Eco-friendly travel guide to Guilin advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Guilin, China.
- Air quality: 3 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 2.5/ 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 4 / 5
- Public transportation: 4 / 5
- Parks: 4 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 4 / 5
- Locals' English level: 1 / 5
- Safety: 4 / 5
- Accommodation: US$20 - $300
- Budget per day: US$50 - $600
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Guilin is a prefecture-level city in the northeast of China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region situated on the Li River's west bank and borders Hunan to the north. The name means "Forest of Sweet Osmanthus" and comes from many fragrant sweet Osmanthus trees in the region. The city is one of China's most popular tourist destinations known for its karst topography scenery. There are several ways to ensure responsible travel in Guilin, with some being:
- Support local businesses
- Use public transport
- Choose an eco-friendly hotel
Air Quality and Pollution
Guilin's air quality is moderate, as there is substantial air pollution in the city. Most air pollution is caused by various industries, vehicles, and some day to day activities. The air is breathable, and there is a very small risk of its detrimental effects on people living in that environment.
The main causes of water pollution in the city are sewage and garbage, and there was a point in time when the water in the main river raised an unbearable stench. The city has methods to reduce this type of water pollution to keep its people healthy.
Guilin is generally a very busy city, and as such, there are high levels of sound pollution. Most of the noise is from the ordinary day to day activities as people go about their lives, e.g., cars, machinery, people talking, etc. The noise is not destructive or annoying but is instead a normal part of life.
Respect the Culture
Guilin has several different cultural heritages that highlight and celebrate the differences between the many ethnicities living in the city. One of the most popular cultural celebrations in the city is the Clothes-Hanging Festival of the Red Yao, which happens every year, on the 6th day of the 6th lunar month. During the festival, the Red Yao people will slaughter chickens, ducks, and pigs to celebrate the arrival of harvest and, most importantly, the Red Yao girls of each family will bring every piece of their clothing (they wear read clothes) to ensure that they won't be moldy through the winter and the spring. People will be standing in a colorful, red sea of clothing. There are several other cultures that you may not understand, but it is important to ensure that you do not insult their culture and beliefs.
Top 10 Places to Visit
Guilin is one of the most visited cities in China, and there are numerous sites to see and places to visit where you can experience the beauty and culture of the city. Below is a list of the top ten places to visit:
- Reed Flute Cave: Also known as "the Palace of Natural Arts," is a landmark and tourist attraction in Guilin that got its name from the reed growing outside, which can be made into flutes. The cave has a large number of spikes, pillars, and other rock formations. More than 70 inscriptions are written in ink, which can be dated back to 792 AD in the Tang Dynasty, which shows that the cave has been an attraction since ancient times. The cave has a beautiful view of colorful lights, and the air outside and inside the cave is very cool.
- Elephant trunk hill: It is one of Guilin's major tourist attractions and Guilin's symbol, which uses elephant Trunk Mountain and the osmanthus flower as its city emblem. There is a scenic view, especially if you visit during the rainy season, although it gets crowded. Boat rides are available if the river hasn't dried out yet. The hill can be visited both in daytime or night when lit up by gorgeous artificial lighting.
- Moon Hill: It is a hill with a natural arch that is part of the Guilin Mountains that offers broad panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and got its name from the wide, semi-circular hole through the hill. The hill has several rock climbing routes, with most of them taking about 20 minutes to climb up to the arch, and slightly longer to get to the summit. There is an entrance fee to climb the hill. Vendors selling refreshments and souvenirs follow tourists to the top of the summit.
- Jingjiang Princes' Palace: It is a historical site that now functions as both Guangxi Normal University and a tourist attraction. It was the local prince's residence during the Ming dynasty and now offers a fun interactive experience. One of the activities is a mock Imperial exam for the tourist groups. There are many historical sites, a cave, and a mountain to climb in the center, which offers spectacular views of the city. The park is in an ideal location as it is near the main shopping streets in the city.
- Shiwai Taoyua: It is a park with tours of traditional villages with a small boat cruise trip in the lake with a panoramic view of the surrounding scenic spots. There is natural scenery, and groups of minority people dance or perform traditional tasks along the river on tailor-made stages for the boats that go by.
- Yulong Bridge: It is a scenic stone bridge with a signature arch that offers an amazing view, especially in winter. The place has unforgettable sunsets that are best experienced during a rafting trip down Yulong River.
- Yulonghe Scenic Area: It is a waterway backed by rice paddies and karst rock formations popular for cycling and bamboo rafting tours. The area is quiet and peaceful, and you can meet some Chinese in the rural area. The river's sunset view is incredible and can be enjoyed while bamboo rafting along the Yulong River. The area can get very busy and crowded.
- Guilin Two Rivers and Four Lakes: A picturesque area with beautiful scenery and a crystal clear river that is beautifully illuminated at night. There is a night cruise that is the best way to appreciate the lighting and colors.
- Dazhai Village: It is home to cultural villages surrounding the mountain ranges that are covered with rice fields. There is a historical and cultural dance show that offers a pleasant interaction with the audience. The place is enjoyable for people of all ages, and the staff is English speaking staff.
- Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park: It is a charming destination with twin pagodas on a beautiful lake. It is exceptionally beautiful at night when the sun and moon pagodas are lit up in white and orange. There is no entrance fee, and it is a great place to take a walk and relax. You can also take a boat to see the towers up close.
Guilin is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China that receives thousands of tourists per year. There are numerous places to visit across the city, including many national parks, amusement parks, and mountains, exciting to explore. There are also many historical and cultural sites to see to ensure that you have the best possible memories from the city. The choice to visit Guilin is, without a doubt, a great one, and it will be worth your time and every cent spent. Keep reading to be able to find out more about this fantastic tourist destination.
- Xiangshan Scenic Area: It is a gorgeous park with great greenery that has a peaceful and relaxed environment making it great for relaxing or romantic walks both during the day and night. The park has a lake and offers a boat tour and an awesome view of Elephant Trunk Hill. There is a light show showing the legend of Xiangshan on most nights to entertain tourists.
- Yushan Park: It is a simple park that is considered the ancient town's flavor as many monuments were preserved there. The park has beautiful scenery, including various types of beautiful flowers. The park is great for walking and picnics and can get too crowded in summer.
- Guangxi Guilin National Forest Park: It is a protected nature park that is home to several mountains and trees. The forest is one of a kid with amazing views of the mountains. The area is humid, but great for a weekend trip. They offer a boat ride which allows you to take in the views. There are tour-guides available to educate people on the geological history of the mountains and cultural history.
- Chuanshan Park: It is a national park in the city that has several multi-colored caves and osmanthus trees. Two hills are worth hiking as the view from the top is breath-taking. These hills are famous for their resemblance to two cockerels itching for a fight.
There are no beaches in the city as it is not near the ocean, but around lakes and rivers instead.
- Reed Flute Cave: It is a landmark and tourist attraction in Guilin that got its name from the reed growing outside, which can be made into flutes. The cave has a large number of spikes, pillars, and other rock formations. More than 70 inscriptions are written in ink, which can be dated back to 792 AD in the Tang Dynasty, which shows that the cave has been an attraction since ancient times.
- Elephant trunk hill: It is the most popular landmark and one of Guilin's major tourist attractions and Guilin's symbol, which uses elephant Trunk Mountain and the osmanthus flower as its city emblem. There is a scenic view, especially if you visit during the rainy season, although it gets crowded. Boat rides are available if the river hasn't dried out yet. The hill can be visited both in daytime or night when lit up by gorgeous artificial lighting.
- Guilin Museum: It is a huge and well-designed museum that houses more than 20,000 articles of relics, which are divided into ancient relics, minority, and folk custom relics, and revolutionary relics. The ancient relics are kept in order of time and document the city's development and history from the Stone Age to the Qing Dynasty. The historic materials focus on the events and life in the anti-Japanese War period. There also tends to be a display of minority jewelry and art, which is quite informative about these groups as it shows information that is not commonly known. The entry is free.
- Guilin Art Museum: is a vast museum considered the most complete museum in Guilin and one of the biggest museums in southwest China. It is located near South Lake Park and has large collections contributing to local cultural education and cultural exchange. The museum sometimes holds art exhibitions and is home to many famous paintings from the dead masters to the present-day artists. The museum is supported by artists in China and abroad and is a great place to appreciate Chinese art.
There are several traditional foods in the city. Chinese food is popular across the globe, and when you are in Guilin, you get the opportunity to experience it from the area of origin. Several restaurants and street vendors sell different dishes that you could try, whether it is out of curiosity or so that you can have a story to tell later.
Traditional Local Restaurants
One of the best things about traveling worldwide is trying the various local cuisines available in that area. In most cases, traditional restaurants are the best place to experience local foods' taste, and maybe even a bit of the culture behind said dishes. Numerous conventional restaurants around the city serve amazing Chinese dishes. Below is a list of the most popular Chinese restaurants in the city.
- Chunji Roasted Goose: It is very popular and requires booking if you want to be served, especially for dinner. The food is affordable and comes in healthy servings that are well presented. There is also a self-serve fruit bar that comes for free. Members of the staff are friendly.
- Shouzi Guilin Rice Noodles Restaurant: It is a quaint little noodle stall. It is located at West St. Good selection of noodles with a variety of side dishes. The rice noodles are the most popular dishes. The restaurant offers dine-in options only.
Vegetarian and Vegan
- Tiandi Vegetarian Restaurant: It is a popular vegetarian restaurant that tends to get rather busy. They have a menu with a wide selection of vegetarian dishes written in Chinese and have pictures of those who can't read Chinese. The food is in healthy servings. Although the service is quite slow due to many patrons, the staff is very friendly.
- NénGrén Zhāi Guǎn: It is a simple but elegant vegetarian restaurant that is attached to the Buddhist temple that serves a wide range of vegan food from simple mushroom dishes to mock meats to elaborate banquet-style dishes. There is a photo menu for those who cannot read Chinese. They have a buffet at every new and full moon to create a friendly and relaxed environment.
Street food is found in several places across the city and is something that you must try. There are both street-side vendors and restaurants that specialize in street food. Some of the well-known restaurants are:
- Guilin Fuxing Rice Noodles Bali Street Branch
- West Street Alley Traditional Guilin Liuji Rice Noodles
- Jieba Street
Guilin is generally warm and has sub-tropical seasons, with hot and humid summers and cool and cold winters. As is expected, there is a high need to stay hydrated during summer due to the high temperatures. The high temperatures dictate the beverage of choice as people prefer to drink something that would cool them down. There are numerous cold non-alcoholic drinks to choose from in Guilin, excluding water. Beverages of choice on a hot day include but are not limited to, include soft drinks, lemonade, milkshake, vegan shakes, and even iced tea or coffee. Tea is a popular beverage across China, regardless of the temperatures outside; however, tea consumption increases significantly when it's cold. Other choice beverages on cold days include coffee and warm milk.
Alcohol consumption is high in Guilin as there is the general belief that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is refreshing and good health. There are several bars across the city where people meet up after a long day at work or on weekends for a relaxed evening of drinks with friends. Other people enjoy the occasional drink at home, mostly whiskey or wine. There are both local and international brews available for purchase in both bars and supermarkets. The various types of alcoholic beverages include wine, gin, vodka, and cocktails, to name a few.
Guilin's tap water is not suitable for drinking or brushing teeth but can cook or make tea when drinking and brushing its best to use bottled water or previously boiled water.
Organic foods are foods that are grown without artificial nutrients, pesticides, or other chemicals. Eating organic has become a widespread trend where people are very selective about what they put in their bodies. Several organic cafes attract patrons of all ages who are careful about nutrition. There are many cafes in the city that cater specifically to this group of people. Below is a list of some of the organic cafes that one could try in the city
- Cental Kitchen
- Café Nissi
- Rosemary Cafe
The local beer brewing industry in Guilin is quite advanced, and they make various types of local beer to meet the demand, which is rather high as the locals are very proud and fond of their local beer. There are several breweries around the city, and some are open for tours and tastings. The most popular are the Hope Brew Pub and the Piqu Workshop.
Numerous activities can be done as you explore Guilin. The city is one of the most visited in China by both local and international tourists alike. The activities are designed to ensure that no one is left out, and people of different interests can still enjoy and have a great time. Some of the most popular activities include hikes, bike riding, visits to the many beautiful gardens and lakes, to name a few. Some of the activities are in the city center while others are just on the outskirts. It is essential to carefully plan your itinerary to ensure that you get the best out of what the city offers.
Yoga and Retreats
Yoga is traditionally a Hindu discipline that focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines. It has become quite popular globally, including Guilin; the most visited yoga retreat in the city is Yangshuo Yoga. Other yoga studios are found in gyms and recreational centers.
Numerous accommodation options across Guilin are tailored to meet the budgets, tastes, and needs of different people. This section will look into some of the accommodation options that are available for tourists to select from
There are several eco-friendly hotels in the city which aim for the sustainability of the environment. These hotels tend to offer safe, non-toxic, and energy-efficient accommodation. Other characteristics include using renewable energy, organic soaps, energy-efficient light fixtures, and recycling programs. A few of the most popular ones are:
- Jolie Vue Boutique Hotel Guilin
- Yangshuo Green Lotus Hotel
- Riverside Luxury Hotel
Hostels and Guest Houses
- Sky Palace Hostel: It is a classy restaurant that is located centrally in downtown Guilin and a short walking distance from most of the major tourist attractions, including Zhengyang Pedestrian street, Li Riverbank, The Elephant Trunk Hill, and Jingjiang PrincesPalace. Some of the free amenities include Internet/Wi-Fi in every room and common area, toiletries, filtered water, and access to the common laundry, featuring washing machines, dryers, and clothes drying facilities.
- This Old Place: It is a simple and well-designed hostel that offers a memorable experience for your stay in Guilin. This Old Place is easy to reach from anywhere and only 15 minutes from the city center. The hostel also offers a cozy atmosphere in the lobby and roof terrace, free Wi-Fi, and access to Facebook and weekly parties that make it easy to get to know other guests.
Those who intend to stay in Guilin for a long time will be very expensive as they charge per day. Some several flats and apartments are available for rent for at least a month. These are more affordable as they charge a flat rate and buy your food, which lowers costs. Those traveling as a group will find these most convenient as it is possible to share the flat rate cost as opposed to paying per head or per room in hotels and motels.
Some families rent out a part of their home to tourists, known as couch surfing. This trend has grown in Guilin as it offers the host family an opportunity to make extra money and the tourist a chance to experience Chinese culture through family life. Several websites connect tourists with people who are willing to open up their homes.
There are numerous campsites across Guilin for those tourists who want to rough it, which offers a sense of adventure by giving people the full outdoor experience, including the fresh night air and the magnificent night skies. Below are some of the more popular campsites in Guilin:
- Easy Tour China
- Hike Guilin
- JS Tours
How to Get There
Several modes of transport can be used to travel to Guilin, with the most convenient for you being dictated by where you are coming from, be it a local or international area. People from surrounding cities usually travel to the city by bus or train. While those coming from further away commonly use aeroplanes.
The most convenient way to get to Guilin is by flying, and there are direct flights from some important cities, such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, and Chengdu. Guilin Liangjiang International Airport is the only airport in the city, and it is about a 40-minute drive away. There are shuttle buses and private vehicles provided by tour companies between the airport and the downtown area, making the journey smooth and efficient.
Long-distance buses are also a common mode of transport with the locals, although they are difficult for tourists due to the lack of English. Several bus companies follow different time tables. Tickets are quite cheap and need to be booked in advance.
Guilin has three railway stations, which make taking a train a reasonable travel option from nearby cities, such as Hong Kong, Shenzhen, etc. Trains are convenient, fast, and affordable, and tickets can be bought online or at the train station.
Hitchhiking to Guilin is quite possible and can even be an adventure of sorts. There are several things to remember when hitchhiking as listed below:
- have a Chinese message to introduce yourself
- have a paper map of China
- avoid the city center
- don’t hitchhike by night
- be open and take a car according to its direction, not only your final destination
- be patient
The Li River Cruise is another option of travel, from Yangshuo to Guilin. Taxis are also another source of transport that is used. They are quite expensive, though, especially at night, and in most cases, the taxi drivers only speak English.
Guilin is a rather large city with many things to do and places to explore. Moving around the city can be a bit complicated as the city's public transport system is not efficient. In most cases, hiring a taxi or a rental car is the best way to move around. Below are several other ways you can move around the city.
Most of the city's tourist attractions are far apart, so walking around as your tour is not feasible. However, there are some places where one can take a relaxing walk and enjoy the fresh air in most parts of the city.
Bicycles are a common and preferred mode of transport as they are convenient and less stressful than other modes of transport. There are several bike-sharing system bikes across the city. These can be used by downloading the bike-share app then using a smartphone to scan the QR code on the lock, and then paying the deposit, which differs according to the supplier.
Electronic vehicles are growing in popularity in the city. There are even modern energy-saving electric plug car taxis for public transport in and around Guilin. There are several charging areas for cars across the city.
Several city buses in the city can either be single- or double-decker. These buses are quite cheap and have timetables that are easy to follow for most routes. Most bus stops have clear English signs, and the broadcasts are also given in English. The buses can get overcrowded during rush hours.
Tram, Train and Subway
Because the Guilin is a tourist destination, trams, trains, and subways are not commonly used as modes of transport as people prefer modes that allow them to sight-see as they go.
There are many shopping centers in the city whereby tourists and locals alike can go for shopping. It is more sustainable to shop in local shops and ensure that you do not only stick to one shop but try to spread the wealth by visiting different shops.
There are several markets across the city that are dedicated to selling fresh food. They sell both local and international food, processed or unprocessed. Some of these markets include
- Guilin Lequn Market
- Zhengyang Pedestrian Street
- Wa Yao Wholesale Market
Several flea markets across the city offer both an exciting shopping experience and a chance to mingle with the locals. Most of them sell various things, especially souvenirs at reasonable prices. However, they tend to double the price when selling to tourists. The most popular flea market is Guilin Night Market.
Second Hand Stores
The trend of second-hand stores has caught the world by storm; numerous stores have opened where people can buy things they wouldn't usually afford for less than half the price. The most common ones in Guilin are:
- F. M Second Hand Goods & Rehani
- China Tonghe Shop
- Common People Second-Hand Flea Market
The Chinese fashion industry still has a long way to go before it is fully sustainable. One of the biggest eco-friendly clothes manufacturing factories in China is found in Guilin. This garment factory has low-energy measures such as natural ventilation and a commitment to zero wastewater discharge, making it eco-friendly.
The recycling industry of Guilin is quite effective and focuses on recycling all recyclable materials. There are separate days for collecting recycling to avoid confusion with other types of waste. The municipality provides recycling bags upon collecting previous ones to encourage waste separation practices of households.
The city has a strong and effective waste management system in most areas, which has helped combat land pollution, starting to become a big problem. There are multiple pickups of waste per week to ensure that people don't try to dispose of it independently. The municipality provides trash bags upon collecting previous ones to encourage waste separation practices of households.
Work and Study Abroad
There are several job opportunities for foreigners in Guilin, although the priority is given to locals. However, some jobs are commonly set aside for foreigners, mostly for Native English speakers. These job opportunities include tour-guides and English teachers. The city also has many universities that encourage the enrolment of international students. So there is a significant international population in the city.
The concept of exchange students is one that is fast growing in Guilin. Several universities have partnered with those in other countries to develop one-year exchange programs for their students. To find out more about these programs, it is best to visit the university websites directly.
An au pair is a young foreign person who helps with housework or childcare in exchange for food, a room, and pocket money. The concept of Au pairs is rising in popularity. There are several vacancies across the city with requirements such as being under 25 years of age, not having children, and intent to stay with the family for at least a year. Several agencies and websites connect potential Au pairs with families that need them. One of these websites is "great au pair."
Several voluntary organizations across Guilin are always open for volunteers. Some of the most popular volunteer organizations include teaching English to orphans, working with marginalized youth, and volunteering for tourist companies. In as much as some volunteer opening may be legit, some people have started to use volunteering as a way of moving to another country, which is not good. You can look up other volunteer opportunities in the city.