What you need to know
Chengdu formerly romanized as Chengtu, is a sub-provincial city which has served as capital of China’s Sichuan province. It is one of the three most populous cities in Western China.
Chengdu’s history dates back to at least the 4th century B.C., when it served as capital for the Shu Kingdom. Artifacts from that dynasty are the focus of the Jinsha Site Museum. The city is also home to the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation center where visitors can view endangered giant pandas in a natural habitat.
Chengdu is located on the edge of the fertile plains of the Red Basin in China’s Sichuan Province. Due to its agricultural wealth, Chengdu is sometimes called the “Land of Milk and Honey”. The Funan river bisects the city, although boat traffic, common until the 1960’s, has all but vanished.
Area: 12,132 km²
The official currency in China is the Renminbi (RMB or CNY) or in Chinese “Ren-min-bi”. The basic unit is the yuan (also known as “kuai”), which equals 10 jiao (or “mao”), which is then divided into 10 fen. Paper currency comes in 1.2,5,10,50 and 100 yuan notes. Paper jiao come in denominations of 1, 2, and 5. There are also 1 and 2 fen notes, but these are rarely used as they have no purchasing power. 1 yuan, 1 and 5 jiao, and 1, 2, and 5 fen coins are even common used in larger cities.
Major credit cards such as Master Card, Visa, JCB and American Express are accepted in major hotels and department stores. Check on the acceptance of your credit card before you purchase. Credit cards cannot be used in most restaurants or small convenience stores. Air Travel could be purchased with credit cards. Credit cards can be used to get a cash advance in the main offices of the Bank of China.
Chengdu has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa) and is largely mild and humid. It has four distinct seasons, with moderate rainfall concentrated mainly in the warmer months, and relieved from both sweltering summers and freezing winters. The Qin Mountains (Qinling) to the far north help shield the city from cold Siberian winds in the winter; because of this, the short winter is milder than in the Lower Yangtze. The 24-hour daily mean temperature in January is 5.6 °C (42.1 °F), and snow is rare but there are a few periods of frost each winter. The summer is hot and humid, but not to the extent of the “Three Furnaces” cities of Chongqing, Wuhan, and Nanjing, all which lie in the Yangtze basin. The 24-hour daily mean temperature in July and August is around 25 °C (77 °F), with afternoon highs sometimes reaching 33 °C (91 °F); sustained heat as found in much of eastern China is rare. Rainfall is common year-round but is the greatest in July and August, with very little of it in the cooler months. Chengdu also has one of the lowest annual sunshine totals nationally, with less sunshine annually than much of Northern Europe, and most days are overcast even if without rain.
The native language in Chengdu is Sichuanese, otherwise referred as Sichuan dialect. The official language spoken in Chengdu is Mandarin. However, in Chengdu and Sichuan the local Sichuan dialect is spoken in daily life.
Thieves are prevalent around certain areas of Chengdu. Be careful around the Yanshikou markets and especially around the North train station. There are also many thieves on crowded buses who use razors to cut open pockets and bags. Also watch your bag at all times when riding bicycles around the city, thieves like to run alongside bicycles at traffic lights and reach into bags.
Traffic can be insanely hectic and motorists as well as cyclists and other pedestrians often have a complete disregard of you, the pedestrian. Beware when crossing streets; even when the WALK sign is green, traffic taking a right or left turn even when they are not permitted to turn will try to run you over or honk at you to make way for them. Accidents are commonplace as are deaths. Look every direction but up. Watch out for taxi drivers, bus drivers and private car drivers who have absolutely no regard for your life. Also watch out for motorists, they are all unlicensed riding silent electric motorbikes coming at you from the left, from the right, from behind and from the front. To stay safe, it is best to walk with a crowd, preferably in the middle.
Chengdu is home to the greatest number of universities and research institutes in Southwestern China. It has 49 colleges and universities, including University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Sichuan University, and Southwestern University of Finance and Economics. In 2010, over 140,000 students graduated from the colleges and universities, more than half of them majored in IT, finance, economics, business management, or foreign languages studies.
The first line of the Chengdu Metro opened in October 2010, slicing north-south through the city along Renmin Rd and connecting the North and South railway stations together. When entering the metro you need to put your bags through an x-ray machine. Sep 2014: Don’t have any fluids like a bottle of water in your luggage: you will have to have those checked separately. The ticket is flashed by the gates on the reader on your right side. You need the ticket to get out as well so keep it safe. When exiting the ticket is placed into a slot that collects it. Again this slot is on the right side of the gate, so pay attention since it’s very easy to accidentally open the gate next to you. When exiting, you must wait behind the yellow line until the passenger in front of you has passed and the gate shows it now accepts your ticket.
Chengdu has an extensive system of city buses plying the streets. At each bus stop, there is a list of the bus lines coming through on this road, and on some city maps the whole network is displayed. However, the bus lines and maps only use Chinese characters, and even if the bus announces the station, it will usually only be in Chinese. Tickets are ¥1 for non-aircon (now very rare) and ¥2 for air-conditioned buses. The fare is paid by putting the exact amount into a metal box next to the driver. There’s no possibility to get change so make sure you have the exact amount of cash available. Normally, you enter via the front door, and alight by the rear door. On the new articulated buses, you can enter at either the front or rear door, with the middle door designated for alighting only.
Official taxis are either green or blue and are equipped with meters. A free taxi will display an illuminated sign with Chinese characters (空车) in its dashboard. The meter is turned on by tilting the sign, make sure the driver does that and if not, you can try to do it yourself and the driver usually gets your point. Some taxi drivers may try to offer you a fixed price but don’t take it unless you know it’s cheaper than with the meter on. Taxi drivers don’t speak English nor do they understand the map, so have an address written in Chinese with you. Drivers don’t know many street names so it’s best to have the address to some well known place close to your destination. Collect taxi cards from hotels and restaurants and show them to the drivers, and when close to your destination start instructing by pointing with your hand. This method usually gets you there – some drivers however will not follow your instructions or get angry for you travelling a longer distance than what they expected. Taxis can be difficult to find depending on the area. There are also unlicensed taxis in the city but they’re quite hard to notice. If you use one, know your destination and expected price and negotiate the fare beforehand.
There are still some motorized bicycle-propelled pedicabs called san lun che (三轮车) which can take you moderate distances. Fix a price (¥5-15) in advance. The passengers ride behind the driver. The ride is fun, but san lun che are being phased out and are forbidden cross or ride on certain streets, and may be gone altogether soon. Until the year 2005, all of these pedicabs were modified bicycles actually pedalled by the driver. Today, virtually all are motorized, either by electric or gasoline powered engines.
Most guest houses have bicycles for hire. Check for technical problems before starting out unless you want to be held responsible for it later. If you leave your bicycle, do so in one of the designated “bicycle parks”, where it will be guarded over for a small fee. If you can not find such a place, be sure to lock it securely against some structure. Be careful as the bike traffic flow can be intense.
- Go anywhere popular on weekend, it’s a nightmare.
- Forget to bring tissue paper with you, almost none of the toilets carry this.
- Ask for spicy, if you are not 100% sure you can take it, even their mild is still spicy.
- Expect sunny weather and blue sky, it’s mostly cloudy/hazy and gloomy.
- Be frighten when people yell, they are actually just talking XD.
- Expect your cloth to dry in one day, in fact you cloth may never be 100% dry, because it’s pretty moist over there.
- Eat hot pot, it’s a must try. Make you you get the duo pot with the non spicy side, or at least a bottle of peanut milk to calm your palate.
- Visit the panda sanctuary, and make you don’t you miss baby pandas.
- Try local dim sum: recommend spicy wonton, dumpling, and guo-kui (chinese bun with stuffing).
- Shop, it’s a relative cheap city. Also cloth at chain stores (such as Uniqilo) was cheapest in Chengdu, than other cities.
- Get a tour guide when visiting historical places, they are very informative and are available in all different languages.
- Carry bug spray or at least anti-itch ointment, you will get bitten.