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Getting There

Ürumqi airport, to the north of town, has a brand-new domestic terminal and a smaller international terminal next door. Taxis into town cost around ¥40, or there's a free shuttle bus for China Southern passengers to and from their office on Youhao Nan Lu; other passengers must pay ¥10 for this service. China Southern handles most flights within Xinjiang and its main office (tel. 95539; 9am-9:30pm) is next to the CSA (China Southern Airlines; formerly the Kempinski) Hotel on Youhao Nan Lu. A ticket office is also at the airport. Several daily flights connect with Beijing, Xi'an, Kashgar, and Dunhuang. There are also daily domestic connections with Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Lanzhou, and Khotan and several international flights weekly to Tashkent.

Ürumqi's railway station is located in the southwest corner of town. Nearly all trains from the east and west terminate here. Tickets may be purchased at the station, at the railway ticket office (7:30am-9pm) in the courtyard of the Laiyuan Binguan at Jianshe Lu 3 (where you pay a ¥5 commission), or through an agent (around ¥30 commission). There are direct express trains to Beijing (T70; 43 hr.) at 8:03pm, and to Shanghai (T54; 45 hr.) at 5:20pm, passing through Lanzhou (20 hr.) and Xi'an (29 hr.). There are also speedy connections with Lanzhou (T198; 21 hr.) at 7:29pm, and with Dunhuang (T70; 9 hr.) at 8:03pm. Sluggish trains head for Chongqing (K544; 47 hr.) at 9:36am, and for Chengdu (K454; 49 hr.) at 2:05pm. Heading west, the fastest train is the K9786 which leaves at 12:57pm and passes through Kuqa (15 hr.) on its way to Kashgar (24 hr.).

Tickets for Almaty in Kazakhstan may be purchased in the foyer of the Xiang You Jiudian (tel. 0991/777-0888), next to the train station. The office is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays between 10am and 1pm and 3:30 and 6pm. Trains leave on Mondays and Saturdays and sleeper class tickets start at ¥540. Both trains take around 31 hours to complete the journey, but the Kazakh train is more comfortable. You'll need a Kazakh visa in advance to buy a ticket.

From the main bus station at Heilongjiang Lu 51 (tel. 0991/582-8898), frequent buses connect with Yining (692km/429 miles; 12 hr.; ¥170 lower berth, ¥160 upper berth); and with the border town of Tacheng (633km/392 miles; 12 hr.; ¥152 lower berth, ¥142 upper berth) at 8:40pm. The Southern Bus Station (tel. 0991/286-6635) has regular connections with Turpan from 8:40am to 8:30pm (187km/116 miles; 2 1/2 hr.; ¥41); Kuqa (745km/462 miles; 14 hr.; ¥165 lower berth, ¥155 upper berth) every half-hour from 2 to 8pm; and Kashgar (1,470km/911 miles; 30 hr.; ¥235 lower berth, ¥220 upper berth) every half-hour from 10:40am to 8pm. Bus nos. 1, 7, and 101 all connect with this bus station. Buses across the Taklamakan Desert to Khotan (1,777km/1,101 miles; 18-24 hr.; ¥300 lower berth, ¥235 upper berth) leave hourly between 12:30 and 8pm.

Getting Around

A legion of Santana and Xiali taxis charge ¥6 for 3km (2 miles), then ¥1.30 per kilometer; ¥2.10 midnight to 7am. For the useful bus nos. 1, 2, and 7, pay ¥1 into a box as you enter, or ¥1 to ¥2 to a conductor. Riding a bike through the smog and traffic snarls is not recommended.

Fast Facts

Banks, Foreign Exchange & ATMs -- The main Bank of China (Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, and year-round weekends 11am-4pm) is opposite the Hoi Tak Hotel at Dongfeng Lu 1. Cash and traveler's checks can be exchanged at counters 7 and 8 and there's the added convenience of black-market dealers operating outside the bank! ATMs (left of the entrance) accept foreign cards. The branch is open weekdays 10am to 2pm and 3:30 to 6pm. Another ATM is located at the intersection of Jianshe Lu and Wenyi Lu.

Consulates -- Kazakh visas are available from the Kazakh Consulate (tel. 0991/383-2324) at Kunming Lu 31 for ¥261. They are issued in 3 to 5 working days. The consulate is open Monday through Friday from 10am to noon for drop-offs and between noon and 1pm for collections. One passport photo and a photocopy of your passport are required. The consulate is not easily located, so take a taxi.

Internet Access -- A 24-hour Internet cafe is above the Chengshi Dajiudian and charges ¥3.8 to ¥5.8 per hour dependent on where you decide to sit.

Post Office -- The main post office on Yangzi Jiang Lu is open from 10am to 8:30pm in summer; 9:30am to 8pm in winter.

Visa Extensions -- The busy, but friendly PSB at Kelamayi Dong Lu 27 (tel. 0991/491-8435) offers 1-month visa extensions up to 20 days in advance. Processing takes 3 to 5 working days.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.