The city came to prominence during the 19th-century when it was established as one of the treaty ports for trading with the West, and in the 1980s it was also designated as one of the original Special Economic Zones of the People's Republic of China. Shantou has a population of around 1,500,000.
Overseas visitors are not common in the rural areas around Shantou, and those of non Chinese ethnicity will definitely be an attraction to residents. Those unaccustomed to this may feel intimidated. However, this is a very friendly type of attention, and unless you really dislike interaction with people you don't know, this will almost certainly be a highlight of your trip. Do not be surprised if people want their picture taken with you, or if they yell to friends and family to come look at you as well. Any sort of communication you attempt to make, especially in the local Teo-Chew dialect, will almost always be happily received.
The airport which serves Shantou is Shantou Waisha Airport (IATA:SWA), which has domestic connections with most of the major Chinese cities. It also serves international flights to Hong Kong and Bangkok on China Southern Airlines as well as to Singapore on Jetstar Asia.
By bus or car
Zhuhai (8 hours, ¥160), Guangzhou, Shenzhen (4-5 hours, ¥150) or Xiamen (4 hours, ¥100). There is fairly new highway that is on par with U.S or European expressways running between Shenzhen and Shantou (and beyond). However, food and gas stops are limited so make sure your gas tank is full if you opt to pass a fueling station. Note that restrooms are far below Western standards as well, particularly if you are female.
Some Hong Kong residents prefer to drive these highways in groups of 3-4 cars, as robberies sometimes take place along the road.
The Shantou Regency Hotel operates a coach service from Hong Kong. It takes 5.5 hours and costs ¥180 or HKD200. This can rise to HKD320 or ¥300 during the Lunar New Year period. Tickets can be purchased from the China Travel Service HK and one may board the bus in Sheung Wan, Yau Ma Tei or Fanling Station.
Shantou public buses can be highly variable and service frequency can depend on the whim of the operators, particularly during evening festival dates. Recorded announcements are made over the speaker system in Mandarin and Teochew, however the frequent use of the horn and general noise can make it difficult to understand.
On many services, one needs to notify the bus driver verbally if they would like to alight as the buzzers are inoperable.
The hotel directly opposite the bus station is of acceptable standard. Rooms are clean and have TV, air conditioning and bathtub. ¥158 per night.