Crossing the Chinese/Vietnamese Border

GETTING FROM GUILIN TO HANOI

For information on how to get from Yangshuo, China to Guilin please see my previous post on Guilin. In this blog I will give you detailed instructions & tips on to taking the trains from Guilin to Hanoi as well as how to get to the Vietnamese Consulate in Nanning, China to get your visa. *Please note that visa information & prices for tickets change often so please always double check visa information & prices for train tickets with official websites.

Lets first have a look at our adventure and what happens when you do not take certain translations & such with you on this trip. Our first struggle was attempting to get a taxi at 7:30am from our hotel in Guilin to the train station. The hotel told us it was too early for them to call one for us & so we ventured out to the busiest intersection we could find in the general direction to hale one. This in itself was quite trying since we had only given ourselves about an hour to get there, get our tickets, & to the train. It was only a few minutes drive after all, so we didn’t think it would be a problem. Think again, it prob took us 20minutes or more just to get a taxi, thankfully we still got there & got through in plenty of time but it sure was stressful!

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Then when we arrived in Nanning 2.5 hrs later we did not have the address for the consulate in Characters & none of the taxi drivers seemed to know where the Vietnamese Consulate was. Eventually two guys on scooters said they would take us there (They charge far more than a legitimate metered taxi but at that point we didn’t care. We just wanted to go and $15 instead of $5 was ok by that time). So we each packed onto the back of the scooters with our packs still on as they rushed us through some “interesting” traffic to get to the consulate. When I say “interesting” I mean it! We thought for sure they were taking us on a wild goose chase as it felt like it was taking far longer than the map showed & were certain we were going to get separated with the way they were driving so we pulled out the handy GoPro to get some shots of the drivers so we’d have pictures of them and planned to get to the first wifi we could to contact each other if need be. To our delight they came through & got us there safely! We were so thrilled that we were there that we hugged them and gave them extra for taking us.

After such an adventure getting there we were thankful that unlike the Chinese Consulate experience, the Vietnamese consulate were incredibly helpful & friendly. Standard service was only 24 hours to get our visa but we were so worried that we might have trouble getting back there that we put a rush on it and were able to pick it up by 7pm that night. Once we picked up our visas from the consulate we tried to get back to the other side of the city closer to where the train station was so that first thing the next day we could go get our tickets to head to Hanoi and this is where we ran into more hiccups. We had the train station written down in characters to show the taxi drivers but for some reason we kept being refused by every taxi we tried. Eventually we just started walking in the general direction since it was only supposed to be about 3-4 miles we thought worse case we’d just walk there and find a hotel along the way (it was already 8 or 9pm by that time). About a mile later we waved down another taxi and just got in and pointed. After we got moving we told him the train station and then pointed him to a hotel we had found on trip advisor when we were at Starbucks. Admittedly probably not the best or most polite way but when exhausted and can’t seem to communicate any other way it worked.

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The next day after a much needed rest we headed to the train station where we booked the overnight 12hour train from Nanning, China to Hanoi, Vietnam which left at around 6pm. There is only 1 train per day on this route so be sure to get there on time. The train station unlike the rest of the city was very easy to navigate & they have an “English speaking” window although if you speak even a bit of Chinese it may be just as easy to go to the regular window.

Once on the train we had a fun time chatting with some young Chinese students on their way to Vietnam. The train stops twice on the journey where you will be required to get off for boarder patrols/crossings and will be at each of those stops for 1.5-2 hours each. Be prepared to take snacks with you for this 12 hour train ride without a food cart & be sure to use the toilet before or after the stops as they are locked when the train is standing.

All & all the way south was a good one aside from the interesting adventure of getting around in Nanning. The trip back on the other hand was a bit harder. The schedule for coming north makes those two stops quite a bit more uncomfortable for some reason & when we got to Nanning there were only standing room only tickets back to Guilin for the next few days, so be prepared at any point to either settle for standing room tickets or to wait a few days before heading out. “Standing room only” tickets though are not as bad as they sound and when people get off at other stops you may be able to find a seat. We were a bit frustrated & turned off by the idea of them but once on it was fine & we ended up having seats for about half the trip.

Below are tips to assist you through the process and hopefully make your trip a bit smoother than it otherwise would have been. I will end this post with these and if you have questions in your trip or planning don’t hesitate to send me a message. If I can answer or direct you in anyway I will do so. Stay tuned to read about our wonderful time in Hanoi & Halong Bay, Vietnam.

*Unfortunately I do not have these to provide for you but before leaving Guilin or other destination to head toward Nanning for the Vietnamese Consulate get the address in characters for the Vietnamese Consulate in Nanning.

  • To get to the Guilin or Nanning Train station I have written in English for you & characters for the taxi driver or other helping you if you’re having difficulty. Showing these to the taxi driver to get there will be incredibly helpful & should alleviate any issued in getting to the train station. IMG_4763.jpg
  • Get the bullet train from Guilin to Nanning NOT Nanning Bei. The slow train is indicated by a G & the bullet train is indicated by a K when booking. At the time of this post it was 222RMB.
  • Using the above address you you should have brought for the Vietnamese Consulate get in a metered taxi & show them the address.
  • Everything else at the consulate & such should be fairly easy. I would still recommend keeping the train station characters on you at all times & possibly using it as a landmark to get round or back to if needed.
  • Unless you have someone taking you everywhere on a guided tour in which case you probably wouldn’t be needing any of this information, I do not recommend pre-purchasing any tickets in either China or Vietnam until you have learned how to get around a bit. That means that if you are traveling in a busy season then you may have to wait a bit longer for things but if you pre-purchase and have not figured out the country and how to get around a bit yet you run a high likelihood of missing whatever it is you have booked based on either getting lost, a journey taking longer than expected, language barriers ect ect. Once you have been in country for a bit you may feel more comfortable pre-booking. We are glad we did not pre-book for these trips although now that we are familiar with Guilin we would easily pre-book a train from there and have no worries.
  • ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS carry a snack or some kind of food in your bag! The 12 hour train from Nanning to Hanoi does not have food.

To view & purchase pictures from our travels visit oehlerphotography.com & come follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or find me on LinkedIn.

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