport). On the meter it will cost about ¥70 plus a ¥10 toll from the airport to the center.
Traveling to and From Guilin By Train
Guilin’s Main Train Station (桂林站) is located fairly centrally on Zhongshan Nan Lu, a little north of the intersection with Shanghai Lu. A taxi fare from here to hotels around the Ronghu and Shanhu lakes would cost ¥10 or less on the meter (though you might have trouble finding drivers willing to take you on the meter). Alternatively, Bus #2 will take you north along Zhongshan Lu.
Guilin North Train Station (桂林北站) is far less convenient to reach, located in Guilin’s northern suburbs. However, it can be almost completely avoided (unless a train departing from there happened to fit your schedule perfectly).
Only a handful of trains originate in Guilin, but it’s easier to buy tickets on these trains than on ones that originate elsewhere. They include the K22 to Beijing (26.5 hours), the T40 to Shenzhen via Guangzhou (12.5 hours), the K393 to Kunming via Nanning (18.5 hours) and the K651 to Chengdu via Chongqing North (25.5 hours). There are also several direct trains to Nanning (5 hours) each day. It’s also possible to reach cities including Shanghai, Nanjing, Xian and Zhengzhou from Guilin, but the journeys aren’t quick. The T5/6 between Beijing and Hanoi passes through Guilin, but it would be difficult to get a ticket on this train.
The queues at the Guilin’s main train station are bearable and buying tickets there isn’t much of a problem. Counter 7 has a sign dedicating it to “Foreign Guests” as well as “Deputies to the National People’s Congress” and other privileged people. They still don’t speak much (if any) English, but it’s nice to stand in a queue for special people.
Traveling to and From Guilin By Bus
The main bus station (桂林汽车站) is on Zhongshan Nan Lu, not too far south of where it crosses the Taohua River. Express buses toYangshuo (¥17; 1.5 hours) leave from here roughly every 30 minutes. There are also buses to Longsheng (for the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces [¥27; 2 hours]) and Sanjiang; and also further afield to cities including Nanning, Beihai, Guangzhou and Zhuhai.
Minibuses to Yangshuo also leave from outside the train station (¥14). A warning: touts (with the blessing of the driver) will sometimes try to get you off these minibuses before they arrive in the center of Yangshuo. Then they will try to charge you to drive you into town or try to get you to a certain hotel. Stay on the bus until everyone else gets off.
Traveling To and From Guilin By Boat
A cruise down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo is very popular with tourists to the Guilin region. The scenery along the roughly 70km journey is truly stunning: with ethereal karst mountains rising from the riverbanks in all sorts of strange formations the whole way. The cruise takes a leisurely 4-5 hours. Usually, the cruise is sold as part of a package that includes a bus trip back to Guilin in the afternoon, but you can use it as a form of transport to Yangshuo and skip the bus ride back.
The problem with the cruise is the exorbitant price. Determined to gouge as much money as possible out of the natural wonder that is the Li River, use of the waterway has been monopolized and there is no competition among cruise companies. Prices are therefore around ¥400 for a ‘western cruise’ (which includes a bit of English commentary) or around ¥280 for the ‘Chinese cruise’ (no English). As an alternative to the cruise, there is a good, 20km walk along the Li River between Yangdi and Xingping towns. This flat, undemanding walk also takes 4-5 hours and allows you to survey the magical mountains up close (you also get to cross the river three times by ferry).