China, a communist nation in East Asia, is the world’s most populous country. Its vast landscape encompasses grassland, desert, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers and 14,500km of coastline. Beijing, the capital, mixes modern architecture with historic sites including Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Its largest city, Shanghai, is a skyscraper-studded global financial center. The iconic Great Wall of China fortification runs east-west across the country’s north.
When travelling in Beijing and in the North its recommended to have a guide that can also act as a driver, English is not as common as in other parts of the country. Also don’t plan on updating facebook and social media as you will not be able to access it in Beijing.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN CHINA
- Visit the Great Wall of China. The only man-made wonder visible from space.
- Dumplings and Dim Sim! Simply the best in China! I have met countless people who travel to China simply for the culinary experience. After all eating is a huge part of Chinese culture.
- Tianimen Square and Forbidden City in Beijing. History in an Ancient setting. Will give you a great understanding of the past and present state of China.
- 798 Art Zone. Such a wonderful contradiction of Chinese culture! 798 Art Zone completely goes against the communist system. Before embarking on a trip to China: Watch the film Ai Wei Wei, ‘Never Sorry’.
- Terracotta Army in Xian. Constructed in 246–206 BC. With the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang it took 720,000 builders and is considered as one of the world’s greatest archeological sites.
- Potala Palace in Tibet looks like a Tarrantino movie set, and was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising. It is now a museum and World Heritage Site.
- Temple of Heaven in Beijing constructed in 1420, the 18th year of the reign of Ming emperor Yongle, is one of the most magnificent buildings in China. Hard to believe it was constructed in the 1420.
- The stunning Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third-longest in the world, known in China as as the Chang Jiang or the Yangzi, the river is home to the Baiji, a beautiful unique highly endangered Dolphin. See Awareness Section for more.
- Night out in Shanghai. Shanghai is a modern, bustling city that offers great shopping, food and night life.
- Guangzhou Trade Fair. No one in the world does a trade show like the Chinese! If you’re interested in doing business with China, no matter what industry you are in you will find something for you in China.
Budget/Typical Costs :
Budget for at least $40 a day will cover you for food, drinking and transport. (if not hiring a drive or guide). Don’t hire a car for obvious communication reasons its just not worth it. A guide is not as expensive as in other countries, for the guide and the driver for the day it will cost you around $100 USD, which is fairly reasonable for an 6-8 hour day (it takes close to 4 hours to get to the Great Wall from the city) and if only visiting a few days is well worth it. If not taxis are inexpensive, however you might just be hard pressed for one to stop on the street if they do not speak English.
Food is not too dear in most of China. You can find good well-priced food in most cities in markets and on the street. A typical dish will set you back between $5-10 USD.
DO NOT PURCHASE FOOD AROUND TOURIST AREAS LIKE THE GREAT WALL! I’m speaking from experience we paid $20 for some horrible eggs thing (they saw me coming). Eat before you go!
Can vary greatly, from cheap and social to super high-end luxe. Accommodation on the cheaper side starts at just $18. Hostels in China are a great way to meet people and a great way to get involved with group activities, most offer bike riding tours through Old Beijing and even courses on how to make dumplings.
The Chinese do not like to be touched, particularly by strangers. Do not hug, back slap or put an arm around someone’s shoulder.
Do not be offended if you are pushed and shoved in a line. In some circumstances, the Chinese do not practice the art of lining up and courtesy to strangers in public places is not required.
Don’t point! Pointing the index finger is considered rude. Use both hands when handing someone an object, such as a teacup, a gift, or a business card.
Jeans and a t-shirt will be fine. Most of China is pretty Western-ized in terms of fashion. In the Northern parts people are more traditional. It’s colder in the north and in winter time so pack a good north face or similar jacket.
Chinese Visas can be a little annoying. From most Western Countries you physically have to go into the Consulate to apply for the Visa. This takes some time so plan your China visa well in advance, at least a month before planning to embark!
Varied in China, some cities offer bike tours, which is a cheap inexpensive way to check out a city. Entry into monuments and tourist hot spots costs between $20-$20 USD.
Budget at least $40 a day for activities.
China in a word: You will need to know 3 essential words/phrases when vising China:
- Wèi (way) Means Hi
- Nǐ hǎo ma? (Nee-haoww-mah?) How are you?
- Xièxie (sshyeah-sshyeah) Thank you!
CITY GUIDES: Read our City Guides here:
BEIJING SHANGHAI XI’AN GUANGZHOU SHENZHEN CHENDU