How to Get Through China...
At present, the only way of travelling through China with your own vehicle (that we know of) is through a government agency. This was the single most expensive part of our trip, after buying the vehicle. After the initial shock of the cost, and managing to barter the price down a bit, we decided that it would be worth it as the only other option would be to ship from India round to South East Asia, not only missing out a huge overland chunk, but costing almost half the price anyway.
The agency that we opted for was the China Sea International Travel Service and our contact was Ms Liu Lifeng:
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Address: China Sea International Travel Service, E-06, Huayu Mansion, No. A3 Longtan Road, Chongwen District, Beijing 100061, China. Tel: 0086-10-67172699, Fax: 0086-10-6710234
They don't have a web site, but were very helpful and efficient in organising our trip via e-mail and came throroughly recommended by the Isoexped group (see Useful Links section), although I think the experience you have can depend very much on how co-operative your guide is. Travel through China is still very restricted and it would seem that the itinerary is designed to keep you constantly on the move (perhaps so you can't cause too much trouble or talk to too many people in any particular place). We specifically requested that a visit to the Great Wall be included in our itinerary and a stop-off to obtain our Laos visas before reaching the border, but we had to push for this. Once the agency had sent us a letter of invitation via fax the Chinese visa was very straightforward to obtain fro the embassy in London before we left.
Other groups have used the following agencies: CITS, CIST, Cultural Tours
The chances are that China will open up to the outside world in the future, especially with the 2008 Olympics, but unfortunately not before we wanted to travel.
OUR ROUTE THROUGH CHINA
|1||Arrive in Zhangmu Pass of Nepal/China, meet our guide, go through customs, drive to Tingri||260 km|
|2||drive to Xigaze||241 km|
|3||morning visit a monastary, drive to Lhasa||345 km|
|4||sightseeing in Lhasa|
|5||sightseeing in Lhasa|
|6||drive to Naqu||326 km|
|7||drive to Tuotuohe||428 km|
|8||drive to Golmud||416 km|
|9||drive to Dunhuang||520 km|
|10||visit the Muogao Caves, with Buddhist paintings|
|11||drive to Jiayuguan Pass - visit the west end of the Great Wall||384 km|
|12||drive to Wuwei||500 km|
|13||drive to Lanzhou||276 km|
|14||drive to Pingliang||340 km|
|15||drive to Xian||350 km|
|16||sightseeing in Xian (terracotta warriors etc.)|
|17||drive to Xixiang||341 km|
|18||drive to Daxian||328 km|
|19||drive to Chongqing||277 km|
|20||drive to Zunyi||365 km|
|21||drive to Anshun||270 km|
|22||morning visit to Anshun, drive to Xingyi||255 km|
|23||drive to Kunming||370 km|
|24||obtain Laos visa|
|25||drive to Yuanjiang||285 km|
|26||drive to Jiangcheng||236 km|
|27||drive to Mengla||238 km|
|28||drive to Mohan Pass of China/Laos, go through the customs and exit China||53 km|
NOTES PROVIDED BY CHINA SEA INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL SERVICE
In order to cut the cost of the tour we asked to camp wherever possible and asked for written confirmation that any hotels that we would have to stay in when in urban areas would not cost more than £20 a night for a double room (we had heard stories of groups being forced to stay in expensive 'government owned' hotels). The cost of the trip for a group of two, once we had asked them to take out all the hotels they had booked, came to $ each ($450 cheaper than the original price) including :
N.B. - Post Expedition Note
It has been brought to our attention that the Chinese regulations have recently been changed, and the latest information we recieved is that vehicles are only allowed into the country in groups of two or more. We cannot advise any further than this, but speculate that this requirement is for Tibet (hence why the company sent a seperate escort vehicle along with us when we made our Tibeten transit).