China Travel Guide
Discover our top tips and other essential details for your trip in our China travel guide.
China is one of the most popular places on the planet for a vacation, with nearly 60 million people flocking to its shores every year to explore hundreds of unique sights spread across thousands of kilometers of spectacular terrain. As a destination of extraordinary contrasts which also has a truly unique cultural identity, it can understandably take some time to get used to China – particularly if it’s your first time visiting.
Before you set off on your whirlwind tour of magnificent Chinese wonders and bustling, cosmopolitan cities, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the practicalities of vacationing in a country that’s likely very different from your own.
Whether you’re a little unsure about China’s visa requirements or simply want to know a bit more about the recommended vaccinations, prepare yourself for an unforgettable vacation in the Far East with tips from our China travel guide.
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Visa and entry
You’ll need to apply for a visa if you’re visiting China for longer than 72 hours. Visas should be obtained prior to leaving your home country from either your nearest Chinese embassy or through an agency.
To apply, you’ll need a passport that is valid for at least six months, evidence of your return flights and confirmation of your accommodation for the first night of your trip. As of 2019, all visas cost around $140 for US citizens. There are three different types of visas that you can apply for as a tourist:
- Single entry – These are one trip visas valid for 30 days from the date you land in China. They’re a good option if you’ve booked a tour that doesn’t include any side trips to Tibet, Hong Kong or Macau.
- Double entry – These visas allow you to enter, exit and re-enter China within a certain time period, so you can avoid the hassle of applying for a visa again. If you’re planning a side trip to a neighboring countries or region but flying to or from home through China, you’ll need this type of visa.
- Multi entry – Great for regular visitors, these allow you to enter and exit China as many times as you like within the visa’s period of validity (ranges from three months to 10 years). If you’re planning multiple trips to China, this is a cheaper option than buying several single entry visas for each visit.
Note that certain regions in China, as well as neighboring countries like Tibet, require special permits to enter them. Visas for Hong Kong and Macau must be applied for separately from your mainland China visa.
You can obtain a Tibetan travel permit or visa with your Chinese visa and passport. Please note that individual applications for a Tibetan visa are not allowed – such applications must go through your travel agency. We recommend that you apply for a Tibetan permit or visa through us at least 20 days before you travel.
Language in China
In mainland China, Mandarin is the most widely spoken language. The character-based dialect is quite complex, with tones varying depending on the region you’re visiting. You’ll also discover many other languages spoken throughout the country, including Cantonese in areas bordering Hong Kong and Macau.
As English is commonly taught at schools in larger Chinese cities, you’ll find many younger locals or business professionals should be able to understand and help you if you need assistance. They may not have conversed with native English speakers before though, so you’ll likely need to speak slowly and clearly or write down your questions.
In the rural areas of China, few speak English. We advise you to carry a small translation guide that can help you with the basics should you wish to converse with locals. Choose one that includes written words in Chinese script that a local can read.
Currency in China
The local currency in China is the Renminbi (RMB or CNY), with the basic unit being the Yuan. You’ll be able to purchase currency in your home country or exchange it at airports in China, some banks or bureau des changes inside larger hotels. While the exchange rate can fluctuate, you can expect to buy around 7 RMB for 1 USD.
It’s best to have cash on you at all times in China, particularly in rural regions. ATMs in cities and large towns tend to be open 24/7. If you’re spending time in a city, you’ll find some hotels and department stores accept foreign credit cards, including Visa, AMEX and Mastercard. Make sure you inform your bank before you travel so they don’t assume your card has been stolen or copied.
In general, China’s health service is good compared to many other countries in Asia. It’s still best to avoid the need to use a hospital by making sure you’ve had the relevant inoculations and are savvy when eating street food. Hospitals are everywhere in larger cities and even smaller towns have at least one local clinic however, these may be very basic. Some rural clinics may even decline to treat visitors.
Before you set off on your tour of China, it’ll be a good idea to make sure you’ve had the following vaccinations as recommended by the WHO and CDC:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Yellow Fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
- Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
Book an appointment with your doctor at least a month before your departure date to check if you need to have or renew any innoculations.
Food and drink safety
As Chinese food standards aren’t as strict as in the US or Europe, you should be cautious about where you choose to eat to avoid getting food poisoning. While China’s street food is some of the tastiest in the world, you’ll want to avoid markets which look particularly unsanitary. If in doubt, ask your Trip Coordinator, hotel or tour guide for advice on the best places to eat in China.
It’s not advisable to drink water from the tap in China. Instead, you can buy bottled water at most supermarkets or corner stores. It is okay, however, to use tap water when bathing or brushing your teeth.
Religion in China
As China is a Communist country, there is no official religion, however you will still find communities of Christians, Buddhists, Taoists and Muslims throughout.
Make sure you don’t miss the ornate Lama Temple – still a working Tibetan Buddhist temple – in Beijing or the Temple of Heaven at the capital’s heart. In Shanghai, you can tour the Jade Buddha Temple and Jing’an Temple to learn more about Chinese Buddhism, while Sichuan (whose capital is Chengdu) is the birthplace of Taoism and full of beautiful mountain top temples.
Confucianism, while not technically a religion, has historically been practiced in China for over two thousand years. The emphasis it places on societal order and community is still seen in some parts of China today, especially in Shandong province to the east where Confucius was from.
Do you have other questions which haven’t been answered in our handy China travel guide? Get in touch with our team today for answers and to book your memorable Chinese vacation.
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Chengde's stunning beauty leaves you in no doubt as to why it was chosen as a summer retreat during the imperial Qing dynasty.
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Chongqing, also known as Mountain City, lies at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers in southwest China.
Dali is located in China’s south western Yunnan province on the shores of Erhai Lake, between the Cang mountains to the west and Mount Jizu to the east.
Home to several indigenous communities like the local Tujia and the Miao people, Fenghuang has been a vibrant center of trade and culture for centuries.
One of the very best travel experiences I have ever had. We even got updates once at 3 am! He also made one change in one day’s itinerary to accommodate our wishes which was very wonderful. For business, I have traveled to Europe, Russia, all over Asia and South Africa but was blown away by all the beautiful sites in Argentina and Chile.
All the little touches made by our Enchanting Travel consultant, Amelia Edwards, were noticed and recognized by my wife and I. Thank you for making our milestone trip (25th wedding anniversary) such a memorable one! We look forward to engaging Enchanting Travels again for our next South American adventure!!
This was my first adventure as a solo traveler. But while I may have traveled on my own, I was never alone. I was well taken care of by a superb team of planners, trip coordinators, guides and drivers.
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