Zhanjiang was a small fishing port when it was under French occupation in the early 20th century - named Fort Bayard - and some old colonial buildings still survive. Now it is a rapidly developing modern city.
Cantonese is the main language spoken in Zhanjiang, albeit spoken with a distinctive accent. Nevertheless, if you are fluent in standard Cantonese, this shouldn't pose too much of a challenge. The local language in Leizhou is Leizhouhua (雷州话 Léizhōuhuà), a member of the Min family of Chinese dialects that is closely related to Hainanese, though not mutually intelligible. Most younger locals are able to speak Mandarin as well, though often with a heavy accent.
Zhanjiang is at the base of the Leizhou Peninsula that points toward the island province of Hainan. Travellers often pass through Zhanjiang en route to Hainan. There are trains and buses to and from nearby mainland cities and boats to Haikou, capital of Hainan. The boat is an hour's bus ride away from Zhanjiang.
There are two major train stations and a small airport that service Zhanjiang. Buses also run daily to most nearby cities. The downtown bus terminal next to the downtown train station (end of Jiefang West Rd) has one bus daily to Kaiping at 14:00.
- 1 Zhanjiang Railway Station (湛江站 (Zhànjiāng zhàn)). The old Zhanjiang Station is commonly referred to (on maps, bus schedules) as Zhanjiang South Station (湛江南站), to distinguish it both from the former Zhanjiang North Station and the new Zhanjiang West Station. It is the terminal station for the slow "conventional" trains that come to Zhanjiang from a number of cities throughout China; it also has the baggage/parcel service department (中铁快运). It is located at the western end of the old Xiashan downtown area, and has good local bus service. The Xishan intercity bus station, with bus service to destinations throughout Guangdong and south China, is a block to the north from the train station.
- 2 Zhanjiang West Railway Station (湛江西站 (Zhànjiāng xī zhàn)). Zhanjiang West Station has two kinds of service. It is the terminal station for the frequent high-speed (D series) train service from Guangzhou South (a bit over 3 hours), via Kaiping South and Maoming. This is also the station where "conventional" trains connecting Hainan (Haikou or Sanya) with mainland destinations stop. As many other new train stations in China, Zhanjiang West sits in an empty field a few miles west of town, but it is well served by city buses. There is also a small intercity bus station adjacent to it.
- 3 Zhanjiang Airport (湛江机场), 24 Airport Road, Xiashan District (霞山区机场路24号), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A small airport a few km from Xiashan downtown, it is served by most of the major Chinese airlines. Two city bus lines, running until 21:00 or so, take you to both Xiashan and Chikan, for a nominal fare (¥1-2).
A bus runs daily to Zhanjiang from Hong Kong (8 hours) via Shenzhen and tickets are ¥280 at the travel agency's office in Chikan District.
Zhanjiang is almost like two cities combined. The northern half, composed of Chikan district (赤坎区 Chìkǎn qū) and Mazhang District (麻章区 Mázhāng qū) and the southern Xiashan District (霞山区 Xiáshān qū) are separated by a less developed corridor.
The main bus routes (2, 11, 12, 22) travel from the northern districts to Xiashan and back. Smaller buses and other routes can allow you to explore more areas of the individual districts.
The Zhanjiang bus company has a list of its routes (公司所有线路) on its web site (in Chinese only).
Taxis in Zhanjiang are fairly cheap, starting at ¥5. Afterwards the fare increases by ¥2 per kilometer. Please note that there is an additional ¥1 fuel surcharge that will be added onto your final fare.
- 1 Cathedral of Saint Victor (维多尔天主教堂, 霞山天主教堂, Xiashan Catholic Church), 85 Lüyin Road, Xiashan District (霞山区绿荫路85号) (the nearest bus stop is the Xiashan Fen Zhan (霞山分站), which is served by bus routes 1, 2, 12, 14, 21 and 44). Built by French missionaries in 1903, this is the largest Catholic Church on the Leizhou Peninsula. It remains an operating cathedral.
- 2 Former Site of French Legation in Guangzhouwan (广州湾法国公使署旧址), 3 Haibin Road, Xiashan District (霞山区海滨路3号) (opposite Haibin Park; bus routes 2, 2K, 21, 30 (inner circle route), 30 (outer circle route) and 908). 09:00-16:30, no entry after 16:00, closed on Mondays. Built in 1903, this was the main administrative office of the French colonial government. The site is now a museum. Free.
- 3 Former Site of Guangzhouwan French Police Station (广州湾法国警察署旧址), Yan'an Road, Xiashan District (霞山区延安路) (across the road from the French legation building). 09:00-18:00. Built in 1900, just one year after the formal establishment of the Guangzhouwan colony. After the French moved out, the building was occupied by Chinese police and continued to be used as a police station up until 2013. Free.
- 4 Guangdong Ocean University Museum of Aquatic Organisms (广东海洋大学水生生物博物馆), Waihuan Road West, Mazhang District (麻章区外环西路) (take bus no. 9 and get off at the university gate), ☏ . M-F 09:00-16:00 (closed on weekends except to tour group who book at least one week in advance). Contains specimens of over 3000 different aquatic species collected from around the world. ¥6.
- 5 Guangzhouwan Museum of History and Folk Culture (广州湾历史民俗馆), 51 Heping Road. Chikan District (赤坎区和平路51号) (take bus no. 21 and get off at Minzhu Lu Zhong (民主路中); you will find Heping Road and the museum one block to the east). 09:30-17:30. A small museum focused on the French colonial period (1898-1945). Only 50 visitors are permitted to visit each day. Free.
- 6 Zhanjiang Museum (湛江市博物馆), 50 Nanfang Road, Chikan District (赤坎区南方路50号) (there is a bus stop right outside the museum served by bus no. 26; or take bus no. 1, 2, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 33, 35, 47, 73 or 912b and get off at Cunjin Park. The museum is about 570 metres southwest of the Cunjin Park bus stop), ☏ . 09ː00-17ː30, no entry after 17ː00, closed on Mondays. Zhanjiang's main museum. Free.
Parks and nature
- 7 Cunjin Bridge Park (寸金桥公园 cùnjīn qiáo gōngyuán, 寸金公园 cùnjīn gōngyuán, Cunjin Park), Yuejin Road, Chikan District (赤坎区跃进路) (runs adjacent to Cunjin Bridge, which marks the historical boundary between the French treaty port and China; bus routes 1, 2, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 33, 35, 47, 73 and 912b), ☏ . Open all day. Free.
- 8 Haibin Park (海滨公园 hǎibīn gōngyuán), 4 Haibin Avenue South, Xiashan District (霞山区海滨大道南4号) (you can easily get to the park on a number 2 bus; other buses that stop at the park include bus nos. 2K, 21, 30 (including both inner circle and outer circle routes) and 908), ☏ . Open all day. A famous waterfront park. Free.
- 9 [dead link] Huguangyan Scenic Area (湖光岩风景区 Húguāngyán Fengjingqu), Huguang Town, Mazhang District (麻章区湖光镇) (about 30 minutes from Zhanjiang; the west entrance can be reached directly via bus nos. 3 and 6; the east entrance can be reached taking bus no. 9 to the west gate of Guangdong Ocean University and walking from there), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. 07:00-18:00. The centerpiece is a large Maar Lake. The scenic area is part of the Leiqiong Global Geopark (中国雷琼世界地质公园), a UNESCO global geopark, which also includes the Haikou Volcanic Cluster Scenic Area in Haikou. Adults ¥50.
- 10 Sanlingshan National Forest Park (三岭山国家森林公园), Bailian Road, Xiashan District (霞山区百蓬路) (bus no. 31 terminates here), ☏ . 08:00-18:00. Adult tickets are ¥15, children between 1.2 and 1.5 meters in height are charged ¥5, children under 1.2 meters in height are admitted for free.
- Movie theaters, Xiashan District. There are a few movie theaters. Admission is usually around ¥25.
- Haibin Hotel and Hotsprings, Xiashan District. Admission includes a dinner buffet and an evening to enjoy the various hotsprings and pools.
- Body Sculpture Fitness Club (behind Chikan Nursery). A gym.
- Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duānwǔjié). The fifth day of the fifth month according to the lunar calendar. A large international boat race.
As a major stop for many bikers heading to the islands, Zhanjiang has a fair range of bicycle shops to shop on components and parts. Most shops are along Minzhi Road (民治路) and certain brands such as Dahon, Giant, Merida also have their branches there.
- Trust Mart (in Shimao Shopping Complex in the center of Chikan District). A large supermarket with a number of things to buy. Also found in the same building KFC and Macau Street Food City.
- Wal-Mart, Xiashan District and Chikan District. Has a few imported items not found at other locations and also regularly has fresh milk.
- Export Market (on the outskirts of Xiashan District). A clothing and fabric market with goods that are produced in China for export. You can sometimes find name-brand clothing items for cheap prices here.
Local specialties include seafood, sugarcane, charcoal-grilled oysters (炭烧蚝) and chicken (湛江鸡). The Lianjiang area is known for its red oranges (红江橙).
- Inner Mongolia Dumpling Restaurant (in 100 names village (百姓村 bǎixìng cūn)). If you would like dumplings or to sample a different variety of Chinese cuisine, this restaurant serves excellent food at inexpensive prices.
- Steakking Kitchen Production (in the new Wal-Mart Plaza in Chikan District). An upscale restaurant. The menu includes fairly authentic western food and an excellent Japanese sushi selection. Included in the price of your meal is a free trip to the salad bar.
- Macau Street Food City (locations in Chikan [Shimao Plaza] and Xiashan [Wal-Mart Plaza]). This restaurant is very foreigner-friendly and offers tons of dishes to choose from.
Zhanjiang has a small bar street (酒吧街 jiǔbā jiē) in Xiashan District. Unfortunately, most places do not serve cocktails or shots, but instead tend to sell liquor by the bottle. Beers in the bar also tend to be about three to four times more expensive than on the street.
Some western-style restaurants such as Steakking Kitchen Production and the West Coast Coffeehouse (西海安 xīhǎi ān) do sell mixed drinks and shots.
Also, Wal-Mart has the best selection of spirits for sell if you would like to make your own drinks.
Zhanjiang is separated as two major districts: Chikan and Xiashan, in which Xiashan is more developed and newer than Chikan, but both districts also have plenty of hotels.
Many budget hotels are along Minzhi Road (民治路) near to Jiefang East Road (解放东路). Prices range from ¥60-70 for a double room.
- Crowne Plaza (In the Xiashan District). The only five-star hotel in Zhanjiang. Hosts a buffet dinner with both western and Asian dishes. All you can eat food and beer for ¥100 per person.
- Donghai Island, the fourth largest island in China, is about 1½ hours drive from Zhanjiang and is popular for its beaches. Buses leave regularly from the Xiashan District.
- Naozhou Island, reachable by ferry from Donghai Island.
- There are almost hourly buses to Guangzhou, the provincial capital. Buses also leave four times a day for Zhuhai, where you can easily cross into Macau.
- Several trains to Hainan Island originate in Beijing and other mainland cities, and will take you from Zhanjiang West Station to either Haikou or Sanya. It is about eight hours to Sanya, the southernmost Chinese city.
- There are also regular trains to Guilin in neighboring Guangxi province. The ride takes about eight hours.