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China Travel Guide: Everything you should know

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China, located in East Asia, is the third-largest country in the world by land area. It is one of the four ancient civilizations of the world, boasting a rich history of over five thousand years of the "Chinese civilization" inheritance. China is endowed with abundant natural resources, including mountains, rivers, lakes, deserts, grasslands, and even hills and caves. At the same time, China has numerous famous historical sites and cultural landmarks. China is renowned worldwide for its charm. Iconic attractions such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall in Beijing, the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in Xi'an, the West Lake in Hangzhou, and the Elephant Trunk Hill in Guilin are just a few examples of China's diverse and distinctive offerings.

Besides all that, there are several things you should know before every travel.

 

Listen up, challenger! 

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VIST?

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The optimal times for travelling to China are during the autumn and spring seasons. Summer months often bring sweltering heat and sporadic monsoon rains, while winter can be bitterly cold. It's advisable to steer clear of public holidays, especially Chinese New Year, when travel demand surges, leading to inflated ticket prices and potential sell-outs. Due to China's vast size, with few exceptions, travel is feasible year-round. The best windows for visiting are typically May and June, as well as September and October, although these periods may coincide with crowds and potential delays. July, with its high temperatures, humidity, and heavy rainfall, is usually best avoided.

WHERE TO VIST?

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Beijing (北京), China's bustling capital, boasts a juxtaposition of modern architecture and entertainment facilities alongside temples, gardens, and ancient buildings rich with history.

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Forbidden City

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Wangfujing Avenue

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Sanlitun

Shanghai (上海) stands as one of the world's largest cities, blending traditional Chinese culture with colonial and avant-garde architectural designs. Visitors to these historically rich international metropolises can marvel at the splendid Chinese architecture and immerse themselves in the unique atmosphere of old Shanghai.

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Oriental Pearl TV Tower

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Xintiandi Shopping Centre

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The Jin Mao Tower

Hangzhou (杭州), known for its picturesque scenery and diverse cuisine, offers a delightful experience for independent travellers. Here, you can not only enjoy the beauty of the Jiangnan region's mountains and waters but also savour the local delicacies. The region's captivating natural beauty and well-preserved cultural sites have made it a beloved destination for travellers from all over.

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Xihu

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Ling Yan Monastery

Do I NEED A VISA?

Most travellers require a visa to visit China, which should be applied for at least one month in advance, but preferably three months before departure. Ensure your visa permits multiple entries if planning to visit Hong Kong before returning to mainland China. Additionally, your passport must be valid for at least six months upon entry. Visa-free access is available for visits to Hong Kong, Macao, and Hainan Island for up to 30 days. Transit visas range from 24 to 144 hours, depending on the location. Overstaying your visa may result in fines, detention, or deportation. For longer stays, consider applying for a residence permit.

 

Visa applications typically require biometric data and can be done in person or online, depending on age. Visit the China Visa Application Centre for more details.

VACCINATIONS?

When travelling to China, the World Health Organization advises vaccinations against diseases including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies, tick-borne encephalitis, polio, and tetanus. In specific situations, vaccinations for yellow fever, cholera, and Japanese Encephalitis might also be recommended.

INTERNET?

When activating international roaming, be aware that upon leaving the UK and entering China, you may encounter difficulties accessing many popular social media apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Google, and Instagram. China's rigorous internet regulations and robust firewall often restrict access to these platforms. Unless you're proficient in using VPNs to bypass these restrictions, it's advisable to visit your telecommunications provider before departure and activate international roaming to ensure uninterrupted internet access during your travels.

To stay connected while travelling in China, ensure your phone is unlocked, then purchase a Chinese prepaid SIM card. This virtual SIM card allows you to choose a plan, and receive details via email. Otherwise, you can also download the eSIM info through a QR code or manual input. It's a convenient option that eliminates the need for physical SIM cards, delivery, or registration.

eSIM providers like Chinaesim.com (no VPN needed), Gigago (no VPN needed), Airalo, Holafly, Nomad, etc.

CHARGER?

The voltage in China is 220 volts, while in the UK it's 230 volts. For appliances designed for the same voltage system, like those used in China being brought to the UK, voltage compatibility typically isn't an issue due to most appliances having a 20% voltage fluctuation range. Chargers, laptops, shavers, and similar devices often come with voltage adapters, accommodating voltages ranging from 110 volts to 240 volts.

In China, the standard plug is characterized by three flat pins and operates at 220 volts. This plug is also used in Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.

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For the UK, the standard plug features three rectangular pins and operates at a voltage range of 220 volts to 250 volts. This plug is used in the UK, China's Hong Kong region, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Maldives, Qatar, and other countries and regions.

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*An adapter is required

ACCESSIBLE DIGITAL PAYMENTS

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When in the UK, make sure to download both WeChat and Alipay to your phone. In China, electronic payments and QR code scanning for menus have been prevalent for years. You can scan the menu, order, and pay using these apps, making your outings smoother and more convenient.

If your account is not verified, you can still scan information but won't be able to make payments. Verified accounts offer added benefits, like avoiding the hassle of carrying or exchanging cash. With electronic payments, you can easily manage your expenses and enjoy shopping and dining without worrying about cash loss or credit card theft.

LIFE STYLE & TRAVEL APP

Here's a brief overview of four useful and practical lifestyle and travel apps that you should download:

  • Dianping (大众点评): This app allows you to check information about local businesses and their latest promotions.

  • Xiaohongshu (小红书): Xiaohongshu provides travel recommendations and tips from other users, making it a handy resource for planning your trip.

  • DiDi Chuxing (滴滴出行): DiDi is a convenient app for booking rides, providing accurate fare estimates to avoid being overcharged.

  • Amap (高德地图): Amap offers precise navigation and taxi-hailing services, making it an essential tool for getting around.

 

Dianping (大众点评)

Xiaohongshu (小红书)

DiDi Chuxing (滴滴出行)

Amap (高德地图)

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*A map has recently started offering taxi services in 2024, often with many coupons available for users. By using Amap to book rides, you can enjoy even cheaper prices compared to DiDi Chuxing!

CHINESE CUISINE AND TEA

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Chinese cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious, with each region boasting its unique flavours and specialities. From the fiery dishes of Szechuan to the delicate flavours of Cantonese cuisine, there's something to tantalize every taste bud.

Get ready for a culinary adventure that will take you from the familiar to the exotic, with ingredients like sea vegetables and exotic seafood awaiting your exploration. While you may recognize some names from Chinese dishes you've tried in the West, be prepared for a whole new world of taste sensations.

And let's not forget about tea! China's rich tea culture dates back centuries, and you'll find a wide variety of teas to sample, from fragrant oolong to soothing green tea. So sip, savour, and enjoy the flavours of China's culinary heritage—it's an experience you won't soon forget!

CHINESE LANGUAGE

Travelling to China without knowing the language might pose challenges, especially if you wander off the main roads. But fear not! With a grasp of basic Chinese, you'll find navigating China much easier, ensuring a richer travel experience. As someone who's studied Chinese extensively and explored China many times, I highly recommend brushing up on the essentials before your trip.

Red Lantern

Now you have a list of what to prepare before a journey to China. We know this can be intimidating but it is important to remember that they will respect you for trying to communicate with them in their language.

For more help mastering this situation and others, you can book some Mandarin lessons with one of our teachers. We also run tons of cultural experiences so get ready to immerse yourself in the Eastern world!  

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