Planning a trip to Harbin, China? Here are a few helpful tips to help you plan your trip to Harbin. Since the peak season for visiting Harbin is in the winter, I am going to assume you are planning a visit in the winter.
It’s COLD. And in cold, I mean, really really freezing cold! When you go be sure to bundle up. Bring lots of layers and warm clothes – you will need it! The temperature in Harbin can drop to as low as -11 degrees F (or -24 degrees C)! With wind, it feels even colder…. I do a lot of winter activities, but this was the first time in my life I have ever been in temperatures this cold. If you have snow pants, bring them. They really help keep you warm. When I went to the Snow and Ice Festival, I had 3 layers of pants on, including the snow pants. Also remember your gloves, scarves, and beanies. Face masks are great as well. They really help you keep warm.
Didn’t bring enough? Buy some clothes. There are street vendors everywhere, and they sell anything from winter gloves to winter boots as well as other winter accessories. While not brand name, the material isn’t bad and they will do the job for you for the duration of the trip. They are also quite affordable too.
If you are planning your own trip, arrange for a driver or a private bus. Why? It’s really really cold. You don’t want to be doing much walking around, and/or you don’t want to be waiting around outside for a taxi. It’s so much nicer to have a car/bus take you place to place.
At the Snow and Ice Festival:
- Go at night. This is when the magic would happen – the entire festival would light up and turn into a magical kingdom.
- Bundle up! If you need more winter accessories like gloves or hats, buy them from the street vendors outside the festival. You will see them lined up all along the street you walk down before getting to the entrance. The prices inside the festival are at least double.
- If you plan to go down the ice slides. you might want to buy yourself a small sled. The same goes for the sleds – buy them outside the festival for about 10 RMB. Inside the festival it is much more expensive.
- Allow enough time to slide down the ice slides, especially the longer ones. There are a ton of people inside the festival, and you would have to line up to use the ice slides. To save time, I found the smaller, less busy slides so I don’t spend a lot of time lining up for them.
- If you are cold, you can warm up at the restaurants around the festival. The bathroom areas are also heated.
- Check out the ice bar, near the penguins exhibit. You can grab a drink and sit down on ice stools and sip on your drink while listening to pop music. 🙂
Facebook, Google, and Whatsapp are banned in China. If you want to have access to these apps you need to plan in advance. To access Facebook, Google, and Whatsapp in China, you will need to set up a VPN that connects to a country outside China. If you are not able to set it up yourself, you can download special apps that allow for VPN. You would have to pay for the popular ones like “Ladder.” Alternatively, you can roam with an international SIM card . Since I was coming from Hong Kong, I was using a Hong Kong SIM card that allows for roaming in China. With that HK SIM service, I was able to connect to Facebook, Google, and Whatsapp without VPN.
And…Google Maps doesn’t work so well in China. If you are planning to drive or to rely on GPS to get you from place to place, be sure to download other maps to help with navigation. In China, Bing or Baidu would work much better.
Practice taking pictures in the dark. Since the Ice Festival is better seen at night, you will need to have really good night time photography skills. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so good, so I ended up with a lot of photos that looked like this:
Getting to Harbin. There is an airport in Harbin (HRB) that you can fly into. However the flights might be more expensive or less frequent, depending on where you are coming from. Alternatively you can fly to the nearby cities and then drive to Harbin. On my trip I flew into Chang Chun (CGQ) and drove ~3 hours to get to Harbin.
Tips for airports in China
- If you are bringing hand warmers with you for the trip, make sure to use them up before you fly back. They are not allowed on flights from China.
- If you are bringing power banks to charge your electronic devices, make sure the power bank has the mAh printed on it, and that it is not bigger than 10000 mAh (although I had 12000 and they were ok with it). If not it will be confiscated. Even though the official policy is to be under 10000 mAh, I think it is more important for the mAh to be printed on the power bank than for you to be under 10000 mAh, since they did not confiscate mine that was over 10000. To be safe, try to find a power bank that is under that limit. Also make sure to hand carry and do not check it in your bag.