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Self-drive travel becomes popular among Chinese

By Yang Feiyue (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-05-13


Self-drive travel becomes popular among Chinese

Self-drive trips to neighboring Mongolia allow travelers to access magnificent views and rich folk customs.  [Photo provided to China Daily]

"The two countries are sparsely populated and are therefore ideal for self-drive travelers."

Zhu's company is arranging the July trip from Beijing to Lake Baikal.

Reports show that roughly 30 percent of Chinese outbound tourists have shown an interest in self-drive travel, says Bai Shi, deputy director of the port management office.

Several major Chinese travel agencies have offered to contribute to the development of self-driving tours to China's bordering countries.

If things go well, self-drive tourists will be able to embark on outbound trips this year, according to Ge Lei, marketing director of the China Youth Travel Service.

"We are planning trips from Northeast China to Russia, from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to Mongolia, and from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to Kazakhstan or Russia," Ge says.

Those travel routes are expected to enable tourists to enjoy both domestic scenic spots and cross-border vistas.

Russia is the most-sought destination for self-drive travelers, he adds.

"At the moment, we are waiting for specific rules from the Chinese customs administration," says Li Yongwei, marketing manager of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps CYTS Tour Co.

Li has helped self-drive tourists travel from Xinjiang to nearby countries since July 2013. He says one problem is the vehicles, with some tourists simply abandoning their cars in different countries when they break down.

The difficulty and high costs of visa application processes also discourage potential customers.

"The Kazakhstan visa application requires a face-to-face interview," Li says.

"If we tour the five countries in Central Asia, each tourist needs to pay 15,000 yuan for visa applications alone."

He hopes the government's efforts will improve the situation, which he believes will open the floodgates to potential self-drivers which, in turn, will boost the domestic travel market.

"At the moment, many Chinese tourists in the northwestern part of China will turn back once they make it to Dunhuang (in Gansu province)," Li says.

When the border tourism market opens, they will have to visit Xinjiang before they drive to countries such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, Li explains.

Self-drive trips are especially popular among photographers, because they enable them to see breathtaking scenery off the beaten track, Li says.

The boundless primitive forest in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, the large-scale wild Przewalski's horse free-ranging facility at Mongolia's Khustai National Park, approximately 100 km southwest from Ulan Bator, and dinosaur fossils at Bayankhongor are among highlights along the way.

Trips to countries bordering southern China, such as those near the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Yunnan province, have relatively mature itineraries.

"Self-driving tours to Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar from Yunnan province are common," says Zhu Huashan.

Normally, it takes approximately seven days for a tourist to get an in-depth experience of those countries, Zhu explains.

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