Urumqi is quite famous for its claim that it is the most inland major city in the world, that being the farthest from any ocean.
There are two major ethnic groups, the traditional Han (3.0 million) and Uyghur (0.25 million), Other ethnic groups in Urumqi include Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Mongols and Hui Muslims.
Regardless of ethnicity, most people in Urumqi can speak some level of Mandarin Chinese, however in some parts of the city Uyghur, a Turkic language, is dominant. Few people speak English, even in some of the large hotels. When taking a taxi, it is a good idea to have a piece of paper with the name of your destination written in Chinese.
City skyline from Hongshan Park
Despite what some of the guidebooks say, Urumqi has a lot to offer and can provide a great introduction to Xinjiang.
Wulumuqi Railway Station (乌鲁木齐火车站; Wūlǔmùqí Huǒchēzhàn) is at Qingfeng Road.
Beijing West - Urumqi (乌鲁木齐) Train T69 takes 33h:52m Hard seat = ¥316: Soft seat ¥502: hard sleeper ¥531 / ¥549 / ¥568: Soft sleeper ¥837 / ¥874
Chengdu - takes about 49 hours
Dunhuang - takes about 14 hours (as of September 2009 no trains were running on the branch line to Dunhuang)
Hami - takes about 9 1/2 hours
Jiayuguan - about 16 hours
Kashgar - takes 24-33 hours (¥506 for top bunk soft sleeper)
Kuche - takes about 14 hours
Lanzhou - takes about 21 hours (¥338)
Shanghai - takes about 44 hours
Turpan - takes about 2 hours (but drops you about 50 km/31 mi north of Turpan, from where you have to catch a bus)
Xi'an - takes about 34 hours
Almaty, Kazakhstan - takes 32-48 hours
To get tickets for Almaty you need to purchase them from the hotel to the right of the train station. One can purchase tickets from  for about 3 times their face value. It is difficult to purchase tickets from standard travel agencies in China.
The Northern Long-Distance Bus Station is at Heilongjiang Road
Almaty, Kazakhstan (via Korgas) - takes about 24 hours and ¥440, tickets can be bought at the Bianjiang Hotel, room 2121 (边疆宾馆2121号房间) or at the international bus station at Nianzigou (碾子沟国际客运站 +86-0991-587-8637, mandarin speaking). Daily departure at 1900h. Time spent clearing customs at Korgas make the travel time rather variable.
China Highway 312 is a motorway crossing Xinjiang from Gansu to the border with Kazakhstan. Most destinations within Xinjiang can be accessed via private car. Drivers tend to congregate near the bus stations and will often approach passengers shouting their destination. Drivers usually try to fill the car with four passengers, but you can also rent the whole car (包车; bāochē). In almost every case, a car will save hours of travel time over a bus.
If you need a car with driver , you can contect with local private driver and licensed tour guide ,he could take you around Urumqi , Turpan even to whole Xinjiang . he can do both your driver and guide , he can speak perfect English , his email :firstname.lastname@example.org
The city centre is big, and separated into different 'centres'. You can walk, but distances are large, roads are wide, and ongoing building work will block your path. Furthermore, in summer it gets very hot and in winter it can drop to -35°C (-31°F) at night.
Metered taxi fares start at ¥10. There are also black taxis (illegal), driven nowadays by anyone, male or female. Fares for these are negotiable and they definitely come in handy during rush hour when metered taxis are tough to come by. Regardless, you should normally never pay more than ¥20 for a ride within the city, although many roads are closed at present (as of Apr 2013) as a subways network is being built and roads are being fixed and so you may sometimes need to pay more.
Bus number 52 goes from the round about near the airport to the museum. Other useful routes running generally north-south are 101, 61 and 63.
The very visible BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Buses are a quick, efficient and very crowded way from getting from one end of the city center to another. BRT1 and 2 are very useful. BRT1 runs straight down Youhau Lu to the train station. BRT 3 connects the grand bazar, People's Theater and Square and ultimately terminates with a connection to BRT1 at its Northern end. Just put ¥1 in the box on the way onto the platforms and then squeeze onto a bus. These are recently opened (Sept 11) and run along a segregated busway - something of a cross between a bus and a tram.
Xinjiang Uygur Regional Museum (Qu Bowuguan, 自治区博物馆)- - 132 Xi Bei Lu / West North Rd. Located behind the Sheraton Hotel. Highlights include a few mummies on display and other artifacts. If you start your trip around Xinjiang, the museum gives you a very good introduction about the history and minorities. Admission is free.
People's Square (人民广场)
Hongshan (红山) - Red Mountain. This pleasant park has, among other things, a Ferris wheel, a Buddhist temple and great views over the city. The park itself has a free entrance but you have to pay for some of the attractions.
Shuimugou Hot Springs (水磨沟)
Da Bazar / Erdaoqiao market (大吧扎) - The Big Bazaar, a traditional Islamic market area and the main Uyghur enclave in downtown – definitely worth a visit in the evenings for some food and people watching. Currently (Sept. 2009) lots of security around, which again is interesting to see. In the summer time, the Da Bazar at night is a rather lively place, if you come just as it is getting dark you can see tight rope walkers walking from one side of two the next with the tall minaret in the background.
Xinjiang Silk Road Museum (新疆丝绸之路博物馆) Easy to find - located right next to the Grand Bazaar at No.160 Shengli Rd. Bus No.110 stops very close to it. It is on the fifth and sixth floor of a very large European style building which houses a shopping complex as well. The admission charge is 30 Yuan per person. Most of the exhibits have English names as well and some of their guides speak some English.
People's Park, Between Guangming Rd and Hellongliang Rd.. A wonderful place for people watching. Busy at all times of day but particularly in the early mornings and evenings, with people making music, singing, dancing, playing games, exercising, doing tai chi, practicing calligraphy, in fact pretty much any recreational activity.edit
Confucian Temple, Qianjin Lu.. A beautiful, quiet and peaceful temple. To find it follow the red wall alongside the Autonomous Regional Party Committee building north from People's Square. Take the first turn to the right and follow the road east to the end where you will find the temple. It closes at 13:00 for lunch.edit
Liyushan Park, No.158 Kunming Road. The park is showing old trees from the desert, large stone trees, stones with carvings from BC and some Przewalski horses (which are rare) plus other animals. The north entrance is hard to find and just behind the Yema International Business Hotel (4th floor of the building in the back yard).Admission is free. edit
The Grand Bazaar (aka Erdaoqiao) is a great place not only for regional specialty items, but also has many goods from nearby countries such as Russia and Mongolia. It is a popular tourist destination although somewhat of a tourist trap these days. However, the surrounding area is the heart of the Uyghur community and makes visiting worthwhile.
Imported delicacies can be found at the Youhao supermarket in the basement of the Tianshan Shopping Center (天山百货), located across from the People's Square.
A number of stores selling outdoor gear, camping supplies (户外用品) etc. can be found on Renmin Lu, east of Nanmen.
Hualin (华凌市场)is a huge trade complex selling almost anything you can think of. Shangmao Cheng (商贸城)is a similar huge bazaar in the south of the city.
Please beware pickpockets and watch your possessions carefully.
Food is one of the things for which Xinjian is famous. Fresh naan, spicy kebabs, steaming pilaf or famous hand stretched noodles — there are a lot of choices and lots of variety.
Qosh Amet, Konsulhana St (Follow the street between the large Arman Supermarket and the huge Mosque at the end of Yan'an Lu). For perhaps the best Dapan ji in town -- a famous Hui dish ( 大盘鸡, literally "Big Plate of Chicken"), head to Konsulhana Kochisi (near the large mosque across from the north end of Yan'an Lu) where you'll find Qosh Amet. For those who don't know Uyghur, simply look for the large English sign that reads "Chicken Food" and head on in. It's a three-story restaurant with a singular focus. The only choice you have to make is if you want a Zhongpan ji or dapan ji (Zhong being smaller, suitable for 2-3 people). A larger plate will cost 60 yuan, and is served with a side of noodles. edit
Local restaurants are available throughout the city, although most Uyghur restaurants are concentrated in Erdaoqiao, around the Grand Bazaar - there are plenty of restaurants on the street behind the mosque offering a nice alternative to standard Chinese cuisine. A standard price for a plate of hand-streched noodles with vegetable meat topping (laghman/bànmiàn) is about ¥9--if you are still hungry, you can request more noodles (jiāmiàn). Melon slices also make an excellent snack, at about 1 rmb a slice from a street vendor.
Among other common Uyghur foods are dumplings of mutton and onions (samsa), Uyghur fried rice (polo), dumpling soup (chuchura), meat pies (Gush Nan) and Opke Hessip (lungs and stuffed intestines) for the brave. Local specialty drinks include Kawas (carbonated drink flavoured with honey) and Dogh (a mixture of crushed ice, yoghurt and honey available in summer). The best known Hui dish is big plate chicken (dàpánjī), a spicy mixture of chicken and potatoes.
Bodun （博盾）, 42 Heping Rd N (5 min S of People's Sq). Delicious and cheap Uyghur staples. Good location in the city centre.edit
Avral, 60 Shengli Rd (In Erdaoqiao (二道桥), across from large mosque). Delicious and finely decorated, Avral is also well known for its Uyghur ice cream (marozhni). This location is currently undergoing renovation, but their ice cream is served at restaurants.edit
Hui and Uyghur food can be very spicy, and it is a good idea unless you like very spicy food to tell them "búyào là de" or for Uyghurs "kizil mooch salmang!".
One warning before you go out and get local food though. Not everyone can stay healthy eating Uyghur and Hui food. Often it is cooked with a large amount of oil. Sanitary conditions are also perhaps not what you would have expected. If you have a weak stomach or gall bladder problems it might be a good idea to try some of the other options. Or just stick to naan and kebab.
Take care if you are considering going to one of the restaurants next to the Grand Market. They will quite happily give you a 'tourist menu' where every dish is priced at over 1,000 yen. You can get similar and just as nice food at other restaurants in the nearby streets for a fraction of that price.
In town there are several mid-range options available for western food.
Rendezvous, 960 Yan'an Rd (right by the Silk Road Hotel, on the 16, 63,106 and 912 bus routes), ☎ +86 0991 255-5003. 11:00-22:00. American-run. Also offers an excellent breakfast menu (at the moment only on the weekends) and their wraps are delicious. Some of the cheapest Western food in Urumqi.edit
The Texas Cafe (德州咖啡屋), Nanmen Mashixiaoqu (near Nanmen down the grapevine covered alley across from the south entrance to the computer market), ☎ +86 0991 281-0025 (email@example.com), . 1PM-11PM. A Tex-Mex and classic American café. For comfort food try their fajita plates or tacos. They've got refried beans and homemade taco shells. The place is decorated with a lot of Texas memorabilia and it's somewhat of a Tex-Mex oasis in Xinjiang. Also, they have a good selection of English books. ¥25-55. edit
Vine Coffeehouse (德蔓咖啡屋), 65 Minzhu Rd (Down a small street near the People's Theater (人民电影院, Rénmín Diànyǐngyuàn)), ☎ +86 0991 230-4831. Closed M. A Caribbean cafe serving a wide array of western and Caribbean specialty dishes. Somewhat overpriced with small portions, but the little steaks are nice.edit
Edo No Sakura, 65 Guangming Rd (On 1F of brightly coloured high rise near Hongshan Park). For those intrigued by the prospect of eating sushi in the city furthest from an ocean. It is a bit pricey as can be expected. Next door is also a Brazilian barbecue restaurant, Sabbath.edit
Tashkent (塔什干; Ташкент), 47 Xinhua Rd S, near the Huaqiao Hotel(华侨宾馆). Pleasantly decorated Central Asian cafe (with a smattering of European dishes, as well), which used to be located on Xin Hua Nan Lu, but in April of 2011 moved down to the Dawan Bei Lu area. From the Number 10 bus stop, turn right at the first semblance of a road, pass a few run-down shops and suddenly you will enter a nearly new strip-mall area surrounded by fancy apartments. Keep walking about two (short) blocks, and Tashkent will be on your left. Madina, a tasty Pakistani restaurant that used to be located next to Tashkent's former location, has now taken up shop on the 15th floor of the Huaqiao Hotel(华侨宾馆). Take the elevator to the 14th floor and wander until you find a staircase to the 15F. Same golden arches sign as before, albeit much smaller. The place has downsized significantly, but still features amazing Pakistani food and tea. edit
Ice Mountain Creamery (美国冰淇淋), 乌市人民路车市 H9 (Wushi renmin lu che shi H9), near the center of town. American-owned ice cream shop selling delicious ice cream. They have a very small window in the centre of town but you can also buy it at the Texas Cafe. edit
There are also a number of Russian restaurants near the Bianjiang Trade Complex (边疆商贸城)on Yan'an Rd.
Han Chinese dishes places, available all around town also fall into the mid-range category.
A good local Chinese chain is Shunming (顺明), serving Uyghur and Chinese food for a reasonable price. They are open twenty four hours and have several locations around town including at the People's Square (人民广场) and the People's Theater (人民电影院)
Vegan Yuanqi Vegetarian Restaurant, 2 Altay Rd, ☎ +86 0991-8735001/8487563. A Buddhist restaurant located near the junction of Altay Road and Xinyi Road. Walk about 200 metres north from the jucntion. On the left side of the road stands a big apartment block with two buildings. Restaurant is located 50 m inside a little alley between A and B wings. The staff are charming but speak no English, the menu is entirely in Chinese.edit
Another option is fast food, which has become increasingly popular in the last few years. KFC restaurants(肯德基) have sprung up all around town and are located at the Grand Bazaar, People's Square, Hongshan, and the Children's Park among other locations. There are also two Pizza Huts (必胜客, located at Zhongshan Rd. (中山路) and Youhao Shopping Mall (友好商场)) and several smaller Chinese fast food chains--specifically Dicos (德克士) & Fast Food Burgers (百富烤霸, also known as Roast King).
The buffet at the China Southern Airlines Hotel is an ideal place to splurge. The head Chef is Austrian, and the food is very authentic Western fare, with some local dishes as well. Dinner costs ¥88 plus 15%, and includes tea, coffee and a glass of red wine. The buffet at the Urumqi Sheraton ought to be rather good. ¥230.
Korgan, (Next to the Grand Bazaar (Dà Bāzhā) in Erdaoqiao). Luxuriously decorated Uyghur restaurant. Very good Uyghur food if somewhat inflated prices.edit
Ba Samba (巴桑巴), (Guangming Road 39, 5th floor at Century Ginwa Mall), ☎ 0991-2666116, 0991-2617117. 13:00-22:30. Brazilian all-you-can-eat BBQ with live band of musicians from Rio, located at the 5th floor of the new upscale Century Ginwa Mall. Despite having a Chinese instead of Brazilian chef (like in most Brazilian BBQs in BJ/SH/GZ), the meat is still pretty good. The buffet however is Chinese-style western food, with no real Brazilian dishes. Ice-cream, fruits and dessert are included. A decent option if you are craving for meat. Caipirinhas available for RMB 25.RMB 168. edit
Victoria, 94 Shengli Rd, ☎ +86 0991-8555556. 11AM-1AM. A popular hangout with hip Uyghurs, Central Asians and Russians. The dancing and atmosphere are good but the prices are high. Small beers start at ¥25 (local beer by comparison is ¥2), and most dishes begin around ¥60.edit
Almaly Club (苹果之父), 38 Renmin Rd (F5, Xinhongxin Mansion, 新宏信大厦5楼) (On Renmin Rd right before the highway overpass), ☎ +86 0991-2334189. Newly opened in a very nice new venue, this Kazakh themed restaurant and club serves a wide variety of Kazakh and Russian dishes. After 10PM Beijing time there is live music and dancing(but also a minimum expense of ¥200 per party).edit
Maitian International Youth Hostel, 726 Youhao Rd S, near Parkson 友好南路726号，友好百盛旁边 (Take every bus that pases in Hongshan (红山) stop (101,2,7,14 and more )), ☎ +86 0991 4591488, 13999883785. In an alley right to the Parkson shopping center (Bǎishèng). Smaller dorms have their own toilet and shower, but these get booked quickly, so if you are stuck in the 10 bed dorm, be aware that the room does not locked. You will still be asked to pay a 100 yuan deposit, though. Furthermore, parts of the lounge are still under renovation and the.water was turned off for the whole.afternoon when we stayed. Smoking is allowed in the lounge and the shared bathroom is dirty. No lockers for Dorm customers.Dorms: 8-bed ¥40 6-bed ¥50 Double with private bath ¥150. Discounts for HI members. edit
Silver Birches International Hostel (Xinjiang International Youth Hostel), 186 Nanhu Rd. (From the airport you can take the shuttle which costs ¥10 per person and will go directly to Youhao Lu, then take a taxi which should cost ¥6 in low traffic to the Nanhu Urumqi County Court, the hostel is across the street. Alternatively you can take the taxi straight from the airport which should cost ¥40, you should tell the taxi to take this route: Wàihuán(外环)- Běijīng Lù(北京路) - Sūzhōu Lù(苏州路) - Shìzhèngfǔ(市政府)Nánhú(南湖). From the train station you can take either the number 8 or 58 bus to Beimen Medicine Company and then take the number 73 bus; You can also take the taxi for ¥15 to 186 Nanhu Rd S), ☎ +86 0991-4881428 / 13809943984 (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com), . checkout: noon. A nice hostel with a good atmosphere, a nice common area and a good lawn. Laundry, travel information, free Wi-Fi and free water are available. Both the large and small dorms can be feel a bit cramped when they are full. Not clean - hallways are dingy, smoking is allowed in the building, squat toilets which smell quite bad..Dorms: 10-bed ¥30, 5-bed ¥45. Discounts for HI members.. edit
Youth Hotel, Shaybake district, Yangzijiang Rd, beside Wulumuqishi Shayibake people's Government building 乌鲁木齐市 沙依巴克区 (Coordinates: 43.47955 8735717), ☎ +86 0991-4509-766, 7730098 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A Chinese guesthouse which doubles as both a Youth Hostel and a Brothel, with very little guests being travellers (July 2011 - most people seems to be travellers, not a bad option to the other expensive YHA's). Relativly cheap, but the rooms are small. WiFi in some rooms and fans available. Laundry ¥10 per load. The owners/managers speak no English, but can understand sign language - if you call, you may want to have a Mandarin speaker to make a booking.Double with bath ¥90 / without bath ¥70 Single with bath ¥80 / without bath ¥60. Ask for discounts.. (latitude 43.798,longitude 87.594)edit
Beststay, 49 yangzijiang Rd, Urumqi (Both BRT 1 (from station) and BRT 2 stop outside the Parkson Mall. Get off and walk south through the underpass and to the right. Bestay is advertised big in English about 100M down), ☎ 0991-4581999, . checkout: 12. This is a chain hotel. They speak no English but have a monitor screen that you can point at with prices and room types. Be aware that rooms are classed as Single or Twin but that some of the single rooms have a queen bed. If you ask for a double room, even in Chinese, they will offer a twin. The cheapest rate advertised was 129Y basic single. We got a double (called single!) ensuite for 179Y with A/C & hot water (20Y discount on first quote) which was clean and even had a shower curtain!Western toilet. serviced room. Twin rooms start at 179Y. If you arrive early in the day the advertised prices are higher. 20Y key deposit. The washing machine is free to use, ask the cleaners nicely :-) Free Wifi & Ethernet and a computer in the lobby. Previous travellers have experienced issues with cancelled booking and extended delays in refunds. Please be wary.129Y+. edit
Kashi International Hotel (喀什国际酒店), No.419 Qiantangjiang Road, Shayibake District (Near the train station). Clean and comfortable hotel at a reasonable price. As of July 2014, with the ongoing security paranoia, this is one of the few hotels in this price bracket which will accept foreigners. Claims to be 4 stars, but feels more like 2 or 3. RMB 258 for standard room, but can be negotiated down to 218 if staying for more than 2 nights. Breakfast and internet (only cable, no Wifi) included (Jul 2014). Very close to the train station, right across the Super 8 Hotel (which btw does not accept foreign guests, despite what the website claims)RMB 218. edit
Islam Grand Hotel, 22 Zhongshan Rd, ☎ +86 0991 2811017 (fax: +86 0991 2811513). edit
There are numerous hotels in the mid-range bracket, but they are not always easy to find as they often do not have signage at street level. Look high on the buildings where there may be a hotel sign, then find the entrance at street level. You should easily be able to find a confortable room with en-suite bathroom and aircon for under 300.
China Southern Airlines Hotel (南航饭店), Youhao Rd N. Another high quality foreign hotel. Formerly known as the Kempinski Hotel.edit
Hoi Tak Hotel (海德宾馆), 1 Dongfeng St, ☎ +86 0991 2322828. Broadband internet access, and satellite TV. 5 star hotel.edit
Holiday Inn Urumqi (假日饭店), 168 Xinhua Rd N, ☎ +86 0991 2818788 (fax: +86 0991 2817422). edit
Hung Fu hotel, 160 WuYi Rd. A downtown 5 star hotel that can offer good value in comparison to the upmarket chains. Opened in 1998 it is starting to show its age just a little (weak a/c, temperamental showers). Service is excellent however. Rooms are modern and have some character, and occupy floors 12-28 hence offer nice views of the city.From ¥800 for a twin. edit
Sheraton Hotel (喜来登酒店), 669 Youhao Rd N, ☎ +86 0991 6999999. Broadband internet access, and satellite tv. Five star hotel north of the city center. There's super luxurious shopping next door now too.edit
Yindu Hotel Urumqi (银都酒店), 39 Xibei Rd, ☎ +86 0991 4536688 (fax: +86 0991 45171663), . Broadband internet access, and satellite TV. Located in the business district, 312 rooms, six restaurants, exercise equipment, spa, sauna, massage, swimming pool, night club, KTV rooms.edit
In general Xinjiang is a rather safe place. However, in the bigger bazaars and on public transportation pickpockets do operate so be sure to secure your valuables. Riots in summer 2009 also necessitate extra caution. While there is currently a large police and military presence in the city, protests and other violence have broken out sporadically since then. In the aftermath of the 2009 riots, communications were severely restricted with internet access and all international calls in and out of the region blocked by the government. These restrictions have been lifted. In any case, calls are able to be placed from the bianjiang binguan (边疆宾馆 mentioned above) for ¥5/min and possibly also from post offices 邮电局 for ¥2-3/min. Keep these restrictions in mind before traveling. Also be prepared to be stopped by security personnel suspicious of foreigners.
After the spate of recent attacks, as of Jul 2014, the situation seems to be stable with internet/calls working normally. There are however a large number of SWAT vehicles patrolling the streets and heavily armed soldiers stationed across the city. Similar to Israel, expect to have your bags checked (either manually or through x-ray machine) at the entrance of all major buildings. Always carry your passport as there are random ID checks, though central asian looking people are usually the targets of such checks. Many hotels, including known chains such as Jinjiang, Hanting, Super 8, won't take in foreigners, so before booking a hotel make sure to check if they are authorized to do so.
In most Islamic cultures, naan (bread), is very important. It is not a good idea to throw it away. If you drop it, pick it up and carry it with you. Do not step on naan--It is important to treat it with some respect. Also, if you decide to eat naan while walking, break off a piece, and eat that. Do not bite into the whole loaf.
Kazakhstan, 216 Kunming Rd (Bus #2 from the main train station stops reasonably close. Get off at Xiaoxigou station, backtrack some 50 m or so and then go left. Walk towards Yema Silk Road Hotel and you will see the embassy with long queues right next to it. As a international guest you can probably skip those lines however. Coordinates: 43.51343 87.34245). M-Th 10AM-1PM. Visas issued in two working-days. AT THE MOMENT JULY 2011 IT TAKES 5 DAYS. Cost varies depending on nationality: British and American ¥261. Most Europeans ¥137. Visa collection at 4PM. Day 1: fill out application (1 Photo and passportcopy needed), You'll get a form for paying the bill at any China Construction Bank, Day 5: show up at 10AM with the receip for the payment, Day 5: 4PM pick up the visa. To save a trip to the embassy, just pay the bill at day 1 and return it to the embassy. There is a bank 200m straight from the entrance through the parks on the right.. edit
Kyrgyzstan, 58 Hetan Rd N (The consulate is next to the Ai Pai Crown Hotel, previously known as Central Asian Hotel, the small entrance is on the left side of the restaurant. Coordinates: 43.48784 87.35748), ☎ +86 0991 518-9980 (fax: +86 0991 518-9985). Visa applications 11:30-12:30, picking up visas 12:30-13:00, closed W. You will a copy of your passport and chinese visa, passport-sized photo and a letter (which can be hand written) explaining the purpose of your travel to Kyrgyzstan. Most western nationalities DO NOT need an LOI (http://www.dcsmfa.kg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=89&Itemid=71&lang=en). If your country appears on the list yet the consul still insists in asking for an LOI (which happened to a Brazilian traveler in Jul 2014), just print out the webpage above and show him. Normal time required for processing is five days, but they have same day processing available, for a higher fee (pick up at 5pm). You can start the application without leaving the passport at the embassy. Update 2012-07-27: For German, UK and some other nationals (and probably most EU), no visa is required for a stay in Kyrgystan up to 60 days (Source: auswaertiges-amt.de).¥460 (some EU nationals), ¥520 (British), ¥735 (same day processing). (43.48784,87.35748)edit
Unfortunately, these are the only two consulates in Urumqi. For those heading to other destinations in Central Asia, instead of returning to Beijing, a good bet would be to pick up visas for those locations in Almaty, Kazakhstan or Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Tianshan Tianchi National Park (天池) - scenic with prismatic splendour. Tickets are approximately ¥140. Buses leave from the north end of People's Park every morning at 9:00. It will give you a wonderful experience of Chinese tourism with your time micro-managed by the tour guides. The bus costs ¥130 with another ¥140 for entrance to the park. This gives you lunch of a sort and a visit to a yurt village as well as to Heavenly Lake.
Nan Shan (南山) - Picturesque mountains south of Urumqi. In summer the valleys are populated with Kazakh Yurts, which accept travellers for ¥50-100 per night including food. Excellent for hiking and horseback riding. Cheap buses (¥8-25) leave for the area throughout the day from the bus station south of People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan). Particularly recommended is Juhua Tai (菊花台, chysanthemum terrace), with plenty of food and sleeping options along with mountain pastures filled with alpine flowers.
Number One Glacier (一号冰川) - Located in the far south of Nan Shan is this fast disappearing glacier, the first in China to be thoroughly researched. The area is in the higher peaks in the Nan Shan range (over 4200 m/14,000 ft)and boasts spectacular views along with few tourists. The glacier can be reached after first taking the Nan Shan bus to Hou Xia (后峡, ¥12.6), and then finding a driver in the town to take you to the glacier(¥150-200 one way, about an hour). Several kilometres from the glacier are Kazakh families that rent their yurts to tourists for ¥20. Polo (fried rice), bread, kebabs and tea are also available for about ¥15 or so. Coming back, you should be able to hitch a ride for free with lorries returning to town from a nearby mine.
Heart of Asia Monument - South of Urumqi is a monument supposedly marking the centre of the Eurasian landmass, underscoring just how far from the ocean you really are.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!