China Travel Tips for Foreign Tourists
Home China Travel Guide Top 16 China Travel Tips – Must-Knows Before You Travel to China

Top 16 China Travel Tips – Must-Knows Before You Travel to China

China is on the list of the most popular destinations in the world. Its historical and cultural wonders, picturesque countryside and striking mountain landscapes, along with incredible traditional cuisine are enticing for international visitors. But many are wondering, “what do I need to do before traveling to China?”

Having been planning China tours and trips for our clients (and ourselves) for over 20 years, we’ve amassed a wealth of invaluable expertise and essential tips for traveling to China. Whether you’re visiting China for the first time, or planning a return journey, our top 16 China travel tips will help you prepare much better and make your trip one of the best.


Is China Safe for Tourists?

This is a concern for some people when they plan a China trip. As of 12 May 2023, the world crime rate ranking released by the United Nations shows that crime rate of China is ranked 73rd in the world. And there are only 363 offences per 100,000 people.

Apparently, China is one of the safest countries in the world, whether you’re solo travelers, female travelers, or traveling in China with families. But, tourists still need to watch out for the road accidents, theft and tourist traps.

Is China Friendly to Tourists?

China is not nearly as terrifying as you might be led to believe by certain medias. Traditional Chinese culture, especially Confucianism, has shaped Chinese people to treat others with courtesy and goodwill. Most Chinese people, whether they are in the big cities or in a small village, are very friendly and kind to foreign tourists.

Additionally, international travelers are their windows on the world. Therefore, Chinese people are very happy to chat with you and get to know your culture.

Get a Tourist Visa

One of the most essential China travel tips, applying for a tourist visa before you travel to China. Nationals from most countries are not allowed to enter the country without a visa.

However, gateway cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Xian have released the 144-hour and 72-hour visa-free transit (for tens of countries and areas). Surely, it will make your trip to China easier.

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Get a VPN

Another useful China travel tip is that you will need a VPN to access Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and many other websites or apps, as they are blocked in China. WhatsApp can be open from time to time.

With a VPN, you can share your China travel photos and experiences with family and friends any time you wish.

Make sure you purchase a VPN before you go to China, in case you get lost the moment you arrive.

China travel tips - us a Google Translate

Learn a Little Mandarin and Use a Translation App

Chinese would love to help you out if you need to, but the fact is that most of them don’t speak English. So it will help a lot to ask for directions or order dishes if you can learn some simple Chinese phrases, such as ni hao for hello, zai na li for where is it, and xiexie for thank you.

A good Chinese translation app, such as Google Translate, is a must-have if you are traveling in China independently. Whenever you need help, show the Chinese translation to the locals.

It is good to know that if you are traveling to Beijing or Shanghai, Chinas cultural and economic centers where there are many expats live, you can go with English.

Travel in the Good Times and Avoid Public Holidays

Our next tips for traveling to China – spring and autumn are the best seasons to come, providing that you are struggling with the cold or hot. Most places in China are warm in spring and autumn. But you can expect more rainfall in spring than in autumn. (See also How to Plan a Spring Trip to China?)

You also need to keep in mind that China is the most populated country in the world, and Chinese people love to travel during public holidays. It means that the travel cost is getting higher and that may be a lack of flight tickets, train tickets and hotel rooms.

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High Speed Train or Flights?

Given its vast territory, air flight was previously the best way to move from one city to another. However, thanks to China’s mature high-speed rail system, traveling in China by bullet train is a better choice for many journeys.

Travelling by high-speed rail is just as comfortable as flying, but it’s more punctual, less expensive, and sometimes even takes less time than flying.

High-speed rail is recommended for journeys of less than five hours. If it is more than five hours, it is still recommended that you take a flight. Long high-speed rail journeys may cause discomfort and are not cheap.

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Big Cities or Unexplored Places?

This is a very important China travel tip. If it is your first time to visit China and you want to see the highlight attractions, big cities like Beijing, Xian and Shanghai are highly recommended.

But if your interests lies in hidden gems and nature adventures, go off the beaten track to Yunnan, Guizhou, the Silk Road, and Tibet. Discover thousand-old towns and villages, timeless temples, and breathtaking landscapes, and meet people who live traditional ways of life.

China travel tips - go visiting Tibet

Group Tour or Private Tour?

Here’s a comparison between a group tour or a private tour, see which is better for you.

Group Tour Private tour
Who you will travel with Strangers Your friends or family
Transportation Shared transportation Private vehicle
Guide Shared guide Private guide
Flexibility Rigid schedule with fixed departures Tailor-made itinerary with flexible departures
Best For Solo travelers, and people with a tight budget Families and couples with a higher budget

Do Not Get Offended by the Locals

Despite that there are many foreigners living and traveling in big cities, there are few international travelers in small cities and remote areas. Don’t be offended that they stare, ask questions or they want to take photos with you.

One more thing, some Chinese people may talk very loudly. Don’t get them wrong – they are not arguing.

Respect Local People and Local Custom

There are 56 ethnic groups living in China, each with their own traditions, cultures, and habits. Please respect their culture and religion. At the same time, experiencing these things first hand will make your trip more interesting and meaningful.

For example, when you visit a temple, wear long trousers. And don’t talk loudly or make jokes.

Face Recognition Payment in China
Face Recognition Payment in China

How to Pay in China as a Foreigner?

You can surely use cash. Withdraw cash or exchange renminbi at the airport or bank. Or you can use a credit card, which is accepted at shopping mall and hotels.

But most of people in China are using electronic payment methoads. So it is high recommended that you download Wechat app or Alipay app, two most popular E-wallets in China, to make an easy and fast payment.

You dont Have to Tip

In mainland China, tipping is generally not required, whether in hotels, restaurants, or some other places of entertainment and consumption. However, if the quality of service is particularly good, you may choose to give a tip as a token of appreciation and recognition for their service.

For the guides of your escorted China tour, you can tip when you think the service is excellent.

Xian Food Liangpi
Xian Food Liangpi

Try the Local Chinese Food with Chopsticks

No one fails to love Chinese foods. There are top 8 Chinese cuisines from different areas, a wide range of flavors, from spicy to sweet, and thousands of classic dishes, such as Peking Roasted Duck, Kung Pao Chicken, fried potato, green pepper and eggplant…  >> Check out The 15 Most Popular Chinese Dishes

So get out of the conventional Western restaurants, venture into the neighborhood restaurants and food streets for local gastronomy, eating from breakfast to dinner.

Challenge yourself using a pair of chopsticks, a symbol of Chinese culture, to enjoy Chinese foods. It will be an interesting part of your authentic China experience.

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Bring Toilet Paper

China’s toilets are getting an upgrade – many public bathrooms have Western-style sit-down toilets, and provide toilet paper and hand sanitizer. But in small cities and countryside, where the public restrooms are still very basic with squat toilets, you may need to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Avoid Tourist Traps

The last but not the least China travel tip – be aware of scams such as overpriced taxis,  counterfeit, and overpriced merchandise.

Our advice? Always bargain and ask advice from your tour guide.

More China Travel Guide Articles for Your Hassle-free Journey

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