China Holiday Planning Guide
With well over 1.3 billion residents, China represents the most populous country in the world, considered by many the cradle of civilization thanks to its history spanning many millennia. While a single trip to China rarely satisfies curious travelers, a well-organized tour reveals a land of awe-inspiring natural scenery, ancient monuments, and giant cities, where the diverse population includes almost 60 different ethnic groups speaking dozens of distinct languages. While many Westerners may know China mostly for its centuries-old tradition of martial arts, discerning travelers visit this vast nation for its outstanding cuisine, pristine landscapes, epic train journeys, and small towns of hardworking and genuinely hospitable people.
Places to Visit in China
Regions of ChinaGuangdong
: Having slowly grown to become China’s wealthiest province, Guangdong features well-preserved historic sites, rugged ancient landscapes, and a myriad of cultures for you to explore on your China vacation.Jiangsu
: With its garden-filled cities, rolling Yellow Sea coastline, and canal towns on the Yangtze River, the eastern-central province of Jiangsu is where nature and heritage to collide.Zhejiang
: Ancient water towns, tiny islands, and the dramatic lake scenery of the province’s much-visited capital await with a trip to Zhejiang.Sichuan
: Home of the nation’s favorite animal--the giant panda--Sichuan allows you to immerse yourself in the ancient cultures of its villages, admire the scenery of its sacred mountains, and witness its much-loved bears in their natural habitat. Hunan
: Disappear off the map with a trip to Hunan on your China holiday, a remote and rural southern province characterized by subtropical forest, majestic waterfalls, and mountainous national parks.
Cities in ChinaHong Kong
: Often the first city that comes to mind when you think of a China holiday, the autonomous territory of Hong Kong is a sight to behold, with skyscrapers rising from the dense urban sprawl on either side of the Pearl River Delta.Beijing
: Visit the capital of Beijing on your China itinerary, and you’ll find a city full of national monuments spanning a three-thousand-year history and a vast and varied landscape boasting unrivalled scenery.Shanghai
: Sprawling along the coast of the East China Sea, Shanghai stands on the global stage as a center of finance, its booming economy notable throughout the thriving center of high rises, vast architectural creations, and seemingly endless selection of attractions.Xi'an
: Uncover China’s rich history on your trip the provincial capital Xi’an, easternmost point on the country’s ancient Silk Road and home to a world famous terra cotta World Heritage Site.Macau
: A fusion of both Mediterranean and Chinese culture, Macau provides a wealth of entertainment venues alongside an intriguing historical and cultural heritage for you to discover on your China vacation.
Popular China Tourist AttractionsGreat Wall at Mutianyu
: Easy to travel to and preserved to a staggering standard, this world wonder stands as the longest section of the Great Wall of China open to the public, meaning it’s also less busy than other sections. The Bund (Wai Tan)
: An absolute must while in Shanghai on your China vacation, The Bund (Wai Tan) lets you walk through the very heart of the city, surrounded by its melange of architectural styles, from Baroque to hyper-modern skyscraper.Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)
: A 12th-century World Heritage Site welcomes you to uncover its lakes, palaces, and serene gardens, a memorable stop for any China itinerary. The Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses
: Bringing fame to the province across the globe, The Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses’s sheer size and impact cannot be comprehended until seen in person, a replica imperial army that has survived the centuries.The Palace Museum
: An age-old imperial palace now bursting with artifacts and relics, this site allows you to immerse yourself in the rich history of the Ming and Qing dynasties while on your China sightseeing.Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park)
: Experience a traditional Taoist house of worship with a visit to the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park), an ancient place for harvest prayer and worship with a highly decorated interior. West Lake (Xi Hu)
: Step out into nature on your China tour and visit the historic West Lake (Xi Hu), a vast stretch of water surrounded by winding lanes and pagodas, filled with myths and legends.Gulangyu
: Take a holiday from your holiday with an excursion to Gulangyu Island, a pedestrian island lined with golden beaches as well as shops, restaurants, and European-influenced architecture.Yu Garden (Yuyuan)
: A historic garden chock, this site showcases ornate pagodas seemingly floating above waterways and lakes, an idyllic location on your China itinerary. Old Town of Lijiang - China
: A traditional Old Town preserving the heritage and architecture of the Song Dynasty, this World Heritage Site provides visitors with true immersion into Chinese culture.
Planning a China Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in China with Kids
A diverse blend of East Asian traditions across an ancient landscape--coupled with cutting-edge technologies and an iconic arts scene--a childhood China vacation is not soon forgotten. Head to Hong Kong
for theme parks, light shows, and technology set against a rich culture of the country’s traditional way of life. For more sightseeing, along with a host of museums, shopping, and things to do with the little ones, visit the sprawling capital of Beijing
. No child will forget a trip to Sichuan
on their China holiday, known for some of the most famous Giant Panda sanctuaries in the world, along with a host of national parks and dramatic landscapes to explore. For more time outdoors, along with an opportunity for the whole family to immerse themselves in a diverse mix of ethnic cultures, Guangxi
is filled with communities, caves, and scenic beauty. If relaxation is in order, look to Shandong
, with its shimmering coastline and golden beaches packed full of activities, to keep the kids entertained.
Things to Do in China with Kids
Each province on your China vacation offers a mix of attractions suitable for the family, it’s just a matter of picking where you want to go. Make a childhood dream come true with a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland
, an iconic wonder of Disney characters, rides, and activities all peppered with distinctly Chinese stylings. For entertainment with a more educational slant, visit Hong Kong Science Museum
for a mix of history and technology. Located just outside Hong Kong, the marine animal center Ocean Park
invites you to explore a vast selection of exhibits from rides to animals. In Shanghai, a stop at Shanghai World Financial Center
offers not only unmatched views of the city and a high glass walkway for the brave, but also a host of exhibits and shops. If you find yourself in the vast rural landscape of Guangxi, visit Liu Sanjie Landscape Garden of Guilin
to meet the Zhuang folk characters recreated through a series of choreographed performances set within lush gardens. Also nearby, the colorfully lit passages of Silver Cave
, a sprawling karst underground cavern, provides hundreds of passages for you and the kids to explore. No China trip would be complete without visiting the country’s iconic bears, so be sure to make time for Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (Xiongmao Jidi)
, one of the world’s most successful breeding programs. A trip to the coast is a must for any family looking to unwind, so why not include Golden beach (Huang Dao)
in Shandong on your China itinerary. It’s harmoniously balanced by activities and seclusion and set against some notable scenery.
Tips for a Family Vacation in China
A China holiday will reward you with lifelong memories, and a few simple preparations can help make your family holiday a breeze. Remember that no tap water in the country is drinkable, so make sure the kids know not to drink from taps and carry a water bottle with you that you can fill with purified water. Street food is delicious in China, but look to reviews before you visit if you or your family are inclined to have sensitive stomachs. A small bag of basic first-aid essentials, along with toilet tissue and insect repellant, will make things easy if you’re traveling in some of the more remote regions. A varied wardrobe is also a must when packing for your China vacation, as this mammoth country can experience an extensive range of weather.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in China
Cuisine of China
Known across the world for its distinctive cuisine, China offers authentic dishes, across what’s known as the “Eight Cuisines of China.” In Hong Kong, both fine Chinese dining restaurants and street vendors fill the city, with options like Temple Street Night Market
and Tsim Sha Tsui
offering delicacies, noodles, rice, and meats in a vibrant setting. In the capital of Beijing, whole streets provide seemingly endless dining options for your China trip with places like Wang Fu Jing Da Jie
serving up exotic and unusual fare including scorpions and silk worms. Yandai Xie Street
is known especially for its Peking duck, and is an absolute must for any foodie in China. For an unexpected fusion of Portuguese and Chinese cuisine, travel to Rua de S. Paulo (Dasanba) Street
where egg custard tarts sit alongside rows of pork chop buns along a bustling street market.
Shopping in China
From colossal mega malls to traditional markets and speciality stores, shopping on your China vacation offers something for everyone. Known for its vast and varied retail options, IFC mall
in Hong Kong
, impresses visitors with high-end designer and street brands, sprawling across 200 stores. If you’re looking for bargains, a trip to Ladies Market
won’t disappoint, as it’s packed to the rafters with discount brands and souvenir goods. If you’re in Beijing
while on your China holiday, you’ll find shopping opportunities of equal measure. Pick up a specialty piece at Panjiayuan Antique Market
, a thriving hub for arts, crafts, and quality antiques. Wang Fu Jing Da Jie
stands as the center of retail in the capital, offering its visitors a wide range of designer shops, independent traders, and street vendors. Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road)
offers a similar experience on an even larger scale, with seemingly endless department stores and historic open-air markets. If you find yourself in need of some retail therapy outside the bigger cities, stop off at Suzhou
, where the historic winding lanes of Pingjiang Road
provide quaint artisan shopping in a serene setting.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to China
Interesting Facts About China
* The third largest country in the world boasts the largest population in the world.
* The number eight in China is considered extremely lucky, due to its pronunciation in Chinese (“Ba”) sounding similar to the word for prosperity (“Fa”).
* Chinese fortune cookies are not actually a tradition in China, and their origin is usually traced back to 19th-century Japan. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco bakers have staked a claim to the modern recipe of the clairvoyant cookies.
Things You Should NOT Do in China
It won’t take long on your China vacation to realize that customs are important here. While international visitors would not be expected to adhere to all of these traditions, it’s best to make an effort to avoid unintended offense. As a sign of respect, remove your shoes when entering places of worship and homes. Gifts are a big part of Chinese culture, however, if you plan on giving someone a gift, familiarize yourself with the typical items and colors pertaining good and bad luck--avoid white altogether because of its connotation of death. Learn local dining customs, particularly at Chinese banquets, to be a gracious diner, like toasting before drinking, using the reverse end of your chopsticks when taking food from a buffet, and leaving a little food on your plate at the end of a meal, for instance. Don’t take photographs of Chinese people without their permission, especially in regional areas, as this is often be seen as permission for them to charge you money.
Holidays & Festivals in China
The most important holiday across the country--Chinese New Year--takes place on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar year, which can happen anytime between January 21 to February 20 and continues for 15 days. Expect many businesses to be closed over this period. With a mixture of folk activities and modern celebrations Beijing
, and Guangzhou
are all considered some of the best places to experience the festival, which culminates in the Chinese Lantern Festival. If you’re planning your China holiday during May or June, check to see if the Chinese Dragon Festival will occur while you're visiting, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month annually. Boat racing in dragon-shaped vessels and eating dumplings are the main focus of the festival, with some of the best celebrations found in Yueyang
, Hong Kong
, and Yichang
Useful China Travel Tips
Common Greetings in China
With pronunciations somewhat difficult for some, brush up on your Chinese greetings before travelling to make a good impression. Mandarin Chinese is the most common dialect across the country, so if you’re unsure, start off with that. “Nĭ Hăo!” (Hello) is the standard way of saying hello, with “Zăoshàng Hăo” (Good morning) and “Wănshàng hăo” (Good evening) also appropriate depending on the time of day. “Xiè xie” is the most common phrase meaning “Thank you” in Mandarin, with “M goi” used in Cantonese to thank someone in a service industry. Try to know which dialect is spoken in your area and brush up on the basics.
Climate of China
A giant country, China has a vast and varied climate spanning both latitudes and landscapes. Located in the northern hemisphere, its seasons are generally in synch with those in America and Europe, but temperatures and rainfall can vary greatly from region to region. In the northeast, expect hot summers (June-August) often over 30 C (86 F) and bitter winters reaching -20 C (-4 F). In the southeast, expect a more tropical climate, with heavy rainfall especially in the summer months, and a milder winter (November-March) of around 10 C (50 F). Autumn, especially September and October, proves a popular season for visitors across all of China, with a more temperate climate between 10-22 C (50-72 F) across the whole country and noticeably less rainfall. March and April in spring are also popular, however the weather can vary greatly from day to day, so keep this in mind when packing.
Transportation in China
Traveling via train is one of the most economical and commonly used modes of transport for long distances in China. Bullet trains offer unrivalled speed between some regions at very affordable prices. Domestic flights also link many remote regions and in some areas can be faster, although this will be reflected in the price. Developed cities are well served by regular subways and buses, providing fast, safe travel to all central attractions. You’ll find taxis in regional areas, with bikes also commonly rented as a convenient way to do some local sightseeing.
Tipping in China
Tipping in China is not common practice and is not expected for most services. However, in more Westernized restaurants, as well as with tour guides, it is slowly becoming the norm to tip. Figure about 10 percent to 15 percent.