China stands out among nations for its rich and diverse culture, offering a unique blend of tradition and modernity. From bustling urban centers like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to the serene landscapes of its western and southern regions, China presents a tapestry of contrasts.

The country boasts a myriad of micro-cultures, each with its own languages, cuisines, and ethnic identities. Its rapid development has attracted a global influx of curious minds, fostering a vibrant expatriate community, particularly in the field of education.

Despite concerns over urban pollution, China's rural areas exude natural beauty, complemented by the warmth of its people and the depth of its historical heritage. Every aspect of China, from its landscapes to its culinary delights, resonates with layers of significance and a rich tapestry of history.

For travelers, navigating this vast landmass—encompassing over a billion inhabitants across 9.5 million square kilometers—can be daunting. Hence, this travel guide to China aims to assist visitors in planning their exploration, offering insights on attractions, transportation, safety tips, budgeting advice, and much more.

Top 5 Attractions in China

The Top must visit locations of China are -

Hong Kong

Explore the vibrant blend of modernity and tradition in Hong Kong. Wander through bustling street markets, admire towering skyscrapers, and immerse yourself in the city's lively nightlife. With its diverse expatriate community and delectable cuisine, Hong Kong offers an unforgettable urban experience.

​​Shanghai

Step into the future in Shanghai, China's bustling metropolis. Marvel at the city's futuristic skyline, punctuated by dazzling lights and efficient transportation systems. Delve into its rich history at the Old City and YuYuan Gardens, or indulge in a shopping spree along Nanjing Road.

​​Beijing

Discover the heart of China's past and present in Beijing. Visit iconic landmarks such as Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. Explore the ancient wonders of the Summer Palace and embark on an unforgettable journey along the majestic Great Wall.

The Great Wall of China

Experience the awe-inspiring majesty of the Great Wall, an architectural marvel spanning over 21,000 kilometers. Whether you choose to explore bustling tourist sections or seek solitude amidst secluded ruins, the Great Wall promises an unforgettable adventure into China's storied past. Budget-conscious travelers can opt for a public bus ride to sections near Beijing, offering affordable access to this iconic landmark.

​​Xi'an

Journey back in time to the ancient capital of Xi'an, home to the legendary Terracotta Army and a wealth of historical treasures. Explore the well-preserved city wall and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the Muslim quarters. For thrill-seekers, embark on an exhilarating hike on Mount Hua, offering breathtaking views and adrenaline-pumping adventures.

Things To Do In China

  1. Tian'anmen Square: Standing in the heart of Tian'anmen Square, you'll be awed by its immense size and historical significance. Marvel at iconic landmarks such as the Tiananmen Tower, the Great Hall of the People, and Mao Zedong's mausoleum. While photography is permitted in the square, remember that cameras are not allowed inside the mausoleum.
    Indulge in Chinese Cuisine:
    Embark on a culinary journey through China's diverse gastronomic landscape. Sample delectable dishes ranging from fiery Sichuanese cuisine to savory Beijing specialties. Whether you're a meat lover or a vegetarian, China offers a plethora of options to tantalize your taste buds.
  2. Cruise the Picturesque Li River: Sail down the enchanting Li River and immerse yourself in breathtaking natural beauty. Discover hidden gems like Xiaolong and Laozhai Hill, nestled amidst the scenic karst mountains near Guilin. Choose from a variety of tour options, with prices starting at 500 CNY per person for a memorable river excursion.
  3. Explore the Forbidden City: Step back in time at the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former imperial palace of China's Ming and Qing dynasties. Delve into its rich history as you wander through its sprawling complex, home to over 16 million annual visitors. Marvel at the Palace Museum's impressive collection of artifacts, offering insights into China's illustrious past.
  4. Traverse the Historic Silk Road: Embark on a journey along the ancient Silk Road, tracing centuries-old trade routes through China's rugged landscapes. Explore cultural landmarks such as the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, the ancient city of Turpan, and the colorful Rainbow Mountains near Zhangye. Experience the allure of this historic route, steeped in tales of adventure and exploration.
  5. Discover Tibet's Unique Charms: Venture into the mystical realm of Tibet, known as "the Roof of the World," and immerse yourself in its awe-inspiring beauty. Explore snow-capped mountains, ancient monasteries, and vibrant Buddhist traditions. While visiting, be respectful of the region's sensitive political history and obtain the necessary permits for entry.
  6. Marvel at the Potala Palace: Admire the architectural splendor of the Potala Palace, once the residence of the Dalai Lamas. Dating back to the 7th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts ornate halls, sacred temples, and sprawling courtyards. Experience the grandeur of Tibetan culture as you explore this iconic landmark.
  7. Witness the Majestic Karst Mountains: Be captivated by the mesmerizing beauty of the Karst Mountains, immortalized on China's currency. Cruise along the Li River for unparalleled views of these towering limestone formations or rent a bicycle to explore the tranquil countryside. Guilin serves as an ideal starting point for this unforgettable adventure.
  8. Explore the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang: Embark on a journey through time at the Mogao Grottoes, home to ancient Buddhist art dating back to 366 AD. Marvel at nearly 500 intricately carved temples and caves, showcasing exquisite sculptures and murals. Discover the rich heritage of the Silk Road as you trace the footsteps of ancient travelers.
  9. Engage in Cultural Experiences: Immerse yourself in China's rich cultural heritage through immersive experiences such as calligraphy classes, cooking workshops, and traditional tea ceremonies. Whether in Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong, these hands-on activities offer a deeper understanding of Chinese customs and traditions. Explore reputable platforms like Viator.com and cookly.me to find classes tailored to your interests and budget.
  10. Experience the Vibrancy of Macau: Embark on a thrilling adventure in Macau, Asia's answer to Las Vegas. Discover a unique blend of Chinese and Portuguese cultures amidst stunning architecture and world-class entertainment. From adrenaline-pumping bungee jumps to delectable culinary delights, Macau promises an unforgettable experience for every traveler.
  11. Visit Chengdu's Giant Pandas: Get up close and personal with China's beloved giant pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Witness these endangered species in their natural habitat and learn about conservation efforts to protect them. Beat the crowds by arriving early and enjoy a serene morning observing these gentle giants.
  12. Participate in Educational Classes: Enrich your travel experience by participating in educational classes such as calligraphy, cooking, and tea ceremonies. Delve into the intricacies of Chinese culture under the guidance of expert instructors, available in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Explore diverse options and prices through platforms like Viator.com and cookly.me.

China Travel Cost

Cost of travel can be estimated by - 

Accomodation

  • ​Dormitory beds in smaller cities typically start at around 30 CNY per night, while prices can rise to about 85 CNY in Hong Kong and Beijing.
  • Private rooms in hostels generally start around 110 CNY but may cost nearly double in larger cities.
  • Budget hotels offer basic accommodations starting at approximately 75 CNY per night, with higher rates in Hong Kong.
  • Amenities often include heating or air conditioning, private bathrooms, and basic amenities like a kettle and TV.
  • Airbnb options are available in major cities, with prices ranging from 175 to 750 CNY depending on the location and type of accommodation.
  • Campgrounds offer basic plots for around 20 CNY per night, but the legality of wild camping is ambiguous, so it's advisable to stick to official campgrounds to avoid potential issues.

Food

  • ​Street food is incredibly affordable, with meals typically priced between 7 and 14 CNY. Options may include noodles, rice dishes, pork buns, or soup.
  • Sit-down restaurant meals usually range from 15 to 54 CNY, with an additional fee for rice and clean bowls.
  • In western and southwestern China, as well as rural areas, food tends to be even cheaper, with daily expenses for meals often under 35 CNY.
  • Western-style food is available but comes at higher prices, with sandwiches or fast food meals costing around 40 CNY and coffee priced similarly to Western countries.
  • Vegetarian and vegan options are widely available, especially in cities, due to China's Buddhist heritage.

Activities

  • Popular attractions like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City typically cost under 68 CNY for admission.
  • Smaller temples and sights are even more affordable, usually priced under 20 CNY.
  • Outdoor activities and hikes tend to be pricier, often around 200 CNY or more. For example, trips to scenic spots like the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain or Jiuzhai Valley may cost around 200 CNY, while multi-day passes to places like the Wuyi Mountains or Yellow Mountains range from 140 to 190 CNY.
  • Additionally, transportation costs should be factored in when budgeting for these activities.

Backpacking Budget

Backpacking Budgets for Visiting China:

​​Backpacker's Budget: $30-50 USD per day (215-285 CNY)

  • ​Accommodation: Hostel dormitories
  • Meals: Cooking own meals with occasional fast food
  • Transportation: Public transportation
  • Activities: Basic activities like museum visits

​​Mid-range Budget: $90-140 USD per day (645-1,000 CNY)

  • ​Accommodation: Budget hotels
  • Transportation: Buses between destinations
  • Meals: Mix of fast food and dining out
  • Activities: More excursions and sightseeing

​​Luxury Budget: $210 USD per day (1,500 CNY)

  • ​Accommodation: Nice hotels
  • Transportation: High-speed train
  • Activities: Guided tours and upscale dining

These budgets are daily averages and can vary depending on individual preferences and travel styles. It's important to consider fluctuations in spending and adjust accordingly. Additionally, prices may be higher in major cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, or Shanghai, so budgeting an extra 20% for expenses in these areas is advisable.

Money-Saving Tips

Here are some of the best money saving tips while travelling in china -

  • Opt for Sleeper Trains: Utilize sleeper trains for overnight travel between cities to save on accommodation costs. Purchase lower bunk tickets in advance for additional savings. Some stations have dedicated ticket offices for foreigners to assist with ticket purchases.
  • Ask for "Xiao Pan": When dining alone, request "xiao pan" for smaller, more affordable portions, typically priced at 70% of the regular dish size and price.
  • Choose Hard Seats for Transportation: Consider traveling on "hard seats" on trains or buses, which are the most economical seating option. Despite the name, these seats are standard and not uncomfortable.
  • Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours: Participate in free walking tours available in most Chinese cities to explore local attractions and gain insights into the area's history without spending extra money on guided tours.
  • Avoid Traveling During Golden Week: Steer clear of visiting China during Golden Week, the busiest holiday period in early October, to avoid inflated prices, limited transportation availability, and overcrowded cities.
  • Utilize Public Transportation: Save money by relying on affordable public transportation options like buses and subways, which provide convenient access to major city attractions.
  • Purchase Large Water Jugs: Instead of buying bottled water daily, invest in reusable water bottles and purchase large water jugs for a fraction of the cost. This not only saves money but also reduces single-use plastic waste. Alternatively, bring along a water purification device like a LifeStraw or SteriPen to purify tap water.

When To Visit China

China's vast size results in diverse climates across different regions, so the best time to visit varies depending on your destination and preferences.

  • ​Summer (June-August): Peak tourist season with hot temperatures, especially in southern regions like Hong Kong. Expect crowds and inflated prices. Pollution and humidity can be concerns, particularly in urban areas.
  • September-October: Ideal time to visit as temperatures cool down to around 20°C (68°F). Crowds are smaller compared to summer, and the weather is suitable for outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing. However, be mindful of Golden Week holiday crowds in early October.
  • Winter: Less common for travel, except for regions like Hong Kong where temperatures remain mild. Some attractions, like the Great Wall, may close due to weather conditions. However, winter festivals like the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival offer unique experiences for travelers.
  • Staying Safe in China: While China is generally safe for travelers due to strict law enforcement, it's essential to take precautions to ensure a smooth and secure trip.
  • Food and Hygiene: Be cautious about food hygiene standards, especially with street food. Use hand sanitizer before eating and choose restaurants that appear clean. Allow time to adjust to local cuisine.
  • Avoiding Theft: Petty theft is rare but still possible. Keep valuables secure and avoid flashing them in public. Be vigilant in crowded areas and never leave belongings unattended.
  • Bargaining and Scams: Expect inflated prices, especially in local markets. Bargain firmly and be wary of common scams, such as being invited for tea or practicing English only to be presented with a hefty bill.
  • Traffic Safety: Pedestrians do not always have the right of way, so exercise caution when crossing streets. Follow locals' lead and adhere to traffic rules to avoid accidents.
  • Drug Laws and Politics: China has strict penalties for drug offenses, including severe punishments and potential extortion by police. Avoid discussing sensitive topics like politics, particularly regarding regions like Tibet and Hong Kong, to prevent any complications.
  • Avoiding Illegal Taxis: Stick to marked taxis with meters or use reputable ride-sharing apps like DiDi. Illegal taxis may overcharge or pose safety risks.
  • Travel Insurance: Purchase comprehensive travel insurance to protect against unforeseen circumstances such as illness, injury, theft, or cancellations. It provides peace of mind and financial security during your trip.

By staying vigilant and taking necessary precautions, you can enjoy a safe and memorable experience while traveling in China.