Chengdu is a quieter town, known for its Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. With a laid-back vibe and fabulous food to match, Chengdu is a wonderful detour on your journey around China. In this Chengdu Travel Guide, we cover everything you need to know before visiting the home of the Giant Pandas, including where to stay & how to get there.
Temples, animals and a host of day trip opportunities, Chengdu offers a range of activities for those interested in Chinese culture. It is also a short high-speed train journey away from Chonquing, the start of many Yangtze River cruises, making it ideal for tourists and backpackers. Further afield, you can travel to see the Wild Cats of the Tibetan Plateau within the Sichuan province or visit the harrowing and abandoned Beichuan Earthquake Memorial.
Budget: ¥26 – ¥80 for dorm beds with private rooms starting at ¥90.
Midrange: ¥100 – ¥400
Luxury: ¥500+ for 4 star and above hotels
Transport: Bus fares cost ¥2 whilst the train costs between ¥2 – ¥6. Taxis start at ¥8 but use the Didi app for ease.
Average cost of food:
Street and market foods cost between ¥5 – ¥10 with inexpensive restaurants costing around ¥15 – ¥30.
Mid-range restaurants will set your back around ¥100 – ¥150 for 2 people whilst western restaurants will cost ¥200+
Cost of Travel in China full guide
Best time to visit Chengdu
The best time to visit Chengdu is from March to June and September to November. The spring colours are beautiful in the city and the temperature is perfect for visiting the pandas and enjoying the nearby attractions.
If you are visiting in the Summer, aim to visit in early June as July and August are the hottest times of the year and often the busiest.
Whilst planning your trip, you also need to avoid the Chinese national holidays – Golden Week runs during the first week of October and Chinese New Year lands around February, with a handful of long weekends throughout the year.
If possible, aim to visit Chengdu just after a national holiday – locals all return back to work so attractions and sites are much quieter.
Where to stay in Chengdu
A highly rated choice is the Chengdu Mix Hostel Backpackers, recommended in the Lonely Planet China as the top choice in Chengdu. With dorms starting at ¥41 and private rooms starting at ¥56, Sam’s Guesthouse is a beautiful choice for authentic Chinese living. A family run guesthouse, we loved our driver who spoke very little English but tried his best to explain as much as he could. The beds were slightly firm but the traditional Chinese garden was delightful and the staff couldn’t do more for us. Private ensuite rooms start at ¥73.
Chengdu Panda Apartments offer spacious apartments in the heart of Chengdu. At just ¥243 a night, this is a great choice for couples.
Sun Gold Apartments offer luxury apartments with air-conditioning, TV, kitchen and hot tub. These are spacious rooms with great views of the growing city, apartment prices start at ¥445.
High-end Hotel Fraser Suites Chengdu is a perfect choice for those that love the comfort of a hotel, with breakfast included and prices starting at ¥717.
Save money in Chengdu
China is a relatively cheap place to visit in the world but there are still ways that you can save even more money in the country, allowing you to travel for longer.
- Bargain – When buying from vendors in both markets and small stores, negotiate a price with the seller. If they see you as a foreigner, you will be charges 4 times the actual price.
- Eat locally – Stick to the local food and restaurants in Chengdu. You can get a delicious meal in a restaurant for as little as 40RMB whilst Western meals will cost you 100+ RMB.
- Don’t tip – it is not expected in Chengdu.
- Use Didi – When getting a taxi, use the Didi app. These are slightly more expensive than a normal taxi but some taxis in Chengdu will not turn on their meter and overcharge.
- Avoid the Western chains – Whether you fancy a coffee or salad, opt for a local or Chinese brand over global chains such as Starbucks.
- Use CTrip – CTrip is an app and website which compares hotel prices. Generally, you can find cheaper prices on this app than any other comparison site for China.
- Stay local – there are plenty of local guesthouses in Chengdu and staying at these will save you money in more than one day. If you are looking to visit the Leshan Buddha (and we recommend you do), you can arrange a private driver to visit at your own pace. Booking this with your guesthouse or hostel often works out cheaper than a tour company or taxi company.
- Free attractions – Take advantage of the free attractions such as the Sichuan Museum, Aidao Nunnery, Huan Huaxi Park and Renmin Park.
How to get to Chengdu
Fly – You can fly directly to Chengdu Shuangliu International airport from most major Chinese cities within 2 hours, with some direct flights from cities around the world. On arrival, the airport shuttle buses cover four routes reaching all areas of the city whilst a taxi will cost ¥70 – ¥90. Most guesthouses (such as ours) offer airport pick-up services.
Bus – The main bus station for tourists is Xinnanmen with buses taking you to and from a wide range of towns and small cities.
Train – Chengdu North Train station is the main station for tourists, with the new East Train Station with minimal trains. A popular train for tourists is the sleeper train to Kunming or the 2 hour speed train to Chongqing to board a Yangtze river cruise.
How to get around Chengdu
Bus fares around the city cost ¥2 whilst the train costs between ¥2 – ¥6, with a line taking you direct to the Giant Panda Breading Research Base. For bus routes see here.
Taxis start at ¥8 but it maybe worth hiring a driver from your hotel to get a good deal. We were able to hire a driver to take us to the Giant Panda base then on to see the Leshan Buddha (3 hours away). We were driven around from 9am to 8pm costing us ¥700.
The Chengdu Metro is also a great option, with seven lines in operation, identified by colour and taking you across the city quickly.