New Routes

great wall of china

Eastern Promise

Hainan Airlines begins a four-weekly service to China’s capital city from ours

This summer, history will be made when the first direct flights from Edinburghto Beijing will begin.

It will be the culmination of years of negotiations between Edinburgh Airport and China to bring this important route to the capital, creating business and tourism opportunities for both countries.

With Edinburgh being second only to London as the most popular destination for Chinese tourists, the route will open up Scotland to thousands of more visitors.

China too will be so much easier to visit, with the 10-hour direct flight bringing you into Beijing, officially a “megacity” with a population of 21m people.

“Beijing is constantly evolving,” said Janice Dickson of Edinburgh-based Ian Dickson Travel. She should know, as she has been helping travellers to get to China since1980, when tourism first began to open up in the country.

china train“It is a vast country”, she continued, “but the new high- speed trains are helping tourists move around when they get there.

They are frequent and clean, and it now takes under 10 hours to get from Beijing to Guangzhou instead of more than 30 hours.

We can organise fully guided packages, and help to sort out visas too.

To obtain a tourist visa, you must have a confirmed flight booking and also a hotel reservation.”

Spring and autumn are the best times to travel to Beijing, as the summers can be wet and the winters cold. Smog is a thing of the past too, as the city cleaned up its act in advance of the summer 2008 Olympics, reducing the amount of coal burned, closing entire factories and introducing the largest fleet of natural gas-powered buses in the world (3,800 of them), to improve public transport.

Bicycles are making a comeback too and these can be hired cheaply, although the traffic in Beijing can be daunting. Many cars do not automatically stop at crossings, so as a pedestrian you must have your wits about you.

Other than the traffic, the city is safe and the locals friendly. Not many speak English though, so it is wise to have the address of your hotel written in simplified Chinese, so you can always get an official taxi to take you home.

It is worth staying in a central hotel, as many of the attractions will be within walking distance – a three-to-four- star hotel will cost between £40- £50 per night, while a five-star hotel can cost from £110 per night.

Food is generally good in all hotels, but you should venture to one of the thousands of restaurants in the city to try the local cuisine.

There are plenty of Western options on offer too – from Starbucks to Pizza Hut.

They are very popular with the Chinese, who consider them a bit of a status symbol.

Avoid street food if possible, for hygiene reasons, and it is wise to always drink bottled water while you are there.

china warriorsIf you are after souvenirs, Janice Dickson warned: “There are plenty of fakes out there, from pearls and jade to handbags and perfume. Market vendors will be prepared for a haggle and if you aren’t interested, just walk away.”

There is plenty to see and do in Beijing, but if you feel the need to travel further – to Xi’an for example, to see the Terracotta Army (pictured) – you should allow more time.

Ian Dickson Travel can organise two-centre holidays to your specification.

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Further information on more new services from EDI

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