Harbin is one of the coldest places in China with temperatures going as low as -30 degrees Celcius. For those of us who aren’t quite artic material, this may seem quite daunting. However, the Harbin ice and snow festival is definitely something we recommend doing at least once while you are in China and we’ve got the 411 on how to survive and enjoy Harbin.
“HOW MANY LAYERS DO WE NEED?”
TOP (7 Layers!): 1 t-shirt, 1 long sleeve t-shirt, 1 waistcoat, 2 turtle neck sweaters, 1 cardigan, 1 winter coat
BOTTOM (5 Layers!): 1 pair of tights, 2 pair of socks, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of ski pants
SHOES: Winter boots
SKI GLOVES & A HAT
HEAT PATCHES (MUST HAVE ITEMS!): Available from Watson’s, you can stick these on your clothes and socks. (Please do not put them on your bare skin!) They last for about 10 hours and we recommend putting one on your chest, back and feet.
Tip: While it may be freezing out, most indoor places are exactly the opposite. So being able to delayer is important.
We recommend using taxis to get around Harbin. As with most tourist areas, avoid taxis that do not go by the meter. There are central locations where there is a taxi queue that is regulated by a uniformed person. Those taxis use the meters and there is no need to bargain. Taxi meters starts at 8RMB most trips within the city will not cost more than 30 RMB.
WILL I BE ABLE TO USE MY DEVICES IN -30C DEGREES?
Placing your phone in your coat’s outer pocket is almost guaranteed to cause it to shut down. Keep it in your inner pockets as close to you as possible if you would like to be able to use your phone throughout your trip. Do note that the cold drains batteries much quicker. Bear that in mind when packing spare batteries, and power banks for the trip.
Definitely suggest NOT relying on your smart phone as your main photography device. A good old camera would work much better in Harbin.
WHAT TO DO IN HARBIN ?
1.SUN ISLAND SCENIC AREA
Sun Island Scenic Area lies on the north bank of the Songhua River in Harbin City. It is the second biggest venue of the annual Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festiavl and it is Harbin’s main parkland and recreation area.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Day Time. It is closed at night.
TICKETS: 240RMB for adults. Tickets do not have to be purchased in advance. The ticket office is located on the left of the park entrance.
TRANSPORTATION: A taxi from Harbin Square Station costs about 38RMB one way and takes around 20-25.
Bus 88, 85, and 80 go to Sun Island Station. Sun Island can then be accessed via cable car from the stations.
ACTIVITIES: There are giant snow sculptures all around the park. The sculptures are made from compacted snow so that they can preserve their form and bear weight. Sculptures featuring Disney characters, fairytales and people from around the world are just some examples of sculptures that you will see in the park.
Apart from the snow sculptures, there are various other winter activities available around the park. (ice slides, ice bicycling etc) As a lot of the park will be covered in ice, do remember to pack boots that are equipped for ice walking!
AVOID: Avoid any activity that involves animals such as foxes and dog or horse sledding. Any interaction with these animals will be met with a demand for a fee.
2.ICE AND SNOW FESTIVAL
BEST TIME TO VISIT: It is best to visit Ice and Snow World after the sun sets as that is when the lights will be on.
TICKETS: Tickets can be purchased at the park entrance and do not have to be bought in advance.
TRANSPORTATION: A taxi from Harbin Square Station will cost about 40RMB one way and take around 30-35 mins as there may be some traffic at the entrance of the park.
ACTIVITIES:The festival features giant ice sculptures, some as tall as 46 metres, which are replicas of famous monuments around the world. There are slides around the park as well, although lines can be long and waiting for the slide can be quite an experience in the cold!
AVOID: There will be touts at the entrance who act as if they are working for the park. Purchase the tickets directly from the ticket office. You do not need a guard to enter the park.
3.CENTRAL STREET (Russian Street)
Harbin Central Street is a pedestrian-only cobblestone street more than a kilometer long lined with stores, restaurants, old architecture in Russian style. The street comes alive in the evening after sunset when people are out looking for food and drinks. The night is short along this street though and most stores close when the lights are turned off at 10pm. Despite the cold, a must try along central street is a specialty ice cream made from fruits.
Author: Deb Wong