I find that it is very difficult to find a decent Guangzhou iternary. Perhaps Guangzhou is still not as popular as places like Bangkok.
Guangzhou is a pretty good destination for a short getaway but you ought to be careful.
For the benefit of everyone, I’m going to share everything I know about Guangzhou that can help you in your preparation. My itinerary is spread across 5-days but please feel free to move it around!
Before You Fly
Prepare More Cash
Everywhere in China uses Alipay and WeChat Pay for their payment.
As a tourist, you will not be able to use the apps even if you have already set up the app in Singapore. You will need to own a China bank account before you can use the apps in China.
I prefer to use credit cards overseas so that I can bring less cash. However, most stores in Guangzhou doesn’t accept Visa or Mastercards. There are some stores accepting Apple Pay but it is really really rare.
My advice to you is to prepare extra cash just in case you don’t have enough to spend when you are in the country.
Purchase a Happy Roam Prepaid Card
I will greatly recommend everyone to use Happy Roam Prepaid card in Guangzhou (or China) in you are departing from Singapore.
You can access apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram with Happy Roam Prepaid card without any additional applications or configurations.
Use a VPN App to Bypass Firewall
If you prefer to use the hotel’s wifi or other travel sim cards, you will most likely need to find a way to bypass the firewall.
Most of the time, you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
You can download Lantern to use their free VPN service. The caveat? All your traffic will be sent to them.
If you are using the free service for less intrusive tasks (e.g. navigating through Google Map), it should be okay.
But if you are anticipating yourself to access your emails or bank accounts, you may want to opt for a paid VPN service.
If you are interested in a paid VPN service, you can get 1-month subscription with VPN.asia at 33% off if you sign up with this link.
Download Their Local Apps
Google Maps is great but I think it’s better to use the localized apps.
I used two apps every day in Guangzhou.
高德 (Gao De)
Gao De is a navigation app available for both Apple and Android. Similar to Google Maps, you can use it to navigate and search for stores nearby.
Apart from that, you can also use Gao De to estimate the price of a private car across different companies.
It appears that Gao De has also partnered with the shared bike companies. You can find the exact location of each shared bike nearby. It’s a pity we can’t use these bikes since we are unable to verify our payment accounts.
Didi is a local car-sharing app available for both Android and iOS. If you unable to understand Chinese, you can download the English version of the application. It is the only application in China I know that accepts international credit card such as Visa and Mastercards.
I would recommend you to set up your payment account before you go to China. I paid for at least 1.5x more than the normal price when I take a public taxi from the airport to my hotel.
It’s my mistake not to use Didi. When you arrive at the airport, I will highly advise using Didi to bring you to your hotel to avoid price shock.
Now, you must always remember that safety should be your number one priority when you are using shared car services. Given that there are a number of criminal cases happened with Didi, you will need to be more careful when you engage their service.
There are a few types of cars. I have put them in the order of cheapest to most expensive:
- Shared Car (Suspended temporarily)
- Express Car
- Premium Car
I suggest going for the premium cars as the drivers are supposed to be verified by Didi.
Even though it’s at least 1.5x more expensive than the rest of the tiers, it has a higher safety assurance level. Please do not take your safety for granted in overseas.
Public Transport in Guangzhou
Most locals take the subway to travel from one place to another place. In each subway station, there will be a security stop to check all the bags.
You can purchase a one-time ticket using all your coins and small changes to take the train.
The trains are similar but smaller as compared to Singapore’s. Similarly, the train can be very crowded during peak hours. Do plan your time well if you are going to take public transport.
Holiday Inn Guangzhou Shifu
Holiday Inn Guangzhou Shifu is located in the heart of the shopping streets, Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. It is so convenient that I will recommend this hotel to anyone who’s in Guangzhou for the first time.
We booked a King-bed Business Non-smoking room at the hotel for around S$ 230/night. You can opt for a cheaper room at around S$ 180/night. If you are looking for convenience, this is the hotel we find that it’s really worth its price.
We have written a review of the hotel here!
If you are staying in this hotel, you can walk to the nearest subway station in 15 minutes. Here’s a map:
You can find many streets food along the way when you walk to the nearest subway station.
If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Guangzhou, I will highly recommend staying a night or two at Conrad Guangzhou. Conrad Guangzhou is located in the Central Business District in the city. Around the hotel, you can also find other chain hotels such as Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons Hotel.
We booked a King Executive Suite River View room for around S$ 480/night. Besides the fact that the bedroom is facing the Canton tower, the room consists of a living room, a kitchen, and a small dining area. I’m really impressed by the service and comfort of the hotel.
We decided to stay in Conrad Guangzhou because it’s one of the newest hotels in the proximity. The hotel is also directly connected to a shopping mall and subway station. You can easily find a supermarket and convenience store around the hotel.
Pullman Hotel Baiyun Airport Guangzhou
Pullman Hotel Baiyun Airport Guangzhou is located directly opposite the airport. It’s approximately a 5 minutes walk from the hotel to the departure terminal.
I booked the hotel for a night as our flight was at 1.30 AM. We wanted to have a place to put our luggage and shower before the flight back home in the midnight. I was looking around for an hourly rate hotel near the airport but I wasn’t able to find one that we can actually book online. Not wanting to take the risk, I decided to go for a night with Pullman Hotel.
We booked a King-sized bed deluxe room for approximately S$ 163/night. Besides Pullman Hotel, you can also book a budget room (about S$ 40/night) with Guangzhou Airport Voyage Service Apartment Baiyun Airport or Kaiserdom Hotel Guangzhou Airport Branch.
As we really wanted to be more careful in terms of safety, we decided to go to the chain hotel at a much higher price. Fortunately, the stay was pretty pleasant and we had a good time resting in the hotel.
HengBao Plaza > Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street
On Day 1, you can visit the most famous shopping district in Guangzhou. Take the subway and alight at Changshoulu subway station.
Shopping: HengBao Plaza
Hengbao Plaza is located just above the Changshoulu subway station. In the shopping mall, you can find cheap clothes, international chain stores (e.g. Uniqlo), international restaurants (e.g. Saizeriya) and fast food restaurants (e.g. KFC). You can also find stores like Watsons in case you needed to purchase some personal care items.
Eat: 喜茶 Heytea
While you are still in HengBao Plaza, you may want to order a cheesy drink from Heytea. You know those cheesy drinks by Liho? I think Heytea has them better. If you are not interested in the cheesy drinks, you can also purchase the fresh fruits tea that also as good.
The store is located in HengBao Plaza Level 1. No matter which outlet we go to, there is always a very long queue waiting for their drinks. We have to wait for at least 30 minutes for our drinks. If you are not in rush, why not order a drink and chill at their shop?
I have no idea how to translate this store to the English name. It’s an eatery that sells affordable Rice Noodle Roll (Chee Cheong Fun). The portion of the Chee Cheong Fun is pretty large so it’s good for sharing. Their signature Chee Cheong Fun was sold out when we were there but the Char Siew ones are also pretty good for us!
This store is located directly opposite of HengBao plaza. You can easily spot a store with the pink color uniform. The portion is pretty huge so you might want to order with care.
Shopping: Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street
If you exit from HengBao Plaza, you can make your way to the end of Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street as shown in the Google Maps below:
The street is pretty long – it can take about 1 hour to complete the streets if you are shopping and eating at the same time. Don’t expect to spend more than 1 hour if you are only doing windows shopping.
There are many famous restaurants, streets food, eatery and imitation goods along the streets. A word of cautious: always study the logo properly before you get into a look-alike-branded shop. Most of the “sports” goods are imitation goods. They are not exactly cheap but you will be fooled into thinking that they are cheap if you think that they are the real goods. Don’t be blinded by the price.
If you follow the streets, you will hit the head of Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. Don’t end your shopping spree there as you can continue to find affordable items from the shops along the way.
Eat: 广州酒家 Guangzhou Restaurant
Guangzhou is famous for their dim sum just like Hong Kong. Most people will recommend 陶陶居 (Tao Tao Ju) or 莲香楼 (Lian Xiang Lou). I will also like to recommend Guangzhou Restaurant.
The prices of the dim sum are very reasonable for a restaurant. Not all dim sums are great but all of them are decent for the price.
Once you are in the restaurant, proceed to 2nd floor and request for a queue number. Your number will be called and the waitress will bring you to your table. Just like Hong Kong, there is a high possibility that you will be sharing a table with other patrons. Just be cool and smile at them!
If the queue is very long, you can request a VIP room. Basically, you will be brought into a “private” room with a couple of tables. In this room, you will not be sharing the table with anyone. The only caveat is that you have to pay the service fee and the price of the tea will be higher.
Eat: 南信牛奶甜品专家 Nanxin Milk Desserts Expert
When they call themselves expert publicly, you better believe that they are experts. This milk desserts store is always very crowded. If you stay in a hotel nearby, you can choose to take-away instead of waiting for a table.
Eat: Streets Food
If you still have some rooms for your stomach, you can also buy some streets food to munch along the way. When we were there, it seems very popular among the locals to purchase cut fruits from the store. Do choose the right stores (e.g. hygiene) to ensure that you are not munching more than what you supposed to!
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall > Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street > Sacred Heart Cathedral > Yide Road
On Day 2, we suggest visiting a few places in between of all the shopping sprees. You can start by taking the subway to Memorial Hall Station.
Attraction: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
The adult tickets cost CNY 10. In the memorial hall, you will see the history of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen as well as the history of the memorial hall. The place is not really huge so you can complete within 2 hours.
There are some photo spots outside of the memorial hall that you can take and post on your Instagram.
Do have a heavy breakfast as there is no eatery or restaurant in the proximity.
Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street
Once you are done with the memorial hall, you can head back to the subway and proceed to Gongyuanqian Station.
Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street feels like a copy of Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. Almost all the things that you can find in Shangxiajiu can also be found here. Apart from those stores, you can also find more international brands in this area.
If you didn’t manage to shop finish at Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street, this is the best time for you to recover what you miss. From our observation, it seems like the items here are slightly more expensive than the shops in Shangxiajiu. Shop at your own risk!
Eat: 海底捞 Haidilao
If your tummy is ready for a steamboat session, I would recommend visiting Haidilao at Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street.
Just like Singapore, the service is top-notch. The price is about 20-30% cheaper than Singapore. You can order more expensive ingredients that you will never order in Singapore. What’s interesting is that if you are a VIP member, the staff will give you special attention.
Attraction: Sacred Heart Cathedral
Now, if you are interested in architecture or Christianity, you will be thrilled to visit the Sacred Heart Cathedral. When you are done with Beijing Lu, you should find yourself near Beijing Lu station. Don’t u-turn and you will reach the Sacred Heart Cathedral if you continue walking towards the Haizhu Square direction.
The area was very crowded when we visited on the weekend afternoon. It will be quite difficult to get a good photo of the architecture. Do keep your valuable items close to you!
Shopping: Yide Road
You must be wondering what could be good along Yide Road. Actually, there are not many people talking about Yide Road if you google about it.
For e-commerce wannabe like me, Yide Road is a real gem. You can find many stores selling items like dry seafood, packaging items, toys and decorations in bulk.
Eat: Orient Express (火车头法国西餐厅)
If you follow the trail along Yide Road, you will reach Culture Park station in about 20 minutes. Instead of continuing your shopping, you can choose to take a dinner break here at Orient Express.
You can go for their ala carte but we recommend to go for their set menu so you won’t burn too much money. Their cheapest set menu is RMB 98 (~ S$ 20) for a starter, main course, and dessert. You can opt for the more expensive set menu to get more expensive food.
Baiyun Mountain > Yuntai Garden > IGC Shopping Mall
On Day 3, you can take a break from the shopping and visit the scenic areas.
Attraction: Baiyun Mountain
There is no metra near the foot of Baiyun Mountain. Hence, it is recommended to take Didi to the destination. We took from Conrad Guangzhou to the foot of Baiyun Mountain for RM 35 (~ S$ 7).
You can opt to walk to the top of the mountain but I would not recommend doing so. If you are as lazy as me, you can take a cable car instead.
The cable car ride is about 10 minutes. Once you reached the destination, you will be asked if you want to take a photo with the cable car. The small photo card is free. If you want a bigger photo or additional set, you will need to pay for it. I remember it’s not that expensive so it’s up to you whether you want to keep it as a memory.
One thing to note is that there are very little food stalls on the mountain. You can find McDonalds and Kungfu (their local fast food) if you are really hungry. I would suggest to eat a heavy breakfast and eat your lunch after you are done with the place.
Attraction: Yuntai Garden
The entrance to Yuntai Garden is direct beside the cable car exit gate. Once you exit from Baiyun cable car, you can go to the next door to look at some decoratives. The entry is free, hence, there’s no harm to take a quick walk.
Eat: Tsui Wah 翠華餐廳 at IGC Shopping Mall
Since there is no metro nearby, you will need to take a car to your next destination. Instead of loitering around again, we decided to head back to IGC shopping mall (near our hotel) to have lunch.
If you never hear of Tsui Wah before, it is a famous chain restaurant in Hong Kong. We really love the food so we decided to visit the restaurant when we realized there’s one in IGC Shopping Mall.
The taste is nowhere near the one we had in Hong Kong. However, it’s still a very good place to chill and eat Hong Kong noodles.
Shopping: IGC Shopping Mall
If you are looking for a shopping mall to shop, I suggest staying at the IGC shopping mall. Here, you can find Watsons, supermarket, and Minisou to satisfy your shopping craving.
You can also find Heytea in this shopping mall if you missed out on the one at HengBao Plaza.
Guangzhou Zoo > Anywhere you like
On Day 4, you can visit Guangzhou Zoo for 2-3 hours before heading over to the places that you want to spend the rest of your money.
Attraction: Guangzhou Zoo
You can reach Guangzhou Zoo by taking subway line to Zoo station. The zoo is opened from 8.00 AM to 4.30 PM on 1st April – 15 Oct. It will close at 4.00 PM on 16 Oct to April. The Ocean World in the zoo will close 30 minutes earlier than the Zoo’s closing hour.
Guangzhou Zoo is really cheap. It only cost 20 RMB for an adult. Well, at least you don’t have to pay an additional ticket in order to see Panda. Compare to Singapore Zoo, it is significantly smaller. You should be able to complete the visit in 2-3 hours.
If you can complete the zoo visit by the late afternoon, you may want to cater sometimes to go back to the hotel to rest for a while before you have your dinner somewhere nearby.
On Day 5, you might want to visit the clothing wholesales center. If you are looking for business opportunities, you can go Baima Clothing Marketing (白马服饰批发市场) and Hongmian Bubugao (红棉服装批发市场). Even if you are not selling clothes, you can go hunt for some cheap clothes for yourself.
These shops in the wholesales center are not your typical shops in any shopping mall. You will need to find clothes from several bags of clothes. But you can indeed find very cheap clothes in these two wholesales center.
I’m not too sure if they require a minimum purchase. Based on the price tag, it seems like you can purchase just one piece from the store.
I must say not everyone will like Guangzhou. In a way, it really feels like Bangkok. The food and items are generally a bit cheaper (but not super cheap) just like Bangkok. You can find clothes and wholesales items if you know where to find them.
If you are looking for a place for a honeymoon, this is definitely not a place to go! On the other hand, if you are bored of Bangkok, you can attempt to go to Guangzhou instead.
Hope this helps!