China Travel GuidE
Start Planning Your Trip to China
China is one of the hottest destinations for travelers around the world. And while visiting the “Middle Kingdom” is on many people’s wish lists, traveling to China is not always easy.
After having living, traveling, and working as an English teacher in China for over 18 months, we’ve become experts on exploring this country!
Explore this China Travel Guide
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China Travel Planning FAQ's
The official language of China is Mandarin. However, there are many traditional languages spoken by locals around the country. Further, many regions have their own dialects and unique words. This is even a challenge for local Chinese people when they travel to different parts of the country.
Do They Speak English in China?
Relatively speaking, few Chinese people are fluent in English. However, learning English is very popular among the middle class and people in the cities. Although, this is mostly among young people.
Even in the big cities the majority of the population knows little English. But that doesn’t mean you cannot travel to China. Modern technology, including apps on your SmartPhone, make it easier than every to find a way to communicate and translate.
Further, Chinese is a language based on characters. But there is “pinyin” – which is a form of Chinese which incorporates the traditional English alphabet in a way that represents the pronunciation. You will see pinyin written on many signs, including transportation.
To enter China you must have a valid passport, as well as getting a Chinese visa in advance. The process for getting a Chinese visa is fairly involved and takes some time. Plus, it costs a bit of money.
So it’s best to get your Chinese visa as soon as you can , and well before your trip.
For details, read our complete post about How to Get a Visa for China.
China uses the Yuan as their form of currency. This currency consists of paper bills primarily, as well as a few coins for the smaller denominations. However, some of the smaller denominations also have paper bills and coins. To distinguish, these smaller bills will be physically smaller in size to the standard bills.
In China, it is extremely popular to pay with a SmartPhone. In fact, most locals hardly touch cash at all — they will almost always pay with their phone and using the WeChat app.
It is recommended that you bring some Yuan currency with you on your trip. You should also contact your bank to see if your ATM card will work in China (and put a travel notice on your account). This way, you can also get money out of the ATM while in China.
** However, Chinese ATM machines are finicky! If one doesn’t work, just try another one. Sometimes, they just might not work with your overseas card. It’s also highly recommended that you have a backup ATM card for another bank – just to give you many options.
NOTE: Western credit cards such as Visa are NOT widely accepted in China. In major cities, some of the international hotels or major international restaurants might accept them. But overall, credit cards aren’t a form of payment you should depend on when inside China.
China is a massive country, similar in size to the USA. So like the US, the northern parts will be quite cold during the winter months and snowy. The southern regions tend to get quite hot, with monsoon seasons. Many large cities in China are nearby major rivers or the ocean, which means they can also get quite humid during the summer months.
It’s recommended that you research each city you plan to visit in China, and during the time of year you will visit in order to figure out how to pack for the weather.
China Travel Tips & Recommendations
One of the fascinating things about China is that it spans far ends of the spectrum. It’s a country steeped in history, yet modern mega-cities like Shanghai can look like they are from the future. There are high-speed trains zig-zagging across the country, speeding past rural farming villages where people ride rickety bicycles on dirt roads…yet talking on iPhones.
Major cities like Beijing and Shanghai are typically on visitors “must do” lists. But don’t overlook smaller cities, like Chengdu — where you will find some of the spiciest food you’ve every experienced and the most adorable pandas!
However, while many tourists flock to places like Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors and wait in long lines, more adventurous travelers can have an entirely different experience biking in Yangshuo and gazing up at the stunning karst mountain landscape. One of the most stunning regions we visited was the Yunnan region, and hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge was incredible!
Being such a massive country, it’s difficult to do it all in one trip. But we highly recommend mixing it up and trying some more unique places rather than the over-crowded touristy spots. We guarantee you the local experience and friendly people will give you something truly memorable.