How to Choose Hiking Shoes?

Hiking shoes are undoubtedly the most “difficult” to choose, yet the most important apparel for all hikers. You can make do with a slightly bigger or smaller sized shirt, but a pair of shoes with the wrong size, albeit marginally, will badly affect your hike. There are several factors to consider when choosing hiking shoes. Generally these factors fall into three broad categories known as the 3F Criteria: Function, Fit and Form.

We find the questions below extremely useful in helping hikers to choose the right pair of shoes for themselves:

  1. Does the shoes fulfill its function with regards to the terrains that you will be hiking on?
  2. Does the shoes fit your feet? Is it too big or too small for your feet?
  3. Does the form (appearance) of the shoes appeal to you?

FUNCTION

Take some time to consider where and how your shoes will be used before you shop. Factors like terrain types, weather conditions, hiking duration, backpack load etc. will determine the kind of shoes you should buy.

Hiking shoes are generally divided into 4 types, based on their intended use.

1. Light hiking shoes (for day hikes)

They resemble running shoes (in fact, these shoes can be used for trail running), and are low-cut with flexible midsoles and non-rugged outsoles. As these shoes are mainly meant for day hikes, they do not come with waterproofing linings. They are usually lighter and made of synthetic materials like nylon and polyester.

Hiking shoes

Photo credit: Vasque

2. Mid-weight hiking shoes (for multi-day hikes)

They come in low-, mid- or high-cut with semi-rugged outsoles.  There is usually a quarter or half-length shanks or plates between the midsole and outsole to absorb shock and to shield the wearer’s feet from puncture wounds and stone bruises. Generally they are quite flexible and will require a modest amount of time to break-in , but they lack the support and durability of heavy-weight hiking shoes. They offer some degree of water resistance but not waterproof protection. Their uppers are usually made of synthetic mesh fabrics (for better breathability) with some leather reinforcement sections. The leather reinforcement sections are usually made of spilt-grain leather (e.g. suede leather).  The more expensive ones may come with full-grain leather reinforcement (e.g. nubuck leather), Vibram sole and/or waterproof lining (e.g. Gore-Tex).

Hiking shoes

Photo credit: Merrell

3. Heavy-weight hiking shoes (for week long hikes, non-technical mountaineering)

They come in mid- or high-cut with semi-rugged outsoles and with three-quarter or full length shanks and plates. They do not flex easily and require longer break-in time but provide excellent support and durability. They are usually waterproof or at least highly water resistance. Their uppers are mainly full-grained leather or spilt-grained leather. Almost all of them come with Vibram sole and Gore-Tex linings or their equivalences. As their name suggests, they are heavier in weight than the shoes in the former categories.

Hiking shoes

Photo credit: Lowa

4. Mountaineering boots 

These boots have thick and stiff soles designed for the roughest terrains and may be crampon-compatible for winter climbing. You should not be considering them at all unless you are going for mountaineering expedition or glacier exploration.

Hiking shoes

Photo credit: La Sportiva

FIT

An ill-fitting shoe can lead to blisters, bunions, toenail pain, keen pain and lower back pain. To avoid these problems, you should always consider the shape and size of your feet when choosing shoes for hiking. Your shoes should conform to the shape of your feet and not the other way round. There are 4 main factors which you should be looking at.

1. Length

There should be a comfortable space allowance between your big toe (or your second toe if you have Morton’s toe) and the wall of the toe box. A general guideline is one thumb’s width of space between the toe and the tip of the insole. Remove the insole of the shoe and place your foot on it to visually determine the amount of allowance. You should also be able to wiggle your toes comfortably inside the toe box.

2. Width

The width of your shoes is also an important factor to consider when it comes to a good fit especially if you have wider or narrower feet than the norm. The shoes should fit snugly around the sides of your feet with no slipping and not too lose or tight. Some manufacturers make shoes with narrower or widener width options to cater for people with this need.

3. Volume

The “bulk” of your foot should fit securely and comfortably inside the shoe’s interior. There should not be uneven pressure, tightness or looseness on any part of your foot.

4. Arch Type

Our feet generally fall under three types of arch type: low arch, neutral arch and high arch. People with flat feet or low arches tend to over-pronate when they walk. People with high arches tend to under-pronate (supinate) while those with neutral arch usually have normal pronation pattern when they walk. Pronation is the inward rolling motion of the foot to distribute the impact force as it lands on the ground while you walk. Pronation is actually a natural and useful movement of the feet. However too much pronation or supination can cause stress, pain and injuries to your legs and back. A simple wet test (not covered here) can help to determine your arch type. If you have very low or very high arch, try to look for trekking shoes with design (for example supination-pronation system of LOWA) that can help to reduce or prevent over-pronation and supination. Alternatively there are also aftermarket insoles (like Superfeet) which can help to correct this problem.

FORM

After narrowing down your choices based on the first two criteria, you will find that there is not much selection available. After taking into account your budget as well as sizing availability, you may only be left with only one or two models to choose from. Therefore it can be a blessing in disguise if you do not need to worry about this criteria. 🙂

18 Tips for an Enjoyable Hike

Just started out hiking and don’t know what to look out for? Check up our 18 tried and tested tips that will make your hike an enjoyable experience!

Hiking Tips

1. Understand the Trail Condition

Read up about the trail; terrain type, distance, gradient, altitude, weather etc. before hitting it so that you know what to expect and can prepare in advance. Understanding the trail condition can also help you in drafting a realistic training plan.

2. Design and Implement a Training Plan

Hiking is awesome; it brings you closer to nature away from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, the less fit you are, the less you are going to enjoy it. After getting a sense of the hiking condition, you should develop an effective training plan and work on it. https://iwannatravel.com.sg/training-hiking

Hiking Tips

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

A good night’s sleep is paramount for an enjoyable and safe hike. Getting enough sleep helps you stay alert and energetic during your hike. When you are in bed, try not to think about the next day hike as anxiety can seep in and cause insomnia. During camping, turn in early especially if you need to wake up in the wee hours for the hike. Bring along earplugs as it can get noisy at night in the campsite.  If you really cannot fall asleep, try to close your eyes and claim your mind. It is not as good as an unconscious sleep but at least it helps to relax your mind, muscles and organs.

4. Lessen Your Burden

Do not overburden yourself with a heavy pack; bring along only essential items necessary for the hike. Don’t be a Gung ho and carry more than what you can reasonably manage. Don’t be overly conservative and carry 2 days’ worth of food for a one day hike. A heavy load will bog you down easily and cause injury to your back and lower limbs. Utilize your bag’s hip belt (if it comes with one) as it can help to transfer bulk of the weight from your shoulders to the hips, allowing your leg muscles to do the work.

Hiking Tips

5. Warm-up & Stretches

If you are going to spend at least a few hours on the trail, why not spend a fraction of the time on some warm-up and stretches? A little effort will reduce the chance of an unwanted muscle injury during the hike. While on the trail, it is also a good habit to do put down you backpack and do some stretches during break time.

6. Establish a Steady Hiking Rhythm

Hiking rhythm refers to a stride and speed combination that you are comfortable with and able to maintain over time without requiring too many unscheduled break. A good rhythm is one which allows you to hike at the same intensity level for at least 45 minutes without having to take a break. It lessen the strain on your body and allows it to utilize energy in the most efficient manner; enabling you to last longer on the trail.

Hiking Tips

7. Short Strides are Preferable than Long Strides

Contrary to what most people think, shorter strides will allow you to go faster and longer than longer strides. A long stride leads to hyperextension of the knees which can cause further stress to your hips, ankles and feet. When going uphill, shorter strides also help to conserve more energy than longer strides.

Rinjani Hike

8. Choose the Path of Least Effort

Between two points, the path of least effort is the one with the least average gradient. Therefore, it is generally less energy consuming to transverse across a long but gentle path than a short but steep path. On very steep ascent to conserve your energy you can consider zigzagging rather than going straight up.

9. Save Your Ankle and Knee

Majority of keen and ankle injuries occurred during downhill and not uphill hiking due uncontrolled descending speed and landing impact and. Control your descending speed by taking a shorter stride and paying extra attention to foot placement. Keeping your center of gravity low and over your legs, and bending your downhill leg slightly on impact will help to promote greater balance and control. If possible, descend via a zig-zag or s-shaped route rather than going straight downhill. You can also lower the landing impact by using hiking sticks.

10. Keep to Scheduled Rest But Not Too Long

To maintain your hiking momentum, you should keep to scheduled rests and refrain from taking unscheduled rests. Scheduled rests can take place at designated checkpoints along the trail or after every 45min to 1 hour of hiking or so. Limit your rest time to 5-10 minutes otherwise your muscles may cool down too much, making it difficult to get back on track.

Hiking Tips

11. Stay Hydrated

Hydration is probably one of the most important but overlooked factors of hiking performance. Slight hydration can easily lead to muscle cramp while more serve hydration can lead to heat stroke which is potentially fatal. Thirst is a poor indicator of hydration level. Instead relies on your urine colour; the darker its colour, the more dehydrated you are. As a general rule, you should prepare 1 liters of water for every 2 hours of hiking. If you are going for a 6 hours hike, you should carry about 3 liters of water. You should also instill water discipline in yourself; do not overdrink to quench your thirst unless you have readily access to water source along the trail.

12. Start Out Fully Hydrated

Starting from 1-2 days before your hike, drink plenty of water so that your urine is running clear. This will flush out wastes from your body and ensure optimum hydration condition from the onset. Another good practice is to conduct “water parade” (drink-up ritual) just prior to stepping on the trail to preload your body with water.

Hiking Tips

13. Ensure Your Shoes Are Broken-in

Ill-fitting shoes can cause damage to your feet almost immediately so it is very important to try out and break in new shoes well before the hike.

14. Cut Your Toe Nails

Do trim your toe nails before the hike as long nails might rub against your shoes especially when going downhill causing subungual hematoma which is also commonly known as “black toes”.

15. Protect Yourself from the Sun

Sunburn is caused by Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun which is invisible to the eye and highly penetrating through clouds. Apply sunblock lotions even under overcast condition and reapply every 2 hours or so in order for it to be effective. Consider wearing long sleeve shirt and sun-hat for additional protection. Do not forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses or transition lenses.

Hiking Tips

16. First Aid Kit & Medication

Never hit the trail without a well-equipped first aid kit and medication. For day hikes, recommended items include Band-Aids, gauzes, triangular bandages, elastic bandages, antiseptic cream, muscle rub, antihistamine (e.g. Claritin), scissors etc. For multi-day hikes, additional items like thermometer, antidiarrheal (e.g. carbon pill), anti-inflammatory (e.g. ibuprofen), moleskins etc. should also be included.

17. Leverage with Hiking Sticks

Trekking sticks provide additional contact points between you and the ground thereby increasing stability and balance and reduce the chance of slipping or falling. Going uphill, trekking sticks allow you to use your arms and torso muscles to propel yourself upwards. Going downhill, trekking sticks help to absorb some shock away from the knees and ankles and help to control the speed of descend over sandy or slippery terrains. They also help you in maneuvering over tricky terrains like steam and dried river bed.

Hiking Tips

18. Beware of High Altitude Sickness

High altitude sickness can strike anyone at high altitudes, usually above 2400m. The best way to prevent it is to ascend gradually so that your body can slowly acclimatize to the changing altitude. Do not rush the ascent even if you are superbly fit; being fit has no bearing on one’s ability to acclimate to altitude. The prescription medication Acetazolamide (aka Diamox) can also be used to prevent or lesson the effect of high altitude sickness. It works by acidifying the blood which stimulates breathing, allowing a greater amount of  oxygen to enter the bloodstream. http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm

Hiking Grades

Grading a hike is very subjective due to the many intangible variables – individual fitness, health, age and external factors like weather, terrain, level of porter support etc. What is hard for one may be easy for others. We would rather chat over a cup of coffee to share our hiking experience than to rely on an arbitrary scale. However for your reference, we have come out with a basic framework to give you an idea of the difficulty level and experience needed for each hike. In order to obtain a more objective classification, we have mainly used quantifiable factors like distance, elevation gained and maximum altitude reached in our assessment. Nevertheless the grades used should be best described as comparative. Take note that within each grade, there will be harder or easier hikes.

Grade One (Easy Hike) 

Means “Great first Experience”. No previous experience is needed.  Easy trails are usually of short hiking distances (<10km), small altitude gains (< 400m) and over low latitudes (not above 2500m where altitude sickness can be a problem). Be expected to be on the trail for up 3 hours with some short rests along the way. E.g. Hikes in Singapore, Mount Arong, and Mount BromoException: We have classified Pelepah Falls, Gua Maloi and Bukit Tabur hikes as Grade two hikes due to their more challenging slippery river terrains (for the formers)  and narrow ledge terrains (for the latter).

Grade Two (Moderate Hike)

Means “Some previous experience preferable”. This experience does not have to be international. Experience hiking in Singapore can be regarded as possessing previous experience as well. Moderate trails are usually of moderate hiking distances (<15km) and moderate altitude gains (<1000m). They are usually of low altitudes though some may be found at altitudes above 2500m (e.g. Ijen Crater hike). Be expected to be on the trail for up to 6 hours with some short rests along the way. E.g. Mount Lambak, Mount Panti, Mount Datuk.

Grade Three (Demanding Hike)

Means “Experience needed”. Demanding trails are trails which can break you down physically and mentally if you do not train for it priorly (especially if you are not accustomed to exercise). Demanding trails are either of long hiking distances (>15km) or of substantial altitude gains (>1000m) or both. It can be a full day hike, an overnight hike or a two-to-three days hike over relatively high altitudes (above 2500m where altitude sickness can be a problem). Be expected to be on the trail for 6-8 hours or more per day. Due to the longer time and/or higher altitude on the trail, substantial preparation (apparel, camping equipment etc.) for climatic conditions or bad weather is a critical necessity. E.g. Mount Ophir, Mount Belumut, Mount Fanispan, Mount Rinjani, Yushan, Xueshan.

Grade Four (Strenuous Hike)

Means “Basic hiking skills and experience must be at a good standard”. At grade four, you are expected to operate at a high standard and fitness level as soon as you step on the trail. Example being on our Goechala hike where you have to hike for 8 continuous days covering up to 10-15 km per day with significant altitude gain (>2000m) in a remote and wild environment. A good number of days may also be spent at high altitude of above 4000m in snowy conditions (with or without crampons on). Be expected to endure extreme temperature variations from hot to cold for prolonged period. In short this is not something you should try without at least 1-2 years of adequate hiking experience. E.g. Inca Trail, Kilimanjoro, Goechala, ABC, EBC.

Grade Five (Extreme Hike)

Means “Advanced hiking skills and experience are essential”. These hikes require technical skills (glacier travel, snow and ice climbing, belaying etc.) and usage of specialized equipment (ice ace, anchors, ropes etc.) in a very high altitude environment (>5000m) and in very extreme weather conditions below subzero.  A CV of previous high altitude experience is usually required for attempting such trails. Eg: Mera Peak, Island Peak, etc.

List of hikes and their respective grading
HikeHiking GradeTotal Hiking Distance / kmHiking Distance Per Day / kmNo of Hiking DaysMin Elevation Gain / mStarting Height (@ Trailhead) / mMax Altitude Reached / m
Mount Arong Day Hike)155124030270
Broga Hill Day Hike)15.55.51300100400
Panaroma Hill Sunrise Hike)122118090270
Rainbow Waterfall Day Hike)1441N.AN.AN.A
Rafflesia Day Hike)1881N.AN.AN.A
Mount Bromo Day Hike)166116921602329
Mount Bintan Day Hike)155132050370
Mount Ophir Day Hike (Twin Falls))2881414120534
Mount Panti Day Hike)21010148150531
Mount Datuk Day Hike)2771785100885
Mount Angsi Day Hike)211111645180825
Mount Lambak Day Hike)255144070510
Mount Pulai Day Hike)21010160450654
Pelepah Falls Day Hike)266116525190
Gua Maloi Day Hike)2111N.AN.AN.A
Bukit Tabur Day Hike)2881270130400
Mount Irau Day Hike)255126018502110
Mount Ijen Sunrise Hike)27.63.8190918902799
Mount Sibayak Sunrise Hike)21313167215402212
Mount Batur Sunrise Hike)288171710001717
Mount Ophir Day Hike (Summit))31111112561201276
Mount Belumut Day Hike)3121219101001010
Bukit Kutu Sunrise Hike)3121218002501050
Mount Nuang Day Hike)31919113131801493
Mount Kajang Day Hike)310101103801038
Mount Merapi Sunrise Hike)3771133016002930
Mount Agung Sunrise Hike)3991147115603031
Mount Inerie Sunrise Hike)3771114511002245
Fanispan Day Hike )320201114320003143
Taman Negara 2D1N Hike)1842N.AN.AN.A
Dhampus 2D1N Hike )294.5260011501750
Mount Ophir 2D1N Hike (Summit & Twin Falls))3136.5212561201276
Mount Stong State Park 2D1N Hike)32110.5210444601504
Mount Kinabalu 2D1N Hike)317.48.72253115644095
Mount Semeru 2D1N Hike)341.420.72157621003676
Kerinci 2D1N Hike)31472228515203805
Merbabu 2D1N Hike)3136.52184513003145
Mount Gede Pangrango 2D1N Hike)320102176912503019
Wae Rebo 2D1N Hike)314726005001110
Yushan 2D1N Hike)318.89.42125226003952
Xueshan 2D1N Hike)321.810.92170621803886
HehuanShan 2D1N Hike)32110.5227231503422
Taroko 2D1N Hike)3157.52526274800
Mount Fuji 2D1N Hike)318.59.32147123053776
Lake Song Kol 2D1N Hike )32713.5249029103400
Fansipan 2D1N Hike )320102114320003143
Sapa 2D1N Hike)32713.52N.AN.A1500
Chiang Dao 2D1N Hike)3136.52105511202175
Endau Rompin Peta 3D2N Hike)32173180130310
Mount Rinjani 3D2N Hike)33812.63257611503726
Mount Semeru 3D2N Hike)341.413.83157621003676
Xueshan 3D2N Hike)324.88.23170621803886
Dabajianshan 3D2N Hike)36822.63149220003492
Wuling Sixiu 3D2N Hike)3289.33142519003325
Mount Apo 3D2N Hike)330103175511992954
Rinjani 4D3N Hike)3389.54257611503726
Nanhu Dashan 4D3N Hike)35012.54180219403742
Sandakphu 4D3N Hike)34711.74150621303636
Poon Hill 5D4N Hike )35110.25220010103210
Goechala 8D7N Hike)49011.28302017804800
Annapurna Base Camp 8D7N Hike)411013.88306010704130
Everest Base Camp 11D10N Hike)413011.811252028405360

Training for Hiking

Hiking is a physical activities that utilities all parts of your body. Other than walking long distance on foot, there are occasions where you need to climb up elevations, scramble on fours, bend your body to maneuver through obstacles, wade across streams, balance yourself over uneven terrains, etc. Such demanding requirement on the body call for a multidisciplinary approach to training.

There are three main kinds of training each targeting different but complementary aspect of fitness; Aerobic training for Endurance, Anaerobic training for Strength and Core training for Stability and Balance.

Aerobic exercise also known as cardio exercise work out your cardiovascular system by getting your heart pumps faster. A good aerobic endurance will allow you to keep up with long distance trekking without feeling exhausted easily. Examples of aerobic exercises are running, cycling and swimming. A typical training session can be a 5km run, a 1km swim or a 20 km cycle – at an average pace.

Unlike aerobic exercise which builds up endurance, anaerobic exercise builds up strength, speed and power. A good anaerobic strength will allow you to overcome a steep section of trail easier.  Examples of aerobic exercises are stair climbing, sprinting and rope skipping. A typical training session can be a climb up a 40 story building.

The core is a complex group of muscles predominantly located within the torso and excluding the upper and lower limbs. Many of these core muscles are hidden beneath exterior musculatures (for example abs and chest) which people typically train. Unlike exterior musculatures which act mainly as prime movers, the core muscles stabilizes the spine and help initiate and transfer force from one area of the body to another. Core exercise strengthens your core muscles and helps to improve your stability and balance and prevent injuries during trekking. Some examples of core exercises are plank, bridge, superman, leg raises etc. A typical training session can be a few sets of exercise repeated over a 20 minutes period. 

You should start your training regime at least 4-6 weeks prior to your trek and earlier if you are unaccustomed to exercise or if you are going for a more rigorous trekking.

To aid you in preparing for your hike, we have come out with three sets of training plans for various levels of hiking difficulty which you can use as reference. As individual training needs differ (age, gender, fitness conditions, presence of hiking support like porters etc.), these training plans are not meant to be prescriptive. They are not necessarily written down with the intention of you following them precisely. Rather, they are meant to provide you with an idea of a progressive training program. Feel free to tweak them to fit your specific needs or constraints (if any).

Training for hiking

Training for hiking

Training for hiking

 

 

 

Why Sign Up Your Hiking Trip With Us?

1. We believe in providing a streamlined, uninterrupted and personalized customer service experience to all our clients. You will be assigned an experienced and dedicated travel coordinator who will take care of your travel needs and requirements throughout the various stages from initial enquiry, itinerary planning and tour confirmation to post tour feedback. The same travel coordinator will also be contactable 24/7 via phone during your trip.

2. All our travel coordinators are experts in their assigned destinations who have been to majority of the places themselves. Our destination knowledge are also complemented via intensive research.

3. As a boutique travel agency, we work directly and closely with all our local guides and operators with absolutely no 3rd party in between. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, whatever stated in the agreed itinerary will be duly fulfilled by us and our partners. Rest assure you will not be taken by surprise of discrepancies like some ever experienced with mass-market tour operators.

4. We pay our guides (and porters) well and regularly provide them constructive feedback (via customer post-trip survey) on how they can do their job better.

5. We are an ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) registered business with valid STB (Singapore Tourism Board) license. We have a proven track records with both individual and corporate clients – check up our Facebook page and testimonials.

6. We faithfully abide by Singapore Tourism Board’s paid up capital requirements and practice conservative financial management. By requiring all our clients to pay in full before trip commencement, we can pay our partners on time and prevent cash flow and debt plagues frequently encountered by other operators in the industry.

7. All our quoted rates are NETT with no hidden charges with a transparent and easily understandable cancellation & postponement policy.

8. Enjoy 15% discount off the base rate of any Malaysia one-day hiking trip (e.g. Mount Ophir Day Trip, Mount Belumut Day Trip, etc.) whenever you sign up a multi-day hiking trip with us.

  • Discount is only applicable for the first Malaysia day trip; not applicable for subsequent Malaysia day trips.
  • Departure date for the discounted trip must be before that of the multi-day hiking trip
  • Multi-day hiking trip refers to hiking trip with a duration of at least 3 days or more.

FAQ for Shanxi

1. When is the best time to visit Shanxi?
Shanxi is good for travel all year round. It has a continental climate with cold dry winters (November to March) and hot humid summers (June to August). In terms of season the best time to visit is during autumn from September to early November when warm sunny days with clear skies and pleasantly cool evenings are the norm. The second best time is spring from late March to May when weathers are not drastic and the accompanying wind blows away the pollutants. This is also a good time to see blooming flowers in the countryside. Sporadic sand storm may happen in spring though. If you do not mind the cold, winter with its falling snow is a unique time to visit Shanxi; the mountains and the Great Wall are often cover with snow, offering amazing snowy scenery.

2. How is the rail system like in China?
China has one of the biggest and busiest rail networks in the world and train links almost every city and town. Travelling by train is one of the cheapest and most comfortable mode of travel around China especially for long distance travel. It is also the safest and most reliable compared to travelling by air or by coach. All trains leave and arrive on schedule, and there are seldom any delays.
Rail network in China is generally classified into Normal Speed Rail and High Speed Rail (HSR). Normal speed rail where trains run at 100-160 km per hour are the most common rail service while High Speed Rail where high speed trains (aka bullet trains) run at 200-350 km per hour is fast becoming the norm train service between major cities.

Normal speed rail has both sleeper and seater berths. For sleeper berth, there are three classes: hard sleeper, soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleeper. A hard sleeper carriage has several open cabins (without doors) along the train aisle. There are 6 sleeping berths to a cabin; an upper, middle and lower berths on each side of the cabin. As the cabin is open to the aisle, it has less privacy and can be noisy in daytime. A soft sleeper cabin has door which is closed to the aisle. Each cabin consists of only 4 berths; an upper and a lower berths on each side of it. Deluxe soft sleeper is one class above soft sleeper and comes with only 2 berths to one cabin. Soft sleeper mattresses have more cushion and are softer than hard sleeper mattresses. For seater berth, there are two classes: hard seater and soft seater. Soft seater is just a normal seating coach where passengers sit next to one another. The soft seat coach can be crowded with passengers and their luggage, so travelling in this class will not be so comfortable. Hard seater is the least comfortable and cheapest among all with hard and non-reclining seats. All normal speed trains are fully air-conditioned and equipped with a dining carriage where you can order meals. All carriages are also equipped with boiling water and cold water dispensers and a squat toilet.

High Speed Rail comes with 6 different classes; second class seat, first class seat, business class seat, VIP seat, soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleeper. Second class seat consists of 5 seats in a row (3+2) with non- reclining seats and without foot rests. First class seat consists of 4 seats in a row (2+2) with partially reclining seats and with foot rests. Soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleepers are only available on the overnight trains. High speed trains are also equipped with seat toilets and handicapped restrooms.

3. Is the internet freely accessible in China?
The internet is highly censored in China through the so-called “Great Firewall” – the combination of legislative actions and technologies enforced by the Chinese government to regulate the internet domestically. Websites that are blocked in China include Google (including Gmail), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, YouTube, Dropbox, etc. If you need to check your emails, it is advisable to auto-forward your emails to other non-blocked accounts such as Hotmail or Yahoo Mail beforehand. A substitute for WhatsApp and Line is WeChat – Chinese multi-purpose social media mobile application.

4. What do I need to pack for this tour?
A detailed packing list will be provided upon tour confirmation.

5. Will there be any forced shopping tours?
No, all our tours are strictly No Forced Shops, No Factories and No Detours. However if you are interested in any particular factory or shop, do let us know and we can arrange for it.

6. What are the typical meals during the tour?
Breakfast will be provided by the hotel. Continent styled or American styled breakfast will usually be served at the better hotels (4-5 Star). Lower end hotels (3 Star) or hotels in smaller cities tend to serve Chinese styled breakfast which may include the following food: dim sum, fried noodles, porridge, mantou, etc. Lunch is included in our package as well and will be arranged at a descent restaurant with 2-4 Chinese dishes (depending on your group size) and 1 soup. Dinner is left to your own arrangement; you may take this opportunity for some food adventure.

7. Can vegetarian meals be arranged?
Yes, many Chinese are also vegetarians; vegetarian food can be easily found in China.

FAQ for Tulou

1. What are tulou?
Fujian tulou (福建土楼) literally means “Fujian earthen buildings” are rural dwellings built by the Hakka people in the mountainous areas in south-west Fujian between the 15th and 20th centuries. The tulou are usually large, enclosed and multi-storied homes built with locally available materials (river stones, timber, bamboo etc.) and fortified with mud walls and most commonly circular or rectangular in configuration. Housing an entire clan of up to 800 inhabitants, the tulou functions as a self-contained village with courtyards, halls, grain stores, wells and living quarters within. They were also built for defense purposes around a central open courtyard with only one entrance and windows to the outside only above the first floor. The Fujian Tulou are mainly distributed in Nanjing County, Yongding County and Hua’an County, a region about 150 km across on the Fujian-Guangdong border about 3 hours’ drive from Xiamen. A total of 46 Fujian tulou sites were inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.

2. Who are the Hakka?
The origin of the Hakka also known as Kejia (literally means “guest families”) remains obscure despite intensive research by historians and linguistics. But they are believed to have migrated from Northern China (Henan and Shanxi provinces) to Southern China over the past 1500 years, probably to escape warfare, famine or government prosecution. It is also believed there were at least 2-3 main migration; one in the early 4th century and another in the late 9th century. Their final migration in the 13th century during the fall of the Southern Song dynasty took them farther south to their present areas of concentration. Their worldwide population is about 80 million with a significant number in overseas locations as well: Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore etc. In Southern China, they are mainly found in Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangxi provinces. Some well-known Hakka are Sun Yat Seng, Deng Xiao Ping and Lee Kuan Yew.

3. What are some examples of traditional Hakka food?
Lei Cha (Thunder Tea Rice) – An assortment of tea leaves, herbs, seeds and nuts which are pounded into a fine powder and then mixed with rice, vegetables, tofu, pickled radish, etc. to be made into a rice dish.

Beef Meatball Soup – A simple, clear broth with vegetables and beef meatballs.

Mei Chay Kou Rou – Soya-braised pork belly stewed with preserved mustard green.

Suan Pan Zi – Literally means “Abacus beads”. Made from yam flour, minced pork, dried shrimps, and mushrooms and kneaded into the shape of abacus beads.

Dung Gong Yam Guk Gai – Salt baked chicken

Duck Stuffed with Rice – A whole de-boned duck stuffed with seasoned sticky rice.

Niang Dou Fu – Tofu stuffed with vegetables and minced pork and served either fried or steamed.

4. What is the approximate cost of a meal in Xiamen?
A simple meal costs about RMB 15-20 per pax while dining at a restaurant serving international cuisine will cost about RMB 50-75 per pax.

5. When is a good time to visit the tulou?
The tulou are good to visit all year around as the temperature in Yongding and Nanjing is mild throughout the year and not cold in winter. The annual average temperature hovers around 20 ℃. However the coastal city of Xiamen is subjected to heavy rains during the monsoon season from July to early September.

6. When is the peak holiday season?
There are two main peak holiday season: Chinese New Year (around January/February) and National Day (1-7 Oct) where travel resources (guide, vehicle, flight, etc.) can be super tight up to a week. Most places of interest will also be very crowded as people make use of the long public holidays to travel around. Early confirmation is highly recommended if you plan to travel during this period as travel resources and accommodation prices are appreciated. Other possible peak holiday seasons are New Year (30 Dec – 1 Jan), Qingming Festival (around first week of April), Labor Day (29 April – 1 May), Dragon Boat Festival (around June) and Mid-Autumn Festival (around September).

7. Which airlines fly to Xiamen?
SilkAir and Xiamen Airlines fly direct between Singapore and Xiamen. The flight time is about 4.5 hours. Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport (XMN) is about 15 min drive (10km) from Xiamen city. It is the fourth largest airport in China following Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and has direct flights to many domestic cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong etc.).

8. Where can I get local sim card in Xiamen?
Foreigner can purchase pre-paid sim card at Xiamen International Airport. There are two main telco are China Mobile and China Unicom; both have both have very good coverage (voice and data) in both urban and rural areas.  The cost of a Sim Card can be anywhere between RMB 150 to RMB 250 (SGD 30 – 50) depending on the data amount available.

9. Is it customary to tip while traveling in Fujian?
Tipping is not an established practice in China. You will not be expected to tip service staff who provide only one time short service like taxi driver, waiter, hotel porter etc. However as a token of appreciation, we do encourage you to tip service staffs like guide and driver who provide round the clock services especially for good services. A good ball park figure would be about RMB 80 -100 per day for a guide and RMB 60-80 per day for a driver for the whole group.

10. Is credit card acceptable in Fujian?
Major Credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and JCB are accepted in departmental stores and upscale restaurants in coastal cities like Xiamen but not in the tulou areas.

11. Is English widely spoken in Fujian?
English is not widely spoken in Fujian especially away from the coastal cities like Xiamen.

12. Do I need a Chinese tourist VISA to enter China?
Singaporeans do not require a visa for China for up to 15 days. For nationalities of other countries, please refer to the link here: https://www.visaforchina.org/SGP_EN/generalinformation/visaknowledge/258911.shtml

13. What type of power adaptors are used in China?
There are three types of plugs used in China: two flat pins (“Type A”, the most common); three-pronged angled pins (“Type I”) and two narrow round pins (“Type C”). Electricity is 220 volts, 50 Hz AC.

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