China Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit China

Welcome to China

China Great Wall

China has the largest population and the third-largest territory in the world. This enormous country is home to one of the oldest civilizations on earth with a unique culture and numerous activities and sights, such as the magnificent Great Wall of China.

This ultimate China travel guide offers practical tips, visa information, and must-see attractions to help you make the most of your trip.

Please note that there are currently still some travel restrictions for China. Please check the Chinese government website or contact your local embassy for more information about tourism possibilities.

Document checklist for China

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • Valid passport

  • Return or onward ticket

Essential China travel information

  • Currency - Chinese yuan (CN¥). $1 is equivalent to approximately CN¥ 6.9.

  • Daily budget for 1 person - Allow a daily budget of CN¥ 459 ($67).

  • Languages - The official language of China is Mandarin, which is spoken by more than 70% of the Chinese population. There are also several other major dialects spoken in China, such as Yue (Cantonese) and Xiang (Hunanese).

  • Number of travelers per year - Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, China received over 400 million visitors.

  • Socket type - Types A, C, and I, 220V supply voltage and 50Hz.

  • Time zone - China Standard Time (GMT+8).

  • Top 3 cities - Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'a.

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - The Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and the Terracotta Army.

Visa information for China

Visa requirements vary based on your citizenship and residency. To enter China, you must present a valid passport and a Chinese Visa. While you can apply for the Chinese Business Visa, applications for tourist visas for China are currently still on hold.

Find out which documents you need with our handy Visa Checker Tool.

The China Business Visa explained

The China Business Visa is an official travel document issued by the Chinese authorities to business travelers visiting the country for:

  • Attending trade fairs

  • Participation in business competitions

  • Visiting clients

  • Meeting with business partners

Apply now

Visa difficulty index for China

Accessibility: 4/5

Business travelers from over 160 countries can apply for a China Business Visa. The Chinese Tourist Visa is currently unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic regulations.

Time to get your visa: 3/5

The application process for the Business Visa is about 20 days and depends on the current capacity of the government authority and your nationality.

Costs: 4/5

This visa is free. You’ll only pay the iVisa processing fee.

Apply now

Typical costs and budget for China

A guide to what you'll spend on a daily basis in China on a mid-range budget.

  • Daily spending - Expect to spend about CN¥ 459 ($67) per person, per day. This includes:

  • Meals - A meal costs about CN¥ 80 ($12) per person.

  • Transport - Depending on your travel plans, local transportation may cost up to CN¥ 92 ($13) per day.

  • Hotel - The average price for a double room in China is CN¥ 280 ($40) per night.

On average, a trip to China for two people for one week can cost up to CN¥ 6522 ($938).

Transport and best ways to travel around China

Aside from the current COVID-19 regulations, mainland China is usually easily accessible and offers various connections via air, train, and bus. Here are the best ways of getting to and around China.

Getting to China

In addition to Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, many other Chinese cities are also served by international flights. International airlines that fly to China include:

  • China Eastern Airlines

  • China Southern Airlines

  • Air China

  • Cathay Pacific

  • United

  • American Airlines

  • KLM

  • Malaysia Airlines

Additionally, Chinese overland routes include road and rail links with its Southeast Asian neighbors, such as Vietnam. However, the Trans-Siberian Express is currently closed due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Arrival and immigration tips for China

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka is the largest airport in China. Depending on the season and time of arrival, immigration procedures can get chaotic and long queues are common. A few tips to make the immigration process smoother:

  • Apply for your China Business Visa in advance, or contact your nearest Chinese embassy for more information about tourism.

  • You’ll need to register with the police within 24 hours of arrival in the country. Not doing so could result in fines and deportation. Hotel staff or the local police station can help you register.

  • If you encounter problems in Tibet, the U.S. government will not be able to assist you, as the Chinese government does not usually allow U.S. government personnel to travel there.

  • Dual nationality is not recognized by the Chinese government. If you own a United States and Chinese passport, you are typically not allowed to receive consular assistance from the U.S. embassy, unless you traveled to China on a U.S. passport with a valid Chinese visa.

  • Many websites are blocked in China, such as Facebook, Google, and Instagram. Make sure you have other contact details of your loved ones at home in case of an emergency, or research a VPN for your mobile device.

  • Addresses and logistics should be prepared in both English and Chinese. Both should be listed on your hotel's website.

  • Get a translation app for your phone to help with communication.

  • Visa, MasterCard, and American Express aren't accepted in many places, except hotels and major department stores in touristy areas. Bring some Chinese yuan in cash or use a non-airport ATM for the best rates.

Getting around China

The public transportation system in China is easy and affordable. It can get busy though, especially during public holidays.

It’s possible to fly to all regional capitals and most cities. There is a rail network that reaches every region, and you can reach China’s remotest places by bus. The only place where independent travel is widely restricted is Tibet.

  • Train travel in China: Likely the best way to travel around China. Bullet trains and high-speed networks service all major Chinese cities, and overnight trains are comfortable and affordable. Most trains offer hot water (perfect for instant noodles) and snacks.

There are several comfort classes to choose from, ranging from the soft sleeper and hard sleeper to the soft seat and hard seat. Make sure to prepare on-arrival info in English and Chinese, such as the address and directions for your accommodation.

  • Domestic flights in China: All major cities are connected by China's airlines, and services are becoming more frequent. There are several major operators, including Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, and Hainan Airlines. Flying is worth it for long distances, especially since prices can be lower than soft-sleeper train travel.

  • Bus travel in China: Usually more frequent but slower, buses go everywhere trains go. Buses come in different types, but there isn't always a choice for specific routes, and the station staff will assume that foreign nationals want the fastest, most comfortable, and most expensive option.

Mini-buses seat up to twenty people and are common on routes of less than 100 km or so. They can get extremely cramped but may be worth paying for a private experience with a group of travelers.

Safety in China

It is generally safe to travel to China as a tourist, as long as you are aware of where you are going and stay alert at all times.

One thing to keep in mind is that China’s local authorities are quite strict when it comes to foreign influence, such as websites and news coverage, and censorship and surveillance are commonplace.

Here are a couple of tips to remember when visiting China:

  • In China, protests and demonstrations are forbidden in public places, and people who take photos or videos of them could be prosecuted. Monitor local media and stay clear of large gatherings, especially in Hong Kong.

  • Petty theft and pickpocketing are common in tourist areas, train stations, sleeper buses,and trains. To purchase many things in China you’ll need your original passport, so keep it in a safe spot and always make digital copies.

  • Whenever you arrive in a new city, always hail a taxi from a marked taxi rank. Also make sure the meter is on and check the approximate price beforehand.

  • When haggling and bargaining in markets, ensure you have the correct change and be confident. Learning a few Chinese phrases will help.

  • Be aware of scams such as being invited to a tea ceremony, for which you might end up having to pay a hefty price.

  • Pay attention to air quality indexes each day, especially in hotter months, as pollution is a problem in major cities throughout the country.

  • If you want to visit Tibet, ensure that you book with a reputable tour company or guide, and prepare all documents and permits before traveling to China. It is important to purchase travel insurance in advance to avoid medical emergencies. This will enable you to access medical facilities, receive medical treatment, and even arrange for medical evacuation if needed.

Weather in China

Autumn and spring are unquestionably the best times of year to visit China due to the moderate temperatures, fewer crowds, and pleasant weather. However, if you don't mind the scorching and freezing temperatures, summer and winter are also good options and offer different landscapes and activities.

School breaks and public holidays can cause crowds at major sights and for public transportation, such as around Chinese New Year.

Must do and see in China

Don’t miss these awesome sights on your holiday to China:

  1. Great Wall of China - This ancient and world-famous monument stretches more than 6,000 kilometers from the fortresses of Shanhaiguan in the east all the way to Jiayuguan in the west.

  2. Forbidden City - Located in the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City (also called the Imperial Palace) is one of China's largest and most significant buildings.

  3. Terracotta Army - Farmers were digging wells on the outskirts of Xi'an in the 1970s when they stumbled across what was to be China's most important archeological find: the Terracotta Army of more than 8,000 unique, life-size, sculptures of warriors.

  4. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - You might think that the movie Avatar was shot here, as this stunning natural area of pillar-like rock formations look like they are from another planet.

  5. Li River - The best way to enjoy the gorgeous Li River is to cruise from Guilin to charming Yangshuo, through the spectacular karst rock formations of about 80 kilometers.

  6. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding - No visit to China would be complete without at least one panda experience. The best place to see them as close as possible to their natural habitat is in Chengdu, where you'll have the chance to watch over 80 pandas foraging and playing in the facility's large park-like setting.

  7. Three Gorges - Hike, cruise, or day trip along the Yangtze River, the third-longest river in the world, at the Three Gorges. Here you’ll see dramatic cliffs and mountainscapes as far as your eye can see.

  8. Potala Palace - The magnificent Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet was a fortress and residence for the Dalai Lama, and the center of political and religious power for centuries, containing many of Buddhism’s most important treasures.

  9. The Bund - This amazing riverside promenade, the Zhongshan Lu, or the Bund, makes you forget you're in the middle of China's largest city, Shanghai.

  10. Hong Kong Skyline - It’s considered as one of the most dramatic city skylines in the world, best seen from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island.

Typical Chinese food to try

You won't want to miss these traditional dishes on your next trip to China.

  • Peking Roasted Duck - This famous dish from Beijing is savored for its thin and crispy skin. The dish is often eaten with small pancakes, sweet bean sauce, or soy sauce with mashed garlic.

  • Kung Pao Chicken - A famous specialty from Sichuan, a favorite of both Chinese and foreigners. The main ingredients are chicken, chili, cucumber, and fried peanuts.

  • Sweet and Sour Pork - The bright orange-red color and delicious sweet and sour taste characterize this traditional Chinese dish, served with rice.

  • Hot Pot - This popular dish is more of an experience, where people cook in and eat from a simmering pot of broth on a gas/induction hob in the middle of the table. It is the broth that gives the meat and vegetables their final umami flavor.

  • Dim Sum - Dim sum is actually a variety of small dishes, including dumplings, rolls, cakes, meat, seafood, and vegetable options. Today, there are more than a thousand dim sum dishes available.

Vaccine information for China

Before booking your trip, ensure you know which vaccines and COVID-19 measures are required to enter China, as tight restrictions apply.

We advise you to check the CDC website for up-to-date info about vaccination requirements and recommended medicine.

Visiting the Great Wall of China

For many, climbing the Great Wall of China is far at the top of their bucket list. This ancient monument is truly a miracle to behold.

One of the best examples of architectural history, the Great Wall was the largest defense project in ancient China. It took more than 2,000 years for the Great Wall to be built, between 770 and 476 B.C. No wonder it’s one of the seven wonders of the world!

Where is the Great Wall of China?

There are several spots to visit the Great Wall of China. Badaling is one of the most visited spots, easily reachable by tours and public transport. Mutianyu is also regularly suggested as an option and this part is praised for the lush greenery that surrounds it.

Some spots that receive fewer crowds are Nan Pass, Juyongguan, and Baishi, which are also less restored. It’s all about what you prefer!

How to get to the Great Wall of China

The easiest way to visit the Great Wall of China is by tour, although you may be restricted on time and where to go. Badaling can be reached by various daily trains from Beijing Huangtudian Railway Station, taking around 1.5 hours.

Pre-booking a car and driver to take you to the Great Wall of China is also an easy option, and can be more affordable when in a small group. By car, it takes about 1.5 hours to reach Badaling or Mutianyu from Beijing city center.

Other tips for visiting the Great Wall of China

The ideal months to visit the Great Wall are late March, April, May, June, September, October, and early November. Weekdays are better than weekends and especially avoid public holidays. Wear sturdy shoes, and sunscreen, and take some snacks. There are no toilets or bins along the routes, so make sure to use facilities at the start points.

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