CHINA TRAVEL GUIDE
China has for a very long time played a pivotal role in the development of civilisation. With its secrets finally beginning to open up to tourism, China itself is fast becoming an attractive destination. Small Ming dynasty villages scattered around the countryside juxtapose against the towering skyscrapers of busy Shanghai make the diverseness of China apparent. From the Great Wall of China to the Terracotta Warriors of Xian, China is filled with important symbolism. Kung fu. Ming vases. Silk. Tea. Classic cuisine. Confucius. Chairman Mao. Paper. Pagodas. Pandas. Paintings. Porcelain. China represents all that – and much, much more.
CHINA QUICK FACTS
Currency: yuan (¥, CNY)
Area: 9,596,960 km²
Population: 1,393 billion (2018)
Language: Mandarin (Putonghua); recognized regionally: Wu (Shanghaiese), Cantonese (Yue), Mindong (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages
Religion:Buddhist c. 80%, Daoist (Taoist), Confucian, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2%, Atheist c. 10%. Most Chinese are religious pluralists, observing a mixture of Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist beliefs and philosophies, but not necessarily practising. The state is officially atheist.
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (US Type A, European Type C and Australian Type I plugs)
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CHINA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 1 January, New Year’s Day
- 1 May, May Day
- 1–3 October, National Day
Also, Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), Tomb Sweeping Day (Qing Ming), Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.
FESTIVALS IN CHINA
BEST TIME TO VISIT CHINA
China has four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter.
- Spring (March to May) is a time of mild temperatures and blooming flowers. It is a good time to visit many parts of China, especially the south, as the weather is comfortable and the scenery is beautiful.
- Summer (June to August) is typically hot and humid, especially in the south. It is the peak tourist season for many popular destinations, such as Beijing and Xi'an. This season is not the best time to visit if you are looking for comfortable weather.
- Fall (September to November) is considered the best time to visit China, with mild temperatures and clear skies. The leaves on the trees in many regions of the country turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and red. Many festivals are held during this season.
- Winter (December to February) is cold and dry, with temperatures often dropping below freezing in the north. It is not the best time to visit if you are looking for comfortable weather, but it is a good time to visit if you want to experience traditional Chinese winter activities such as ice-skating and hot springs.
The best time to visit China depends on the specific region and activities you plan to do during your trip. Generally speaking, the best time to visit China is in the fall, specifically September and October, when the weather is mild and many festivals are held. The spring is also a good time to visit, as the weather is comfortable and the flowers are in bloom. The summer can be hot and humid, and the winter can be cold and dry, so these seasons may not be the most ideal for a visit.
CHINA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
China’s climate varies dramatically according to a number of variables, including altitude, latitude, and distance from the coast. Southern China experiences a tropical climate, with high temperatures and heavy rainfall particularly during the summer (May-September) while the mountainous regions of Southwestern China experience more moderate temperatures. Tibet and Inner Mongolia experience much harsher climates, with very cold winters and particularly strong winds to be expected in high altitude regions. Central and eastern China experiences fewer climate extremes but summers are known to be notably humid.
CHINA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN CHINA
The snow sports season in China can stretch all the way from November and last until April, depending where in the country you are.
HIKING & CYCLING IN CHINA
The best time for outdoor activities in China is from April to October when the weather is moderate. The most pleasant months are May and October.
BEACH OPTIONS IN CHINA
China has some lovely beaches but be warned, they can get very crowded! The weather can be good from May to September, with June, July and August being the hottest months. Some of the most popular beaches are Yalong Bay, Wuzhizhou Island, Beidaihe Scenic Area, Tianya Haijiao and Putuoshan Island.
SURFING IN CHINA
Hainan Island is the surfing capital of China. There are two main surfing seasons: the August to October typhoon season and the November to March monsoon season. The most consistent waves can be found in January and February.
KITESURF IN CHINA
China has some great conditions for both kitesurfing and windsurfing from April to November. The best times are April & May and August to October. Some of the best kitesurfing spots are Pingtan, Xiamen, Hainan Island, Haikou, Bo’ao, Houhai, Binhai, Qidong, Dapeng and Nanshan Bay.
For more details on kite surfing in China expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN CHINA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
CHINA TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to China can vary greatly depending on your itinerary, travel style, and the time of year you visit. Some basic costs to consider include:
- Airfare: Round-trip flights from the US to China can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 or more, depending on the departure city and time of year.
- Accommodation: Hotel prices in China can range from budget-friendly options for around $20 per night to luxury hotels for $200 or more per night.
- Transportation: China has an extensive and efficient public transportation system, including buses, subways, and trains. A subway or bus ride can cost as little as $0.50, while train tickets can cost more depending on the distance and class of travel.
- Food: Chinese food is delicious and very affordable, with street food and local restaurants offering meals for as little as $2-5.
- Sightseeing: Many of China's most famous tourist attractions, such as the Great Wall of China, charge an admission fee, which can vary depending on the location.
- Visas: A tourist visa for China typically costs around $140 for US citizens.
Overall, it is possible to travel to China on a budget, but costs can quickly add up if you choose more expensive options.
Here is an example of a sample cost breakdown for a one-week trip to China:
- Airfare: $800
- Accommodation: $300 for a budget hotel for 7 nights
- Transportation: $70 for a subway/bus pass for 7 days
- Food: $150 for meals
- Sightseeing: $150 for admission fees to popular tourist attractions such as the Great Wall of China, Terracotta Warriors and others
- Visa: $140
Total cost: $1560
This is just a rough estimate and costs will vary depending on your specific itinerary and travel style. For example, if you choose to stay in more expensive hotels, eat at more upscale restaurants, or participate in more activities, your expenses will be higher.
It's worth noting that this cost estimation doesn't include personal expenses such as souvenirs, travel insurance, laundry, and other unforeseen expenses. It's important to have a buffer in your budget to account for unexpected costs.
CHINA TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for China:
- Learn some basic Mandarin: While many people in China's major tourist destinations speak English, it's helpful to know some basic Mandarin phrases to communicate with locals and navigate through the country.
- Get a SIM card: Having a local SIM card will make it easier to stay connected and navigate through the country.
- Be aware of the cultural differences: China has a rich cultural history, and it's important to be respectful and aware of the customs and etiquette when visiting temples, palaces and other historical sites.
- Be mindful of the Air Quality: China's air quality can vary greatly depending on the location and time of year, so it's important to check the air quality index and plan your itinerary accordingly.
- Plan ahead and be flexible: China is a big country, and it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds. Plan ahead, but also be flexible and open to new experiences.
- Bring cash: Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted in China, so it's important to carry cash.
- Get a VPN: Many popular social media apps and websites are blocked in China, so it's important to get a VPN to be able to access them.
- Be prepared for crowds: China is a popular tourist destination and many popular attractions can be quite crowded, particularly during peak tourist season.
- Be prepared for the weather: China's weather can vary greatly depending on the location and time of year, so it's important to check the forecast and pack accordingly.
- Be open to new experiences: China is a fascinating country with a rich history and culture, so be open to trying new things, and you will have a much more enjoyable and memorable trip.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF CHINA
China is a large country with many diverse regions. Some of the main regions and their highlights include:
- Beijing: As the capital of China, Beijing is home to many famous historical and cultural sites, such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall of China.
- Shanghai: Known as the "Paris of the East," Shanghai is a cosmopolitan city with a mix of modern and traditional architecture, as well as a vibrant nightlife. Highlights include The Bund, a waterfront promenade with views of the city's skyline, and the Yuyuan Garden, a traditional Chinese garden.
- Xi'an: Xi'an is known for its ancient history, including the Terracotta Warriors, the ancient city walls, and the Muslim Quarter, home to the Great Mosque.
- Guilin: Guilin is known for its beautiful landscapes, including the Karst mountains and the Li River. The city is also a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking and river cruises.
- Chengdu: Chengdu is known for its giant pandas and its traditional Sichuan cuisine. Visitors can also explore the Wenshu Monastery and the Jinli Street, a traditional street with shops, restaurants, and cultural performances.
- Hong Kong: Known for its unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures, Hong Kong is a major financial center and a popular tourist destination, known for its skyline, Victoria Peak, Disneyland, and the Big Buddha.
- Tibet: Tibet is known for its unique culture, history, and spiritual practices. It is also known for Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Visitors can also explore the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and the many monasteries in the region.
- Yunnan: Yunnan is known for its beautiful natural scenery, including the Tiger Leaping Gorge, and the diverse ethnic groups that call the region home. Visitors can also explore ancient towns and villages, such as Lijiang and Dali, for a glimpse of traditional ways of life.
These are just a few examples of the many regions and highlights that China has to offer. Each region has its own unique culture, history, and attractions.
There are countless things to see and do when visiting China, depending on your interests and the region you visit. Here are some popular things to see and do in China:
- Visit the Great Wall of China: One of the most iconic and must-see attractions in China, the Great Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
- Explore ancient history: China has a rich history, and many ancient cities and sites, such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Terracotta Warriors, offer a glimpse into China's past.
- Experience traditional culture: China is home to many ethnic groups, each with their own unique customs, costumes, and festivals. Visitors can experience traditional culture by visiting a minority village, attending a traditional performance, or taking part in a local festival.
- Enjoy Chinese cuisine: Chinese cuisine is famous all over the world, and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of dishes and flavors, from Cantonese dim sum to Sichuan hotpot.
- Visit a Panda Breeding Center: China is home to the giant pandas, which are an endangered species and a national symbol. Visiting a Panda breeding center is a great way to learn about the conservation effort and get up close with the cute pandas.
- Explore Chinese nature: China is home to many beautiful landscapes, from the Karst mountains in Guilin to the snow-capped peaks of Tibet. Visitors can hike, boat, and take in the natural beauty of the country.
- Go shopping: China is a shopper's paradise, and visitors can find a wide variety of products, from traditional crafts to modern electronics, at a fraction of the cost in other countries.
- Visit the museums: China has a lot of museums, the most notable one is the National Museum of China, with a great collection of Chinese art, ceramics, and bronze.
- Visit the temples and Monasteries: China has a rich Buddhist culture, and visitors can explore many beautiful temples and monasteries, such as the Potala Palace in Tibet, the Wenshu Monastery in Chengdu, and the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
- Take in the modern architecture: China has a vibrant modern architecture scene, the most notable examples are the CCTV headquarters in Beijing, the Shanghai Tower, and the Guangzhou Circle.
These are just a few examples of the many things to see and do in China. It's a vast and diverse country, so it's best to plan your trip in advance and decide what you're interested in seeing and doing.
WHAT TO EAT IN CHINA
China is famous for its delicious cuisine, and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of dishes and flavors depending on the region they visit. Here are some popular foods to try when visiting China:
- Peking Duck: This Beijing specialty is a must-try dish, featuring crispy, thin-skinned duck that is served with thin pancakes, scallions, and a sweet bean sauce.
- Dim Sum: Cantonese dim sum is a popular breakfast or lunch food, featuring small steamed buns filled with meat or vegetables.
- Sichuan Hotpot: This spicy and flavorful dish is a staple of Sichuan cuisine and features a simmering pot of broth filled with a variety of meats and vegetables.
- Chinese Noodles: China has a wide variety of noodle dishes, from hand-pulled noodles in Lanzhou to knife-shaved noodles in Shaanxi.
- Chinese dumplings: Chinese dumplings are a popular snack, and can be filled with meat or vegetables, steamed, boiled or fried.
- Chinese steamed buns: Chinese steamed buns, also known as baozi, are a popular snack, typically filled with meat or vegetables, and are usually steamed.
- Chinese fried rice: Fried rice is a popular dish and can be found in many variations across China, it is usually served with meat, seafood or vegetables.
- Chinese soup: Chinese soups are very popular in China, soups can be meat-based, vegetable-based, or seafood-based.
- Chinese street food: China's street food is delicious and varied, from dumplings and noodles to skewers and sweet treats, you can find a lot of street food options in many Chinese cities.
- Chinese tea: Chinese tea culture is rich and diverse, visitors can try different kinds of Chinese tea and learn about the traditional tea ceremony.
These are just a few examples of the many delicious foods that China has to offer, and it's worth noting that Chinese cuisine varies greatly from region to region, so the options will be different depending on the location you are visiting.
LGBTQ IN CHINA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the People's Republic of China face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in China since 1997. Following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, Chinese LGBT activists estimated that China is at least a decade away from legalising same-sex marriages, with the current priorities on introducing anti-discrimination laws, letting LGBT groups raise awareness without fear. Public opinion towards LGBT people is becoming more tolerant, but only amongst a small percentage of the population. There is also still much resistance from the authorities and various LGBT events have been banned in recent years.
WHERE TO STAY IN CHINA
When visiting China for the first time, you may want to consider staying in one of the major tourist destinations, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an, as these cities offer a good mix of historical and cultural attractions, as well as modern amenities.
- Beijing: As the capital of China, Beijing is home to many famous historical and cultural sites, such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall of China. There are many accommodations options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. Staying in the city center will be convenient for sightseeing and transportation.
- Shanghai: Known as the "Paris of the East," Shanghai is a cosmopolitan city with a mix of modern and traditional architecture, as well as a vibrant nightlife. The Bund and the People's Square are popular area to stay, as they are close to many attractions and shopping areas.
- Xi'an: Xi'an is known for its ancient history, including the Terracotta Warriors, the ancient city walls, and the Muslim Quarter. Staying in the city center will be convenient for sightseeing and transportation.
- Guilin: Guilin is known for its beautiful landscapes, including the Karst mountains and the Li River. Staying in the city center will be convenient for sightseeing and transportation.
- Chengdu: Chengdu is known for its giant pandas and its traditional Sichuan cuisine. Staying in the city center will be convenient for sightseeing and transportation.
These are just a few examples of cities to consider when visiting China for the first time, and each city has its own unique culture, history, and attractions. It's worth to consider your interests and the activities you want to do, as well as the time of year you plan to visit, when choosing where to stay in China.
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