How to Plan a Trip to China, Step-by-Step

If you are planning a tour to China, this page will definitely help you. You will find travelling to China is not as tough as you thought.

We understand the value of your vacation, and care about all your concerns, so we introduce China to you methodically on this page, for you to know all the steps about a tour, from the best time to go to practical advice.

Now, let’s get started... step-by-step from your door to China!

1. Why to Visit China

You should be excited about visiting China: it’s very different to Western countries.

There are new sights, unique natural landscapes, exotic Eastern cultures and customs, giant pandas, various Chinese foods, kung fu, a unique tonal and pictographic language spoken by one fifth of the world’s population, and many other fantastic things for you to explore.

2. When to Go

Best Times to Visit

China is a vast country, and only the less-remote areas are suitable for a tour all year round.

A lot will depend on what sort of weather you want or can tolerate. The comfortable seasons in major tourist destinations are fall (September and October) and spring (April and May), during which you just need to wear light clothes, maybe with a light jacket.

Pay Attention to China’s National Holidays

It is recommended to avoid the major Chinese public holidays, unless you want to join in some celebrations. These major holidays are: Chinese New Year (January 28, 2017), Labor Day (May 1st to 3rd) and National Day (October 1st to 7th). Thousands of Chinese people head home or travel around. The transport is terrible, while the price of hotels can go up by double, or more.

3. Where to Go

China, full of stunning sights, rich cultures, and mysterious places, is a large country with an extensive range of tour options. There are lots of wonderful places to see and things to do.

Where to Go?

If You Are a Fan of History, We Recommend:

Love Dream-Like Karst Landscapes? Go To:

Giant Panda and Natural Resorts Lovers? Don’t Miss:

Hike in Famous Mountain Areas and Visit Ancient Towns:

Explore the Minority Cultures:

Or Experience the Combination of Eastern and Western Cultures In:

Recommended Places for Your Second Tour in China

Qinghai, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia are more difficult to reach. If your time is limited, they are not recommended for your first trip to China, due to extra inconveniences and more basic conditions. You can explore these areas in more depth when you visit China again.

4. How Long to Stay

Travelers stay for at least 8 days to visit the ‘Golden Triangle’ ­– Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai as their first time to China. By visiting these cities, you are able to see the essence of China: the magnificent Great Wall, the spectacular Terracotta Warriors, and the unique combination of the Chinese-Western style Bund. You can take the 8-Day Essence of China Tour with us to truly appreciate China.

If you want to explore more of China, and are interested in visiting minority areas, getting close to giant pandas and admiring magical natural landscapes, you will need more time. The more you want to experience, the more time we recommend you take.

But, the most important thing is to know what to expect in China.

5. On Your Own, as a Group, or Private Tour

You have to decide whether to go to China with an organized tour through a tour agency, or make the tour arrangements yourself.

On Your Own

Advantage: If you are an adventurer, you have a great deal of time to plan an itinerary, do a lot of preparation and book transportation tickets, hotels, etc. The articles below will help you satisfy your explorer instinct.

Disadvantage: You may have the thought that it is not easy for people who want to travel alone in China to have a smooth trip. It’s true. There will be numerous problems to overcome and it is not always the cheapest way. You cannot get the best price of hotels and transportation tickets etc. from their respective booking pages. You may occasionally get lost, be afraid of an unfamiliar language and lacking a sense of security.

Group Package Tours

Advantage: You can spend less money to see China’s key sights and rest in the security.

Disadvantage: The downsides of this option are the lack of flexibility and that you can only scratch the surface of Chinese culture.

Private Tours

This is the best option for those who want to have deeper experiences in China, some of which only senior insightful guides can lead.

This is also good for the those who want to be guided as much or as little as they like. 

After you decide to tour in this way, the most important thing is that you need to choose a reliable travel agency, like China Travel, to customize a tour suiting your budget and interests.

Taking Children

Family is precious. Enjoying a family tour boosts the strength of a family. China is a modern and safe country for your family holiday.

There are several things that we recommend you keep in mind when arranging a family tour:

1. Arrange a slower paced tour than a regular one. Your kids may not have much energy as you have to walk for long distances.

2. Book some activities to keep your kids entertained, such as: visiting the pandas, Hutong rickshaw exploring, dumpling making and bike excursions.  

3. You can join a family group tour and share interests with other families.

China Visa

6. Obtaining a China Visa

China Visa is required by most foreign passport holders upon entry into China. Some cities and regions of China are Visa Free, under certain circumstances. It is no longer needed for 51 countries on 72-hour transit or stopover entries from 16 cities in China. 144-hour Visa Free Entry Rules double the time of transit stay for entries from Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing.

7. What to Book

Round-trip International Airplane Tickets

Getting to China is very easy as there are numerous daily non-stop flights from many cities in America, Europe, Australia, Singapore, the Middle East, and many other countries and areas. More routes to China are added every year. Remember, a China Visa is required for most visitors.

Book your Hotel

When choosing where to stay in China, you will find many choices on the internet, including: star-rated hotels, youth hostels, inns, and apartments. Not all of the hotels can provide service to foreign visitors, but four and five star-rated hotels and other high-end hotels certainly do.

Book Domestic Transport

When traveling between cities in China, you will certainly need to pre-book domestic transportation. Otherwise, you may be stuck in a city for longer than you would like. As China is a modern country, there are many options for getting around cities. Here are some resources for booking domestic flights, high-speed trains and regular trains.

Book Activities, Shows and Things to Do

If you want to watch shows that are unique to China, such as kung fu or acrobatics, book them in advance to get the tickets and avoid disappointment. Want to take photos with pandas or even hug them? Pre-book it, as the program has daily quota. There are lots of experience based activities to enjoy, like learning tai chi, calligraphy and Chinese cooking. If you travel with children in China, book as many activities as you can to keep them entertained.

8. Money Matters/How to Pay?

The official currency of China is the Ren Min Bi. This is often shortened to RMB or CNY, and is used throughout mainland China. The basic monetary unit of the RMB is the yuan, also called “kuai” by Chinese people, which has the same function with “Dollars” and “Pounds” (the monetary units of USA and UK).

Use a Credit/Debit Card

Hotels, international restaurants, and the larger shopping centers accept credit/debit cards. However, they are not yet widely accepted in other places in China.

Use Chinese Cash

You will need cash for just about everything else: taxis, small shops and restaurants, ticket counters, etc. Carry enough yuan for visiting the countryside, eating, transportation, and tickets for activities.

You may still have many questions about where to change money, will your ATM card work, how much should you bring. Do not worry! You will get your answers here:

9. Consider Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance will make your trip safer. It is not only for medical emergencies, but also for providing assistance in cases of lost baggage, trip delays or interruptions, like snowstorms, heavy rain and evacuations.

10. Learn Some Mandarin

Learning some simple Mandarin before you arrive in China will enable you to become more confident, closer to Chinese people and have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Chinese culture.

Here are some simple, but practical Chinese phrases:

English words

Chinese characters

Pronunciation

Chinese Pinyin (no tones)

Good morning

早上好

/Dzaoww-shung haoww/

 Zaoshang hao

Good afternoon

下午好

/Sshyaa-woo haoww/

 Xiawu hao

Good evening

晚上好

/Wann-shung haoww/

 Wanshang hao

Good night

晚安

/Wann-an/

 Wan‘an

Hello

你好

/Nee haoww/

 Ni hao

Thank you

谢谢

/Sshyeah-sshyeah/

 Xiexie

Excuse me

打扰一下

/Daa-raoww ee-sshyaa/

 Darao yixia

Sorry

对不起

/Dway-boo-chee/

 Duibuqi

How much is it?

这个多少钱?

/jer-guh dwor-shaoww chyen/

 Zhege duoshao qian?

11. Packing and Luggage Allowance

We suggest that you do not over-pack, just take some useful and essential items, especially when you travel with children.

12. When in China

Stay Connected

In an era of information, internet access, telecommunication and electricity are the three essential factors for tourists. Be aware of the differences that exist between China and your home country. Your phone can still work in China, and you can also access the internet. You may need an adapter, a converter, or both to charge your batteries, mobile devices and laptops.

Stay Safe and Healthy

Is China safe? Yes! It is approaching developed country standards in many places with good policing, tight gun control, and relatively few natural disasters and health risks. Most Chinese people are friendly and trustworthy. However, crime, bad weather and accidents do happen, so buying Travel Insurance is important.

Is Chinese food safe? If you go to reputable establishments, yes, but take care at street stalls and avoid less hygienic eateries.

Can I drink the water? Most tap water in China needs boiling (well) before drinking. In some areas avoid tap water altogether and buy bottled water.  

Taste Chinese Food

Taste Local Food

Chinese food has a long history, with many different varieties and styles. Chinese Cuisine is a profound element of Chinese culture itself. Cultures in different regions are respectively distinctive. The same is true for the food cultures.

Here are some of the popular foods we recommend:

  • 北京烤鸭Beijing roasted duck (The most famous restaurant is Quanjude)
  • 上海灌汤包Steamed pork buns in Shanghai
  • 西安肉夹馍Chinese hamburgers in Xi’an
  • 桂林米粉Guilin rice noodles

If you have the desire to learn some Chinese cooking, you can contact us for more information.

Deeper Cultural Experiences

China is one of the “Four Ancient Civilizations”, with 3,600 years of written history and profound culture. Many people are attracted by the unique Chinese culture, noting that experiencing it is one of the main reasons why they visit.

How to get a Deeper Cultural Experience

  • Visit a Chinese family
  • Communicate with local Chinese people
  • Get close with a Chinese national treasure, such as the giant panda
  • Watch some performing arts like kung fu, the opera or acrobatics
  • Join in traditional festivals like Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year
  • Admire Chinese heritage, such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Terracotta Army
  • China Facts
  • Chinese Culture and History

Photography Tips

If you like photography, China is heaven. There are different cultures, people, areas of natural scenery (such as Guilin, the Yellow Mountains, and the Gobi Desert), water towns and old streets for you to shoot your pictures. Let us take you to the most photographed places in China to meet local Chinese people:

Tipping

Whether to give a tip or not always confuses a lot of foreign travelers during their journey in China. Actually, to not give a tip is acceptable in the mainland of China, so travelers can choose to leave a tip or not. However, travelers tend to tip guides and drivers as a thank-you for caring for them during the tour.

13. Shopping and Bargaining

When in China, you may want to buy some souvenirs. With so many options available, shopping can be confusing. Here are our ‘Top 10’ souvenirs worth buying in China:

    Top Souvenirs

  • Tea
  • Silk or Qipao or Embroidery
  • Art — Calligraphy, Paper Cutting, Chinese painting, Postcards
  • Paper Umbrella
  • Panda Paraphernalia
  • Opera Mask
  • Cloisonné
  • Rice Writing
  • Thangka (sheepskin wall hangings)
  • Pearls

One important tip is to be cautious of fake items.

Bargaining in Chinese

If you have chosen an item that you like, don’t purchase with impulse. Bargain with the vendor for a while to get a better price:

  • 太贵了Tai guile (Teye gway-luh) — Too expensive.
  • 便宜点? Pianyi dian? — Could you reduce the price?
  • 不要Buyao (boo-yaoww) — I don't want it.
  • 再看看Zai kankan (dzeye can-can) — I’ll have another look (elsewhere).
  • How to Bargain

14. Avoid Tourist Traps

Tourist traps intend to exploit tourists. What they offer is not worth the time or the money, and tourists generally leave feeling disappointed, bored, or cheated. From viewing about China Travel, you will know that we are a reliable operator.

Touting of Hotels, Transport, Tours, etc.

Some hawkers at airports, railway stations, and bus stations offer low or reasonably priced hotels, rides or tours. Beware! The price may change when you are in the hotel or get on their bus, and they will force you to pay a high price.

Retail at Tourist Attractions

Retailers at genuine tourist attractions (or other tourist-frequented locations) may sell over-priced goods. If you want to buy souvenirs or products that you are interested in, contact us and we could arrange for a guided tour to the best places to buy reasonably priced goods.

Currency Exchange Trap

Beware of people on the street who offer services for money exchange. If you need to exchange money, do it in the Bank of China, or at the star-rated hotels. 

15. Tailor-Making a First China Tour

If you do decide to come to China with us, we can guide you as much or as little as you like. 

If you want to be taken care of for the entirety of your trip and do not wish to worry about things like accommodation, transport, language, guides and visas, just tell us. We will tailor make a tour meeting your requirements, interests and budget.

Alternatively, you can also just book guides, drivers, and transport to take you to the more difficult to reach destinations. Please feel free to contact us and tell us what you are looking for. We are more than happy to tailor-make your unique trip.

16. China Travel's Most Popular First Time China Trips

All of the itineraries on our website can be tailored further to fit your needs. You can easily add whatever interests you. They are hand-picked by us from many options and will be adjusting them as we go along. You can use them as a guide and a starting point. We are here to make your tour easier and more fun. We are ready! Are you?