Buses are a very important means of transportation in many parts of China, especially where there is no railway line. Over 1.352 million kilometer of highway and 9,083 kilometer of expressways make all counties, towns and townships easily accessible by road.
Although going by bus is the cheapest means of transportation, it is also considerably slow. Compared with the train, travel by bus is more flexible as there are regular breaks during the journeys.
Seats on the bus are numbered, so it is advisable to book a ticket and seat well in advance. This can be done through the travel agencies and hotels.
All China's major cities have good transport networks. As well as public buses, there are the tour buses and mini buses. Buses in Chinese towns are always very crowded. The fare depends on distance and has to be paid to the conductor on the bus.
If you want to avoid the crowded city bus, but you do not want to go by the relatively expensive taxi, the minibus is a good option. You have to pay a little more than on the bus, but it is very convenient and can stop at any point you want along the route.
Tour buses are managed by travel agencies, hotels and airports and can be booked in advance for short tours. They are normally equipped with air conditioning and TV. A tour guide is usually present.
If you're exploring the Chinese countryside a lot, it is good to know, that on almost every road a bus route is available. So when you are tired of walking, you just walk up to the nearest road and ask people who live near the road if there is a bus and when it usually comes. Then simply wait by the road at the right time and flag the bus down when it comes.
This is one of the nicest things about traveling in China on foot; when you are getting tired, it's usually not very hard to find a ride. If you are backpacking in China, it is wise to wake up early in the morning, as many country buses leave early in the morning but not in the late afternoon or evening.
Long Distance Buses
It is usually very easy and cheap to travel between cities by bus in China. However, we would to recommend to take a train instead. Long distance buses tend to be crowded, hot and full of cigarette smoke. They also tend to be slow.
Traffic jams are very common on Chinese highways and you should be prepared with the fact that a 12-hour bus ride can easily turn into a 24-hour nightmare, or worse if you get stuck in a serious traffic jam that takes days to clear.
Some other disadvantages are that most buses in China don't have toilets and most buses are sleepers, meaning you'll have to lie down for long periods of time, which can make your spine sore.
You may be able to sit up in your bunk if you're not especially tall, but then you risk hitting your head on the ceiling or the bunk above you when the bus goes over potholes.
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