I’m currently in Harbin, North Eastern China – near the Russian, Mongolian and Japanese borders. It’s almost -30 degrees Celsius and the Ice and Snow Festival here is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I love a good festival and although it’s painful to admit my ignorance I had never even heard of this one until 5 or 6 months ago, crazy I know! Anyway, have a look at the pics below and convince yourself to come, it’s really awesome:
When is the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival?
The dates of the Harbin Ice and Snow festival are mid January until mid February but realistically it starts at the turn of the year and runs on until early March. If you want to be safe though, end of January and start of February are you bankers. Try to book accommodation before you come, you don’t wanna be wandering about in tese temperatures searching for somewhere to sleep.
How do I get to Harbin?
I took the daytime fast train from Beijing to Harbin, it cost around $60 USD for a soft seat and took around 11 hours from Beijing railway station. A soft sleeper is around $75, knock about 30% of these prices for the more-than-adequate hard seat or hard sleeper (I took the nicer one because my mother was with me!)
You can also take the bus, it takes around 13 hours and costs around $40. Because I was here during Chinese New Year the trains and buses back were full and I got stung with a last minute flight back to Bangkok for $230, ouch. So try to book your bus/train tickets a week or so in advance if possible. I know on the road that’s often difficult so at least try to get the station a day or 2 before you leave.
How much is the ticket for the Ice Festival in Harbin?
It’s getting more and more expensive every year. These are the prices this year:
Morning ticket from 9.00am to 1.00pm: 100 RMB ($16)
Afternoon and evening ticket from 1.30pm to 9.00pm (closing time): 330 RMB ($52!)
NOTE: Student discount for afternoon ticket is 160 RMB ($25)
If you buy the morning ticket, you have to leave by 1.00 and they check rigorously. The best option of all is to buy the afternoon ticket and arrive around 3 or 4pm. That way you get to see all the sculptures and building in the daylight, dusk and nighttime. Much more bang for your buck.
How do I get to the Ice And Snow Festival when I’m in Harbin?
A taxi should cost around 20 RMB ($3) from the city centre, it’ll take around 20 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re feeling active you can walk, it takes around 2 hours but it’s a really nice walk. I did it twice and although it was tiring it was well worth the effort.
How cold is it and what should I wear?
It’s f*cking freezing! Temperatures range between about -14 to -30 and that’s without wind-chill. Be smart and come prepared, that means thermal tops and bottoms, hiking boots, hat, scarf, mountaineering socks, a proper coat and plenty of layers. I picked up a few fake north face and Canadian goose stuff in Bangkok and it served me very well but I saw a few people who were too worried about looking good and not worried enough about dressing warm. I’m sure they didn’t have such a good time. Be smart guys.
Alright guys, they’re you have it – another thing to add to your bucket list. Prepare to have you mind blown, it really is something else. Happy travels!