How to Plan Your First Trip to China
Home China Travel Guide How to Plan Your First Trip to China 2024/2025 – Ultimate Guide

How to Plan Your First Trip to China 2024/2025 – Ultimate Guide

Are you planning your first trip to China and wondering what to expect? The short answer: your China travel as a first-timer will be easy, happy and amazing – with our guide.

The long Answer? Picture yourself standing awestruck on the Great Wall, meeting the gaze of Terracotta warriors, cruising the other-worldly Li River, and riding a camel on the timeless Silk Road.

Here we come up with the things to know to get you prepared and practical travel tips to help you plan your first trip to China. Make the most of your visit in China with the best destinations, foods, accommodations, and itineraries.


Decide Where to Go

With it being your first China trip with family or friends, chances are you’re thinking to visit the most popular destinations like Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, and the Silk Road with all the iconic landmarks. But lesser-known destinations like Yunnan and Guizhou are also well worth your time.

Beijing – the City with the Largest Number of World Cultural Heritage Sites in the World

Forbidden City in Beijing
Forbidden City

The imperial and modern Chinese capital, Beijing is a must-visit place for your first visit to China. It is also a popular gateway city and many international travelers plan their China tours from Beijing.

We’ve curated classic activities for your Beijing trips. Walk on the Great Wall of China, explore the treasures inside the Forbidden City, admire the architecture of Temple of Heaven. You’re also encouraged to take a rickshaw ride through Beijing hutongs to witness Beijingers’ real lifestyle and discover various kinds of local foods. A Chinese calligraphy or paper-cutting lesson can be arranged in a hutong courtyard.

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Recommended Beijing Tours for first-timers:

Xian – An Ancient capital of 13 Dynasties

First trip to Xian, China

With a history of over 3000 years, being the capital of 13 dynasties, and the starting point of the silk Road, Xian is the best place in China to embrace history. Xi’an is on a par with the world-famous ancient cities of Rome, Athens and Cairo.

Meet the great invincible Terracotta Army, which belonged to Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, and enjoy making a mini terracotta warrior by yourself. Walk or bike on the Xian City Wall, the best-kept ancient city wall in the country. More historical sites to explore include the Big and Small Goose Pagoda, Shanxi History Museum, etc.

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Recommended Xian tours for first-timers:

Shanghai – the Future of China

the Bund
The Bund Shanghai

Take a stroll along the Bund and you will see both the colonial and futuristic China. Here there are 19th-century colonial architectures, as well as ornate towering skyscrapers. But you can also have a glimpse of local traditional life when walking the Longtang alleys and passing by the shikumen dwellings.

For a cultural trip in Shanghai, don’t miss the Yu Garden, the Jade Buddha Temple, and the nearby Zhujiajiao water town.

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Recommended Shanghai tours for first-timers:

Chengdu – the Happy Hometown of Giant Pandas

Chengdu Panda Volunteer Progarm
Make steamed bread of corn for pandas

When you think of Chengdu, you think the pandas, and the spicy food as well. There’s no better way to have a close contact with pandas than becoming a giant panda volunteer. You can feed them with their favorite food and clean their enclosures. The nearby Qingcheng Mountain, known as the Kung Fu panda village, is also highly recommended.

Enjoy the local culinary delights, such as hot pot, mapo tofu, Kung Pao Chicken, etc. And even go to the Sichuan Cuisine Museum to learn how to cook authentic Sichuan cuisine.

To explore Chengdu in Depth, you can also visit Leshan Giant Panda and Jiuzhaigou, for stunning Buddhist art, and sheer natural beauty.

Recommend Chengdu tours for first-timers:

Guilin – Surreal Karst Landscape and Idyllic Countryside

Club Med Guilin
Club Med Guilin

If you are looking for natural wonders and countryside experience to add for your first trip to China, go traveling to Guilin, one of the most beautiful places in China. And a Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is one of the top things to in China.

The countryside of Yangshuo is a huge playground for parents and kids have their family tours in China. You can bike around the farmlands and orchards, visit the local family and help them with some easy farm work. For couples, it is one of the most romantic places. The elderly will love its serenity, while active travelers will be amazed by various exciting outdoor activities, from hiking and camping, kayaking and climbing.

Recommend Guilin and Yangshuo tours for first-timers:

The Silk Road – A Great Route That First Connected the East and West

First Trip to China Silk Road
Zhangye Rainbow Mountain

If you plan an over two-week first trip to China, consider also traveling to the Silk Road of China. It started from Chang’an (Xian) or Luoyang in ancient China, travelled through Gansu and Xinjiang to Central and West Asia, and finally reached to the Mediterranean countries.

The highlights of a Silk Road adventure include Mogao grottoes, historic towns and ruins of lost kingdoms, camel ridding, camping and watching sunrise in the desert, and exotic cultures and foods.

Recommend China Silk Road Tours for first-timers:


Understand the Chinese Visa Policy

Whether it is a first China trip and return trip, you will need to apply for a visa to enter China (except visa-exempt countries). You are suggested to apply for a tourist visa (L visa) more than months before the your travel date.

Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou and some other cities release the 72-hour or 144-hour visa-free transit policy, which allows visitors from designated country to enter China without a visa and stay up to 72 hours or 144 hours.

If you are traveling in China with us, we can provide an invitation letter to help you apply for a Chinese tourist visa. You may like China Visa Application Requirements


How Many Days Needed for Your First Trip to China?

Hike the Mutianyu Great Wall
Hike the Mutianyu Great Wall

It depends on how much time you have and the way you want to explore China.

Plan at least 7 days China highlights tour to Beijing Xian and Shanghai to visit all the famous landmarks, including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Terracotta Warriors… 9 to 10 days China tour with Guilin, with a blend of cultural and natural marvels and authentic life experience.

If you have more time, explore China in-depth to have a better understanding of local culture, traditions and lifestyle. 11 Days Tour of Beijing-Chengdu-Xian-Zhangjiajie offers the chance to meet panda and explore the beautiful mountains in Zhangjiajie. 19 Days China Essence Tour covers all the popular destinations. And 14 Days Silk Road and Northern Xinjiang Tour is a nice option if you want to escape the big cities and crowds.

You can contact us to customize a China tour and make your first trip to China meet your style, budget and departure dates perfectly.


When is the Best time to Travel to China?

Best time to visit Yunnan China

Spring (April and May) and Autumn (September and October), with mild weather and most sunny days, are considered the best time to visit China. During these seasons, nature is at its best, and you travel comfortably without dressing too much or sweating all the time.

Summer during June, July, and August is also an ideal time to travel to China. But be aware that it will be rainy sometimes and hot in South China, with the temperature around 30-35 degrees. Summer is also the best time to visit the Silk Road.

Destinations like Beijing Xian and Shanghai, featuring cultural and historical sites, virtually unaffected by the weather are worth a visit all year round.

Dates that you should avoid include October 1-2 during the China National Day Holiday and late January to early February during the Chinese New Year.


Choose a Group Tour or Private Tour for Your First China Trip


You can have a general idea of the differences between a group tour and a private tour. And make the final decision based on your travel style and budget.

  1. Who you are traveling with: On a group tour, you will travel with a group of people you don’t know. on a private tour, you will travel only with your family or friends.
  2. Flexibility: The itinerary of a group tour is fixed so you have to follow a rigid schedule about the departure dates and time. The itinerary of a private tour is more personalized. So it is your call for the departures and you can travel at your own pace.
  3. Shared transportation & guide or private transportation & guide: With a group tour, you have to share transportation, guide and even a hotel room with other travelers. A private tour is exclusive, with your own guide, vehicle, and hotel rooms. Besides, you can have special care and help from your guide and driver.
  4. Cost: Apparently, the cost of a private China tour is higher than a group tour.
  5. Best for: Group tours are best for solo travelers who wish to meet new people and those who have a relatively tight budget. Private tours are more suitable for families with kids and couples, who yearn for more freedom and flexibility and have higher budgets.

The Best China group tours for First-Timers:

The Best China private tours for First-Timers:


Must-knows for a First Trip to China

  1. The currency used in China is Renminbi (人民币), which is calledyuan or “kuai”. For example, 100 yuan = 100 Chinese people does not take other currencies, so you’ll need to exchange Chinese money. However, electronic payment are dominating the country, so you are suggested to download the E-wallets on your mobile.
  2. Alipay andWeChat Pay are the most popular payment methods in China. Chinese people pay everything with a Wechat or Alipay qr code. Credit cards are accepted at the shopping malls, hotels and other big shopping and consuming places.
  3. Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram cant be accessed in China, unless you use a VPN.
  4. China is huge.So you will have to take a flight or high speed train to travel one city to another.
  5. Only a few people in China speaks English. So you will need a translator or a local guide.


Things to Pack Before You Go

  • Passport
  • Chinese visa
  • Medical kit
  • Personal care and hygiene products
  • Clothes needed for the season
  • Chargers for mobile phones, cameras, pads, laptops, headphones
  • Cash and credit cards

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