As We Saw It

11 Things You Should Know Before You Visit China

visit china Asia, China, Destinations, Travel Inspiration

Are you travelling to China soon? One of the world’s most complex countries, many first-time visitors to the Asian country don’t know what to expect before travelling to China.

In some ways, China completely meets travelers’ expectations, and in others, it completely surprises them! Read on for the top things that you should know before you visit China.

1. There’s no English

Chinese people dancing together

The very last thing I am is someone who’ll go to a country and complain because people don’t speak English. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone visits a foreign country and expects everybody to speak English to them, without trying to engage in the native language.

But the lack of English in China was more notable than any I’ve ever experienced. While it should be completely expected for locals to not speak any English, it’s well worth noting that you should come prepared to not ask for directions or order food in English.

But you don’t need to learn the Chinese language and be fluent in Mandarin to navigate around China. I made use of body language, Google Translate and even drawing pictures when I was solo travelling in China!

2. The country is extremely safe

Shanghai's financial district as seen from the Bunc

Despite not knowing the language and often having no clue what was going on, I didn’t feel unsafe in China. Not once. Crime levels are incredibly low; this is partially to do with the controversial government and the death penalty being rife. Would-be criminals don’t commit crimes because they know that they just can’t get away with it.

That being said, the majority of the Chinese are very decent people, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many wannabe criminals among them. This makes the crime rate in China very low, even against tourists. There are the occasional pickpocketing incidents in busy cities, but even that can be very easily avoided by making sure you don’t have your valuable objects on show.

The security of China reinforced the stability of travelling there for me; I knew that, even if I was completely lost, if I got off at the wrong station or found myself in a busy place unable to ask anyone what I was meant to do, I would be safe.

3. The distances are large

distance view of Great Wall of China as seen from the top

Travelling China by train made me realize how big the world is. The country is vast and distances are huge. For example, my train journey from Chengdu to Siping, took 44 hours!

Overland travelling in China was one of the first times I really got a sense of the enormity of this country. It was a very humbling experience to see different terrains and thousands and thousands of people going about their daily lives. It made me reflect on what a small pinpoint on the map we are.

4. The trains really aren’t that bad

selfie of author on a train bunk holding a blue plastic cup and wearing a sleep mask

Now, I’m not basing this statement on a train’s toilet 26 hours into a 31-hour journey, but the rest of the trains are fine. I stayed in both soft and hard sleepers.

  • Soft sleepers give you a private compartment, perfect if you’re travelling in a group of four, slightly larger beds, more space to put your stuff and a guaranteed plug socket.
  • Hard sleepers are three-tier bunk beds and are open to a carriageway of about sixty people. You don’t get much privacy, but it’s a great way to meet some other passengers and enjoy Chinese train culture!

You can buy relatively inexpensive (although costly for Chinese prices) food on board. There’s boiling water for noodles and there are places to wash up. There’s also a food cart and a few seats away from the sleeping area, if you can’t spend all day sitting on a bunk! Considering all of this, I’d really recommend train travel in China because it helps see a side of Chinese culture you wouldn’t by just flying through. Travelling by train helps you see the real China.

5. It’s not hard to semi-avoid meat, but very hard to completely avoid it

hand holding a spatula, preparing to remove a round egg omelette sprinkled with herbs from a grill

I’m a vegetarian, and I pretty much lasted seven weeks without eating meat in China, still eating some amazing stuff.

I ate meat once when I visited some distant relatives who would have taken offence if I hadn’t eaten what they provided for me, and once I was so hungry that I felt faint. All I could find was ‘beef on a stick’ (the Chinese love their foods on a stick!).

Generally, instead of meat, I ate noodles, eggplant and garlic (A LOT of eggplant and garlic), cauliflower and spicy fried potatoes. The Chinese do love their meat, but they also love their vegetables, rice and noodles. So in this respect, it’s not that hard to avoid meat (although you will be met with a lot of confusion!)

But if you’re a strict vegetarian, you’ll have some trouble. The only way to say that you are a vegetarian is “I eat vegetables,” which can result in a plate of delicious vegetables… with meat sprinkled on top. I just made do in these situations and scraped the meat off, but very strict vegetarians might not be able to do this. Anything cooked in a broth is most likely meat broth too; I just went down the ‘ignorance is bliss’ path to try and make my China trip as hassle-free as possible.

You can also ask for a meal without meat by saying ‘buyao rou’. BUT while ‘rou’ means meat in some parts of China, in others it just means pork – and there’s no actual way to say meat. Instead, you’ll need to say ‘no pork, no beef, no chicken…’ which is kind of hard in a country where they eat everything.

If you’re a vegan, you’ll struggle to avoid eggs (but the Chinese eat very little dairy). It’s in a lot of noodle- and rice-based dishes and is sometimes even in vegetable dishes. If you stick to vegetable dishes and plain rice you should be ok. Because a lot of plant-based foods (lentils, chickpeas, protein-rich vegetables, avocado, etc.) don’t exist in most of China, it’s a good idea for vegans to do some research about any vitamins you might be lacking and stock up on supplements.

6. The country has a heart-breaking past

Multilingual metal sign says The People will prevail, justicde will prevail and Peace will prevail

It’s our responsibility as travelers to be aware of the histories of places we visit, and China has a very harrowing past that is worth knowing about.

The Second World War saw the occupation of much of China by the Japanese forces, with forced labour camps and distressing conditions for civilians. After the war, the country was controlled by brutal dictator Mao Zedong, who instigated a < a href= https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/11/the-cultural-revolution-50-years-on-all-you-need-to-know-about-chinas-political-convulsion> ‘Cultural Revolution’ which killed around 1.5 million innocent civilians and ruined the lives of a huge percentage of the population of China.

Understanding these incidents is crucial to accepting China’s politics and some aspects of its culture and it should be considered by every traveller to the country. A fantastic book to read, which details the entire 20th century history of China is Wild Swans by Jung Chang.

7. The food is somehow amazing and awful at the same time

street food stall in China

They really do eat everything in China! Sometimes this makes dining an interesting experience if you eat meat. You could quickly find out that the tasty bit of food you’re chowing down on is horse brain.

Generally, I love Chinese food. But there were times when it was a bit questionable! Visit China with an open mind and try as much food as possible, but remember that it might not be the dish of your dreams!

8. The climate is harsh

Hushian in the background

China overheats in the summer and freezes in the winter. The whole country can see temperatures of up to 50 degrees in July and August and the North of the country can drop to minus 15 or lower in January and February.

The best times to visit are therefore spring and summer, when the climate is bearable. That being said, travellers do visit every location in China at any time of year! I was there in summer and managed to see everything I wanted – but it’s very important to pack accordingly and know what climate you’re letting yourself in for!

9. The cities are busy

crowded pedestrian street in China

I’m sure you’ve heard this already, but I didn’t realise the extent of this until I landed in Beijing in the middle of July. You need nerves of steel to navigate the subway and the patience of a saint to get into any museums.

There are people EVERYWHERE. But once you learn to deal with this, it becomes part of your Chinese experience and you won’t want it any other way.

10. The countryside is beautiful

houses and narrow garden terraces line steep hills in China. Switchback staircase winds its way to the bottom.

If I could give one top tip for travelling to China, it would be to see the cities. Admire the Forbidden City of Beijing, the Bund in Shanghai, and Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors. Then hop on a train or a bus and get the hell out of there.

The countryside of China is unreal; with national parks of just about every kind of landscape you could think of, impossibly blue lakes and waterfalls and soaring mountains adorned with holy relics, you’ll never fail to be amazed at the nature of this country. My favourite spots were Jiuzhaigou, Huashan and the Longsheng Rice Terraces.

11. Westerners are stared at… for a reason

author sits with Chinese people at long table after dinner

If you’ve researched travelling to China, I’m sure you’ve read about how Westerners are stared at and that they often request photos. This is often shunned in Western media. However, when travelling to China, it’s really important to remember they stare at Westerners completely out of admiration. This is because Western tourists still aren’t very common in China.

The only reason I object to this is that I don’t think Westerners should be admired as much as they are in China. We’re all human after all, but I always tried to meet these stares with a smile and some conversation if possible. This is one of the best ways to engage in Chinese culture and make some local friends!

China trip planning resources

  • Visas – Find out if you need a visa here.
  • Lodging – Find your perfect place to stay on the site we use, booking.com
  • Transportation – This site  will tell you how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and automobile.
  • Tours in China – Get Your Guide is a reliable source for booking tours, attractions and activities. To see a list of all their available China tours, click  here .
  • Check out Google’s satellite photo map for a good aerial vie w.
  • China – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture by Kathy Flower
  • Frommer’s EasyGuide to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai
  • China Survival Guide: How to Avoid Travel Troubles and Mortifying Mishaps by Larry Herzberg
  • Claire’s Footsteps has a collection of articles about traveling in China here.

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Distance view of great wall of China as seen from the walk on top. Text overlay says China what you need to know before you go.

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Written by Claire Martin

Claire is a British travel blogger on a mission to see the world. She has roots in China, Guatemala and Australia; the latter which she is currently exploring. Follow her overland adventures and eco-travel tips on Claire’s Footsteps (her blog), facebook or instagram !

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2 thoughts on “11 things you should know before you visit china”.

Very interesting read. I have Chinese ancestry but have never been there (unless you count HK), so am always very curious about other people’s impressions. A Welsh friend went there 2 years ago and didn’t love it, so I’m glad to hear from another point of view!

Michele, I rather suspect that China is one of those countries that people rarely automatically fall in love with. The culture is so different from what we westerners are used to, few outside the cities speak English, and they eat anything that isn’t nailed down. Not to mention that there are squat toilets everywhere. So yeah. I’m thinking China probably needs a whole LOT of time to grow on you.

Comments are closed.

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65 Useful Tips for Travelling in China (Backpacker’s Guide)

January 23, 2020.

Everything you need to know about travelling in China. Where to visit, how to get around, safety, and more are covered in this comprehensive travel guide.

So, you’re planning on travelling around China ? Get ready for an incredible time. In total, I’ve spent over three months backpacking all over China – from the large cities of the East all the way to the remote Tibetan plateau.

China is an assault on the senses, in a good way. During your trip, you’ll see epic landscapes, try delicious foods, and meet some of the friendliest people around.

In this post, I’ll go over everything you need to know about travelling in China based on my visits.

After reading this guide, you’ll be ready to head out and see the skyscrapers of Shanghai, the neverending Great Wall, the epic mountains of Tibet, and so so much more.

  • 1 Backpacking China
  • 2 Visas For Travelling To China
  • 3 Safety in China
  • 4 Travel Insurance for China
  • 5 Best VPN for China
  • 6 Money in China
  • 7 Communication in China
  • 8 Getting to China
  • 9 People & Culture of China
  • 10 Where to visit in China
  • 11 Getting Around China
  • 12 China Backpacking Itineraries
  • 13 Accommodation in China
  • 14 Best Time to Visit China
  • 15 Internet & SIM Cards in China
  • 16 Solo Travel in China
  • 17 Budget for Backpacking China
  • 18 China Backpacking Guide Wrap-up

Dazhai Village near Guilin, China

Backpacking China

China is an amazing country to backpack around. It’s not all big cities as some people believe. It’s home to the world’s tallest mountain, the Gobi Desert, as well as incredible rivers, lakes, and forests.  If you only visited the cities of China, you’d be missing out on so much that the country has to offer.

Other than the Han majority, China is home to a ton of different ethnic groups such as Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongols, Kazakhs, and Koreans. When visiting areas where these ethnic groups are a majority, you’ll basically feel like you’re travelling in a different country.

Oh yes – food. China has amazing food. Every time I leave China, the first thing I miss is the food. Different parts of the country have very different cuisines, ranging from super spicy food in Sichuan, dim sum in Guangdong, and flavourful meat-heavy dishes in Xinjiang.

More people need to add China to their travel bucket list. It’s often overshadowed by other destinations in East Asia, but it’s got so much to offer – it’d be a shame to skip over it. You could spend years travelling around China and still not see it all.

Believe it or not, this is a landscape that can be found in China

Visas For Travelling To China

1 – Most nationalities need a visa to visit China: Getting a visa is the first step to visiting China. I personally found the application process to be relatively straightforward – you just need to follow the requirements and everything should be okay.

I’m Canadian, so I was able to get a 10-year multi-entry tourist visa which is fantastic. It lets me hop in and out of China as much as I’d like.

For more info on applying for a Chinese visa, check out this guide .

Hiking on the Great Wall of China

Safety in China

2 – Is it safe to travel to China?: In my opinion, China is safe to travel to. In all of my time travelling around China, I’ve never been shown anything but friendliness and curiosity by locals.

Of course, the same rules as normal still apply here. Don’t get too drunk, avoid talking about politics, and just be respectful to people.

Janurary 2020 Update: There are ongoing protests in Hong Kong, but these do not really affect travellers. I was in the city in December, and things are basically normal. Avoid large gatherings and you will be fine.

Travel Insurance for China

3 – Travel Insurance for China: No matter where you go, you should always have travel insurance – China is no exception. Even though China is safe, accidents can still happen.

I personally use and recommend World Nomads. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities (important if you plan on doing any hiking while in China!).

GET YOUR FREE QUOTE FROM WORLD NOMADS HERE

Monks in Shigatse, Tibet

Best VPN for China

4 – You need to get a VPN before travelling to China: China’s internet is behind something known as the “Great Firewall”. The Great Firewall blocks most websites that westerners would want to use while travelling in China. A few examples of things that are blocked include Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Reddit, and Twitter.

So, if you want to have any contact with the outside internet while travelling in China, you’re gonna need a VPN. A VPN allows you to access the internet as if you’re from a country that doesn’t block certain websites.

The best VPN for travelling in China right now is NordVPN .

I’ve used a bunch of different VPNs while travelling in China and had by far the best experience with NordVPN . They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, 24/7 customer support, and high-speed servers that are reliable and consistent.

NordVPN

Money in China

5 – The Chinese Renminbi is the official currency of China: China’s official currency is the Renminbi or RMB, denoted using ¥. The current exchange rate is $1 = ¥6.94 as of January 2020. Check XE.com for the latest rates.

6 – There are different ways to refer to the Renminbi: Rather than saying “this item costs X renminbi “, most Chinese people refer to prices using the words ‘ yuan ‘ (like dollars) or ‘ kuai ‘ (like bucks). You’ll hear these used frequently and interchangeably.

7 – ATM machines are everywhere in China: As a tourist, you’ll typically need to use cash unless paying for something at a high-end place that might accept foreign credit cards.

Banks and ATM machines are very common in China, and the ATMs from most large banks accept foreign cards, so you can simply withdraw cash after you’ve arrived in China.

You’ll notice locals pay for everything using WeChat Pay, but at the moment this isn’t usable without a Chinese bank account.

8 – You can also convert USD to RMB: If for whatever reason you don’t want to use a Chinese ATM, you can bring USD and convert it to RMB in China. Be careful if you’re travelling with large amounts of cash! Other major currencies are also exchangeable in China. Try to bring crisp bills.

Monastery hidden in the trees at the Yading Nature Reserve

Communication in China

9 – Mandarin is by far the most prominent language in China: Even in regions that haven’t historically spoken Mandarin, it’s slowly taking over.

In Hong Kong and parts of Guangdong, Cantonese is the most popular language, although Mandarin is also understood by many people who live here.

Tibetan can still found in parts of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and it’s bordering provinces. In Xinjiang, many Uyghurs still speak Uyghur, a language that comes from the Turkic language family. In the Inner Mongolia province, you’ll still be able to find some people who speak Mongolian and can read the traditional Mongolian script.

There are dozens of other languages spoken in China, far too many to list here. Head on over to the Languages of China page on Wikipedia for all the details.

10 – Do you need to know Chinese to visit China?: No, you don’t need to know Chinese to travel around China. While knowing the local language of a country can provide much deeper experiences, it’s never 100% necessary.

You should try to learn the basics, though. Purchase a Chinese phrasebook and you’ll be set. Google Translate is another lifesaver, especially with its offline option (remember, Google is blocked in China).

Many young university students have a basic level of English, look for them if you need some help.

When all else fails, awkward hand gestures are usually able to save the day.

Hiking in the Longji Rice Terraces

Getting to China

11 – Overlanding into China is possible from a number of countries: China shares international borders with 14 different countries, as well as 2 borders with the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Common border crossings that are open for travellers are the ones with Mongolia , Vietnam, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

12 – China is extremely well connected by air: Practically every large international airport is going to have flights to China. Most tourists will typically fly into Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou.

In North America, there are direct flights to Beijing from: Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas, Houston, and Boston.

13 – China’s flag carrier is Air China: They offer flights to a number of destinations across Europe, North America, and Asia. There are also many other large Chinese airlines including Hainan, China Eastern, China Southern, and Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong).

I recommend using  Google Flights to find the cheapest flights to China.

Pakistan China Border Crossing

People & Culture of China

14 – China is the most populous country on Earth: Because of this, you’ll find all sorts of different people in China. Over 90% of the Chinse population are Han Chinese, and the rest are part of China’s various minority groups.

15 – China is mostly non-religious: While most Chinese people don’t believe in God, they do follow a number of Confucius beliefs and traditions. However.. certain regions of China are still quite religious.

In Xinjiang, the Uyghur population is majority Muslim, giving the province a very different feel from the rest of China. Tibet is very Buddhist, and there are many monasteries still inhabited by monks there.

16 – There’s no strict dress code in China: Unlike conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia , in China, nobody cares how you dress. Girls are free to wear skirts or leggings, and dudes can walk around shirtless if they really feel like it.

You should be a bit more cautious in rural areas, but you’ll quickly notice how liberal things are in large Chinese cities.

Yamdrok Lake, Tibet

Where to visit in China

17 – China is a massive country: It’s impossible to see it all in one trip. I recommend travelling slower rather than quickly, as it gives you more time to dig deeper into your destination.

In this section, I’ll go over the best places to visit in China.

Backpacking Beijing

18 – China’s political and historical capital: Beijing is home to China’s government and a bunch of interesting historical sights. Most travellers start and end their China in Beijing.

While visiting Beijing, you should check out the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square , the Summer Palace , and take a day trip to the Great Wall of China . If you really want to be adventurous, you can even try camping on the great wall .

Also, be sure to try out some Peking duck and spend some time exploring the city’s hutongs. Beijing is the perfect place to start off your adventures in China.

It’s also quite easy to get around the city. Beijing has an extensive metro system, and I used it to get everywhere. Many of the main tourist sites are located within walking distance of Tiananmen Square.

19 – Beijing is full of great hostels: I stayed at the Leo Hostel and always recommend it to people visiting Beijing. It’s in a great location and has a nice common area to meet other travellers.

The Mutianyu Great Wall near Beijing

Backpacking Shanghai

20 – Welcome to China’s biggest city: In Shanghai, there are an endless amount of things to do, foods to eat, and people to meet. Shanghai is a westernized city, and you’ll see plenty of foreign restaurants and retail chains here. English is quite common, especially among younger university students.

When in Shanghai, you should walk along the Bund and check out the skyscrapers in Pudong (you can even go up to the top of the Shanghai Tower, the world’s second-tallest building!). Nanjing Road is perfect if you need to do any shopping. Head to the Yu Gardens if you need to see a bit of nature after too many skyscrapers.

If you have time, you should also consider taking a day trip to one of Hangzhou, Suzhou, or even Nanjing. They’re all incredible cities and are very accessible from Shanghai via high-speed rail. Here are some awesome things to do in Suzhou if you end up visiting it.

Shanghai also has a massive metro system to take you around anywhere. It’s all signed in English, so you should have no problems figuring it out.

21 – Stay near The Bund:  I stayed at the Blue Mountain International Youth Hostel for its location. East Nanjing Road and the Bund are the most popular tourist areas in Shanghai, and the hostel is less than a ten-minute walk from both. An awesome and affordable place to stay in Shanghai.

Sunset over Pudong, Shanghai

Backpacking Xi’an

22 – The Eastern end of the Silk Road: Once upon a time, Xi’an was the starting (or ending) point of the Great Silk Road . The city is also home to the famous Terracotta Warriors.

Xi’an also has a well-preserved city wall surrounding the Old City. You can even rent out a bike and ride around on top of it!

When in Xi’an, you also need to visit its Muslim Quarter. It’s full of delicious street food and friendly people. Try to visit in the evening for the best experience.

Most sights in Xi’an can be seen on foot, but you’ll need to take a bus to the Terracotta Warriors. It’s a one hour ride on tourist bus line 5 from the east square of the Xi’an Railway Station.

Here’s a great list of things to do in Xi’an to help you plan your trip to one of China’s most ancient cities!

23 – Stay within the city walls: Most of the main sites (other than the terracotta warriors) are inside the city walls, so find a place to stay that is inside of the walls. I stayed at the Hantang Inn and loved it. There’s a delicious and cheap BBQ restaurant right across the street that everyone would eat at for dinner.

Terracotta Army in Xi'an, China

Backpacking Hong Kong

24 – Hong Kong needs no introduction: Hong Kong is a massive, globalized city that I could spend forever in. There’s just so much to see and do in this city.

In Hong Kong, you should wander the streets of Central and Kowloon, ride up to Victoria Peak for sunset, visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island,  and try some delicious dim sum.

25 – Stay near the action: If you want the real Hong Kong experience, stay in Causeway Bay. I stayed at the Causeway Bay Yesinn hostel. When you walk out the door, you’re surrounded by people, restaurants, and shops.

26 – You need to consider your Chinese Visa:   To enter Hong Kong, you have to “leave” China (on your passport). This means that if you have a single-entry Chinese visa, you won’t be able to re-enter China without getting a new visa. If you still want to spend more time in China, consider skipping Hong Kong and visiting Guangzhou and Shenzhen instead.

If you want to include Hong Kong on your China backpacking itinerary, you should visit it at the beginning or end of your trip. This way, you only need a single-entry visa for mainland China.

Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Peak

Backpacking Sichuan

27 – Chengdu is China’s coolest city:  Chengdu is my favourite city in China. It has a relaxing atmosphere along with really cool arts and cafe scenes, making it a very pleasant place to hang out in. Throughout my different trips to China, I’ve spent a couple of weeks there in total.

Chengdu is mainly known for two things – pandas and spicy food. The Panda Research Base is accessible by a short metro and bus ride. Try to visit early in the morning, as that is when the pandas are most active. Another good day trip is the Leshan Buddha, which is only 1 hour away by high-speed rail.

In Chengdu, I recommend staying at the Flipflop Hostel – it has a great downtown location and friendly staff.

"Panda

28 – Are you ready for spicy?: Sichuanese food is the spiciest cuisine in China, and possibly the world. Most dishes are covered in tasty chillis and will really set your mouth on fire if you’re not used to it. If you want to order food slightly less spicy than the locals might have it, ask for your food to be 小辣 (xiao la).

Be sure to try hot pot while you are in Sichuan, it’s super spicy but super worth it. Another one of my favourite Sichuan dishes is gong bao ji ding  (also known as kung pao chicken).

"Delicious

29 – Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong: Jiuzhaigou is an incredibly beautiful national park in Northern Sichuan that is a must-visit if you’ve got the time. It’s about a 10-hour bus ride from Chengdu, so you’ll need at least a few days to visit it. There’s an airport nearby Jiuzhaigou that can save you a bit of time, but flying will definitely be a lot more expensive.

Huanglong is another national park located nearby, and I’d recommend checking it out if you’re in the Jiuzhaigou area. Both parks are stunning and make for some amazing photos.

Stunning water colours in Huanglong, Sichuan

30 – Western Sichuan is basically Tibet:  If you want to get off the beaten path in China, there’s no better way to do that than a visit to Western Sichuan.

Western Sichuan is home to the edge of the Tibetan Plateau – most people living here are Tibetans and their culture is vastly different from anything that you’ll have seen so far.

In my opinion, the best way to visit Western Sichuan is by taking the overland route between Chengdu and Shangri-La (in Yunnan Province). The overland route takes you over beautiful mountain passes, to gorgeous Tibetan monasteries, and to the Yading Nature Reserve – one of China’s most beautiful national parks.

The Chengdu to Shangri-La overland can by simplified as Chengdu-Kangding-Litang-Daocheng-Yading-Shangri-La. It’s doable in about 8 days, and if you’ve got the time I  highly recommend it.

For more info, check out my detailed guide to the Chengdu to Shangri-La overland route .

On the road near Shangri-La, Yunnan

31 – China’s most undiscovered national park: The Yading Nature Reserve is one of China’s most amazing national parks, yet it’s pretty unknown outside of China. It’s usually visited as a stop while travelling from Chengdu to Shangri-La, but it can also be visited independently with the opening of a new airport nearby at Daocheng.

It’s a perfect place for hiking, with the most common hike being the one-day journey around Mt. Chenrezig.

For more info, check out my guide to travel and trekking in the Yading Nature Reserve .

Incredible view of the Yading Nature Reserve

Backpacking Yunnan

32 – Yunnan is a backpacker’s paradise: Tall mountains, rice terraces, chilled-out towns, and great coffee are a few of the reasons you should add Yunnan to your China travel itinerary.

Kunming is Yunnan’s capital and is normally just a transit point for most people. It’s a nice city though, and I would recommend a couple of nights there if you’ve got spare time. In Kunming, recommend staying at the Kunming Cloudland International Youth Hostel .

The most popular day trip from Kunming is a visit to the nearby Stone Forest. It’s about 90 kilometres outside of the city – there’s a regular bus departing from the Kunming East Coach Station that costs ¥34. The park has an entrance fee of ¥130.

Kunming has a large and rapidly growing metro system . I found it was able to take me to most places that I needed to go within the city.

The Kunming Stone Forest, a great day trip from the city

33 – Dali is China’s backpacker hub:   There are very few places in China that have a real South East Asia ‘backpacker vibe’, and Dali is one of them. It’s home to an impressive old town, countless cafes and bars, and beautiful natural surroundings.

In Dali, The Jade Emu is an awesome place to stay. They have a great common area with a pool table, ping pong, foosball, and darts. There’s even a bookshop next door that sells books in English!

When you’re in town, I recommend checking out the Three Pagodas and renting an electric scooter to ride the road along Erhai Lake (but be sure to wear a helmet!).

Three Pagodas in Dali, Yunnan

34- Lijiang was my least favourite place in China:  Lijiang is one most visited tourist destinations, mainly by domestic tourists. I wasn’t a huge fan of the town, but you’ll have to pass through here no matter what if you’re travelling around Yunnan.

Lijiang has an “old town”, but the area feels more like a theme park than an old town. The tiny alleyways are packed with touristy shops and restaurants, and at night there are Chinese-style bars and clubs blaring music onto the streets.

But Lijiang has some wonderful surroundings. Tiger Leaping Gorge is the most stunning, so if you’ve made it out to Lijiang you need to spend a couple of days hiking through the gorge.

There’s also Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Lugu Lake nearby – I haven’t visited but I know they’re also quite popular destinations.

If you do end up in Lijiang, Mama Naxi’s Guesthouse is the best hostel to spend your nights at.

35 – Tiger Leaping Gorge, China’s Grand Canyon: Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the most insane landscapes in China. There’s a trail running along the northern side of the gorge that typically takes two days to complete.

If you’re travelling in Yunnan, you definitely can’t miss hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Backpacking Tiger Leaping Gorge in China

36 – A historically Tibetan town: Shangri-La is located in northwestern Yunnan, a place that’s historically been a part of Tibet. The town has an incredible monastery and an old town that’s been mostly rebuilt after a devastating fire in 2014. The city is a good place to spend a day or two, but it’s better to continue on to Western Sichuan if you’ve got a lot of time.

When you’re in Shangri-La, I recommend staying at Tavern 47 .

On the road near Shangri-La

Backpacking Guangxi

37 – Guilin: Guilin is mainly a transit hub for people visiting Guangxi, but it’s also an alright place to spend a night or two if you’re interested. I recommend staying at the Guilin Central Wada Hostel if you find yourself in Guilin for the night.

Almost everyone who ends up in Guilin is on their way to Yangshou.

To Yangshuo, there are frequent buses from the Guilin Airport, South Bus Station, and the Railway Stations. The drive should take about 90 minutes and cost anywhere from ¥25 to ¥50 depending on where you leave from.

Yangshuo also has a high-speed rail station now, with trains from Guilin taking only 24 minutes. The station is located 33 kilometres from the center of Yangshuo, so you’ll need to take another bus from the Yangshuo station to the city center (¥20).

The Longji Rice Terraces near Guilin, China

38 – You need to visit Yangshuo: Yangshuo is such a beautiful place. It’s quite popular with travellers from all over the world, but the area is large enough that it’s still possible to get away from the crowds.

I recommend renting a bike and heading out into the countryside. You’ll pass through tiny villages, through luscious fields, and around gorgeous karst mountains.

In Yangshuo, I stayed at the Wada Hostel and enjoyed its very central location. I’d recommend staying there if you’re looking for a place to stay!

Li River near Xingping Village, China

39 – Longji Rice Terraces are another epic Guangxi destination: The Longji Rice Terraces are another excellent place to visit in Guangxi. They’re only a two-hour drive north of Guilin, and a great place to spend a couple of days hiking around.

I’ve written a guide to visiting the Longji Rice Terraces , so check it out for more info.

Longji Rice Terraces in Guangxi, China

Backpacking Hunan

40 – Welcome to the heart of China: One of China’s central provinces, Hunan is where Mao Zedong was born and is home to some insane mountains in the Zhangjiajie National Park. Its capital city is Changsha, although you likely won’t need to stop here.

41 – The Avatar Mountains:   Zhangjiajie is where Avatar got its inspiration from. It’s absolutely amazing, and I loved my time there.

It can get a bit busy during peak season, but there are a number of side trails in the national park that you can take to get away from the crowds.

I’m still working on my guide to visiting Zhangjiajie, so for now, check out this guide if you’re planning a visit.

42 – Where to stay in Zhangjiajie:

If you’re going to visit the scenic area, you should stay near its entrance. In this case, I recommend staying at the Zhangjiajie Peakcap Hostel .

If you need to stay in the actual city of Zhangjiajie (possibly to catch an early morning flight or train), I recommend staying at the Geographer Hostel .

Unreal views in Zhangjiajie, China

Backpacking Tibet

43 – Tibet is a completely different world: Also known as the “roof of the world” or the “land of snows”, Tibet is home to some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet and incredibly unique culture. Tibet feels like an entirely different world.

Unfortunately for us backpackers, Tibet is a pretty difficult place to visit. Foreigners are required to join a guided tour if they wish to visit Tibet, and this will typically run you at least $80 per day .

If you don’t mind the price and are okay with having limited freedom during your visit to Tibet, then go ahead and visit! I took a 9-day tour from Lhasa to the Tibetan Everest Base Camp and loved it – the landscapes are gorgeous and the monasteries are unlike any I’ve visited in other places.

It is still possible to visit parts of “greater Tibet” without a tour. Check out my post to visiting Tibet without a tour  for more information.

Houses in Lhasa, Tibet

Backpacking Xinjiang

44 – Xinjiang is a tough place to travel around: I visited Tashkurgan and Kashgar in 2019 and didn’t have the best time. Police checks are everywhere (you need to have your backpack x-rayed just to cross the street), most hostels and hotels won’t accept foreigners, and locals are (understandably) afraid of talking with foreigners.

If you’re interested in visiting a modern-day police state, then Xinjiang is for you!

Josh over at FarWestChina has a great site on visiting Xinjiang, so check it out if you’re planning a trip.

Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang

45 – Urumqi is Xinjiang’s most relaxed city: Urumqi is the capital of Xinjiang and the most relaxed place regarding police presence. In Urumqi, the majority of the population is Han Chinese. Because of this, the government isn’t as concerned about it as some of the more heavily Uyghur populated parts of Xinjiang. There’s not really much to do in Urumqi, but it’s the best place to base your Xinjiang travels out of.

The hostels/hotels that accept foreigners are constantly changing in Urumqi. I suggest making a booking using Trip.com – if the place cancels on you for being a  foreigner, Trip.com will cover the price difference of a place that will accommodate you.

46 – Kashgar is being torn down: Once an important city on the Silk Road, modern-day Kashgar is a shadow of its former self.

The old town was destroyed by the government and rebuilt with wide streets, police stations, and security cameras everywhere. It’s kinda like Disneyland, but with more police.

Another one of Kashgar’s famous sights is the Id Kah Mosque. Its paint is falling off, but at least there’s a nice Chinese flag flying above it.

If you find yourself in Kashgar, one of the few places that you can stay at is the Old Town Youth Hostel . It’s a decent place, and you’ll likely meet the few other foreigner backpackers who are in the city at the time.

A market in Kashgar, Xinjiang

47 – The Karakorum Highway is partly in Xinjiang: The KKH runs from Islamabad in Pakistan, all the way to Kashgar in Xinjiang.

Tashkurgan is a town located on the Karakorum Highway – south of Kashgar near the China-Pakistan border. It’s inhabited by ethnic Tajiks, another one of China’s minority groups.

It’s an interesting place, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend venturing here unless you’re going to or coming from Pakistan.

Basically all foreigners passing through Tashkurgan stay at the K2 Youth Hostel . It’s a surprisingly large hostel, and the owner loves to drink local Xinjiang beer with his guests.

Read my guide to travelling the Silk Road for more info on this epic region!

Streets of Tashkurgan, Xinjiang

Getting Around China

48 – What is it like to fly within China?: Flying domestically in China is a good way to get around, especially over long distances or if you’re short on time. Domestic flights are quite cheap, even cheaper than taking the train in some cases.

One thing to note – flights in China are often randomly delayed. The Chinese military controls the countries airspace, and they sometimes close certain flight paths for their own use.

49 – Depending on the route, it may be faster to take the train: For example, Beijing to Shanghai is only 4.5 hours by high-speed train and costs $80. Flying between the two cities takes 2 hours, but you also need to add time for airport security as well as getting to/from the airport. In this case, the train makes more sense.

However, if you need to cover a large distance (let’s say Kunming to Beijing), then flight is a better option. A 3.5-hour flight for $85 makes a lot more sense than an 11-hour high-speed train ride for $165 (or 46-hour slow sleeper train ride…).

For the best deals on domestic flights in China, use Trip.com .

Flying somewhere above Beijing

50 – Trains in China are amazing: Outside of the most mountainous places in the country, China is extremely well connected by train. It’s got the largest high-speed rail network in the world, and trains are typically very punctual.

Trains are a comfortable and easy way to get around while backpacking China.

51 – High-speed trains are fast but pricey:   The best way to travel quickly between a number of larger Chinese cities – high-speed train numbers begin with a ‘G’ prefix and typically only offer seating (they run during the daytime, so this isn’t a problem). 2nd class is the cheapest option, but it is still quite comfortable enough.

Here are some useful high-speed rail routes:

  • Beijing – Shanghai – 4.5 hours, $80 for 2nd class
  • Beijing – Xi’an – 4.5 hours, $74 for 2nd class
  • Xi’an – Chengdu – 3 hours, $38 for 2nd class
  • Hong Kong – Shanghai – 8.5 hours, $144 for 2nd class
  • Hong Kong – Guangzhou – 1 hour, $31 for 2nd class
  • Guangzhou – Yangshuo  – 2.5 hours, $20 for 2nd class
  • Shanghai – Hangzhou – 1 hour, $10 for 2nd class

For booking trains in China and viewing all available options, visit Trip.com .

Catching a sleeper train to Kashgar in Chengdu

52 – Slow trains are perfect for long overnight journeys: I love slow sleeper trains. There’s something very relaxing about rolling through the countryside with a book and some tasty ramen.

You can get almost anywhere in China by slow train. Like the high-speed trains, they’re also very punctual.

Slow trains typically have three different classes –  hard seat ,  hard sleeper , and  soft sleeper .

If you’re taking a short ride in the day time, go for hard seat. It’s not actually hard, and experiencing a hard seat carriage on a Chinese train is an experience in itself.

Hard sleeper is the most common option for long overnight journeys. Like hard seat, hard sleeper isn’t actually hard. It’s a decently comfortable bunk and I’ve never had problems getting a full night of rest. There are six beds per section.

Soft sleeper is the most comfortable, but also the most expensive option. There are four beds per section, and it has a door that can be closed to keep out any noise from the hallway.

53 – Buses are frequent, cheap, and fairly punctual:   If there’s anywhere that trains don’t go to in China, then buses will. The main downside to bus travel is that journey times can depend greatly on traffic conditions.

Buses also need to stop at road checkpoints in certain provinces, whereas trains obviously don’t.

Most large cities have a number of bus stations, so double-check that you’re going to the right one if you plan on taking buses in China.

The best site I’ve found for figuring out bus routes and schedules in China is China Bus Guide .

Toilet break during a bus ride through Western Sichuan

China Backpacking Itineraries

54- It’s impossible to see all of China in one trip: It’s a massive country, so you need to figure out where exactly you want to visit before your trip.

Luckily, I’ve written up an awesome 2 to 4-week China Itinerary for you! Check it out for some inspiration.

No matter how much time you have in China, you’ll for sure have an amazing trip.

Streets of Lhasa, Tibet

Accommodation in China

55 – Hostels in China are awesome:  China has a great network of backpacker style hostels. They’re typically clean, have friendly staff, and wonderful atmospheres.

I’ve stayed at a ton of hostels all around China and always end up meeting great people and having a good time.

56 – Chinese Airbnb is super cheap: Airbnb is a great option for travelling in China if you’d like to have your own apartment to cook, wash clothes, or just have a break from hostels.

I’ve found AirBnbs in large Chinese cities to be  very  reasonably priced – in a few cases I’ve managed to pay only $10 for an amazing apartment.

GET $65 CAD OFF YOUR FIRST AIRBNB BOOKING

The unrestored Great Wall of China

57 – Hotels are always an option: If you get really off the beaten path in China, hotels can sometimes be the only option available.

I’ve found that the best site to book hotels in China is Trip.com (as you can see, they’re kinda the go-to site for booking travel-related things in China).

I haven’t stayed in many hotels in China, but there’s a ton of them. In big cities, you’ll even find many luxury western hotels that typically cater to business travellers.

Best Time to Visit China

58 – China can be visited year-round: China is a big country, and some areas are better visited at certain times of the year. For example, Tibet and Western Sichuan have comfortable temperatures in the summertime, but most coastal will be scorching at that time of year.

If your schedule isn’t flexible, you can visit anywhere in China at any time of year. Just note that weather conditions might not be ideal and some activities (hiking) might not be possible.

59 – What is China like in the summer?: When I backpacked around China for the first time, it was in June and July. Mountainous regions were perfect at this time of year, but most of Eastern China was extremely hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorms.

If backpacking China in the summertime, pack light clothes that dry fast. Stay hydrated because you’ll be sweating a lot if you’re spending time outdoors.

60 – What is China like during spring and autumn?: Spring and autumn are the ideal times to travel around China. Cities will be at comfortable temperatures, and mountainous regions will be slightly chilly but not too cold. In autumn, certain parts of the country will look gorgeous as the leaves change colour.

If you’re able to, you should visit China in spring or autumn.

Trees in the Yading Nature Reserve

61 – What is China like in the winter?: Winter in China varies vastly in the northern and southern parts of the country. Hong Kong and other southern cities will be quite comfortable, but Beijing sees sub-zero temperatures and the occasional snowfall.  Mountainous regions will be snow-covered which may make travel difficult.

Whether you should visit China in winter mainly depends on where you plan to go.

Another thing to note – air pollution is at it’s worst in the wintertime, so if you have sensitive lungs consider avoiding China at this time of year.

Internet & SIM Cards in China

62 – You should get a Chinese SIM card when you arrive: I’ve already mentioned that internet access in China is restricted – many sites are completely blocked unless you have a VPN.

But what about internet access? Is it easy to stay connected while in China? I’m happy to say that it is easy to stay connected while in China. If you pick up a local SIM card, you’ll have signal basically everywhere you go.

I recommend purchasing a China Unicom SIM card as the other telecoms in China often don’t work with foreign phones.

Head to a China Unicom shop with your passport and pick a plan. Costs are fairly reasonable – on my last visit, I paid ¥100 for 40GB of data. The staff can usually speak a bit of English.

WiFi is often pretty slow in China and usually requires a Chinese phone number to connect to it. I’d recommend getting a decent data plan and using that instead.

Monk on a cellphone in Tibet

Solo Travel in China

63 – China is wonderful for solo travel: I’ve solo travelled on all of my trips to China, and always end up having an amazing time.

If you stay in hostels, it’s very easy to make new friends in China. Hostels typically have a mix of domestic and foreign backpackers – all who are eager to socialize and visit sights.

The only downside that I can think of is that many restaurants and dishes in China cater to groups. This isn’t really a problem, but if you go to a restaurant with a group you’ll be able to try multiple different dishes rather than a single one if you’re by yourself.

View from Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie

Budget for Backpacking China

64 – Travel costs in China are pretty mid-range: Travelling in China is cheaper than Japan or South Korea, but definitely more expensive than Thailand or Vietnam.

Accommodation and food are both fairly cheap, but transportation and entrance fees will increase daily costs quite quickly. Big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing are more expensive than small towns in Yunnan. Hong Kong is on another level – it’s got prices comparable to some places in Europe.

Depending on how much you’re moving around and how many national parks you visit, I’d budget anywhere from $30-50 a day (or ¥200 to 350 ) for backpacking in China. This means staying at hostels, taking public transit, and eating mainly at budget restaurants.

Camping on the Great Wall of China

65 – This is what typical costs while travelling in China will look like:

Here are some typical prices in China to help plan your budget:

  • Accommodation – You can find hostels for anywhere from ¥50 to 100 per night in most places. Hong Kong can easily be double this, however.
  • Food  – It’s easy to spend a lot of cash on food in China if you visit nicer restaurants or opt for western-style foods. It’s also super easy to eat on a budget. A typical noodle dish costs about ¥15 to 20, but dishes like gong bao ji ding with more meat can be around ¥40 to 50.
  • Alcohol – If you want to drink on a budget, do it in restaurants or buy from a convenience store and drink on the street (this is legal in China). A local beer will usually only cost ¥4 to 8 from a convenience store. The same beer could be anywhere from ¥40 to 80 in a Chinese-style bar. It’s crazy expensive to get drinks when out at a bar.
  • Trains – Can be pricey, especially if you’re taking them a lot. From Shanghai to Beijing on a sleeper train, it will cost you about ¥320. If you want to take a high-speed between those two cities, it will cost ¥560. Check out Trip.com for prices on any train journey in China.
  • Entrance Tickets – This is where China can start to get pricey. For example, a ticket to visit the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an is ¥150. To visit Jiuzhaigou, a one-day ticket during high season is ¥310 – crazy! If you have a student card, you might be able to save 50% on certain entrance tickets. Don’t forget to bring it!

A monastery in Tibet

China Backpacking Guide Wrap-up

I hope this guide has helped you better plan your China backpacking adventure. I’m sure that you’ll have an amazing time backpacking around China – it’s an incredible country and I love returning to it.

Feel free to contact me with any other questions and I’ll get back to you. If you liked this post, consider sharing it!

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Yay transparency!  There are affiliate links in this guide. If you book or buy something using my links, I’ll make a bit of money at no extra cost to you.

Jacob Laboissonniere

21-year old Canadian dude who loves to visit off-the-beaten-path places, climb tall mountains, and try delicious foods.

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camping on the great wall of china

8 thoughts on “ 65 Useful Tips for Travelling in China (Backpacker’s Guide) ”

Thanks for all the information! We are heading to Lijiang next week and considering hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge. I know you mention in your post you’re working on a guide–any chance you could share some key tips? Did you encounter any rain when you did the trek? A little concerned about the microclimates. Thanks!

Hey Vivian! I highly recommend hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge! Don’t have the full guide ready yet, but here are some tips.

If you have any extra baggage that you don’t want to carry during the hike, you can leave it at Jane’s Guesthouse for a small fee.

The first part of the hike is the toughest; it’s a lot of uphill walking, but the trail is easy to follow and well-trafficked. After you’ve done the first part you’ll feel relieved that going forward will be much easier.

There are lots of locals selling things like water and snacks along the trail, so don’t worry about running out of water or anything.

Stay at one of the guesthouses in the middle of the gorge for the night (most popular is the Halfway Guesthouse) and you’ll be treated with an incredible sunset and lots of stars at night!

I didn’t encounter any rain and I was there in June. March/April should have even less chance of precipitation, so I wouldn’t worry too much! When I was there, it was really hot! I personally run very warm while hiking, so I wish I’d have started my hike earlier in the morning rather than mid-day.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you’ve got any other questions. Enjoy Yunnan for me, I hope I can get back there sometime soon! 🙂

THANK YOU SO MUCH for such an awesome itinerary! I want to backpack through Asia and reading your blog make me want to book a plane to China and go on cool adventures! 😀

Haha no problem! Book that ticket – you’ll love China 🙂

This is such an amazing blog, thank you for the tips! I was wondering if, as a 20 year old girl, I would feel safe following this route, travelling on my own, or would joining a planned tour be better? Also what would you say the overall money budget for 4 weeks is?

Hey Kira, glad you like the blog!

I think China is perfectly safe for a solo female. I met a ton of them while I was travelling there, and nobody had any complaints. There will be some challenges, often revolving around the language barrier – but it won’t be dangerous.

Budget wise, China is around mid-range. It’s not nearly as cheap as places like Vietnam, but not as expensive as Japan.

Hostels are cheap, usually around $10-$15 per night. If you eat local food (and you should, it’s great!), then you can spend $3-10 per meal.

Getting around via high speed train can be pricey, check on trip.com for some sample prices. When you can, I recommend overnight hard sleeper trains. They’re very comfortable, and you don’t have to pay for a hostel that night.

Entrance fees to sights are often expensive as well. If I recall correctly, the terracotta warriors were about $30. If you have a student card, be sure to bring it. You’ll often be able to get 50% off entrance fees.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you’ve got any other questions 🙂

Your blog is amazing and has helped me book my month in China that I was planning.

On Tiger leaping Gorge, I don’t seem to be able to find a way to book a bed at the halfway guesthouse or anything very close. Is it the type of place where you can be sure to get a room if you just arrive on a Friday in mid October?

Hey David, glad you like the blog!

I wasn’t able to find a way to book a room in advanced either, so I just showed up. The Halfway Guesthouse is pretty big, and I definitely can’t see them being full in mid-October. In any case, there are a bunch of other places to stay along the way, so don’t worry about it 🙂

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Claire's Footsteps

All Destinations , Asia , China

The ultimate solo travel in china guide.

china trip reddit

China is many things. Crazy, overwhelming and unique are all words that could be used to describe this Asian country. Solo travel in China can seem pretty daunting – it’s often near impossible to know exactly what is going on while exploring the country, especially if you have little grasp of the language.

If you’re thinking about solo travel in China, you may have some concerns for your safety in this enigmatic country. Rest assured – one thing that China isn’t is dangerous. Actually, throughout all of the times I have been in this country (four now!), I have never felt my safety questioned or threatened once.

Considering that I travelled some tremendous distances (including a 44 hour train journey!) and have spent most of my time alone in the country, this is an enormous credit to the safety of the country.

There isn’t really that much difference between travelling as a solo male or female in China; the crime rate is so low that women just aren’t threatened, and there is less of a ‘chauvanistic’ culture than there is in the UK. I have never been harassed or catcalled in China; and sadly this still happens weekly back home in London.

So, if you want to solo travel in China, don’t worry – you’re going to be perfectly safe. The local people are some of the kindest I’ve ever met, and I always felt watched over and looked after by whoever was around me. Travelling in China is safe.

BUT, safe doesn’t always mean easy. And China is not easy. But it is so worth it.

What Makes China Such a Challenging Place to Travel?

china trip reddit

So, if China is so safe, why is it such a difficult travellers’ destination, and why is it still relatively unexplored by backpackers? There’s a few reasons why so few backpackers venture to China on their Asia trips.

The Language

The language barrier is there, and it’s intense. Chinese couldn’t be further from European languages and the way that it is written makes it an incredibly complex one to master. While it’s entirely possible to learn Chinese if you’ve got a spare few years, being able to converse after one China trip might be difficult.

I picked up some basics (including the very useful phrase ‘this is my foot’, a great starter to any conversation), but anything beyond asking how much something was (and probably not understanding the answer) and asking for aubergine without meat in a restaurant was kind of beyond me.

English is Not Commonly Spoken

In other Asian countries, a language that’s hard to grasp isn’t necessarily a problem because lots of locals speak English. One of my biggest pet peeves is when English-speaking people go abroad and just expect everybody to speak Englishh, so I didn’t mind nobody speaking my language at all, but it definitely made travelling very challenging at times.

In the larger cities, some younger people have a good grasp of English and most of them are very keen to practice with tourists, but you really can’t rely on it anywhere in China (until you get to Hong Kong that is, where English is everywhere!). Travelling in China gives you an appreciation for hand gestures and body movements that you never thought you’d need!

The Road Signs Could be a Little More Informative

Signs in China can be a tad baffling.  Whether you find yourself confused at a station, where the signs are so sparse you could end up being fast-tracked to the Russian border, or be left wondering (or trying not to wonder) what the miscellaneous in ‘Sheep Casserole Miscellaneous’, chances are at some point you’ll be completely baffled by a Chinese sign.

Westerners are Stared at A LOT

Be prepared to be a local celebrity! In China, Western travellers are so uncommon that they are subject to constant staring and photo requests.

It gets a little bit tedious after a while, but it’s important to remember that the staring isn’t considered rude in their culture – they’re actually staring because they’re fascinated with Westerners – and as we’re in their country we should be respecting their cultures. Full stop.

The Food is Amazing… And Awful… At The Same Time

china trip reddit

Being vegetarian in China is an interesting experience. Meat is everywhere; for breakfast lunch and dinner, all over market places, on the side of the road at service stations…. If you’re a strict vegetarian, you’ll struggle in China.

I had to desensitize myself to a lot of what surrounded me and remind myself that I was there to respect the culture, and this culture does view meat completely differently to the Western world.

Even if you’re a meat fan, you might find some of the specialities a little stomach turning – we’re talking cow stomach or pig liver, or the occasional white rubbery organ-shaped delicacy which doesn’t quite have a decipherable name…

But China’s not a complete hell for vegetarians. The Chinese actually love tofu, which can be found in many Chinese restaurants. And their veggie dishes are often AMAZING.

Aubergine fried in garlic, cauliflower in a spicy sauce and huge bowls of thick noodles were my favourites when I was out there. The food just took a bit of adjusting to – another rung to the complicated ladder of backpacking in China.

The Distances Are Large

Unless you want to take internal flights (which I wouldn’t recommend – the trains are an experience and are much more environmentally friendly ), you’re going to be covering some serious ground in China.

My longest train ride was 44 hours – while I always had a bed and enough space to get up and walk around, I can’t say that they were exactly comfortable, and sometimes just standing outside the toilets was enough to turn my stomach!

That being said, I have also taken some new trains, like the amazing bullet trains that connect different cities, and the ultra-modern slow train between Shanghai and Beijing. These trains are absolutely fab.

They were all part of the experience of travelling in the country and I do believe that travelling by train through China was one of the best things that I’ve ever done .

The Culture is Completely Unique

The culture of China, which developed independently of outside influence for thousands of years, is the polar opposite of everything that I’ve ever experienced before.

There’s 1,300,000,000 people in China and the way that they are doing things may well make a great deal more sense than the Western way of doing things. But it’s different for Western tourists, and takes some adjusting to.

Why Should I Solo Travel in China?

china trip reddit

All of this shouldn’t scare you! Despite China being confusing as heck and the opposite of user friendly, there’s so many reasons why you should still explore this country on your own, ESPECIALLY if you’re on your own!

Why is that? You may ask. I’ll tell ya…

  • Travelling in China is a humbling experience. You realise how large the world is and how many different ways there are to do things other than your own.
  • China boasts incredible nature and scenery (like Jiuzhaigou and Zhangjiajie) as well as the most jam packed manic cities, which are equal parts frustrating and completely awesome. You can check out the 20 best places to visit in China here .
  • There’s a distinct sense of pride you can achieve by conquering certain countries, and China definitely is one of them. And solo travel in China makes that experience all yours.

Tips and Tricks for Solo Travel in China

Due to China being a really safe place, solo travelling in China as a girl or guy doesn’t make much difference. Obviously use common sense – if somewhere seems dodgy don’t go there, and if a situation is uncomfortable get out of it.

Common sense is enough to keep you safe in China – even though I quite often have no idea what’s going on there, I never feel my safety questioned in China.

But safe doesn’t always mean easy. And solo travel in China is not easy. But there are some ways to travel through China without feeling like the world is upside down!

Here’s how to travel solo in China and absolutely boss it.

Make a Cheat Sheet

As soon as you land in China and arrive at your accommodation, get someone there to make you a cheat sheet. Generally, you’ll find someone at your hostel or hotel who can speak good English (hostels generally have younger people employed and many speak excellent English, or you may also find Chinese guests who can speak good English).

Write down some basic words in English – certain foods that you like ordering or places around the city you might want to visit are a good start – and ask your helper to translate these into Mandarin Chinese characters.

Your cheat sheet will become your best friend. Make it pretty, keep it safe and add to it!

If you want to have a cheat sheet organised before you get to China, contact me on Instagram – I can offer a translation service of basic words and phrases written by a Chinese native for a good price.

Try to Learn Some Chinese

china trip reddit

Yes, Mandarin Chinese is hard, and some of the words are accented so simliarily that it can often seem that you’re trying to say something completely different to what you mean. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t learn a little bit! People can and do learn Chinese when in travelling in China. It is a language that will take you a while to master, but if you’re travelling in the country for over a month, the bare basics can easily be grasped.

By the time I left China on my first seven-week trip, I could ask how much items were in a shop, I could occasionally understand the price of said items, I could ask for aubergine, rice and watermelon and I could say make me a cup of tea.

While my culinary options were somewhat limited by this, it was good to know that if I became completely stuck without my cheat sheet, I could at least make a simple transaction and get some food. (By the way, the Chinese cook aubergine in such a delicious way that I was more than happy that it was nearly all I asked for. I ate it most days for three months and I have no regrets. Hence the copious mention of aubergines in this post. Just keepin it real).

Before I visited China I learned the incredibly useful phrase ‘this is my foot’ and the words for ‘zebra’ and ‘hippopotamus’. The opportunity for these didn’t arise too much when navigating China, but honestly, you really can learn a bit of Mandarin with some effort. It also looks super impressive when you travel to other places!

Completely Open Your Mind

Lots of things in China are completely different to the way that they may be in Western societies. Embrace this and love the change – there’s over a billion Chinese people and you know what? What they’re doing might actually make more sense than what we’ve been fed our whole life.

Revel in the culture, even if it confuses the heck out of you. Enjoy queueing – nobody queues like the Chinese after all. Smile and wave to the people staring – and remember that they’re only staring because they’re fascinated because it’s so rare that they see Westerners. Let kids have their picture taken with you!

Make Yourself Known (very loudly) to EVERYONE

This strategy will definitely land you in the idiot abroad category, but you have to be one of the world’s savviest travellers to not be lumped in this category whilst travelling in China in the first place.

I developed the tactic of boarding a train, giving every staff member a big and cheerful ‘Nihao!’ (hello) and pointing at the name of my destination on my ticket, with an I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON look in my eyes. The staff always got the message and made sure that I was alerted before my train stopped at its destination.

Make Use of some Fantastic Apps

I wasn’t the best at doing this but there are some great mobile apps that you can use while attempting to navigate China – many of which I was made aware of – and wished I used more of! – after I left the country.

Make sure you have a decent smartphone on your China packing list – it will make getting around the country much easier.

  • Maps ME lets you download detailed maps of your local area which you can browse at your leisure.
  • Google translate has a fantastic voice function that can translate what you need to say into Chinese and Chinese speech into English.
  • DiDi is the Chinese Uber.

These will really help you explore China with very few hiccups. If you have an Android phone, download these before you enter the country, as Google Store is blocked in China.

Always Have a Map of the Local Area and Your Accommodation Address Written Down in Chinese

china trip reddit

These are two of the most valuable things that you will keep in China. Mobile apps are great, but you never know when a phone will break, run out of battery or get lost (in my case, A LOT). Oh, also, remember your power bank when travelling in China or anywhere in the world.

If you keep these two things on your person whenever possible, it will be pretty impossible to be completely lost.

Get in the habit of getting these sorted as soon as you get to a new place, or even before – they’re perfect to show taxi drivers at a station!

Relax, Know that Everything Will be ok and Enjoy the Crazy Rollercoaster that is Travelling in China

As I said before, China is safe . You’re more secure walking the streets of Beijing than Berlin, and I’d feel so much more at ease rocking up to Shanghai train station at 3am than walking the streets of South East London. You won’t come to any harm in China .

You’re going to be confused, you’re going to slip up a few (hundred, maybe) times, and you may even end up lost somewhere in Inner Mongolia when you meant to get off the train in Xi’an (edit: the latter never happened, I made sure of that through careful practice of making everyone aware of my presence at all times while on trains).

Your China travelling experience will be bonkers and ridiculous and fascinating and amazing. It will all come together to be a perfect yet flawed trip. You’ll wonder how it’s possible to feel so much frustration and amazement at the same time, and laugh at how bizarre it is to revel so much in bewilderment. Just open your heart and mind and enjoy the ride. You’ll have a blast. 

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5 thoughts on “ The Ultimate Solo Travel in China Guide ”

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This was such a great text of info!! Now it really makes me wanna go!! I’m a 62 years old lady with white hair and when i travelled solo to Thailand , Vietnam and Bali this year , i absolutely Loved it!! Go when i want to go and where i want to go! Loved it!! I never dined alone! But there was no language barrier so when i go to China, i will definitely depend on my phone translator and carry a big battery with me. This is very exciting.!! I going to a wedding in Hong Kong in January and will more then likely continue to China. Which city and places do you highly suggest? And I’m gonna do cheap hotel accommodation. Hows the youth hostels in china? Is it fairly unexpensing to visit China? Have you been sick from food poisoning? I know that can happen anywhere but in all my travel i haven’t been sick anywhere and i ate everywhere i felt like. Hows the trains accommodations? I normally travel by plane to save time since it was so cheap in Asia. Thank you very much for all the great tips.

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Hi Odette, amazing! I’m sorry for the late response, but I’ll answer your questions now and hope that you see them. You sound like such an adventurer, I hope I’m the same at age 62!

Definitely take your phone translator, Google translate is a life saver! Younger people in the cities do speak some English – some very good – but in the countryside and older people won’t speak it.

For a first time, I’d definitely recommend checking out my first time China itinerary. If you type into Google China itinerary Claire’s Footsteps it will come up. Those are all of the places that I think are essential to get a real feel for China just by one trip. There are some hostel recommendations too. Hostels in China are great! Most are really clean and high standard and serve food and drinks. Wifi not great but that’s to be expected and talking to people is much more fun. I’ve met so many interesting people in Chinese hostels, both locals and other travellers.

Yes, it’s very cheap, especially if you stay in hostels and eat at local places. I didn’t get sick in China – although I don’t eat meat which may help! I have got sick a few times in Latin America though so I know I’m not immune!

I would recommend taking a sleeper train once as they’re quite an experience! I’ve never actually flown internally in China (trains are cheaper and I’ve always found it a good way to save money on a night’s accommodation when booking the right one) but I’ve used Chinese airlines when flying internationally and have always found them to be very good.

I hope that helps! Do come back and let me know how your trip goes, I’d love to hear about it!

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Hi Claire, I was just wondering what your experience of hostels out there was? Was it easy to meet other backpackers along the way. I’m interested in going to south west China but wondering hat it will be like out there? Katie

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Thanks so much for this!! I’m going to Xiamen for four months on exchange then will be backpacking across China for two months. This post is so helpful and has got me so excited!! Just discovered your website and I’ll defs be coming back to it <3

Thanks Holly, so glad it’s helped your trip planning!

Comments are closed.

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Travel, Hiking, Food

1 Week in China: A 7 Day China Itinerary and Travel Guide

Wondering where to go in China when you only have 1 week in China? This 7 day China itinerary shows you how to see the most famous sights!

Having lived in China for more than a decade and also visited numerous times after moving away, I often take it for granted how much there is to see and do in China. China can be difficult to plan and visit, especially for people who don’t speak Chinese.

If you are thinking about going to China, you must have a lot of questions on where to go, when’s the best time to go, how you can get around, if you need to speak Chinese, etc.

This 7 day China itinerary will provide all the information you need to plan your 1 week in China vacation. In addition, check out my China planning guide to help with your China vacation planning. If you are staying more than 1 week in China (let’s say 3 weeks), check out my 3 Week China itinerary .

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases .

Table of Content

7 day china itinerary overview, practical things to know before visiting china.

  • Day 0 in China: Travel Day, Arrive in Beijing
  • Day 1 – 3 in China: Beijing
  • Day 4 – 5 in China: Xi’An
  • Day 6 – 7 in China: Shanghai
  • Best Tours to Consider China
  • Other tips On Planning A Trip To China

Having 1 week in China is quite short considering how big and diverse China is. You will need to prioritize where to go in China based on what you want to see.

Best places to visit China for a first time visitor include Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an. In this China itinerary I am not including Hong Kong or Macau since they alone will need at least 3-4 days and worth a trip alone for that region.

This one week China itinerary will be structured like this: – 3 Days in Beijing – 2 or 3 days in Shanghai – 1 or 2 additional days in Xi’An or day trips from Shanghai

The itinerary below is simply a sample of how you can plan your one week in China and you should feel free to change things around and customize as you like.

  • China Visa : You most likely will need a China visa (L visa for tourists), especially if you are visiting from the US, UK, Australia, India, etc. You can read more about visa requirements and documents you need to apply for the visa on the official government website .
  • Chinese Currency : The currency in China is RMB (or CNY). You cannot use USD or Euros in China, nobody will accept them. You can exchange money at the airport and banks in China. You can also take out money from ATMs. If you are exchanging money at a bank, bring your passport.
  • Carry your passport with you : You should be carrying your passport with you at all times. They checked my passport even when I was entering a train station (they also checked everyone else’s ID).
  • China Sim Cards : You can get a sim card when you land from the Beijing or Shanghai airport. If you are in the city already, you can buy sim cards from authorized retailers. You need your passport with you to register regardless of where you buy the Sim Cards. The good news is that there is wifi everywhere in China!
  • Esim Cards in China : eSim is not a thing in China because Chinese phones (including iPhones) cannot use eSim. But if you are visiting from outside of China, you can actually set up eSim on your phone before entering China. My friend used this and she got it before she got to China. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of getting a physical sim card, you can try this eSim.
  • Credit Cards are not a thing : China is so advanced that people use QR codes to pay for everything. Nobody really uses or takes credit cards (you probably can at large hotels, with a fee). If you can, set up Alipay and WeChat pay before you go to China. You can use cash as people are obligated to accept cash, but they might not have changes to give back to you since, again, everyone uses Alipay or Wechat Pay.
  • Get WeChat : WeChat is life, you can do everything on WeChat, from paying to booking tickets to communicating with tours and hotels.
  • Don’t use Uber or Google Maps : those do not work in China. For Uber, you need to download Didi app (calls local taxis), and instead of Google Maps, use Baidu Map or 高德地图
  • Be prepared for the Great Fire Wall : You can’t get access to many western apps like Facebook, Instagram, etc. If you really want to get those, you will need to get a VPN on your phone, Astrill is a popular one, other ones include Lets VPN, shadowsocks, etc.
  • Public transportation is amazing in Beijing and Shanghai: subways are clean, fast and take you everywhere.
  • This is the best booking website for China for hotels and trains and attraction tickets.
  • China is extremely safe : I used to walk around at 2am in Beijing, super safe. You never have to worry about violent crimes in China.

Day 0 of 1 Week in China – Travel Day, Arrive in Beijing

Start your 1 week in China in either Shanghai or Beijing, it really doesn’t matter. Both Shanghai and Beijing have international airports with direct flights from major cities around the globe.

During this 7 day China itinerary you will end up flying in and out from different cities to save time. Generally speaking if you fly Air China (flag carrier airline in China) then most likely you will land in Beijing for a direct flight. If you fly China Eastern , you will land in Shanghai as they are based in Shanghai. This 7 day China itinerary assumes you land in Beijing and leave from Shanghai.

After landing in Beijing and going through immigration, take either a subway or shuttle bus or taxi to check into your hotel in Beijing.

Transportation Between Beijing International Airport and Beijing City Center

Just so you are aware, there are multiple international airports in Beijing! The two major ones you should know about are:

  • PEK : otherwise known as Beijing Capital International Airport. About 20 miles (32 km) from Beijing.
  • PKX : known as Beijing Daxing International Airport. It is about 30 miles from Beijing. It is currently the largest and most modern airport in the world.

Like any major city around the world, transportation in Beijing is quite convenient and people mostly rely on public transit unless you want to splurge on Taxis or private transfers .

PEK (Beijing Capital International Airport) to Beijing City Center

There are several options to transfer from PEK to Beijing, including:

  • Private Transfers
  • Airport Express Train
  • Airport Shuttle Bus

PEK Airport Express Train

The Airport Express Train is the fastest way to get to Beijing city Center from the Capital International Airport. It runs every 10 minutes and costs RMB 25 (~4 USD) one way.

The airport express train runs every 10 minutes and the journey takes about 20-25 minutes. Visitors can get on the Beijing Airport Express Train from Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.

From the terminals, the Beijing airport express train stops at 2 stations in Beijing,  Sanyuanqiao Station  and  Dongzhimen Station . Sanyuanqiao Station connects to Subway Line #10 and Dongzhimen Station connects to Subway Line #2 and subway Line #13. Note that the RMB25 ticket is only between the terminals and these 2 stops. If you need to transfer to other subway lines you will need to pay the subway fare.

Read more about the PEK Capital International Airport Express Train here .

PEK Airport Shuttle Bus

Another option from Beijing Airport to the city center is to take the  airport shuttle bus . The shuttle buses have destinations at Fangzhuang, Beijing South Railway Station, Beijing Railway Station, Olympic Village, Beijing West Railway Station, Wangfujing, etc.

The price for a one way ticket varies between RMB20 to RMB50, depending on your final destination. Usually the journey is between 75 to 90 minutes depending on traffic. These shuttle buses generally stop running around 8pm.

I would recommend taking the shuttle bus if your hotel is close to the drop off point or if you are a single traveler with a lot of luggage since you will need to take the luggage onto the subway if you take the express train.

Read more about the airport shuttle here .

PEK Beijing Capital Airport Taxi

In terms of ease and convenience, taxis would probably win this battle. There are taxis outside of every terminal at Beijing Airport.

The minimum charge is RMB 13 covering the first 3km, the rest of the trip will be charged at RMB 2.3/km. There are some other charges such as fuel surcharge, low-speed charge and stand-by charge.

Taxis are pretty much your only option if you land late at night. Read more about it here .

PKX (Beijing Daxing International Airport) to Beijing City Center

There are several options to transfer from PKX to Beijing City Center, including:

  • Airport Subway
  • Airport Railway
  • Airport Taxi

Beijing Airport Subway

The easiest and cheapest way to go from Beijing Daxing Airport to city center is by the Airport Subway. There are only 2 stations on this line. It costs RMB35 (5 USD) and you will need to transfer to other subway lines at Caoqiao Station to reach your hotel. You need to pay extra for the subway when you transfer.

The subway takes 19 minutes from the airport to Caoqiao Station.

Beijing Airport Railway

Another option to get from the Beijing Airport to Beijing City Center is to take the bullet train. It takes about 20-35 minutes to the Beijing West railway Station, from which you need to transfer to other subway lines to reach your hotel.

The bullet train costs 30 RMB (4USD) one way.

Beijing Airport Shuttle Bus

Another option from Beijing Airport to the city center is to take the airport shuttle bus . There are 6 bus lines to central Beijing and it takes about 80 minutes. It costs 40 RMB (USD 5.5) for a one way ticket. You have to buy tickets through WeChat App or at WeChat vending machines .

Beijing Daxing Airport Taxi

Airport taxis run 24/7 and taxis will be metered. The estimated cost from this airport to Beijing city center is 220+ RMB (30 USD+). If you are stuck in traffic it will cost more, and can take up to 90 minutes!

Where to Stay in Beijing

Beijing is a huge city and there are several areas you can stay in. For a first time visitor in Beijing I would recommend staying at one of the more touristy areas for ease of traveling and commuting.

Ultra Luxury Hotels in Beijing

Waldorf Astoria Beijing : This hotel is not only luxurious but also located in a really convenient location. It’s about 5 minute walk from the famous Wangfujing Pedestrian street, 10 minute drive from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city and also lose to the subway line #5 station.

Bulgari Hotel, Beijing : This hotel is super luxurious but also extremely close to Sanlitun, where nightlife happens.

Medium Range Hotels in Beijing

Novotel : I stayed at Novotel and loved it. The hotel had an amazing location and it took me no time to get to Tiananmen Square as well as Wangfujing. I would highly recommend staying here

New World Beijing Hotel : This hotel also has an amazing location: 15 minute walk to the Temple of Heaven and 10 minute walk to the subway station! If I were glad I stayed at Novotel last time, I would love to stay at this hotel next time.

Courtyard Hotels in Beijing

Part of the charm of old Beijing is the courtyard residences otherwise known as Siheyuan. Siheyuan is a historical type of residence in Beijing that used to host multiple families. In modern Beijing many of these Siheyuan became museums but many still are owned by private families with lots going on sale now (at a high price).

If you are interested in staying at one and explore Hutong then be sure to check out the following hotels:

Beijing Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel : Boasting ancient layouts and decorative pieces, this courtyard hotel is centrally located and offers an unique experience for anyone visiting Beijing.

Kelly‘s Courtyard Hotel : Located near Xidan, a vibrant and commercial area and they also offer bike hire.

How to Get Around Beijing

Beijing has an amazing and massive public transportation system, including the subway and bus. As a foreign tourist, it is probably easier to take the subway than the bus around Beijing.

You can pay for the subway, bus and train ticket using the “Yikatong card”, a transport card .

This transportation card is similar to the Oyster card in London, the Metrocard in NYC and the Octopus card in HK where you put money into the card and refill as necessary.

If you are spending 3 days in Beijing, you can get a 3 pay pass for 10 CNY for 18 rides. At the time of purchase, you need to pay a deposit of CNY20 but it is refundable.

Day 1 – 3 of 7 Days in China: Beijing

When you think about where to go in China I’m sure Beijing is probably No.1 on your list. To be honest, 3 days in Beijing doesn’t do it justice but if you only have 1 week in China and would like to see as much as possible, then it would be difficult to spend more than 3 days in Beijing.

In the following 3 day Beijing itinerary, I will include both VERY TOURISTY sites as well as less touristy and more trendy/local places in Beijing that you should visit. I don’t believe that just visiting the world famous places in Beijing gives you a good view into the lives of Chinese people.

This Beijing itinerary covers some of the best Beijing highlights .

Day 1 in Beijing Overview:

Tiananmen  -> Mausoleum of Mao Zedong (optional) -> National Museum of China (optional) -> Forbidden City (Closed on Mondays) -> Jingshan Park -> Hutong -> Bell Tower and Drum -> Nan Luo Gu Xiang -> Hou Hai Bar Street

Start your first day of your 1 week in China adventure in Beijing, the modern capital city of China.

Beijing is the political center of China and it is so important that in China, the only time zone in China is Beijing time (there is only 1 time zone in China). Beijing became the capital of China in 1421 by the Ming dynasty even though it had been the capital of China prior to that on and off.

Morning: Tiananmen (天安门) + Flag Raising Ceremony

Metro Station : Qianmen Station (Line 2) / Tian’anmen East Station (Line 1)

Looking at the map of Beijing, you might notice that Tian’anmen is pretty much in the center of the city so I suggest that you start your day as well as your 3 day Beijing adventure there.

Tiananmen Square is world famous for many reasons. The square is one of the biggest in the world. Visitors generally walk around Tiananmen square and take photos of the Tiananmen Rostrum , with a portrait of Mao Zedong right in the middle.

Every morning exactly at sunrise, there is a flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen where uniformed guards will march to the flagpole.

The whole flag raising ceremony lasts about 3 minutes and you want to get there about 10-15 minutes before it starts. There is also a flag lowering ceremony everyday at sunset. See the link here for the Tiananmen flag raising ceremony.

You can of course visit Tiananmen without the flag raising ceremony. Just remember that it is ALWAYS crowded at Tiananmen with both domestic and international visitors so going there early might work in your favor.

China Itinerary: Tiananmen Square in Beijing

Mausoleum of Mao Zedong 毛主席纪念堂 (optional) (Closed on Mondays)

Hours : 8am – 12pm

The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is where you can see the body of Mao preserved perfectly. There is usually a very long line to get in which is why I’ve never actually been.

If you decide to visit the mausoleum then you need to keep your bag/camera in the locker before you line up otherwise you won’t be able to get in. But you must have your passport with you otherwise you won’t be getting in either (yes China has a lot of very strict rules).

National Museum of China (optional) (Closed on Mondays)

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Situated at Tiananmen Square, the National Museum of China is perhaps one of the most important museums in China and in the world. It’s the 2nd most visited museum in the world after the Louvre in Paris.

The National Museum of China displays art pieces covering the span of Chinese history and many of the artifacts are not found anywhere else in China or in the world. I personally think it’s pretty cool to see the exhibitions if you are interested in Chinese history.

Afternoon: Forbidden City (Closed on Mondays)

Hours: 8:30am to 5pm (summer) or 4:30pm (winter)

Forbidden City is the most famous imperial palace complex in China and located right behind the Tiananmen Rostrum.

Since 1925, Forbidden City has been under the charge of Palace Museum and is now open to the public as a museum and it also has been declared a World Heritage Site. You will see collections of artifacts and art work through the palace museum as well as ancient Chinese architecture.

Forbidden City in Beijing

Budget at least 2-3 hours as Forbidden City is quite large and is usually very crowded.  I also recommend that you buy your tickets online ahead of time and bring your passport with you during your visit.

There is a limit of 80,000 tickets a day issued for the Forbidden City. If you are visiting during peak season you really should buy tickets ahead of time to avoid disappointments.

China itinerary: Beijing Forbidden City

There is a very nice afternoon tea cafe inside the Forbidden City. You have to go get a number and get a “return time”. I suggest you go as early as possible! The pastries all look super royal and unique. This is an experience not to be missed.

Forbidden City afternoon tea in China

Jingshan Park

Hours: 6am (or 6:30am in the winter) to 9pm (or 8pm in the winter)

Jingshan Park is an imperial garden directly north of Forbidden City. Generally visitors visit Jingshan Park after they exit through the North Gate of Forbidden City. Jingshan Park has a hill that gives you a bird’s eye view of Forbidden City.

If you can spare 30 minutes to an hour during your day in Beijing, then I highly recommend you stop by this park. There is a small fee (2RMB) to visit this park but I seriously think this is the best view of Forbidden city in Beijing.

Jing Shan Park View of Forbidden City

Hutongs in Beijing

Beijing is known for well preserved Hutong (alleys) and there are several famous ones in Central Beijing. Most of them are either south of the Mausoleum or near the Bell Tower and Drum area. See map above for locations of the famous Hutongs (I will also mention some in the sections below).

You can do a Hutong Walking Tour if you want to fully explore them, learn more about the history and why they are significant.

Bell Tower and Drum Tower (Gulou and Zhonglou)

Metro Station : Gulou Street Station (Line 2 & 8) or Shichahai Station (Line 8) Bus Line : 5, 60, 107 Hours : 9am – 5pm Entrance Fee : RMB 20 for Drum Tower & RMB 15 for Bell Tower

Beijing Drum Tower Bell Tower

The Bell Tower and Drum Tower were used for instruments back in the ancient times and later on they were used by the government to actually tell time. Each building has 2 stories and you need to buy an entrance ticket to visit and go upstairs.

In the Drum Tower on the 2nd floor there used to be 25 drums (24 small ones and 1 large one) but now there is only 1 large one remaining.

If you are visiting the Bell Tower and Drum Tower from Jingshan Park, you can technically walk there in about 30 minutes (blocks are very long in Beijing).

Evening: Nan Luo Gu Xiang

Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷) is a Hutong near in the Drum and Bell Tower district. The alley is about 800m long and in recent years this alley has become a very popular tourist (and local) destination with restaurants, bars, shops, coffee shops, etc.

Apparently this Hutong now is the third most popular bar street in Beijing after Sanlitun and Houhai. Ideally you will visit Nanluoguxiang at night and have your dinner there (both western and Chinese restaurants available) and grab some street food and drinks along the way.

I really loved visiting this when I was in Beijing and I can’t wait to go back again. There is also a hostel situated near this Hutong called Beijing Downtown Travelotel that I would recommend checking out.

Houhai Bar Street (后海酒吧街)

Not too far away from Nanluoguxiang (~10-15 min walk) is the famous Houhai Bar Street. The Houhai Bar Street is situated next to the Shichahai Lake and a bunch of Hutongs.

This particular bar street combines both western and Chinese restaurants, bars, Karaoke, coffee shops and tea houses. It is said that there are more than 120 bars on the Houhai Bar Street and the most popular ones include Zone Bar, East Shore Live Jazz Cafe, Houhai #5 Bar Club, Sex and da City, Buddha Bar, etc.

Day 2 in Beijing Overview:

Temple of Heaven -> Summer Palace -> Yuanmingyuan Park -> National Stadium -> Wangfujing and Wangfujing Pedestrian Street

Morning: Temple of Heaven (天壇)

Metro Station : Tiantan East Gate Station (Line 5) & numerous bus lines Hours : 8am – 5pm or 6pm depending on the month Entrance Fee : 10 – 15 RMB

Beijing Temple of Heaven China itinerary

Temple of Heaven  was a sacred place where the emperors of China during the Ming and Qing dynasties worshiped the god of heaven and prayed for good harvest. It’s also one of my favorite places in Beijing because the architecture (including the colors and details) is just so pretty.

Temple of Heaven gets packed so I would recommend you either go extremely early or go near the closing time to avoid crowds.

When you go to Temple of Heaven early in the morning you actually will see a lot of old Chinese people playing Chinese chess, chatting or doing tai-chi along the Long Corridor (next to the East Gate) which showcases the authentic daily life of the local Chinese people.

Photography tip at Temple of Heaven : If you go early go to the back of The Imperial Vault to take photos. Since the place is circular you will still get a nice photo and all the other visitors will be too busy taking photos in the front of the circular vault.

Summer Palace (颐和园)

Metro Station : Beigongmen Station (Line 4) and numerous bus lines Hours: 6:30am to 6pm (or 5pm) depending on the season Entrance Fee : RMB30 (peak season) and RMB20 (low season). Book here .

Beijing Summer Palace China itinerary

Summer Palace is about 15km outside of the Beijing City Center and it is the largest royal park in China.

It was constructed in 1750 as a garden as a birthday gift to the emperor’s mother and later the Palace was enlarged by the Empress Dowager Cixi.

Unfortunately during the Anglo-French Allied Force invasion of China during the Second Opium War, Summer Palace was burned down and later restored. The park next to Summer Palace,  Yuanmingyuan , shows the post-fire ruin due to the invasion.

You should plan at least a couple of hours to see most of Summer Palace; some of the most famous attractions at Summer Palace include Kunming Lake (you can boat on it), the Long Corridor and Longevity Hill.

There are restaurants and food vendors inside Summer Palace but of course the price is much higher than what you would pay for outside of the palace.

Beijing Itinerary China Summer Palace

Yuanmingyuan Park (圓明園 Old Summer Palace)

Metro Station : Yuanmingyuan Station (Line 4) and numerous bus lines Hours : 7am to 6:30pm (or 5pm)

Yuanmingyuan Park is what’s known as the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. It was originally constructed in 1707 as an imperial garden and then expanded as the main imperial residence of Qianlong Emperor of Qing dynasty.

The Old Summer Palace was a combination of Western style and traditional Chinese style architecture and it was made up of 3 gardens, Garden of Perfect Brightness, Garden of Eternal Spring and Elegant Spring Garden.

However during the second Opium War in the early 1800s the British forces burned the Old Summer Palace (took 3 days) as a retaliation for the murder of some British soldiers. Even to this day, the burning of Yuanmingyuan is a tragic historical event that most Chinese people can never forget.

After the burning of the old Summer Palace, attempts were made to restore the Old Summer Palace but due to insufficient funding this was never accomplished except the restoration of the present day Summer Palace.

Tsinghua University & Peking University (Optional)

Tsinghua University and Peking University are the top two universities in China. Since China has so many people, it’s probably harder to get into one of these two universities compared to getting into the top universities in the US.

Both universities have a huge and beautiful campus. Since both are located relatively close to Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan Park, if you have time during your 3 days in Beijing you should visit one of these two campuses to see what university and student life is like in China.

National Stadium (鸟巢 Bird Nest) & National Aquatics Center (水立方 Water Cube)

Metro Station : Beitucheng (Line 8 & 10) and Olympic Sports Center (Line 8)

Beijing Bird Nest National Stadium olympic

The Olympic Sports Center (the stadium, National Aquatics Center, etc) were either constructed or renovated for the 2008 Olympics. There is pretty tight security when you try to get into the proximity of the building so be prepared to have your bag scanned and checked.

You don’t have to pay to see the outside of either building but will need to pay to go inside. I’ve done a tour of the Bird Nest stadium and it was quite informative and fun but I’ve never been inside the Water Cube.

If you go at night the Water Cube will be lit up which is quite amazing. Overall if you have time (and energy) to visit I would say go for it as the architecture is fully impressive.

Evening: Wangfujing Street (王府井大街)

Metro Station : Wangfujing Station (Line 1) and numerous bus lines

Wangfujing Street is a very busy commercial street with tons of Depart Stores, small shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.

If you are looking to eat Peking Duck in Beijing, one of the most famous (and touristy) restaurants is called  Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant .

There are many branches of Quanjude in Beijing and it is one of the most established duck restaurants in China since it opened its doors in 1864.

A typical meal per person is about USD 30 and you should order both the Duck and the side dishes (made using part of the duck not used in the main Peking Duck preparation so you can order duck stir fry and duck soup, etc).

Note that most restaurants in China close pretty early, and this particular branch closes at 830pm.

If you want to try Chinese hot pot, there is a chain called Haidilao (海底捞) that is quite famous and popular in China on Wangfujing Street. Alternatively many visitors go to the Wangfujing Snack Street to try Chinese street food (some may involve fried insects). There are also pizza hut and McDonalds on Wangfujing Street.

Day 3 in Beijing Overview:

Great Wall of China -> Sanlitun

Half Day to Full Day – Great Wall of China

The Great Wall is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and you simply cannot say you’ve been to Beijing without visiting the Great Wall.

The Great wall was built in 220-206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China (who also united China). Many people died during the construction of the Great Wall, and over the years the Great Wall pretty much was destroyed by nature but many parts have been rebuilt.

Since the Great Wall is so long, there are different parts of the wall you can visit from Beijing and I will mention a few below:

Badaling is the most popular section of the Great Wall because it’s the closest section from Beijing. Many tour buses go to Badaling (I would not recommend the tours).

Beijing Badaling Great Wall of China

Since it is the closest section of the Great Wall to Beijing, Badaling is where most of the crowd end up at. If you don’t want to battle through crazy crowds I would advise against going to this part of the Great Wall.

However if you have limited time and would like to visit Badaling, you can take a high speed train or local bus from Beijing to Badaling:

  • High speed trains take about 20 to 40 minutes, cost around 25 RMB (3- 4 USD). You take it from Qinghe Railway Station to Badaling Great Wall Railway Station.
  • Bus Line 877 from Deshengmen Bus Terminal, bus ticket is 12 RMB Travel time is about 1.5 hours (non-stop).
  • Tourist Bus from Qianmen to Badaling, takes about 90 minutes and costs 80 RMB round trip (or 50 RMB one way).
  • Bus Line 919 from Deshengmen Bus Terminal, bus fare is 13 RMB and it takes 2 hours (13 stops).

Mutianyu (Great Wall)

Mutianyu Great Wall of China in Beijing

Mutianyu is the most “pretty” and tourist friendly part of the Great Wall thanks to the restoration efforts. Mutianyu is slightly farther from Beijing than Badaling, making it less crowded and a better experience.

There is a cable car at Mutianyu that takes you up to Tower 14 and from there you can walk up or even hike to the Jiankou section of the Great Wall in 4 hours (10km/6 miles). The cable car costs RMB120 for a round trip and RMB100 for a one way trip.

You can take a local bus from Beijing to Mutianyu but it is not the most straightforward. For this reason, I would recommend taking a tour to Mutianyu instead and that is what I did.

Jiankou part of the Great Wall is by far a more dangerous and wild part of the Great Wall because it has not been maintained or restored. Because of the danger, this part of the Great Wall is not officially open to tourists although you technically can hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu in 4 hours .

Jiankou is also 3 hours from Beijing by public transit and requires several transfers. If you are very fit and want an unforgettable experience to have pretty much the entire Great Wall to yourself, read this guide and also  this article to see the experience of one hiker.

Jinshanling

Jinshanling part of the Great Wall is one of the most popular place to visit for hikers and photographers. This part of the Great Wall is about 2-3 hours from Beijing, half of it is restored and the other half is wild so it’s a perfect blend.

You can hike from Jinshanling to Simatai , the only part of the Great Wall that is open for tourists at night. However there are some recent articles saying that the hike is closed.

There is also a cable car that can take you up to Jinshanlin. What’s more special about Jinshanling is that every year there is a “ Run the Great Wall” marathon organized in this part of the wall and participants can run a full Marathon, half Marathon or 10K.

Evening: Sanlitun (三里屯)

Metro Station : Tuanjiehu Station (Line 10)

After you come back from the Great Wall and shower at your hotel, spend your evening in the popular Sanlitun district of Beijing.

Sanlitun is an area full of restaurants, bars, clubs, and international brandy name shops. The Sanlitun Bar Street is in the east side of North Sanlitun Street covering over half of all bars in Beijing.

Some bars are open 24 hours in Sanlitun and there are also nightclubs in the area where you will see tons of Ferraris and Lambos parked outside.

Other Things to Do in Beijing:

798 art zone.

If you have additional time in Beijing during the day and you are an art lover, then you wouldn’t want to miss a visit to the 798 Art Zone.

798 Art Zone is an area with contemporary art galleries, bookstores, museums, restaurants and cafes that used to be factories during the Mao-era. Most galleries in 798 Art Zone are closed on Monday and they also generally close around 6pm.

Some things not to be missed in the 798 Art Zone include 798 Photo Gallery, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Chinese Contemporary, Springs Center of the Arts, Zhu Bingren Art Museum and Faurschou Foundation Beijing.

  • teamLab Massless
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You may be familiar with teamLab as they are all the rage in Tokyo . But did you know that there is also one in Beijing?

This beautiful immersive art experience includes over 500 beautiful artworks displayed in a 3D space, where you can fully forget the outside world and immerse yourself in art.

You can expect to spend at least 1-2 hours at this teamLab. Purchase tickets to reserve your spot.

What to Eat During 3 Days in Beijing

Peking duck.

As mentioned earlier, Peking Duck is a Chinese delicacy. The duck is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and you eat it by putting sliced skin and meat, together with slices of cucumber and scallion with bean paste inside a thin crepe.

Famous Peking Duck restaurants in Beijing include Quanjude , Bianyifang Roast Duck , Da Dong (super expensive/ high end Peking Duck restaurant), Siji Mifu , Li Quan Kaoya Dian , etc. In general each duck is between 150 – 300 RMB depending on which restaurant you choose.

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Hot Pot in Beijing

Similar to Fondue, Hot Pot is a popular Chinese cuisine where you put beef, lamb, veggies and noodles (sometimes) into a boiling pot and cook the food yourself. You eat the cooked food with a bowl of sauce generally made with Satay Sauce, Soy Sauce, Sesame Paste, etc.

Hot Pot is especially popular for bigger dining parties as well as during the winter when it’s cold outside. Popular places for Hot Pot in Beijing include Donglaishun, Haidilao (mentioned above in Wangfujing), Hongyuan Nanmen Hot Pot .

Other Local Cuisine that you should try include Black Bean Paste Noodle, Jianbing, dumplings, Baozi (pork Buns), Breakfast from street vendors (Chinese donuts, etc).

Day 4 – 5 of 7 Days in China: Xi’An

After spending 3 days in Beijing, it’s time to move to the next city Xian on Day 4 of your 1 week in China. Xian is the terminus of the Silk Road and also the old capital city of China throughout Chinese history therefore it’s not surprising that Xian has many historical sites to visit.

Traveling from Beijing to Xian

Travel from Beijing to Xian first thing in the morning either by train or by plane.

There are over 20 direct flights from Beijing to Xian everyday and the entire journey takes about 2 hours. If you don’t want to fly, you can also take the high speed train from Beijing to Xian which takes about 4.5-6 hours.

Alternatively, to save time and money, I can also recommend taking the overnight train from Beijing West Railway Station at 8:40pm to arrive at Xi’an Railway station at around 8:30 am the next morning.

To book train tickets within China, I highly recommend using trip.com as it is one of the largest travel booking websites and even locals use it to book train tickets and hotels.

Xi'an China

Where to Stay in Xian

There is a famous historical area of Xian where you probably will spend most of your time, therefore I recommend that you stay in that area for easy access.

Medium Range Hotel in Xian

Xi’an is not very expensive compared to Beijing and Shanghai so you can stay at very nice hotels for a good price.

Grand Park Xi’an : Grand Park Xi’an is located right by Yongningmen, the Southern Gate of the Xian City Wall and a 15 minute walk from the Drum Tower and Bell Tower. It’s also close to the subway station making it super convenient to go anywhere.

Howard Johnson Ginwa Plaza Hotel : Very close to the Grand Park Xi’an, great location and price.

Eastern House Boutique Hotel : Located within the historical center of Xian, great price and location.

Budget Hotels & Hostels in Xi’An

Ancient City International Youth Hostel : Located within the historical center, close to the North Gate of the Xi’an City wall as well as the Muslim Street (for food).

Xi’an See Tang Hostel : Within the historical center, close to the South Gate of the city wall.

Day 4 Xi’An Overview

Terracotta Army -> Huaqing Gong -> Xi’An

Terracotta Army ( 兵马俑 )

Tickets : purchase here

Many people come to Xi’An to see the world famous Terracotta Army, a collection of life-size Terracotta sculptures depicting the army of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China in his tomb.

Terracotta warriors xi'an china

The sculptures depict army and scholars of various heights, facial structures and clothing in great detail as well as chariots and horses. Terracotta Army is located about an hour outside of Xi’an city center.

How to get to Terracotta Army from Xi’an

Bus 5 (306) : Take bus 5 (regular bus 306) from Xi’an Railway Station from 7am to 5pm for RMB7 per person each way. Journey takes about an hour. Buy a ticket after you get on the bus. Don’t pay anything for anything before you get on as there are many “fake” Tourist Bus Number 5 in that area.

Free Shuttle Bus from Xi’an North Railway Station  from 8am to 4pm to Terracotta Army. This is great for people who get off the high speed train in Xi’an. To get on the Free Shuttle, you will need to show the entrance ticket and railway ticket to get on.

Tour : you can book a tour that will take you to Terracotta Army, saving you the trouble of navigating public transit.

Huaqing Gong (华清宫)

Bus Stop: 306, 914, 915 Hours: 7:30am – 8pm

If you are visiting Terracotta Army and have time for a side trip along the way, then you can consider visiting Huaqing Gong (Palace), the ancient hot spring resort for the imperial family. There are numerous gardens, relics of hot spring, historical Chinese architecture and artificial lake at Huaqing Gong.

There is a love story between one of the Chinese emperors and his concubine at Huaqing Gong. There is a show every evening that depict their love story. If you don’t plan to stay to watch the show, then a couple of hours at Huaqing Gong should be enough. You can take Bus 306, 914 and 915 between Huaqing Gong and Terracotta Army.

Day 5 Xi’An Overview

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda -> Small Wild Goose Pagoda -> Xi’an City Wall -> Historical Center + Muslim Quarter + Yongxingfang

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔)

Metro Station : Xiaozhai Station (line 2) and walk 10 minutes or Dayanta Station (Line 3) Bus : Numerous bus lines and tourist bus 6, 8, 9 Hours : 8am – 5pm Entrance : RMB 60 to enter Da Ci’en Temple and RMB30 to go up the Pagoda

One of the most famous Pagodas in China, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is located in the Da Ci’en Temple complex.

The pagoda was built during the Tang dynasty to collect Buddhist materials and study Buddhist scriptures from India. It had gone through numerous renovation and reconstruction due to war, earthquake and gradual decay.

During one period of time the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda had 10 stories but after the earthquake the Pagoda was reconstructed to the current 7 stories. There is a giant fountain (largest in Asia) in the North Square of Giant Wild Goose Pagoda that has a free synchronized performance with classical music everyday at certain times.

If you have time during your 7 days in China itinerary then definitely check out this Pagoda and the music fountain.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda

Bus Stop: Line 21, 402 etc Hours: 8am – 6pm (Closed on Tuesday)

Similar to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the small wild Goose Pagoda was built for similar purposes and also had to be reconstructed after the earthquake to its current 13 stories. It was named the Small Wild Goose Pagoda because it is smaller than the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and built after it.

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is also part of the Xi’an Museum which you can visit if you have time. However if you don’t have time during your 2 days in Xi’an then you can skip this.

Xi’An City Wall

Metro Station : Yongningmen Station (Line 2) for South Gate & Anyuanmen (Line 2) for North Gate Bus Station : Multiple bus lines to all 4 gates Hours : 8am to 10pm or 8pm depending on the season Entrance Fee: RMB54

Biking on Xi'an City Wall china

The Xi’An City Wall is one of the largest and most well preserved city wall in China. It was a fortification back in ancient City to protect the city center within it. The Xi’An City Wall has 4 main gates where visitors can enter and there is also a moat surrounding the city wall.

The best way to see the Xi’An City Wall is to rent a bike to go through the entire wall, it takes about an hour. It costs about RMB 45 for a 2 hour rental. During the evening time the lanterns will be lit up and you will see many locals walking the wall to exercise.

Xi’An Drum Tower and Bell Tower

Located inside the Xi’An historical center (inside the city wall), the Drum Tower and Bell Tower are historical architectures similar to the one in Beijing. If you stay nearby, you can take photos of the towers from the outside.

Muslim Quarter

Xi’An has a large Muslim population due to its history. During the Tang dynasty, many Muslim merchants came to Xi’an (the then capital of China) via the Silk Road.

They mostly lived within the City Wall in the present day Muslim Quarter, which has now become a famous tourist attraction. Many people come to the Muslim quarter for its street food. The Muslim quarter is located behind the Bell Tower and many of the streets I outlined on the map are famous for street food.

If you don’t know what to eat, be sure to do a food walking tour of the Muslim Quarter!

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Yongxingfang

If the Muslim quarter were popular among tourists, then the locals would actually spend more time in Yongxingfang, located near the east gate of the Xi’an City Wall. Similar to the Muslim Quarter, there are plenty of restaurants and street food in Yongxingfang one can choose from.

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What to Eat in Xi’An

One of the best things to do in Xi’An for most tourists is actually to eat. Being the old capital of China, Xi’An cuisine is not only one of the oldest cuisines in China but also is a mixture of various influences such as Muslim influence.

The main types of Xi’An food include Halal food, dominated by noodles, breads and dumplings with strong flavors like spicy and sour.

Meat Burgers

China itinerary what to eat in Xian

The Xi’An meat burger is a very simple made of bread and pork (Muslim Quarter ones use beef instead of Pork).

This burger may look simple but the meat is generally cooked with 10-20 different types of spices. The meat is also chopped up into much smaller pieces when served with the bread which is slightly crispy on the outside. Cost of the burger is generally less than RMB 10 each.

Rice Noodle (cold noodle)

The Rice Noodle dish has a long history dating back to the first dynasty of China. Generally the noodle is made from rice flour and cut into thin but wide slices mixed with cucumber, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce, red pepper and other sauces.

Occasionally you can find one that’s mixed with sesame paste. You usually will find the rice noodle dish from shops that also sell meat burgers.

Lamb Soup with Flatbread

The Lamb Soup is perhaps the most famous food of Xi’An. The soup is made from Lamb and the customers (sometimes the restaurant does it) can tear apart the flatbread and put it in the soup to eat together. Besides lamb, some restaurants also offer beef soup, seafood soup, etc.

BiangBiang Noodle

The name “Biang” comes from the sound of making and eating the noodles. Unlike normal noodles, Biangbiang noodle is as wide as a belt and extremely long (1 noodle can fill a bowl).  The noodle is often served with potato, carrot, tofu, etc with hot chili pepper oil.

There are so many other famous dishes Xi’An is known for, this CNN article summarizes all the dishes quite well.

Day 6 – 7 of 7 Days in China: Shanghai

Shanghai is the largest city in China by population and perhaps the most prosperous and modern city in China. If Beijing was the political center of China then Shanghai would be the economic center of China.

2 days in Shanghai is barely enough to see and experience it and if you have more than 1 week in China I would actually recommend staying at least 3-4 days if not a whole week in Shanghai to properly explore.

Day 6 Shanghai Overview:

Arrival in Shanghai & Check in -> YuYuan Garden & Bazaar -> Lujiazui Area -> The Bund & Nanjing Road

Take the earliest flight from Xi’An to Shanghai to make the most out of your second to last day of your 7 days in China. There are over 20 direct flights from Xi’an to Shanghai everyday and the flight takes about 2 hours.

Alternatively, you can take an overnight train from Xi’an to Shanghai but the arrival time is usually around 11am and the overnight train can take up to 15 hours for RMB200. There is a high speed train that costs about RMB500 that takes 7 hours, therefore flying is probably the best option.

There are 2 airports in Shanghai: Pudong International Airport is a bit further from the city center and mainly serves international flights; Hongqiao International Airport serves more domestic flights and is slightly closer to Shanghai City Center.

How To Get to Shanghai City Center From Airports

From Pudong International Airport , you can either take subway line 2 all the way to the city or take the more expensive MagLev train toLong Yang Road station (龙阳路) then transfer to subway line 2.

From Hongqiao International Airport, you can take subway line 2 or subway line 10 depending on which terminal you land in.

Shanghai Maglev train

Once you get to the city center, check into your hotel and freshen up, it is time to explore Shanghai.

YuYuan Garden & Bazaar (豫园)

Metro Station : Yuyuan (Line 10 & 14) Hours : Bazaar pedestrian area is open all day

YuYuan or Yu Garden is a famous garden inside the City God Temple. Even though the garden itself is famous, the surrounding area is a huge Bazaar with tons of stalls for food, restaurants and shops that attract both tourists and locals.

China itinerary: Shanghai city bazaar

If you want to go into Yu Garden, the ticket price is RMB 30-40 depending on the season.

Shanghai China Itinerary Yu Garden

I personally think that you can skip the garden if you are tired of seeing Chinese architecture at this point. I highly recommend spending some time walking around the area instead. However, since there is a ticket needed to enter Yu Garden, it tends to be less crowded than the outside area.

Lunch in City God Temple Area (城隍庙)

If you haven’t already eaten, I recommend exploring the Bazaar in the City God Temple area and eating some local Shanghainese food.

Shanghai is known for soup dumplings (among other things) and the shop that every tourist visits at least once is called Nanxiang Soup Dumpling. Even though there are many soup dumpling shops in Shanghai, Nanxiang has been around for a very long time and there is always a line to buy soup dumplings.

Nanxiang Soup Dumpling in Shanghai

There are many other street vendors selling drinks, sweets, etc in the Bazaar so spend at least an hour here to explore.

Shanghai soup dumplings

Lujiazui (陆家嘴)

Lujiazui is the financial center of Shanghai and it’s located on the other side of Huangpu River. When you see photos of the skyline in Shanghai from the Bund, you are looking at all the buildings in Lujiazui.

Shanghai Financial Center Observation deck

The Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower (Oriental Pearl Tower) is one of the most famous buildings in Lujiazui. However in recent years there are many new skyscrapers in Lujiazui and many of these new buildings have an observation deck.

I recommend going up to one of the observation decks in either the Oriental Pearl Tower , Shanghai World Financial Center , Shanghai Jinmao Tower or the Shanghai Tower (currently the highest one) for a panoramic view of Shanghai and the Bund. There are also shops and hotels in most of these skyscrapers.

Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower for China Itinerary

Besides the skyscrapers, the Lujiazui area also has a number of restaurants near the river. You will see families and tourists hanging out in the Lujiazui Green Space area on a nice day or on the weekend.

The Bund (外滩)

The Bund is perhaps the most famous area in Shanghai and an area that you would see in any movies featuring Shanghai. The Bund used to be the financial center of Shanghai with a number of banks and trading houses located there.

Shanghai Bund China itinerary

However now the Bund is a tourist attraction with a feel of colonial relics the government decided to keep. During the day and night, both locals and tourists walk along the waterfront to enjoy the skyline view of Lujiazui.

Things To Do at the Bund:

Walk along the Bund : I personally think this is the best way to enjoy the Bund. There are numerous high end restaurants and hotels along the Bund.

The Bund Cruise Tour : There are 2 types of cruises you can take from the Bund. 1 type of cruise is from the Bund to Zhujiajiao cruise. RMB 2 min, takes 10 min. This is not really a tourist cruise but it is a cheap way to see the Bund from the Huangpu River.

The other type of Bund cruise is a tourist boat that leaves from Pier 16, RMB 80-150 for an hour.

Sightseeing Tunnel : Underwater tunnel between Lujiazui and the Bund with multimedia experience. However reviews online are not good.

Look at the Bund from Above:  as mentioned above, a great way to have a panoramic view of the Bund is from above and this includes both observation decks and rooftop bars and restaurants such as Flair from Ritz Carlton, New Heights, House of Roosevelt, M ON THE BUND, Bar Rouge, etc

Shanghai rooftop bar Flair the bund

Nanjing Road (南京路)

Shanghai Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road is a commercial street near The Bund. There are a lot of shops on the road and it’s perfect for walking around when you visit the Bund.

Keep in mind this is perhaps one of the most crowded roads in Shanghai, especially if you visit during a Chinese national holiday. Keep an eye on your belongings, watch your kids closely and brave the crowds.

Night River Cruise and Dinner

Finish your evening in Shanghai with a cruise tour to see the amazing architecture and historical structures on both sides of the Huangpujiang. You will also be fed a nice dinner on this cruise! You can check out the cruise here .

Day 7 in Shanghai Overview

Former French Concession -> Tianzifang -> Xintiandi

Former French Concession

Start your day in the Former French Concession area of Shanghai. This was a part of Shanghai that was given to France between 1849 to 1943.

Shanghai Former French Concession

This area was expanded in the 1900s and basically doubled in size. Even to this day, the former French concession area is a nice residential area with tons of cute restaurants, cafes and shops . One hallmark of the Former French Concession area is wide roads lined with London plane trees.

The buildings in the Former concession area are either colonial styled buildings or traditional Shanghainese buildings called Shikumen – old brickworks and big stone doorways.

Tianzifang (田子坊)

Tianzifang is one of the most touristy areas of the Former French Concession with lots of cute cafes, restaurants, and shops. There are several alley ways that make up this area and it has been redeveloped in recent years.

The architecture at Tianzifang is the traditional Shanghai shikumen housing with narrow alleys. Tianzifang became famous because several artists took up residence there and opened galleries and studios.

Afternoon Tea at Yongfoo Elite (雍福会)

There are several amazing afternoon tea places in Shanghai but my favorite is the afternoon tea at Yongfoo Elite in the Former French Concession.

Chinese afternoon tea

This Michelin Star restaurant itself is in the former British consulate so the setting is beautiful and shows the classic style of old Shanghai. They have both a western afternoon tea and Chinese afternoon tea. If you have time and want to experience what traditional Chinese afternoon tea is like, be sure to stop by.

Xintiandi (新天地)

Another famous and trendy area of Shanghai called Xintiandi is also located in the Former French Concession.

Unlike Tianzifang, Xintiandi has been developed into a modern and trendy shopping and dining center. The prices at most restaurants, bars and shops are rather high and this area attracts many expats as well as posh local residents.

Other noteworthy things to see in the Former French Concession include Fuxing Road, Fuxing Park, Site of the first National congress of CPC, Zhou Enlai’s former residence, Sun Yat-sen’s Former residence, Shanghai Propaganda Poster and Art Center, etc.

Other things to do in Shanghai:

As you may have noticed, I didn’t pack your last day in China with a ton of things, because I want you to have the flexibility to pick and choose what you want to do.

  • Check Out Museums in Shanghai : There are a number of art museums and spaces in Shanghai, so if you are into art, you should check out China Art Museum 中华艺术宫, Shanghai Museum 上海博物馆, Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai 上海当代艺术馆 (inside People’s Park), etc.
  • Do a Food Tour : Shanghai has amazing street food and without a local, it is hard to know where to go. Even as a Chinese person, I need to do a lot of research on Chinese websites to figure out where to eat in Shanghai. Therefore, I highly recommend doing a local food tour to try some of the best dishes Shanghai is known for.
  • Kids’ Activities in Shanghai : If you are traveling with kids to China, you would be delighted to know that Shanghai is a great place to take kids. You can check out Shanghai Ocean Aquarium (上海海洋水族馆), Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (上海科技馆), free swimming pool at BFC (The Bund Financial Center), Century Park (世纪公园) with boat rowing, playground, etc.
  • teamLab Borderless : I am a big teamLab fan and if you can’t make it to Tokyo, you can still go to Borderless in Shanghai! This immersive digital art experience is really worth seeing at least once.
  • Shanghai Disneyland Park : Disneyland needs no introduction. Again, if you are traveling with children, this is definitely a must do (unless of course, you are from Florida or California, then just go to the ones there, although definitely more expensive than the one in Shanghai).

Optional Day Trip: Zhujiajiao Old Town (朱家角) or Xitang (西塘) From Shanghai

If you have more time during your 7 day China itinerary and want to get out of the city, then you should not miss Zhujiajiao.

Zhujiajiao is a well preserved ancient water town located a little under 50 km from Shanghai and can be easily reached by bus from several locations in Shanghai.

Known as the Venice of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is beautiful with its canals and bridges and traditional Chinese architecture. I suggest going early to avoid crowds since it’s an easy day trip from Shanghai.

You can check out this tour to visit Zhujiajiao from Shanghai.

Xitang best day trip from Shanghai

Another beautiful water town near Shanghai that I would recommend if you have more than 7 days in China is Xitang . Xitang is where one of the Mission Impossible movies was filmed. It’s a really nice place to explore, especially at night when all the lanterns are lit.

Check out my complete guide on how to visit Xitang from Shanghai .

Where to Stay in Shanghai

Shanghai is a big city but as a first time visitor, I recommend staying in the following area:

The Bund : The Bund is perhaps the most famous and visited area in Shanghai but it is also very convenient. If you want a beautiful view of the Shanghai skyline, I recommend staying at the Fairmont if you want a luxurious experience or   Les Suites Orient for a more budget friendly option.

Xintiandi : Packed with shopping, bars and restaurants, Xintiandi is a great choice for anyone really. A few places to consider:   URBN Boutique Shanghai , The Langham , Andaz .

Where to Eat Soup Dumplings in Shanghai

Soup dumplings and fried pork buns are perhaps the most famous food in Shanghai. Soup dumpling, as the name implies, is a small bun with meat and soup (gelatin) steamed on bamboo steamers.

Fried pork dumplings are much bigger versions of buns with pork fillings pan fried to perfection. The best places to get soup dumplings and fried pork buns in Shanghai include Xiaoyang Shengjian, Nanxiang, Da Hu Chun , and the Taiwanese chain Din Tai Feng . All of these restaurants are marked on my Google Map above.

If you want to read more about street food in Shanghai, be sure to check out GirlEatWorld’s Shanghai blog .  One restaurant she mentioned on her blog is Old Jesse , it’s a Shanghai style restaurant located in the Former French Concession. GO THERE! The food is very authentic and delicious, the location is also marked on my Google Map above.

This should conclude your 7 day China itinerary!

Best Tours to Consider For this 1 Week China Itinerary

You can totally travel through China without any tours. But if you are the type that likes things to be organized for you, then here are a few tours you can consider. Many of these are mentioned already in this itinerary, but to make things even more organized for you, here is the list:

Best Tours in Beijing

  • Mutianyu Great Wall : Mutianyu is one of the best preserved sections of the Great Wall in Beijing. This tour provides transportation service, a cable car to go up to the wall, and Toboggan.
  • Private Forbidden City Tour : Forbidden City is huge and it is the most important royal palace in China. There is a lot to know and see in Forbidden City, there are also many artifacts and historical gardens you should see.
  • Beijing Hutong Tour : Want to see those famous historical courtyards in Beijing? Take this tour to see the Hutongs as well as Bell and Drum Tower.
  • Beijing Airport Private Transfer : If you are landing late at night or just simply don’t want to navigate public transportation with large suitcases and kids, or if you have a large party, book a private transfer.

Beijing Attraction Entry Tickets

Places like Forbidden City cap the number of visitors every day, so it is essential to book tickets early. In addition, if you don’t have Alipay or WeChat pay, then you definitely want to book all the attractions before so you have less things to worry about paying.

  • Forbidden City Ticket
  • Temple of Heaven
  • Summer Palace
  • Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace)

Best Xi’An Tours

  • Terracotta Tour from Xi’an
  • Full day Xi’an tour to see Terracotta Army, City Wall, Pagoda and Muslim Quarter
  • Xi’an Muslim Quarter Food Tour

Best Shanghai Tours

  • Shanghai local food tour
  • One day Shanghai Highlights Tour , great for those who are short on time and just want to see the most famous sights.
  • Shanghai Night River Cruise and Dinner Tour
  • Zhujiajiao Water Town Half Day Tour
  • Suzhou Day Trip from Shanghai

Tips On Planning A Trip To China

China is not the easiest place to visit if you don’t speak Chinese. However this shouldn’t stop you from visiting China because it is truly interesting, historical and people are friendly. The only concern you should have while visiting China is where to go in China since it’s so big and diverse.

It doesn’t matter whether you are spending 7 days or 3 weeks in China , here are a few tips to help you plan your trip:

Decide what type of things you want to see in China. Is it the Great Wall? Is it the rice terrace? Is it the mysterious Tibet? Answering this question will help you decide where to go in China and when to go.

The best time to visit China is April to May and October to mid November when the temperature is more mild and it’s not crazy humid.

The worst time to visit China is during the summer and during national holidays like May 1 Labor Day, October 1 National Day, and Lunar New Year. During these holidays the entire country is off for at least a week to 10 days, and everyone will be traveling, making things extremely crowded.

You will most likely need a tourist visa to visit China

You will not have access to Facebook, Instagram, Google, Google Map, Gmail, Snapchat , etc. To access those websites and apps you use your foreign sim card with international roaming or get a VPN.

You should bring cash with you as most restaurants and shops still only take cash (or We chat/Alipay but you don’t have that).

Write down places you want to visit in Chinese on your phone or paper so in case you get lost, people can help you find the way.

Learning some basic Chinese phrases can make locals very happy and make things easier for you. But worst case, get a translation app!

Try street food , especially those with locals waiting in line. If you only see tourists waiting, it’s probably not that good!

You might get stared at but it’s normal, people are just curious about you and they are actually friendly.

Lastly, you probably need more than 7 days in China. In fact I think you need at least 2 to 3 months in China to see the most famous places. China is HUGE and a week or two can barely scratch the surface.

For more information on how to plan your trip to China , check out my detailed blog post here, including what apps to download, etc.

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The Travel Scribes

The ultimate 2 weeks China itinerary | Your China travel guide

People often ask us: What is the best country that you’ve travelled to? And, while it competes some top-notch destinations, China sits right at the top of that pile. Yes, it can be very tough to navigate but exploring China is 100% worth the effort, as one of the most incredible countries to visit in the world. After spending a month discovering the best corners of this fascinating country, we’ve boiled it down to this list of absolute must-dos; our perfect 2 weeks China itinerary.

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But, before we get started, it’s worth mentioning what to expect, and to dispel some of the many rumours that we heard from others.

Before we arrived into China we had been told many cautionary tales about how China was dirty and unhygienic, the Chinese were unfriendly to foreigners, the food wasn’t good and most of all, it’s impossible to get around if you don’t understand Mandarin or Cantonese.

So, although we did experience many unusual and –  to us –  foreign things, and although at times it was a little difficult to get around , China was the most rewarding country we’ve ever been to and more than we could have ever expected. The locals were incredibly friendly, the country was sparkling clean (like nothing we’ve seen in ANY country before) and we had some great (albeit strange) meals. Suffice to say we are itching to return again one day, and China has left an indelible mark on our hearts.

With all this in mind, we’ve tried to create the below itinerary for people who really don’t know what to expect, for those who aren’t the most experienced travellers, and definitely for those who haven’t been to China before! It’s very, very comprehensive (no shortcuts here), but China is still a tough place to travel and so you’ll want all the background info you can get!

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And, if you don’t find something you need in this guide, please do drop us a comment below or get in touch with us here . We’d love to help you explore our favourite country and build you out a fantastic 2 weeks China itinerary.

The perfect 2 weeks China itinerary

  • Day 1 & 2 – Beijing | 2 days exploring the capital
  • Day 3 & 4 – Great Wall of China | Hiking the Great Wall
  • Day 5 – Beijing to Xian | Travel day + Xi’an city sites
  • Day 6 & 7 Xian | Walking the city walls & Terracotta Army
  • Day 8 – Xian to Chengdu | Travel day + Chengdu walking tour
  • Day 9 – Chengdu | Meet the Pandas!
  • Day 10 – Chengdu to Zhangjiajie | Travel day + Tianmen Mountain
  • Day 11 & 12 – Zhangjiajie | Avatar Mountains
  • Day 13 – Zhangjiajie to Shanghai | Travel day + The Shanghai Bund
  • Day 14 – Shanghai | Exploring Shanghai

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Why go to China?

We imagine that you’ve got to our article because you’re already set on heading to China and are looking for the perfect itinerary outlining everything that you must do! However, just in case you need a little more of a nudge as to why this must be quite literally at the top of your country bucket list – then here are a few reasons:

  • Not too surprising in a country of this size (China is pretty much the same size as the USA), you will find some of the most breath-taking landscapes on the planet. If you’ve never heard of the likes of Zhangjiajie National Park or the limestone karsts of Yangshuo, do yourself a favour and have a quick Google. The natural attractions in China should be enough to make you want to get on a plane.
  • In a world that’s dominated by social media, with Instagram making the most beautiful and exotic locations in easy reach, and with travel very much for the many than the few, it really feels like the romantic concept of travelling and exploring is a bygone era. However, China offers this in spades. Because it’s not the easiest place to travel, you have to work a little bit for it. And arriving into a small unknown village like the Ancient City of Fenghuang, with no western tourists, is a wonderfully rewarding feeling.
  • And of course, there are some of the most iconic buildings and famous landmarks in the world in China. Whether it’s spending a day walking the Great Wall of China, going to seeing the Terracotta Warriors or even visiting the largest palace in the world, the Forbidden City… there are so many fascinating historical places to explore.

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Check out the latest travel insurance prices with Safety Wing here.

Day 1 Beijing

So, our itinerary starts in one of the most interesting cities in the world, Beijing, and finishes in another, Shanghai. However, if you aren’t able to book flights like this and need to start and finish in one location, then we’d definitely recommend that you keep Beijing on your itinerary – it’s an absolute must for your classic two week China itinerary.

And in case you are able to spend a little longer in the city, or are looking for just a little more detailed information on what to do in Beijing, we have a full 4 day Beijing itinerary with everything you need to know about what to do and where to go!

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Explore the Forbidden City

What you’ll soon learn about China is that they don’t do things in small sizes. Things are insanely large so it’s not a surprise that you’ll start your time in Beijing by visiting the largest palace complex in the world: the Forbidden City .

This is easily the most impressive palace we’ve ever been to, and with 900 buildings, 8,500 rooms and around 1.8m bits of artwork, you won’t be disappointed in kicking off your China itinerary with this world-famous landmark.

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Buying tickets for the Forbidden City :

Unless you have a Chinese ID, understand Mandarin and own a Chinese mobile number, you’ll not be able to book tickets directly.

However, we booked our tickets with Get Your Guide , which was a really easy process. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take your passport with you. You’ll need it in most places in China to pick up tickets to attractions and even to enter certain areas, like Tiananmen Square.

If you’re keen to be part of a walking tour, and learn more about the history of the Forbidden Palace from a tour guide, then we’d definitely recommend that you check out this one .

Make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes for today – you’ll do quite a bit of walking. The Forbidden City is set on almost a square km, so be prepared to bash the pavement.

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Top Tip: It’s important to remember that the Forbidden City is one of the most important sites in the country, so at no time of the year are you going to get this place to yourself! They actually limit the number of people who can enter the palace to 80,000 per day (so make sure you book your tickets early). However, if you are looking to get photos without the hordes of other people, then it is very achievable – you just need to arrive nice and early at the ticket gates, well at least 30 minutes before they open. Then as soon as you are through the gates walk to the far end (we ran) of the Palace and then walk through the Forbidden City in reverse.

Location:  4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing

Open:  8.30am to 5.00pm (April to October) and 8.30am to 4.30pm (November to March) – Closed on Mondays!

Hike to the Viewpoint at Jingshan Park

The way that the Forbidden City is set up, you enter through the gates at the Tiananmen Square side but exit through the gates at the back, adjacent to Jingshan Park.

So, after you’ve explored the beautiful palace, get ready to walk a few steps to get the best view of it from Prospect Hill. The hill also provides a pretty decent 360-degree view of Beijing too.

The walk up the hill will only take 10 – 15 minutes and isn’t too strenuous at all. There is an entry fee to the park which will set you back 2 RMB (0.30 USD/0.20 GBP), and you can buy the tickets at the park entrance.

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Top Tip: If you’re looking for a great place to watch sunrise or sunset, then Jingshan is a really good option in Beijing.

Location:  44 Jingshan W St, Xicheng Qu, Beijing

Open:  6.00am to 10.00pm

Tiananmen Square

Although it would really make more sense to head to Tiananmen Square before entering the Forbidden City, you’ll then be stuck in the bigger queues to get into the palace, so we definitely recommend this order of attractions for day 1 of your itinerary! So, after Jingshan Park next up for the day is to head to this imposing and infamous square.

From the base of Prospect Hill you’ll have to walk around the walls of the Forbidden City to get back to Tiananmen Square. It’s probably about a 2km wander, but well worth walking this rather than taking a taxi or public transport.

Just as we mentioned with the Forbidden City, China doesn’t do small, and Tiananmen Square is no different. The public space is one of the largest city squares in the world. And alongside the palace, you’ll be able to visit (or at least see), the monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.

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Note: Although you’re probably pretty tired from today’s walking, we’d definitely recommend a visit to the National Museum of China if you can – read more about that in our section on bonus things to do in Beijing!

Location:   Tiananmen Square

Open:  Times vary, but even though it is closed at night, you can still walk around it, providing a very different aspect to the daytime.

Qianmen Walking Street

And the final activity for day 1, before you head to your accommodation for some well-deserved rest, is to head to Qianmen Walking Street. Luckily this is located at the far end of Tiananmen Square, so not too far to go!

The road is a great place to grab some food or coffee to refuel. The shopping street was first developed way back in the 1920’s and is a great place to walk around and see some traditional courtyards and Hutongs.

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Although this felt a little touristy, it was well worth it.

Location:  Qianmen Street, Dongcheng, Beijing

Where to stay in Beijing

Ideally you’ll want to stay not too far from the major attractions around the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, however, the good news is that the Beijing Metro (read all Metros in China) are super clean, cheap and easy to use, so even if you’re staying further out it’s easy to get about. However, in saying that, Beijing is an enormous city, so definitely good to look for the right place though, to help cut down on travel time.

Budget:  For the backpacking crowd, check out the  Peking Yard Hostel . It’s super sociable, has fun activities to meet other travellers, like dumpling parties and the food gets pretty good reviews too.

Mid-range : On our first visit to Beijing, we stayed at the  Park Plaza Science Park , which we felt was the perfect place for people not quite ready to go for the cheaper end in China. The staff were amazing – helping us with any queries and it had a great gym!

Luxury:  Just a stone’s throw from the Forbidden City, and views you won’t believe, the PuXuan Hotel & Spa is the place for those with a higher budget.

Getting around Beijing

As we mentioned above, we can’t stress enough about how amazing the Metro in Beijing is. Think the scale of a London Underground or New York Metro, but with the efficiency and cleanliness of the Singapore MRT.

It is without doubt the best way to get around the city. Getting anywhere won’t cost you more than 5 RMB (0.70 USD/0.50 GBP) per journey. And all the station signs are translated into English, so it really is simple to use.

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We’d recommend that you download the free Metro Man app which is in English, has handy maps and can help you plan your journey.

If you’re more interested in taking a taxi, then we’d suggest that you look at downloading DIDI . The app is pretty similar to Uber. Although make sure you download it before arriving in China from the US Play Store or you’ll have a Mandarin version which isn’t that useful.

Top Tip: If you are looking to take a taxi, get your hotel to write down for you your destination and the hotel name and address in Mandarin or you may well have a frustrating if not amusing conversation with your driver!

Getting from Beijing International Airport

We imagine that you’ll be arriving into Beijing International Airport, so here are the best ways to get from the airport into the city.

Train: The way we did it, and if you’re used to taking trains/underground in Europe or the US it will be a cinch. Trains depart from both terminals 2 and 3 every 10 minutes, with the journey lasting around 30 minutes.

The Beijing Airport Express will set you back around 25 RMB (3.50 USD/2.80 GBP) and arrives in Dongzhimen Station. From there you’ll be able to jump onto lines 2 and 13 on the Metro to get around the city.

Taxi: Feeling a little more lazy and not keen on testing the public transport just yet? Well then you can get a taxi from right outside the airport terminal, which will take around an hour to get into the city centre and set you back around 250 RMB (35 USD/28.50 GBP).

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Top Tip: Ignore any taxi operators in arrival halls, they’ll jack up the prices. Make sure you agree the price beforehand. If you can, get the Mandarin for your hotel printed out before you arrive in Beijing. And have a good translation app to hand.

Day 2 Beijing

So, for day 2 of your 2 weeks China itinerary, we’ve suggested two more amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites, although, we’ve got a load more ideas in our Beijing bonus activities should you want to replace these with alternatives.

The Summer Palace

In the morning, head out to the beautiful imperial gardens and palaces of the Qing Dynasty, the Summer Palace. A palace twice destroyed and then rebuilt (last in 1912) which was used by the royal family as a way to escape the stifling hot summers in the city.

This UNESCO world heritage site is a 3 square km park towards the north western outskirts of Beijing. The stunning grounds of the palace, centred around Longevity Hill, along with the tranquil Kunming Lake, are worth a visit on their own.

Although they say that the summer months are the best time to visit the Summer Palace, we’d hedge a bet that the frozen lake and icy landscapes provide pretty mesmerising landscapes in the winter!

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How to get there: Take Line 4 to either Xiyuan or Beigongmen Stations.

The fee for entry to the Summer Palace is 30 RMB (4.25 USD/3.40 GBP) during the summer (April to October) and 20 RMB (2.80 USD/2.30 GBP) at other times of the year. Although it’s worth noting that there are additional costs for certain areas, or you can buy a full combo ticket for access to all areas.

Buy your tickets for the Summer Palace here .

Location:  19 Xinjiangongmen Rd, Haidian Qu

Open:  April to October – 6.30am to 6.00pm and November to March – 7.00am to 5.00pm

The Temple of Heaven

And this afternoon, you’ll head to one of the most impressive temple complexes in China: the Temple of Heaven.

Built in the 1400s, and expanded over the years, this vast temple complex now sprawls over an incredible 3 km. There are three main areas for your visit.

  • The Circular Mound Altar, which houses stunning dragon sculptures
  • The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the most famous of the buildings – a 38m tall circular temple
  • The Imperial Vault of Heaven, which is a smaller version of the above.

Note: It can get pretty busy so worth booking your tickets ahead of time. And don’t forget your passports when going!

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Book your tickets to The Temple of Heaven here.

How to get there: Use Line 5 of the Metro and get off at Tiantan East Gate.

Location:  1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing

Open:  6.00am to 8.00pm daily

Bonus things to do in Beijing

So not sure about our suggested activities for Beijing? Or you’re wanting to extend your stay in China’s capital for a few extra days (not a bad idea if you ask us). Then here are some bonus activities that you can add to your 2 weeks China itinerary.

The National Museum of China

Although you were right next to this museum at Tiananmen Square, we didn’t add it into the itinerary as felt it may be just a touch too much on that day to realistically achieve.

However, if you’re a museum lover, this is the one for you. The National Museum is (unsurprisingly) huge, and houses some of the most important Chinese collections in the world. Although you’ll want at least a couple of hours to see some of the more famous residents.

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Photo Credit: Gary Todd / Flickr

Fun fact: Second to La Louvre in Paris, the National Museum of China is the most visited museum in the world!

Location: 16 E Chang’an Ave, Dongcheng Qu, China

Open: 9.00am – 4.30pm, closed on Mondays

Ming Dynasty Tombs

One of the better day trips from Beijing, there are thirteen Ming Dynasty tombs located around 50 kms from Beijing. You’ll definitely want to book a private car and/or tour guide option for this. The tombs, which house the emperors from the Ming Dynasty, are spread over a huge area so a guide would definitely be helpful in sharing the history behind the tombs and the best ones to visit!

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Location: 212 Provincial Rd, Changping District

Open: 8.00am to 5.30pm

The Lama Temple

Also known as Yonghe, the Harmony and Peace Palace, the Lama Temple is one of the most stunning lamaseries in Beijing, if not all of China. So be prepared for peace, harmony and tranquillity on a visit to this beautiful temple.

Constructed in the late 1600s, it was originally a home to Emperor Yongzheng, hence the alternative names, before becoming the monastery in the mid-1700s.

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Fun fact: If you didn’t know what a lamasery is (we didn’t), it’s a monastery for Buddhist teachers!

Located right next to the Confucius Temple, you’re able to combine them both in a trip.

Location: 12 Yonghegong St, Dongcheng Qu, China, 100007

Open:  9.00am – 5.00pm daily

Check out life in the Hutongs

We had no idea what these where before arriving in Beijing, but actually ended up staying in one of the hutongs near to Ghost Street on our second visit to the city.

Technically translated as alleys, hutongs have become the widely used term for more traditional neighbourhoods. And offer you the perfect way to explore the heart of Beijing and see how many people live daily life in this mega city.

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You can check out the hutongs near the Lama Temple or wander around those near Ghost Street.

Traditional Beijing Cuisine on Ghost Street

So, we’ve added it into the extras section, but if you’re looking for some great traditional Chinese food (think Peking duck and sizzling hotpots), then you’ll want to get yourself down to Ghost Street , well technically Gui Jie Street.

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Location: Guijie Street

Day 3 The Great Wall of China

The next couple of days on your China itinerary we have dedicated to visiting the Great Wall of China. For us, this was the highlight of our trip and one of those massive bucket list items.

One of the biggest questions is where to go on the Great Wall so that it’s not teeming with other people. We stayed in Gubeikou (more on that below) and on our full day hike, we only passed 2 families during a 7 hour trek and visited both unrestored and restored versions of the wall. It was the ultimate exercise in seeing the Great Wall without the crowds and we highly recommend it.

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However, if you’re a little more tight on time, you could make this a one day trip from Beijing to the likes of Simatai (the Gubei water town) which is very busy or Jinshanling, a quieter but still slightly busy part of the Wall.

If you’re interested in a day trip, why not check out this one .

Getting to the Great Wall from Beijing

If you’re looking to get to the Great Wall using public transport, it can be a little difficult to find the correct information online. Luckily, we did the trip, so here are simple to follow instructions:

  • Go to the Dongzhimen Station (Line 2 & 13 on the Metro)
  • Take exit B1 and then walk to the  bus departure area – this is not actually at the bus station but around the corner.
  • Here will be a number of buses, so look out for the one with Water Town signage on the front.
  • If in doubt ask one of the drivers using your translation app and they’ll helpfully put you on the right bus!

The ticket for one way is 48 RMB (6.80 USD/5.50 GBP) a person.

Departures to Gubei Water Town: 9.00am, 12.00pm & 3.30pm

Return to Beijing departures: 1.00pm, 4.00pm & 9.00pm

Gubei Water Town Bus

The bus ride takes around 2 hours to Gubei Water Town. Easy enough if you’re just doing a day trip to Simatai, although if you’re looking to go onto Gubeikou or Jinshanling then you’ll have to get a taxi onwards.

The cost for a taxi on to Gubeikou or Jinshanling should be around 80 RMB (11.25 USD/9.00 GBP) and the drive takes around 20 – 30 minutes

Where to stay near the Great Wall of China

So, just to clear up any confusion, Gubei Water Town is a replica Chinese ancient village, next to the Simatai section of the Great Wall.

However, Gubeikou is a small town around 20 minutes away from Gubei Water Town/Simatai, and the best place for exploring unrestored sections of the wall.

We stayed at the  Great Wall Box House . It’s an amazing hostel, food is good, and located about 5 minutes walk from the gate at Gubeikou.

Note: if you’re looking for a great place to watch the sunset on your first evening, you can access the Gubeikou gate for free after 5pm and wander partly along the Wall to get some great sunset snaps.

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Jinshanling

Set around 30 minutes from Gubei/Simatai, Jinshanling is a renovated part of the Wall, and has better accommodation options, and although restored, this section of the Wall is much quieter than many other more accessible from Beijing.

If you’re less into the hostel option, then check out the beautiful Dhawa Jinshanling, which you can’t really beat from a location point of view. You are literally in the national park!

Day 4 Walking the Great Wall of China

Walk the Great Wall of China – Gubeikou to Jinshanling

So for today, we’d suggest that you walk from the Gubeikou Gate , all the way to Jinshanling .

Note: This is definitely an intermediate to advanced hike – quite a fair bit of up and down across the 15km and will take 6 – 8 hours!

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On arrival at the Gubeikou Gate, a short walk up the steps, and you are already on the Wall. The Wall, although mostly unrestored for the first half of the hike, follows the contours of the flowing hills.

Alongside stunning views of the Great Wall sweeping across the landscape, you’ll encounter a few towers on the journey, some which you can still climb.

After around 2 to 3 hours, you’ll reach the 24 Eyes tower, one of the biggest in the region, and at this point you’ll head down into the valley below. Technically you could walk the whole way along the Wall but there is a military zone which you need to scoot around.

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There is an entrance fee to pay per person for the Gubeikou section of the Wall, costing 25 RMB (3.50 USD/2.80 GBP) per person.

You can’t really get lost, but just in case, follow the red marking on the floor and trees, that show the route of this hike.

To avoid the military zone, you’ll make your way down into Spider Valley (a few cobwebs but nothing to write home about), and wander through pretty overgrown bush for around an hour before reaching a small village.

At that point it is very much an uphill walk for the best part of 45 minutes, before you join the unrestored section of the Wall at Jinshanling. This section at Jinshanling is amazing, as you get to see both unrestored and restored next to each other.

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You can continue walking the Wall here until you decide that you want to head down and take a taxi back to your accommodation.

There is also a fee for visiting the Jinshanling section of the Wall, and at 65 RMB (9.25 USD/7.50 GBP) per person is a bit more than the Gubeikou ticket price. But in our opinion, well worth it!

Top Tip: Make sure you get back into Beijing from Gubei Water Town on this evening, as you’ll be wanting to travel to Xi’an tomorrow. Although an exhausting day, it is achievable!

Day 5 Beijing to Xian

Xian is an absolutely fascinating city, and the former capital of China has to make your China two weeks itinerary!

It was actually our favourite major city in China, and this gem (which is also one of the oldest cities in the world at over 3,000 years old), won’t disappoint!

So, once you’ve travelled from Beijing to Xian, we’d suggest you get out there and check out your first landmark in this remarkable city.

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If you’re also able to afford more time to explore Xi’an, we’ve got a whole host of bonus activities to add into your itinerary. Or if you’re looking for more detail on what to expect, we’ve got everything you need to know about visiting Xian, with our 3 day Xian itinerary .

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

So, whether you’ve flown to Xian or jumped on the super impressive high speed train (more about that in a moment), in the afternoon you should head over to the Daci’end Temple complex to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.

Initially constructed in 652, the Buddhist temple only survived 50 years before being destroyed. However, and luckily for you, in 704 Empress Zeitan had the pagoda rebuilt, adding a few more storeys to create the beautiful 10 story Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.

Although, what you see today is a little smaller than the original pagoda, as 3 storeys of the building were removed after some major damage caused by an earthquake in the 1550s…

Wild Goose Pagoda Xian

How to get there: Set outside the old city walls, take the Metro to Da Yan Ta on either lines 3 or 4.

There is a 40 RMB fee (5.75 USD/4.60 GBP) to enter the Daci’en Temple Complex, and an additional cost of 25 RMB (3.50 USD/2.80 GBP) if you want to climb the pagoda. In our opinion it is well worth doing so!

Location:  1 Ci’en Rd, Xiao Zhai Shang Ye Jie, Yanta, Xi’an

Open:  8.00am to 5.00pm daily

Getting from Beijing to Xian

Bullet Train

China has the most impressive train network in the world. We previously lived in Germany, who absolutely love their Deutsche Bahn, but we can tell you it is not a patch on what China offers!

The trains are squeaky clean, super-fast, comfortable and peaceful. And the journey, which is over 1000km only takes around 4 hours 30 minutes travel time.

China Bullet Train

If you want to look at booking train tickets directly, similar to many top tourist attractions you need to have a Chinese ID, phone number and understand Mandarin. Instead, we’d suggest that you reach out to China Highlights who provide a great online booking service. And you can collect all your train tickets at any mainline station in China. Very handy.

Note: Trains only go on sale 30 days in advance but many sell out so worth getting them in advance.

Although we loved the experience of taking the trains in China, and probably the Beijing to Xian train is one of the best, there are very reasonably priced domestic flights.

Check out the latest deals from Beijing to Xian here with Skyscanner .

Where to stay in Xian

There are really good hotel and hostel options within the old city walls, which is definitely where we’d suggest that you base yourself while in Xian. Here are some of our top recommendations:

Budget:  We stayed at the 7 Sages Boutique Bell Tower  hostel while in Xian. It had a really nice atmosphere with groups of travellers. Although we’ve heard even better things about their sister hostel  7 Sages International , so worth checking that out if they have availability.

Mid-range:  Although just outside the city walls, located very close to them, the  Eastern House Boutique Hotel , has rooms with amazing views and perfect for that mid-range budget.

Luxury:  You definitely can’t go wrong with the 5* Sofitel Legend People’s Grand Hotel . With incredible amenities, swimming pool and stunning rooms you may not even want to leave the property!

Terracotta Warriors

Another one of those absolute bucket list activities: visiting one of the most famous sites in China, the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Terracotta Army.

Built nearly 2,000 years ago as a replica army to protect the first Emperor of China’s tomb, Qin Shi Huang, you’ll want to spend at least half a day visiting this fascinating place.

The Terracotta Warriors were actually discovered by a farmer digging a well back in the 1970s, so really this is still very much a working archaeological dig. And they have only uncovered part of the estimated 8,000 sculptures.

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There are 3 main pits that are currently being worked on, and these pits are covered by huge buildings, so space to view the warriors isn’t as extensive as we’d initially expected.

It can get hugely busy as it’s a really important place for the Chinese, as well as being a world-famous tourist attraction. So, the earlier you can get to the Terracotta Warriors, the better. If possible, try to be there for 8am!

How to get there: From Xian’s main train station, buses depart every 10 to 15 minutes, the drive takes around an hour and costs 10 RMB (1.50 USD/1.15 GBP) per person. You can’t miss the buses as they have helpful guides putting you on the right bus!

It’s also important to note that the museum is quite expensive in comparison to many other attractions in China. At time of writing it was 120 RMB or CNY per person (17.00 USD/13.75 GBP), although we found a lot of incorrect information out there about how expensive it was!

If you’re looking for a guided option, why not try this one!

We aren’t usually people who opt for tour guides, but we actually wish we had a private tour around the Terracotta Army, as there is little information in English so it would have been interesting to find out a lot more history on the site.

Location:  Lintong, Xi’an, Shaanxi

The Xian Bell & Drum Towers

After you’re back into the city and managed to get a bite to eat, next up are two of China’s best examples of Bell Towers and Drum Towers.

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You’re probably a little like us in that we had no idea what these were before we got to China. Both buildings played hugely important roles in everyday life in ancient China. The bell in the Bell Tower would be rung each morning to signal dawn, and the start of the day. And the drums within the Drum Tower would be bashed to signal the end of the day. They were also places where city news and important information would be distributed to the town’s folk. The days before the internet hey….?!

The towers, located close to each other, are set in the middle of Xian old town, with the Bell Tower having been built in 1384 and the Xian Drum Tower constructed a few years before in 1380 – both during the Ming Dynasty.

The cost for entry into each of these Towers is 35 RMB per person per tower (5.00 USD/4.00 GBP). Although they also do a combo ticket, so worth looking into that.

Location:  Zhonglou Shangquan, Beilin, Xi’an

Opening hours:  8.30am to 9.00pm (Apr – Oct) and 8.30am to 6.00pm (Nov – Mar)

Dinner in the Muslim Quarter

Located right next to the Xian Drum Tower, you’ll find one of the most vibrant parts of the city and the place to get some amazing local dishes for dinner.

Now, in a city that is over 3,000 years old, and one end of the famous Silk Road that connected Asia to the Middle East and on to Europe, it’s no surprise that there are some delicious influences from many regions of the world brought into the food here!

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So prepare yourself for some delicious, beef and lamb buns (Roujiamo), cold rice noodles and lamb soup (Yangrou Paomo) with pita bread to dip.

Although if you’re not sure what you should be trying, why not try out a walking food tour ?

Walk Xian’s city walls

This was our favourite thing to do in Xian – walking around the old city walls. There is no better way to start day 7 of your 2 week China tour than with a quick 14km walk around the largest city walls in the world!

You can enter at many points along the walls, and there are four super impressive main gates to explore too. The walk is a really pleasant way to see different parts of the city and will take you around 3 hours to complete.

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We started relatively early and were pleasantly surprised to have several sections totally to ourselves.

If you’re up for more of a tour of the Xian City Walls, then check this one out . You are also able to take a bike and cycle the walls, which is a fun way to explore or a better alternative if you’re pushed for time. Additionally, if you’re not that keen on walking, you can even take an electric buggy around the walls.

There is a fee to enter the ancient city walls at 54 RMB per person (7.60 USD/6.20 GBP). And then if you want to rent a bicycle that will cost you 45 RMB per hour on top (6.40 USD/5.15 GBP).

Open:  8.00am to 6.00pm (Nov to Apr) and 8.00am to 7.00pm (May to Oct).

Stele Forest, Beilin Museum

Set in the south of the city just inside the ancient city walls, is a really interesting museum that holds over 3,000 stone tablets (steles). This impressive collection has stone monuments that date back to the Tang Dynasty, the Imperial Family who ruled China from the 7 th to 10 th centuries.

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Entrance to the museum (which is also interestingly housed in a Confucius Temple) is 65 RMB per person (9.20 USD/7.40 GBP). But also check out the price for the Xian Walls and Beilin Museum combo ticket – you’ll save some money.

Location:  15 Sanxue St, Zhong Lou Shang Quan, Beilin, Xi’an

Open:  8.00am to 6.00pm

Try your hand at Chinese Calligraphy

Next to the Beilin Museum the area is awash with beautiful store and stalls of Chinese calligraphy. Even if you don’t fancy giving it a try, it’s worthwhile wandering around the streets watching the locals practicing this amazing art.

If you’re keen for the challenge you can give it a try at the  Calligraphy Museum . Otherwise there are a load of local tours on offer.

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Bonus things to do in Xian

Mount Huashan

One of the best day trips in and around Xian and if you’re a lover of heights, definitely something to consider adding to your 2 week China itinerary is a trip out to Mount Hua Shan.

Although we personally haven’t done this we met a few fellow travellers who did, and loved it! You may well have seen the videos of the hike, known as the ‘most dangerous hike in the world’.

Technically it’s not the most dangerous, but you do have to walk across planks that are attached to sheer cliffs.

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Photo Credit: Tak Wing / Flickr

With James’ fear of height, this isn’t our cup of tea!

Small Wild Goose Pagoda

Like its name suggests, this is a smaller version of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, although still very impressive and worth a visit if you have time.

Built in the Tang Dynasty in the 700s, the Small or Little Wild Goose Pagoda was also partially destroyed in the devastating 1556 earthquake. Meaning the building that used to be 15 storeys was shortened by a couple of tiers to make it safer.

You are also able to climb up the inside of the pagoda, which is very much worth the additional cost and effort! Tickets will set you back 30 RMB (4.25 USD/3.40 GBP) for entrance into the grounds, then 20 RMB (2.80 USD/2.30 GBP) extra to climb the pagoda.

Location: 72 Youyi W Rd, Beilin, Xi’an, Shaanxi, China

Open: 9.00am – 4.00pm daily (note: it’s closed on Tuesdays)

Shaanxi History Museum

If you’re a museum aficionado, it is well worth trying to carve out some time to see visit the Shaanxi History Museum.

One of the largest museums and best collections in the country, you’ll need a few hours to walk all the exhibitions halls. But it’s located quite close to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, so if you have the time it’s a great addition to your first day in Xi’an. And not to mention it’s free to enter, so a win-win. Although there are some fees for certain exhibits.

Xian History Museum

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

Location: 91 Xiaozhai E Rd, Xiao Zhai Shang Ye Jie, Yanta, Xi’an, Shaanxi, China

Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 9.00am – 5.30pm

Day 8 Xian to Chengdu

For day 8 of your 2 weeks China itinerary, we’ve kept it relatively light on activities, as it’s another travel day heading from Xian to Chengdu. Home of the Giant Pandas!

Chengdu Walking Tour

We’d suggest that you investigate taking either a morning bullet train or flight from Xian to Chengdu so this afternoon you can take in a walking tour of the city.

We were actually provided a walking map which we found really helpful, from our hostel, the Lazybones Poshpackers (more on them in a bit). Which was essentially a route around the Wenshu Monastery area, and took us the best part of 2 hours to complete including checking out the suggested attractions.

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The route followed along the lines of: The Former German Consulate, the Temple Teahouse, Wenshu Monastery, Aidao Nunnery, Jinsha Nunnery and the local community market.

We found the Wenshu Monastery was a real highlight, with people learning tai chi in the grounds and a very peaceful atmosphere to the place.

Note: The Aidao Nunnery serves a lunch at 11.40 every morning, where you get to eat with the nuns, and is an amazing experience. Although this would mean you’d need to alter you itinerary a little to fit this in.

If you’re looking for more details, we’d suggest you reach out to Lazybones Hostel – we’re sure they’ll share the map. Or even better stay there! It’s a phenomenal place…

Getting from Xian to Chengdu

A definite really good option travelling from Xian to Chengdu is to take the high-speed train, which will cover the 750km distance in around 3 hours.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to save a little time, check out the latest flight options from Xian to Chengdu . There are a few daily flights, and the flight time is around 1 hour 45 minutes.

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Where to stay in Chengdu

Budget: We’d highly recommend looking at the Lazybones Poshpackers for your time in Chengdu. It was one of the best hostels we stayed at on our China trip… great food, pool table, good atmosphere and really great rooms. The staff are also the best – they all speak fluent English and are so helpful and kind.

Mid-range: Looking for something a less backpacker but still affordable? Check out the Buddha Zen Hotel. Located right between the Aidao Nunnery and Wenshu Monastery so in prime position, the reviews are amazing, and the rooms look great.

Luxury: Located in the Chunxi Road area near lots of shops. If you’re looking for luxury, Niccolo Chengdu is the hotel for you.

Day 9 See the Pandas in Chengdu

Visit the Giant Pandas

Another monster bucket list item for anyone as part of their trip to China is to visit the Giant Pandas. The national symbol of the country, these cute critters are as adorable as you’ve seen in photos and on film. There is, however, nothing like seeing them in real life, and Chengdu is THE place to see them in China.

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Located around 10km from Chengdu city centre (see below the best way to get there), the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is the number one attraction in Sichuan. And surprisingly (to us at least) holds a ridiculous percentage of all the pandas in captivity.

Although it’s worth pointing out that this doesn’t feel like a zoo, the enclosures can be quite busy during feeding time. But saying that, the pandas are in what closely resembles their natural habitat and as the name of the place suggests, they are trying to help bring up the numbers of this endangered animal through world-class breeding programs.

Cost for entry was 55 RMB per person (7.80 USD/6.30 GBP), and you’ll need to buy your tickets at the counters next to the entrance.

Top Tip: Make sure you are in good position for the feeding of the pandas at 9am! This is when they are the most active of the day and the perfect chance to see them. If you go later in the day, you may miss them!

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How to get there:   So, we’ll admit it, we got a little lost trying to get to the Panda Research Base, but hopefully, our mistakes and lessens learned will help you not to get lost. Although we had read that there are a couple of ways to get to the centre, the easiest is to get off the Metro at Dong Wu Yuan Station (it’s on Line 3). Then head out of Exit B and go to the bus station (it’s not totally obvious when you get out of the station), then wait for either bus 198 or 198a. If in doubt, ask one of the helpful staff at the metro station – we did!

Want to have a tour guide for the Pandas and the Green Ram Temple? Why not check out this option .

Location: 1375 Xiongmao Ave, Chenghua District, Chengdu, Sichuan

Open: 7.30am to 6.00pm daily

Qingyang Palace

We spent around 3 hours at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, so as long as you’re not totally obsessed (yes, the breeding maternity ward with baby pandas may ensnare you for longer than you expect), then head over to the Qingyang Palace, also known as the Green Ram Temple.

Located on the edge of Culture Park to the west of Chengdu this Taoist Temple was first constructed in the Tang Dynasty, and offering a sanctuary from the busy street, there are some wonderful gates, halls and statues to see.

Location: 9 West Section 2, Ring 1st Road, Chengdu

Open: 8.00am to 6.00pm

Note: Qingyang Palace is not far at all from the Sichuan Museum, if you’re looking for another thing to add to the 2 weeks in China itinerary.

Eat Sichuan Food

And this evening, make sure that you head out to try some of the best food in China: Sichuan cuisine. Although it’s good to note that the food can be really spicy! Whether it’s the famous hot pots, spicy noodles or chicken slides, there is something for everyone.

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A few places to check out:

  • Zhangjiaxiang Night Food Street – try out the Shihui Beer Duck!
  • Wang’s Special Guokui – for the fried and baked buns
  • Ming Ting restaurant
  • Furongshuxia Hot Pots

Bonus: Trips from Chengdu

Leshan Giant Buddha

If you’re looking for another way to extend your time in Sichuan and add a bit more length to your  2 week China itinerary, then we’d highly recommend a day trip to Leshan.

Located around a 2-hour drive south of Chengdu, the 140km trip is very achievable in a day given the high-speed train service that takes less than an hour to get there!

The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71m high Buddha statue that was carved straight out of the rock during the Tang Dynasty (completed around the 800s having taken 90 years to carve out). The Buddha statue is the largest in the world and situated at the meeting point of the Min and Dadu rivers, it is an amazing sight.

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Photo Credit: Vincentraal / Flickr

We’ve also heard that it’s well worth taking the time to explore the Buddha park that contains more than 3,000 statues, including the largest in the world reclining Buddha.

Location: 2345 Lingyun Rd, Shizhong District, Leshan

Open: 7.30am to 6.30pm

Something that we only found out when arriving into Chengdu was that this southwestern province is actually the most commonly used gateway into Tibet! Although you’ll need to add a few days at least onto your China itinerary if you’re keen to visit Tibet.

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Whether you want to take a flight to Lhasa (which will take just a couple of hours) or the much longer Qinghai-Tibet train, which takes a couple of days, this is a trip of a lifetime, so if you can afford the time and costs, make sure you add it onto the list…

And, if you can make the time for the train journey, it apparently passes some of the most stunningly scenic places in China. So although it takes a very long time, it is undoubtedly worth considering.

Note: You’ll have to be part of a tour group to travel to Tibet, who will apply for your Tibet Travel Permit on your behalf! Disclaimer: we haven’t been to Tibet yet, so can’t recommend a company to provide tours…

Day 10 Chengdu to Zhangjiajie

Coming in a very close second to the Great Wall of China, has to be Zhangjiajie National Park, or the Wulingyuan Scenic Area as it’s officially known. And although not the easiest to get to, this is another absolute must visit place on your 2 weeks China itinerary.

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You may have already seen Zhangjiajie National Park before and not even known it, as its’ famous mountains are the inspiration for the floating Hallelujah Mountains in James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar .

Before we went to Zhangjiajie National Park, we found the information a little confusing, so have also put together this comprehensive Zhangjiajie itinerary with everything you need to know.

What is Zhangjiajie?

When people mention Zhangjiajie, they are usually referring to the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which is home to 4 sections (Zhangjiajie National Park, Tianzi Mountain, Yuanjiajie and Yangjiajie). Although the Zhangjiajie name has stuck for the whole region.

But, located in the northwest of Hunan Province, Zhangjiajie is actually a city (and quite a large one at almost 1.5 million inhabitants) and the place where you can get the cable car to Tianmen Mountain.

All that said, you’ll want to base yourself in Wulingyuan, as it’s much better for accessing the national park.

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Tianmen Mountain

Having arrived into Zhangjiajie city this morning, it’s a good idea in the afternoon to head up the cable car (or by bus) to Tianmen Mountain.

Note: You’ll have to contact your accommodation beforehand and ask them to reserve tickets for you. The tickets can get sold out, but all your accommodation will need is approximately when you’d like to go up (afternoon slot should do) along with a copy of your passport.

Once you arrive at the cable car base station, you can collect your physical tickets from the ticket collection counter. You will then either take the cable car up and bus down, or bus up and cable car down – depending on which ticket you can get. The following is based on taking the bus up and cable car down, but if you’re doing the alternative, just do this in reverse!

Bus Ride – 99 Turn Drive

One of the more exhilarating bus rides of our lives, you will first head to buses in the car park of the cable car station, the first of two bus rides. Initially, the buses will take you to the bus base station, around a 10-minute drive from the cable car.

You’ll then transfer to a new bus, via another ticket check and short queue. And this is where you have a wild drive up the side of the mountain on what turns out to be a road with 99 hairpin turns!

The ride takes around 20 minutes and although slightly hair-raising, you’ll be afforded some stunning view  before being dropped off at the base of the Stairway to Heaven, where you’ll start exploring Tianmen Mountain.

Zhangjiajie itinerary - 99 bend journey

Stairway to Heaven

As you get off the bus, straight ahead of you is the imposing, and utterly huge hole in the mountain, with a massive stairway leading up to the ‘gateway to heaven’.

There are 999 steps to reach the top of the staircase, but don’t worry if you’re not that keen on walking, as you’ll find in most places in China it’s very well set up and they have escalators if you can’t hike the stairs.

When you reach the gateway to heaven you have amazing views back into the valley, and then will start the remainder of your ascent to the top of Tianmen Mountain – a journey which consists of 7 very long escalators to take you all the way up!

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Walking around Tianmen Mountain

At the summit, you’ll then be able to walk on either the East or West walkways or – like us – you might want to walk all the way around the summit. It takes around 4 hours and isn’t super strenuous.

As you walk around the summit, here are some very impressive walkways,that seem to cling onto the side of sheer drops, and there are 3 glass walkways that you can also take on!

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Cable car down the mountain

And once you’ve had your fill walking the summit, you’ll have a very relaxing cable car ride back to town. The 30-minute cable car is one of the longest cable car rides in the world (yeah, it’s China – they just do it bigger and longer!).

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The cost for Tianmen Mountain, including the bus one way, and cable car down is 261 CNY (37.00 USD/30.00 GBP).

Cable Car location (ticket collection): Dayong Rd, Yongding District, Zhangjiajie

Note: You’ll be doing a lot of walking over the next couple of days exploring the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, so don’t over do it and make sure you wear super comfy shoes!

Getting from Chengdu to Zhangjiajie

You’ll definitely want to take a flight from Chengdu to Zhangjiajie (Dayong Airport) as alternative journeys take a lot longer than using other transport methods. However, as we write this, there are no direct flights, and you’d have to fly via Changsha or Guangzhou.

It may actually be best to fly on the evening of day 9 of your itinerary given current flight schedules. But check out the best flight options and prices here.

If you are keen to take the train the fastest train is an overnight one, departing Chengdu East at 7.00pm and arriving into Zhangjiajie West around 10 hours later at 5.00am. So, similar to the flight option, you may want to look at travel on the evening of Day 9 of your 2 week itinerary.

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We have also heard rumours that there will be a new bullet train service into Zhangjiajie, but we haven’t any updates on that yet!

Where to stay in Zhangjiajie

We’d recommend that you look to stay in Wulingyuan tow  over Zhangjiajie city for your time in this area. Although Tianmen Mountain is reached from Zhangjiajie, the national park entrances are easier from Wulingyuan – and if you stay here, you can walk to the park entrances each morning, rather than the 45 minute to hour bus ride between the two.

Budget : If you’re looking for the best backpackers in Wulingyuan, try out  Wuling Yuantu Youth Hostel . Not only is it perfectly positioned right at the ticket office, it has a great feel to the place and rooms are super.

Mid-range:  If your budget can stretch to it, we’d recommend that you go for the  Maosao Family Hotel  (it’s where we ended up staying). A 15-minute walk to the main park entrance, near bakeries to stock up for the morning feed, it has lovely rooms with wooden features and soft white sheets.

Luxury : With Zhangjiajie being a major Chinese attraction, there are a number of great high-end hotels in Wulingyuan. Although our number one pick would be the  Pullman : plush rooms, all the amenities that you’d expect and the restaurant gets really great reviews

Day 11 Zhangjiajie

The Wulingyuan Scenic Area (and Zhangjiajie National Park) is the most beautiful natural place that we visited in China. It’s like the Grand Canyon for awe, mixed with Halong Bay for beauty. And then add some!

Getting your tickets: You’ll need to purchase a 4-day pass which costs 248 RMB (35.00 USD/28.25 GBP) on the first morning you arrive at the park. You’ll need to bring your passport with you on the first morning when you purchase your tickets.

Top Tip: Arrive just before 7am on this morning, and you’ll get your tickets before anyone else. We arrived at about 6.55am and were on the first buses into the park!

Bailong Elevator

As soon as you have your ticket, head to the buses and say to the staff that you’re going to the Bailong Elevator (also known as the Hundred Dragon Elevator) – they will pop you onto the right vehicle!

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The elevator takes you to the top of the mountains in the Yuanjiajie section, and the elevator ride is worth the additional cost. But if you’re super keen on hiking, you can walk up instead.

When you get into the lift, try and get to the glass front. From here you’ll have the best views of the mountains as you ascend. And boy, is it some view….!

Note: There is a cost of 72 RMB for the Bailong Elevator (10.25 USD/8.25 GBP) which you pay for at the base of the elevator!

The Avatar Mountains

From the top of the Bailong Elevator, you will be taken on buses (yes there are buses on the mountain tops), which take you between the major attractions and viewpoints.

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First stop that you’ll arrive at in the Yuanjiajie area is the viewing platforms of the Southern Sky Columns, the inspiration for the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar !

Other highlights of this section include the First Bridge Under Heaven and the Lost Souls Platform. And will take you around 90 minutes to complete.

Yangjiajie Section

After finishing your walk through Yuanjiajie, hop on a bus over to the next section of the park: Yangjiajie.

Another 90 minute walk in this section of the park will take you past highlights including Tianbo Mansion viewpoint, the ancient Wulong Village and a pretty exhilarating climb up to see the Natural Great Wall.

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Tianzi Mountains

Your final section of the park for today is to visit probably the most famous section: the Tianzi Mountains.

So after returning to the Yangjiajie Bus Station, get the bus to the Tianzi Mountains. As the most commercialised part of the park, you’ll even find a McDonalds here… which is a bit of a shame and taints the absolute beauty of this place.

You’ll then have two options, either to head down on the cable car or walk down. We walked and are definitely glad that we did. Whichever option you choose, make sure that you check out the Warrior Taming Horse Lookout – for us, it was the most spectacular of the day.

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The walk down also takes in the Southern Heavenly Gate and Ten Mile Natural Gallery – it’ll take a couple of hours, but well worth the effort!

Overall, if you follow this route, you’ll have walked about 18km, with a fair bit up and down stairs. Great if you’re a keen hiker, however, with the buses and cable cars, it really is open to anyone.

Note: If you want to take the cable car, it’ll set you back 79 RMB (11.25 USD/9.00 GBP).

Day 12 Zhangjiajie

The Golden Whip Stream

For your final day in Zhangjiajie start the day off with a stroll along the Golden Whip Stream, which provides you with a completely different perspective of the park.

You’ll start from the main Wulingyuan park entrance and take the same bus as yesterday towards the Bailong Elevator, but get off a couple of stop beforehand at the start of this hike. Just make sure that you let your driver know that you want to get off there!

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The walk should take around an hour, maybe a little longer, but a nice gentle way to get the leg muscles working again. You’ll also likely see a few monkeys during your walk.

Climb to the Huangshi Village

After you finish the Golden Whip Stream walk, you arrive into a large natural square, aptly named Oxygen Square, surrounded by lush forests.

At one edge of the square is a walkway up to Huangshi Village (it’s well signposted so you can’t miss it). Although it’s good to point out that this is an intermediate walk with a pretty long upward climb – around 5,000 steps to reach the summit – and nothing but stairs for a good 90 minutes.

Once you’ve reached the summit of the climb and had a chance to catch your breath head on a loop of the summit. You’ll see the other side of the Hallelujah (Avatar) Mountains from here. And it’s definitely a quieter part of the park, so a good place to avoid the crowds.

Note: if you’re not keen on the climb, you can instead take a cable car which costs 79 RMB per person (11.25 USD/9.00 GBP).

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Once you’ve finished the loop, which will take you around 3 hours or so, you can then either walk back down (or take the cable car) back to Oxygen Square. The walk down is definitely easier, and quicker, taking around an hour.

And from Oxygen Square, head to the Forest Park Station and catch the bus back to Wulingyuan. There is an additional small fee for this service. Or if you have the energy, head back along the Golden Whip Stream and then the bus to the Wulingyuan main entrance.

Overall, you’ve probably walked the best part of 20km today so you might want to find somewhere in town to get a leg massage! We did and it was well worth it… there are a couple of places on the main street in Wulingyuan. They clearly know their audience!?

Day 13 Zhangjiajie to Shanghai

We’ve left today mainly for travel from Zhangjiajie over to Shanghai. But when you’ve arrived into this mega city – actually the largest in China at around 25 million people calling this home – head out towards the famous Bund area for the afternoon and evening!

Set just behind the Bund, Yuyuan or Yu Gardens is a beautiful tranquil ancient Chinese style garden. The perfect place to wander around amidst the crazy metropolis that is Shanghai.

Yu Garden Shanghai

And then onto the Bund, best seen as the day transitions into night. The Bund, overlooks the Huangpu River and shows off one of the best cityscapes in the country.

As the lights on the buildings start their daily dance, announcing the end of day, there is no better way to understand the beauty of Shanghai than walking along the waterfront promenade.

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Note: The Bund is more than just the viewing platform and waterfront promenade. You can take in a walking tour of the historic colonial buildings in and around the old town. Here’s a link to more information on the walking tour . Or check out this guided tour option.

Getting from Zhangjiajie to Shanghai

Currently there are 2 daily direct flights making the 1500 km journey and taking about two hours. However, with timings, you may want to fly on the evening of day 12. Alternatively, you can take flights at a more reasonable hour, but these make stops and pushes the flight duration to around 5 hours.

Check out the latest options from Zhangjiajie to Shanghai with Skyscanner.

We’ve heard that they are looking at a new bullet train service operating from Zhangjiajie which should speed up the service, but at time of writing, the train takes around 20 hours!

Where to stay in Shanghai

Budget: Located in the Jian’an district, close to the temple, one of the best budget accommodation options in Shanghai has to be the Campanile Shanghai Huaihai . Great reviews, modern clean rooms all at a great price.

Mid-range: Looking to stay out towards the airport and Disneyland? Then you have to check out the Hotel Coka Chuansha Metro . It’s a new 4* hotel with amazing rooms and great facilities.

Luxury: So, we had to add it in as we love the Cordis brand – they offer very high end 5* accommodation. And the Cordis Shanghai Hongqiao keeps those impeccable standards. Located near to the Hongqiao International Airport, it’s also got great access to all over the city; very handy for your transportation requirements.

Day 14 Shanghai

Shopping on Nanjing Road

Although I’m sure you’ll have picked up a few trinkets here and there around China, to start your final day of your 2 weeks China itinerary head out to Nanjing Road for some serious shopping! After all this is the equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York or Oxford Street in London.

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Location: Nanjing Road, Shanghai

Visit an Ancient Water Town

After you’ve had your shopping fix, and if you don’t manage to add Fenghuang into your China itinerary (read more on that below), then we’d recommend that you head out to one of the ancient water towns that surround Shanghai.

Consensus seems to be that Qibao is the best of them all to visit, given its handy location to the city – only 18km away. Although given its location it’s also worth noting that it can get very busy at weekends!

china trip reddit

Photo Credit: Esi n Üstün / Flickr

Getting there: Jump on Line 9 of the Shanghai Metro and jump off at Qibao Station. It’s only a short walk from there.

This ancient water town will provide the perfect place to get some traditional style photos of a bygone time, and it’s pretty famous for its delicious street food.

Conquer your fears on the Sky Walk

Although we’re not adrenaline junkies, just in case you didn’t get your fix with some of the height scaling in Zhangjiajie, why not try your hand at the Sky Walk at the Jin Mao Tower? At 340m above the ground, the glass walkway doesn’t sound too challenging. Until you find out that there are no handrails…!

Don’t worry though, you do have to wear a harness!

The 20-minute adrenaline rush will set you back 350 RMB if you book online in advance (49.50 USD/40.00 GBP)

Location: 88 Century Ave, Lu Jia Zui, Pudong

Open: 9.30am to 8.30pm

Bonus things to do in Shanghai

Ride the fastest train in the world

Heading to Pudong Airport? Then you’ll probably want to try out the Maglev Train which hits a top speed of 431km/h and covers the 30km distance in an astonishingly quick 8 minutes!

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Photo Credit: Max Talbot-Minkin / Flickr

Shanghai Museum

One of the best museums in the country and a rival to the National Museum in Beijing, another option to add into your itinerary when you are around Nanjing Road is to visit the Shanghai Museum.

Location: 201 Renmin Ave, Ren Min Guang Chang, Huangpu

Open: 9.00am to 5.00pm

Disneyland Shanghai

One for the kids, or the kids in all of us. If you’re looking for another great all-day activity to add to your China itinerary, why not spend the day at Disneyland?

We didn’t realise that there was a Disneyland in Shanghai! Opened in June 2016, this resort has everything you’d expect from a Disneyland…

china trip reddit

Two weeks China itinerary interactive map

Bonus places to add to your 2 weeks China itinerary

Guilin & Yangshou

It probably reminds us a lot of Ha Long Bay or Ninh Binh in Vietnam, or even Khao Sok National Park in Thailand: the beautiful rivers and floating limestone karsts of Yangshuo. This beautiful town is set on the Li River and you can do a number of boat tours down it (backpackers love the bamboo raft tours), to see lush landscapes and scenery flanking both sides. Actually its famous as the Li River is immortalized on the reverse side of the 20 yuan bank note!

china trip reddit

Yangshuo is best accessed through the larger city of Guilin , where you can also see the renowned Reed Flute Cave, the Sun and Moon Pagodas and the Elephant Trunk Hill.

Between both of those is also the area of Longsheng, legendary for the Longsheng Rice Terraces, also known as the Longji Rice Terraces.

Now if you want to get a little bit off the beaten path, we suggest that you look at adding a trip to the Ancient City of Phoenix, Fenghuang onto your two weeks in China itinerary.

Very reachable (read a few hours bus ride from Zhangjiajie), this traditional Chinese city is like no other place that we experienced in our month in China. Think stepping stone bridges, wooden houses, and brick pagodas.

china trip reddit

We met no tourists, had some of the strangest food of our lives, but would go back here in a heartbeat. Very much off the normal traveller’s route, this town is the perfect example of an ancient city – and definitely deserves at least a day of your time if you can add it to the itinerary.

Although it’s had a pretty bad rap over the last couple of years from the unrest in the city, Hong Kong still offers plenty. With hotels at very low occupancy rates, it is definitely worth considering a trip to the city as part of your itinerary, with very cheap hotel rooms and quieter attractions.

This vibrant city would make a great place to start or finish your itinerary if you wanted something a little different. We’ve actually got a full list of everything to see and do in the city: check that out here .

china trip reddit

Is 2 weeks in China enough?

Yes! If it’s your first time to China, or you’re looking to explore a little further afield than just trips to the main hubs of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong then you’ll be able to explore quite a bit, with this two week itinerary.

However, we’d definitely say that this is a relatively whirlwind trip, trying to take in as many of the key attractions as you can and it’s good to note that you’ll be travelling quite big distances between the cities and attractions! If you’re happy with long train journeys and flights, then this isn’t an issue at all.

However, we’d still recommend that if you can, look to extend to 3 or 4 weeks! This will allow for a bit more of a relaxed itinerary, and also the opportunity to add in some of our bonus activities.

How much money do you need for two weeks in China?

Of course that depends, on both your travel style and budgets. If you are spending 2 weeks backpacking China, that will be significantly different to someone on a luxury travel budget. We found ourselves, very much in the middle, with a mixture of both hostels and hotels – but we also did every activity we could. Our budget was around £75 or $95 per day for the both of us.

Chinese yuan

Getting your Visa for China

In all likelihood you’ll definitely need to get a visa to go to China – there are very few countries that don’t need one.

We won’t go into too much detail here about the requirements for getting a tourist 30-day visa, but it is quite a bit of admin! And there are certain fees to processing the visa, but these also change based on where you apply. We are British and South African passport holders and applied in Vietnam!

We had to prepare the following documentation:

  • Visa application form, which you can download here
  • 2 passport-sized photos
  • Copy of passport. They also kept our passports for 5 days
  • Copy of travel insurance policy
  • Copy of bank statements (we did 3 months)
  • Overall itinerary – we created an Excel spreadsheet with cities, dates and hotels
  • Flights in and out of the country
  • Hostel/hotel reservations – try to make sure these clearly state your name
  • Cash for your visa fee – when we did it in Vietnam it had to be in USD and crisp notes, but this will depend on where you are doing it from

If you’re looking instead for a company that will help out with visas and handle most of the difficult things for you, then have a look at the iVisa service.

china trip reddit

Make sure that you’ve got good travel insurance for your trip! Apart from needing one for the process of getting your visa, don’t travel without one.

If you’re keen to have a look at a really good provider, we recently used Safety Wing and were really impressed by their product.

When is the best time of the year to go to China?

The best time to visit China is (especially when considering our two week China itinerary) in the spring or autumn months.

The summer months of June through August can be extremely hot, and with July and August being summer holidays in China, the busiest from both a transport and accommodation perspective.

So, we’d recommend late April and May, which will bring cleaner spring skies, along with new floral blooms. Or September and October, especially if you’re keen to see the Great Wall at its most picturesque.

china trip reddit

In saying that, we visited from mid-August to mid-September and although sometimes it was pretty hot, it was fantastic. And we’d also consider going back in winter, where icy and snowy landscapes would create amazing photos, not to mention that attractions would be at their quietest and we’re super keen to at some point visit the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival !

Getting a Sim Card and Staying Connected

If you’re keen to stay connected throughout your time in China, then there are a few options and considerations!

First of all, you have the option to purchase a 30-day sim card from one of the 3 main providers: China Telecom, China Unicom or China Mobile. We’d especially recommend doing this if staying for longer than two weeks! The cost at time of writing is about 100 RMB (14.15 USD/11.40 GBP) for a Sim with 10GB data.

You can usually get a sim card at the airport, who are pretty used to travellers requesting these, however, we did it in a store and found it relatively easy.

Note: we’ve read that China Telecom sims aren’t compatible with non-Chinese made phones, so you might want to consider this.

Now, one of our favourite gadgets, and something we don’t ever leave home without. The GlocalMe is a phone sized portable wifi device where you can buy data packages for countries, regions or even global plans.

If you’re travelling longer time, do yourself a favour and get one! You can even add in local sims so can get cheaper data rates too.

china trip reddit

And last, but by no means least, you have to get a VPN if you want to stay connected in China! The great firewall of China will stop you accessing most of your usual apps, including Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc… so without one you’ll feel pretty cut off from the outside world.

We’d highlighly recommend you get ExpressVPN   – we had this alongside the other global leader, NordVPN and overall Express constantly performed better in China.

Essential Apps for China

So, you’ve got internet (and a phone), and signed up for a VPN before you head to China, but what are the absolute must-have apps for making the most out of your time in China?

We’ve handily also put together a whole article on apps for China here . But as a short summary, in our opinion, the absolute essentials are:

As mentioned above, if you’re keen to get out and explore the cities and happy to try out the Metro, you’ll definitely need Metro Man in your pocket. Google / Apple

More interested in walking the cities? Or even for trekking the Great Wall? The best option is our favourite, Maps.me . Download offline maps, and off you go, you’ll not get lost!

Need a taxi, make sure that you download DIDI , China’s answer to Uber. But make sure that you download from the US stores before you arrive, or you won’t have an English version!

Accommodation

We were a little surprised to find out that Agoda had way more options in China than its competitors… so if you’re looking for the best deals and options, check them out.

Translation

An absolute essential for your travels in China… English isn’t widely spoken. And although Google doesn’t work well without the VPN , Google Translate seemed for us to be ok.

china trip reddit

So, if you have your VPN, then you’ll still be able to access Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, although these seem to be painfully slow. But it is worth downloading WeChat, as everyone in China uses it. So, whether it’s to chat to fellow travellers, locals you meet, or contacting hotels, you’ll need it. ( Google / Apple ).

What camera equipment and other gear do we use?

We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.

  • Main Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
  • Drone: DJI Mavic Air – Fly More Combo
  • GoPro: Hero 7 Black
  • GoPro Dive Case: Go Pro Housing
  • GoPro Case: Smatree GoPro Carry Case – Small
  • Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Packing case
  • Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 70
  • Powerbank: Anker Powercore
  • Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
  • Hard drive: Transcend Slim Storejet 2TB
  • Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 720s
  • Headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 35
  • Wifi Hotspot: GlocalMe G4

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The ultimate itinerary for 2 weeks in China

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A Beijing Itinerary | 4 days in China’s bustling capital

A Beijing Itinerary | 4 days in China’s bustling capital

Beijing is massive. Third largest city in the world kind of massive. So how do you fit all that you need to see in the ancient city, formerly known as Peking? Well, we hope that…

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33 Best Things To Know Before Visiting China 2024

china trip reddit

As an avid traveller who has explored extensively across Asia, I was filled with equal parts excitement and anxiety when planning my first ever trip to China. Even as an experienced globetrotter.

I knew China would be totally different from anywhere I had ventured before. And it was! Those initial weeks in China definitely involved some hilarious missteps, confusing mishaps and newbie mistakes on my part.

Things To Know When Travelling To China

Looking back now after dozens of return trips, it makes me chuckle remembering my earliest China adventures.

I can share hard-won advice to help first timers avoid the same snafus I made. Having proper expectations about China before you embark, my definitive China pre-travel guide highlights key things every new visitor should know beforehand – from vital apps to download like WeChat, packing tips like “BYOTP” (bring your own toilet paper), to navigating bizarre-but-tasty foods, transportation tricks and more.

Best Things To Know Before Visiting China

thing to before you go to China

This comprehensive guide is packed with 30+ essential things to know before visiting China. From cultural nuances to practical tips, each point is detailed with real-life examples and local stories with these China travel tips, offering an engaging and insightful read for everything you need to know on how to prepare for a trip to China.

1. Understanding Chinese Visa Requirements

Before you go to China, it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with their visa policies . Unlike some destinations, China requires most travellers to obtain a visa before arrival.

The process involves filling out an application form, submitting a passport-sized photo, an itinerary or an invitation letter. Remember, the type of visa you need depends on the nature of your visit.

Whether it’s a tourist, business, or student visa, each has its specific requirements and validity periods. Planning a trip to China without a proper visa can result in being denied entry, which is a situation best avoided.

2. Understanding the Language Barrier

One of the most important China travel tips is to prepare for the language barrier. While Mandarin is the official language, dialects vary widely. English is taught in schools, however proficiency varies greatly.

Carry a translation app or a phrasebook to help with basic communication. Interestingly, learning a few Mandarin phrases not only eases interactions but also endears you to locals.

Learn how to say basics like “hello,” “thank you,” “how much does this cost” and “where is the bathroom.” Be sure to practice proper tonal pronunciation too. Apps like Pleco can translate menus or signs in a pinch too, these are a must know before visiting China. Locals appreciate when visitors try their language.

3. Cash is King

This is one of the top things to do before going to China. In China, cash still reigns supreme, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.

While larger cities have embraced digital payments through WeChat Pay or Alipay, always carry some cash for small vendors, taxis, and in places where digital payments aren’t accepted.

Understanding China’s currency, the Renminbi (RMB), and keeping smaller denominations handy can make transactions smoother.

As a first-time visitor to China, carry some cash, but set up a digital wallet if possible. I learned this the hard way when I couldn’t buy a train ticket with cash at a small station.

4. Use Alipay Over Credit Cards

alipay scaled

Instead of stressing about whether your credit card will work abroad or dealing with foreign transaction fees, simply use Alipay. As a traveller, setting up these apps can be tricky due to the need for a Chinese bank account.

However, for foreigners visiting China, Alipay now offers a short-term feature known as Tour Pass.It serves the same purpose as WeChat Pay, allowing cashless payments through your mobile device, but has wider merchant acceptance internationally.

Set up Alipay and link your credit card before departure, this is one of the best things to know when going to China. Carrying small amounts of local currency in a money belt as backup is still wise though.

5. Brace for Culture Shock

Beijing China

Even seasoned travellers experience some degree of culture shock when first visiting China. The language barrier alone makes things challenging, while pushing and spitting indoors, questionable hygiene practices, absence of queues, smoking everywhere, and other cultural differences can surprise newcomers.

Come mentally prepared to embrace an utterly alien world where little makes sense at first. But that’s part of the fun and appeal too!

6. Get a VPN Before You Go – Navigating the Great Firewall of China

VPN

One of the must-knows before visiting China is about its internet censorship, famously known as the Great Firewall. Popular websites and apps like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are inaccessible.

It’s wise to download a reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN), set up before you go is essential, so you can access the sites and apps you rely on for travel planning, maps, communications and more.

Make sure to research VPNs that currently work well in China. Going without access to so much of what you’re used to online will be a major hassle otherwise, this is one of the top tips for travellers to China. However, be cautious as the use of VPNs is a gray area in Chinese law.

7. Public Transportation Tips

Travel tips in China must includes mastering their public transportation. China’s public transportation system is extensive and efficient, making it an ideal way to travel between cities and regions.

The high-speed train network, in particular, is a marvel, connecting major cities with comfort and speed. In cities, metros and buses are convenient and affordable, though they can be crowded.

It’s a great way to immerse yourself in local life. Remember to have your transportation card or change handy, as digital payments may not always be an option on buses.

Crowds and Etiquette: Trains and buses can be crowded, especially during rush hour or holidays. Practice patience and be prepared for close quarters.

8. Street Food: A Culinary Journey

Guangdong Province China

Exploring street food is a must when visiting China for the first time. Each region offers its specialties, from spicy Sichuan skewers to the sweet, doughy treats of Shanghai.

Street food markets are not only a place to savour delicious bites but also to observe the hustle and bustle of local life. Be cautious about hygiene and choose stalls with high turnover and fresh ingredients is another of my top tips for visiting China.

9. Tipping Culture in China

Tipping is not customary in China. In restaurants, hotels, and taxis, it’s not expected to tip for services. This can be a pleasant surprise for travellers used to tipping cultures. However, if you receive exceptional service or are on a guided tour, a small gratuity is appreciated but not mandatory.

In a restaurant in Shanghai, I observed tourists insistently tipping a confused waiter, highlighting the importance of understanding such cultural nuances.

10. Shopping and Bargaining

Shanghai China scaled

Shopping in China can be an exhilarating experience, especially in local markets where bargaining is part of the culture. Sellers often start with higher prices, especially for tourists, so don’t be shy to negotiate.

However, do it respectfully and with a smile. For unique souvenirs, local handicrafts, and electronics, China offers a plethora of options. Travel tips in China – be cautious with too-good-to-be-true deals, as they might be counterfeit products.

11. Be Mindful of National Holidays

Beijing Peking China scaled

China’s tourist spots can be incredibly crowded, especially during national holidays and can significantly impact travel plans. Millions of people travel during these periods, leading to crowded transport and tourist sites.

Travelling to China tips – It’s advisable to plan your trip around these holidays or book well in advance. These periods also offer unique cultural experiences, with festive decorations, traditional events, and a bustling atmosphere.

12. Drinking Water Safety

Tap water in China is not safe to drink. Always opt for bottled water, which is widely available and inexpensive.

Even in hotels and restaurants, it’s better to use bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth. This precaution is a must-know before visiting China, ensuring you avoid any health issues during your trip.

13. Air Quality and Health Precautions

Air Quality and Health Precautions

If it’s your first time in China, air pollution in major Chinese cities can be a concern, especially for those with respiratory issues.

Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) regularly and consider wearing a mask on high pollution days. Also, carry a basic first-aid kit with essential medicines, as pharmacies in China might not always stock what you’re used to. This is an important tip for travellers to China concerned about health.

14. BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper)

What to know before travelling to China, carrying pocket packs of tissues or toilet paper is a China travel must-do.

While overall infrastructure and development has improved drastically, public bathrooms can still lack basics like toilet paper or soap. When nature calls, pull out your BYOTP so you’re prepared to handle business. Keeping hand sanitizer and face masks on hand is also wise.

15. Use a China SIM Card

Staying connected is easy in China. Purchasing local Chinese SIM cards for your unlocked smartphone upon arrival ensures affordable connectivity throughout your trip for calls, texts, maps and data.

China SIM cards can be purchased at airport shops after you disembark and show passport/visa. Top phone carriers are China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. This keeps travel communications way cheaper than pricey international roaming fees from your provider back home.

16. Respect Local Traditions and Customs

Gusu District Suzhou Jiangsu China

Knowing the local customs is a must know before visiting China. China is a land of diverse customs and traditions. Simple gestures like removing shoes before entering someone’s home, not sticking chopsticks upright in a bowl, and avoiding sensitive topics like politics can show respect for local customs.

Try to learn about the local traditions of the places you visit. This cultural sensitivity enhances your experience and deepens your understanding of China’s rich heritage.

17. Explore the Richness Beyond Cities

While cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are fascinating, China’s true beauty lies in its diverse landscapes and rural areas. Visit the terraced rice fields of Longsheng, the ancient town of Lijiang, or the karst mountains of Guilin.

These areas offer a glimpse into traditional Chinese life and stunning natural beauty. Be prepared for less English spoken and fewer western amenities but expect a more authentic and rewarding experience.

18. Safety in China

China is generally a safe country for tourists. However, like anywhere, it’s important to stay vigilant, especially in crowded areas to avoid pickpockets.

  • Personal Safety: Petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur in crowded areas. Always be mindful of your belongings.
  • Health Safety: While healthcare facilities are adequate, it’s wise to have travel insurance and carry a basic first aid kit.

19. Health Care for Travellers

While China has good health care facilities, especially in major cities, it’s advisable to have travel insurance. Pharmacies are plentiful, but communication can be a challenge, so learn basic health-related Mandarin phrases.

20. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM is widely practiced in China. Experiencing acupuncture or a traditional massage can be a unique aspect of your trip. However, be sure to visit reputable practitioners.

21. Photography: Capturing the Moments

China offers endless photographic opportunities, from bustling cityscapes to serene landscapes. Always ask for permission before photographing people, as a sign of respect.

22. Use WeChat for Almost Everything

apps

WeChat is the super app of China – it’s used for messaging, payments, reservations, ordering taxis and so much more. Downloading WeChat before arrival and setting up WePay for payments is crucial.

Often even street food vendors or small shops will prefer payment via WeChat over cash. Having it set up ahead of time saves hassle, as you cannot link international credit cards once within China.

23. Bring Proper Power and Tech Adapters

While adapter plugs may seem like a small issue compared to VPNs and WeChat, not having the right power adapters can cause big headaches by draining your precious device batteries. China uses 220-volt electricity with socket types A, C and I.

So don’t forget your travel adapters and power converters, which allow devices from other countries work properly and charge safely.

24. Use DiDi Instead of Local Taxis

Hailing taxis off the street in China used to be common for travellers, but now apps like DiDi (essentially China’s version of Uber) offer safer, more reliable rides. Download and set up DiDi ahead of arrival.

Local taxis still exist too but are notorious for overcharging foreigners and taking “the long way” to destinations. With DiDi, you order cars to your exact location, pay securely through the app, and no money changes hands.

25. Respect the Long Lines

Whether it’s to see Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum, visit historic sites like the Great Wall, or even buy food at popular restaurants, be prepared for epic lines.

The large population means tourist queues get very long everywhere. Come equipped with patience, snacks, umbrellas for rain or sun, portable chargers, and anything else to make waiting in line more bearable. Going with a guide can help bypass some lines too.

26. Use a China-Based Travel Agency

While travel in China has gotten much easier for independent travellers, it can still be beneficial booking tours, guides or transportation through domestic Chinese agencies instead of global ones.

China-based companies have better local knowledge, contacts and resources that provide unique experiences most western companies don’t offer. From hiking the Great Wall to exploring minority villages in Yunnan or Xinjiang, domestic tour companies lead to more authentic adventures.

27. Avoid Certain Political Statements

Best Things To Know Before Visiting China

This is one of the top thing to before you go to China. China has strict laws restricting speech on sensitive topics that oppose government policies or undermine unity. These include any talk supporting independence movements in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang or references to protest events like Tiananmen Square.

Avoid these conversations completely while visiting. While the odds of getting arrested are low, saying the wrong thing could lead to detention or deportation. Don’t risk your trip unnecessarily.

28. Watch Where You Walk

If this is your first trip to China, pedestrian accidents can happen easier across China if you don’t pay attention, due to local traffic customs. Jaywalking lackadaisically is commonplace, drivers get priority, sidewalks have gaping holes and pop-up street vendors spread everywhere.

Elderly electric bikes whisk by without warning too. Don’t stare at sights while strolling – watch where you walk instead. That distraction could make you trip, crash or get hit by something unexpected from the wrong direction.

29. Perfect Your Chopstick Skills

Before you go to China, practice using chopsticks before your inaugural China trip, especially if you’ve never used them before. While forks may be available at some tourist restaurants, don’t expect to encounter knives at all.

Chopsticks are typically the sole utensil option across eateries nationwide. Learning proper form to grasp food avoids fumbled meals and embarrassment. Playing with Chinese takeout back home using only chopsticks speeds the familiarity curve too.

30. Pack Layers Regardless of Season

In this guide to visiting China, you should note that China’s vast landscape spans subarctic to subtropical climates, so packing appropriate apparel means dressing in adaptable layers. Northern areas by Russia range far colder than southern tropical zones by Southeast Asia.

Tips for China even if visiting one region, fluctuating temperatures between indoors and out or day and night means layering up is key. Additionally, super modern buildings blast arctic AC much colder than the steaming outdoors.

31. Be Decisive Using Roads

When crossing streets along China’s chaotic roadways, act swiftly and decisively – do not hesitate. Traffic flows appear anarchic to visitors, with vehicles swerving everywhere haphazardly. But locals navigate fluidly with an intuitive rhythm.

Match their boldness when on foot yourself. Don’t timidly stop mid-crossing if surprised by oncoming bikes, cars or buses – just maintain your chosen trajectory assertively. Indecisiveness causes accidents.

32. Pack Prescription Medications

Things to know before going to China is to bring more than enough medications in their clearly labelled original packaging if you take prescriptions or typically use over-the-counter healthcare products.

While pharmacies exist nationwide, don’t expect easy access equivalents for what you’re accustomed to back home, or anyone who speaks English. Trying to mime symptoms to find suitable medical substitutes rarely works well. Play it safe so health issues don’t ruin your trip.

33. Expect the Unexpected

travelling in China

When travelling in China, go with the flow when encountering the unexpected. Frustrations or complaints about unforeseen situations will not help you overcome problems any easier.

Language and cultural gaps mean you won’t always know what’s happening or why. Try to relax and remember this is all part of the adventure. You’ll laugh about it later. China’s magic lies in those unplanned moments where you must surrender to spontaneity.

Things To Know When Travelling To China

After reviewing these 32 vital China travel tips that I wish I had known before my own first trip, first-timers can now arrive far better equipped. By getting your VPN, WeChat, power adapters and other tech necessities handled ahead of time, you skip so much frustration.

Understanding important cultural differences – from long lines and spitting to jaywalking dangers and lack of queues – helps brace for Reverse Culture Shock too.

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The 10 Most Popular Tourist Destinations in China

Content preview.

  • Guilin — China's Top Karst Landscape
  • Chengdu — Hometown of Giant Pandas
  • Beijing — Ancient and Modern Capital
  • Xi'an — a Window on China's Ancient Civilization
  • Lhasa — Gateway to Transcendent Tibet
  • Find Some Unusual Destinations
  • Shanghai — China's Prosperous Largest City
  • Hangzhou — Next Best Place to Heaven
  • Huangshan — Majestic Beauty
  • Suzhou — Elegant Water Towns and Gardens
  • Hong Kong — Like Nowhere Else on Earth

1. Guilin — China's Top Karst Landscape

Guilin, with its marvelous limestone scenery, is renowned as one of the most beautiful places on earth. During his visit, former US President Nixon was inspired by Guilin's picturesque natural scenery and remarked: "I have visited more than eighty countries and over a hundred cities. I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin."

  • Most recommended attractions: the Li River , Yangshuo , Longji Terraced Fields , the Two Rivers and the Four Lakes
  • Unique experience: relaxing Li River cruise, challenging yourself to an SUP (stand-up paddleboard, i.e. a mini raft), riding an all-terrain vehicle, cycling in rural countryside, ethnic rice terraces, bamboo rafting, taste some Guilin rice noodles
  • Days suggested: 1-4 days

Guilin is 72-hour visa free for 51 countries, and 144-hour visa free for 10 ASEAN countries. Guilin is due west from Hong Kong , from which it can be reached by air in an hour. A tour of Hong Kong can be easily combined with a Guilin tour. It's popular to visit Guilin and then head to Hong Kong with these visa-free policies.

Tour Inspiration

  • Recommended tours: 4-Day Guilin Scenic and Ethnic Discovery , 5-Day Dynamic Guilin and Yangshuo Tour

2. Chengdu — Hometown of Giant Pandas

Chengdu is the hometown of Giant Pandas. Although there are giant pandas in zoos in various places around China, the best place to see pandas is in Chengdu.

  • Most recommended attractions: Dujiangyan Panda Valley , Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center , Leshan Giant Buddha , Jinli Old Street
  • Unique experience: take care of pandas and see panda babies , try spicy Sichuan hot pot, enjoy magical face changing , visit the Leshan Giant Buddha, take an onward tour to Jiuzhai Valley
  • Days suggested: 1-4 days; see more on  Ultimate Chengdu Itineraries: How Long to Spend in Chengdu

Besides giant panda, Chengdu is also famous for delicious Sichuan food like kung pao chicken and spicy hotpot. You can experience cooking the most authentic Sichuan cuisine with a local chef. And travelers can also enjoy the 144-hour visa-free policy in Chengdu.

  • How to Plan a Chengdu Tour
  • Recommended tour: 3-Day Chengdu Giant Panda, Giant Buddha, and Ancient Town Tour , 1-Day Pandas and Sanxingdui Museum Tour

All our tours can be customized. The itinerary can be adjusted according to your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements. Just contact us .

3. Beijing — Ancient and Modern Capital

Beijing, China's capital city for over 700 years, is rich in history, both ancient and modern . There are many palace complexes in Beijing, as well as super-modern buildings.

  • Most recommended attractions: the Great Wall of China , the Forbidden City , the Temple of Heaven , the Bird's Nest
  • Unique experience: hike on the Great Wall , discover the hutongs by rickshaw, enjoy a tasty Peking roast duck , watch the Beijing opera and a kung fu show, Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
  • Days suggested: 2–4 days; see  Ultimate Beijing Itinerary: How Many Days to Spend

It's very easy to get to Beijing, and it's one of the first choices for many first-time travelers to China. Flights and high-speed trains from Beijing to other popular cities are very convenient.

Beijing also offers a 144-hour transit visa-free policy for travelers from 51 countries. You can take a 3-day trip in Beijing if you have an onward flight ticket to a third country or area.

  • How to Plan a Beijing Tour
  • Top 10 Unique Experience in China
  • Recommended tour: 4-Day Emperor's Tour of Beijing , 1-Day Jiankou Wild Great Wall Hiking

4. Xi'an — a Window on China's Ancient Civilization

As the second most famous of China's ancient national capitals (after Beijing), Xi'an was the first capital of a united China in 221 BC (the Qin Dynasty). Thus Xi'an is blessed with a great number of precious relics and historical sites .

  • Most recommended attractions: the Terracotta Army , Ancient City Wall , Big Wild Goose Pagoda , Great Mosque
  • Unique experience: visit the Terracotta Army and make your own warriors , cycle on the Ancient City Wall, try snacks in Muslim Quarter
  • Days suggested: 1-3 days; see How Long to Spend in Xi'an

Xi'an was also the starting point of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that extended from Asia to Europe and played an important role in economic and cultural exchange between the East and the West in ancient times.

Xi'an also has a 144-hour transit visa-free policy .

  • How to Plan a Tour of Xi'an
  • Recommended tour: 3-Day Terracotta Warriors Tour

5. Lhasa — Gateway to Transcendent Tibet

Lhasa, capital of Tibet , is the center of Tibetan cultural and religious life. Most tourists enter Tibet via Lhasa. Outside the city is Tibet's wealth of natural wonders and holy sites, from Lake Namtso to Mt. Everest, to Mount Kailash.

  • Most recommended attractions: Potala Palace , Jokhang Temple , Mount Everest , Barkhor Street , Sera Monastery , Yamdrok Lake
  • Unique experience: explore the highest palace, see pilgrims, camp at Mount Everest's base, watch monks debate , visit picturesque holy lakes, trekking and camping
  • Days suggested: 4-8 days

"Lhasa" is Tibetan for "place of the gods", and is revered as such. There are many sites and religious sites in the city proper and its suburbs. At Barkhor Street, visitors can go souvenir hunting, rub shoulders with locals, and experience the sacred "one step one bow" way to religion.

  • How to Plan a Tibet Tour

Recommended tour:

  • 8-Day Lhasa-EBC-Lhasa Roof of the World Adventure
  • 7-Day Tibet Tour including Trekking and Camping
  • 5-Day Lhasa Classics and Lake Yamdrok Tour

All our tours can be customized. Contact us to create a trip according to your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements.

6. Shanghai — China's Prosperous Largest City

Shanghai, China's biggest city, oozes an atmosphere of vitality which can rival New York and Paris in terms of modernity. As one of the world's leading economic and business cities, Shanghai's modernity is evidenced by the ambitious skyline.

  • Most recommended attractions: the Bund , Yu Garden , Zhujiajiao Water Town , Disneyland Park , Shanghai World Financial Center
  • Unique experience: experience the world's fastest train, enjoy some leisure time in Chinese gardens and water towns, visit Disneyland, have a bird's-eye view of the financial center
  • Days suggested: 1-3 days (see more on  How Long to Spend in Shanghai )

Unlike Beijing, there are not many famous tourist attractions in Shanghai. However, the beauty of visiting Shanghai lies not in scurrying from site to site but in the feel of the city's modern atmosphere.

Shanghai has a 144-hour (6 days) transit visa-free policy , and you can extend your trip to Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Nanjing. What's more, the policy is valid for travelers who reach Shanghai by boat, train, or flight.

  • How to Plan a Shanghai Tour
  • Recommended tour: 2-Day Shanghai's Old and New Collision , 2-Day A Journey to the Future

7. Hangzhou — Next Best Place to Heaven

When Marco Polo came to Hangzhou in the 13th century, he declared it "the most beautiful and elegant city in the world". There is a popular Chinese saying: "Above there is heaven, below there are Hangzhou and Suzhou."

  • Most recommended attractions: West Lake , Lingyin Temple , National Tea Museum , Wuzhen Water Town
  • Unique experience: cycle around West Lake, enjoy a spectacular live performance on the lake , relax in the water towns, experience the Chinese tea culture
  • Days suggested: 1-2 days

Hangzhou's "heavenly" beauty attracts hundreds of thousands of travelers, and it has a 144-hour visa-free policy. There are also convenient high-speed trains from/to Shanghai.

  • How to Plan a Hangzhou Tour
  • Recommended tour: 2-Day Hangzhou West Lake and Dragon Well Tea Tour

8. Huangshan — Majestic Beauty

Huangshan is steeped in picturesque natural landscapes and history. Marvel at the peculiarly-shaped rocks and pines on the Yellow Mountains, appreciate the ancient-styled dwellings in Xidi and Hongcun villages.

  • Most recommended attractions: the Yellow Mountains , Xidi Village , Hongcun Village
  • Unique experience: spectacular mountain views, sea of clouds, photography tour , enjoy a hot spring , visit ancient villages
  • Days suggested: 3-4 days

The Yellow Mountains give people a stunning mountain views, and ancient villages present ancient China's elegance and tranquility with well-preserved ancient folk houses and flowing rivers.

The villages, for example Hongcun , around the Yellow Mountains were once considered to be the utopia of ancient China .

  • How to Plan a Huangshan Tour
  • Recommended tour: 3-Day Ancient Villages and Yellow Mountains Tour , 3-Day Escape to Huangshan from Shanghai or Hangzhou

9. Suzhou — Elegant Water Towns and Gardens

Suzhou is famous for the water towns around it and its traditional Chinese gardens. The gardens harmoniously mix man-made landscapes with natural scenery: architecture, painting, calligraphy, and horticulture are combined, and enclosed like pearls by walls. China's water towns hold the quintessential image of traditional Chinese villages.

  • Most recommended attractions: Humble Administrator's Garden , Lingering Garden , Tongli Ancient Town , the Grand Canal
  • Unique experience: visit classic gardens , relax in quiet water towns, enjoy boating on the Grand Canal

30 minutes by high-speed train from Shanghai, 5 hours from Beijing, it is very convenient to combine Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou in a tour.

  • How to Plan a Suzhou Tour
  • Recommended tour: 1-Day Suzhou Highlights Tour , 5-Day Yangtze River Delta Bullet Train Tour

10. Hong Kong — Like Nowhere Else on Earth

Hong Kong is a fusion of cultures. Remnants of its colonial past, British culture, share space with Chinese tradition. It is also a world-renowned shopping paradise, known for its tourist-friendly atmosphere and numerous options.

  • Most recommended attractions: Victoria Peak , Victoria Harbor, Disneyland
  • Unique experience: bird's-eye view from Victoria Peak, shopping at street markets , enjoy authentic dim sum, family time in Disneyland
  • Days suggested: 1-3 days

The huge shopping malls of Central and Admiralty and the street fashion factory in Causeway Bay are reasons for many travelers to make their Hong Kong trips. And if you have to transfer via Hong Kong, here are 5 things to do to make the most of your stopover time .

  • How to Plan a 3-Day Tour of Hong Kong's Highlights
  • Recommended tour: Half-Day Hong Kong Island Tour

Look for Some Unusual Destinations?

If you have been to the destinations above or you prefer to the off-the-beaten places, you could take the following destinations into consideration.

  • The Silk Road ( Dunhuang , Zhangye , Urumqi , Kashgar ): see specail landscape — rainbow mountains; splendid Dunhuang Mogao Caves; Uyghur culture; desert activities...
  • Ningxia (Zhongwei): wonderful desert experiences; one of China's best wine producing areas; desert camping, luxury desert hotel experience...
  • Inner Mongolia : vast grassland scenery; splendid golden euphrates poplar forests; Nadam Festival...
  • Qinghai : fantastic lake views — Qinghai Lake and Chaka Salt Lake; experience Buddhist culture on the Ancient Silk Road...
  • Gansu : discover Tibetan culture outside Tibet; stunning plateau scenery...
  • Sanya : sunshine, happy beach time, various water sports...

Recommended Tours

  • 11-Day Along the Great Silk Road
  • 8-Day Miraculous Qinghai and Legendary Silk Road Tour
  • 3-Day Zhongwei Desert Tour with Winery Experience
  • 6-Day Gannan Pure Land Tour
  • 7-Day When Silk Road Culture Meets Fabulous Fall Colors

Visit China with China Highlights

It is not easy to organize an itinerary to all these attractions on your own. For a first trip to China , most choose to visit the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, view the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, and see the Shanghai skyline and enjoy stunning scenery in Guilin

These are our bestsellers , featuring the best cities to visit in China:

  • The Golden Triangle — See Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai with their highlights and no rush thanks to our 8-day, time-smart itinerary.
  • China's Classic Wonders — The most popular destinations in China with all the highlights

There are many options for return trips to China, you can get inspirations from these top places provided on this page, or tell your interests to our travel advisor, and they will help you tailor make a China trip!

  • 12-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Shanghai Tour for Your Summer Vacation
  • 9-Day Beyond the Golden Triangle
  • 15 Best Places to Visit in China (2024)
  • Best (& Worst) Times to Visit China, Travel Tips (2024/2025)
  • How to Plan a 10-Day Itinerary in China (Best 5 Options)
  • 8 Days in China: Top 15 Tours and Itineraries (2024/2025)
  • China Weather in January 2024: Enjoy Less-Crowded Traveling
  • China Weather in February 2024: Places to Go, Costs, and Crowds
  • China Weather in March 2024: Destinations, Crowds, and Costs
  • China Weather in April 2024: Where to Go (Smart Pre-Season Pick)
  • China Weather in May 2024: Where to Go, Crowds, and Costs
  • China Weather in June 2024: How to Benefit from the Rainy Season
  • China Weather in July 2024: How to Avoid Heat and Crowds
  • China Weather in August 2024: Weather Tips & Where to Go
  • China Weather in September 2024: Weather Tips & Where to Go
  • China Weather in October 2024: Where to Go, Crowds, and Costs
  • China Weather in November 2024: Places to Go & Crowds
  • China Weather in December 2024: Places to Go and Crowds

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Never Ending Footsteps

The Cost of Travel in China: My 2024 Budget Breakdown

China is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been.

As one of the largest countries in the world, it has incredibly diverse landscapes, food, people, history, and development. With a recorded history dating back over 3000 years, it’s a country with fascinating heritage and culture at every turn.

When I last visited, it was around the time of Chinese New Year and I spent a month travelling across the country. If you get the chance to travel to China at that time of year, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it — it was so much fun! There were decorations everywhere, fireworks filled the sky, and everyone was in a joyful mood.

Of course, this means that you’ll likely need to book things like transport and accommodation ahead of time before they sell out, but it was so worth it. One of my favourite memories was celebrating Chinese New Year in Shanghai over hotpot with new local friends.

Regardless of when you do end up visiting, however, know that travel in China takes some planning.

This is predominantly due to the visa requirements and application process, which can be onerous — yes, even when visiting as a tourist. It will differ depending on where you’re from, but odds are: it’ll be a pain in the ass. I needed to provide several forms and documents, proof of onward tickets , and even a list of every country I’d visited over the past 10 years. As a travel writer who travels full-time, that last part made me want to cry — I’d been to 80 countries!

Even though the visa application is slightly more difficult than other countries, I promise you it’s worth it, and especially if you go through the process and score a long-term multi-entry visa. A standard single or double-entry tourist visa lasts 15-60 days and costs around $80, but for around twice the price, multi-entry options are available for some passport holders that give 60 days per entry for three or five years. Not a bad deal at all, to be able to return for half a decade and see more of this amazing country!

Another important thing you should do ahead of your trip to China is download the WeChat app. This is the primary messaging app in China and you’ll use it regularly while in the country. You should also download a VPN ahead of time, but I’ll get to that later in the post.

For now, get ready to learn more about China, what you can expect from a trip there, and how much it costs. If you’re happy to step a little outside of your comfort zone, you’ll have an incredible experience: I met some of the loveliest people while I was there, and crossed some major things off my bucket list.

Go in with an open mind, be ready for some adventure and unpredictability, and you’ll have the time of your life!

beautiful great wall of china

What’s Included in this Post 

This budget breakdown covers how much I spent on accommodation, transportation, activities, and food while I travelled around the country.

I’ve not included my flights into and out of China as this is going to vary significantly based on where you’ll be arriving from.

The amounts in this guide are listed in U.S. dollars, simply because the vast majority of my readers are from the U.S. I also included some prices in Chinese yuan (CNY), as this is the local currency that you’ll use day to day.

While prices have risen a little since China reopened its borders post-pandemic, it’s not as noticeable as most other parts of the world. Sure, you can spend a fortune on travel here if you want to, but as I’ll show below, you definitely don’t have to. Let’s get started!

temple of heaven in beijing

The Cost of Accommodation in China 

Finding places to stay on a mid-range budget in China is fairly easy. In terms of what to look out for, the two most important aspects are the location and staff, especially if you’re a foreigner. Many Chinese cities are very large and heavily populated, so it really helps to be close to the things you want to see. I found that having staff who speak English and can offer good recommendations and advice makes a huge difference as well.

Guesthouses, hostels, and homestays usually start around $40 (289 CNY) per night, while good mid-range hotels cost $70-80 (505-578 CNY) per night, often including breakfast. That said, expect to pay a bit more than that in the most popular destinations like Shanghai and Beijing.

Here’s a list of my favourite accommodation options in China:

Beijing — Jingshan Garden Hotel ($118 a night)

You can’t get much better than a hotel located in a traditional Chinese hutong (narrow alleyway) alongside Jingshan Park and right behind The Forbidden City! Even though you’re so close to many of Beijing’s biggest attractions, there’s still a very local feeling and flavour. In addition to having such a great location, the staff were very welcoming, sharing a guide to China, offering great suggestions, and calling ahead for information at tourist sites to help me make the most of my stay. The room itself was comfortable and clean, and when I didn’t feel like leaving the hotel one rainy evening, the traditional Chinese dishes at the attached restaurant were delicious (there was also Western fare if I’d wanted it).

Shanghai —  Kevin’s Old House ($109 a night)

What I loved about Kevin’s Old House was how unique it was! In a world where hotel chains vie to offer generic modern design and high-tech features, Kevin’s stands out from the crowd. It’s cosy and eclectic, and stepping inside the building leaves you feeling as though you’ve walked straight into 1930s Shanghai. It’s an experience you won’t find anywhere else in the city. It’s in an excellent location, too, close to all of Shanghai’s best restaurants and bars. The staff were wonderful, the breakfasts delicious, and I hugely appreciated having a washing machine in my room, too!

Yangshuo — The Bamboo Leaf Yangshuo ($60 a night)

Yangshuo has some incredible, stunning landscapes coupled with a smaller town feeling, and Bamboo Leaf is the perfect base for all your explorations. The facilities and rooms were beautiful and clean, including the onsite outdoor swimming pool with a stunning backdrop of the Yangshuo mountains. The onsite restaurant had delicious food in generous portions, but most of all, the staff really went out of their way to offer incredible service and hospitality. They were all incredibly knowledgeable about the area and went as far as sending location links through WeChat (messaging app) for the places I wanted to visit! Considering not everything in Yangshuo is properly marked, this was super helpful. It’s in a lovely quiet area away from the tourist centre: you can walk to the main market in about twenty minutes, but the hotel offers a free shuttle to and from town, plus bikes and e-bikes you can hire.

Hangzhou — Rock&Wood Cozy House ($100 a night)

Hangzhou was one of my favourite cities in China. There was just something endearing about walking down the Ancient Qinghefang Road or taking a paddle boat on scenic West Lake, and I was very happy to be staying at this cute guesthouse while I was in town. It’s in a quiet residential area only a few minutes walk from the tranquil lake, but still within easy reach of all the sights and attractions downtown. The host (Sally) couldn’t have done more for me, and had endless great sightseeing tips to offer, as well as cooking delicious Chinese and Western breakfasts on alternate days. The room was absolutely lovely, with cozy wooden decor and furniture and a super-comfortable bed. Needless to say, you’ll leave your stay here feeling both physically and mentally refreshed!

Chengdu — Buddha Zen Hotel ($74 a night)

Home of the famous pandas, Chengdu is the place to go to see these beautiful creatures up close. Beyond this, there are tons of temples to explore and authentic Sichuan cuisine to enjoy. I highly recommend staying at Buddha Zen Hotel while you’re there: a lovely hotel with a real “old world” feel, it’s it’s in a great neighbourhood full of traditional buildings, many of which have been converted into adorable cafes and restaurants around to help bring out your inner foodie. It’s on a quiet street, so you’ll still get a good night’s sleep, and you’re in good hands with the owner who will help make your stay comfortable, whether you need transport, local recommendations, or advice for how to get around.

Nanjing — Janling Hotel ($70 a night)

For many centuries, Nanjing was the capital of China. This makes a visit to this historical city worth it during your travels, especially considering it’s only a few hours from Shanghai. Jinling Hotel was the ideal place to stay while I was there, in an unbeatable location right in the heart of the city, and really close to a metro station so I could easily get to anywhere further afield that I needed to go. I found this hotel to be one of the most foreigner-friendly places I came across in China, with English-speaking staff and a great range of Western and local options in the restaurant. Reasonably priced and kept immaculately clean, I’d be only too happy to stay here again.

Xi’an – Eastwood Inn Xi’an ($45 a night)

If seeing the Terracotta Army Warriors (soldier figures that accompanied the tomb of China’s first emperor) intrigues you, then you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to the city of Xi’an. And you can stay at this lovely, affordable homestay while you’re there! You’re within walking distance of both a metro station and the Wenchang Ancient City Wall. My room was clean, with a comfy bed (not always the case in China!) and its own private bathroom. The staff were great, with plenty of recommendations of where to go and what to do, and the front desk is manned 24/7 in case of any issues. This is a comfortable, conveniently located, affordable homestay that’s perfect for a couple of days in Xi’an!

Xian at Night

The Cost of Transportation in China

Transportation in China was some of the best I’ve ever experienced in all of my travels so far. It was fast, easy to navigate, and ran on time. Unlike some other countries where I’ve had what feels like endless stopovers and long, bumpy drives to get anywhere, moving around China felt like a breeze by comparison. 

Here are the most common forms of transportation in China: 

Underground Metro — If there’s an underground metro system available, this is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to travel around any city in China. I used the metro system in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, and it was always very quick and efficient. You can expect to pay around $0.40-1.25 (3-9 CNY) for a metro ride depending on the distance.

Most cities also offer 1-7 day passes which are often good value, especially anywhere that you’ll be regularly using the metro to get around. For example, the fare for a 1-day pass in Shanghai was $2.50 (18 CNY) , while the fare for a 3-day pass was $6.25 (45 CNY) . Definitely pretty reasonable!

Taxis/Didi — I used taxis a couple of times and if I was with a local friend of mine, we would take Didi , which is a Chinese Uber equivalent. I wouldn’t rely on Didi unless you know Mandarin or are with people who live there because it doesn’t always work with foreign credit cards. That being said, taxis are everywhere and really easy to hail in major cities, but not many taxi drivers speak English, so have a translator app handy or name a major landmark that you’re heading towards that they would recognize. 

Each Chinese city has a different base rate for taxis.  Bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing start at $1.95 (14 CNY) for the first 3km, while other cities have a lower starting rate of around $1.10-1.40 (8-10 CNY) . To give you an idea of a full taxi ride fare, from Beijing airport to the city centre (about a 40 minute drive) costs around $18-21 (130-150 CNY).

Note that taxis rarely accept foreign credit cards, so always have cash in the form of small bills on hand to pay your driver. 

Train — China has one of the biggest high-speed rail networks in the world, which links nearly every town and city. I took the train between most of the cities I went to, and it was always very reliable, quick, comfortable, and straightforward. Not to mention, I thought the prices were quite reasonable. 

As a tourist, you need to verify your ID when you pick up a ticket. So once I booked my tickets through 12Go Asia , this only meant that my ticket was issued, but it didn’t mean I had the ticket in hand. I needed to go to the train station ticket office to show my booking voucher and passport, and then be given my ticket. I’d recommend booking train tickets at least 3-4 days in advance.

Note that I traveled second-class on high-speed trains where possible. There are often cheaper seats available on the slow trains, but they usually take a lot longer to get where they’re going.

Here were some of the routes I took and their respective prices:

  • Nanjing to Hangzhou: $23 (167 CNY)
  • Hangzhou to Shanghai: $10 (73 CNY)
  • Beijing to Nanjing: $72 (520 CNY)
  • Shanghai to Guilin (sleeper): $84 (607 CNY)

Flights — Even though China is a large country, and it might feel like taking flights to get around makes sense, in most circumstances taking the train is better because of its high speed, punctuality, and lack of lengthy check-ins and wait times. Not to mention, it’s often cheaper to take the train anyway. In some cases, though, taking a flight can be an easier option, so here are some of the routes and their respective average prices from Skyscanner : 

  • Beijing to Shanghai — $111 (802 CNY )
  • Shanghai to Guilin — $110 (795 CNY)
  • Guilin to Chengdu — $102 (737 CNY)
  • Chengdu to Xi’an — $100 (723 CNY)

terracotta horses costume

The Cost of Food in China

Summarising the food scene in China isn’t easy. With thousands of years of cultural history and millions of square miles of geography, you could spend a lifetime trying to eat every dish in the country and still not even come close to finishing the job.

As you might expect, the local climate and culture has a big impact on the kinds of food you’ll find in each area. There are eight major culinary regions in the country, but even those are split up into endless local variations. While it’s true to say that rice or noodles are a staple in much (although not all) of the country, after that, all bets are off as to what you might find on the menu.

The good news is that you don’t have to visit every far-flung corner to enjoy its food: the major cities have restaurants that cover every cuisine imaginable, both from within China and much further afield.

Let’s start with hotpot and bubble tea, something I could happily have eaten every day. There’s something really special about going to eat hotpot with a group of friends, and I just love the communal aspect of it. It’s less of a meal and more of an experience (although don’t get me wrong, the food part is good too!). 

If you’re unfamiliar with hotpot, it’s typically a simmering pot of seasoned broth, paired with thinly-sliced meats, veggies, mushrooms, noodles and more. You essentially cook and season your food by putting it into the pot, dipping it in a selection of sauces and then digging in. If you go with a decent size group, then you’ll probably pay around $15-20 (108-144 CNY) per person for a hotpot meal with a couple of drinks.

One of my other favourite food experiences was eating Peking Duck in Beijing, a dish that goes back as the Imperial era. Usually a Peking Duck meal includes thin slices of duck, wraps, and add-ons. If you go as a group, you’ll likely end up with an entire duck to share, so if you’re going alone or with a friend, just make sure you can order a smaller amount. You’ll likely pay around $10-12 (72-87 CNY) per person for this.

If you’re heading to Guangzhou or elsewhere in the Cantonese part of China, expect dim sum to feature heavily on your list of dining highlights. Again, it’s best experienced with others, since it means you’ll get to try more of the vast selection of small steamed or pan-fried dumplings, buns, and rice noodle rolls on offer. Expect to pay around $2 (15 CNY) per dish.

You’ve likely heard of kung pao chicken before, and maybe even tried it back home, but it’s a whole different experience when you’re eating it in Chengdu or somewhere else in the Sichuan region that it originated. It’s not a dish for the faint-hearted, full of heat from the dried chillies, a numbing sensation from the region’s famous peppers, and big, complex flavours from the sauce. If you can handle the intensity, though, it’s absolutely delicious! Served with rice, it’s often quite cheap as well: you’ll pay around $4-7 (30-50 CNY) for it.

The Shangdong region is famous for its seafood, and while you should definitely try some of the higher-end dishes like cong bao youyu (stir-fried sea cucumber) and weihe clam noodles, even the cheap eats are a culinary delight. My favourite was scallion pancakes, a low-cost yet delicious option for breakfast or lunch in particular. The crispy dough and delicious zing of the scallions meant that even though one really was enough, I often went back for a second anyway! The low prices helped with that decision: I never paid more than $1.40 (10 CNY) for one.

Speaking of cheaper eats, especially for lunch, I often grabbed something from a street vendor or at a food market, where a steamed bun, fried rice, or a dish of chow mein noodles would typically only cost around $2-3 (15-22 CNY) . 

Lauren in China

The Cost of Activities and Entrance Fees in China   

China is certainly the land of sightseeing. I’ve wanted to see The Great Wall of China for as long as I can remember, and it blew me out of the park. It was a beautiful sunny day in January and I could see the wall stretch on and on and thought to myself how lucky I was to see one of the wonders of the world. 

My best piece of advice would be to take a weekday tour that leaves early in the morning from Beijing, because The Great Wall itself is about a two-hour drive away from Beijing. It’s possible to take public transit, but I definitely saved time and had a smoother experience with a tour. We left around 6 a.m. and got there before 9 a.m., and there was a moment when we were the only seven people or so on that section of the wall—it was pure magic and also very rare. So trust me, the earlier you can get there the better, because the crowds start to roll in around 10 a.m. 

I booked through my hotel, and it cost around $40 for the tour which included entry and round-trip transportation from Beijing. Make sure to ask the people at your accommodation about tour companies because they will have a better idea of the best options, but do confirm whether the price includes transport, entry, cable car and toboggan tickets, or just some of those things.

Here’s a breakdown of some popular attractions in China and their respective costs: 

  • (Beijing) The Great Wall of China: $6 (45 CNY) entry ticket, plus $14 (100 CNY) one way/$19.50 (140 CNY) return for the cable car/toboggan
  • (Beijing) The Forbidden City: $8.40 (60 CNY) (April 1 – October 31) or $5.50 (40 CNY) (November 1 to March 31)
  • (Beijing) Summer Palace: $8.40 (60 CNY) (April 1 – October 31), $ 2.80 (20 CNY) at other times
  • Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding: $7.70 (55 CNY)
  • Zhangjiajie National Park: $31.50 (227 CNY) (March 1 – November 30) or $20.50 (147 CNY) (December 1 – February 28)
  • (Shanghai) Yu Garden: $5.50 (40 CNY) (April 1-June 30 and September 1-November 30), $4.20 (30 CNY) at other times
  • (Hangzhou) West Lake: FREE
  • (Xi’an) Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum: $16.70 (120 CNY)

temple of heaven park

Miscellaneous Costs

Chinese SIM card : I don’t know about you, but one of my least favourite aspects of arriving in a new country is having to figure out how to get connected. Specifically: buying a local SIM card so that I have data to use while I’m in the country.

There’s locating a store that will sell you one, language barriers to deal with, various forms of ID you might need to bring, scams to navigate, and… well, it’s a headache.

This year, I’ve started using  Airalo , which sells local e-SIM cards for travellers, and it’s absolutely improved my travel experience. What this company allows you to do is to buy an e-SIM online  before  you arrive in China, and then as soon as you land in the country, you can switch on your data and start using it. It’s worked flawlessly for me and I’ll never go back to physical SIM cards. All you need is an e-SIM-compatible phone (all iPhones are, and most Androids). You’ll pay  $5 for 1 GB of data , $11.50 for 3 GB , or $16.50 for 5 GB for China, with other data amounts available, and can top-up through the Airalo app.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) : To get a full range of internet access in China and circumvent the country’s internet censorship, you’ll need a VPN. Believe me, it’s worth it. You can’t access Google or most social media accounts without one. I was travelling through China for one month, so I got the 1-month plan with ExpressVPN which costs $12.95 . 

Travel insurance: If you’ve read any other posts on Never Ending Footsteps, you’ll know that I’m a great believer in travelling with travel insurance.

As someone who works in the travel industry, I’ve seen far too many Go Fund Me campaigns from destitute backpackers that are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country after a scooter accident/being attacked/breaking a leg with no way of getting home or paying for their healthcare. These costs can quickly land you with a six-figure bill to pay at the end of it.

In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

Travel insurance  will cover you if your flight is cancelled and you need to book a new one, if your luggage gets lost and you need to replace your belongings, if you suddenly get struck down by appendicitis and have to be hospitalised, or discover a family member has died and you need to get home immediately. If you fall seriously ill, your insurance will cover the costs to fly you home to receive medical treatment.

I use  SafetyWing  as my travel insurance provider, and recommend them for trips to China. Firstly, they’re one of the few companies out there who will actually cover you if you contract COVID-19. On top of that, they provide worldwide coverage, don’t require you to have a return ticket, and even allow you to buy coverage after you’ve left home. If you’re on a long-term trip, you can pay monthly instead of up-front, and can cancel at any time. Finally, they’re cheaper than the competition, and have a clear, easy-to-understand pricing structure, which is always appreciated.

With SafetyWing, you’ll pay just  $1.50 a day  for travel insurance.

How Much Does it Cost to Travel in China? 

It’s time to tally up all of my expenses to see my total travel costs! 

  • Accommodation: $83 per day
  • Transportation: $6 per day
  • Food: $33 per day
  • Activities/Entrance Fees: $24 per day

Average amount spent in China: $146 a day!

Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff is a published author and travel expert who founded Never Ending Footsteps in 2011. She has spent over 12 years travelling the world, sharing in-depth advice from more than 100 countries across six continents. Lauren's travel advice has been featured in publications like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Cosmopolitan, and her work is read by 200,000 readers each month. Her travel memoir can be found in bookstores across the planet.

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I visited the Temple of Heaven on a day when nearly no one was there. Of course, it was the dead of winter also. Have a pic where I’m standing on the mound clapping and listening to the sound….

Great post, great pictures

Gorgeous photos Lauren! The colors are so vivid!

I feel like I am kind of an expert when it comes to showing up in places during their “busiest time EVER” so I totally empathize with you, Lauren!

When I went to the Temple of Heaven it was also colder than cold December and there were still these precious senior citizens out there, ballroom dancing the day away!

The echo chamber didn’t work for me either. Maybe it’s all a sham?

I just spent a 20 hour layover in Beijing and loved the Temple of Heaven. WhenI went there were a ton of old people around the park. Some were working out (aerobics, badminton, kicking a feathery ball), others playing cards, some were dancing in exotic costumes and my absolute favourite, about 50 of them chanting these jawdroppingly beautiful songs. It was freezing at 8 am and they were all so active!

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Why Is Putin in Vietnam?

President Vladimir V. Putin is keen to maintain the longstanding military ties between Russia and Vietnam, as Hanoi has developed deeper bonds with Washington.

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By Sui-Lee Wee

Reporting from Bangkok

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia wrapped up a state visit to one ally, North Korea, and moved on to another, Vietnam, arriving early Thursday hoping to shore up crucial partnerships in the region as he wages a protracted war in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine has left him isolated from the West, and his need for munitions to fight that war has pushed him closer to North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un. The two leaders have bonded over their common historical opponent, the United States, and on Wednesday revived a Cold War-era mutual defense pledge between their nations.

In Vietnam, by contrast, Mr. Putin met with officials who have recently forged deeper bonds with Washington. But Moscow has long been Hanoi’s main source of weapons, and Mr. Putin is keen to hold on to that position.

It is Mr. Putin’s fifth visit to Vietnam and follows trips last year by President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China, two leaders who sought assurances from Hanoi that it was not taking the other’s side.

For Vietnam, Mr. Putin’s trip will be an opportunity to solidify ties with Russia, its most important defense partner. Even though it has upgraded relations with the United States, Vietnam was still looking for secret ways last year to purchase Russian military equipment in contravention of American sanctions.

On Thursday morning, in typical scripted fashion, Vietnamese schoolchildren — waving both the Russian and Vietnamese flags — lined the Hanoi streets as Mr. Putin’s motorcade drove by. He was greeted by Vietnam’s newly installed president , To Lam, who gave him a hug.

Later, Mr. Putin was given a 21-gun salute at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, an important historical site in the center of the capital. A military band played the national anthems of both countries. The two leaders will hold a news conference after the talks are over, according to Vietnamese state media.

Washington has rebuked Hanoi for inviting the Russian leader, saying, “No country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalize his atrocities.”

This week, Mr. Lam told the local Russian envoy that Hanoi “always considers Russia one of the top priority partners in its foreign policy.”

Here’s what to know about relations between Moscow and Hanoi.

Russia and Vietnam have deep military ties.

In 1950, the Soviet Union was among the first countries to give diplomatic recognition to what was then the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or North Vietnam. Over decades, Moscow became Vietnam’s biggest donor, providing military aid when Hanoi was fighting its wars against France and the United States.

The defense relationship has underpinned many ties between the two countries, which over the years also shared communist ideology. Mr. Putin arrived in Vietnam with his new defense minister, Andrei R. Belousov, underscoring how security matters are central to the visit.

Russian equipment represents about 60 percent to 70 percent of Vietnam’s defense arsenal, according to Nguyen The Phuong, who studies Vietnam’s military affairs at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Russia has supplied Vietnam with coastal defense missile systems, six Kilo-class submarines, fighter jets and many more lethal weapons.

Nearly all of Vietnam’s naval vessels come from Russia, according to Mr. Phuong. Russia’s T-90 tanks, which were the last-known major purchase of Russian arms by Vietnam in 2016, form the backbone of Vietnam’s armored forces, he added. This means that Vietnam is still going to be reliant on Russia in the years to come.

Vietnam has looked beyond Russia for weapons.

But the imposition of Western sanctions on Moscow has increased concerns in Hanoi about Russia’s reliability as a supplier, and made it increasingly awkward for Vietnam to continue dealing with Russia as it engages with the West.

Many of Vietnam’s leaders are also aware of the Russian military’s struggles against Ukraine — footage has shown the T-90 tanks being blown apart by drones used by Ukraine. They are also cognizant of Russia’s deepening relationship with China, which they regard as a threat because of a longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

In recent months, it has turned to countries like South Korea, Japan and the Czech Republic as alternative sources of weapons. It has also tried to build up its own defense industry. It has looked to India, another former Soviet ally, to retrofit some of its weapons.

The United States has been actively offering more weapons to Vietnam, with senior officials traveling to the country in recent months. But analysts say the top echelons of Vietnam’s defense leadership remain suspicious of Washington. They are reluctant to tie their fate to a country where arms sales have to be passed through a Congress that could make the deal contingent on human rights.

The two nations have joint ventures in the oil business.

Russia has a significant stake in Vietnam’s lucrative oil and gas sector. Vietsovpetro, a joint venture run by Russia’s Zarubezhneft and Vietnam’s state-owned PetroVietnam, operates Vietnam’s largest oil field, Bach Ho.

The profits from Vietsovpetro have generated millions of dollars for both Russia and Vietnam. Zarubezhneft and Gazprom, another Russian state-owned energy firm, are also involved in oil exploration projects in Vietnam.

For Moscow, these projects come at a time when Russian oil and gas exports to Europe have plummeted following the imposition of sanctions from the European Union. But they have irked Beijing because they are in waters that it contends are part of its territory.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnam was also a particularly attractive destination for Russian tourists. In 2019, Russia sent the sixth-highest number of tourists of any nation to Vietnam, just after the United States. But the numbers dropped during the pandemic and fell further after Vietnam stopped direct flights in 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Direct flights resumed this year.

Mr. Putin is seen as popular with the Vietnamese brass.

Beginning in the 1950s, thousands of Vietnamese Communist Party officials , top business officials, doctors, teachers and soldiers were trained in the Soviet Union and Russia. That list includes the current party chief, Nguyen Phu Trong.

But some felt those deep ties were ignored by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, and Russia’s first president, Boris N. Yeltsin.

“The Vietnamese feel that Gorbachev in the 1980s abandoned Vietnam in an effort to improve relations with China; Yeltsin, all through the 90s, barely paid any attention to Vietnam,” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “Once Putin was in power in 2000, he gave a lot of face to it. So the Vietnamese are grateful for that.”

He added that the Vietnamese leadership liked Mr. Putin because “he put Vietnam-Russia relations back on track.”

Paul Sonne and Damien Cave contributed reporting.

Sui-Lee Wee is the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The Times, overseeing coverage of 11 countries in the region. More about Sui-Lee Wee

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Russia President Vladimir Putin makes a rare visit to North Korea, an old ally

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived early on Wednesday in the North Korean capital for his first official visit in 24 years. Putin was met at Pyongyang’s airport by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to arrive in North Korea for a two-day visit on Tuesday, as the countries deepen their alignment in the face of separate, intensifying confrontations with Washington.

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US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday the White House was “watching...very, very closely” the deepening relationship between Russia and North Korea amid international concerns about their military cooperation. Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit North Korea for a two-day visit starting Tuesday. He’s expected to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for talks as they deepen their alignment in the face of separate, intensifying confrontations with Washington. It will be Putin’s first trip to North Korea in 24 years.

In this photo provided on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, talks with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, center right, on Putin's arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency.(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, talks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, center right, on Putin’s arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency.(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

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In this photo provided Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, center right, walk together on the red carpet upon Putin’s arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, center right, talk upon Putin’s arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, is greeted by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, center right, upon Putin’s arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency.(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, center right, talk on the red carpet upon Putin’s arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, a motorcade with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un rolls from the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, a motorcade with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un head to the state guest house in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

This photo provided Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government shows a motorcade with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, front center, is escorted by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, front left, at the state guest house in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency.(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

This photo provided Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands at the state guest house in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea early on Wednesday, after saying the two countries want to cooperate closely to overcome U.S.-led sanctions in the face of intensifying confrontations with Washington.

Putin was met at Pyongyang’s airport by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un . They shook hands and embraced, and Kim later joined Putin in his car to personally guide him to Pyongyang’s Kumsusan State Guest House, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said. The agency described their meeting as a historic event that demonstrates the “invincibility and durability” of the two nations’ friendship and unity.

Putin, making his first trip to North Korea in 24 years, said in comments that appeared in its state media hours before he landed that he appreciates the country’s firm support of his military actions in Ukraine . The Kremlin launched a full-scale invasion of the neighboring country in 2022.

He said the countries would continue to “resolutely oppose” what he described as Western ambitions “to hinder the establishment of a multipolar world order based on justice, mutual respect for sovereignty, considering each other’s interests.”

Russian Ambassador to South Korea Georgy Zinoviev arrives at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, June 21, 2024. South Korea summoned the Russian ambassador to protest a defense pact with North Korea on Friday, two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement vowing mutual defense with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a state visit to Pyongyang. (Choi Jae-koo/Yonhap via AP)

Putin’s visit comes amid growing concerns about an arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions to fuel Russia’s war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

In the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, the streets were decorated with portraits of Putin and Russian flags. A banner on a building said: “We warmly welcome the President of the Russian Federation.”

This photo provided Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government shows a motorcade with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Putin also said in his published remarks that Russia and North Korea will develop trade and payment systems “that are not controlled by the West” and jointly oppose sanctions against the countries, which he described as “illegal, unilateral restrictions.”

North Korea is under heavy U.N. Security Council economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, while Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine.

Putin said the countries will also expand cooperation in tourism, culture and education.

Before heading to North Korea, Putin traveled to Yakutsk, a city in eastern Russia, where he met regional Gov. Aisen Nikolayev, and received briefings on technology and defense-related projects. He also met with young professionals working in Russia’s Far East.

Putin is being accompanied by several top officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Denis Mantrurov, Defense Minister Andrei Belousov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to his foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov. He said a number of documents will be signed during the visit, possibly including an agreement on a comprehensive strategic partnership.

In this photo provided on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, by the North Korean government, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, center right, talk on the red carpet upon Putin's arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Wednesday, June 19. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

U.S. and South Korean officials say military, economic and other exchanges between North Korea and Russia have sharply increased since Kim met Putin in September in the Russian Far East, their first since 2019.

U.S. and South Korean officials accuse the North of providing Russia with artillery, missiles and other military equipment for use in Ukraine, possibly in return for key military technologies and aid. Both Pyongyang and Moscow deny accusations about North Korean weapons transfers, which would violate multiple U.N. Security Council sanctions that Russia previously endorsed.

Along with China, Russia has provided political cover for Kim’s continuing efforts to advance his nuclear arsenal, repeatedly blocking U.S.-led efforts to impose fresh U.N. sanctions on the North over its weapons tests.

In March, a Russian veto at the United Nations ended monitoring of U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program, prompting Western accusations that Moscow is seeking to avoid scrutiny as it buys weapons from Pyongyang for use in Ukraine. U.S. and South Korean officials have said they are discussing options for a new mechanism for monitoring the North.

Earlier this year, Putin sent Kim a high-end Aurus Senat limousine, which he had shown to the North Korean leader when they met in September. Observers said the shipment violated a U.N. resolution banning the supply of luxury items to North Korea.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Putin’s visit to North Korea illustrates how Russia tries, “in desperation, to develop and to strengthen relations with countries that can provide it with what it needs to continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine.”

“North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia ... and other weapons for use in Ukraine. Iran has been providing weaponry, including drones, that have been used against civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Blinken told reporters following a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg reiterated concerns about the “potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programs.”

Lim Soosuk, spokesperson of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said Seoul has been stressing to Moscow that any cooperation between Russia and North Korea must not “proceed in a direction that violates U.N. Security Council resolutions or undermines peace and stability in the region.”

Tensions on the Korean Peninsulas are at their highest point in years, with the pace of both Kim’s weapons tests and combined military exercises involving the United States, South Korea and Japan intensifying in a tit-for-tat cycle. The Koreas also have engaged in Cold War-style psychological warfare that involved North Korea dropping tons of trash on the South with balloons, and the South broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda with its loudspeakers.

South Korea’s military said soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the land border Tuesday, apparently in error, for the second time this month.

Putin has continuously sought to rebuild ties with Pyongyang as part of efforts to restore his country’s clout and its Soviet-era alliances. Moscow’s ties with North Korea weakened after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Kim Jong Un first met with Putin in 2019 in Russia’s eastern port of Vladivostok.

After North Korea, the Kremlin said Putin will also visit Vietnam for talks that are expected to be focused on trade. The United States, which has spent years strengthening ties and accelerating trade with Vietnam, criticized Putin’s planned visit.

“As Russia continues to seek international support to sustain its illegal and brutal war against Ukraine, we reiterate that no country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalize his atrocities,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Vietnam said in a statement.

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Demi Moore on Full Frontal Nudity With Margaret Qualley in ‘The Substance’: ‘A Very Vulnerable Experience’ but I Had a ‘Great Partner Who I Felt Very Safe With’

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Demi Moore and her dog Pilaf attend a photocall at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Carlton Cannes Hotel on May 19, 2024 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Demi Moore ‘s new film, the feminist body horror “ The Substance ,” sees her bare it all, with several scenes featuring full nudity. At the Cannes Film Festival press conference for the film on Monday, the 61-year-old actor discussed the “vulnerable experience.”

“Going into it, it was really spelled out — the level of vulnerability and rawness that was really required to tell the story,” Moore said. “And it was a very vulnerable experience and just required a lot of sensitivity and a lot of conversation about what we were trying to accomplish.”

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“I had someone who was a great partner who I felt very safe with. We obviously were quite close  — naked — and we also got a lot of levity in those moments at how absurd those certain situations were,” she said. “But ultimately. it’s just about really directing your communication and mutual trust.”

As the film progresses, Moore becomes horribly disfigured thanks to the abuse her other half Qualley is inflicting on her. By the film’s last act, she quite resembles Anjelica Huston from the 1990 film “The Witches,” after she transforms into a humpback abomination.

Dennis Quaid also stars in the film as an “asshole,” as he described his character during the presser. The late Ray Liotta was meant to have the role before his passing in May 2022, and Quaid dedicated his performance to him.

“In my heart, I dedicated this role to Ray Liotta, who was set to play it,” Quaid said. “It was this week, two years ago that he passed, so I’d like to remember him. He was such an incredible actor.”

Cannes went wild for “The Substance” at its premiere on Sunday night, giving the film an 11-minute standing ovation , the longest of the fest so far.

In an interview with Variety , the French director discussed the film’s feminist themes, saying that body horror is “the perfect vehicle to express the violence all these women’s issues are about.”

With an undercurrent of #MeToo at this year’s festival as the movement grows in France, Fargeat hopes the film will shine even more light on the issue. “It’s a little stone in the huge wall we still have to build regarding this issue, and to be honest, I hope my film will also be one of the stones of that wall. That’s really what I intended to do with it.”

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Netflix top 10: ‘baby reindeer’ becomes no. 10 biggest english-language series ever, ‘under paris’ scores massive debut, what media & entertainment execs are saying about using gen ai: the vip+/harrisx spring 2024 survey, do trigger warnings need spoiler alerts, ghibli alum yoshiaki nishimura shares new trailer for ‘the imaginary,’ explains wider vision behind studio ponoc, with queen catalog deal, sony would rule cooled music publishing market, timothy olyphant to star in netflix’s ‘terminator zero’; plus ‘plankton’ movie and ‘motel transylvania’ among animation slate, more from our brands, paul mccartney, prince william, tom cruise: all the celebs at taylor swift’s london shows, lewis hamilton: the spanish grand prix usually tells you how good your car is, espn seeks more ratings gold with clark-reese showdown, the best loofahs and body scrubbers, according to dermatologists, house of the dragon recap: hand off — plus, who dies this week, verify it's you, please log in.

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  1. Travel China

    Just wanted to write this as a feedback since on this subreddit the heat in XiAn, Shanghai, etc in summer is often overstated to the extent that people do not travel there. It is late June, I am in Xian. Temperature is 34 degrees Celsius at 2 pm. It is warm, but really quite ok.

  2. Visiting China Tips and advice : r/travelchina

    I just spent one month solo in China and want to give some tips for those who plan on visiting. Get a Chinese number. The new iPhones from the US don't allow physical sim cards. Yes, it's possible to get around China without a Chinese number, but having one would've made things much easier. Public Wifi, Meituan and other Chinese apps and ...

  3. If you want to travel China, here's tips from Chinese tour guide

    Regardless of your choice, it's important to book tickets in advance, prioritize safety, and consider timing. During your travels in China, you can use various mobile apps or websites to check transportation information, buy tickets, and book taxis, such as Ctrip, Qunar, Didi, etc. However, when traveling alone, be cautious in choosing services ...

  4. 10 day trip to China : r/travelchina

    FWIW, the Beijing Shanghai ride is pretty boring since you are on the Central China Plain which is hella flat. For interesting scenery, look for mountains which are on the south and west half of the country. 10 days is a bit short, you can do. Beijing, Xi'an Chengdu - There is Pinyao between Beijing and Xi'an. Mt Hua and Terra Cotta warriors in ...

  5. Is Trip.com legit for foreigner-friendly hotels? and is the Xi ...

    It seems like Trip.com is the recommended hotel booking site for foreigners finding accommodation in China. If you download Alipay, there's a whole English travel guide you can read up on. There's also links to very helpful utilities like Trip, Didi (for ride hailing), and QR code payment when you buy things in China (since lots of places ...

  6. Advice for travelling around China : r/travel

    I have relatives in Shanghai who just came back for the summer (jan-may 23), the CIA travel warnings are absurdly overstated. I saw earlier today about a "reconsider travel" warning to France, the UK and Denmark because of terrorism. Honestly! Denmark! If you don't cause a scene China is certainly as safe and pleasant as SK, Japan, and what ...

  7. My first solo trip to China

    ADMIN MOD. My first solo trip to China - success! Asia. Last year I decided to take the trip of a lifetime! SO many people called me crazy for wanting to go to China by myself. It was an eye opening experience and not nearly as intimidating as I was expecting! Truly the hardest part is working up the courage to book those flights.

  8. Best China (travel) Posts

    My favorite china guizhou ma ling river canyon, ten thousand horses pentium waterfall. 2.7K 73. Share. Find the best posts and communities about China (travel) on Reddit.

  9. Travelling China as a foreigner: post-pandemic update

    155 reviews. 296 helpful votes. Travelling China as a foreigner: post-pandemic update. 1 year ago. I am currently in China- been here for a week and I must be among the first batch of foreigners visiting after the pandemic, so I thought I'd report back on all the practical issues I have encountered. A bit of background- My first visit was 25 ...

  10. 20 tips on China to make your visit easier

    Point the iPhone at a Chinese menu and get an instant translation. 4. Customize your gifts. Have fine items made by hand and to order - a neon sign of your name, pair of riding boots, set of ...

  11. 20 Top First China Trip Tips

    Find out more about the busy periods to avoid in China. Recommended tour: 13-Day A Broad Taste of China (Beijing - Xi'an - Chengdu - Guilin - Hong Kong) 11-Day Classic Wonders (Beijing - Xi'an - Guilin/Yangshuo - Shanghai) 6. High-speed rail is better than flying for some journeys. A high-speed train in China.

  12. 11 Things You Should Know Before You Visit China

    These 11 China travel tips will help you better understand the culture, know what to do, and make the most out of your trip. Here's what to know about traveling to China before you go: 11 travel tips to make the most out of your holiday. ... Reddit; LinkedIn; Categories Asia, China, Destinations, Travel Inspiration. Written by Claire Martin.

  13. 65 Useful Tips for Travelling in China (Backpacker's Guide)

    Money in China. 5 - The Chinese Renminbi is the official currency of China: China's official currency is the Renminbi or RMB, denoted using ¥. The current exchange rate is $1 = ¥6.94 as of January 2020. Check XE.com for the latest rates.. 6 - There are different ways to refer to the Renminbi: Rather than saying "this item costs X renminbi", most Chinese people refer to prices using ...

  14. The Top 15 Apps for China Travelers

    Navigation Apps. 4. Google Maps (Free) Google Maps is the best comprehensive maps service throughout China, as it is fully available in English and makes it easy to navigate around even if you don't speak the language. Now google, facebook, twitter, youtube, and instgram have been blocked by China firewall.

  15. The Ultimate Solo Travel in China Guide

    09. Jan. China is many things. Crazy, overwhelming and unique are all words that could be used to describe this Asian country. Solo travel in China can seem pretty daunting - it's often near impossible to know exactly what is going on while exploring the country, especially if you have little grasp of the language.

  16. 1 Week in China: A 7 Day China Itinerary and Travel Guide

    In this China itinerary I am not including Hong Kong or Macau since they alone will need at least 3-4 days and worth a trip alone for that region. This one week China itinerary will be structured like this: - 3 Days in Beijing. - 2 or 3 days in Shanghai. - 1 or 2 additional days in Xi'An or day trips from Shanghai.

  17. The ultimate 2 weeks China itinerary

    The perfect 2 weeks China itinerary. Day 1 & 2 - Beijing | 2 days exploring the capital. Day 3 & 4 - Great Wall of China | Hiking the Great Wall. Day 5 - Beijing to Xian | Travel day + Xi'an city sites. Day 6 & 7 Xian | Walking the city walls & Terracotta Army. Day 8 - Xian to Chengdu | Travel day + Chengdu walking tour.

  18. 2-Week China Itineraries: Where to Go & Routes (2024)

    1. The Classic 2-Week Itinerary for First-Timers. Beijing - Xi'an - Zhangjiajie - Guilin - Shanghai. If it would be your first time to visit China, you are recommended to consider this itinerary. Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai offer classic cultural attractions. Guilin and Zhangjiajie are recommended for enjoying China's iconic natural ...

  19. How to Plan a 10-Day Itinerary in China (Best 5 Options)

    1. A Classic 10-Day China Itinerary for Couples and Families. For first-time visitors, we recommend visiting Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, and Shanghai. These four cities offer the best opportunities to explore China's top attractions, rich culture, and stunning natural scenery: Days 1‒3: Beijing. Days 4‒5: Xi'an. Days 6‒8: Guilin. Days 9‒10 ...

  20. 33 Best Things To Know Before Visiting China 2024

    Always opt for bottled water, which is widely available and inexpensive. Even in hotels and restaurants, it's better to use bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth. This precaution is a must-know before visiting China, ensuring you avoid any health issues during your trip. 13. Air Quality and Health Precautions.

  21. Best Cities to Visit in China, China Most Popular Travel Destinations

    It is not easy to organize an itinerary to all these attractions on your own. For a first trip to China, most choose to visit the Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, view the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, and see the Shanghai skyline and enjoy stunning scenery in Guilin. These are our bestsellers, featuring the best cities to visit in China:. The Golden Triangle — See Beijing, Xi'an ...

  22. The Cost of Travel in China: My 2024 Budget Breakdown

    Most cities also offer 1-7 day passes which are often good value, especially anywhere that you'll be regularly using the metro to get around. For example, the fare for a 1-day pass in Shanghai was $2.50 (18 CNY), while the fare for a 3-day pass was $6.25 (45 CNY). Definitely pretty reasonable!

  23. Why Is Putin in Vietnam?

    For Vietnam, Mr. Putin's trip will be an opportunity to solidify ties with Russia, its most important defense partner. Even though it has upgraded relations with the United States, Vietnam was ...

  24. Putin in North Korea: Russian leader makes rare visit, Kim Jong Un

    Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit North Korea for a two-day visit starting Tuesday. He's expected to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for talks as they deepen their alignment in the face of separate, intensifying confrontations with Washington. It will be Putin's first trip to North Korea in 24 years.

  25. Demi Moore on Full Frontal Nudity in 'The Substance'

    Demi Moore's new film, the feminist body horror "The Substance," sees Demi Moore bare it all, with several scenes featuring full nudity.