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China - what to expect

China, officially the People’s Republic of China, is a country in East Asia with the highest number of population in the world. Besides, it is the third largest country by land and comes after by Russia and Canada. China share its borders with 14 countries which are Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. Furthermore it shares maritime borders with Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Tongli town, China
Tongli, a beautiful water town in China
Huangshan, The Yellow Mountain, China
Huangshan, The Yellow Mountain, China

Fast Facts

  • Official name: People’s Republic of China
  • Capital: Beijing
  • Currency:  Yuan or Renminbi. 1$ = 6.55 RMB/CNY
  • Population: 1439 M worlds most populated country
  • Official language: Chinese
  • Visa issues:  Travelers need to obtain a visa from an embassy in advance, although some foreign citizens(about 20) are granted a short visa-free tourist stay. Citizens of 53 countries can get transit visas (2 TO 5 DAYS). Click here for Visa requirements
  • Best season. China is a year-round travel destination. However, the best time to visit China is during spring(April-May) or autumn (September- October). Plz, avoid a visit when a Chinese holiday is being approached. Like Labor Day Holiday (May 1-3), Chinese National Day Holiday (October 1-7), or Chinese New Year Holiday (in late January or early to mid-February).

Top Experiences

China is too large and offers countless travel experience. Here are very few of my own taste which I am going to mention.

  • To visit the great wall of China
  • The Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Jiangsu
  • Visit the Shanghai’s Promenade,The Bund
  • Huangshan, the Magical Yellow Mountains
  • One of the water towns around Shanghai like Tongli and others.
  • Tibet, a dream destination for many tourists
Shanghai promenade, The Bund
Shanghai promenade, The Bund


By and large, China is a relatively low crime country, but petty crime is still an issue and tourists are particularly vulnerable. A basic knowledge of potential risks and common scams is useful to have a smooth and safe trip in China. Make sure that you protect your passport, tickets, visa documents, etc. by carrying them in safe way, preferably underneath clothing in a pouch or money belt. A few more points to consider

  • Never leave valuables lying around your hotel room or in your car. Use a safe deposit at your hotel. Carry a photocopy of your passport and other vital documents separately.
  • In 2019/2020, China has been in the news for unrest in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, but these areas and China generally are safe for tourists to travel.
  • The big threat right now is still Coronavirus Pandemic. Although China has overcome the issue and contained the outbreak well within its borders but still there is the underlying risk of resurgence, especially from imported infections. So, keep this thing into considerations while planning a tour to China.

Budgeting Plan

Transportation –  There are four main ways to travel inter-city which are

  • Airlines in China offer safe and comfortable service for travelers. Presently, there are about 1,279 air routes. Among them, 1,035 are domestic. The most popular airports are in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
  • The train is one of the main means of transportation in China and the national rail network is one of the biggest of the world. The total mileage of railways open to traffic in China amounts to 124 thousand kilometers. Foreigners are recommended to avoid traveling in China by train during its holidays. Click for the train booking.
  • Buses, the length of highways in China amounts to 1.18 million km, including 68 national highways and over 1600 provincial highways. Although there is a great highway network in China with a comprehensive service of express buses, it is less recommended to travel by scheduled bus due to uncomfortable conditions and long-time consumption. However, for a few hours destinations buses and trains are recommended like from Shanghai to Wuxi etc.
  • Water Ways, China has 110,000 kilometers of navigable rivers, streams, lakes, and canals, more than any country in the world. The Grand Canal is the world’s longest canal at 1,794 km and serves 17 cities between Beijing and Hangzhou. Out of many cruises the following three the Yangtze Cruises, the Li River Cruise, and the Cruise along the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal cruises known as the best waterways.
Urban Transport

Many convenient modes of transport are available in urban areas of China. Public buses, metros, taxies, bicycles are the most common options for people to choose.

  • Metro, The larger cities have metro systems in operation, under construction, or in the planning stage. This rapid underground transit is ideal for the Chinese big cities and is unchallenged in its ability to transport large amounts of people at high frequency quickly over short distances, avoiding the traffic jams.
  • Buses, In big cities, buses are numerous and the system works rather well. Even if you don’t speak Chinese, you can manage, on condition of taking a map with the names of the streets in Chinese. Do not hesitate to verify the destination with a Chinese traveler. Avoid this option during morning/evening times due to rush of start/close of offices.
  • Taxis, this mode of transport is convenient and not expensive. In big cities, all the vehicles have a meter, almost systematically used. In towns and in the province, ask at your hotel for the current price of a ride.

Accommodation -China’s accommodation scene continues to improve at pace, with most cities boasting a range of good options from budget to top-end. Luxury hotels (mostly international brands) and backpacker hostels are as good as you’ll find them in western cities. A few recommended places to stay within Shanghai and Beijing might be

  • Shanghai: In Pudong, Nanjing Road, Xuhui and the French Concession.
  • Beijing: Houhai, Chaoyang Park, and Xidan, which are more economical areas.

Online sites to plan and choose your accommodation might be (About 10~40$),  Air BnB (About 30$), Agoda(About 10 to 40$), or Hostelworld(About 10~15$). However, when you’re looking for a hostel, do your research, read reviews to get a feel for the place. and book somewhere that suits you

Food and local Dishes – Chinese love to eat, and Chinese food includes a large variety of ingredients, “the Chinese eat everything with four legs, except for tables, and everything that flies, except for airplanes”. It is the most difficult issue I ever faced throughout my travelling. In big cities like Shanghai and Beijing you can find Indian restaurant. Apart from this most of the time Rice, vegetables, and noodles remain the only option for me. Crispy Chinese pumpkin cake used to be a yummy dessert.

Suggested daily budget –  For Backpacking a suggested budget is below 50$. It includes a bed in a dorm(10~15$), a portion of basic food (10~20$), and public transport within the city with a couple of site seeing.


  • The taxi drivers in China speak only Chinese. Few of them speak English! So it is necessary to have the destination address written in Chinese characters.
  • Haggle, no one will look down on you: It is possible that because you are a foreigner they will want to charge you more and with your haggling they will come up with a fair price for you and the hotel.
  • Some useful applications that can help you are Google Maps, Google translate, and WeatherPRO. Remember that in China most of the traditional apps that we often use are not working, so it is advisable to bring a SIM card with VPN, which will allow you to use any app and surf the internet freely without any restrictions.
A beautiful House in Hefei, China
A beautiful House in Hefei, Anhui province, China


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