Famous for its stunning landscapes and delicious rice noodles, Guilin attracts tons of visitors, both Chinese and foreign. That being said, there isn’t really much to do, and the main reason for coming here is simply to catch a bus or a boat up the Li River to get to Yangshuo.
For traveling to/from places like Yangshuo and the Longji rice terraces, chances are you’ll have to connect in Guilin. Rather than spend the whole day on a bus/train/plane, it’s worth it to spend at least one day in Guilin to check it out. One hostel that comes highly recommended is Wada – they’ve got a great common area, a nice garden, tasty food, cold beers, and a pool table.
There really isn’t much to see in Guilin, but we did enjoy strolling around the Seven Star Park. Locals gather here to play cards, do tai chi, dance, or just nap. We skipped out on the overpriced Elephant Trunk Hill (a rock formation that’s said to resemble an elephant’s trunk) in favor of drinking street beers down by the river.
One thing you absolutely have to do in Guilin is try a piping hot bowl of the delicious and cheap rice noodles. Get your bowl and then help yourself to a wide assortment of condiments, such as pickled veggies or ground chilli. At just 5 RMB a pop, this is a great way to fill up without putting a dent in your wallet.
In the evening, you can hit the pedestrian street for some people watching, window shopping, and of course plenty of street food. There’s much more than meatsticks and noodles here, though – you can also find Japanese, American, and Indian cuisine. On our last visit, we enjoyed a great meal of curry and naan at Kali Mirch.
After dinner, enjoy a pleasant stroll along the river to wind down your day. Take in the Sun and Moon Towers, illuminated in a sea of colorful lights, or go for a spin in a little boat. There are your usual assortment of Chinese bars and karaoke joints, but we’ve never dove into Guilin’s nightlife much. Chances are you’ll either be at the beginning or end of a big adventure, so a night in Guilin is better spent relaxing and getting some sleep. To see what you can do with one day there, check out our video called “Chillin’ in Guilin”:
Transportation: As one of the country’s most popular domestic tourist destinations, getting in or out of Guilin is quite easy. There’s an airport, train station, and a few bus stations serving the city. Consider catching a high-speed train, as there are quite a few routes passing through Guilin.
Accommodation: On both of our visits, we stayed at the Wada hostel. With a 96% rating on Hostelworld, it’s the top hostel in the city. A dorm bed will cost you around $10 while a private room for two goes for about $35. They’ve got plenty of places to lounge, good food, and can also help arrange tours/transport.
Getting Around: The city isn’t that big, so you can easily see a lot of it on foot. There are also plenty of buses and cabs available if you don’t feel like walking.
Activities: There are quite a few overpriced tourist traps here, like the Elephant Trunk Hill. In fact, just about every tourist attraction in Guilin is overpriced. The 7 Star Park is nice, but at 75 RMB it’s not a cheap park. We would honestly recommend just walking around or chillin’ by the river here. Save your money and energy for more interesting activities in other parts of Guangxi.
Food/Drink: No visit to Guilin would be complete without a bowl of the local specialty rice noodles. You can find these around every corner and they only cost about 5 RMB. You can also hit the night market for a wide variety of street food and restaurants. There are bars here, but we’ve never explored them.
Recommended Time: In all honesty, one day is all you need in Guilin. Just use it as a stopover for traveling to/from Yangshuo or the Longji rice terraces.