Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time, but we made a few mistakes along the way that almost ruined the whole visit! Here’s how not to plan a trip to Guilin!

We’d heard wonderful things about the southern China city of Guilin, mainly due to its beautiful scenery and the famous rice fields. It was meant to be an exciting trip – our second sleeper train but this time for 27 hours, and a chance to explore some of China’s natural landscapes.


Our train tickets were never actually processed because the company we used told us that we wouldn’t be able to get them in time.

In China, you can buy a train ticket through an agent (and seeing as our Mandarin is EXTREMELY basic, that’s what we did) but you don’t actually get your ticket there and then.

Use a reputable company like 12Go to book your tickets in advance.

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Red bridge over the Li River in Guilin
Guilin is really pretty

Tickets are released a certain number of days in advance and they sell out very quickly, especially trains like this one because there is only one per day. The company we used just didn’t organise themselves in time so we had to fly last minute!

This wasn’t really a problem as flying actually gave us an extra day in either Guilin or Xi’an, at a cheaper price too so we asked the agency to book a plane ticket for us.

If I’m honest, I do take part responsibility for what happened next as surely the first thing you do when you plan a trip is check that your plane leaves at the correct time, right?


Read More: What Are Sleeper Trains In South East Asia Like?

A girl in a blue denim jacket walking towards the camera along a path with the mist on her right
the mist is actually pretty cool!

On the bus back from the Terracotta Warriors, five hours before our flight was scheduled, I checked which terminal we needed to go to. Imagine how we felt when we realised our plane was actually leaving in about 45 minutes.

The agency, had offered us a flight to leave at around 7pm, and I had replied confirming we would take that flight.

However, when they sent the booking confirmation, they had accidentally booked the afternoon flight, which we were never going to make.

I emailed and called the company, who originally offered to book a new flight for us but by this time we had been panicking for around five minutes and Kev had already booked us onto the correct plane (around £50 cheaper as it was last minute!) so we asked for a refund due to their error.

After a few phone calls and offers of booking a new flight for us or half the money back, we spoke to someone who was obviously feeling generous and gave us the money plus our booking fee back.

I thought it was great customer service as they responded really quickly and were able to give us the money back without too much of a fuss.

Aeroplane snack box with cake, an orange and a yoghurt
love a little snack box

We had a great two hour flight with China Southern and even enjoyed a little snack box, which I wasn’t expecting for such a short amount of time being in the air!

Moral of the story:  ALWAYS ALWAYS double-check everything, even if you think you’re being an overly-organised travel freak. You don’t want to be stuck 900 miles from your next destination, wasting time in an airport waiting for the next available flight!

Read More: Travel From Beijing To Bangkok Without Flying


We managed to arrive in Guilin safely and headed to our hostel, which I was very excited about. I hadn’t slept in bunk beds in about 20 years, and only once with a group of people of a Year 4 school trip.

I had read loads about how you can meet friends for life in your dorm room, and listen to fascinating travel stories from inspirational people. I was really looking forward to it!

The pictures looked great – it had a bar, a pool table and cute little beds with fluffy duvets. Now, I’m not saying that the pictures were lying – there was a bar, and a pool table, and the beds were fantastic and snuggly.

White bunk beds in a hostel room

There was one thing missing though – PEOPLE.

As we walked in, there was a young couple sitting awkwardly with a drunk middle-aged man, who was yelling homophobic slurs about Freddie Mercury to the lady behind the bar. Not a great start, but surely there will be a group of wild youths waiting in our room, ready to put dreadlocks in my hair and sing along to guitar tunes all night?


We were first put into a room where a girl was already asleep (at 10pm) but the locker keys weren’t working so they moved us next door. Where four beds were neatly made up, waiting for their guests. We were the only ones there that night….and the next.

Who ends up with a dorm room to themselves!?

We didn’t really get into the swing of hostel living – our belongings were everywhere and I slept with no pyjamas on. We were told that there were no guests booked into our room so we locked the door from the inside until someone told us not to…which they didn’t.

Bar with multi coloured flags hanging from the door frame and a pool table
i can imagine in the warmer weather this is a pretty fun place to hang out!

We also ended up making friends with the couple we spotted on the first night – they were Australian and actually did tell us some great stories just from living in Tasmania, so that was great.

Unfortunately Kev lost their email address so we’ll never know any more!

We also met another expat who comes to the bar a lot as his wife is in America studying, and he taught us lots of different ways to play around with our camera so we could get some great shots on the rest of our trip.

This lesson was actually priceless as we learned so much in that short space of time and ended up taking pictures we are actually proud of! 

Moral of the story: Firstly, although there are plenty of travellers, China isn’t really in the typical backpacker scene, so don’t expect to see a lot of hippies wandering round.

Secondly, if you’re going to plan a trip in the low season, don’t expect many other travellers in general – the weather is still awful in January so people are more inclined to be further south at this time of year.

Thirdly, always sleep with pyjamas on. Imagine if they’d just burst in with their spare key and….oh man, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide To Backpacking China

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You’ve probably already guessed how this mistake went but I’ll enlighten you anyway.

As I mentioned, Guilin is renowned for its beauty. With our new photography expertise (!) we were ready to take photos like this one:

Green rice terraces rolling across fields
imagine seeing this with your own eyes!

And this:

Green flooded rice terraces in the hills
China is awesome

Read More: 6 Awesome Things To Do In Guilin!

However, Mother Nature decided to be mean and we ended up with pictures like this:

An extremely cloudy view of the rice paddies in Guilin mountains
sooo disappointing!

And this:

Man standing on the edge of the rice terraces with thick fog
literally couldn’t see a thing!

Here is my personal favourite:

The rice terraces with thick fog and mist
at least we hadn’t travelled thousands of miles … oh wait

We had a fantastic day wandering up and down the hills, looking down at the little villages and paddies as far as the eye could see.

Unfortunately, with the fog and the rain and cloud, the eye could only see about 5 metres. At one point I thought I’d gone blind because we were so high and everything was just white and blurry.

Man wearing a green rucksack bending down to write a postcard
the postcards actually made it back home too!

We also had an interesting lunch in a restaurant (not entirely sure it comes under that category as there were a few seats and an outdoor barbecue type thing hanging off the edge of a cliff, but we did have lunch there) and we sent postcards home from the very top of the mountain.

It was a nice day for us but it was a real shame that we couldn’t capture the essence of Guilin – we would stand in a spot and talk about how beautiful it must be when the sun is out and the sky is clear!

It means that we’ll have to plan a trip again to see the terraced fields at some point, maybe not to Guilin again because there are other great places to see – we were just so disappointed that we didn’t take the weather into consideration when we planned our trip!

Check out these great photos and videos from the Longji Terraces instead!

Green steaming vegetables and rice in piece of bamboo
would NOT recommend the chicken as it literally comes with every body part, even the head!

Moral of the story: If you’re going to plan a trip, be organised and check the best time of year to go.

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If the forecast is bleak, it may upset your travel plans but you probably don’t want to waste any time going somewhere if you can’t enjoy its main attraction!

Saying that, we did have a great time in Guilin but we probably would have decided to plan a trip in the summer, especially as we live in China so we would have had so many opportunities!

Have you ever made big travel mistakes? What’s been your worst travel idea? Let us know!