Beijing to Guilin are 1,240 miles (1995 km) apart, and a three-hour flight is the fastest way to go. But despite the considerable distance, train travel between the two cities remains extremely popular. This is a testament to the fabulous views from the window along the route—particularly in the last few hours of the journey, as you pass by undulating karst mountains nicknamed by Chinese tourism officials “the most scenic place under heaven.”
While in the past, train travel from Beijing to Guilin meant up to 28 hours on a clunky, delay-prone train amid the chaos of picnic blankets, discarded chicken feet and cigarette smoke, the comfortable new bullet trains zip along smoothly in just 11 hours. These trains are hawker-free with short, efficient stops (don’t risk getting off!) and hot food available from the cart at lunch time.
Duration: 11 hours
Two long-distance, high-speed “G” trains leave each morning from Beijing West Station 8 km southwest of the Forbidden City and 36 miles from Beijing Airport. The journey takes just under 11 hours and arrives in the evening in Guilin North Railway Station, which is also a little way out of the city.
Note that this journey is in high demand, particularly during holidays, so plan accordingly. For foreigners, that means buying your ticket in person from a train station in advance. You will also need to allow plenty of time at Beijing West to pass through the airport-style security, including luggage x-ray and passport inspection.
Alternatively, you could take an overnight sleeper train, which arrives into the more centrally located Guilin Railway Station. However, these are older trains that take 19-28 hours to reach their destination. If you do take a sleeper, opt for a “K” train as these are more direct.
Duration: 3 hours
There are at least three flights per day from Beijing International Airport (PEK) to Guilin Liangjiang Airport, with China Southern, Air China, and Grand China Air. The flight takes just over three hours, but take this with a pinch of salt-Chinese airlines are notorious for delays.