The main route into China by rail, other than flying into Hong Kong and then taking the train, is to go from Europe by the Trans-Siberian Railway. Information about travelling this route from Berlin via Moscow and Irkutsk to Beijing can be obtained from CITS offices (see Information) and travel agents. You can chose between the shorter route via Ulan Bator in Mongolia, arriving in Beijing on the ninth day, or go the longer way round, arriving a day later, via Harbin in Manchuria. If you decide to go by Mongolia you can also include a stopover in Ulan Bator, while the Manchurian route allows you to breakyour journey at Lake Baikal. Intourist, the Russian State travel agency, can arrange the necessary transit visas, but allow at least six weeks for processing. Seats get booked up well in advance in the summer season, so make your arrangements in plenty of time. Intourist also offers independent travellers a route from Moscow to Urumqi on the trail of the Silk Road via Tashkent and Alma Ata or just via Alma Ata.
If you want to read about the journey in more detail get the “Trans-Siberian Rail Guide” by Robert Strauss or the “Trans-Siberian Handbook” by Bryn Thomas.
The opening of the transcontinental rail link between Asia and Europe in 1992 has made it possible to travel the 10,900km/6778 miles from Rotterdam inthe Netherlandsto Lianyungang on China’s Yellow Sea by rail all the way. The opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 will even mean that for the
Tour Operators first time ever it will be possible to travel by train direct from London to China.
The rail route from Rotterdam is 8000km/5000 miles shorter than going by sea, and takes in Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk, Moscow, Alma Ata, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Xi’an and Zhengshou en route to Lianyungang, although as yet there is no through train. For further information check with local travel agents or the international bureau in Rotterdam (tel. Netherlands (10) 411 71 00).
Various cruises call in at Shanghai and Ningbo, Dalian and Tianjin, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan’s Keelung. For further information contact travel agencies which specialise in cruises.
Cargo boats, some of which take passengers, run regularly between European ports and the port of Hong Kong. Ferries and hovercraft also operate regular services from Hong Kong and Macau to Shanghai, Canton, Shantou, Xiamen, Haikou, Sanya and Wuzhou, and there are also services from Shanghai to South Korea and Japan.
Most travellers to China go as part of a group tour, and a number of travel agents offer tours of China, many with specialist interests ranging from horseback riding in Mongolia to birdwatching on the roof of the world in Tibet and beach holidays on Hainan Island. For further information consult your local travel agent or read the travel pages of the national press.