Shantou, (汕头; Suan1tao5 in Teochew, Shàntóu in Mandarin), known as Swatow in the local language, is a coastal city and Special Economic Zone in Guangdong Province in China. It is located in the east of the province near the border with Fujian. It has a population of around 5,500,000 as of 2015, making it the largest city in the Chaoshan region, and a booming economy.
The city came to prominence during the 19th century when it was established as one of the treaty ports for trading with the West. In the 1980s it was designated as one of China's Special Economic Zones with tax breaks and other government measures to encourage development. See List of Chinese provinces and regions for more detailed explanations of "treaty port" and "special economic zone" if required.
Overseas visitors are not common in the rural areas around Shantou, and those of non-Chinese ethnicity will definitely be an attraction to residents. Those unaccustomed to this may feel intimidated. However, this is a very friendly type of attention, and if you look at it as an opportunity to talk to new people, it can be a highlight of your trip. Do not be surprised if people want their picture taken with you, or if they yell to friends and family to come look at you as well. Any sort of communication you attempt to make, especially in the local Teochew dialect, will almost always be happily received.
1 Jieyang Chaoshan International Airport (揭阳潮汕国际机场 SWA IATA). The main airport serving the Chaoshan area, located in neighboring Jieyang, having replaced Shantou Waisha Airport in 2011. It has domestic connections with most of the major Chinese cities, and some international flights to other Asian cities. One can take a taxi or airport express bus from the airport. The airport express bus drops passengers off in Shantou Railway Station, Golden Golf Hotel (Shantou-East line) and Oversea Chinese Hotel (Shantou-West Line). The price of the ticket is 20 CNY.
Shenzhen Bao'an Airport doesn't offer Intercity Bus service like Guangzhou. You can transfer via high speed railway from Shenzhen to Shantou.
There is also an airport in Xiamen.
A high-speed bullet train line connecting Xiamen to Shenzhen via Shantou is now in service. Beyond Xiamen, it continues along the coast all the way to Hangzhou and Shanghai. From the ends of that line, there are good connections almost anywhere in China. It will take about 2.5 hours from the Chaoshan High Speed Rail Station (the closest one to Shantou on the main line, which is about 1 hour from city center by Bus #181, 10 Yuan) to Shenzhen North Station; 1.5 hours from Chaoshan High Speed Rail Station to Xiamen North Station. Public bus is available from Shantou city center to the railway station. The economy class ticket price from Shantou to Shenzhen is less than 100 CNY.
2 Shantou Railway Station (汕头站) in Shantou's urban area is now connected to the Xiamen-Shenzhen high-speed railway. The journey from Chaoshan to Shantou takes around 25 minutes and costs ¥10-¥16. Direct high-speed train services are also available to Shantou Railway Station from Guangzhou and Shenzhen. However, if coming from Xiamen, you will need to change trains at Chaoshan.
If you want to travel slowly or cheaply, the following choices may still be available:
|K688||Quick, Air Conditioning||Chongqing||North Chongqing||Shantou||29h41min||Shantou|
|T8379/T8380||Express, Air Conditioning||Guangzhou||East Guangzhou||Shantou||8h6min||Shantou|
|K800||Quick, Air Conditioning||Wuhan||Wuchang||Shantou||18h30min||Shantou|
By bus or car
Zhuhai (8 hours, ¥160), Guangzhou, Shenzhen (4-5 hours, ¥150) or Xiamen (4 hours, ¥100). There is fairly new highway that is on par with U.S or European expressways running between Shenzhen and Shantou (and beyond). However, food and gas stops are limited so make sure your gas tank is full if you opt to pass a fueling station. Note that restrooms are far below Western standards as well, particularly if you are female.
Some Hong Kong residents prefer to drive these highways in groups of 3-4 cars, as robberies sometimes take place along the road.
The Shantou Regency Hotel operates a coach service from Hong Kong. It takes 5.5 hours and costs ¥180 or HKD200. This can rise to HKD320 or ¥300 during the Lunar New Year period. Tickets can be purchased from the China Travel Service HK and one may board the bus in Sheung Wan, Yau Ma Tei or Fanling Station.
Shantou public buses can be highly variable and service frequency can depend on the whim of the operators, particularly during evening festival dates. Recorded announcements are made over the speaker system in Mandarin and Teochew, however the frequent use of the horn and general noise can make it difficult to understand.
On many services, one needs to notify the bus driver verbally if they would like to alight as the buzzers are inoperable.
Metered taxis exist, but rarely will the driver use the meter. The fare needs to be negotiated, preferably before the trip to avoid arguments later.
Traffic in Shantou, as is common in this part of China, is chaotic at best. Do NOT expect vehicles to stop at red lights, as motorcycles and bicycles regularly go through red lights without slowing down. Also, do NOT expect vehicles to go with traffic, as cars, motorcycles, and bicycles regularly go AGAINST the flow of traffic (e.g. going southbound in a northbound lane). Furthermore, do NOT expect only pedestrians on sidewalks, as cars, motorcycles, and bicycles regularly zip along the sidewalk as if it is just another lane on the road. Also, watch out for motorcyclists who do not even slow down at red lights, with one hand on the steering handle and the other with a cell phone, talking. However, with all this, there are fewer accidents that one may expect given this chaos, mainly because people do slow down if they see you.
There is self-service rented bike available in Shantou city center, starting from early 2017. Tourist can use it to tour in the city area, and the rent rate is cheap. However, you may need to register in the Chinese bike renting apps on your mobile before you using it.
- 1 The old town (汕头老城) (In the western part of central Shantou). Most of the lovely historic buildings are so dilapidated that it seems like a European city that has been bombed. They are slowly being torn down and replaced with ugly modern buildings, so see it while you can! The one section that is marked for preservation is the part that is next to the renovated post office and the Shantou Founding Museum (see below).
- 2 Shantou Museum (汕头博物馆 Shantou Bowuguan), Yuemei Road, Jinping District (金平区月眉路) (In a large building near the western side of Zhongshan Park. Take bus no. 47), ☏ . 09:00-17:00, no entry after 16:30, closed on Mondays. This museum has the space for an impressive collection, but not all the exhibit halls are open. There are exhibits on Buddhist figurines and sculptures, paintings and calligraphy, ceramic wares, and relics recovered from a Ming Dynasty commercial vessel that was discovered in 2007 just a little way southeast of Shantou. Past temporary exhibits include photos of Shanghai of a bygone era. Free.
- 3 Pagoda Mountain (塔山风景区, Tashan Scenic Area), Tashan Temple Avenue, Lianshang Town, Chenghai District (澄海区莲上镇塔山寺道) (Take bus nos. 101, 102, 207 or 209 and get off at the Tashan Intersection (塔山路口)), ☏ . 05:00-17:30. Not to be confused with a similiarly named place at the Queshi Scenic Area. ¥10.
- 4 Stone Fort Park (石炮台公园, Shipaotai Park), 20 Haibin Road, Jinping District (金平区海滨路20号) (Bus routes 19, 46, 103, 105, and k1), ☏ . 06:30-23:00 (park), 07:30-18:00 (fort). A fort by the sea, with replica cannons. You may be able to smell some interesting strains of mold inside, admire the moat and bridges, or go rollerskating in the middle of the fort (with Chinese techno music of course). Free.
- 5 The former residence of Chen Cihong (陈慈黉故居), Qianmei Village, Longdu Town, Chenghai District (澄海区隆都镇前美村) (North of central Shantou. If you go by bus, be sure to ask when the last trip back into town is, though if you miss it, you might still be able to catch a different bus by walking to the highway. Bus 103 from Shantou can drop you off at Qianmai (前美) and a further 15 minutes walk is needed.), ☏ . 08:30-17:30. A mansion (or a mini-palace) built in the early 20th century, still pretty much intact. It was built in traditional Chinese style, with houses from one to three stories, with sloped tile roofs. People still live in many of these houses. Outside of the tourist center and museum and the parking lot, one can wander in the alleys to feel the atmosphere. For those that pan the ubiquitous residential highrises of modern Chinese cities, they really should get a reality check here to see what unadorned traditional housing was like: small, cramped quarters with few modern amenities (do they have indoor plumbing?), outhouses here and there, with occasional pungent smell of garbage in the sweltering summer. There is access to electricity, however, and one can hear the sounds of TV and radio while wandering in the alleys, and see an occasional A/C unit here and there. ¥40.
- 6 Nan'ao Island (南澳岛, 汕头南澳岛旅游区 Nan'ao Island Tourism Zone), Nan'ao County (南澳县) (Buses 105, 161a, 161b, 161k, 203k and 515 from Shantou will take you to the main town on this island (后宅 Hou Zhai). From there you will need to find transportation to particular sites. Ferry services are also available from the Laiwu Ferry Terminal (莱芜渡口码头) but run only twice per day.), ☏ . This is one of the most beautiful islands in China. It used to be inconvenient to go to the island, with ferries and boats the only modes of transport. All that changed with the opening of a new 9 km bridge. The island still hasn't been overdeveloped and has kept its original view. Here you can not only get the most gorgeous sea view but also a taste of the real life of fishermen in China. Besides that, it is a fantastic place to taste all kinds of seafood. On this island, one can see a Song Dynasty fresh water well right on an ocean-front beach (宋井 Song Jin, ¥16) with the accompanying beach and park. There is the ancient military headquarter of the local island and coastal defense (总兵府 Zong Bing Fu, ¥13), with a marker for the former border between Fujian and Guangdong provinces (the entire island is now in Guangdong province). Other old military faciliites preserved on the island include the Changshanwei Gun Battery (长山尾炮台) and the Xiongzhen Pass (雄镇关). Also see the wind-powered turbines on the mountains. The transportation on the island is not that convenient. Bus no. 601 will take you around the coast and bus no. 602 serves the north coast. But no bus routes serve the island's interior. You can hire a car to drive you around it for whole day. The fee is usually cheap. It cost about 200-250 yuan a day.
- 7 Shantou Founding Museum (汕头开埠文化陈列馆 Shantou Kaibu Wenhua Chenlieuan), 1 Yongping Road, Jinping District (金平区永平路1号) (In the original central part of Shantou, across from the renovated post office. Bus routes 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 11, 13, 14, 22a, 23, 25, 35, 36, 37 and 59), ☏ . Tuesday to Friday: 09:00-11:00, 15:00-17:00. Saturday to Sunday: 09:00-17:00. Monday: closed. Not to be confused with Shantou Museum. This museum is devoted to the establishment of Swatow (Shantou) as a treaty port in the 19th century, and its subsequent history and daily life. Free.
- 8 Qingyun Rock (青云岩), Haojiang District (濠江区) (Last stop of bus no. 16 from Shantou. Other buses that stop here include bus nos. 8, 35, 37 and 56), ☏ . Temples and a lake on a cemetery hill. Free.
- 9 Dahao Ancient Town (达濠古城), Yonghao Street, Haojiang District (濠江区永濠街) (The nearest bus stop is the Xincheng Commerical Hotel (鑫程商务酒店) bus stop, which is served by bus no. 35). Open all day. A rather small but beautiful town, enclosed by a thin ancient wall. Free.
- 10 Queshi Scenic Area (礐石风景区, 礐石风景名胜区), 4 Queshi Haipang Road, Haojiang District (濠江区礐石海旁路4号) (Catch a ferry from the ferry terminal near People's Square. Alternatively, catch bus nos. 11, 37, 49 or 162), ☏ , . 07:00-18:00. A large hilly park on the south bank of the Rong River, just opposite the city centre. ¥15 (combo ticket including both Pagoda Hill and Flame Peak), ¥10 (Pagoda Hill only), ¥6 (Longquan Cave), ¥25 (one-way cable car ticket), ¥40 (two-way cable car ticket).
- Lotus supermarkets. There are at least four locations throughout the city.
- 1 Suning Plaza Mall. A western-style mall that just opened in Oct. 2015, with Pizza Hut and the first Starbucks & Haagan Daz in Shantou. There are other cafes in this mall where one can overpay for coffee.
- Lotus Center. Another western-style mall that opened in 2015, with the second Starbucks to open in Shantou, and a Lotus supermarket in the basement. There are other places in this mall where one can overpay for their coffee.
Lots of local food available which is also famous in China, including Beef Balls (牛肉丸), Baked Oyster Cakes (蚝烙, Oh Lua in Chaoshanese), Seafood, etc.
- Lianhua Vegetarian Restaurant (莲花素食府 Lianhua Sushi Fu), Haibin Road, Dayang Group Building, west wing, ☏ , . Vegetarian chain restaurant also found in Chaozhou and Jieyang.
- Hotel Internationale restaurant, Jinsha Donglu near intersection with Dongxia Nanlu. On the 4th floor of International Hotel, this Chinese restaurant serves good dim sum and Hong Kong style dishes. Prices are also on par with those of Hong Kong.
- Jiahe Harbour View Hotel 嘉和海景酒店 By the waterfront near the fortress, has breakfast buffet, consisting of mostly Chinese food, for Y48.
Home Inn business hotels are a good choice for short and long term visitors. Rooms are new and clean and prices are around USD 30 per night.
- Yi Jia Hotel, on Changjiang street 17 (汕头宜家酒店 长江路17) Really difficult to spot since it's on the 14th floor but this hotel is quite nice for the price. Rooms are large and well designed. 110/night double room 150/night triple room
- The hotel directly opposite the bus station is of acceptable standard. Rooms are clean and have TV, air conditioning and bathtub. ¥158 per night.
- Chinese brand budget hotel including Hanting, HomeInns, etc. are available in most area in Shantou, rate is generally less than 200 CNY per night.
- Garden Hotel, Wen Guan Road Cheng Hai, ☏ . The hotel is rated four stars, but is not on par with the same rank hotels in the West.
- Junhua Haiyi Hotel, Shantou City Center. The hotel is rated four stars, managed by Meritus.
- Golden Golf Hotel, Jinsha Road, Shantou City Center. The hotel is rated four stars and established by 1990.
- Shantou International Hotel, Jinsha Road, West of Shantou City Center. The hotel is rated four stars, has 30 years history and refurbished & reopened in 2016.
- Mid-range hotel is generally rated at 350 CNY per night.
- Sheraton Shantou Hotel, Changping Road, Shantou City Center, the hotel is rated five stars.
- Regency Hotel, Changping Road, East of Shantou City Center. The hotel is rated five stars and close to Shantou Railway Station.