China Travel Guide

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East Asia

More about China

One of the most unique places you could visit. With a history the locals will proudly tell you stretches back for some 5,000 years. There are almost 1.5 billion people, meaning you'll certainly meet some characters! Make sure you ask about food, it's an implicit part of the culture to know every local dish from across the hundreds of cities across the nation. Historic sites and some modern ones through the eastern seaboard, there are some huge travel goals to be achieved here.

Getting around some of the larger cities can be achieved with minimal frustration, but if you're looking to make the most of your first trip to China, consider a guide, joining a scheduled tour, or even dotting the map by water on a cruise.

Practical information

Visas & travel documents

We recommend everyone planning a trip visits their government travel site for the latest information relevant to their trip:

Remember that this information can change at any time.

Please note that government guidelines may not represent the additional requirements of your airline or cruise transportation. If your passport is due to expire in the 6 months following your intended return home you risk being denied boarding / embarkation.

There are several visa categories available to both American and Canadian visitors to China, with the ultimate option of a 10-year multi-entry visa once you've already visited once or twice. There are also a growing number of transit visas offered at main airports across the country, some of which last up to 4 days. While all visa categories have specific guidance, transit visas in particular require additional planning.

China might be considered a year-round destination, with activities and attractions to enjoy throughout the year. For many cities hosting popular landmarks, April and May provide some of the most comfortable weather. Some peak travel times for domestic travel may be avoided, such as Golden Week in the first week of October, or during Spring Festival, which occurs over several weeks in January or February.

When to visit

Driving

Driving in China is not for the faint of heart. Vehicles are typically left side drive, appropriate for driving on the right side of the road. Congestion is rampant and the rules of the road are not always respected. At the time of writing, only actual residents may drive.

Getting there

By air

Getting to China gets easier and easier every year as new or upgraded airports seem to be inaugurated with increasing frequency. The main airports in Beijing (PEK) and Shanghai (PVG) are heavily serviced by both Chinese and foreign carriers. Want to try a Chinese carrier? We can only recommend Hainan Airlines in terms of comfort and value. As increased lift is added both across the Pacific and into the broader regions of Asia, a flight into other cities of China might be preferable. Consider Guangzhou, Shenzhen, or any number of Tier 3 cities for your itinerary.

By land

Depending who you ask, China is bordered by some 14 sovereign nations, including Russia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and a few others more popular on the (somewhat) beaten tourist track. Most famously, the Trans-Siberian Rail has a leg which originates or terminates in Beijing. There are other minor land crossings by rail or by car throughout the country, but they can often be cumbersome to navigate. The passage into or out of up and coming Myanmar, for example, is impossible for visitors.

By sea

This might be the most relaxing way to navigate a visit to China. Exploring the ranks of Xi'an's Terracotta Army or catching a glimpse of the pandas in Chengdu may not be possible by this route, but many of the obstacles are otherwise removed with a well-planned cruise itinerary.

 

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Possibly your best chance at seeing a giant panda anywhere is at the official Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on the outskirts of Chengdu. The facility opened in 1987 with only a handful of individual pandas, since then they claim to have bred 261 animals and have welcomed some 3.5 million visitors a year (2017). Wild numbers seem to be increasing, but the range is entirely within China's borders and the government claims ownership of each individual panda throughout the world.

Giant Panda Breeding Facility

Chengdu

Possibly your best chance at seeing a giant panda anywhere is at the official Chengdu Research Base ...

While officially known as the National Stadium, most English speakers will know it as the Bird's Nest. The site was the central point of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where it was designed with a modern take on classic north-south architecture present among other landmarks in the capital city.

Beijing National Stadium

Beijing

While officially known as the National Stadium, most English speakers will know it as the Bird's Nes...

The site was once the imperial palace and functioned as the seat of Chinese government for more than 500 years. If it weren't clear by the name, the palace grounds were closed to most of the public during centuries passed, presenting an interesting history of anecdotes representing life in the palace, you'll get the most out of a visit here with a guide.

Forbidden City

Beijing

The site was once the imperial palace and functioned as the seat of Chinese government for more than...

For many of us brought up outside of China, the world's largest square brings different images to mind. First time visitors will quickly see trees and open spaces, plenty of domestic visitors, and possibly a tout or two selling photos or kites.

Tainanmen Square

Beijing

For many of us brought up outside of China, the world's largest square brings different images to mi...

The largest city and capital of China's Yunnan province, Kunming represents the gateway into Southeast Asia from China and a significant point along the Belt and Road Project. In terms of visitor activities, it acts as a gateway or stepping stone into a unique side of China. Mountainous and subtropical, there are some 56 ethnic minorities present in the province!

Kunming

Yunnan

The largest city and capital of China's Yunnan province, Kunming represents the gateway into Southea...

The capital of China, Beijing is a monstrously large city of more than 21 million "registered residents", meaning there may be far more people present at any time or at least it may feel that way if you're finding yourself lost in translation. The city hosts a number of significant modern day and ancient landmarks popular with almost any visitor to China. From Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden CIty, right through to the controversial "Pants" building (CMG Headquarters).

Beijing

Beijiing

The capital of China, Beijing is a monstrously large city of more than 21 million "registered reside...

Content is intended for information and planning purposes only. While we try our best to deliver accurate and current information, some items may not be as described. Please contact your Odyssean Travel advisor for further details.

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