Planning a trip to the Middle Kingdom? Look no further than this comprehensive guide to China tourism. We will discover what there is to see and do, things you need to know before you go and much more.
If you plan on backpacking, then read my guide to backpacking in China for great ways to save money!
China Tourism – Know Before you Go!
VISA for China
Citizens of all but a very small number of countries (including Singapore, Brunei and Japan) will need a VISA to enter China. Since 2018 it has been a requirement to give bio-metric data such as fingerprints along with a VISA application, so this means you will need to visit your nearest Chinese embassy to apply.
For UK residents visit the Chinese VISA Application Centre website. The application process for the Tourist Visa (L) is relatively straightforward.
How much does a Chinese Visa cost?
You can find full price information here. Valid from 25/03/2019.
How long is a Chinese VISA valid for?
For UK citizens the L (tourist) VISA is valid for 24 months and multiple entries. It’s also possible to apply for 5 or 10 year VISAs.
Transit VISA Exemptions
It is possible to apply for a short VISA free stay in many large cities if you are transferring flights in China. The length of stay is between 24 and 144 hours and it’s not possible to leave the region where you transfer. Check with your nearest embassy. Further information can be found here.
VPNs for China
If you will need to work or want to access many websites such as social media in China you will need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to get around the “Great Firewall”.
You can read more in my article Best VPNs for China.
Money in China
China uses the Renminbi (元) which is abbreviated to RMB and also known as the Yuan (¥). The code is CNY.
There are eight denominations of bank notes; 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1 RMB and 5 & 1 Jiao (1/5 and 1/10 of an RMB).
There are three denominations of coins; 1 RMB, .5 RMB and .10 RMB
Cash is used less and less in China these days as people opt to use apps such as Wechat and Alipay. It is possible for foreigners to download Wechat and link it to your bank account back home, but you will need two people who already have the app to authorize you. VISA and Mastercard are widely accepted in all major cities.
China Tourism Trivia/For fun:
Each banknote bears the image of Mao Zedong, and on the reverse is a famous Chinese landmark. How many can you visit on your trip (extra points for a picture of you holding the banknote in front of the site)?
100 = The Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
50 = The Potala Palace in Lhasa
20 = Carst Mountains in Xingping
10 = Kui Gate on the Yangtze River
5 = Mount Tai in Shandong Province
1 = West Lake in Hangzhou
(I’m currently at 3/6)
China Tourism – Top Destinations
Top Cities in China
Top Tourist Attractions in China
Getting around China
Domestic flights in China are cheap, making it easy to get around and cover large distances. Trip.com offer the best deals both domestically and with flights to and from China.
However, here at thetripgoeson we are all about overland travel! China has one of the best rail networks in the world which is inexpensive by world standards, convenient and comfortable. There are two different networks; the slower sleeper trains and ultra-modern bullet trains.
Sleeper trains are a great way to get around the country, especially for those on a budget. Not only are they much cheaper than the fast trains, but it also means you can save on a night’s accomodation costs and wake up at your destination!
Fast (Bullet) Trains
The bullet train is a great way to cover long distances quickly and the routes are ever expanding. If you want to travel from say Beijing to Xi’an the fast train takes just 4.5 hours.
Considering a flight is 2.5 hours not including check-in, queuing etc, it can actually work out quicker to take the train.
Buying Train Tickets in China
There are several ways to purchase train tickets in China. Tickets go on sale 30 days in advance and you can buy these direct from the station, via the dedicated ticketing offices in Chinese towns and cities, or online at Trip.com (or via their app).
To purchase a ticket at the station or ticket office you will need your passport and the train details such as number, time and day.
If you purchase your ticket online or via the app, you will be emailed a collection code and you just need to show that to the ticket window at the station to collect your ticket.
Chinese stations are very large and can be very busy so ensure you have enough time to buy/collect your ticket and catch your train. Ensure you arrive at the station at least an hour in advance.
You can read more in my Guide to Train Travel in China.
Want to see the Terracotta Warriors? See how to travel from Beijing to Xi’an by train.
Take a trip on the world’s highest railway, the Qinghai Express to Tibet!
See how you can travel from England to China without flying by travelling the Silk Road.
Taxis in China
Taxis are ubiquitous throughout China. Official cars are usually in two colours such as yellow and green. Cars will have a green or red light on the dashboard indicating that they are available. No light means it is not in service/occupied.
There is a minimum fare of around 5 RMB and then a cost per km of around 1.5 RMB (this differs from city to city). All train stations have an official taxi rank (signposted in English) and always use these rather than private taxis.
Don’t be surprised if a taxi driver stops to pick up additional passengers if they are going in the same direction. This is very common.
From sub-arctic (Harbin) to sub-tropical (Hong Kong) and everything in between, China’s weather is as varied as it’s landscapes.
Beijing and northern/central parts of China typically have long, hot summers and cold winters.
The far northern Heilongjiang Province has a short warm summer and long, extremely cold winters.
Southern China benefits from year-round temperate and warm weather, with very hot and humid summers. The very south has a monsoon/rainy season from April to September.
High: +20° Low: +12°
Wind: S – 9 KPH
High: +20° Low: +11°
Wind: E – 13 KPH
High: +22° Low: +21°
Wind: ENE – 15 KPH
High: +5° Low: 0°
Wind: NNW – 33 KPH
High: +19° Low: +13°
Wind: NE – 6 KPH