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The Great Wall of China, China

China Travel Guide

China, a vast and enchanting country, beckons travellers with its rich tapestry of travel experiences. From the iconic Great Wall to the bustling streets of Shanghai, there is an abundance of sights to explore. Stand atop the Great Wall and marvel at its grandeur, immerse yourself in the timeless charm of ancient temples and imperial palaces, or wander through vibrant markets that burst with colours and flavours. For nature lovers, China's diverse landscapes offer awe-inspiring beauty. Cruise down the Li River amidst karst mountains in Guilin, hike the picturesque Tiger Leaping Gorge, or discover the mystical valleys of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. With a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural wonders, China promises an unforgettable travel experience that will leave you captivated and inspired.

Travelling in China also means indulging in its world-renowned culinary delights. From savouring Peking duck in Beijing to relishing spicy Sichuan cuisine, the country offers a tantalizing gastronomic journey. Sample delicious street food, visit local tea houses, and dive into regional specialities that showcase the diverse flavours and culinary traditions of each province. Additionally, China's high-speed rail network makes traversing the country convenient and efficient, allowing you to explore multiple destinations with ease. Whether you're wandering through ancient alleyways in historic cities or venturing into remote villages, China's travel offerings cater to every explorer's wanderlust, promising an adventure that will leave you with cherished memories and a deep appreciation for this captivating land.

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Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT+8

Money

Chinese Yuan (CNY)

Dialing Code

+86

  • Learn Mandarin then try it out as you travel the country
  • See the world’s newest economic superpower at work in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai
  • Discover the riches of an ancient civilisation in China’s temples and palaces
  • See stunning, unspoilt mountain ranges and majestic rivers
  • Check out cute panda cubs in Chengdu
  • See one of the world’s most impressive edifices – the incredible Great Wall of China
  • Visit the eerie tomb of the great emperor in Xi’an with the astonishing lines of terracotta warriors

Beijing is an effortless and intriguing blend of ancient and modern. Though hugely crowded and sometimes overwhelming, China’s chaotic capital is a city worth a visit. It is the administrative centre of the country and the stronghold of decades of Communist rule. Take in the historical sites of the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven then switch back to the present day by shopping in Beijing’s upmarket boutiques or marvelling at the high-rise buildings that are mushrooming across the city at an astonishing rate! Then hang out and watch the world go by at the famous Tiananmen Square or check out the feat of engineering that is Beijing’s stadium, otherwise known as the ‘Birdcage’, home to the 2008 Olympics.

  • Make sure you take in the capital Beijing and see its splendid temples, Tiananmen Square and the Olympic Stadium as well as marvelling at the bright lights of the big city! Head to the heart of Beijing and visit the Forbidden City; home of the Emperors for almost 500 hundred years, this once imperial palace is an impressive walled complex of palaces and temples, shutting a secret world of wealth, glamour and concubines away from the prying eyes of the world. 
  • Shanghai is another must-see city; known as ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ it has grown into one of China’s most cosmopolitan and most wealthy urban areas. New sky-high buildings are springing up all over the city, but you can still seek out Shanghai’s colonial heart. The Bund, an impressive stretch of colonial buildings on the waterfront, is where international traders set up banks and businesses in old China and is an impressive sight. It sits in fascinating contrast to the gleaming modern buildings of the new Shanghai. 
  • Visit the Great Wall, China’s top tourist site. This astonishing edifice straddles the Chinese countryside in all its splendour and truly is a sight to behold! It can be easily accessed from Beijing and as you walk up its ancient ramparts it is hard to believe that it was built over 2000 years ago. Originally built as a line of defence it became more frequently used as a method of travelling across the more remote landscapes that the wall cuts through. A truly magnificent feat of engineering and architecture, the wall has captured the imagination of the world. Legend would even have us believe that the wall can be seen from the moon! No trip to China would be complete without setting foot on this incredible structure. 
  • Xi’an was the ancient hub of China, the beginning and the end of the famous Silk Road, it was the trading point for exotic silks and goods from far and wide. The city is full of heritage and history, reflecting the past glories of China’s greatest dynasties. Here you can visit the astonishing archaeological site that houses the Terracotta Warriors. Created by China’s first emperor, who also commissioned the Great Wall, over 8000 life-sized carved warriors stand guard at his tomb, alongside statues of horses and chariots. Uncanny and lifelike, each warrior is individual and they stand in eerie rows in enormous pits dug out of the ground. This unofficial wonder of the world has to be seen to be believed!
  • Guilin is an area which has long inspired China’s many poets and painters. Characterised by its unique and unusual limestone mountains, the distinctive landscape feels like stepping into an idealised version of China. This is peaceful, rural China away from the buzzing metropolitan centres and reveals the exquisite beauty of China’s landscape. 
  • Head to one of China’s many Sacred Mountains, where you can trek high into the mist-clad summits or visit remote Buddhist monasteries. For a truly spiritual Chinese experience, these homes of mysticism and martial arts are the perfect getaways in the heart of a vibrant country. 
  • Visit the city of Hangzhou and take a trip to the glorious West Lake. Compared by the ancient poet Su Dongpo to a beautiful and alluring woman, the West Lake is home to stretches of lotus flowers, and islands scattered with romantically named sights such as the Six Harmonies Pagoda and the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. With a backdrop of distant mountains, including the Two Peaks Embracing the Sky, all of China’s romantic history is on offer at the West Lake. 
  • The city of Suzhou lies in the Yangtze Delta and is known as the ‘Oriental Venice’, built in 514 BC, this ancient city is 42% covered in water. Wind through canals and narrow streets and marvel at the history on offer in this beautiful city. The area also boasts 60 gardens many of which are world heritage sites.
  • The city of Suzhou lies in the Yangtze Delta and is known as the ‘Oriental Venice’, built in 514 BC, this ancient city is 42% covered in water. Wind through canals and narrow streets and marvel at the history on offer in this beautiful city. The area also boasts 60 gardens many of which are world heritage sites.
  • See China’s rarest and cutest animal the panda. Visiting the city of Chengdu you can make a trip to the Chengdu Panda Base, a centre dedicated to protecting and breeding this endangered species. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of a baby panda, kept in incubators for part of each day to increase its chance of survival. 
  • A city where East meets West, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 after 160 years of British ownership. This vibrant, bustling modern city is set on a series of islands. Take the Star Ferry across the harbour or take a ride on the precarious peak tram to glimpse a panoramic and stunning view across a city full of mixed heritage. 

The range of foods in China is vast, and there’ll be something to suit even the most eclectic of tastes. A typical dish in China usually involves either rice or noodles.  Regional differences can be great – Western palettes are used to the Cantonese cuisine which is often on restaurant and takeaway menus in the UK. 

The Szechuan region favours spicy, chilli-based food and ingredients such as the unusual flavour of their own Szechuan pepper. Tofu, made from soybeans is regularly used which means there are plenty of dishes suitable for vegetarians across China. Steamed dumplings, known as dim sum are widely popular, and a tasty snack. Try a soft bun filled with red bean paste for an authentic experience. 

Head to the street markets and you will find some really unusual and sometimes unnerving food on offer. If you are feeling very adventurous you could try anything from insects to sea slugs, snakes or silkworms. Delicacies include monkeys’ brains, bird’s nest soup and preserved eggs known rather worryingly as ‘thousand-year-old eggs’. There is a saying in China that they will eat anything with legs! There is no need to indulge in any of these more peculiar treats unless you want to – China has so much delicious (and recognisable!) food that a diet of insects can easily be avoided! 

Don’t forget that China has been renowned for centuries for its tea, so make sure you try all the spectrum of colours – green, black, red – maybe even the aptly named gunpowder tea!

You may want to practice eating with chopsticks before you depart, and watch the locals for tips too, as often bowls will be brought towards the mouth and the chopsticks used as both a prong and a scoop. In bigger cities, you may well find cutlery on offer but in more rural areas it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be offered a fork with your meal so getting the hang of chopsticks sooner rather than later is both useful and fun!

It is impossible to classify China’s climate as one thing or the other. In such a large country weather can range from extremes of bitter cold to unbearable heat. The land is divided into separate climatic regions: north and northeast, northwest, central, south and Tibet.

Spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November) are good times to visit China. In the north and northeast winters can be extremely cold and in areas such as Mongolia, temperatures can fall as low as -40 degrees Celsius. Summer is generally hot and dry and falls between May and August.

In central China, summers can be uncomfortably hot and suffer high levels of humidity whereas winters, although relatively short can be cold and wet. 

The south of the country tends to be very hot from April to September and this is also the monsoon season with a risk of typhoons. Winters are short and mild.   

China’s northwest has hot, dry summers but bitterly cold winters which drop as low as -30 degrees Celsius. 

Flooding and earthquakes have been known to occur across the country so keep an ear out for any warnings. 

Visa

Visas may be required in order to enter or transit through certain countries depending on your passport nationality, your reason for travel and how long you intend to stay.

Visa, passport and entry rules are subject to change and you should check the most up-to-date information from the relevant embassy or visa specialist.

To make things easier we have teamed up with The Travel Visa Company who are one of the UK’s leading travel visa specialists. You can use their website, alongside embassy websites,  to find out the specific entry requirements for the countries you intend to travel to.

For a fee, their dedicated team of experts can also apply for visas on your behalf, taking away the hassle and streamlining the process for you if you wish. For more details on the services they provide please click here – The Travel Visa Company

Passport

Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel. Most countries will also require at least 6 months of validity on your passport from the time you finish your trip. 

Further Entry Requirements

Some countries will require proof of certain vaccines, such as yellow fever or covid, in order to gain entry. Please check with the relevant embassy or a visa specialist before travelling.

China is a country with different provinces, separate cultures and minority peoples, and there are a rather astonishing 296 languages spoken throughout Mainland China. It does however have one national language - Mandarin. Finding your way around China can be a bit tricky if you don’t know a few basic phrases – especially in the more rural areas – so it’s advised that you learn a few basic greetings and requests and take a phrasebook. 

The electric current in China is 220V and the cycle is 50Hz. Unless you have a convertible type appliance (e.g. a hair dryer) you’ll need a step-down transformer to convert the voltage. You’ll also want to buy a universal adapter, but these are easily obtained and cheap in the UK.

Some of the more rural parts of China can be quite conservative and it’s important that you consider this when packing. Dressing modestly is advisable. 

Like in most parts of Asia, taking off your shoes when entering private houses and temples is customary. If you’re not sure about when to remove your shoes, then the best advice is to watch what the locals are doing and follow suit.

If you intend on visiting any religious temples or sites then it’s important that you show your respect by dressing modestly. Photographing sacred Buddhist shrines and monuments can also be frowned upon.

Health

Vaccinations Hepatitis A and B are strongly recommended when travelling into China.  A booster vaccination for Diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis may also be needed if you had them longer than 10 years ago.

Do make sure that you visit your GP before travelling, as depending on how long you plan to stay in China you could need either rabies, Tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis or Typhoid fever vaccinations. You will need to have the vaccinations between 6-8 weeks in advance of travel. If you are travelling from countries with yellow fever you will need to produce a yellow fever certificate on arrival in China. 

Be conscious of food and water hygiene in China, particularly in rural areas. You should always drink bottled water in China, and it may not be advisable even to brush your teeth with tap water in some areas. Boiling water or taking water purification tablets is another option, and avoid ice in drinks. Food in China is delicious and diverse but make sure everything you eat is properly cooked and in hygienic conditions. Street food is exciting and often freshly cooked but if you have any doubts about hygiene, steer clear!

Safety

If you’re planning on trekking the Great Wall of China then it’s advised that you go with an organised tour, as isolated areas can be risky.

It’s also recommended that females avoid walking alone at night – take a taxi instead!

Petty theft is the most common crime in China so keep an eye on your valuables. If travelling to rural areas you may need to carry more cash as it is difficult to change traveller’s cheques, but if so, keep your cash secure. In cities, it is advisable to change cash as you need it so you are not carrying too much at one time. 

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