I've done the train and the plane both ways several times and they both have their appeal. You can sometimes get cheaper flights than train tickets, in which case a 2 hr plane ride is great - but be aware that the Harbin airport is way out of the city and the taxi driver's smile with true joy when they see a shiny, new foreigner shivering in front of the arrivals hall. There is an airport bus that leaves every 20 minutes or so - it's at the far left of the arrivals area as you walk out the doors of the airport - a small ticket office adjacent to where the bus usually parked. 50 RMB ticket. It stops at a number of places - but take it to the end and you've got a 10-20RMB taxi ride to any of the downtown hotels.
I don't know anything about the fast train yet - never tried it.
The overnight trains to/from Beijing are pretty good value. Get on at night, sleep, get off in the morning. Make sure to get the soft sleeper, especially in winter.
The train station is very central in Harbin and there are tons of choices for hotels. If you have a decent budget and want a bit of reasonable luxury try the Kunlun hotel. It's next to the KFC you see to the right as you walk out from the train station into the main square. 350-400RMB/nt (http://www.sinohotel.com/english/hotelinfo/heilongjiang_kunlun_hotel.html
I've stayed there and enjoyed it, but it's not in the best position - it's convenient for the train station, but not much else. If you don't know Harbin I wouldn't recommend it unless the train station access is really important to you.
There's lots of hotels around Zhongyang DaJie - the main walking street near the river - but they can be a bit pricey and are likely to be pretty heavily booked, so book in advance.
A comfortable, modern place I've stayed a few times is the Wanda Holiday Express - it's new, clean and comfortable, but the taxi driver's will confuse it with the central Holiday Inn hotel, so be prepared to give them good, clear directions and don't pay extra if the shabi's take you to the wrong place.(http://www.elong.net/hotels/details.aspx?m=&hotelid=21001010
) 178-188 RMB/nt.
The Ice Festival is on the opposite side of the river - many buses go there, taxis are a good option and your hotel should have lots of info about how to get there. Be prepared - it is quite possibly the coldest place on the face of the earth. Take thick warm boots. Take extra camera batteries. It's an extraordinary spectacle and not to be missed - but go prepared!
There's also lots of ice sculpture around the streets to be seen for free. Zhongyang Dajie is a big walking street with all the standard tourist stuff and shopping centers, but good fun - and at the far end next to Walmart is the river and a square that's usually humming with people and activities. Also, at this time of the year on the ice of the river itself there is a little carnival with games, rides, food, pickpockets, etc.
Another good place to check out is Hongbo underground clothes market in Nangang (very close to the train station). All the taxi drivers know it.
No trip to Harbin should be undertaken without a visit to my mate Ronnie at Hamamas Kofi Haus...
From: Re: Requests for City Info « Reply #10 on: August 13, 2008, 10:22:30 AM »
Hamamas Kofi Haus: Hamamas is run by a Papua New Guinean guy called Ronnie and his Chinese wife. It's a small, casual & very popular coffee shop. Big-assed mugs of brewed coffee 12RMB & half-priced refills. Decent cappuccino, latte and milkshakes. Great hamburgers, sandwiches (on real bread) and subs. The have a smoked chicken and salad sub that's worth a plane ticket to Harbin. There's also a desert-bar to die for. The staff speak good English, it's no smoking inside and there's a great selection of English books to keep you entertained. It's a pretty good place to meet the local laowai contingent and some friendly locals, too. Say Hi! to Ronnie (you'll know him when you see him) and tell him Aussie Dave sent you. He'll smile and tell you you're welcome and charge you extra!
It's located right near Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT HaGongDa 哈工大) and the computer market (jianghua guangchang 教化广场)
The address is 2/104 Mu Gong Jie (木工街2号104室) Phone number: 0451-88581660
Most of the cabs know MuGongJie - call the shop from the cab and get them to tell the driver if you have trouble.
The computer market is also a great place for anything electrical. (jianghua guangchang 教化广场)
Harbin has a great central walking street - Zhongyang dajie (中央大街) in the downtown daoli district. The south end has the Holiday Inn Hotel with a great sports bar and the best western brekky in town (not the cheapest). The north end has the Songhua River and a Walmart. Lots of good shopping in between.
At the river end is Zhong Xia Video & Audio shop (9 Zhongyi St - just near the intersection with Zhongyang dajie) Zhong Xia is the owner, speaks good English and has the best selection of DVD's in town. If she hasn't got it she'll get it. Phone 139 4517 0327 Chinese address: 道里区中医街9号http://www.elong.net/
- elong is great for plane & hotel bookings.http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/index.htm
- the Travel China Guide English train schedules.