Cecilly Author EF
Cecilly Francisco

The highlight of my time in China was most certainly the time spent travelling. Although I lived in Beijing, a city that I could never tire of exploring, I wanted to spend every minute of my weekends continuously exploring the fascinating country I was living in. My favourite way to end a fun-filled week of the Hello Song, children’s laughter, and lesson plans was to take a didi (China’s Uber/Lyft), my packed duffel bag, and head out on a night train… going anywhere.

Once I discovered how easy and cheap train tickets were, my life was never the same. Through WeChat, the only app you need in China, I could choose to start the weekend’s adventure from any of five railway stations throughout Beijing or if I was really looking to move even more quickly than the 215 mph (350 km/hr), I could fly.

The first trip I took was dipping my toes in solo travel, and I decided to visit another metropolitan city—Shanghai. Train tickets I perused and booked on a subway ride to work came to around $75 round-trip. My new best friend was a website (not an ad), which helped me find cheap hostels and hotels during my various travels. A tip I learned from a foreigner friend that had lived in China for several years is to ensure the hotel or hostel booked allows foreigners to stay, because they are required to register you there and not all hotels can register foreigners. I ensured this in my research by finding English reviews from previous foreigners, and it always worked for me. I’m a hostel kind of person, because my time in a new city includes: arrive, drop bags, go explore, go to sleep, wake up and repeat. Hostels were anywhere from $5 and a private hotel room could start as low as $25.

After the confidence of a successful Shanghai trip, my next endeavor focused on going somewhere that took my breath away in pictures – the Avatar Mountains. This time I flew into a very small town, spent $6 on a hostel (found through my favourite website), and found myself on the most majestic mountainside I’d ever seen. Interestingly enough, I met another hiker on the trail who was camping and who also worked for EF in another city. Such a small world, I tell you.

With a nice train-ride, flight, and several hostels and hotels under my belt, I was ready to level up and went to South Korea over a holiday weekend. The flights were shockingly cheap (somewhere, if I remember correctly, around $150-$200 round trip). I got to experience Seoul and at the same time appreciate how cheap my life in China was as I saw how I was spending a lot more than the $6-$25 on hotel rooms.

Later trips included visiting Nanjing on an overnight sleeper (for about $20), then taking a quick 2 hour train ride to the quaint city of Hangzhou ($10), struggling to chat with the gentleman next to me in my very basic, but very determined Chinese. I saw (and really enjoyed) that my taking Chinese study books on the night trains or day trains was a great conversation starter with those around me, who eyed me curiously already. Those very basic, very kind interactions propelled me to continue my studies excitedly. Once in Hangzhou, I visited a tea house overlooking West Lake and stayed for less than $15/night.

Other trips were scattered throughout the year, but the culminating was visiting Harbin Ice Festival with a group of friends to experience the -30°C Siberian temperature for ourselves. With several of us travelling together, it was easier to pack the 4-bedded cabin room. This time tickets were around $50 and well-worth it to get the sleep in before arriving to the colored ice castles. We packed into a hotel room, split the $15/night for the room, and instead spent our money going to EVERY. SNOW. AND. ICE. CASTLE.

China cashless

Travelling was not only so easy to plan, but so cheap to do that every month I made a point to go somewhere outside of the city. The sites I saw, new friends made, and memories created will forever be a cherished part of my time in China – and it didn’t make (too) big of a dent in my bank account! 

Apply to Teach NOW

It takes less than five minutes
to change your life.

Related Articles