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Travel Guide Budget and Itinerary for Urumqi

I was interested in visiting Xinjiang for this trip back to China. The region is one of the biggest and richest in the country. I've heard both good and bad things about the place, which piqued my interest even more.

I packed my bags and boarded the train to Xining en route to Urumqi.

Guide to Urumqi

I was excited to finally visit Xinjiang after visiting different province all over China. My friend and I boarded our train cabin and when we go to our bunk beds, we were interrogated by a police officer. He asked us what we'll do in Xinjiang, where we'll stay and even took our photos and a picture of our visas. This was the first taste of the higher security in the region. We've read about this before our trip, but it was still quite an experience for it to actually happen to us.

We didn't let this bother our trip, we were happy that we arrived in the city without anymore problems.

Here are some of the attractions and things to do while you're in the city.

Things to Do in Urumqi

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar isn't an ancient site, but it still worth a visit while in Urumqi. you'll see several stores, food stalls and some restaurants within it. Not really an authentic destination, but provides a glimpse of Central Asian culture. Good place to eat and shop for souvenirs.

How to go: Bus 61, 70, 104, 301 and 310 will take you to the bazaar.

Red Hill Park

Red Hill or Hong Shan Park is one of the places you can visit while in Urumqi. The Chinese Red Army had the park built in the late 1950s while incorporating ancient structures already in it such as the pagoda and the Grand Buddha Temple. Both were built in the late 18th century. Most people go to the park to get overlooking views of the city.

How to go: Bus 29, 35, 61, 62, 63 or 73 will take you to the park.

People's Park

People's Park is another green space you can visit while in Urumqi. I hung out here during the last few days I was in the city. It was a cool autumn day when I was here. It was just very chill, there was also a group who started singing when I was here.

How to go: Buses 44, 58, 308 and 903 can take you to the park. If you're already coming from Red Hill Park, you can include this park in one trip.

Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum

For those who are into museums, you can include this in your itinerary. Here you'll learn more about the different ethnic groups living in the region and their history. However, the museum focuses on a Chinese narrative about the region.

How to go: Buses 51, 68 and 303 stop at Bowuguan station. From there, you can walk to the museum.

Heavenly Lake

If you don't have much time or don't want to venture too far out, Heavenly Lake is a god day trip from Urumqi. I've heard negative reviews about the place, but when I went, it wasn't all that bad. You could easily get away from the tour groups and get stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The autumn colors were spectacular and I was fortunate to have good weather during my visit.

How to go: There are tour groups you can join but these are all in Chinese. You can go independently, but it will require a couple of changes along the way. You'll have to take a bus to Fukang from Beikeyunzhan Station, the fare is CNY30 round trip. From Fukang, get on a van to Tianchi CNY20 round trip. FYI: BRING YOUR PASSPORT WITH YOU.

Road Trip from Burqin (Kanas Lake) to Urumqi

The group I ended up traveling with went on a road trip from Burqin on our way back to Urumqi. It was a long drive but worth it. Xinjiang has beautiful landscapes, especially during autumn.

We saw poplar trees and others amid the desert, arid landscape. The colors were amazing and the weather jut right (not too hot and not too cold). A lot of Chinese tourists were also going on  road trip through the countryside.

The sunset was spectacular, coloring the landscape in a orange and golden hue. We got back to Urumqi after midnight already. We had to pay extra because we went over the time limit.

Getting Around Urumqi

Urumqi is a big city with decent public transportation. There are regular buses and BRT ones, fare for these are CNY1-3. During my trip, construction was ongoing for a rail network for the city. This might be open soon because of how fast everything is developing in China.

Where to Stay in Urumqi

There were few hostels in Urumqi, so my friend and I decided to stay in Maitan Hostel. I've stayed in better places in China, but this was the cheap option. The location was good near a mall and bus stops. The common area and rooms need a bit more cleaning though. Urumqi is a big city with many mid-priced and high-end hotels for those with a bit more to spend.

You can find hotels here:

How to Go to Urumqi

There are direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou; the one way flight take around 4 hours (it's that far). Traveling by land is an option, but could take two days on a train. Unless you have a lot of time in China, I suggest booking a plane ticket instead. You can check train schedules and flights at www.trip.com, you can book online as well.

Where to Go Next or Before Going to Urumqi

Kanas Lake

You'll need to spend a couple of days to get here and stay. So far one of the best parks I've been to in Asia, it's worth the hassle and effort to reach. My friend and I should've stayed longer.

Read my post: Guide to Kanas Lake

Qinghai Lake

The train ride from Beijing to Urumqi takes two days. If you don't want to sit inside a train for that long you can break it up and make a stop in between. One place to consider is Xining, from this city you can go on a day trip to Qinghai Lake.

Read my post: Guide to Qinghai Lake

Rainbow Mountains

The Rainbow Mountains in Gansu is another noteworthy stop en route to Urumqi. You can stay in Zhangye and go on a sunset trip to the mountains.

Read my post: Guide to Rainbow Mountains

Mati Si

While in Zhangye, you can include Mati Si as part of a full day trip with the Rainbow Mountains.

Read my post: Guide to Mati Si

Expenses for Urumqi

*Everything's in Chinese Yuan

53 - Transportation
425 - Food, drinks and other stuff
350 - Maitan Hostel for 6 nights
180 - Overnight bus to Burqin
400 - Burqin to Urumqi car rental with a few stops in between
30 - Bus to Fukang round trip (for Heavenly Lake)
20 - Van from Fukang to Heavenly Lake round trip
20 - Bai Yang He fee
155 - Heavenly Lake fees (60 for bus ride and 95 for actual ticket)
1633 - Total

*I stayed too long in Urumqi because some of the places I wanted to visit were expensive to go on my own (my travel buddy already left). It was already towards low season as well so some cheap establishments were closed. I used Urumqi as a base to travel to Kanas Lake. Departed from Urumqi as well to another destination.

Travel Tips

  • ALWAYS bring your passport with you. Security in all parts of Xinjiang is tight. Every time you leave Urumqi, when you return and when you enter and leave another town, they'll always check your passport and may ask what you did. You'll also have to show your passport in some attractions in the city like when you enter the Grand Bazaar.
  • Have loose change and small bills on hand for paying buses.
  • Don't take pictures of security personnel and stations.
  • Sometimes police officers will ask to look at the pictures you took using your camera and phone.
  • Paying using WeChat is possible but you'll need a Chinese card for it.

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