China Travel Guide
Traveling China is not always the first place that comes to people’s minds. Especially these days. China is many things. What is sometimes easy to forget is that a country and its people and what it has to offer cannot be grouped together with its government. This extraordinary country offers a look into the past often overlooked in Western history books that is both ancient and timeless. It has such a rich culture and wide variety of traditions, food, wildlife and nature that the hardest part of your trip here will be trying to decide which awesome thing to do over another. China will push you outside your comfort zone, it will open your eyes to a side of this country that you might never see portrayed in the media and you will walk away from it better than when you came.
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Best time to travel China
In general China experiences seasons like most of the Northern Hempisphere with chillier winters, that lead into warm, lush springs and hot summers that fade into cool autumns. It’s such a huge country, though, that those seasons mean different things in different parts of the country.
Overall, the best time to travel China would be spring or fall with the milder temps and less rainfall than summer. Avoid major holidays if possible as that is when all of China’s 1.3 billion people will also be traveling which means intense crowds, soaring prices and little availability.
- Chinese New Year is based on the Lunar calendar and therefore changes every year but normally lands around mid – late January and lasts 2-3 weeks. It’s the busiest time to travel as everyone gets so much time off but also offers festivals and fireworks
- Labor Day is on May 1st and people usually extend into the weekend as it’s a pleasant time to travel weather-wise
- National Day starts October 1 and lasts for a week. Beijing and The Great Wall are both particularly crowded
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Travel China Covid-19 Updates
Updates as of November 12
Borders closed in March to all international visitors with some exceptions for business and service visas. Certain exceptions allowed to apply for visas.
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Official currency: ¥ Chinese Renminbi
Budget: Nowhere near as cheap as SE Asia but not on the level of Western Europe or Australia and New Zealand either. Depending on how long you’ll be there (and how many cities you’re visiting) transit can start to add up but accomodation and food are very reasonably priced with hostels averaging $15 USD in Beijing and Shanghai and even less outside those cities. Expect to pay less than $2USD for a beer. That being said, you can reasonably expect to budget $66/day when it spreads across all other things.
Credit cards: Accepted in most major tourist areas but not always as common in other areas. Smaller places and denominations it is much easier to use cash. Check with your credit card and bank about foreign transaction and ATM fees. I use Charles Schwab because they not only don’t have ATM fees but they will reimburse you for whatever the actual ATM charges as well. If you exchange money NEVER do so at the airport as it’s the worst exchange rate.
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Where to go
Suggested itineraries for traveling China
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Only 18 countries can enter visa free including a handful from Africa and Asia, 3 from South America and a few European countries. Transit visas are available for varying amounts of time depending on your country but to see China for more than a day or two most will need a visa.
**Always check with your government for the most up to date information on visa requirements.**
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**Recommendations are given assuming you are up to date on routine vaccinations. Always check with your government for the most accurate and up to date information on required vaccinations for China travel specific to your country**
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Exercise Normal Precautions
China – Hong Kong relations is something to keep an eye on both if you plan on traveling to Hong Kong or to China as protests happen in both.
**Always check with your government for the most accurate and up to date information on safety**
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Know before you go so you can be the most respectful and responsible visitor possible
Things to keep in mind when traveling China:
- Gulags are modern day concentration camps. These incredible graphics explain in a clear and concise way
- Animal tourism: Stay away from any Chinese medicine that uses animal parts and anything that involves animals except for the Chengdu Panda and Research Center.
- I have not included Tibet as a part of China, but here is some introductory information: What is China’s Argument on Tibet?
See the below link for both more detailed information as well as how you can help and what you as a tourist can do to avoid propagating these issues
Official Languages: Mandarin
Plugs: Most commonly you’ll find sockets similar to American standard plugs but shorter, so an adapter is still needed. British and Australian plugs can also be found but again, sometimes in different sizes meaning you should bring an adapter as you don’t know what you’ll end up with.