In a nutshell
Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan province and has been labelled as a laid back city with a good nightlife and one of the most liveable cities in China; it is one of the three largest cities in Western China along with Chongqing and Xian.
5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Chengdu
The number one tourist destination in Chengdu is the Panda Research Centre, when people mention Chengdu many think of the Giant Panda, Sichuan is one of just three provinces where this cuddly looking animal lives in the wild and 70% of those are in the forests to the west of Chengdu.
The second reason to visit Chengdu is because of the food, Sichuan food is the spiciest of all the varieties of Chinese food.
Chengdu has a great nightlife, its selection of bars and pubs are among the best in China so the third reason has to be its trendy nightlife.
4. Temples & museums
The fourth reason to visit Chengdu is for the tourism, there is so much more to see than pandas. The city has so much history to see in its temples and museums. Poetry has also played an important part in Chengdu’s history and Chinese tourists in Particular go to the memorial sites of two of the most revered poets Du Fu and Xue Tao.
The fifth reason to visit Chengdu is the transportation, it is so easy to get to with one of China’s busiest airports with several international flights getting here is easy.
When is the Best Time to Visit Chengdu?
Chengdu has four distinct seasons during the year with cold dry and often foggy weather during the winter. Summers are warm and humid rather than hot; July and August are also the two wettest months. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit although the weather in autumn can sometimes feel a little too cool. Chengdu does not see a great deal of sunshine; it is one of the cloudiest city’s in China.
Where to Stay in Chengdu?
Chengdu has a very good variety in its options for where to stay with several five star hotels costing from around CNY800 per night up to CNY2000 or more. At the other end of the scale it is one of the best cities we know in China for its choice of cheap western style international hostels. Beds in dorm rooms will cost from CNY50 per night up to around CNY200 for a private room.
There are lots of options for cheap three star hotels in Chengdu and you can get a good room for less than CNY200 per night although most of the hotels in this bracket will not have English speaking staff, so communication could be a problem.
There are a few apartment hotels available in Chengdu, these are particularly good choices if you are planning on staying for more than a week or two and would like more than a hotel room. The metro makes it easy to get around the city to the tourist attractions, the best areas to stay are close to metro stops and we would recommend around Tianfu Square or along Renmin Road.
Where and What to Eat
Chengdu has a lot of choices when it comes to what to eat. Sichuan food is among the spiciest in China and expect to pay CNY20-30 per dish at a mid range restaurant. There is a good choice of street food available and you can buy snacks for anything from CNY4 or 5 up to around CNY10. High quality restaurants will generally cost over CNY100 per person and should you want international or western food there are plenty of options and expect to pay anything in excess of CNY100.
Some of the favourite local foods include Ma Po Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken or Hot Pot. You can eat a good and filling hot pot for about CNY25-50 per person. Some of the best food can be found close to Tianfu Square or the shopping malls of Chunxi Road. Street food can be found almost anywhere but good places are often close to metro stations or major bus stops.
How to Get Around Chengdu
By far the easiest way to get around Chengdu is on the Metro with lots of information being available in English including the automatic ticket machines. There are currently 6 lines in operation covering 138 stations. The system is constantly growing and the metro will more than double in size in the next few years. By 2050 there should be more than 20 lines in operation. Fares begin at CNY2 and are charged on the distance you travel up to CNY9.
There are more than 400 bus routes operating in Chengdu with more than 12,000 buses in service on these routes. If you know the route you need and the stop where to get off it is a good cheap way to travel although the buses can be very crowded and no English is used. Buses cost CNY2-3 for a journey. The Chengdu BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) currently has 4 lines in operation mainly using the Second Ring Road with connections to metro stations.
Taxis cost from CNY8 or 9 for the first 2km. and cost CNY1.9 per km after this. At night the rates are higher. Drivers do not speak English and they will often refuse to take CNY100 bills. Ensure the driver uses the meter or negotiate a price before the journey begins.
How to Get To and From Chengdu
Chengdu is a major transportation hub in the south west of China and its Shuangliu International Airport is 16km from the city centre. It is the busiest airport in western China, the fourth biggest in China and the 30th busiest in the world. A second international airport is due to serve the city from 2020.
There are flights to more than 70 destinations within China and more than 30 international cities including non-stop flights to the USA, Europe and Australia. Los Angeles to Chengdu takes 19 hours and costs CNY11000 while a direct flight from Amsterdam takes 16 hours and costs CNY6000.
There are shuttle buses from the airport to the city centre and cost CNY10. They depart from outside the terminal and are clearly marked so they are easy to see. The last one leaves the airport at around 1am every day and they tend to run regularly until that time. Taxis from the airport to the city centre cost about CNY50, walk along the terminal to the official taxi area, they are lined up or people are in line waiting. Ignore the people asking you if you want a taxi, they will overcharge you and are not official taxis. The easiest way to get into the city is using the metro, there is a station in each terminal and it is easy to use.
Express buses operate to and from Chengdu from multiple cities within China from as far away as Nanning in the south and Zhejiang in the east of the country. There are several bus stations within Chengdu, some are easy to reach others not so.
There are three railway stations in Chengdu; the South Station is used mainly for local high speed trains operating to the south of Sichuan to cities such as Leshan. Most high speed trains arrive into Chengdu at the East Station while slower trains and some high speed trains use the Chengdu Railway Station in the north of the city. The three stations are all connected to the metro system. There are 11 trains every day from Shanghai to Chengdu, the fastest high speed train takes 11 hours and a second class seat costs CNY932.50. Ordinary slower trains take around 36 hours and a hard sleeper will cost CNY499. There are 14 trains every day from Guangzhou to Chengdu, the fastest trains take around 10 hours and a second class seat costs CNY488.50. The slower trains can take up to 45 hours and a hard sleeper costs CNY444.
Is it Safe in Chengdu?
We would say Chengdu is safe although we did once lose our wallet in Sichuan. When travelling on the bus thieves will use a razor blade to cut open your pockets and bags.
Another ploy is to crash into you on an electric bike and then help you up while removing any valuables while you are distracted.
You have to take care when crossing the road as there is a complete disregard for traffic signals. Even when you have a green light vehicles will honk the horn and expect you to get out of their way. The safest way is to cross the road in a crowd, then the traffic stops.
The standard of medical care is good in Chengdu should you need to seek medical attention.