Traveling in right time will largely enhance the extent of satisfaction. To get the best traveling experience, we recommend May, September, and October as the best travel time and never try a Silk Road tour in winter from November to March. Most of the attractions of the Silk Road locate in the northwest part of China, where feature the temperate continental monsoon climate and the desert climate. The summer can be searingly hot and the winter can be freezing cold. During May, the average temperature along the route is around 15C. The scenery of May is the most beautiful in a year. In September and October, the temperature are similar to that in May and the one more highlights of that period is the freshly harvested fruits . Among all fruits maybe grapes is the most famous one.
When to plan and book the Silk Road tour?
A Silk Road tour can last from the minimum 5 days to the maximum more than 20 days (only for the Silk Road tour in China). So tourists plan to do a Silk Road tour should start consulting about 2 months before for at least three reasons. First, the flight and train tickets booking. If there are several members in your group, booking tickets earlier you may get the successive seats and can make sure the tickets are not sold out. Second, the hotel booking. The good hotel are always welcomed by tourists, so if you want to have comfortable accommodation during the whole Silk Road tour, Booking in early advance will be wise. Third, and also the most important point, is that you really need some time to talk with travel company about the service details in every city and choose the company who could offer the best service with most reasonable price.
How to control the tour cost?
Many of our clients think a Silk Road tour is more expensive than tours to other cities. They are right but the fact is that it is the transportation increased the total cost. Tourists do Silk Road tour may take train or flight almost every day. Just because attractions are not intensive at all. So to control the tour cost, we advise tourist choose more overnight train and less flights. The train tickets could be half of flight cost and an overnight train could save hotel charges also. But the disadvantage is that the train is time tiring.
What to Take ?
From May to October, climate along Silk Road varies greatly. In the morning and at night it can be quiet cold will from 12:00 to 18:00 it could be quite hot. Some times it will still snow in may in northern Xinjiang when the temperature of Flaming Hill in Turpan reaches 47 degree centigrade. So taking clothes for a wide range of temperatures is necessary. Attractions along Silk Road are not as intensive as they are in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian. It will be very common that you travel for one day to visit only one site and you may walk a lot. So a pair of comfortable shoes are very necessary.
The sun’s ultraviolet radiation can be very strong in western China. Carry sunblock and suntan oil to prevent from the sunburn. Also carry basic medical supplies, perhaps a small first aid kit plus medicines for ordinary ailments. Though such medicines can be bought along the route, they are more suitable for Chinese people than for foreigners. And considering the longer duration of a Silk Road tour, which lasts at least 5 days, it would be safe to bring some most used medicine.
Most used vehicles for Silk Road Tour
Attractions along Silk Road are pretty decentralized, so tourists may spend lots of time traveling. Choosing a right transportation way is crucial for one’s tourist experience. The picture below presents the recommend transportation method among major tourist cities along Silk Road.
Hotels on the Silk Road
The ancient Silk Road covers most part of middle and western part of China. In the middle part of China there are lots of hotel of fiver-star, four-star or three-star for tourists’ reference. But in the small counties and isolated villages there might is only simple guesthouse to accommodate.
In cities like Xian, Dunhuang, Turpan, Kashgar, Urumqi, Lanzhou, the visitor can enjoy high standard hotels. They all provide excellent conditions and all-round services. But in small counties only simple and rough lodgings are available. These locations may offer nothing but a quite simple room. So please get prepared to meet the accommodation challenge.
Daily tour time of Silk Road tour
Beijing time is the standard time in China. Due to the large longitude span from Beijing to very west part of China, e.g Xinjiang, where the actual time is two hours behind the Beijing time, the daily tour starting time and ending time could be different in different part of Silk Road. For example, your tour time in Xian is 09:00-18:00 and the tour time in Urumqi could be 11:00-20:00.
Local food and Specialty worthy of trying along Silk Road
Silk Road stretches through Shaanxi Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Gansu Province, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. And along the major cities Silk Road passes there are many local specialties in each major city. In Xian you will have chance to try most authentic Liangpi (Cold noodles), Roujiamo (Chinese Hamburger), Dumpling banquet, and Mutton Soup with Steamed Bread. If you travel to Xian in Autumn, you may try the freshest pomegranates. Muslim Quarter is the best place to see local foods. But taking sanitary conditions into consideration it would be safe to see these local food in Muslim Street and ask your guide to advise restaurant for having these foods. In Lanzhou visitors will try the most popular noodles in China, Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles. The noodles is a kind of halal food. It is usually hand-pulled vermicelli in broth with beef slices. Another local food national known is Finger Mutton.
The best known specialty in Ningxia is Barbary Wolfberry Fruit. The Barbary Wolfberry Fruit is is not praised due to its delicious tastes but to its medical effect. There are for major Barbary Wolfberry growing places: Zhangye, Ningxia, Tianjin and Xinjiang, but the best qualified Barbary Wolfberry Fruit is the ones grown in Ningxia. Local specialties in Qinghai are Qinghai Yogurt and dried Yak beef. Qinghai Yogurt is known by people since the Tang Dynasty and the the making of yogurt has a history of more than 1000 years. Yak in China only lives in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. And the dried Yak beef made of meat of domestic yak is the most favorable local specialty for people traveling to Qinghai.
Xinjiang is the largest settlement of the Uighurs in China. And the best known specialties in Xinjiang are various kinds of fruit like grapes, Hami Mellon, Apple, etc. the various fruits make autumn the golden time to visit Xinjiang. Besides the fruits, Xinjiang has some very special local foods waiting for your exploration. Toasted mutton, finger food, and sauteed chicken with potato and green pepper will satisfy your stomach very much.
A Silk Road tour is harder and spends more days than other tours. So a Silk Road tour have more requirement for health condition. Please make sure you are ready to do it materially, physically and psychologically. And if you plan to visit Tibet you need to prepare something for altitude stress. Depending on individual tourists some tourist will not suffer altitude stress but some suffer so much from it that they are transferred out of Tibet once arriving. To lower possibility of suffer altitude stress, tourists could choose to take a train to Tibet, though it is slow, you will gradually get used to the special natural condition of Tibet on the way.
Health check report are not required for ones Tibet tour but it is recommend to be done on your own before starting the tour.
Passport and visa requirement
Passport with tourist visa (L visa) is the must-taking thing for tourists traveling to mainland China. Foreign tourists have to carry their visa whenever and wherever they go. Then how to apply for a Chinese tourist visa? Tourists who keep passports of Singapore, Brunei and Japan do not need to apply a visa if they stay in China less than 15 days.
For tourists keeping passports of other countries please submit the applying files 2 months before the travel starting. And the files need to be submitted are: Passport which is valid for at least 6 months with at least 2 blank pages; completed visa application form with applier’s autograph and related supporting document and required vise fee; 2 passport photos taken in recent days.
Matters need attention for Silk Road tour
During a Silk Road tour tourists would visit many religious sites or local families of religious belief. In Lanzhou, Gansu and Xianjiang, there are lots of residents of different ethnics. Different ethnics have different customs, taboos and living styles. “Do in Rome as the Romans do” can ensure you a smooth and pleasant visit.
When visiting the temples, Mosques and tombs pleasing carefully listen to your guide about the matters needing attention during visiting.
When you pay a visit to local family, please avoid dressing in trousers, waistcoat and hats. And some gifts should be prepared out of polite. No need to be expensive and big one, just very little subjects are OK. When the hosts treat you with their local food, it is considered impolite to refuse it. If you are really reluctant, please thank your host and offer a reasonable explanation. When the hosts toast you, you should receive the cup and first offer your thanks to the hosts and then drink it or let other people help you if you cannot bear the whole cup of wine yourself.
Personal belongings safety during Silk Road tour
It is very safe to travel in China either with a group or alone. So please do not worry about been robed or your belongings been stolen. But it does not mean no people will touch your belongings if you lose them. So you should still travel wisely and keep your money close to you at all times. During the Silk Road tour, tourists may check in and out hotels for at least three times. When checking out hotels, please make sure nothing left in hotels. Though the hotels can send the left-behind things, but the long distance from one spot to another spot on Silk Road make the service fee much high.
Be cautious in crowded public areas like bazaars, bus and train stations since thefts from pockets and day packs are not uncommon. A recommended way to protect your cash and important files like passport is a money belt worn inside your clothing.
Luggage weight restriction when taking domestic flight or train
According to regulations of Chinese Railway Bureau, when taking a train, each adult passenger could take at most 20kg of luggage and each kid (including kid taking train for free) could take at most 10kg of luggage for free. And the luggage weight limit for diplomatic personal is 35kg per person. If the luggage excesses limit, passengers need to register the luggage and shipper it separately. If the carry-on luggage is heavier than the allowable weight when boarding the train, passengers will be declined to aboard the train.
Besides the weight limit, Chinese Railway also has limit on luggage size. According to regulation, the sum of length, width and height should be no more than 200cm when taking a general train and when taking a D/G train, the sum of the three items should be no more than 130cm. But the luggage regulations are not applicable for wheelchair carried for the disabled.
According to the latest regulations of the General Administration of Civil Aviation, passengers holding first class ticket could have 2 pieces of carry-on luggage and passengers holding business class or economy class ticket could have one piece of carry-on luggage for free. The weight of luggage freely taken by each passenger should be no more than 5kg and size of each piece of luggage should be no bigger than 20cm*40cm*55cm regardless of ticket class. All luggage excess the amount limit, volume limit, or size limit need to be registered and shipper separately. And the free shipper luggage (sum of carry-on luggage and registered luggage), passengers who hold first class ticket could have at most 40kg registered luggage for free. Passengers holding economy class tickets could have 20kg registered luggage for free. Each registered luggage should have a locking device attached. Either wise the luggage will be declined to aboard flight.
Things needing special attention in Xinjiang
There are six points needing special attention when traveling in XInjiang.
First, time difference. Like all other cities in China, XInjiang also uses Beijing Time as standard time, but actually Xinjiang has a 2 hours time difference with other cities. So the daily schedule in XInjiang is 2 hours later than other cities. Tourists should pay special attention to that.
Second, the meals. Meat dishes in Xinjiang are mainly cooked with mutton, tourist who do not like mutton need to let the guide know in advance. Once more, do not asking for a pork or donkey’s meet dish in Muslim restaurant.
Third, talk with local residents. Never talk about “Pig” when talk with local people or your guide and driver.
Fourth, bazaar barging. When you pay a visit to local bazaar, only barging with the store keeper when you decide to buy. That also applicable to some optional activities like horse riding.
Fifth, fruit trying. There are lots of fresh fruit tourist could try in Summer in Xinjiang. After eating fruit please do not drink immediately. Either wise you may suffer from diarrhea.
Sixth, handicraft knife shipper. Handicraft knife is one of the local specialties in Xinjiang and tourists may buy one during their xinjiang stay. Please notice that according to regulations of Chinese civil aviation bureau and railway administration knife is forbidden to shipper as a carry-on luggage or registered luggage. If you really want to have one, please ask help from the knife store about shipper.