Guilin, in the heart of rural Guangxi Province.took a long time to recover from the ravages of the Japanese invasion and it subsequently developed into a minor industrial center. After the economic liberalization of the 1980s, Guilin quickly gained ground as a tourist destination. To fit this new purpose much of the city’s industry was moved to other parts of the province and the city began a radical program of transformation.
During its reinvention in the 1990s, Guilin was often described by local guides as a city “under reconstruction,” and that’s exactly what it felt like – a building site, albeit with a beautiful backdrop.
Since the process has been finished, Guilin is a different city altogether. While it is still plagued by hawkers and rip-off merchants, the redesigned riverside promenade and city center are pleasant places for a stroll and highlight the sights, natural and manmade. As development in Yangshuo spirals it into something of a small city itself, Guilin has once again become a more attractive proposition, although ideally you’d spend time at both.
Situated amid impressive tower karst scenery and well placed for trips south to Yangshuo and north to Longji, Guilin is the traditional base from which to explore the region. Guilin is an easy city to tour, predominantly contained by the Li River to the east, and mountains to the north and west.
Elephant Trunk Hill
Most scenic spots are either on the river or within a few minutes’ walk of it, as are the hotels listed.
The main thoroughfare is Zhongshan Lu, which runs north
to south, parallel to the western bank of the Li River, down
to the south train station. The heart of the commercial
district is focused around Central Square, where you’ll also find some of the best shopping in town.
There’s a good selection of restaurants on riverside
Binjiang Lu, with another pocket west of Elephant Trunk
Hill on Nanhuan Lu, while central Yiren Lu and Zhengyang Lu host Guilin’s nightlife.
See a large picture of Elephant Trunk Hill .
The city’s principal bus station and one of its two train stationsare located near to the downtown area, while the second train station and the airport are about 30 minutes out to the north and west respectively.
Getting Here & Away
Guilin is easily accessible by air and rail from all the destinations in this guide, while buses are a good option from Shenzhen, Guangzhou or Hong Kong.
Guilin offers flights to most major cities in China and a few Asian countries, including Japan, Korea and Thailand. Many people make Guilin their first or last stop on their way into or out of Hong Kong and there are several daily flights that take just an hour and a half.
Some of the better hotels provide a shuttle bus service to the airport from their doors or you can take the bus (¥20) from the Air China offices in the south of town at Minhang Dasha on Shanghai Lu, where you can also buy air tickets. The airport trip takes about 40 minutes from downtown.
Flight destinations, frequencies & durations
Beijing (5 daily, 3 hrs); Chongqing (2 daily, 1 hr); Guangzhou (10 daily, 1 hr); Hangzhou (2 daily, 2 hrs); Hong Kong (3 daily, 1 hr 30 mins); Shanghai (2 daily, 2 hrs 10 mins); Shenzhen (7 daily, 55 mins); Xi’an (5 daily, 2 hrs).
Guilin is reasonably connected by rail and has two stations, the old South Station on Zhongshan Lu near the center of the city, and a newer terminal out in the north, a ¥20-30 taxi ride away.
Destinations, frequencies & durations
Beijing (3 daily, 22-29 hrs); Guangzhou (2 daily, 13hr); Hangzhou (4 daily, 24-31 hrs); Huangshan (1 daily, 22 hrs 30 mins); Shanghai (3 daily, 27-29 hrs); Shenzhen (1 daily, 15 hrs 40 mins); Suzhou (1 daily, 30 hrs); Xi’an (1 daily, 28 hrs).
Although it looks like a long distance on a map, an overnight bus trip to Guilin (or Yangshuo) by road is a good option from Shenzhen and Guangzhou – it’s both quicker and cheaper than the train, there are more services and some of these are very comfortable. There are also regular services to Yangshuo and Longsheng. All of the buses mentioned leave from the depot on Zhongshan Nan Lu, north of the train station.
Bus destinations, frequencies & durations
Guangzhou(several daily, 8-9 hrs); Longsheng (several daily, 2 hrs); Shenzhen (several daily, 12 hrs); Yangshuo (frequent until , 1 hr).
While plenty of buses ply Guilin’s streets, routes can be complex and taxis are cheap, so you’re better off using these.
However, if you’re feeling impecunious, the following may be of use:
#2 runs from the bus and south train stations into town, along Nanhuan Lu and up Binjiang Lu.
#10 heads from the bus and south train stations through the center of town and to Zhengyang Lu.
#11 goes from the bus and south train stations through the center of town and then out to SevenStarPark.
#58 circuits the main tourist sights, but gets very busy as it’s a free service.
Guilin itself has a host of taxis, which cost ¥7 for the first 2 km (1.2 miles) and then 1.6 per km (0.6 miles) after this. Unfortunately Guilin has seen too many visitors for too long and you’ll need to be wary of drivers not using the meter. If you’re traveling by yourself, or just want a speedy and fun way of getting round the city, there are motorbike taxis waiting at almost every junction, but you’ll need to bargain hard to get a fair price – trips within town shouldn’t cost more than ¥5.
Given the great bike rides in Yangshuo, riding around Guilin seems less worthwhile, but you could take a ride out to SevenStarPark. You can rent bikes from Backstreet Youth Hostel.
Boat trip from Guilin down to Yangshuo.
Guilin Attractions and Sightseeing
Camel Hill picture
Elephant Trunk Hill picture,
Ping’an & Longji
map of Guilin
Cities and regions of China homepage
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