"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” - Laozi
Whether you want to see Chinese wonders and UNESCO World Heritage Sites or travel around China, you need to prepare your trip to China well in advance. China is one of the most popular destinations in the world for tourists.
So how can you organise a trip to China? What do you need to know?
Here’s our quick China travel guide.
Getting to China and Travelling Around the Country
Preparing a trip to China isn’t a piece of cake. It’s around a 10-hour flight from the UK and China covers 3.705 million mi². With 32,000 towns and cities to discover, China’s within reach!
But how do you get to China and how do you travel between the cities?
Here’s what you need to know...
Firstly, you’ll need to decide when you’re going to China and book your flights. It’s recommended that you go between April and October when the weather’s nicer. The average cost of flights is around £700 return.
Getting to China is one thing. But how do you travel around once you’re there?
There are several ways to get around China:
- Domestic flights
- Cars or taxis
The bicycle is the symbolic mode of transport of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
There are regular domestic flights in China and there are several direct flights between the biggest cities in the country.
The train is a practical and affordable way to travel around the country. Typical journey times are:
- Beijing to Shanghai: 4 hours 28 minutes.
- Wuhan to Guangzhou: 3 hours 28 minutes.
Did you know that the Trans-Siberian Railway is the only train from Saint Petersburg to Beijing?
It’s quite the experience!
You’re probably thinking that that’s all well and good, but how do you travel around the cities?
In addition to getting to China, you’ll need to know how to get around China by bike, taxi, bus, or train. Here are the average prices:
- A bus ticket costs between £0.25 and £0.50 though this can go up to £1.40 in cities like Guangzhou.
- Taxis cost around £0.40 per mile though the distances can be really immense.
- Bicycles can be rented for around £0.15 per hour.
Bicycles are everywhere in China and are considered the way to travel.
Find out more about the best cities in China.
Essential Chinese Traditions and Customs
China is a rich country in terms of culture, history, and cuisine. If you go to China, you have to try:
- Spring rolls
- Peking duck
- Green tea
Opt for local restaurants for an immersive experience!
In terms of customs, outside of markets, there’s little bartering and haggling so you won’t be at a disadvantage against the locals. You’re all in the same boat when buying bus tickets or souvenirs. Don’t try and haggle outside of the markets as it’s frowned upon.
If you want to travel around China, you might want to learn more about important aspects of Chinese culture such as:
- Martial arts
- Chinese calligraphy
- Chinese gardens, like those at Suzhou
Whether you’re in the north or south of China, visiting the Great Wall of China, the Yangtze River, or the Terracotta Warriors, there’s so much discover.
But before you start planning what you’re going to do, what else do you need to know?
Find out more about how long you should spend visiting China.
Will the Chinese Language Barrier Be a Problem?
We’re not going to lie, Mandarin Chinese can be a tricky language for English speakers to learn. Before you go to China, you should learn some of the basics. In fact, even in the Chinese megacities like Chengdu in the Guilin province, English isn’t widely spoken.
The language barrier can cause problems in many situations:
- Everyday communication like in hotels and restaurants.
- Getting around, taking taxis, and public transport.
- Finding your way around the cities since all the signs are in Chinese.
Here’s some advice for getting over the language barrier:
- Order basic dishes to avoid confusion.
- Get yourself a translation app to get you out of tricky situations.
- Make sure you have important information (such as your hotel) written down in Chinese
For 84% of European tourists, the Chinese language is a major concern during their stays. In addition to getting Mandarin Chinese lessons, you could also get in touch with a local travel agency for guided tours in English when you visit things like the Terracotta Army or the Temple of Heaven.
Don’t hesitate to get a Chinese travel guide before you go.
In terms of trips, what do you need to know once you get there?
Find out more about the best things to see in China.
Everything You Need to Know When Travelling Around China
Before you go to the Yunnan Province and discover more of China, you’ll have to make sure you get a visa. You need to get the tourist visa (L Visa) regardless of your length of stay. Here’s some important information about your visa:
- Your visa is valid for a maximum of three months from the day you enter China.
- There are transit visas available, valid for 72 hours if you’re continuing onto elsewhere in Asia, for example.
- You need to contact the Chinese consulate to complete your request.
- Your Visa will be a sheet of paper stuck into your passport. Make sure you always carry your ID on you.
Getting a visa can take between 3 and 8 weeks so make sure you plan ahead.
You should also be aware that the country isn’t very open. Most social networks won’t be available on your phone. If you want to access Facebook or Instagram, you’ll need a VPN, but these are illegal in China.
Maybe it’s time to have a break from social media?
To use your phone to find your way around, get back to your hotel, or call someone, you’ve got two options:
- Keep your current contract and opt for roaming.
- Get a SIM for use in China.
Finally, don’t forget you’ll have to pay for all this. Firstly, check with your bank to see whether or not you can use your cards abroad and how much you’ll be charged for it. Here are some example budgets:
- For two weeks, budget around £1,500.
- For 10 days, around £1,200.
- For a trip around China, £2,400.
- The cost will vary depending on how long you’re staying for when you go, which cities you visit, and the attractions you want to visit. Don’t forget to change your pounds sterling into yuans before you go!
£1 ≈ CNY 8.63 and CNY 1.00 ≈ £0.12.
With the administrative steps, planning your trip, and learning some Mandarin Chinese, you can now get ready to go to China.
So when are you heading to China? Where will you go? Tibet, Yangship, Chongqing, or Nanjing?
If you'd like to learn some Chinese before you go to Shanghai, you could consider enlisting the help of one of the many talented tutors on Superprof! The tutors on the site offer three types of private tutorials to help you learn the lingo: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.
Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and tend to be the most costly per hour because you're paying for both bespoke lessons and a bespoke course. While they are the most costly per hour, they're usually the most cost-effective type of tutorial since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student.
Thanks to the internet, you can now video conference tutors from all over the world and be taught for less per hour since the tutor won't have the travel costs to worry about and can fit more students into their schedule as a result. Of course, online tutorials can lack intimacy and while not ideal for hands-on subjects, they're great for language lessons. Your tutor might even be from China!
Finally, group tutorials are more like the classes you'll have had in school with one teacher and multiple students. However, with group tutorials, you and a group of friends (perhaps the people you'll be travelling with) can get in touch with a private tutor to plan lessons that you'll all attend together. While these tend to be the cheapest per student per hour since the cost of the tutor's time is shared, you'll also get far less one-on-one time with your tutor.
Each different type of tutorial has its pros and cons and it's really up to you and your budget to decide how much you'll need to learn, how you want to learn, and what your budget is going to be for Chinese language lessons before you go.