There are few countries in the world with a culture as different as China. A country of contrasts, China offers thriving metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as beautiful mountains, valleys, rivers and plains in the western and southern parts of the country.
China is a country full of microcultures, languages, cuisines and ethnicities.
The rapid change has attracted curious people from all over the world and there is a burgeoning expatriate scene for anyone who wants to teach abroad.
While I don’t like the pollution of many of the big cities, the countryside, the food, the people and the history you’ll discover here will leave you amazed and will change forever. This is a country with layers where everything is full of meaning and history.
This travel guide to China can help you plan your visit to this gigantic country (there are over one billion people covering 9.5 million square kilometers) with tips on what to do, how to move, stay safe, save money and much, much more!
When to Go to China:
As China is such a large country, the climate and temperature change drastically from region to region. The subtropical Hong Kong will have a very different climate than the steppes of Inner Mongolia or the mountain ranges of Tibet and western China.
Summers in China (June-August) is the peak time to visit, although it is also the hottest time. Temperatures will rise to 30s (87-92 F) and can become quite humid. Pollution and air quality can also be constant concerns during this time. Expect inflated prices and large crowds during these months.
September-October is a good time to visit China, provided you can dodge the hectic holidays of the Golden Week in early October. The weather will cool to less than 20 ° C (68 ° F), which is much more pleasant for hiking and exploring.
Traveling to China in winter is rare, unless you head to Hong Kong, where the weather is still pleasant at 20 ° C (68 ° F). Places like the Great Wall are sometimes closed due to the weather, and regions like Tibet may drop to -13 C (9F) during the night. That said, China has a fun winter festival called Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, where you will find huge ice sculptures that break records.
Things to See and Do in China:
Shanghai: Shanghai, one of the largest, busiest and most visited cities in China, is like visiting the future: fast trains, lights everywhere, efficient organization and a cosmopolitan environment. I love Shanghai To get an idea of historical China, head to the Old City and see the YuYuan Gardens. For some of the best shopping.
Wander Beijing: Visit Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, countless shopping centers, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and, of course, the Great Wall. There is nothing like Beijing in the world and, although it is terribly polluted and has horrible air quality, it is still a city that you must visit to understand modern China and its dynamism.
The Great Wall of China: With an extension of more than 21,000 kilometers, the Great Wall offers both busy tourist sections and remote ruins (you can even camp next to it in some areas). If you have a limited budget, you can take the public bus to the wall near Beijing. The bus costs CNY 12 per way, while the entrance to the wall is 40 CNY (45 CNY in the summer).
See Xi’an: Xi’an is one of the ancient capitals of China and home to the famous terracotta army (which is over 2,000 years old), the city wall and the architecture of Muslim neighborhoods. Those three things are more or less why everyone comes here, but there is also an incredible hike on Mount Hua if you are looking for adventure.
Tian’anmen Square: You’ve certainly seen it in movies and on television, but it’s hard to get an idea of the size of this square until you’re standing in the middle. There is much to see here, including the Tiananmen Tower, the Great Hall of the People, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the National Museum and the Mao Zedong Mausoleum. While you can take pictures in the square, you can’t use your camera in the mausoleum.
Food Gorge:China is a paradise for food lovers. Eating here will certainly put your takeaway food at home in perspective. In such a large country, it is not surprising that different areas have different culinary delights. It is completely possible to enjoy the four styles of Chinese cuisine (Cantonese, Beijing, Shanghai and Sichuan) during your trip. For spicy food, head to Sichuan or Hunnan in central China (be sure to try the hot pot while there). There are also many options for vegetarians in China, and even vegans can survive without too much difficulty.Cruise on the Li River:For a true feeling of natural beauty, navigate the Li River. The river is 272 miles long. Some of the best photography places can be found in Xiaolong, Laozhai Hill and the karst mountains near Guilin. For tours, prices start at CNY 500 per person, depending on how much time (or luxury) of a cruise you want.
Visit the forbidden city: This famous attraction in Beijing was the imperial palace from the time of the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty (1420-1912 CE). The “city” covers more than 175 acres and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and receives more than 16 million visitors each year. Today, the Palace Museum contains artifacts from both dynasties and is a great place to learn about the history of China. The buildings, covering more than 180 acres, have been very renovated over the years, but it is still an epic complex worth visiting.
Travel (part of) the Silk Road: Dating back over 2,000 years, this unofficial route is a must see for visitors looking to leave the main tourist route. There is no “official” path to follow, but you can trace your path along the traditional route as far as you wish (the Silk Road originally extended from Chang’an to Romend, Italy). Its total length was more than 3,800 kilometers (2,400 miles), half of which was within the Chinese territory. Be sure to see the Mogao caves in Dunhuang, the ancient city of Turpan and the Rainbow Mountains near Zhangye.
Explore Tibet: Also known as “the roof of the world”, this area is perfect for adventurous travelers looking for a unique attraction. Explore the snowy mountains, exotic customs and Buddhism. Tibet has had a tumultuous past, so during your visit, it is advisable not to mention the Dali Lama. The region was annexed by China in the 1950s, which forced the Dalai Lama and his government into exile. Some 400,000 Tibetans were killed directly or indirectly by the occupation, and other estimates place that number above 1 million. Avoid talking about the history and politics of the region, since it is understandably a very sensitive issue for both parties. You will also need a special permit to visit the region.Potala Palace This Tibetan palace was the home of the Dalai Lamas until 1959, when he was forced to flee or be killed. Established as a sacred place in the seventh century, the numerous halls, temples and courtyards have been built with wood and stone. The current building, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates from the 17th century and has poured copper into its foundations to stabilize it against earthquakes.
Enjoy the Karst Mountains: Illustrated on the back of the 20 yuan bill, these mountains are an impressive sight to see in person. They are huge! You can take a boat trip on the Li River and enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountains. You can also rent a bicycle to explore the quieter roads and enjoy the picturesque landscape. Prices start around 20 CNY for half a day. Guilin is a great place for this.
The Mogao Caves of Dunhuang: Also known as the Thousand Buddha Caves, these caves house the largest, best preserved and richest Buddhist art in the world: the first cave was carved here in 366 AD. There are almost 500 individual temples here and it is one of the main stops on the Silk Road if you are following in the footsteps of Marco Polo.
Take a free walking tour: All major cities in the country offer several types of walking tours, many of which are free and last a few hours. If you want to learn about the history of the main cities of China, this is a great way to start! Every time I land in a new city, this is how I begin my journey, as it helps me understand the terrain. Free walking tours are available in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Xi’an and many other cities across the country. Simply search Google for “free walking tour in X” to find the companies that are available during your visit. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end (this is how you get paid!).
Macau: Macau is considered the “Las Vegas of Asia” and is a fun destination for anyone who wants to go out. Macao began as a Portuguese colony and remained one for more than 300 years, so the city has an interesting mix of Chinese and Portuguese cultures. Like Hong Kong, Macao is a “Special Administrative Region”, which means that it has a lot of autonomy from the continental government. It is also home to the highest bungee jump in the world, with a drop of 233 meters (764 feet)! I don’t love the city as much as Hong Kong, but here you will find a lot of good food and architecture. If you are not here to play, you only need one night here!Visit to the pandas in Chengdu. Pandas are an endangered species and rare to see in the wild. If you want to get your solution while in China, go to the Panda Research Base in Chengdu. If you arrive early you can beat the crowds and see how the pandas relax, eat and sleep (that’s all they really do, but it’s still worth seeing!). Admission costs CNY 55 per person.
Take a class: Calligraphy classes, cooking classes, tea ceremonies: you can find all kinds of incredible and culturally enriching lessons and lessons in all the main cities of China. Some last an hour, some last several days, but no matter what interests you, you can find a class to teach you something new! Expect to pay between 300 and 900 CNY for a calligraphy class, while cooking classes start at around CNY 300 per person. You will find most of the options in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Viator.com is a great resource to find classes near you. You can also use cookly.me to find cooking classes and prices throughout the country.
China Travel Costs:
Accommodation: Prices start at around CNY 30 for an 8-10 bed dormitory in many of the smaller cities. For a private room, prices start around 110 CNY, although they expect to pay almost twice as much as in larger cities. The hostels here are generally well equipped and have free Wi-Fi, drinking water, lockers and even warm blankets in winter. Hostels in the cities will have western-style bathrooms, although in more remote parts of the country you can find more common squatting bathrooms.
Budget hotels start around CNY 75 per night for basic accommodation, with higher prices in Hong Kong. Budget hotels generally include heating or air conditioning, their own bathroom, a kettle and TV (although you will only get Chinese stations). Keep in mind that any hotel that offers free breakfast will probably serve a Chinese breakfast (meatballs, congo rice, vegetables, etc.).
Airbnb is abundant in China and can be found in all major cities, although it is much less common in rural areas. Prices range between 175-750 CNY depending on the city and the type of apartment. There are many camps throughout the country. Expect to pay around 20 CNY. The wild camp is a gray area; It is legal and illegal at the same time to allow local authorities the last word. I would avoid camping wildly and stay with the official camps to avoid any problems.
Food: Food in China is cheap. I mean, very cheap. A meal from a street vendor usually costs around 7-14 CNY. For this, you can get noodles, rice, pork buns or soup. A full meal in a seated restaurant will cost between CNY 15-54 plus the fee for a bowl of rice and clean bowls (yes, these cost more!), Which is often around 4 CNY. If you stick to local food, you will find it difficult to go bankrupt. You could spend less than 70 CNY for a whole day of food.
In western China, southwest China and inland, food is much cheaper than in large cities and can be eaten for less than CNY 35 per day, about half the cost of large cities, as long as Stick to street food / local restaurants. .
For western food, you can expect to pay much higher prices for food that will be a disappointment compared to home, especially if you are outside more westernized cities like Hong Kong. A western-style sandwich or a fast-food meal can cost around 40 CNY and a cup of coffee can be priced similar to home, sometimes more!
Vegetarians and even vegans will be able to survive with relative ease in cities with a little planning, since China’s history with Buddhism has made the country quite vegetable friendly.
Since food is very cheap, there is no need to self-stock or cook your own meals. It is better to eat street food and in restaurants. In addition, many hostels do not have kitchen facilities for you to use, even if you went shopping. Therefore, cooking is not something I recommend. The food is cheap and plentiful, so enjoy it! If you are buying your own groceries, expect to spend between 250-400 CNY depending on your diet.
Activities: In general, the views are affordable in China, even popular attractions such as the Great Wall or the Forbidden City are less than 68 CNY. While the Great Wall never excluded the invaders, it is beautiful and only costs CNY 45, the Forbidden City costs CNY 60 (CNY 40 if visiting between November and March). Smaller temples, activities and places of interest are much more reasonably priced and cost less than 20 CNY.
While attractions and temples cost less than 70 CNY, the prices for walks and outdoor activities tend to be more expensive, often costing around 200 CNY. For example, a trip to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain costs about 200 CNY, a visit to the Jiuzhai Valley is also 200 CNY (as much as 2,000 CNY if you want to go as part of a tour) and a three pass days for the mountains of Wuyi in Fujian province cost 140 CNY, while admission to the yellow mountains in Anhui province is 190 CNY. You must also pay for transportation to these places as well.
Backpacking China Suggested Budgets:
How much does it cost to visit China? Here are some suggested budgets that you can use to help you plan, depending on your individual travel style. Keep in mind that if you are staying in cities like Hong Kong, Beijing or Shanghai, you should expect to spend at least 20% more.
With a backpacker’s budget, you should plan to spend between 215-285 ($ 30-50 USD) per day. This is a suggested budget, assuming you stay in a hostel’s bedroom, eat fast food from time to time, but mainly that you cook your own meals, that you use public transportation and that you participate in basic activities such as visiting museums.
With a mid-range budget of 645-1,000 CNY ($ 90-140 USD) per day, you can stay in budget hotels, take buses between destinations, eat fast food and take more excursions. For a luxury budget of 1,500 CNY ($ 210 USD) per day, you can afford to stay in good hotels, take the high-speed train, do some guided tours and eat out at home at each meal.
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind that these are daily averages: some days you will spend more, some days you will spend less (you can spend less every day). Prices are in USD.
China Travel Guide- Money Saving Tips:
Given the size of China and its general affordability thanks to cheap food and accommodation, there are many ways to save money when visiting here. These are some of the best ways to save money during your next trip:
Use night trains: use night trains (compartments without doors with bunk beds) for overnight travel, as distances between cities can be quite large. Lower berths are less expensive, so buy a few days in advance to take advantage of these savings. Some stations have lockers for foreigners if you need help navigating your options. Ask for Xiao Pan: if you eat alone, ask for “xiao pan”. These are small portions and work at 70% of the size and price of a normal dish.
Rigid seats: travel in “rigid seats” on trains or buses. These are the cheapest and most basic seats, but they are not “hard”, since the name would lead him to believe (they are just normal seats).
Take a walking tour: there are free walking tours in most Chinese cities. In general, they last a couple of hours and are a great way to get to know the terrain and learn some of the local history.
Avoid Golden Week: Golden Week is the busiest holiday of the year and it’s a time when the whole country is off. In early October, prices will rise, transport is booked weeks in advance and large cities are essentially blocked. Avoid visiting during this time. (Or, at least, avoid big cities!)
Stay with public transport: you can reach almost anywhere in major cities by bus or subway, and it is very affordable. Do what the locals do if you want to save money.
Buy jugs of water: instead of buying bottled water every day (since tap water is not drinkable), bring a reusable water bottle and buy the largest jugs you can find. They are only around 15 CNY and will last for weeks. If you are not going to stay that long, make your travel companions contribute. You will save money and prevent more single-use plastic from ending up in a landfill. On the contrary, bring a LifeStraw or SteriPen to purify your own water.
Where To Stay in China:
Hostels are common all across China. Here are my recommended places to stay in the country:
- Hong Kong Hostel (Hong Kong)
- Yesinn (Hong Kong)
- Leo Hostel (Beijing)
- Kelly’s Courtyard (Beijing)
- The Phoenix (Shanghai)
- Shuyuan International Party Hostel (Xi’an)
- XiShu Garden Inn (Chengdu)
- Guilin Central Wada Hostel (Guilin)
How to Get Around China:
Public transport: Buses are the most popular way to travel and generally cost between 1 and 3 CNY within a city. The main cities also have extensive underground systems that are less than CNY 6 per trip. The Airport Express line in Beijing costs CNY 25. While most cities in China are great to discover on foot, pollution can be very hard for the body for extended periods. Be sure to check the air quality every morning before leaving.
Bus: Buses are generally cheaper than trains when it comes to intercity travel, so they are your best option for short distances (anything less than 8-10 hours). For example, the 9-hour journey from Beijing to Anshan is around CNY 220, while the train will last at least CNY 350 (and the train will only save you 90 minutes).
Train: For long-distance trips across the country, trains are an affordable and often unique option. On a high-speed train, the ticket from Beijing to Shanghai costs around 555 CNY for the second class, around 935 CNY for the first class and around 1,800 CNY for a VIP seat. The trip takes about 4.5 hours. For the full-day train that lasts between 14 and 22 hours, a soft sleeping ticket costs CNY 525, while a higher one costs CNY 880. You can also get a normal hard bed seat for only 180 CNY, but 22 hours in a seat is a lot! The 5-6 trip from Beijing to Xi’an will cost 515 CNY for a second-class seat, 825 CNY for a first-class seat and CNY 1,630 for a VIP ticket.
For night trains, keep in mind that the lower berth is usually cheaper, as it is closer to noise. The upper bunk beds will be more expensive, although occasionally they have very little space to offer (even if you pay more); It is not uncommon not to be able to sit completely. But you get more privacy, which is worth it in my opinion!
Fly: there are many regional carriers in China when it comes to flights. In fact, there are more than 30 national airlines in the country! Some of the largest are Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Southwest Airlines. Just keep in mind that many flights rarely leave on time, so consider your connections when booking! Roundtrip flights from Beijing to Shanghai can cost just 1,150 CNY for the two-hour trip.
From Beijing to Hong Kong it will cost at least 900 CNY and will take less than four hours. Xi’an to Shanghai will cost at least 950 CNY and will take just over two hours. Beijing to Taipei will cost around 1,600 CNY and will take just over three hours.
Car rental: China does not recognize the international driver’s license, so it is virtually impossible to rent a car here unless you apply for a Chinese license. I do not advise renting a car here.
Hitchhiking: Hitchhiking in China is not very common, so you should prepare a little before leaving. Using a thumb will not work, since it is not a widely known gesture for hitchhiking in China. Having a sign (written in Mandarin) that says “hitchhiking” is your best option to secure a trip.
How to Stay Safe in China:
China is quite safe for travelers due to its strong repression against crime and the fact that it is a state of total vigilance. However, there are still some things you should keep in mind to stay safe during your visit.
To start, look what you eat. Sanitation regulations are not exactly the strictest here, so always use hand sanitizers before eating and be sure to go only to restaurants that seem clean. Street food, although delicious, can also cause some discomfort, so be prepared. You may need some time to adapt to the local cuisine upon arrival.
Minor theft is rare, although you should still take precautions. Do not show your valuables or leave them in unsecured pockets. Most small thefts occur when travelers do not pay attention to their things. Don’t be one of those travelers!
As a tourist, you are also likely to be ripped off here and there. Expect to see inflated prices often, so be sure to ask your hostel / hotel staff for up-front price estimates if you need to go to a market. While supermarkets and commercial stores will not be a problem, local markets and small stores may try to fool you. Be firm and barter when necessary.
As for scams, unfortunately they are common here. The most common is when someone approaches you and asks you to practice your English with you (usually a “student.” He will go to a cafe, have tea and food, and then get stuck with the bill. As a general rule, If people ask you to practice English with them, decide politely.
Traffic in China can also be a bit difficult. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, so always look both ways before crossing. When in doubt, stay with the locals and follow their example. They know what to do!
China takes strong measures against drug use, imposing forced labor and death sentences on anyone caught with large amounts of drugs. You can also be extorted by the police to get a bribe if you get caught with drugs, so it is generally a good idea to avoid all drugs while you are here. When you are here, you will also want to avoid talking about politics, especially when it comes to regions such as Tibet and Hong Kong.
Finally, try to avoid the use of illegal taxis. Marked taxis will use a meter and have fixed prices, so stick with them (or use the DiDi application to share the trip). When you search for a taxi, illegal taxis will approach you. Avoid them if you can, unless you feel comfortable negotiating a fare and taking an illegal trip (which I do not recommend).
Travel carefully. Hope you enjoy it. You cannot think about this trip how amazing this trip is! Exactly you need to be prepared physically, mentally with economically. As it is also a costly trip, for this reason, You have to be prepared a well-economical budget. Stay with us. Hope you like it. Have a nice trip. We are always with you. We will usually help you with the journey. Thanks for having us.