Travel China Cheap with Yangtze River Cruise

13 Days Beijing-Xi'an-Chengdu-Chongqing-Yangtze River Cruise-Yichang-Shanghai

This tour you are looking at is one of the best-valued budget China tour packages. It covers the hottest cities in China like Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. Besides those three cities that most tourists will choose, we have also included the city of pandas-Chengdu and a Yangtze River cruise tour. You will start your trip with a Beijing budget tour. We will take you to the must-visit places, and in the meantime, offer some optional activities for you to pick from. It is same for the following Xi’an, Chengdu, and Shanghai. As for the Yangtze River Cruise, cheap cruise tickets are a must. We will arrange the three nights four days downstream cruise tour from Chongqing to Yichang for you. Come and join us on this quality budget China tour!

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Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Beijing Arrival
Arrival in Beijing, Wangfujing Street

Your professional guide will be holding your name sign and waiting for you at the airport arrival hall. After picking you up from the airport, your guide will take you to the most prosperous street in Beijing, the Wangfujing Street. Wangfujing Street is a commercial street with a long history of several hundred years and is known as the "Golden Street" of Beijing. In the 29th year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty(1636-1912), Wangfujing began to develop into a commercial district, becoming one of the four major commercial districts in Beijing. APM (New Dong'an Market), Oriental Xintiandi, Lotte Yintai Department Store and other large shopping malls are located on both sides of the pedestrian street, offering a wide range of international and domestic brands like Luis Vuitton, Uniqlo, Daoxiangcun. You will have some free time here to shop or to find somewhere for dinner. Dinner today is not included but our guide will be happy to offer suggestions. After your visit to the Wangfujing Street, your guide will escort you to your hotel and help you with checking in.

Wangfujing Street
Wangfujing Street
Day 2 Beijing
Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Jingshan Park,  Summer Palace

Your Beijing tour today will start with one of the landmarks of China-Tian’anmen Square. It is one of the biggest city center squares in the world. This square covers the area of about the size of 61 football arenas. Tian'anmen Square is the place where the daily flag-raising ceremonies are held. Lots of people gather at the square before the sun rises just to watch the ceremony and see the flag rise with the sun with their own eyes. It’s sort of like a religious ritual. 

Then we will walk across the square, and enter the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City (closed each Monday) is also called the Palace Museum. It used to be the royal palace for emperors of the Ming(1369-1644) and Qing(1636-1912) Dynasties. Twenty-four emperors used to rule the country for about 600 years in this palace. It witnessed the changes of the royal families and the founding of the new China.

The next spot we will take you to, Jingshan Park, is within walking distance from the Forbidden City. Jingshan Park is located at the very center of the central axis of Beijing, with the Forbidden City to the south, Beihai Park to the west, and the Drum Tower to the north. Jingshan Mountain in the Jingshan Park was once the highest point in the city. You can take a few pictures of the panoramic view of the Forbidden City standing at the highest point-Wanchun Pavilion. Then we will have lunch. Lunch is on your own, but our guide will be happy to provide suggestions. 

In the afternoon, we will drive to the outskirts of the city and visit the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace, located in the western suburbs of Beijing, is the first of Chinese classical gardens and was inscribed on the World Heritage List on December 2, 1998. The garden is mainly composed of Wanshou Mountain and Kunming Lake. When you look from afar, the peaks of the mountains on the west look like the backdrop of a picture, and the buildings in front of the mountains are integrated with the mountains in the back and the lake in the front. Together they make a great picture.


1. A Peking Roast Duck dinner. This dish is something you cannot leave without trying when you visit Beijing. We will take you to a local restaurant that serves authentic roast duck at a reasonable price. You might have heard of Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, but we will not take you there since it has gone a little too touristy. 

2. A Kungfu Show. A Legend of Kungfu in the Red Theatre is a performance that receives numerous positive reviews from foreign guests. There is usually one show at about 19:00 on regular days, but there will be one extra performance during the peak travel season from about April to October. Duration of the show is 90 minutes.

Summer palace
Tiananmen Square
Day 3 Beijing
Sacred Way, Chang Tomb, Juyongguan Great Wall

There will be more climbing and walking today comparing with that of yesterday. So, make sure that you have a big breakfast! After your breakfast, your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel lobby. You will drive for about an hour (about 50 kilometers) towards the northwest of Beijing to the Ming Tombs. Before visiting the Chang Tomb, you will first walk through the Sacred Way. When people travel to the Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, they will usually go to the Sacred Way first, and this is what we will do as well. The Sacred Way consists of the stone arch, the great red gate, the stele pavilion, the stone figures, and the dragon and phoenix gates, etc. From the two hexagonal stone pillars in the north of the stele pavilion to the Dragon and Phoenix Gate, there are 24 stone beasts and 12 stone human figures on both sides of the thousand-meter sacred road. All of them are vividly shaped and finely carved.

Afterward, we will take you to the Chang Tomb. The Chang Tomb is the first completed one of the Ming 13 tombs. It is the joint tomb of Zhu Di (the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty) and his Empress Xu, and it is also the largest and earliest of the 13 tombs. Lunch is on your own, but our guide will help with suggestions. 

Then we will take you to the Great Wall! The section we will visit is called Juyongguan Great Wall. It is also called Juyong Pass, and it is a famous pass along the Great Wall, known as one of the Three Great Wall Passes, along with Jiayu Pass in Gansu Province and Shanhai Pass in Hebei Province. When entering the Juyongguan Scenic Area Square, you will find a stone gate called Yuntai, an architectural treasure of Tibetan Buddhism with a statue of Bodhisattva inside. You will have free time on the great wall to hike as far as you like. Then our guide will escort you back to your hotel. 

Optional Activity:

Foot massage. After a long day walk, you can take our optional activity and have a foot massage to sweep your tiredness away.

Chang Tomb
Great Wall
Day 4 BeijingXian
Temple of Heaven, From Beijing to Xian

Before your train to Xi’an, we will arrange one last spot for you, the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was an altar for the Ming and Qing emperors to offer sacrifices to the god of heaven and pray for rain or a good harvest. Our guide will take you to not only the main site-Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, but also the relatively smaller yet interesting places like the Echo Wall and Circular Mound Altar. You might also have a chance to see the locals doing morning exercise in the park if you visit the park early in the morning. After you visit the Temple of Heaven, your guide will take you to the train station and take a hard or soft sleeper overnight train to Xi’an. Your estimated train is T55 15:50/5:24+1. Taking the overnight train saves you one night’s stay in the hotel. 

Optional transportation:

If you want to experience China Speed, this is an option you have to take! This high-speed train from Beijing to Xi’an takes only about 4 hours. The estimated train could be G87 14:00/18:20. Just a few decades ago, when people wanted to travel from the north to the south part of China, they had to spend dozens of hours on the train. It is not only time-consuming but also energy-consuming. But as China develops, it has become more convenient for travelers. In particular, the emergence of high-speed trains has directly shortened the train ride from north to south from dozens of hours to a couple of hours. High-speed trains have now become a symbol of China’s fast development. They are fast and stable. Many foreign travelers have made “taking a high-speed train” on their travel checklist when visiting China.

Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven
Day 5 Xi’an
Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Great Mosque, Muslim’s Quarter

The first place your guide will take you to in Xi’an is the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. The terracotta clay figures are regarded as the No. 8 Wonder in the world. It is the first batch of national key cultural relics protection units and the first batch of Chinese World Heritage. There are more than 8,000 clay figures stored in the museum. It is a must-see place when you go to Xi’an. Some say that just as you have to see the Great Wall in Beijing, you cannot miss the terracotta warriors in Xi’an.

In the afternoon, you will visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It was built to store the Buddhist scriptures brought back from India by Master Xuanzang. It is a renowned building and a landmark of Xi’an that everyone would want to see when they visit Xi’an. There is a huge public square nearby, and if you go there in the evening, you may see the music fountain there.

Your next stop is the Great Mosque. The Great Mosque is where Muslims hold religious activities and worship their gods. There’s a bazaar nearby the Great Mosque that sells all kinds of Muslim snacks and gadgets called the Muslim’s Quarter. Besides tasting snacks like the famous Roujiamo-Chinese hamburger, Biangbiang Noodles, Pita Bread Soaked in Lamp Soup, you can also buy some souvenirs like the mini terracotta warrior statues for your family and friends here. Afterward, we will take you back to your hotel and have a rest. 

Optional activity: 

A Tang Dynasty Performance with Dumpling Feast. When visiting Xi’an, there’s a popular choice if you are looking for a nice show. The place we will take you to watch the show is the Tang Dynasty palace, and the time of the show is 20:30-21:40. The Tang Dynasty song and dance show is a Tang Dynasty-style performance with great quality. As for me, the most impressive part is that the music pieces in the show are all played live. And you can have a dumpling feast before or after the show. The dumplings will be in various cute shapes like frogs, goldfishes, bags… And the dumplings are cooked in different ways. Some are boiled in the traditional way, some are steamed, and some are fried. 

Great Mosque
Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum
Day 6 Xi’anChengdu
City Wall, From Xi'an to Chengdu

Today will be your transfer day. Before your flight this afternoon, your guide will take you to the Xi’an City Wall. The City Wall draws the lines for the city center and the outer city area. It is the best-preserved city wall in the whole country. It is also with the largest scale. Tourists can either walk on the wall or choose to ride a bike. The wall is built with bricks, so it's going to be a bit bumpy, be careful when you are riding! Then we will take you to the airport for your flight to Chengdu. Your estimated flight is CZ6249 15:45/17:40. Upon your arrival, our Chengdu local guide will escort you to your designated hotel there.

City Wall
City Wall
Day 7 Chengdu
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Wenshu Temple, Kuan Zhai Alley

Your tour today will start from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. It is where you will find the cute pandas. You might have seen pandas on TV, but here you can find the living ones! You will find about two hundred cute beings in the research base. If you are visiting the base by yourself, you’d better go there in the morning because the pandas are more active in cooler weather. And if you are lucky, you will find some newborn pandas in some of the breeding rooms. One reminder is that don’t use your flashlight when you take pictures, as strong light can be harmful to panda cubs’ eyes. 

Next, we will take you to the Wenshu Temple. In the temple, there are the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Hall of Three Great Masters, the Hall of Daxiong, etc., as well as more than 300 statues of Buddha. One of them is the Jade Buddha of Burma, and it was brought back by monks in Wenshu on foot from Burma.

Our last stop for today will be Kuan Zhai Alley. It is also called the Wide and Narrow Alley. It consists of wide alleys, narrow alleys, and well alleys. It is the largest surviving ancient street of the Qing Dynasty in Chengdu. The Wide Alley contains the largest and most complete collection of old buildings in the entire district, where you can enjoy a bowl of tea and authentic Sichuan cuisine and experience the local customs of old Chengdu. After you visit Kuan Zhai Alley, your guide will escort you back to the hotel. You can also stay in the Kuan Zhai Alley for a longer time and transfer back to the hotel on your own.

Optional dinner:

Hot pot. There are mainly two types of hot pots in China. One is the Beijing type, usually not spicy, with a hollow rising core to hold the charcoal inside. The other that we will take you to savor is the Sichuan type of hot pot, usually with a Mala (numbing and spicy) flavor. For those who cannot take too much spice, they can choose the half and half pot, with half spicy, half not. 

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
kuan zhai i Alley
Day 8 ChengduChongqing/Yangtze River Cruise
From Chengdu to Chongqing, Yangtze River Cruise

This morning at Chengdu will be your own free time. You can stroll around Renmin Park (People’s Park) or just walk around your hotel. Chengdu is a place that combines modernity and leisure with ease, and both of the two elements seem to live harmoniously in Chengdu. Chengdu is one of the most fashionable places in China, while with just a turn into the small alleys, you might see the locals playing Mahjong and sipping tea. In the afternoon, our guide will pick you up from your hotel lobby and transfer you to the train station. Your estimated train to Chongqing is G2887 15:03/16:41. After your arrival, your guide will take you to the pier and board your Yangtze cruise!

The Yangtze River originates from the "roof of the world" - the southwest side of the Tanggula Mountains of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The mainstream flows through Qinghai Province, Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan Province, Yunnan Province, Chongqing Municipality, Hubei Province, Hunan Province, Jiangxi Province, Anhui Province, Jiangsu Province, and Shanghai City, a total of 11 provincial administrative regions. It is injected into the East China Sea east of Chongming Island, with a total length of 6,387 km, ranking third in the world after the Nile River in Africa and the Amazon River in South America.

Day 9 Yangtze River Cruise
Shibaozhai, Fengdu Ghost City

You can enjoy an early morning Taichi with the instruction of a Taichi teacher on board. Taichi is a type of popular exercise in China, mostly among seniors, but is getting more popular among youngsters in recent years. 

The first shore excursion for you is Shibaozhai. It is known to all for its natural beauty and unique wooden pagoda. The pagoda was originally with 9 floors. The top 3 floors were built in 1956 when the building was repaired. It went through a major repairment in 2006 and was reopened to the public in 2009. The repairment project cost nearly 100 million yuan. Surrounded by a huge embankment, the new Shibaozhai has become a large "basin scene" on the Yangtze River and is known as the "Little Penglai (a holy land in Chinese myth)" of the Yangtze River. This shore excursion might be changed according to water conditions.

An optional shore excursion today will be to Fengdu Ghost City (depends on river conditions) Fengdu Ghost City is a famous historical and cultural city that originated in the Han Dynasty (202 B.C. – 220 A.D.). It is also one of the most famous cultural landscapes along the Yangtze River's golden tourist route. It is said to be the "capital of ghost town" and the "ghost town of hell," and has become a place where the spirits of the dead of human beings go to live. It is not only a legendary ghost town but also a treasure trove of folk culture and art, combining Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism The optional shore excursions will cost extra, and you can decide whether you would like to have the excursions on spot.

Captain’s welcome reception will be tonight, have fun!

Fengdu Ghost City
Day 10 Yangtze River Cruise
Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, Xiling Gorge

The Three Gorges area is the highlight of your Yangtze River Cruise. Your cruise will sail through this area today. Don’t get up too late!

You will pass the Qutang Gorge and Wu Gorge first. The Qutang Gorge, also known as Kui Gorge, is the shortest of the three gorges, but it is the most majestic one. The Qutang Gorge is 8 kilometers long, stretching from Baidi Mountain in Fengjie County in the west to Daxi Town in Wushan County in the east, with an elevation of over 1,200 meters.

 Wu Gorge is beautiful and deep, famous for its picturesque natural scenery. The gorge is with strange mountain peaks, clouds, mists, and a winding river flow that twists and turns. It is a poetic portrayal of many lines left by poets. You will take another vessel for an excursion through the Goddess Stream, but if the water condition changes, an alternative excursion to Shennong Stream will be arranged.

Then your cruise will continue to Xiling Gorge. Xiling Gorge is the most dangerous one among the Three Gorges, with rocky reefs, turbulent waves, strange rocks, many beaches, and fast currents. The north of the gorge is the hometown of Qu Yuan (a noted poet) and the neighboring town is the hometown of Wang Zhaojun (one of the ancient Chinese Four Beauties) in the Han Dynasty. In the evening, your cruise will sail through the ship locks of the Three Gorges Dam.

There will be a captain’s farewell banquet tonight on board, enjoy your last evening on the cruise!

An optional tour today is the White Emperor City (if river condition allows). The city is also known as the "City of Poetry", as poets such as Li Bai, Du Fu, Su Shi, and others have visited it and left a lot of poems.

Three Gorges
Three Gorges
Day 11 Yangtze River Cruise/YichangShanghai
Three Gorges Dam, From Yichang to Shanghai

You will arrive in Yichang this morning and disembark. 

The tour arranged for you today is the Three Gorges Dam. It is the world’s largest water project. The Three Gorges Dam project consists of two parts: the main building and the diversion project, with a total length of 3,335 meters and a crest height of 185 meters. The total investment of the dam is 95.46 billion yuan. The power generation of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station exceeded 100 billion KWH in 2018, setting a new world record for the annual power generation as a single power station. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the U.S., the dam slowed down the earth’s rotation by 0.00000006 seconds per day. 

Please understand that the above itinerary might be changed due to river conditions and seasons, and of course, the different cruises you choose.

After you visit the dam, our guide and driver will take you to the airport for your flight to Shanghai. The estimated flight is MU9052 16:35/18:25. Your local guide in Shanghai will take you to your designated hotel there.

The Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam
Day 12 Shanghai
 Yu Garden, Shanghai Old Street, Shanghai Tower, the Bund, Nanjing Road

The first spot we arranged for you in Shanghai is Yu Garden(closed each Monday). It is a classical garden in Southern Chinese garden style, which was originally a private garden during the Ming Dynasty and is now more than 400 years old. In the Yu Garden, you will see various pavilions as well as ancient rockeries and ponds. It is also the place for numerous events held in the city, such as the flower exhibitions, festive activities in Chongyang Festival & Lantern Festival, painting & calligraphy exhibitions, and tea ceremonies. These events were suspended during the war between China and Japan, but later restarted in 1979 and kept till now. Please kindly note that the Yu Garden will be closed every Monday except for public holidays. 

The bazaar area just outside of the Yu Garden is Shanghai Old Street. Shanghai Old Street, also known as "Little East Gate", is a good place to experience old Shanghai, with its earliest collection of money shops, gold shops, silver houses, teahouses, opera houses, and local  snacks. You can have your lunch here. Feel free to ask your guide for suggestions!

The place you will visit after lunch is the Shanghai Tower. If you look from above, the shape of the Shanghai Tower resembles a guitar pick. The tower twists nearly one degree per floor as it rises in height. The spiraling design of the tower breaks the wind currents and allows the building to withstand strong winds. You can have a panoramic view of the whole city on the observation deck of the tower. 

Next, we will head to the Bund. You would have seen the Bund when you were on the observation deck in Shanghai Tower just now, and now’s the time to get closer. The Bund is 1.5 kilometers long, stretching from East Yan'an Road in the south to the Waibaidu Bridge over the Suzhou River in the north, the Huangpu River in the east, and the old Shanghai's financial and foreign trade institutions in the west. After Shanghai became a commercial port, foreign banks, merchant houses, general associations, and newspapers began to gather here, and the Bund became the financial center of China and even the Far East zones.

Then we will take a turn and head to Nanjing Road. Nanjing Road is one of the most prosperous shopping areas in Shanghai. You will find all the brands from luxury to economical. Creative city sculptures can be seen everywhere, and there are plenty of chairs in the middle of the street for visitors to have a rest on. Then our guide will take you back to your hotel, your Shanghai tour ends here.

Optional activities:

1. Huangpu River Cruise tour. You can hop on the Huangpu River Cruise and have a 1-hour journey along the most prosperous area of the Huangpu River. This way you can marvel at the magnificent night scene of the Bund and Lujiazui Zone from a different perspective. The view is beyond what words can tell, you will have to experience it by yourself!

2. Acrobatics show. If you are looking for some nice shows in Shanghai, we would recommend an acrobatics show for you. The stunts and tricks will definitely dazzle you. There are two places that we recommend, one is Shanghai Theatre(19:30-21:00), another is Shanghai Circus World(19:30-21:00). If you are interested in this show, your guide will tell you the difference of the two places, and you can choose from them.

Shanghai Tower
Nanjing road
Day 13 Shanghai Departure
Fly back to your country

Today your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel lobby and take you to the airport according to your flight schedule. Have a pleasant journey! And if you would like to experience the maglev train to Pudong International Airport, we can arrange it for you with extra cost.

Editor: Liz Lee

Proofreader: Summer Hou

This tour ends here
Tour Map
City Five Star hotel list Four Star hotel list
Beijing Sunworld Dynasty Hotel Beijing Wangfujing Sunworld Hotel Wangfujing
Xi'an Tianyu Gloria Grand Hotel Xi'an Sunworld Dynasty Hotel
Chengdu Sofitel Chengdu Taihe Holiday Inn Express Chengdu Jinniu
Shanghai Ocean Hotel Shanghai Courtyard by Marriott Shanghai Central
Yangtze River Cruise Victoria Anna Victoria Anna
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