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How to Plan Your First Trip to China

China can be a challenging place to visit, considering the enigmatic languages, huge territories, and exotic eastern culture. Many first-time visitors feel overwhelmed by travel planning. Stay informed, and you will get step-to-step tips for your first trip to China.

1.Get a Passport and a Visa

A passport and a Chinese Visa are two essentials you must have when you travel to China. Apply it in bureaus like the entry and exit administration bureau of your country. Make sure your passport remains valid for at least six months after you depart from China. Apply for your Chinese Visa in the Chinese Consulate of your city. For most tourists, L Visa is enough. Apply for your visa at least six months beforehand, and a 10-year multiple entry visa is better.

Chinese Visa Sample

2.When to Visit - Spring and Autumn

When to visit China depends a lot on when you have time or what seasons you can tolerate. If you are free to choose, we recommend the Spring and Autumn, when the weather is pleasant, and the rain is short.

Crowds Alert: Chinese National Holidays
Chinese people often travel on national holidays, especially on Labor Day (May 1-3), National Day (Oct.1-7), and the Chinese New Year Festival (Feb.11 - 17, 2021). Please avoid traveling to China during these occasions unless you like being in crowds.

3.Where to Go

1)Fan of History

Beijing - home to many incredible ancient architectures, including the magnificent Great Wall built in Qin and Ming Dynasties, the Forbidden City where emperors from Ming and Qing Dynasty lived in, the Temple of Heaven where the grand praying ceremony was held, and the imperial garden Summer Palace and so much more.
Xian - house of historic treasures like Qin Dynasty Terracotta Army and Horses, Ming Dynasty City Wall, Tang Dynasty Bell and Drum Tower, towering Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and many more are waiting for you to explore.
Dunhuang- an important stop along the Silk Road where you will unveil the Han Dynasty Great Wall, Buddhist House of Mogao Caves, mysterious Sand Singing Dunes and picturesque  Crescent Spring.

2)Looking for Landscapes?

Guilin - have a leisure time on the Li River Cruise, or ride a bike in the idyllic Yangshuo countryside, or navigate your way through the ribbon-like rice paddies of Longji Rice Terraces.
Zhangjiajie - a place with peculiar mountains like Tianmen Mountain and Tianzi Mountain, breathtaking elevator of Bailong Elevator, picturesque Zhangjiajie Forest Park, and most of all, heart-pounding glass bridge.
Huangshan - most people only know Huangshan Mountain here. The fact is Huangshan city also have gorgeous villages including Hongcun Village and Xidi Village and ancient towns like Tunxi.

Suzhou and Hangzhou - these two cities are very close to each other and they are renown for traditional Chinese gardens and beautiful man-made landscapes, covering the Humble Administrator’s Garden, Master of the Nets Garden, West Lake, Leifeng Pagoda and more. Besides, thanks to the abundant rainfall, Suzhou and Hangzhou also have a lot of water towns like Wuzhen, Tongli, and Nanxun, just name a few.

3)Aiming for Panda?

There is no city than Chengdu deserves visiting if you are aiming for the giant pandas. Besides panda, you will also experience the charm of this laid-back city when you venture to the People’s Park, local teahouses, and bars.

4)Curious about Chinese Minorities

Guizhou - home to 17 minority groups and one of the few places that haven’t been fully developed, which makes it the perfect place to explore the authentic minority cultures like Miao, Dong, Yi, Tujia and so much more. Kaili is a must if you travel to Guizhou.
Yunnan - home to 25 minority groups in China. We recommend Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-la, Yuanyang, Xishuangbanna if you travel to Yunnan.
Tibet - a place where most Tibetans live. The capital city Lhasa has Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Yamdrok Lake, Mount Everest and more to offer.

5)Feel the Vibe of Modern China

Shanghai - the engine of Chinese economy and a place combining both eastern and western charm.
Guangzhou - one of the economic centers of China and a great place to witness the modern development of China.
Hong Kong - a integral part of China and a place with both modern glamour and historic charm.

China Travel Map

4.How Long to Stay

We suggest you spare at least a week for your China trip to have a glimpse of the highlights of China. Here is a guide to how long to stay in some of the most popular tourist cities.
Beijing: at least 2 days;
Xian: 1-2 days;
Shanghai: 1-2 days;
Guilin and Yangshuo: 2 -3 days;
Chengdu: 1-2 days;
Zhangjiajie: 2-3 days.
Check out our sample itinerary: 12 Days Beijing - Xian - Chengdu- Guilin - Shanghai Tour

5.Make Your Budget

Flight: the plane ticket price varies due to the length of your journey and the time you travel. The earliest and latest flights, low season flights, and stopover flights are usually cheaper. If you don’t like the trouble of finding cheap flights on your own, many websites can help you, including Ctrip.com and kayak.com.

Train: China has a highly developed railway system; you can travel to almost anywhere by train. Most big cities have high-speed train stations. The tickets are often between 10 and 160 USD. The most expensive ticket is the business class, the next pricey one is the first class, and the cheapest one is the second class.

Accommodation: Places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou charge more for a hotel than places like Xian, Chengdu, Guilin, and Zhangjiajie. A budget of 150-200 USD will allow you to stay at a nice 4-star hotel in downtown Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. While with a budget of 100-170 USD, you can stay at a fancy 5-star hotel in Xian, Chengdu, Guilin, and Zhangjiajie.

Sightseeing: Tickets for famous mountains are often costly due to the high entrance tickets and the expense of shuttle buses and cable cars. For example, the entrance ticket for Mount Hua is 26 USD, and the round-way cable car with a shuttle bus costs 53 USD. For historical sights, the entrance ticket is often 10-20USD. If you visit in low seasons (December - February), the entrance fee is lower.

Meal: The cost of food depends more on what kind of restaurant you dine in. For a regular local restaurant in China, 7-12 USD would allow you to have a good meal. While in a decent restaurant, 20-50 USD/per meal is quite normal. Of course, you can spend more if you like fancy restaurants.

6.Independent Travel or Hire a Tour Agency

For the first-timers, we always recommend you hire a tour agency, best of all, a private one. The first time in China can be daunting, given most of you don’t speak Mandarin. A private tour agency like us will customize a tour exactly based on your preferences, arrange your tour from the moment you arrive in China to the point you depart, appoint a personal guide and a driver to take care of your transportation and sightseeing, and the 24/7 customer service whenever you need. With a private guide and driver, you can maximize your time and focus more on the sightseeing and activities you want to do. We can also give you some advice on how to spend your free time.

You may consider travel with a group, but we both know that’s not a good option. Group tours often have low quality in terms of sightseeing, accommodating, eating, and a high possibility of wasting your time on shopping stores. The only advantage of a group tour is cheapness.

7.Prepare Cash

It’s well-known that digital payment is highly developed in China. There are different payment methods and the two most frequently used ones are Wechat Pay and Alipay. Both of them have their international versions, which you can download and connect with your credit card or debit card. However, if you are concerned about the privacy or safety of these payment methods, prepare some cash. Credit card only works in some big supermarkets, standard restaurants, and international hotels. Most places in China only accept Wechat Pay, Alipay, and Cash.

Check Our China Tours for Inspiration

8 Days Tibet Discovery Tour from Xining

8 Days Golden Triangle Tour - Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai

14 days Culture and Nature Trip - Beijing, Xian, Zhangjiajie, Guilin, Shanghai

14 Days Beijing - Xian - Chengdu- Yangtze River Cruise - Shanghai Tour

Please be noted that any of our itineraries can be customized and revised to meet your expectations. All you have to do is contact us and let us do the work for you!