“To Travel is to Live” - Hans Christian Andersen
China’s much bigger than the UK and it attracts millions of tourists every year. Even though 60% of the country is mountains, there are huge modern cities, the Yangtze River (which is nearly 4,000 miles long), and something for everyone to enjoy.
So how do you plan a trip to China? What should you know before you go? Where should you visit?
Here’s our guide to China!
Which Are the Most Beautiful Cities in China?
As the capital, it’s unsurprising that Beijing is one of the country’s most popular cities. In the past, it was home to the Jin Dynasty and today is the country’s political centre and home to the Great Hall of the People and Tienanmen Square.
In terms of monuments, you have to see the Great Wall of China. There are also other great sites such as:
- The Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The Forbidden City
- The National Museum of China
- Jingshan Park, a great place to relax after a day in the heat of the city
- Beijing isn’t the only big city in China worth visiting.
Shanghai, which literally means “Upon-the-Sea” in Chinese, is one of the biggest cities in China and the world with 24.2 million inhabitants. It’s the perfect place to stay in China and one of the most international cities. You can visit:
- The Bund, a pedestrian area on the banks of the Huangpu River.
- The Jade Buddha Temple
- People’s Square
- The Shanghai Grand Theatre, where you can see many beautiful local shows
- The Yu Garden, a great place to relax after a long day
- The Pearl Tower, a television tower
China isn’t just a country of technology though. When you visit China, don’t miss Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province. It’s at the end of the Silk Road and is very touristy, which doesn’t detract from just how beautiful the city is.
The Zhejiang Province is home to West Lake in Hangzhou which inspired many poets and artists. Many great emperors lived there in the 9th and 10th centuries. It’s considered to be one of China’s most beautiful cities and was the capital under the Song Dynasty.
Find out more about the best cities in China.
Essential Information About Visiting China
Whether you want to see Chinese wonders and UNESCO World Heritage Sites or travel around China, you need to prepare your trip well in advance.
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. If you want to travel and learn more about China, you should learn more about important aspects of Chinese culture:
- Martial arts
- Chinese calligraphy
- Chinese gardens, like those at Suzhou
It’ll help a lot if you know Mandarin 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
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.
With your phrasebook, tickets, and visa in hand, you’re ready to go!
Find out more about planning a trip to China.
How Long Should You Spend in China?
Before you go, think about the type of trip you’re going on and then you can decide how long you’ll need to go for. There are different types of trips you can go on because China is a vast and interesting country with big modern cities and protected natural sites:
- Visiting one or two cities in China.
- A tailored trip with cultural and tourist activities.
- A trip around a particular part of China.
- A trip around all of China.
When should you go to China?
Most tourists visit China in April and May or September and October. You can go between April and October or during the Chinese New Year if you want an immersive experience.
If you’re travelling for 10-12 days, we recommend that you focus on the big cities such as Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, and Xi’an (where you can find the terracotta army). The best parts of this trip will probably be the Great Wall of China, Luzhi water town, and the skyscrapers in Shanghai.
Keep in mind that preparation for a trip to China can take up to six months, especially considering that you’ll need to get a visa. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t miss a single monument.
Find out more about how long you should spend in China.
The Top Places to See in China
In this guide, we’ve already mentioned some of China’s biggest cities. Here are some other great places to visit:
- Xiamen, a city in the south of China with many temples.
- Yangshuo, famous for its beautiful rice fields.
- Zhangjiajie, in a region of natural beauty.
- Suzhou, with its canals.
- Chengdu, a beautiful city in the centre of China with many historic remains.
- Guilin, home to limestone hills and colourful grottos.
- Lijiang (Yunnan Province) where you can see the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a great place for a trek.
You can also do typical Chinese things like seeing pandas. There are 4 natural parks where you can see them and they’re all under 100 miles from Chengdu:
- The Wolong National Nature Reserve is home to 30 pandas.
- The Dujiangyan Panda Base, home to 20 pandas.
- The Bifengxia Panda Base, also home to 20 pandas.
- The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, with 50 pandas.
If you’re looking for unusual places to visit, you might like the Panjin Red Beach in the north of China. This magnificent natural marsh is home to 300 wild species.
Its unique colour is due to marine algae, Suaeda, but do you know what’s even weirder?
It’s red in autumn but changes to green from April to August. It’ll take your breath away.
Find out more about the best things to see in China.
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. They're usually the most cost-effective type of tutorial since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student.
Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or over webcam. 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. 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.