3 Weeks in China and Japan – Solo Female Backpacking Route

China and Japan have always been on my list of countries to travel to, and after backpacking Europe last summer, I knew it was time to visit the Oriental.

Aside from watching Chinese movies, I honestly had no idea what to expect. The Far East had always been a mystery. Now, after spending 3 weeks in China and Japan, it’s not quite a mystery anymore!

When I originally set out to China and Japan I had a different route planned then the one I actually ended up taking. At first I was more interested in visiting smaller, traditional towns in China. However, as a solo, female traveler, who doesn’t speak a word of Chinese, (and after my experience in Guilin, China),  I decided it was best to alter my route. Below is the route I took on my 3 week journey through China and Japan.

My 3 week backpacking route!

My 3 week backpacking route!

 My Route:

Day 0: Left for Hong Kong

Day 1-3: Hong Kong: 1.5 days; 2 nights

Day 3-4:Guilin: 1 night

Day 4-10 Yangshou: 6 days; 7 nights

Day 10-12 Shanghai: 1 day; 2 nights

Day 12-17: Beijing: 4.5 days; 5 nights

Day 17-20: Tokyo: 3.5 days; 4 nights

Day 21: Left Tokyo

My original route changed after arriving in Guilin. I got extremely lost one night trying to find the bus station to take me to Yangshou. I ended up having to stay in Guilin for the night. After having the horrible experience of wondering around an unlit, foreign, Chinese city, late at night, where barely any one speaks English, I decided to change my route. I did not want to go through that again.

Once I got to Yangshou, I fell in love (with the city), and my 2 day stay turned into one of the best weeks of my life. I then visited Shanghai. Saw the sights in a day. The city reminded me of London, but London is a much more exciting city. I was bored with Shanghai after a day, and decided to move on. I loved my stay in Beijing. Not just because of the sights or because I saw the Great Wall of China, but because of the hostel I stayed at. It was an awesome place to hang out. It had a great bar to meet people, very comfortable place, and I made great friends there. Definitely check out 365 inn if you go to Beijing.

The tickets from Beijing to Japan were around 400-500 USD so I had to use air miles, which left me with few options. I ended up only having about 4 days in Japan. That only gave me time to see Tokyo. I wanted to take the bullet train to Kyoto, but I’ll have to save that for another trip.

What I Wish I Would Have Known:

  • You need at least 2 full days to see Hong Kong. I didn’t have time to see The Big Buddha on Macau Island. The chair lift to get to the Big Buddha provides you with great scenery, which is definitely a reason to go, just by itself.
  • China is not like Europe. If you’re traveling alone as a female, it’s definitely harder to travel around than you may think. For example, when I finally did arrive at the bus station in Guilin, to try to get to Yangshou, there were absolutely no signs in English. Everything was in Chinese characters, and the people at the information desk didn’t speak English. If you don’t think you can handle situations like that, you may be better off traveling with a tour group through China, or at least travel with others.
  • Tokyo is huge. There is a LOT to see, and a lot to DO. In 5 days, I only covered a small portion of the huge city. It can take 30-60 minutes just to get to another part of Tokyo by metro.

Happy Travel Planning!

Are you planning a trip to China or Japan?


About Devon Nicole

Hey! My name is Devon. I'm a 20-something girl from the sunny state of Florida, USA. In 2012, I made the scary decision to backpack Europe SOLO. Now it's 3 years later and I've traveled to over 30 countries in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia! I created this blog to inspire other young women to travel abroad solo too. There's a whole world out there just waiting to be explored!


  1. I love your blog and tips so much! I ‘m trying to plan my first big solo trip for this year… it’s a spur of the moment kind of thing and reading your blog inspires and encourages me. I never thought I would actually have the guts to travel by myself as a five foot blonde girl, but your blog gives me hope!!! Keep posting your tips!
    Now I just have to decide where to travel to first… 😀 any advice?? 😉
    Stay beautiful,

  2. Hey Nadia,
    You’re plans sound great!
    In Hong Kong I stayed at Check Inn Hostel. In Tokyo I waited until the last minute to book and I ended up staying at 5 different hostels! It was nuts! Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki, K’s House Tokyo, Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory, ACE INN Shinjuku, and I forget the name of the last one. The first one in Tokyo was my favorite, just because the staff were so friendly, they taught me some Japanese, and the location was awesome. Both of those cities are full of travelers and you’re sure to meet people wherever you stay. And I felt totally comfortable when I was in both cities too. I would check out hostelworld.com and see what the top ratings are for those cities currently and which ones have more reviews. Those are probably a safe bet for meeting people and having a good time.
    Yangshuo really is an amazing place! Definitely visit there if you can.

  3. Hi Dervon,

    I want to do part of your route this year, I really want to visit Beijing and Tokyo. Which airline did you use to get to Tokyo? And do you have any must sees in both cities?


    • Hey! I flew from Beijing to Tokyo via Air China, I think. I got to China via Cathay Pacific, and from Tokyo back the States via Japan Airlines. There’s a lot to do in both cities! I would recommend looking at Trip Advisor’s top things to do and see!

  4. Your experience surprises me. I was in Guilin and Yangshou year before last, and my experience was that, whenever my obviously-not-Chinese self walked anywhere near the railway station, I was mobbed by locals shouting “Bus to Yangshou, bus to Yangshou.” My wife and I stayed in Guilin for nearly a week, visiting Seven Star Park, drinking beer at one of the riverside cafes at night, wandering the lake district around the Twin Pagodas, and eventually getting to Yangshou by raft. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

    Then again, I do speak some Mandarin, so I may have had an easier time of it.

    • Oh really? I had one local woman yelling at me, but I was told to avoid going with those people because they’ll rip you off. It ended up being my only option, so I eventually did follow her! After being put on the wrong bus at first, I eventually got it sorted out and made it to Yangshou!

      I LOVED Yanshou. It really was incredible.

      There were many times in China, I really wished I spoke Mandarin! I was forced to learn a bit on my travels, though. :)

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