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Experience off the beaten track

GoK Moderator (5096 posts) • +1

I am thinking of travelling around Yunnan and Guizhou by bike. For reasons I won't go into here, I cannot camp out but need accommodation each night.
I have two questions:
Firstly, does anyone have experience finding accommodation travelling on county level roads, and roads below that level?
Secondly, how bad can the roads get (I know this is a bit of an open question), as it will affect my choice of bike.

JanJal (1243 posts) • +4

No experience finding accommodation, but my wife's family home is up in remote mountains in Changning county and we regularly make that trip (not on bike though).

I'd say that every township worthy of a police station, junior high school and hospital should have some kind of hotel.

They will be ignorant of requirements of registering foreigners (and so will the local police), because you should register at the county seat which can be several hours car drive away.

Between townships in rural roads, you can only ask around from houses or people you pass by.

Roads that may appear paved as they leave a town may turn into broken dirt roads later on, and especially when you cross county borders. A neighbouring county may not have priorized road improvements same way.

Rock slides and road collapses are not uncommon, and detours (even short ones) may take you to muddy soil.

Until some 6 years ago, going to my wife's home village required motorcycle or walking for the last 5km or so up the mountain, because hired cars would not drive the road.

It was since then renovated, and is better than the old Kunming-Dali road for example. That was one bumpy ride few years ago, when our driver tried to avoid congested highway.

GoK Moderator (5096 posts) • 0

Thanks for the useful input. Taking on board what you say, if I aim to be in settlements on an X road or above by nightfall to find some accommodation I should be OK. If I wander onto lower classes of roads, allow extra time to get where I am going.

veravdn (44 posts) • +1

Hi Tiger, I'm just back from a week cycling between Tengchong and Lincang and have cycled on other corners of Yunnan as well.

There are hotels in almost every small town (even during Spring Festival I had no problem finding accommodation). If they can't register you they will take you to the police station, always very friendly and only a minor hassle. I carried a tent and camped one night, but more because I like than because I had to for lack of accommodation. If you want to be sure you can look at Amap or Ctrip and book ahead or put pins on some hotels once you know which town will be your destination for the day, it will save you time looking when you roll into town at the end of the day.

The roads are generally very good: I especially love the Chinese gradients, meaning you never have to push your bicycle uphill. The only exception being if you run into roadworks, which can be quite bad (muddy or dusty) and can be for pretty long distances so ruin a day or two. I would opt to jump on a bus if that were the case, and continue after the road works. But you certainly don't need mountain bike tires or suspension to cycle comfortably in Yunnan. Roads can be bad for cars and still very good for cycling as you can swerve around potholes easily.

Yunnan is perfect for bike travel, enjoy!

veravdn (44 posts) • +1

Also, it's easy to hitch hike or take a bus (even with a bicycle), so if you really run into a situation where you can't find accommodation, the road is horrible or whatever, go to the next place that is better suited to your needs.

jj123 (99 posts) • 0


Did you ever stay in the "trucker" hotels, those are basically right at the entrance of any small town where the drivers and others would usually stay for the night, and often pretty cheap?

I never had an issue with any of those and there never was

a question about registration except one time when the police showed up to check my docs,

but this was years ago, I wonder if things have changed as things have greatly tightened up?

GoK Moderator (5096 posts) • 0

Are trucker hotels noisy? I guess after a days ride you can sleep well anywhere.
My first job is to get cycle fit again, and up my millage.

@Vera, what was your daily distance target, assuming you have one.

jj123 (99 posts) • 0

My last bike tour was 10 years ago, so that's why I was curious about Veravdn said.

I had gone through sichuan and yunnan and generally the towns were very small where I stayed at, and as far as I remember were fine.

At that time nightly rate was 25-30 a night.

veravdn (44 posts) • +1

Trucker hotels are fine, I sleep with ear plugs so I never hear the working girls knocking on my door, and I always unplug the phone before I go to sleep. The rate is usually under 100 kuai, the cheapest I've found was 50 kuai. Some rooms are less well maintained and can smell badly of smoke, but usually the bed is comfortable with clean sheets and the shower hot, and that's all I need really. I always put the bike inside the room.

veravdn (44 posts) • 0

@tiger the distance really depends on elevation, usually I plan for 60km to be on the safe side, and if I do more I can earn rest days. My last trip I did almost 100km a day with lots of climbing, so I ended up spending a rest day in Mangshi (lovely) and a day in Lincang (not really recommended, it's super boring)

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