Transit passengers from 53 countries including the US, Canada and all members of the EU can spend up to 72 hours in Guilin without a visa. This visa-free policy allows foreigners from these 53 countries with visas and plane tickets to a third country to transit through Guilin for those 72 hours. Below is a suggested itinerary for a 3-day trip.
Day one: get a feeling for the city
On your arrival, you can choose Jingjiang Princes' Palace – China's other Forbidden City -- or one of Guilin’s landmarks, the Elephant Trunk Hill, to be your first local destination.
Jingjiang Princes' Palace sits in the center of Guilin and has a longer history than Beijing's Forbidden City. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
It was built in the 14th century for Zhu Shouqian, great nephew of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). During its 257-year-history, it was home to 14 kings from 12 generations.
Today the site is occupied by Guangxi Normal University, but it remains open to the public as a popular tourist attraction combining aspects of Guilin's natural beauty, history, traditional architecture and local culture.
Elephant Trunk Hill, on the other hand, is located on the western bank of the Li River. It has been a famous tourism destination since the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
The hill looks like a giant elephant dipping its trunk into the river. There are not only many spectacular natural scenes around the hill, but also some ancient constructions such as Puxian Pagoda, Yunfeng Temple, and Sarira Dagoba.
At night, take a lakeside walk and feel free to enjoy the night scenery of the Two Rivers and Four Lakes, the round-the-city water system composed of Lijiang River, Peach Blossom River, Ronghu Lake, Shanhu Lake, Guihu Lake and Wooden Dragon Lake.
Day two: drift down the river
In the morning, you can head toward the Yangdi Wharf for Lijiang River bamboo rafting. Enjoy the two-hour cruise down the most beautiful section of the Lijiang River from Yangdi to Jiuma Hill, and then take an electric tourist bus to Xingping.
The Lijiang River. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
The Lijiang River begins in the Mao’er Mountains and winds its way for many miles through natural scenic beauty and thick bamboo forests with amazing strange rocky formations. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Beautiful Xingping, the largest town along the Lijiang River, is surrounded by enthralling scenery. Both Mural Hill and Yellow Cloth Shoal belong to this scenic area. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
In the afternoon, you can head to the Silver Cave Scenic Area in Lipu County. It is the biggest cave in Guilin as well as a 4-star national scenic spot.
Being of typical Karst landform, the Silver Cave runs through 12 peaks and collects diverse stalactites formed in different geologic ages. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
You can spend the night in Yangshuo and get ready for the next day's tour.
Day three: Guilin landscape tops any others, and Yangshuo landscape tops that of Guilin.
Your Yangshuo morning starts at the Yulong River, and features bamboo rafting. Unlike the petrol engine boats on the Lijiang River, the bamboo rafts of the Yulong River are worked by boatmen. For that reason, they only carry two people.
Sitting on the reclining chair on the raft, you can enjoy an all-around view of the natural, rural life down the river. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Around Yulong River there are many fancy spots such as Aishan Men and Swallow Lake. Aishan Men is a small village with many inns. The village is very peaceful and far away from modern society. Both spots are easily accessed by raft.
Swallow Lake is a man-made lake built like the Outer Heaven that Tao Yuanming wrote about. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
In the afternoon, be ready to catch your flight / train to your next destination. (Note: make your arrangements in late afternoon or early evening.)
Guilin food is noted for its natural, fresh, and healthy ingredients. Many Guilin ingredients are from forests (e.g. gingko nuts), from mountains (e.g. bamboo shoots), or even from paddy fields (e.g. water chestnuts, taro, or lotus roots); and not from factories or greenhouses. Wild plants and animals rarely eaten in the West can be found in Guilin Cuisine.
Guilin rice noodles (Guilin Mifen) are one of the most famous and popular local staples. The dish can probably be found within 100m of any town or city area.
Yangshuo Beer Fish is Yangshuo's most famous dish. It is made from fresh caught Li River carp. The fresh fish is fried in a wok along with beer, hot and green peppers, garlic, onions, celery, tomatoes, soy, and sugar. Yangshuo's famous West Street has many restaurants serving this delicious dish. Tao's Authentic Beer Fish, and The Older Sister of Peng's Beer Fish come highly recommended.
Zhengyang Pedestrian Street is the busiest commercial area and the most enjoyable snack street in Guilin. The age old street is clustered with restaurants and eateries in traditional Chinese architectural styles, and what adds even more vibrancy is the dazzling variety of local delicacies such as rice noodle, grilled squid, roast fish, matigao cakes, and sizzling stuffed bean curd.
Bars to try:
Guilin's hottest nightlife spots can be found along Zhengyang Pedestrian Street, where a host of bars line the road. One of these is Music Life Club, also known as Lounge Bar. Also located on Zhengyang Pedestrian Street, Guilin Back Garden Irish Pub offers travelers a classic Irish pub experience. Situated in downtown Guilin near the Sheraton Hotel, 100 Degree Bar is a popular nighttime hangout, favored by locals.
Since July 2014, Guilin has been offering foreign tourists a 72-hour window to explore the city without a visa, following the introduction of a new policy for transiting passengers from 51 countries.
Visitors eligible for visa-free stays must have air tickets to a third country with confirmed dates, and visas where required. A service center for transit passengers operates at the Guilin Liangjiang International Airport