China Travel Guide
- Everything you need to know for your trip to China -
China (officially the People’s Republic of China) is a country in East Asia. It is the world’s most populous country, with a population of around 1.428 billion in 2017. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square km, it is the world’s fourth-largest country by area after Russia, Canada, and USA.
Why Visiting China?
There are a lot of reasons as to why one should travel to Asia and especially China. The most important reasons for traveling to China are perhaps the rich culture and history of the country. China is one of the most important civilizations of our world and is filled with wonders. It is a magical experience where you can see a beautiful country and learn its history and discover amazing things about our history and the source of inspiration for many great things.
China is not just about history and culture. The large number of tourists in recent years have developed the tourism in the country, making it also an exciting experience for all kinds of people. You can enjoy their art, folk lore, architecture, cuisines, and have a family friendly trip, or go out exploring and visiting modern parts of China and have a blast.
Traveling to China is a different experience if you have never seen the country before. You can feel the spiritual sense of the country as well as see the modernity of the place. Other than the fun and excitement, it can be a perfect business opportunity as well due to the numerous international exhibitions held in China. Business, fun, or pleasure, China has it all and with reasonable prices too!
You can go on an economic tour and save money while enjoying the trip, or you can have the most luxurious trip to Asia, if you so desire. No matter what age or what type of person you are, this vast country has something for everyone, make sure not to miss one of the best traveling experiences of your life.
China Top Destinations
Click on each Chinese destination to read the full travel guide of the city.
Best Time to Travel
In nutshell, Spring and autumn are the best times to visit China. From March to May, and from September to early November are the best times for a great trip to China.
If you want to plan more accurately, you might consider the location of your destinations. Basically the southern parts of China are warmer and the best time to travel to those destinations might be a little bit different.
Spring10° C - 25° C
SummerOver 25° C
Fall10° C - 20° C
WinterBelow Zero - 10° C
Best China Tours
What to do in China
Take a Cruise in Li River
Li River or Li Jiang is a fantastic waterway starting from Guilin and after over 80 km (52 miles) ending in Yangshuo. The most popular activity here is the Li River Cruise, which is highly recommended for any tourist traveling to northeastern Guangxi Province.
See the Pandas in Chengdu
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a famous tourist attraction in which, visitors can watch cute Giant Pandas. Located 70 km from downtown, the institution boasts its panda breeding center, one of the institution’s biggest attractions where you can see the baby pandas in their playpens. Here, unfortunately, photography is not allowed as the flash of the cameras and smartphones can hurt their eyes.
Hike and Climb the Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is a fantastic attraction to see classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. It has a length of 21,196 km (3,171 miles) from east to west of China. Some sections of the Great Wall are reconstructed and some sections are original since 2700 years ago. Some sections of the wall are more popular such as Badaling Great Wall and you can enjoy hiking in such sections.
Enjoy West Lake Landscape
West Lake is a stunning freshwater lake in Hangzhou dividing into five sections by three causeways. Around the lake, you can find beautiful temples, attractive pagodas, and amazing gardens. The lake has four small islands within itself and one of them is natural. The lake is also listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here, you can get relaxed, ride boats, bike around the lake, etc.
Try Biking Around the Old City Wall of Xi’an
When you enter Xi’an, the first landmark you will encounter is the ancient Xi’an City Wall. These walls were built around the old town to surround it as Xi’an has been the capital of China in several dynasties. Also, this city used to be the beginning of the famous Silk Road. Around the wall, you can try biking or taking battery cars to make the most of it.
Learn Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple
Shaolin Temple is located in Henan Province and known as the birthplace of Kong Fu with over 1,500 years of history. The temple’s martial art activities are continuing and you can learn from monks who are practicing in the temple.
Capture the Amazing Scenery of Yellow Mountain
The Yellow Mountain is one of the most beautiful landscapes of China because of its exceptional natural landscape. The mountain has classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990. Here you can enjoy a mixture of imaginatively-named pines, Rocks in different shapes, seas of clouds, hot springs, etc.
What to see in China
Transportation in China
In all cities of China, especially big cities, there are numerous bus lines supporting almost every part of the city. It’s recommended to have an upgraded map at the time of taking buses as you may not be able to understand Chinese symbols. Also, You can use the trolley bus system in China, which is the longest-lived trolleybus system in the world.
- Work Hours: 6 – 23 (some may run earlier or later)
- Rush Hour: 7 – 9 & 5 – 7
Note: Drivers usually stop at all stops; however, if nobody was waiting to leave the bus, the driver may skip the stop. Therefore, inform the driver before reaching the stop.
The taxi system in China is convenient and suitable as they are available almost everywhere, especially in tourist cities, and they are relatively cheap. In large cities, taxis have a meter to calculate the final cost; however, if you are staying in a small town, you can ask your hotel to inform you about the prices.
Note: Almost all of the Chinese taxi drivers speak only Chinese. It’s a good trick to have your destination written in a paper in Chinese in order not to face any major problem.
Big and Tourist cities of China offer convenient metro transportation including Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Kunming, Wuhan, Changsha, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, Harbin, Dalian, Tianjin, Shenyang, etc. Shanghai metro system is the longest metro system in the world. You can buy tickets from employees or by automatic machines.
If you have ever been to China, you have definitely visited the bicycle routes in major streets of the cities. You can rent a bicycle in China and enjoy modern urban areas. You will need to have your passport at the time of renting a bicycle. You should try bargaining at the time of renting and make sure that the bike has not any problem.
Flight Deals to China
China Travel Costs
The accommodation price in China varies greatly depending on the city, accommodation facilities, season, etc. Generally, the list below will give you an estimated overview of the hotel and hostel prices in China. Please note that the lower prices are for smaller cities, and higher prices are for major cities.
Hostels 35 - 110 RMB / night
Economic Hotels 70 - 220 RMB / night
2 and 3 Star Hotels
Standard Hotels 290 - 640 RMB / night
Usually 4 Star hotels
Luxury Hotels 700 - 1300 RMB / night
5 Star Hotels
Most of China’s attractions are very affordable. You can usually check the entry fees for each attraction at the entrance gate or on their website. Usually:
- Large and famous temples and attractions: 65 RMB
- Small Sites and Temples: Around 20 RMB
If you book your China tour on Trip Ways, all the entry fees are included in the tour price.
The price activities such as hiking, cruise, etc. is higher than attractions and they are about 200 CNY.
The food costs vary greatly depending on the type of food and restaurant you want to try; however, you should not worry about the food as it’s very cheap in China. On average, in a good restaurant, you will need to pay between 15-54 CNY (3-8 USD) per meal. Generally, you should spend about 70 CNY (10 USD) for a day’s worth of food. In small cities like Guilin, you will find local foods much less than the mentioned prices.
- Train: Traveling between cities of China by train costs between 355 – 710 CNY (50-100 USD).
- Flight: Also, if you prefer to get on the plane, you will need to pay 80-300 USD for economic flights. For first-class and business class, you should multiply the costs of economic flights by two or three.
- Bus: The bus is much affordable than other means of transportation. For example, the journey between Beijing to Anshan costs only 220 CNY (31 USD) while you should pay at least 320 CNY (45 USD) if you want to go by train.
- Car Rental: International Driving Permit is not acceptable in China; therefore, it may be impossible for you to rent a car in China!
How much money is needed to bring in China?
Most of the tours for China don’t cover personal expenses such as free time activities, some of the meals, souvenirs, etc. Considering this point, you may need about 350 CNY (50 USD) per day in your trip to China
- Backpacking: The budget you need as a backpacker greatly depends on factors like your accommodation, food choice, activities you are participating in, etc. However, if we assume that a backpacker stays in a hostel dorm, mostly cooks his/her meal, uses public transportation, has regular activities such as visiting museums, etc., they will need to spend about 215-285 CNY (USD 30-50) per day.
- Normal Budget: If you are not backpacker nor luxury traveler and you prefer to stay in economic hotels, take buses between destinations, eat fast-food, and have more fun than the backpackers, you will need to spend 645-1,000 CNY (90-140 USD).
- Higher Budget: Supposing you are a luxury traveler and you are staying in high-level hotels, taking high-speed trains, having a tour guide, and eat out every day, you will need about 1500 CNY (212 USD) per day.
Best Hotels in China
Find the best hotels in China using our best price search engine, or go with one of our All-inclusive tours with 4 Star hotels included. You can book our guaranteed hotels for your extra accommodation; before or after your tour days.
China Travel Tips
As you know, Mandarin is the main language of China. Now, you may be wondering if the Chinese understand English or not? Well, it depends! Using English is becoming more and more popular in large cities in China; however, you cannot be hopeful that you can manage your trip with English. That’s why it’s recommended to go on a tour, or hire a professional tour guide.
Be aware of what you eat. Sanitation standards in China may not be as accurate as in western countries. If you are sensitive, Make sure to have your meal in clean restaurants or hotel. Also eating street food and snacks is not recommended. In China, burping is seen as a sign of satisfaction with the meal and is considered a compliment to the chef, so don’t be surprised if it happens at the dinner table.
Dressing is not a huge consideration in China. Chinese people are usually free to choose what to wear and there are not strict government rules for dressing. However, Chinese common culture prefers modest clothing. For instance, men usually don’t wear shorts with the exception of beaches and nudity is forbidden.
Crosswalk is not respected so much in China; therefore, drivers won’t wait for you even if it’s green for pedestrians. You may also face drivers’ huge honks; which can be shocking for you!
It’s recommended not to take anyone’s photograph without his/her permission. Besides, photography is not allowed in airports, some museums, and military installations. Make sure that you check all the signs around you before taking pictures.
You cannot expect toilet papers in Chinese toilets, so bring them with yourself in order not to be shocked! Also there is a high probability that you encounter squat toilets in China, especially in smaller towns or economic hostels. It could be a good practice!
- Starring: You may face curious local people in small areas of the country starring at you!
- Smoking & Spitting: Spitting and smoking are not considered rude or illegal in public places. You can also smoke in restaurants as well.
Health & Safety Tips
In China, you can find many eastern and western medications at reasonable prices. Also, you can buy many prescription medications without any need to have a prescription.
Finding a Hospital
Hospitals in China are usually crowded; however, hospitals in large cities accept foreign nationalities as there are many foreigners who work and live in large cities of China. Also, you can find English-speaking doctors in large and major hospitals.
Big cities of China have many problems with pollution and even locals wear masks in polluted days; therefore, check the atmospheric conditions before planning.
Being ripped off
It’s usual for tourists to be ripped off. It’s highly recommended to ask hotel staff for prices. You will not have any problem with commercial supermarkets and shops; however, you should be aware of local markets
Scamming is common here, unfortunately! A good example is student’s scams. They usually ask you to practice English with them and invite you to have a café or restaurant. Then, you will face a huge bill! If anyone asked you to practice English, politely refuse it!
Using drugs have some very hard penalties in China; therefore, avoid it anyway!
Don’t Talk About Politics
China is not a country in which, you can freely talk about politics. It’s highly important, especially when it comes to Hong Kong and Tibet. Political discussions about these regions are highly censored and monitored here; especially in online platforms.
Regular taxis in China use a meter and have specified prices; therefore, try not to take illegal taxis in order not to be scammed!
The most important point is using good travel insurance, which protects you against illness, injury, theft, etc.
Currency & Money Tips
The Renminbi Yuan, with the sign “¥” or “元” and the code “CNY” or “RMB” is the official currency of the China and its basic unit is Yuan.
Bank Notes & Coins
One Yuan is subdivided into 10 Jiao and a Jiao is subdivided into 10 Fen. Based on the latest notice of People’s Bank of China about Renminbi in 2019, there are 8 notes available for use, ¥0.1 (1Jiao), ¥0.5 (5 Jiao), ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50, and ¥100.
There are also Renminbi coins which are from 1 Fen to 1 Yuan (¥0.01–1). So, for some amount of the Renminbi, there are both coins and banknotes. Although China has issued larger Yuan coins too such as ¥5, they are mostly commemorative and are not used in trade much.
Using Credit Cards in China
Major credit cards and debit cards such as Visa Card, Master Card, American Express, and JCB are accepted in some large department stores and high rated hotels mostly in Metropolises like Shanghai or Beijing. But in general, foreign credit cards are not accepted widely in China. If you want to spend money and buy food on the street or small shops, you would need to exchange your money for some Chinese currency in cash.
Credit cards could be of use in five-star hotels and luxury outlets but generally, your credit cards would not be much help when traveling to China and you should prepare cash for your travel.
Cash withdrawals using ATM
Nowadays, more and more banks in China support cash withdrawals; however, be informed about the best banks or best ATMs for this.
It’s very unlikely to use your bank cards in small cities or the countryside and for any means of payment including eating, transport, shopping, etc., you will need to have cash prepared. This is one of the reasons that pre-pain activities are recommended.
Foreign currencies such as USD, EUR, and GBP are not accepted in China; so, you should exchange them to RMB. To exchange your money to the It is suggested that you change some money immediately at the the airport. For the rest of your trip you can exchange money in some banks such as “Bank of China” and major Hotels. Most 5-star hotels in China have a currency exchange service, but they are not competitive with banks.
Documents for exchanging money
Passport is the main document for identification in China; however, you will be asked to fill a form with questions about your purpose of such exchange as well. Try to answer these questions simply. There would be no follow up about the questions unless the answers given by you seem troublesome.
Changing Yuan to another Currency
The Yuan is becoming more and more transferable in other countries but still, you will face many limitations. Nevertheless, if you have a huge amount of money and you don’t know what to do about it, in Hong Kong you can change the Yuan easily.
It should be mentioned that besides the limitations, you are permitted to bring only 20,000 Yuan in the country according to China’s customs; therefore, it’s recommended not to take too much Yuan with yourself. You may see currency traders who work outside the banks. Do not try to trade with them because it’s illegal!
- In small transactions, using 100 RMB banknotes is risky as the change can be fake,
- It’s highly recommended not to carry higher-denomination banknotes as they are more copied fraudulently.
- Do not carry your money too openly especially in crowded places such as public vehicles, stations, tourism sites, etc.
- When it comes to foreign currencies, the regulations in China changes over time, so be aware of them.
- As mentioned, everything can be changed in financial issues, so check everything before large transactions.
- Bank staff can help you in many aspects; so try to ask them your questions.
- A bargain can be very helpful, especially in tourist sites, restaurants, bars, etc., so don’t forget to try it!
- For detailed information about your safety in China, we suggest you read this article: Avoid Tourist Traps in China
Food & Drink (Chinese Food)
It’s said that the Chinese have the most variety of food in the world. Each section of the country has its own food style. Chinese Cuisines include:
- Cantonese (Yuècài): healthy, rich flavors, delicate aromas, less oiled, steamed
- Anhui (Huī cài): Prepared with local herbs from the forests or the sea with fantastic cooking techniques.
- Fujian (Mǐncài): Amazing seafood without many spices, keeps the taste and flavors as original as possible.
- Jiangsu (Sūcà i): Seafood (especially fish) – very soft meats with mild sweet or salty tastes
- Sichuan (Chuāncài): Hot and spicy with garlic and Sichuan Pepper
- Shandong (Lucài): Seafood with rich and also various flavors.
- Hunan (Xiāngcài): Very hot dishes, even hotter than Sichuan Cuisine.
- Zhejiang (Zhècài): Fantastic seafood with lots of seasoning and salt
Chinese Restaurant Menus
You should be prepared to encounter Chinese menus in restaurants with mandarin language! So, if you don’t have a guide or you are not familiar with the language, you will have serious problems especially in small cities and you should choose food randomly, which is a real gamble in China!
Bring napkin with yourself
You can rarely find napkins in Chinese restaurants and it can be a serious problem for you! Therefore, bring your own napkins.
Try Local Beers
Local beers are very tasty in China. The most famous brands are Qingdao (or Tsingtao), Snow, and Zhujiang (in Guangzhou); however, you can find western beers as well. The price of western beers in China are two-three times higher than local ones.
Avoid tap water
As mentioned, tap water in China is not potable. Also, ices in beverages are probably made of tap water; therefore, try not to drink them.
For more detailed information about Chinese cuisines, refer to The beginner’s guide to Chinese food
Mobile & Internet
SIM Card & Mobile
Mobile coverage is perfect in almost all cities and villages of the country and you can be sure that you will not have any problem with the internet as most of the hotels offer free Wi-Fi.
As mentioned, you can access the internet all over China; however, you need to buy a VPN before entering the country since most of the US based services (Google Search, Google Maps, Google Translate, etc.) and social medias (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) are blocked by The Great Firewall of China! Most VPNs are cheap and you can buy the accessibility for one month. It’s crucial to buy the VPN before going to China because the government block all VPN service providers. Otherwise, you can use Chinese alternatives for those services. The most famous search engine is baidu.com where you can search or use maps services easily.
Power Plugs & Sockets
- The common voltage in China is 220V/50HZ. Having a portable plug adaptor is important as the shapes of sockets and voltage is different between countries. It should be mentioned that the chargers of most of the electronic devices can function effectively in the wide power of 110~240V. Most of the above 3 stars hotels in China have both outlets of 110V and 220V in bathrooms; however, in the room guests, you can find only 220V sockets.
- In China, sockets type A and type I are widely used; however, socket type A can support plugs of type C or F, that are common in Europe.
Holidays & Festivals
The Chinese calendar is based on lunar months; therefore, the time of holidays changes every year.
Date in 2020
Date in 2021
Date in 2022
Chinese New Year’s Eve (Chu Xi)
Spring Festival or Chinese New Year (Chun Jie)
Tomb Sweeping Day (Qing Ming Jie)
Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Jie)
Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Jie)
National Day (Guo Qing Ri)
Oct. 1 to Oct.7
Ghosts Festival (Zhong Yuan Jie)
Winter Solstice (Dong Jie)
City Specialties in China
If you like buying souvenirs in China, you need to know that each city of China has its own specialties. These are examples:
- Beijing: freshwater pearls, fancy goods, fashion clothing, silk
- Shanghai: silk carpets, qipaos, International Brand Cloths,
- Hangzhou: Longjing tea, silk
- Shenzhen: electronics, jewelry, fashion accessories, traditional craftworks
- Guilin: scroll paintings, South China Sea pearls
- Xi’an: Models of the Terracotta Warriors, Tang Dynasty hand-painted china, antique furniture
- Yunnan: mounted butterflies, Dali batik, etc.
- Xinjiang: carpets, jade articles, dried fruit
- Guangzhou: clothes, shoes, craftworks, antiquity, luxuries, cosmetic, toys, electronic products (wholesale markets)
- Sanya/Haikou: luxuries, name brand clothing, cosmetic,
- Chengdu: antique, local handicraft, IT and electronic products
The Best Places in China to buy souvenirs
Situated near downtown Beijing in Dongcheng District, Wangfujing Street is one of the four prosperous business zones of the city. The street is about 1,600 meters starting from the National Art Museum of China in the north and ending at Changan Avenue in the south. It could be compared to Paris’ Champs-Elysees in terms of being a modern commercial street. Here, you can find several souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes, tea shops, painting stores, clothes stores, silk and cotton shop, etc.
Chunxi Road is a famous 20-hectares business and walking street in Chengdu providing lovely food options, attractive sightseeing, and a lot of shopping opportunities for visitors. Ito-Yokado, IFS, and Wangfujing Shopping Mall are some of the top-brand shopping centers in this street. Besides, Jinyi Eyeglasses Store and Hendry Watch & Clock Shop offer high-quality antique goods.
Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street
Guangzhou’s Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street is one of the most famous shopping centers in China. Over 300 shops are lined up in this 1200-meters street. Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street is a heaven for fashion lovers as they can find many world-class fashion shops in the street.
The Bund or Waitan, literally translated as the Outer Beach, is the waterfront boulevard bordering Huangpu River in central Shanghai. Here, you can experience a luxurious shopping. Giorgio Armani, Patek Philippe, and Boucheron are some of the most famous shopping brands in the street. The Bund market is one of the most expensive markets in China for rich fashion lovers!
Wukang Road of Shanghai
Wukang Road, originally named “Route Ferguson”, is one of the most famous cultural and historical streets in Shanghai. Here, you can find many fashion stores like Catie Lo as well as many restaurants such as Rachel’s and Farine. Tourists can try delicious ice creams here as well, especially in Catie Lo.
China Wholesale Market
Bell and Drum Tower Commercial Center in Xi’an is the best place for wholesale clothing, shoes, bags, and electronics.
SEG Market in Shenzhen
China is maybe one of the best destinations in the world for buying electronic goods. However, SEG Market is the largest shop of its kind in Shenzhen. Hundreds of small sellers sell their new and second-hand electronic products at very reasonable prices. Computer products (laptops, monitors, keyboards, etc.), mobile products, audiovisual goods, etc.are among the electronics you can buy here.
Silk is one of the major export products in China. In the silk street of Beijing, you can find many different kinds of silk cloths, jade, porcelain, etc. Buying silk in China is really worth the price in comparison to other countries.
- Try to learn some Chinese to have a more comfortable shopping
- Chinese products are really beautiful. however, they are not necessarily high-quality. Therefore, be aware of the quality.
- Don’t forge bargaining and start with the lower price ever!
- Take care of the goods you have bought in crowded locations.