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Getting There and Away

The national carrier is the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC, known on international routes as Air China), which also operates a company called Dragonair as a joint venture with the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific (bookable through Cathay Pacific worldwide).

You can travel to China and back from Europe or Asia without having to leave the ground. Exotic routes include Vietnam-China, the Trans-Siberian railway, Tibet-Nepal, Xinjiang-Pakistan and Xinjiang-Kazakstan - but don't even think about bringing your own car, as foreigners are rarely allowed to drive in China. Other entry points include Zhuhai-Macau, Kashgar-Islamabad (Pakistan) via the Karakoram Highway, Urumqi-Almaty (Kazakstan), Kashgar-Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Beijing-Pyongyang (North Korea) and Pinxiang/Hekou-Dong Dang/Lao Cai (Vietnam). You can take a slow boat to China from Japan or South Korea. Popular places to sail to and from include Shanghai, Xiamen (opposite Taiwan), Tanggu (near Tianjin), Macau and - of course - Hong Kong.

Getting Around

Now that private carriers have been allowed to set up operations in China, CAAC has assumed the role of `umbrella organisation' over airlines including China Eastern, China Southern, China Northern, Great Wall, Yunnan Airlines and several others. There is an airport tax of Y30 to Y50 payable on all domestic flights. Long-distance buses are one of the best means of getting around on the ground, with extensive services, passable roads and interesting towns and villages en route. An even better mode is the train, which reaches into every province along a 52,000-km network. As land transport improves, the romantic days of domestic boat travel are fading. But there are still a number of popular boat trips to be had between Hong Kong and the mainland. The best known river trip is the three-day cruise along the Yangzi River from Chongqing to Wuhan.

In the cities, buses are common and cheap - which also means they're packed to the roof more often than not. Taxis don't cruise the streets except in the largest of cities, and while most cabs have meters they usually only get switched on by accident. Motorcycle taxis, motor-tricycles and/or pedicabs hunt in packs around most major train and bus stations. They're a motley bunch, but they're cheap and useful if you don't mind sudden traffic-induced adrenalin rushes. But really, once you've settled in somewhere, the best way to get around is by renting a bike and joining the pedalling throng.