Rich in Chinese culture: How to plan a trip to Xiamen, China

Joshua Berida

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Rich in Chinese culture: How to plan a trip to Xiamen, China

CIRCLES. Fujian Tulou.

Joshua Berida/Rappler

Looking for a pocket-friendly vacation in China? Xiamen is an affordable city compared to Beijing or Shanghai.

As a tourist destination, Xiamen doesn’t get the same recall as Shanghai or Beijing. But this city in Fujian has its own noteworthy attractions and can be a jump-off point to other destinations in the region. You’ll also see some familiar names such as SM and Robinson’s when you visit. Xiamen is a possible alternative if you’re looking to visit a different and accessible city from Manila.

Getting a visa

Filipinos need to apply for a visa to enter China. These are the basic requirements:

  • Original passport with at least one blank visa page and valid for at least six more months
  • You’ll also need to bring a photocopy of the emergency contact and information page
  • Old passport
  • A recent 48mm x 33mm photo taken within the last six months
  • Photocopy of previous Chinese visas, if it isn’t your first time visiting

Other than the above-mentioned documents, first time applicants need to submit the following:

  • Bank certificate
  • Certificate of employment (for employees)
  • Business registration certificate (for owners)
  • Stamped BIR income tax return

For more information, visit the following websites:

Get into Xiamen

You can find direct flights to Xiamen from Manila from major airlines such as Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. I always check www.skyscanner.com or www.trip.com for flights. After you find the schedule you want you can book directly with the airline.

Getting around Xiamen

Like any other big city, Xiamen has an extensive public transportation network of ferries, buses, and light rail. It’s easy to explore the city on foot or using public transportation.

Itinerary and places to visit

*This itinerary assumes you start with one full day.

*REMINDER: Always bring your passport with you while traveling around China. You might need to show it when buying train tickets or during the ride itself. Some attractions also ask for a passport before you purchase a ticket. 

Day 1

City, Urban, Road
ARTSY. Stop by quirky Cat Alley. Joshua Berida/Rappler

On your first full day in Xiamen, explore some of the attractions in the city. Drop by the Shapowei Art Zone, the area has shops, restaurants, and cafes. It showcases the creativity of local artists. Cat Alley is a quirky spot not too far from Xiamen University. You can also check out Nanputuo Temple while exploring the city. The Shimao Cross-Strait Plaza are two towers that resemble sails. These two structures dominate Xiamen’s cityscape. There’s also a mall between them. You can end your day exploring Zhongshan Road. This strip is lined with restaurants, shops, and fast-food chains. It’s also a lively area to visit at night.

Architecture, Building, Temple
WORSHIP. Nanputuo Temple. Joshua Berida/Rappler

Day 2 

On your second full day in Xiamen, go on a day trip to one of the Earth Towers of the Hakkas or Fujian Tulou. These unique houses are centuries old and showcase the region’s architectural ingenuity. Some homes are square while others are round or oblong in shape. The settlers from different parts of China designed and constructed these houses to protect their communities from wild animals and thieves. Families would build these structures. It’s like any other house with storage rooms, bedrooms, halls, and kitchens. The most famous clusters are in Yongding, Nanjing, and Hua’an counties. I visited the Tianluokeng cluster (the most famous one) in Nanjing County. 

Photography, Accessories, Bag
TULOU. Check out one of the tulous to get a glimpse of this unique type of home. Joshua Berida/Rappler

*I suggest starting as early as possible because of the distance between the tulous and Xiamen. You can book train tickets or check schedules at www.trip.com

How to get to Tianluokeng:

Take the train from Xiamen or Xiamen North Station to Nanjing (make sure the option you choose is in Fujian province). Once in Nanjing station, make your way to the main bus station. Ask which bus goes to Tianluokeng. You can also hire a taxi for up to CNY40+++. 

Architecture, Building, Wall
ROUND. A tulou comes in different shapes; this one is round. Joshua Berida/Rappler


  • Tianluokeng Cluster entrance fee – CNY90 (children can get a discount)
  • Bus to scenic areas – CNY15 

Day 3

Check out of your accommodation and leave as early as possible to catch a train bound for Wuyi Shan North station.  Upon arrival at the station, make your way to your accommodation and leave your things if you can’t check in yet.

Nature, Outdoors, Scenery
NATURE. Wuyishan. Joshua Berida/Rappler

Take the bus bound for one of the entrances of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Wuyishan. The latter is a park that has hiking/walking trails. I would suggest wearing light clothing because the climate is similar to the Philippines. Depending on the season, it can get hot and humid during your trip. Bring water and snacks. There are buses that can take you to different parts of the park. You’ll have to walk and climb up to the viewpoints. You won’t be able to explore all the trails of the park in one afternoon. For the first day, I would recommend going up Tianyou Peak. The latter provides you with the best overlooking views of the park. Hiking in China is easy because most parks and mountains already have platforms and stairs. FYI: There’s no shade along the climb up. After taking in the views, explore the other sections of the park surrounding Tianyou Peak and make your way back to your accommodation.

*You can check schedules and book train tickets here: www.trip.com 


For this itinerary I would recommend the two-day trip package which costs:

  • Option A: CNY365 which includes entrance fee, sightseeing transportation inside the park, and bamboo rafting.
  • Option B: CNY235 which includes entrance fee and sightseeing transportation inside the park.

Day 4

Check out of your accommodation and store your luggage before heading back to Wuyishan. Make sure you purchase your return ticket to Xiamen in advance to get the schedule you want. Depending on the package you get, you can go bamboo rafting for the first part of your second day in Wuyishan. After rafting, you can check out other walking/hiking trails in the park. There are signs that point you to trails and walkways you might want to take. You can take the late afternoon or early evening train bound for Xiamen. 

Day 5

Explore Gulangyu Island after visiting the city’s attractions on your first day. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a popular local tourist destination that gets millions of visitors. Cars aren’t allowed on the island; you’ll have to either walk or ride one of the electric vehicles to get around. It’s easy to get to places on foot. There are paid attractions such as Sunlight Rock, Shuzhuang Garden, Bright Moon Garden, and a few galleries and museums. You can also just explore and eat at the cafés and restaurants. Walk along the coast and hang out (or swim if you decide to bring swimwear with you) at the beach. 

City, Water, Waterfront
SEASIDE. Hang out by the beach. Joshua Berida/Rappler

How to get to Gulangyu Island: Tourists and non-locals can take the ferry departing from Dongdu International Cruise Terminal. A round trip ticket costs around CNY35. 

Day 6 

Depending on the time of your flight, you’ll have one extra full day to go souvenir shopping or hang out in your favorite part of the city. You can take the airport bus to the airport or take a taxi.

How much will you spend?

A budget of up to P20,000 covers entrance fees to the attractions listed above, a bed in a dorm or a budget room, use of public transportation, budget meals, and bullet trains between places. The biggest expenses are the bullet train rides between Xiamen and Wuyishan and the ticket packages for the park. You can spend less if you always choose the cheapest option for accommodation and food. Xiamen is an affordable city compared to Beijing or Shanghai. – Rappler.com

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1 comment

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  1. RB

    Please, for your own safety, do not visit China. They do not respect the Philippines national sovereignty around Philippine waters. They have no respect for Filipinos

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