Welcome to our comprehensive China travel guide. If you’re a traveler seeking to explore a land steeped in history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes, you’re in for an unforgettable journey. From the iconic Great Wall to the bustling streets of Shanghai, we’ve curated essential tips and insights to help you navigate this captivating country.
Fast Facts About China
- Climate: China’s climate varies widely due to its vast size. From the frigid winters of Harbin to the subtropical heat of Hainan, pack accordingly. Spring and autumn are generally pleasant for travel.
- Local Currency: The official currency is the Chinese Yuan (CNY). It’s advisable to have some local currency on hand, especially for smaller establishments.
- Power Voltage: China primarily uses 220V, 50Hz. Don’t forget a power adapter if your devices require a different voltage.
- Language: Mandarin (Standard Chinese) is the official language. While English might be spoken in tourist areas, learning a few basic phrases can greatly enhance your interactions.
- Religion: China is home to various religions, including Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity. Respect local customs when visiting religious sites.
- Safety: China is generally safe, but like any destination, stay cautious in crowded areas, secure your belongings, and follow local guidelines.
- Cultural Etiquette: Politeness is appreciated; a small nod can be a respectful greeting. Avoid pointing your feet at people or things, as feet are considered the lowest part of the body.
- Tipping: Unlike some countries, tipping isn’t a widespread practice in China. However, leaving a small gratuity for exceptional service is becoming more common.
- Internet Access: While major cities have good connectivity, certain websites and platforms might be restricted. Consider using a VPN for unrestricted browsing.
Best Time to Visit China: Seasons and Festivals
- Spring (March to May): Blooming flowers, especially cherry blossoms, make this a charming time to visit. The weather is moderate, and attractions are less crowded.
- Summer (June to August): Expect warm to hot temperatures, perfect for exploring the northern regions like Beijing. Remember an umbrella for sudden rain showers.
- Autumn (September to November): With cooler temperatures, autumn is ideal for hiking the Great Wall or enjoying the colorful fall foliage.
- Winter (December to February): Skiing enthusiasts can hit the slopes in places like Harbin. Southern China remains mild, suitable for sightseeing.
- Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year): Falling between January and February, this is a major holiday. Experience vibrant parades and festivities, but book accommodations well in advance.
- Mid-Autumn Festival: Celebrated in September, it’s all about mooncakes and family gatherings. The illuminated lantern displays are a delight.
- Dragon Boat Festival: Happening around June, this festival features exciting dragon boat races and sticky rice dumplings.
- Golden Week (October 1-7): National Day sees a week of holiday, resulting in a travel rush. Book early and be prepared for crowds.
Top Attractions and Things to See and Do in China
- The Great Wall: A must-see, this iconic structure spans over 13,000 miles. Hike a section for breathtaking views that stretch as far as the eye can see.
- The Forbidden City: Step into history at this imperial palace in Beijing. Marvel at its grandeur, intricate architecture, and vast courtyards.
- Terracotta Army: Discover the life-sized army of Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, in Xi’an. Each warrior is unique, showcasing incredible craftsmanship.
- Li River Cruise: Sail along the Li River, flanked by surreal limestone karsts. The scenery is straight out of a painting, especially between Guilin and Yangshuo.
- Panda Sanctuaries: Get your dose of cuteness in Chengdu at a panda sanctuary. Watch these adorable creatures munch on bamboo and play.
- West Lake: Find serenity at Hangzhou’s West Lake. Rent a boat, stroll along the paths, and enjoy the reflections of traditional pavilions.
- The Bund: Shanghai’s waterfront promenade is a blend of old and new. Gaze across the Huangpu River to the futuristic skyline of Pudong.
- Jiuzhaigou Valley: Immerse yourself in nature’s masterpiece. Crystal-clear lakes, waterfalls, and colorful pools create an enchanting landscape.
- Kung Fu Show in Beijing: Witness the impressive athleticism and storytelling of a Kung Fu performance. Feel the energy as performers showcase their skills.
The Best Ways To Get Around China
- High-Speed Trains: Zip between cities on China’s extensive high-speed rail network. Trains are punctual, comfortable, and offer scenic views.
- Metro Systems: Major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have efficient metro systems. They’re a cost-effective way to navigate urban areas.
- Domestic Flights: China’s vastness can make flying a practical choice. Numerous airports connect even remote areas.
- Bicycles: Rent a bike to explore cities like Beijing and Xi’an at your own pace. It’s an eco-friendly way to get around and experience local life.
- Taxis and Ride-Sharing: Taxis are abundant in cities. Use ride-sharing apps like Didi to conveniently hail a ride using your smartphone.
- Public Buses: Inexpensive and comprehensive, buses cover most of the urban and suburban areas. However, language barriers might pose a challenge.
- Ferries and Boats: In coastal cities and regions with waterways, ferries offer a scenic way to travel. Take a Yangtze River cruise for a longer journey.
- Walking: Sometimes the best way to experience a city is on foot. Stroll through markets, alleys, and parks to soak in the local vibe.
Accommodation Tips: China
- Hotels: From luxury to budget options, China offers a range of hotels. Look for those with English-speaking staff for smoother communication.
- Hostels: Ideal for solo travelers or those on a budget, hostels provide a social atmosphere and often organize group activities.
- Guesthouses: Experience local hospitality by staying in guesthouses. These offer a more personalized touch and insights into local life.
- Airbnb: In major cities, Airbnb is an option for unique accommodations, such as traditional courtyard homes in Beijing or cozy apartments in Shanghai.
- Language Barrier: Have your hotel’s address written in Chinese to show taxi drivers. Also, carry a translation app for any communication hiccups.
- Location: Choose accommodations close to public transportation or main attractions for convenience.
China Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
- Street Food: Embrace local flavors and save money by trying street food. It’s not only delicious but also a cultural experience.
- Public Transportation: Use buses, subways, and trams instead of taxis. They’re cheaper and offer a glimpse into everyday life.
- Free Attractions: Many cities have free or low-cost attractions, like parks, markets, and temples. Explore these for an authentic experience.
- Local Markets: Bargain at local markets for souvenirs, clothes, and more. Remember to haggle respectfully.
- Tipping: Tipping isn’t mandatory, but leaving a small tip for exceptional service is appreciated.
- Travel Passes: Consider city or regional travel passes for unlimited public transportation. They often save money compared to individual tickets.
- Language Apps: Download language apps to communicate with locals and navigate menus without confusion.
Culinary Delights and Traditional Cuisine in China
- Dim Sum: Indulge in a traditional Cantonese meal of bite-sized delights. Dumplings, buns, and spring rolls are a must-try.
- Peking Duck: Savor the succulent Peking Duck, a Beijing specialty, served with thin pancakes and condiments.
- Sichuan Cuisine: If you’re up for a spicy adventure, explore Sichuan dishes known for their bold flavors and fiery kick.
- Hot Pot: Experience communal dining with a hot pot feast. Cook ingredients in a bubbling broth right at your table.
- Street Food: Wander through street stalls for local snacks like baozi (steamed buns), jianbing (savory crepes), and tanghulu (candied fruit skewers).
Souvenir Ideas: Bringing a Piece of China Home
- Tea: China is famous for its tea. Bring home varieties like green tea, oolong, or jasmine tea as a flavorful reminder of your trip.
- Silk Products: Purchase silk scarves, clothing, or accessories made from the finest silk, a traditional Chinese craft.
- Traditional Art: Take home Chinese calligraphy brushes, paintings, or intricately crafted porcelain as artistic keepsakes.
- Chinese Knots: These intricate, symbolic knots make meaningful souvenirs representing luck, love, and prosperity.
- Paper Fans: Colorful paper fans not only make decorative items but also offer respite from summer heat.