I’m looking to visit Hong Kong and China next year. Would you recommend I take a tour or would I be better to travel independently? I want to go from Beijing to Shanghai and see some of the main sites, including the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, over two weeks.
Sarah, via email
Although challenging, independent travel in China is very rewarding, so I’d opt to do this rather than pay for a pricey tour, especially if you’re planning to stick to major cities and tourist sites.
Outside of these places, though, few people speak English, so carry a phrasebook and always try and have your hotel address and destinations written down in Mandarin characters – just in case you run into difficulties.
The route you describe is well-trodden, so you will meet other travellers and find tourist services easily. Two weeks will definitely be enough time to visit the places you mention.
If you’re looking to cut costs, you’ll have the time to travel by rail, too, which is one of the most efficient ways to get around the country, and very good value.
The overnight train from Hong Kong to Shanghai is a great service, running every two days with prices starting from around £40 for a sleeper.
Visas cost around £35 and take less than a week if you apply through the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre.
Make sure you have at least six months on your passport when you apply.
I am going to Florida in May with my boyfriend and would like to take the opportunity to go to the Bahamas. Do you recommend we go for a short cruise or stay on one of the islands?
Stephanie, via email
Whether you choose to stay on one island or travel between them largely depends on what you are looking for from your holiday – relaxation or exploration?
Arriving in the Bahamas and then trying to arrange to visit a variety of the sights will require a lot of organisation, time and money. Island-hopping cruises do exist but they are expensive (majesticholidays.com offers a range from £600).
Considering how popular the region is, the main ports of the Bahamas aren’t particularly well-connected by public transport, as most of the options are centred around the main island of New Providence.
You can get around using water taxis, though, and Bahamas Ferries, which runs to Abacos, New Providence, Andros, Eleuthera and the Exumas.
However, these ferries don’t run every day, so you’ll need to plan your trip carefully and make sure your timing matches up with the services.
My advice would be to stay in one place and use public transport to visit a couple of the neighbouring islands on day trips.
I’d recommend Great Exuma, one of the Out Islands, as your base – it offers plenty of activities, including kayaking, kitesurfing and great bars. Daily ferries operate to nearby Stocking Island.
Lonely Planet’s Laura Lindsaywill give you the benefit of her infinite wisdom if you email a question to
If your question is answered, you’ll win a Lonely Planet guide of your choice.