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Shantou, (汕头; Shàntóu; also known as Swatow), is a coastal city and Special Economic Zone in Guangdong Province in China.


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.

Get in

By plane

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 train

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.

Get around

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 old town, (In the western part of central Shantou). Most of the lovely historic buildings are so dilapidated that it seems like a European city that has been bombed. They are slowly being torn down and replaced with ugly modern buildings, so see it while you can!
  • Shantou Museum, (In a large building near Zhongshan Park). Should be open by now.
  • Buddhist Pagoda Mountain, In Chenhai.
  • Coastal defense fort. There is not much to see here, but you can smell some interesting strains of mold inside, or go rollerskating in the middle of the fort (with Chinese techno music of course).
  • Cultural Revolution Museum (Wenge Bowuguan). A surprisingly candid and straightforward representation of events. This is in the Tashan scenic zone, north of central Shantou, not to be confused with the other Tashan scenic zone, south of central Shantou. Other than a few sculptures, there's not much to see unless you can read Chinese.
  • The former residence of Chen Cihong, (North of central Shantou, if you go by bus, be sure to ask when the last trip back into town is, if you miss it, you might still be able to catch a different bus by walking to the highway). A mansion (or a mini-palace) built in the early 20th century, still pretty much intact.
  • Nan'ao Island.




  • Lianhua Vegetarian Restaurant (莲花素食府 Lianhua Sushi Fu), Haibin Road, Dayang Group Building, west wing, 8530028, 8520098. Vegetarian chain restaurant also found in Chaozhou and Jieyang.




The hotel directly opposite the bus station is of acceptable standard. Rooms are clean and have TV, air conditioning and bathtub. ¥158 per night.

Mid range


  • Garden Hotel, Wen Guan Road Cheng Hai, +86 754 5868888. The hotel is rated four stars, but is not on par with the same rank hotels in the West.


Get out

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