Useful Travel Tips for Your First Trip to China

China is a time-honored and fascinating country that offers a wealth of cultural heritage and natural scenery. From the bustling cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to the enchanted natural landscapes of Guilin, Huangshan, and Zhangjiajie, China has become one of the most popular holiday destinations for every kind of tourist. China has such an abundance of tourist attractions and traditions that it is really worth a visit. However, planning a trip to China and traveling throughout the country can be daunting, especially if you've never been there before. So careful preparation for the trip to China is essential. Today, we'll provide some tips and suggestions to help make your visit to China a success.

Obtain A Passport and Visa

When traveling abroad, you must have a passport and a visa. Before you can visit China, you'll need to obtain a passport and visa. For most visitors, a standard tourist visa is required. The passport is equivalent to individual identification, and the visa is equivalent to a pass into the country of destination. It is critical to distinguish between "enter before" and the duration of a Chinese tourist visa. "Enter Before" shows the latest time to enter China, and "Duration" tells how long you can stay in China. Generally, "Enter Before" will last 3 or 6 months, and you can stay in China for 1 to 3 months, so pay attention to your tour time. The visa application process can be time-consuming, so it's important to plan and apply early before your trip. To apply for a Chinese visa, you'll need to provide a valid passport, a completed visa application form, a passport photo, and documentation of your travel information, such as travel dates, a travel itinerary, and temporary accommodation. You may also be required to provide a letter of invitation if you're visiting friends or family in China.

VPN: Be Prepared for Internet Restrictions

China has always valued network security and thus provides a strictly secure firewall for its massive internet users. That is, Chinese smartphones and computers have no direct access to overseas websites, so you can't visit some popular sites and social media platforms like Google, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in normal circumstances in China. If you need to use these sites, you can use a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass the restrictions. Purchasing a VPN may be an effective means of visiting overseas websites successfully. You just register a new account and apply for permission. A VPN makes it appear as though you are connecting from the US or Australia even though you are actually in China by masking the computer's IP address. It is simple, flexible, and convenient. However, be aware that VPNs are also subject to censorship and may not always work.

Language: Learn Some Basic Chinese

Mandarin is the official language in China. Although there are many dialects in China, people from different regions still communicate mainly in Mandarin. Although English is widely spoken in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, locals in most regions, especially in rural areas, are not able to speak the language. So it's still a good idea to learn some commonly used Mandarin and Chinese characters before you go. This will help you navigate the country and communicate with locals outside of major tourist areas. Some basic phrases to learn include:
Ni hao (hello)
Xiexie (thank you)
Qing wen/Da rao yi xia (Excuse me)

It's also helpful to learn how to say basic numbers, directions, and question phrases, as well as how to order food in a restaurant. They are:
Yi (one), San (three), Wu (five), Yi Bai (one hundred), and so on.
Zuo (left), You (right), Dong (east), Xi (west), Nan (south), and Bei (north)
Duo jiu (how long), Duo shao qian (how much)

It's also suggested that you learn some Chinese characters so that you can basically understand local menus and some public signs, but don't worry too much because most menus and signs in large cities come with an English version.

In addition, China has a unique culture and customs that may be different from what you're used to, so you may be prepared for cultural differences. Some things to be aware of include:

Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites or more conservative areas. Avoid touching people's heads, as this is considered disrespectful.

Don't take photos of people without their permission, especially in rural areas.

Tipping is not customary in China, so you don't need to leave a tip at restaurants or for other services.

In some areas, it's common to use chopsticks instead of a fork and knife. If you're not used to using chopsticks, you can practice before you go.

Chinese people may seem more reserved than you're used to, so don't take it personally if someone doesn't smile or engage in small talk with you.

Plan Your Itinerary

China is a vast country with a rich cultural heritage and many popular tourist destinations. The variety of tourist attractions will spoil you for choice, so it's important to plan your itinerary carefully to make the most of your time in China. Some popular destinations include:

Beijing: The capital of China is home to many famous landmarks, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace. Hiking the Great Wall must be a travel experience not to be missed. Besides some popular attractions, Beijing is known for the Hutong, traditional alleys in old towns, where you can experience the fascinating Hutong culture. You can also celebrate some major festivals like the Spring Festival and the Lantern Festival during the winter.

Hutongs, BeijingHutongs, Beijing

Shanghai: China's largest city, is praised as the "Paris of the East." It is a hub of commerce and culture, with a thriving arts and entertainment scene. Shanghai has a fascinating fusion of modern dynamics and historical precipitation. You can enjoy world-class various arts and inspiring entertainment in Shanghai. Shanghai's nature-oriented parks have enchanting flowers and animals to offer.

The Bund, ShanghaiThe Bund, Shanghai

Xi'an: This ancient city is home to the famous Terracotta Warriors, as well as many other historical sites. The city is full of Chinese civilization and culture, with a history spanning more than 7,000 years. It's a wonderful experience to visit the Qin Terracotta Army and walk along the Ancient City Wall to enjoy the antique beauty of the city.

Guilin: Known for its stunning natural scenery, Guilin is a popular destination for hiking and outdoor activities. Spring and autumn offer Guilin picturesque scenery, including the eye-catching Li River, mountains, and alluring Longji Rice Terraces. One of the must-do activities is to take a relaxing Li River cruise by bamboo raft. What's more, visiting the local village is a wonderful way to experience local special customs.

Li River, GuilinLi River, Guilin

Hangzhou: The city has always been an ideal destination for Chinese poets and literati since ancient times. Hangzhou is home to the world-famous West Lake. The West Lake consists of more than breathtaking tourist spots like the Su Causeway, the Broken Bridge, Leifeng Tower, and Lingyin Temple. Hangzhou has many remarkable fascinations, with a wonderful blend of ancient architecture and dreamlike nature. It's suggested that you visit Hangzhou's attractions on foot or by cruise.

When planning your itinerary, consider the time of year you'll be visiting and the weather conditions in each destination.

Transportation: Getting to the Destination

China has built a comprehensive aviation and waterway system and a railway system nearly covering the whole country. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong serve as the country's major airport hubs, from which domestic flights can be taken to all significant cities across China and international flights to major cities worldwide. Depending on your location, there may be direct flights available, or you may need to make a connecting flight.

Generally, it's advisable to take a domestic flight during long-distance intercity travel for speed and time savings. It usually takes 2 or 3 hours to get from one city to another, and a high-speed train is more suitable for short-distance intercity travel. On the one hand, high-speed rail stations may be closer to city centers than airports, so a high-speed train may even be faster than a plane on a short trip. In addition, air tickets are expensive during the peak season, while high-speed rail fares remain unchanged.

For transportation between a city's attractions, many tourist cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Chongqing have subway systems. Online car-hailing services, including fast rides, tailored taxi services, ride-sharing, and carpools, are available in China. Bicycle sharing is also widespread in China, and you can see a great number of orderly bicycles lined up on both sides of the streets. Riding a shared bike is an inexpensive and relaxing way to explore the destination. Of course, if you travel with Odynovo, you'll have a private car and driver throughout your trip.


China has a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. Many types of hotels are readily available around well-known tourist attractions. Depending on your budget and preferences, you can choose to stay in a traditional guesthouse, an idyllic hotel, or a modern hotel. High-class hotels in large cities provide quality and attentive room service to make sure tourists have a good time for relaxation. Ensure that you book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.

Use Mobile Payment Instead of Credit Cards

You can surprisingly find nearly all vendors around tourist attractions prepare a collection code for consumers. That means you can just use a mobile phone, with no need for cash or credit cards, to buy everything you want. If you prefer mobile payment in China for convenience, you can download the Alipay overseas edition and apply for an electronic consumer card. While credit cards or cash are less and less used in most major cities, using cash or credit card is still available in China. The currency of China is the Chinese yuan (CNY or RMB). It's a good idea to exchange your currency before your trip or withdraw cash from ATMs to allow for emergencies. Be sure to notify your bank before you go, so they don't flag your transactions as fraudulent.

Other Suggestions

Medication: Aspirin or a pain reliever to control pain caused by or after long-term exercise. Diarrhea medicine if you are unfamiliar with the Chinese diet at first. Motion sickness medicine is recommended if you always get car sick during long-distance travel. When used locally, allergy medicine can cure food allergies as well as other allergic reactions such as rhinitis. Personal prescriptions may be required if certain Western medicines are not readily available in certain areas of China.

Electronics: Except for Taiwan, where 110V is widely used, China uses 220V and type of wall outlets. Most mobile and wall sockets in China include a Type A (2-thin-pin) socket or a compound two-prong socket. Most Chinese outlets have a bottom socket that accepts Type I (3-thin-pin) and Types A (2-thin-pin) plugs, so it's useful to take a charger with a 2-thin-pin plug. Last, it's advisable to carry a mobile power source if you spend most of your visiting time outside.

Bargain for everything: Do as the Romans do in Rome. Bargaining for an item is quite common in China. Chinese people, especially the elderly, are accustomed to bargaining with sellers when they go shopping. So having the ability to haggle with vendors is beneficial. If you are successful, you will be able to obtain what you want at a lower price. Of course, it will be difficult if you're doing that for the first time.

Be prepared for crowds: China is a popular tourist destination, and many popular attractions can be crowded, especially during peak travel seasons. It's important to be patient and prepared for crowds when visiting popular sites like the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors. Consider visiting these sites early in the morning or later in the day to avoid crowds. In addition, try to avoid traveling during some public holidays and major festivals, like May Day, National Day, or the Spring Festival.

Plan Your Trip With Odynovo

China is rich in cultural diversity and natural beauty. With each of the cities having its own characteristics, it may be a challenge to decide where to go in China. Anyway, visiting China can be an unforgettable experience. However, cultural diversity within China causes striking regional differences, so, in addition to paying attention to Chinese law and open policies, it's important to plan ahead and have a basic understanding of cultural differences such as language barriers. For the rest, weather conditions, transportation, currency, and other challenges should also be taken into account. If you have any other questions, please contact us. We're happy to offer you more information about China. What's more, we'll personalize the organization of your trip and have your itinerary customized based on your preferences. By following these tips and suggestions while traveling with Odynovo, you can help ensure a successful and enjoyable trip to China.

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