Seasoned traveller?

* July 14: How to travel from Vietnam to China in $66

I’d like to believe that I’m a seasoned traveller now. I found out that Hanoi to Beijing sleeping train fare was $330. My target was that I’d reach Beijing in $80.

I took a bus from Hanoi, Vietnam to Nanning a border town in South China. The bus ticket was (4,50,000 VND) $21 for the bus from Hanoi to Nanning bus station. The bus started at 7.00am. By 11 am, I had reached immigration. There were only 10 passengers in the bus. Usually, it take 30 minutes for immigration. The bus does not stop for a lunch break. There’s a break for having breakfast within 10 ten minutes. By the 11th minute, the bus driver starts honking. By 3.30pm, the bus had reached Nanning bus station.

There is no currency markets in China. Banks don’t accept any currency except USD. The worst thing is that our cards do not function in all ATMs. I went from bus station to railway station by bus which cost, 2RMD or Rs 20 or $0.3.

On July 4, 2016, I boarded Z286 train from Nanning to Beijing. Z class trains are super fast train followed by bullet train. The process of selection of trains, class, timings, location of right train was all very smooth thanks to Ateeq Shaikh, a senior journalist with DNA. He spent his weekend researching on Chinese train for me.

Nanning to Beijing: I bought a standing ticket (lowest ticket) is 268 RMD (Rs2680/ around $45). I bought a ticket for the next day. I did not get a reservation so I had to travel standing or sitting in open space in car.

It was supposed to be a 24 hour journey but due to floods in China, it was extended for 31 hours. Chinese train are as crowded as main line train in India. This journey reminded me of travelling by Deccan Queen on Monday morning and without reservation. But Deccan queen journey is just 3.5hour. This was 31 hours. Unlike Indian trains, in Chinese train one can not get down from train during crossing or long stop. I will not recommend this to you. But, if you have lot of time, less family responsibilities and desire for adventure , try it.

I spent only $66 on ticket and an odd $10 accommodation plus another $10 for food. Visa cost was 30$. The total expenses were $120 for three days of travel from Hanoi, Vietnam to Beijing in China.

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