In a nutshell
Chongqing is known as the “Mountain City” and is the largest city in the south west of China on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River at the point where it is met by the Jialing River; it is regularly used as a starting point for cruises on the Three Gorges.
Why You Should Visit Chongqing
Chongqing has several attractions that are not instantly known worldwide including the Dazu Rock Carvings and several natural attractions created over millions of years such as the Wulong Karst Scenic Area. In the city is Ciqikou, an ancient village on the edge of the city that has been an important centre for trade for centuries.
It is an important transport hub, Chongqing is one of the major inland ports on the Yangtze River, it has good travel connections through the railway with two major stations in the city and an international airport that is continually expanding.
When is the Best Time to Visit Chongqing?
Chongqing has plenty of rain throughout the year and it is one of the cities in China that see the least amount of sunshine. The winters are chilly rather than cold with snow a rare occurrence. The summer months are hot and humid, Chongqing is one of the cities to avoid during the summer due to the humidity. The summer temperature does not drop below 30C with occasional days reaching 40C or over. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit with favorable temperatures and the least amount of rain.
Where to Stay in Chongqing?
There are more than 3000 hotels in Chongqing to suit all tastes from cheap hotels and hostels up to luxury suites at the best five star hotels. An alternative if you are staying for a while is an apartment hotel, there are several of these in the city. Hostels have beds in dorm rooms available from less than CNY50 per night. You can stay in a reasonable 3 star hotel for under CNY200 per night while if you really want to be extravagant them a luxury suite can be yours for around CNY2000. There really is something for everyone.
The best area for accommodation is around Jiefangbei in the city centre, there is a good selection of hotels and hostels here and it is close to major attractions as well as being close to several metro stops making it easy to travel elsewhere in the city should you need to.
Where and What to Eat in Chongqing
Chongqing is famous as being the home of the fiery hot pot, you can now get hot pot all over China but to taste the real thing you should come to Chongqing. There are restaurants all over the city that specialize in only serving hot pot.
There are a few areas of Chongqing that are now becoming known as food streets. Bayi Street was the first and now other food streets are Nanbin Road and the streets around Jiefangbei. There are several snack foods including honey cake, steamed buns or glutinous rice balls. Dan dan chicken or fried crabs are other local favourites, not forgetting that Chongqing was part of Sichuan province until 1997 so Sichuan food is still very popular here.
How to Get Around Chongqing
There are more than 500 bus routes serving the city of Chongqing. In most buses you pay as you enter the bus, usually CNY2-3 per journey regardless of the distance covered, have the exact change ready as you will not get change. All bus information is in Chinese so you will need to know what bus number you need and the stop you need to get off.
The subway or metro is the easiest way to get around the city; it has been greatly expanded since my first visit to the city when there was just one line. There are now six lines with more under construction. You can travel from the airport into the city, the two railway stations and most bus stations are connected by this system. The fare starts at CNY2 and is calculated at the distance you intend to travel.
Taxis are a useful way to get around the city but some areas of the city are notorious for their traffic jams, so taking a taxi is not always the quickest option. Drivers do not speak English so have your destination written down in Chinese. Taxis in Chongqing charge CNY10 for the first 3km then CNY2 for every additional km. the worst times to get a taxi are from 7am until 9.30am, 3pm until pm and from 5pm until 7pm.
How to Get To and From Chongqing
Firstly, its international airport known as Jiangbei International Airport is located almost 20km to the north of the city and serves over 120 cities both in China and overseas. There are actually flights to 37 worldwide destinations including cities in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. A direct flight from Beijing to Chongqing takes 2 hours and 35 minutes and costs from CNY1130. You can fly from Chongqing to Guangzhou in 2 hours and 10 minutes and the cost is from CNY680, while an international flight from Doha in Qatar takes 8 hours and 30 minutes and costs from CNY4170.
There are a number of options for travelling into the city centre from the airport including 6 shuttle bus routes that depart from terminals 2 and 3 to various points in the city centre. It takes about an hour to get into the city centre from the airport.
The metro line 3 operates from the airport to the north railway station and the city centre and takes about 50 minutes. Line 10 is currently under construction and will be a fast connection to the north railway station. There are also taxis available at the airport, just make sure you get one from the official taxi rank and the driver uses the meter.
There are 8 expressways that connect Chongqing with other cities in China and long distance buses are an important method of transportation particularly the further west you go as there are fewer railways. There are six long distance bus stations in Chongqing and the larger cities are covered by most stations.
Chongqing has two major train stations, the Chongqing Railway Station in Yuzhong district is the oldest station in the city close to the city centre. It is long overdue being modernized and only handles ordinary trains mostly heading south or into Sichuan province. Chongqing North Railway station was opened in 2006 and handles most of the rail traffic to and from the city including all the high speed trains. Chongqing West Railway Station in Shapingba is a small station used for local and regional trains only.
There are more than 40 trains in each direction every day between Guangzhou and Chongqing, the fastest trains take around 7 hour 30 minutes and a 2nd class seat costs from CNY392.50. Normal trains are much slower taking around 30 hours and a hard sleeper costs from CNY361.
Is it Safe in Chongqing?
Chongqing is generally safe for foreigners to visit even walking alone at night it is safe. The biggest danger is in crossing the road and being hit by a vehicle that ignores the red light. This happens a lot all over China so extreme care should be taken even when you have a green crossing signal in your favor.
Should you need to seek medical attention then in Chongqing there is some excellent hospitals and one is registered to treat foreigners.