Travel Practicalities - Travelling in China

Climate and weather in China
When to go to China
How to get there
Visas and travel documents
Chinese food
Health & safety
Shopping in China
Languages in China
What to bring on a tour

Climate & weather in China
The diversity of China’s landscape and climate is mesmerising. The vast area of China has a range of climates varying from sublime coastlines to snow capped mountains, sizzling deserts, and plains fed by the monsoon.

The country’s climate is largely dominated by monsoon winds. It causes clear temperature differences in the winter and summer. In winter, northerly winds coming in from high latitude areas are cold and dry, and in summer, southerly winds from sea areas at lower longitudes are warm and moist. In addition, climates differ from region to region because of the country's extensive territory and complex topography. While the south-eastern part of country enjoys warm and hot weather all year round, North China, including Manchuria, has extremely cold winters of almost Siberian severity.

One other important feature of China’s climate is latitude. While most of the country has warm to hot summers, there is a great difference in winter temperatures both from north to south and from the western provinces to the coastal regions.

China is vast, and the climate and conditions vary widely from region to region. Before travelling to China it is advisable to check the weather conditions first to make sure you pack your suitcase accordingly.

When to go to China
Choosing the best time to visit China depends on which places you wish to visit, what type of holiday you want to experience and what type of weather you are comfortable with.

Traditionally May, September and October are the peak tourist months, when the weather is most comfortable, but prices are higher, and it is more crowded. Prices drop a bit in the shoulder season, which runs from late March through to April and from June through August. The low season arrives in late November, and continues through the winter when there are fewer crowds and the prices are lower.

How to get there
Most travellers arrive to China by air or rail.

By air
There are many airlines connecting China to the rest of the world. British Airways, China Airlines and all major European carriers take you to many major cities in China. There are also a number of Middle East airlines serving flights to China including Etihad, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and others offering a great opportunity to visit destinations on your way to Asia, like Doha, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, etc.

By rail
Being is the last (or first) stop on the famous Trans Siberian railway. Many travellers continue their journey in China after completing the legendary railway trip. China has good train connection with Russia, Mongolia and Vietnam.

Visas and travel documents
Chinese visas are included are in the cost of our standard packages and we can advise on all aspects of obtaining Chinese tourist visas.

Most nationalities require a visa to enter China as tourists. Since 2013 the Chinese government introduced visa – free regime for transiting passengers staying in China less then 72 hours. A special permit is required for all travellers to Tibet.

When planning your trip, please make sure you have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of arrival into the country and there is a blank page for visa.

Chinese visa application process is very straightforward and we have compiled a detailed guide how to apply for Chinese tourist visa.

China boasts a great variety of accommodation options ranging from 5* luxury to very simple hostels and inns. Many international chains have arrived to China and at those you will enjoy great service but will probably have a less authentic experience. There are also characterful accommodation options designed in traditional Chinese style, often located in smaller courtyards.

In larger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian the hotels will offer excellent amenities and great service. The rooms will have twin / double beds, en-suite facilities, air-conditioning, TV with international channels. There will be a choice of restaurants. Gyms, laundry service, beauty treatments and swimming pools are also available in many of the hotels. You can also expect the staff to speak English.

We normally use top quality 4 or 5* hotels on our tours that are known for their excellent customer service, cleanness, location and service quality. But bear in mind that China is a developing economy and professional hospitality is a young industry, so be prepared to for lower standards than you’d expect in Europe or the US.

If you are travelling independently and are on a budget there are also 3* hotels available. They are usually Chinese – managed and have fewer amenities and are poorer maintained. Three star accommodation in China can be recommended to travellers for whom comfort and quality is not a priority.

Tibet is a less developed area in terms of tourism and the quality of the accommodation is much simpler.

It is very easy and affordable to travel across China by plane. With 132 airports dotted around the country, air travel is the most convenient way of getting from one place to another in this vast country. Local airlines are reliable and offer high standard services.

By road
The national road network spans over 1.075 million km (667.974 miles) and keeps growing. Traffic is often congested and driving can be stressful.

By train
Chinese railways offer traditional overnight trains to travel between cities with “hard-sleeper” – open plan carriage, “soft-sleeper” – 4 berth compartments, and “deluxe” – 2 berth compartments on selected trains. There are also brand new bullet trains between major cities, with various classes from standard seats to business-class.

Chinese food
"The Chinese eat everything with four legs, except tables, and everything that flies, except airplanes”, as the proverb says. It is true that Chinese use a variety of plants and animals in their kitchens. This has given rise to a remarkable diversity of regional cuisine, but to westerners it can be overwhelming - surprising, fantastic, delicious and challenging- but above all, it is different. Authentic Chinese cuisine differs significantly from the Chinese food as we know it in western world. Be bold and don’t be afraid to try local dishes even if you think ‘this can’t be edible!’

There are eight styles of distinct regional cooking in China - Lu, Chuan, Yue, Min, Su, Zhe, Xiang and Hui.

Each culinary style is inseparable from its long history and it has been influenced by geography, climate, resources, specialties and the dining habits of each area. Jiangsu and Zhejiang have been compared to delicate beauties of the Yangtze River Delta; those of Shandong and Anhui have been compared to simple but sturdy men of the north; those of Guangdong and Fujian are compared to elegant nobles; those of Sichuan and Hunan are likened to people with substantial and varied accomplishments.

Tea culture is an important part of Chinese traditional culture. With social development and progress, tea has not only has played a role in driving the economy, but also it has become a necessity in people’s lives.

All our tours are based on full board unless specified otherwise, and meals will be slightly adapted to western tastes.

Health & safety
Statistically, China remains one of the safest countries in the world to visit. However, remain alert and keep your valuables, including passport, in a secure place. In public places, ensure you keep your belongings with you at all times.

There are no compulsory vaccinations required for China, the only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever. Proof of vaccination will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow fever zone six days prior to entering China.

Travellers to Tibet should be aware of the dangers of altitude sickness.

The World Health Organization ( recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, regardless of their destination. You should start as early as 6 weeks before your trip start date as most vaccines don’t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given.

Seek medical advice before travelling to China and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.

For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention visit the websites of the UK National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC)

Please also note that healthcare is not provided free of charge in China and medical bills can be expensive. Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance covering healthcare for the duration of your stay.

Please also read travel advice for China compiled by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office -

Please note the information in this section is given only as guidance. Always seek your doctor’s advice. We accept no responsibility for any errors or omissions.

China is no longer a cheap destination. However, costs vary depending on the destination and time of your travel. Peak tourism season falls in May, September and October. If you travel in the shoulder season you can save on accommodation, flights, rail tickets and other services. The most expensive destinations are Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, the eastern coastal provinces and Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Beijing and Shanghai can be quite expensive. Western China, south-western China and the interior remain relatively inexpensive.

ATMs are available in large towns and cities. Large airports such as Beijing Capital Airport, five-star hotels and some department stores have ATMs. Most other ATMs in China can only be used for withdrawing Renminbi from domestic accounts.

For a comprehensive list you can use online ATM locator facility. Our local guides will be able to assist you in find the nearest ATM or a bank.

Credit cards
Credit cards are not popular in China. Cards that can be used include Visa, MasterCard, AmEx and JCB. Don’t expect to be able to use them everywhere, and always carry enough cash. You should be able to use credit cards at upmarket hotels and restaurants, supermarkets and department stores. Where they are accepted, credit cards often deliver a slightly better exchange rate than in banks. Money can also be withdrawn at certain ATMs in large cities on credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Amex.

Currency and rates
The Renminbi is the official currency of the People's Republic of China. It is abbreviated as RMB, and the units for the Renminbi are the Yuan, Jiao, and Fen: 1 Yuan = 10 Jiao = 100 Fen. Approximate rates: £1 = 10 Chinese yuan, $1 = 6 Chinese yuan, EUR1 = 8 Chinese yuan. View current yuan rates.

Shopping in China
Please note, no obligatory shopping is included during our tours. If you have any shopping ideas please let your local guide know who will be able to advise you on the best places and prices. There are plenty of unique items you can bring home from China. The best buys in China are:
  • Antiques, paintings and calligraphy
  • Handicrafts including jade, porcelain, etc.
  • Silk
  • Fresh water pearls
  • Chinese medicines
Unfortunately there are a number of fake and counterfeited products sold in China, especially on street stands. We advise shopping accompanied by local guides or in bigger departments Always ask for a receipt.

Antiquities to be taken out of China must bear a wax seal certified and be stamped by the National Administration for the Preservation of Cultural Relics. The Administration has officers at various department stores and antique markets to help tourists verify their purchases.

There are no quantitative restrictions imposed on the foreign currencies or traveller’s cheques brought into China. However any currency in excess of an equivalent of $5,000 should be declared to the customs. The limit of RMB allowed to bring in or take out is 20,000 yuan.

Upon arrival tourists must fill out a baggage declaration form and hand it in to customs, retaining the carbon copy to show upon exit. Personal belongings will be admitted duty free.

Please read more on the official Chinese Customs Website for current regulations on what is allowed into the country and duty-free limits.

Languages in China
Standard Mandarin is the official language of People’s Republic of China. Mandarin is also the most spoken language in China (spoken by over 70% of the population). Other spoken languages include Wu, Yue (Cantonese), Min, Xiang, Gan, and Hakka. Non-Sinitic languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Zhuang (Thai), Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur (Turkic), Hmong and Korean.

English is not widely spoken, especially in small cities and rural areas. In larger cities and tourist areas you should be able to communicate with younger people in basic English.

Standard voltage in China is 220 V which is compatible with Europe, Australia and most Asian and African countries where the standard voltage is between 220V - 240V.

For travellers from the US, Canada or South America where standard voltage is in the range of 100V - 127V a power converter will be required which is a quite heavy item. Power converters are normally required for electrical devices like hair dryer, curlers, irons or electric shavers. As you are very unlikely to bring any hair driers, irons with you on a tour (as these are available at most hotels now), just a plug adaptor should be sufficient. Sockets for electric shavers are also available now at most hotels.

If a label on your appliance reads “INPUT: 100-240V, 50/60 Hz”, it can be used all over the world (e.g. chargers for tablets, laptops, cameras, phones).

The plugs used in China are:
  • Type C or F (“German standard”), i.e. a 2 pin European adaptor will be required.
  • Type I common in Australia and New Zealand
If you don't buy an adaptor before your trip, please do not worry. You will be able to purchase one very cheaply in China. Your hotel should also be able to provide you one for free during your stay.

What to bring on a tour
Pack lightly, and bring casual clothes. A pair of comfortable walking shoes is a must. If you are travelling in northern China during winter, prepare yourself for cold weather conditions. If required, many high quality daily articles and food items can be purchased in most large malls, department stores and hotels in China. If you are going to travel to some more remote areas, items such as shaving cream, decent razors, mosquito repellent, deodorant, dental floss and contact lens solution may not be readily available. Make sure you bring enough with you on a tour.

Following items are highly recommended on a tour to China:
  • Comfortable walking shoes and sandals
  • Lightweight long underwear, top and bottom
  • Fleece jacket
  • Windbreaker, waterproof / breathable
  • Rain jacket / poncho
  • Backpack, day pack
  • Water bottles
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunhat and sunglasses (100% UV)
  • Personal toiletries (including shampoo & toothpaste)
  • Personal medications
  • Treatments against diarrhoea and other stomach problems

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