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Considering how big China is it really isn’t a popular destination to visit, and especially not to backpack around. Not like the likes of South East Asia, India, or even Japan which is becoming more and more popular for backpackers to visit despite the cost.
I’ve met a lot of travellers, I follow a lot of travellers online and there are only one or two people I can think of who have actually travelled to China alone. It’s just not the done thing like it is in many other countries. Comments I’ve heard about travelling China independently is that it’s pretty lonely because of the lack of other travellers and it can be difficult to get around because of the lack of English.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can technically travel around China independently- solo or with a group of friends, it’s not like some countries where you need to be on a tour (apart from if you want to visit Tibet). Plenty of expats who live and work in China do travel around the country on weekends and holidays by themselves and get around just fine but I’m sure it helps when you already know the Culture and some phrases in Mandarin which you would if you lived in China.
I’d wanted to visit China for a few years and despite knowing I could travel there alone it’s never been on my radar to visit independently. I’ve always wanted to do an organised tour, mainly because of the communication issues I anticipated would be present.
My friend Charlie from Pocket Trailblazer went on a Tour of China a few years ago with a company called The Dragon Trip. I didn’t know her then but Charlie makes awesome YouTube Documentary-style videos and earlier in 2019 reproduced a new series of her China trip (which you can watch here!). I saw her see the Panda’s, Camp on the Great Wall, go rafting along with so many other activities, and best of all she was doing all of this in a group in a backpacking way, I was sold!
Cue The Dragon Trip!
Who Are The Dragon Trip?
The Dragon Trip was created in 2010, after visiting China many times over a few years before deciding to settle there, the Founder- Ramsay Kerr became quickly aware that if you wanted an affordable trip to China but your Mandarin wasn’t up to scratch you were basically out of luck. He could see that people were backpacking South East Asia, South America, Central America, but not Backpacking China, and no company had created China backpacking Tours.
After a few months on a whirlwind adventure around China researching the best routes, expeditions, activities and itineraries, the first Dragon Trip set out on it’s 25 Day adventure in August 2011.
The Dragon Trip were happy to have me on board their 25 Day Backpacking China Loop Tour so I could review it and feedback my experience to you via this blog post, a YouTube series (which you can watch here), and on Instagram (this is my Instagram account and I have 2 sets of highlights with all my stories from China).
They also gave me a 10% discount code which you can use on any of their tours- use ‘wanderingquinn/TDT19’ when you go to pay for your tour directly on their website.
25 Day China Loop Overview
Along with knowing for the last few years that I wanted to do an organised tour around China, I also knew I wanted to do a fairly long trip and see a lot of the Country. After going to the hassle of getting and paying for a visa for China and flying all the way there I didn’t want to do just a one or two week trip to China, so 25 Days sounded like the perfect length of time and it was, not too short but not too long.
Related Post: Getting a Visa for China in Hong Kong.
The 25 Day China Loop covers a whole lot of China! I’ll let the map below do the talking but essentially we visited 10 places in total starting and ending in Hong Kong.
My Highlights of the Trip were:
- Rafting Down a River on a Bamboo Raft
- Taking a Chinese Cooking Class
- Seeing Panda’s at a Panda Research Centre
- Visiting a Giant Buddha carved into the Rock Face
- Doing a Kung Fu Class
- Camping on the Great Wall of China
- Seeing an Acrobatics show in Beijing
- Taking a River Cruise in Shanghai
- Seeing Ancient China in Fujian
How it Works
– The Group
The 25 Day Loop is the main tour around China that The Dragon Trip offer, they also offer shorter China backpacking routes and trips, for example, a 15 Day Hong Kong to Beijing Tour. Out of our group of 13 half of the people were on this shorter trip as they work full time and this trip works perfectly for 2 weeks annual leave. This meant I had quite a few people leave my trip just over half way through and 2 people join at different points a long the trip. This wasn’t an issue though and it was nice to have a changing group.
The Dragon Trip doesn’t aim their tours at a particular age group as they want to embrace the feeling of backpacking in which age doesn’t matter, however they say that usually, the ages of people on their tours are 18-35.
We had a range of ages on out tour, mainly from 19-30 however one couple were in their 60’s.
The Brits dominated our group with most of us being British but we also had 3 Irish and 2 German’s, however, all nationalities are welcome.
– The Guides
What is really unique about how The Dragon Trip runs their tours is that each location has a different Adventure Leader aka Guide. There isn’t one guide that goes around with the group from start to finish which is usually what happens and I really liked this.
It meant we got a local adventure leader in each place and it was their home City/Town we were visiting. We also got to see and hear 10 different perspectives and insights into life in China which I found very interesting. Also, I can only assume that doing it this way keeps the costs down which feeds into the low price point of the tour.
– The Price
The Dragon Trip specialises in Backpacking Trips and this is what makes them stand out from many other organised tour companies. Backpacking means budget and The Dragon Trip offer the cheapest tour around China that there is!
The 25 Day Tour that I did is offered from £1479.00 with a 15 Day Tour offered from £989.00 directly on their website. Remember you can get 10% off this price with my discount code ‘wanderingquinn/TDT19’!
A few people on my tour booked their trip through external agents like STA Travel and some paid more than what the trip costs directly on their site so be sure not to use them in this instance!
The result of this being a backpacking budget trip is that the accommodation is mainly hostels in dorm rooms and the overnight trains are a lower class. However apart from the accommodation arrangements, there were no other signs that we were travelling on a budget in China, to be honest.
We travelled by high-speed bullet trains a lot of the time between Cities which are really high quality and there was an activity included in the price of the trip in each place which was in no way a budget activity.
The main thing to be aware of when thinking about your backpacking China budget for this trip is that all meals are additional and there are many optional activities.
On average I spent 100 RMB / £11.30 / $14.50 USD per day on meals, snacks, drinks etc. Some days I spent less but others were higher when I paid for laundry, bought a few souvenirs and went crazy drinking Bubble Tea or Starbucks Coffee which soon adds up! Although you could do it cheaper this is a good average daily spend to go by as I was conscious not to buy food etc that was too expensive but I certainly didn’t hold back either.
In terms of the optional activities, although they have been designed as optional and there’s no way you could do every single one, most of the group did most of the activities as not doing them means you have a free day with nothing planned, you’ll miss out on an experience and get some serious FOMO.
I didn’t do all activities but I did most of them and the total of my optional activities came to 1210 RMB / £136.00 / $175.00 which is really not that expensive for all that I did.
I’ll also add here that this tour is very active and many of the optional activities are active including pretty sweat-inducing hikes so do keep this in mind!
My Overall Review
So now you know all about the trip let me share with you my honest thoughts – the good and the bad so you can make your mind up on whether you want to do this backpacking through China tour with The Dragon Trip!
I really only had a few issues whilst on this tour and considering it’s a long tour and a budget tour, that really isn’t bad.
– Dormitory Style Rooms mainly relating to the 2 occasions we had to share with people who were not on our trip.
– One of our overnight trains was pretty fancy and we were all together in a 6 so it was a really good experience. The other two were older trains- open, loud, smelly and overall not as nice meaning we didn’t get a good sleep and it wasn’t a nice experience.
– Generally, all of our Tour Guides were great but a few of them were quite hard to understand and we had some language barriers. They got us around ok but it meant we missed out on learning more.
(I fed all of the above comments back to The Dragon Trip during and after the tour in the feedback form so hopefully, any of my issues can be resolved for you!)
I’ve mentioned many of the positives in the post above already but here is a recap with some more:
– The vast amount of China we saw on The Dragon Trip’s China backpacking route.
– The amazing people on my trip! They were the best!
– The Day Bullet Trains were so comfy and nice to travel around China on.
– Having a different adventure leader in each place.
– We did so many activities that I could not have done had I gone to China alone! For example staying in a Roundhouse in Fujian, having a Kung Fu Class in Shaolin, camping on The Great Wall of China!
– I was worried about being Vegetarian in China but with our adventure leaders help, I found it so easy and ate amazing vegetarian food in China. I would have struggled alone with the language barrier though.
– The ease of travel. I really had no worries and no stress throughout the 25 days!
– I was also totally surprised by China in such a good way, it offers even more than I thought it did!
Overall I hope you can tell that I really recommend China as a destination to backpack around but I really recommend you go with The Dragon Trip! So check out their tours on their website here and remember you can get 10% off any tour with my discount code ‘wanderingquinn/TDT19’!
For more of my China posts see:
Please note – I was hosted by The Dragon Trip on this tour however all opinions and thoughts are my own and I would only ever tell you the truth. This post contains affiliate links but at no extra cost to you.