Hangzhou is an ancient city near the east coast of China just south of Shanghai and is one of the most beautiful cities in China. With so much natural beauty and so many incredible attractions, Hangzhou is one of China’s must see cities just second to Beijing. If you think adding a trip to Hangzhou to your holiday in China will be too expensive, don’t worry. I am going to show you how to have an amazing time in Hangzhou for less than $200 in US dollars.
The sites you’ll see in Hangzhou for less than $200 are
-Temple of General Yue Fei
-Pagoda of Six Harmonies
-Ling Yin Temple
Too see all these sights and fully enjoy Hangzhou, you will need to be in Hangzhou for at least four full days.
History – First a little background on Hangzhou to give you an idea of just how much history this city has.
Hangzhou was founded 2,200 years ago which makes it older than just about every other major city in China and much older than Beijing which is only around 700 years old and Shanghai which is only around 1,000 years old.
Hangzhou was the capital of China during the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and had a population of up to a million people during this period which made Hangzhou the largest city in the world at that time.
Preparation – Getting to Hangzhou and organizing your hotel
Getting to Hangzhou
Most people travelling to Hangzhou will be coming from Beijing. The cheapest and best way to travel to Hangzhou from Beijing is by train. There are four daily services from Beijing to Hangzhou and takes around 15 to 16 hours. I suggest you take the T31 which is an overnight train and arrives in Hangzhou at around 8:30am
The cost of a very comfortable hard sleeper (bed) is $54. Once you include the cost of the train ticket both ways, this will be your largest single expense.
Hangzhou is full of good hostels and hotels within walking or riding distance of the major travel spots so accommodation is not a problem. The price of dorm beds starts at just under $5 and the price of private rooms starts at just under $13 so accommodation is also very affordable.
My personal favourite is the Touran Backpacker Hostel and you can read the review here “Touran Backpacker Hostel”. The hostel staff speak reasonable English so once you know your dates, call ahead and book a bed/room.
Train tickets – $108
Hostel budget for 4 nights – $20
Total so far – $128
Food and Transportation
Food and transportation is your third largest expense and it is here that you will blow your budget if you are not careful. If you stay away from lobster dinners and exotic cocktails, you can dine like a king/queen and still be within your budget.
Be conservative and budget to be in Hangzhou for 5 days which will be 15 meals in total. Each meal should cost you no more than $2.60 but just to be super careful, lets say $3.80. That is a total of $57.
How to eat well this cheaply? By sticking to restaurants near your hostel that local residents use and avoiding restaurants in the tourist areas and in the main part of the city. Here are a couple of examples from my trip to Hangzhou. Muxurou (a lovely vegetable and meat dish) and a bowl of rice cost 16rmb and a large bowl of chilli noodles cost 10rmb.
For some of your breakfasts and lunches you’ll want to buy fruit, food and drinks from local supermarkets. This will be convenient and allow you to have lunches while visiting some of the sites.
The only way to really go over budget is by using taxis and apart from getting from the train station to your hostel and back, there is no need at all to use taxis. Hangzhou does not have subways like China’s larger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. It has something MUCH better and cheaper. A city wide bike rental network and very bike friendly roads.
You are only charged for the rental of the bikes if you use it continuously for over an hour. I was only charged less than 50 cents for three days of bike hire.
For some of the out of the way attractions you will need to catch buses and bus fare is around 50 cents per bus. Budget for 32 cents for bike hire a day and $1 bus fare which is plenty. Also include $3 for taxi fare to your hostel and back.
Food – $57
Transportation – $8
Total – $65
You arrive at Hangzhou trains station at 8:30am, grab a taxi and are at your hostel checking in by 9:00am. This gives you a full day to see the sites. On day one you will visit West Lake and climb Leifeng Pagoda
First thing to do is to head from your hostel to one the main bike rental stations where you can hand over a $48 deposit and get a digital hire card. Only the larger rental stations hand out cards but all the stations can use the card once you have it. The best place to get a hire card is on the east side of the lake near Xihu avenue.
Next pedal/walk to to Leifeng Pagoda on the south side of West Lake. Leifeng Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda originally built in 975 and destroyed in 1924. The temple was reconstructed in 2002 and built over the foundations of the original temple. The ruins in the basement of the restored pagoda are fascinating and the views over the lake from the top of the pagoda are fantastic.
After you finish with the pagoda, enjoy the rest of the day by leisurely walking around West Lake. The West Lake is 2000 years old with incredible charm, beauty and serenity. It is the heart of Hangzhou and the most popular lake in China. . Su Shi, a famous poet from the Song Dynasty (960-1127) compared the West Lake to Lady Xizi, the most beautiful and alluring woman in ancient China。
Hangzhou does not have much of a night life so hang out with some one from your dorm or grab a bottle of beer from a local super market and have a few drinks outside your hostel.
Leifeng Pagoda – $7
West Lake – Free
Two bottles of beer – $1
Total – $8
After breakfast pick up a bike from a nearby bike rental station and head off to the Pagoda of Six Harmonies which is a 15-20 minute bike ride from the southern end of West Lake. If you are not up to a bike ride, you can catch buses K504, K4,8, 354, 808 and tourist bus 5.
The Pagoda of Six Harmonies is a thousand year old Buddhist temple that was built for tide control. The pagoda itself is fun to climb and the temple grounds are extensive and full of miniature replicas of ancient pagodas.
Head back to the West Lake, dump your bike and enjoy a stroll along the west side of West Lake to the Temple of General Yue Fei which is on the north west side of the lake. This temple built 800 years ago in memory of General Yue Fei, an exemplary general who was betrayed and later vindicated.
Pagoda of Six Harmonies – $5
Temple of General Yue Fei – $4
Total – $9
Walk along the east side of West Lake to Bai Causeway then head west to Solitary Hill. Solitary Hill is a hill on the largest island in West Lake that has a number of interesting sites such as ancient palaces.
West Lake – Free
Solitary Hill – Free
Total – Free
The Ling Yin Temple is in the Lingyin Scenic Area to the west of West Lake. There is a large bike rental station so you can bike there which will 30 minutes or more or you can catch the K7, Y1 or Y2 buses.
Ling Yin Temple is a very large Buddhist temple built on the hills in the Lingyin Scenic area over 1500 years ago.
Lingyin Scenic Area – $7
Lingyin Temple – $6
Total – $13
Day Four – Goodbye Hangzhou
Time to pack your bags, exchange email addresses and facebook acount names with new friends, check out and say good bye to Hangzhou and hop on the train back to Beijing .
Train – $108
Hostel – $20
Food – $57
Transportation – $8
Day 1 expenses – $8
Day 2 expenses – $9
Day 3 expenses – none
Day 4 expenses – $13
Total expenses – $223