In China tourism is a relatively new sector of the economy, but the country has long held a lasting mystique over visitors for centuries. From the time of the Silk Road, explorers and adventurers have come to the country and left awestruck by the wealth, culture, diversity, and sheer beauty. Deciding where to go in China can be difficult, so use this Travel Guide to help narrow down the option a little!
Remnants of China’s long and proud history are spread throughout the country. From temples and palaces of old dynasties to perhaps the most impressive fortification ever made, the past is alive and well here. The striking natural beauty of China, from rugged and harsh mountains to serene and calm rivers, is ready to be discovered. If that wasn’t enough, the progress made by China over the last several decades means some of the biggest and most important cities in the world are found here, marrying the traditional with the ultra modern. Plus, if you’re looking to let loose, any of the major cities on this list are great bets for fantastic nightlife.
China tourism: Transportation
Recently the transportation infrastructure within China has expanded rapidly. Rail is still the most widely used method of transportation and can be used to reach most of the country. Within most major cities, you can find subways/urban rail in various states of operation. The road network is being expanded, though it’s comprehensiveness various significantly throughout China. In high population centre’s (especially along the coast), roads will get you where you need to go but they can be unreliable in the countrysides. Air travel is also rapidly expanding, with China second only to the United States in number of passengers carried.
Like most large countries, China has a very diverse climate and can be visited any time of the year depending on where you plan on going. As a whole, fall (especially September and October) is often the ideal season to visit. Spring is also nice, but it can be more unpredictable than fall. Summer can get very hot with a lot of rain however it is still a viable time to go — but be wary of smog in big cities. In the North and high-altitude regions the temperature will drop well below freezing and snow is not uncommon. May, October, summer holiday, and winter holiday are often the busiest times of the year for tourists, so avoid these dates if you want to try and save some money, run into less crowds, and have an easier time booking lodging.
China Tourism Guide
Beijing | Chengdu | The Great Wall | Guilin, the Li River, and Yangshuo | Hong Kong | Huangshan | Shanghai | Tibet
It’s the capital of China and one of the most historical cities in the world — and no trip to China is complete without it. The story of Beijing begins over three millennia ago, and it’s arguably more important than ever today. There is a whopping seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city. Perhaps the most well known is the Forbidden City, which was the home of the palace from the Ming through the Qing dynasty. While the sheer amount of historical relics is staggering, Beijing is a true modern global city. New buildings (including those built for the 2008 Summer Olympics), some of the best restaurants in the world, and near countless cultural events make Beijing the place to be, no matter what century you’re from.
First off, Shanghai is the largest city in the world. In other words, the chance that you’ll find something interesting to do is pretty much certain. Like other huge cities including London, New York, and Mumbai there is constant activity and a great atmosphere. Evidence of Shanghai’s rise is everywhere, from the bright lights to the impressive skyline. Be sure to check out the Bund to get a taste of the city’s elegance. Shanghai may not have the history or cultural clout of Beijing, but experiencing the lifestyle of one of the world’s major metropolises is worth the trip. Take care not to lose yourself in the staggering amount of people and you’ll find a city just waiting to be unlocked.
It’s another large and important city, but Hong Kong has a distinctly different feel to the rest of China. Until 1997, Hong Kong was under British rule and this influence can still be seen and felt today. Though the city is predominantly known for it’s towering skyscrapers and commercial importance, there is also an extremely diverse and deep culture to Hong Kong. Take in a Cantonese opera, spend your money in some of the best shopping districts in China, or relax on a beach. In addition, Hong Kong is often considered to have the best and widest range of food in Asia, with all sorts of cuisine on offer. When you’ve had your fill, take a trip up Victoria Peak for an unforgettable view over the eponymous harbour and the city as a whole.In mainland China tourism is the first exposure that much of the country has had to the world at large, but internationalism is part of Hong Kongs DNA.
Guilin, the Li River, and Yangshuo
One of the first cities to open up for international visitors, Guilin has always made a lasting impression on anyone who makes the trip. Several US presidents have toured the area, with Richard Nixon even proclaiming, “I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin.” The man’s integrity aside, it can’t be argued that Guilin is uniquely placed in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. In particular, the Li River and surrounding karst landscape have been inspiration to artists for centuries, and once you go there it’s easy to see why. Hills and cliffs surround a serene waterway to create a fairy-tale setting. Taking a river cruise down the Li from Guilin to Yangshuo is one of the best, and most relaxing ways to take in the idyllic landscape. In Yangshuo, you’ll find food and beer straight out of the West to relax with and take you back down to earth.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is the most iconic landmark in, well, China. Depending on who’s measuring, the entire conglomeration of structures extends for around 21,000 km. In other words, you’re not going to see it all but there are a number of places you can go to see and even climb on the wall. Bādálǐng is the easiest to reach (an easy day trip from Beijing) but it’s the most touristy and you’ll have to deal with crowds. Other options close to Beijing include Huánghuā Chéng, which is known for very steep sections, and Mùtiányù. If you have the time, there’s Jīnshānlǐng which is much more remote but impressive all the same.
Pandas. The cuddly looking bears are the reason Chengdu is a popular stop for people from all over the world. The Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center is the most well known place to see the animal, though there are other sanctuaries outside of the city. Beyond panda’s, the capital of Sichuan province is home to an abundance of cultural sights and structures both modern and traditional. If you like spicy food then Sichuan is the place to be as the region is famous for its cuisine.
A land seemingly nestled in the clouds; Tibet has a wondrous otherworldly feel. Entering through the capital Lhasa will provide you with an opportunity to visit the impressive Potala Palace – the symbol of Tibet – or one of the many religious and cultural centres. Venturing off into the untamed wilds of the Tibetan plateau will provide some of the most rewarding experiences of your Chinese trip. Climb rugged trails, drive on stunning roads, or just sit and gaze in awe of the natural beauty and views that surround you – including the North face of Mt. Everest. When all is said and done, traversing the land known as the roof of the world will leave you gasping for breath, in more ways than one.
Also known as the Yellow Mountains, this range may not have the altitude of the Himalayas but it is perhaps even more beautiful. Massive cliffs with odd-looking pine trees dominate the landscape. Ravines, hot springs, and serene villages can also be found throughout the region if you’re willing to explore. The mist that blankets the environment gives it an even more mystic allure. Cable cars and hotels for tourists nestled on the top of peaks make exploration relatively simple though you might find the area to be inundated with sightseers depending on where you are.
China Tourism Guide: Cost
As with most far away countries, getting there is often the trickiest and most expensive part. With China, there can be a huge variety in flight price depending on what airline you’re traveling with and when. For example, flights can range from less than $800 Canadian to over $2500. Definitely look into layovers instead of nonstop flights for potential savings. Play around with your arrival/departure dates as well as your airline of choice and final destination to see the best possible rates you can get.
Once you get to China you could, on average, expect to spend about $113 per day including $75 for accommodation and $18 for food. If you’re thrifty, you could potentially spend as little as $40 per day. On the other hand, living in the lap of luxury could cost you around $355 per day. These prices will vary considerably depending on what you plan on doing. Well-known tourist destinations or a night out in Hong Kong will cost more than simply wandering around the countryside. In addition, if you plan on seeing a large portion of the country, expect to shell out more for transportation to get where you want to go.
China Tourism Guide: Health and Safety
The Canadian government has not issued a nationwide warning for China, however a high degree of caution is recommended throughout due to isolated violent incidents such as bombings or protests. Sporadic violence is known to occur especially in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Beyond that, petty crime is common, especially in large cities and tourist hotspots. As always, be vigilant and don’t carry unnecessarily large sums of cash. In addition, beware of extortion schemes. Taxis or other forms of transport can try to get extra money from you. Also, beware of invitations to a bar or club because you could be left with a large bill and forced to pay.
If you plan on trekking into the mountains, be sure you are traveling with someone else and you have a reputable guide. Register with the nearest Canadian government office. Most of all, be sure you are prepared for dangers such as altitude sickness, among others. Make sure you are in top physical condition before you attempt a long trek, as mistakes can be potentially fatal. Also, it’s worth paying for health insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation if worst comes to worst.
These are just a few examples of where to go in China, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list, let us know in the comments. Check out our past Country of the Week for more general information about the history and culture of China.
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