This is a really specific blog post and for 99.9% of you, you’ll never ever need to read it. But there are .1% of you out there who really want to visit Mount Huangshan and have no flaming idea how to get there from Hangzhou. Well, amigos, I’ve done it. I’ve come face to face with the public transport beast in remote parts of China and I’ve lived to tell the tale. Turns out, it’s actually pretty easy.
Staying in Hangzhou
It’s definitely worth staying in Hangzhou for a few days (you shouldn’t need more than three). The best and most beautiful place to stay is the West Lake. Stay as close as possible and in the best hotel, you can afford to stay in. I also recommend you hire an electric bike and zip around town and around the West Lake on it. It makes life easier and is really fun. It can be difficult to get taxis at certain times in Hangzhou, so when it comes time to get a cab from your hotel to the bus station, get up early and plan to catch the first bus, otherwise you might find it tough trying to get there at all.
- If you’re on a really tight budget, The Pod Inn’s West Lake Branch is a good option. It’s pretty dodgy, but you can’t beat it for price and location and they have bikes you can hire.
- If budget isn’t a problem the Shangri-La is in a great location.
Catching the bus
The bus is the only way to get from Hangzhou to Huangshan unless you pay a private driver to take you. I don’t know how you’d go about organising this, but I assume your hotel could help and I also assume it would cost you a small fortune.
To catch the bus you need to get to the West Bus Station. That bit is incredibly important, guys. WEST BUS STATION. There are different stations all over the place, the one you need is the West Station.
You absolutely, definitely need a map to show the taxi driver. The Shangri-La has great maps and will give you one, even if you aren’t staying there. The West Bus Station is clearly marked on the Shangri-La’s awesome map, but I’ve marked it on the one below for you too. You should be able to find it easily on most tourist maps. The address of the bus station is 355 Tianmu Shan Road, but don’t rely on this to tell the taxi driver. You will have to show them on the map where you want to go, it’s also going to help if you can learn the Chinese word for bus 公共汽车 Gōnggòng qìchē.
When you arrive, walk into the building and look for the ticket office. If you are approaching the building from the street outside the front of the station, Tianmu Shan Road, the ticket office is on the front left of the building. You walk up to the office and ask for your ticket(s). You must have cash to pay with. After you get your ticket, you must go through security bag screening.
It is very important to note that buses depart to two different places, so asking for a ticket to Huangshan isn’t going to cut it. Some buses will terminate in Tunxi and some will stop at Tangkou, without passing through Tunxi at all. Both Tunxi and Tangkou are considered to be in Huangshan.
Tunxi vs Tangkou
We decided to catch the bus to Tunxi and spend one night there and I really recommend others do the same. The town has an incredible old street that’s really beautiful and quite important historically. It’s a real favourite with the Chinese and there’s lots to see and do for a day and night. You can walk along the old street easily, it’s great for photographs, there are cool cafes and restaurants to grab great food, beers, tea and coffee. It’s just a nice place to visit and, let’s be real, you’ve come this far into China, you may as well spend one night in the cool town and enjoy it.
- We stayed at the Hui Boutique Hotel and absolutely loved it. The people who work here are really nice and the accommodation is unlike anything else.
Tangkou, on the other hand, is the town at the base of Mount Huangshan. It’s quite a modern little town and there are plenty of places to eat and some really great places to stay too. It’s a nice place to base yourself if you’re visiting the mountain and you wouldn’t be ‘getting it wrong’ if you just caught the bus straight there. It’s just that it really is worth spending the night in Tunxi. Besides, they’re both such different places. Tunxi has more of a traditional feel to it, on the Old Street, whereas Tangkou is quite modern.
- We stayed at the Huangshan Cheng Jin Hotel and really liked it. There’s an amazing lady who works the front desk, her English is fantastic and she knows everything there is to know about everything in Tangkou. It’s also in the best location possible and really affordable, but nice.
If you decide to stop in Tunxi, you can either catch the bus up to Tangkou the next day or you can ask your hotel to organise a driver to take you up there. We opted for the driver, just to make our lives easier, and the staff at Hui Boutique Hotel organised it for us.
Tickets and timing
So, once you’ve decided where you’re heading it’s time to buy your tickets and catch that bus! It takes around 2 hours 45 minutes to get to Tunxi from Hangzhou and they stop halfway for a toilet break. Seating on the bus is allocated, so don’t freak out thinking you have to race on to get a seat next to your travel companion. The seats are really comfy and there’s heaps of leg room. You’re allowed to take food and drink on the bus and there’s a convenience store and McDonald’s in the terminal if you need it.
It costs approximately 85RMB or $20AU per person to catch the bus. Of course, these prices will change over time, so don’t rely on the price I’ve written to be accurate. Have extra cash on you just in case the cost has increased. Please also keep in mind that the bus times listed below may have changed.
Bus departure times from Hangzhou to Tunxi are: 6:50am, 7:50am, 8:40am, 9:40am, 10:20am, 11:20am, 11:50am, 12:20pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:40pm, 5:00pm and 6:20pm.
Bus departure times from Hangzhou to Tangkou are: 8:00am, 9:50am, 10:50am, 2:10pm and 3:10pm.
I recommend catching the earliest bus possible, as mentioned above it’s just going to make your life easier with catching a cab and getting tickets for the bus.
When you get your ticket, double check that it’s taking you to the destination you want to go to. If you don’t speak Chinese, your pronunciation of words may be off. We weren’t pronunciation Tunxi correctly and the sales lady thought we wanted to go to a town called Tuangshi. A good way to get around this is to have the Chinese characters for the town and a map, either printed out or on your phone. Also, practice pronouncing it.
Pack some snacks and a good book or your iPad/iPod for the bus ride. It goes pretty quickly and there’s some great scenery along the way.
If you’re going to Tunxi, the bus goes right past Tunxi town and takes you to a bus stop outside of town. Don’t panic! There are plenty of taxis who wait out the front of the bus station. They come across like they might be dodgy, but they aren’t. Just make sure you have the name of your hotel and its address (both in Chinese characters) printed out, the phone number and, if possible, a map. If you decide to stay at Hui Boutique Hotel, it can be hard for them to find. So a map is essential. Our taxi driver was awesome and called the hotel for directions.
If you’re going to Tangkou, the bus drops you right near the hotel I mentioned above. You just roll your luggage to their front door and check-in. Again, have the name of your hotel and its address (both in Chinese characters) printed out, the phone number and, if possible, a map.
Getting back to Hangzhou
This is the easy bit. Once you’ve gone out to Huangshan, getting back to Hangzhou is a cinch. You just retrace your steps. We caught a direct bus from Huangshan to Hangzhou, without stopping in Tunxi on the way back. The bus leaves from right near the hotel we stayed at and they pointed is in the right direction to get our tickets and jump on.
Before you take this trip it seems a little bit overwhelming. It may not really feel like that while you’re researching it in the comfort of your home, but once you get into those more remote parts of China, it does start to feel a bit overwhelming and you wonder if you’ll ever get there, because how can you possibly communicate when you don’t speak Chinese?! Don’t panic. It’s actually really easy to work out. Just relax, go with the flow, have everything printed out in Chinese characters, keep yourself armed with maps and you will be just fine.