China

Discover the country with amazing geographic and cultural diversity.

china flag

Asia

Beijing

Renminbi (yuan; ¥)

1,376,049,000

9,596,961 SQ KM

Mandarin Chinese

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TRAVEL INFORMATION

When to go

Getting to

Getting around

Health & Safety

Money & Costs

WHEN TO GO TO CHINA

CHINA EVENT CALENDAR

  • Best time to go: April - May, September - early November
  • Hottest months: June & July
  • Coldest months: December & January

China's climate is very diverse with various temperature zones and weather conditions. The northwest is usually dry and desert-like, while the southeast is humid and subtropical.

Winters range from very cold in the north with temperatures reaching - 40°C (-40°F) to mild in the south.

Summers are generally very hot, but regions like the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau have year-round spring.

Avoid The Major Chinese Holidays

If You are flexible with Your travel dates, make sure to avoid the following Chinese holidays:

  • Labor Day Holidays (May 1-3)
  • National Day Holidays (October 1-7)
  • Spring Festival/Chinese New Year (2 weeks usually late January/early February)

During these periods, everyone in China is traveling and trying to get back to their hometowns. Tourist attractions are jammed with people and flight prices are sky-rocketing.

  • January-February

    Harbin Ice Festival
  • January/February

    Spring Festival
  • February

    Lantern Festival
  • April 4

    Tomb Sweeping Festival
  • April 13-15

    Dai Water Splashing Festival (Xishuangbanna)
  • May 1

    Labor Day
  • May/June

    Dragon Boat Festival
  • August

    Tibetan Shoton Festival
  • August

    Chinese Valentine's Day
  • September-/October

    Mid-Autumn Festival
  • October 1

    National Day

GETTING TO CHINA

By Air

Travelling by air is probably the most convenient way to get into China. There are four major international airports:

  • Beijing Capital International Airport
  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport
  • Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
  • Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport serves as an easy and convenient gateway to Mainland China.

There are three major Chinese airlines, with flights all around the world:

By Land

Listed below are the most popular land border crossings traversed by tourists:

Vietnam/China

  • Dong Dang / Pingxiang Friendship Pass - via Nanning (Guangxi province) to various cities in China
  • Lao Cai / Hekou border crossing - towards Kunming in Yunnan province (bus connections to Nanning also available but up to 20h)

Visas are unavailable at the border crossings. Chinese visas can be obtained in Hanoi; Vietnamese visas in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, Nanning and Hong Kong.

Laos/China

  • Boten / Mengla border crossing - direct bus between Vientiane and Kunming, convenient bus connections from Luang Nam Tha to Jinghong in Yunnan province.

Only Lao visas are available when crossing from China. Chinese visas can be obtained in Vientiane.

Mongolia/China

  • Zamin Uud / Erlian border crossing - convenient flight connections from Erlian to Beijing. Numerous buses and trains from the nearby city of Hehhot to Beijing. This is also the rail crossing for Trans-Mongolian trains which go from Russia through Mongolia and into China.

Visas are not available at the border. Chinese visas can be arranged in Ulaanbataar; Mongolian visas in Beijing, Erlian, Hailar, Hohhot, and Shanghai.

Visas

Foreigners of all nationalities are required a visa to enter China.

Passport holders of Singapore, Brunei and Japan are allowed to enter China for up to 15 days without a visa.

Hong Kong and Macau have visa-free policies for most nationalities for stays between 7-180 days depending on nationality.

72h Visa-Free Transit: now available when transiting through airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Changsha, Guangzhou, Guilin, Harbin, Kunming, Qingdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen and Xi'an.

Special permits are required when travelling to the Tibet Autonomous Region.

For more information on visas to China click here and check with the Chinese embassy.

GETTING AROUND CHINA

With thousands of travelers each day, public transportation is well developed and effective.

For booking flights and train tickets within the country Ctrip is a convenient website available in English.

Air

China has an extensive flight network with over 180 commercial airports and over 40 airlines. Travelling by air around the country is the fastest way to cover long distances between cities, with fares often similar to train tickets.

Listed below are major Chinese airlines:

Low-fare airlines:

  • Spring Airlines (based in Shanghai, connections within China and Asia)
  • Air Asia (Asia’s biggest low-cost airlines, flights between China and SE Asia region)
  • Hong Kong Express (based in Hongkong, flights to Taiwan, Korea, Japan and SE Asia)

By Train

The railway is the most common means of transportation in China, both for short and long distances. In the recent decade the network of high speed trains has developed enormously, linking almost every large city in the country. With a maximum speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), it makes travelling through China fast and easy.

For extended information on train travel, check out the following websites:

By Bus

The bus transport in China is also well organized, making both larger cities and towns reachable. In remote and mountainous areas such as Yunnan, Sichuan and Gansu buses are often the only transport option. Larger cities usually have several long-distance bus stations depending on the direction of travel. Popular tourist attractions can always be reached by minibuses from the same bus stations.

Compared to trains, buses are more frequent, however travel time is longer, less comfortable and with delays. Sometimes buses won't leave until full, but generally it doesn't take too long.

City transport

Public buses are widely available in all cities and towns around the country, but announcements are  made only in Chinese. Since Google and its services are inaccessible in China, it can be useful to download its Chinese equivalent - Baidu Maps (link). Offline maps of multiple cities are available and can prove to be helpful when looking for directions.

Bus rides cost around 1-2RMB (0.15-0.30USD) per journey and are usually paid when embarking onto the bus. Having change ready is essential. Some buses have conductors who are seated next to the door and will come forward to collect money.

Subways are the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get around for foreigners. They are currently available in 20 Chinese cities while constructions are in progress in many others. English language announcements and signage is always available. Prices are usually charged according to the distance.

Taxis are very common and relatively cheap, with a fixed rate for the first 3-5km /1,8-3mi (5-14RMB /0.70-2USD depending on the city) and 2-3RMB for each additional kilometer. Having the destination address written in Chinese will make it easier to communicate with the driver.

HEALTH & SAFETY IN CUBA

Vaccinations

There are no vaccinations required for entry into China, expect for travelers coming from countries where yellow fever are endemic.

It is recommended to consult with a doctor what vaccines are needed based on the target destination,  period of travel and the activities planned.

Insurance

The health service in China consists of public and private hospitals and medical centers. While health insurance is not required when visiting China, covering medical expenses can be costly.

Scams

Tea Ceremony Scam
Usually involves few nice-looking young Chinese which present themselves as students offering to show around personally. What starts as small talk, soon leads to inviting the tourist(s) to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, where they will taste different teas. The tourists are led to believe that the tea that is served is inexpensive, but will later be presented with a high bill (even up to 300 USD).

Fake Goods Scam
Nanjing Road in Shanghai, Beijing‘s Silk Alley and other street markets offer a variety of fake goods which the vendors try to sell as branded/ original goods at a very high price. Another thing to be cautious about are cheap sightseeing tours that include visits to shops, which offer overpriced products. Most often, the tour guides will push the tourists to buy, since they get a commission off the sale.

Free Art Gallery/ School Exhibition Scam
Art students as they claim to be, approach and invite foreigners to see a "free" Chinese art exhibit at their school or studio. Once there, they will use many hard sell tactics to make the tourist buy one of their works at an over-inflated price.

MONEY & COSTS IN CUBA

Currency Facts

Renminbi (RMB, ¥)
- called yuan (元) or kuai (块) in Chinese

Daily Budget

  • Backpacker
  • up to ¥200
    per day
  • dorm 40¥
  • breakfast 10¥
  • lunch 16¥
  • dinner 25¥
  • beer 5¥
  • bicycle 20¥
  • tourist attractions 0¥-60¥
  • Beijing-Xi'an Night train (~12h) -hard sleeper 272.5¥
  • Mid-range
  • up to ¥200-600
    per day
  • private room 125-300¥
  • cappuccino 25-40¥
  • lunch 40¥
  • dinner 80¥
  • beer in a bar 18-30¥
  • taxi 25-50¥
  • tourist attractions/tours 80-250¥
  • Beijing-Xi'an High speed train (~5h) 2nd class 515.5¥

Sample prices

  • Meal (local restaurant)

    15-30¥
  • Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant)

    100-200¥
  • Milk (1l/33oz)

    13¥
  • White Bread (500g/1,1lb)

    10¥
  • Egg (1)

  • Chicken breast (1kg/2,2lb)

    26¥
  • Banana (1kg/2,2lb)

  • Tomatos (1kg/2,2lb)

  • Water (0,5l/17oz)

  • Coke

    3,5¥
  • Pack of cigarettes

    18¥

Tipping

Tipping is not common nor expected, but may be practised at some upscale hotels or western restaurants.

ATMs

ATMs are widely available, usually charging 20RMB withdrawal fee with foreign cards.

Maximum cash withdrawal is 2,000-3,000RMB per transaction depending on the bank.

Bank of China, ICBC and the Agriculture Bank of China are major banks.

Bargaining

If prices are not posted like in supermarkets or shopping malls, bargaining is accepted and sometimes necessary at markets and tourist spots, where shopkeepers often ask considerably higher prices.

Don't start haggling unless you're interested in buying.

Tourist attractions

  • Great Wall

    45¥
  • Forbidden City in Beijing

    60¥
  • Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower

    220¥
  • Stone Forest near Kunming

    175¥
  • Mount Huangshan

    230¥
  • Li River Cruise

    450¥
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COUNTRY OVERVIEW

Background

Geography

Language

Food

Cultural Insights

CHINA BACKGROUND

The Birth of Chinese civilization

The earliest written and archaeological records of Chinese civilization can be found from around 1500 BC under the Shang Dynasty, which centered along the Yellow River (Huang He) Valley. People learned how to smelt bronze, produce white pottery and developed a writing system, inscribed on oracle bones.

Over the next 2,000 years, the successive dynasties went through various stages of cultural flourishment, economic prosperity and decline, geographical division and reunification.

Rise of Philosophical Thought

China saw a further development of culture, literature and philosophy during the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC). It was an era marked by civil unrest and disunity known as the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. Sun Tzu, a legendary military strategist, lived during this time and wrote the famous book, The Art of War, one of the most influential works on military thinking and business tactics.

This was also when famous Chinese philosophies like Confucianism and Taoism developed, which have great influence on Chinese thought, way of conduct and culture to this day.

The period of the Warring States ended with the triumph of the Qin kingdom over other states in 221 BC. Qin Shi Huang declared himself the First Emperor, marking the beginning of imperial China, which lasted until 1912. It was under his short rule that the first parts of the Great Wall as well as the Terra-cotta Army were built.

Achievements of the Dynasties

The Four Great Inventions - paper-making, printing, gunpowder and the compass - had significant impact on the development of civilization throughout the world and are symbols of early technological advancement of ancient China.

The Silk Road was an important trade route linking China through regions of Central Asia to the Mediterranean Sea. Silk and porcelain were the main trade items exported from China and highly desired in the west. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road played an important role in cultural exchange (e.g. philosophies, religions, music, dress style) between China and the Western countries.

European exploration

Marco Polo is probably the most famous Westerner who traveled on the Silk Road and reach China (in 1271). His travel writings with stories such those about the Chinese use of coal, money and compasses, gave the Europeans some of the earliest information about the Middle Kingdom and aroused the desire to visit the country.

Among the first foreigners to arrive in China were Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century. While preaching and spreading Christianity, they also introduced Western science as well as gathered knowledge of Chinese society, history and science.

Opium Wars

During the Age of Exploration, merchants from Western Europe, mostly the British Empire, came to China in increasing numbers. However, the Chinese wanted little that the West had to offer and foreign trade was confined by imperial decree in the south to Macau and Guangzhou.

With the continuing demand for Chinese silk, ceramics and tea, the British eventually discovered the increasing addiction of the Chinese of opium, and started importing the drug from India and selling it China, often with the connivance of corrupt officials.

The hopeless efforts of the imperial government to prohibit the drug eventually resulted in two armed conflicts between China and Britain, known as the Opium Wars. Unprepared for war, the Qing government was defeated and was forced, among other things, to cede the island of Hong Kong to the British and opened 5 ports to foreign trade.

Modern China

Frustrated by the imperial government's resistance to reform and by China's weakness, young officials, military officers, and students began to advocate the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the creation of a republic. The Xinhai Revolution of 1911, led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, ended over 2,000 years of dynastic rule in China and resulted in the establishment of the Republic of China.

In the 1920s, inspired by the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party was formed to promote revolution based on Marxist principles. This led to years of civil war between the Nationalists-led government and the Communists. In 1949, the Communists victory resulted in the proclamation of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong.

After 1978, realizing the damages of the Cultural Revolution, Mao's successors focused on market-oriented economic reform and opening up to the outside world. Since then, China's rapid growth has improved the living standards for most of the population making it the world's second largest economy.

Famous Chinese People

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

Founding father of the People's Republic of China
Ma Yun

Ma Yun

Business magnate and the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group
Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and the President of the People's Republic of China
Yao MIng

Yao Ming

Chinese retired professional NBA basketball player, named to the All-NBA Team five times

GEOGRAPHY OF CHINA

China is located in Eastern Asia, bordering 14 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam as well as two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

With an area of 9,596,960 km2 (3,705,410 sq mi) the People's Republic of China is the fourth largest country in the world, after Russia, Canada and the United States.

Mountains

Out of fourteen mountain peaks in the world over 8,000m, nine are located in or on the border of China, including world's two tallest peaks - Mt. Everest (8848m) and  K2 (8611m). Shisha Pangma at 8013 meters in the Tibetan Himalayas, is the tallest mountain located entirely within the country's borders.

Rivers

Yangtze (6300 km/3915 mi) - third longest river in the world, being home to the world's largest hydroelectric dam - the Three Gorges Dam.

Yellow River (5464 km/3398 mi) - second-longest river in China, best known for being the mother river of the Chinese nation.

Desert

The Gobi Desert is the fifth largest in the world,  covering parts of northern and northwestern China and up into southern Mongolia. This rain shadow desert can get cold, thanks to its northern location and height (up to 1520 meters above sea level). As a result, temperatures can fall as far minus 40 degrees Celsius (-40 F) in the winter.

Canyons

Three Gorges of Qutang, Wu and Xiling along the Yangtze River form the most famous canyon in China. It is the world’s only grand canyon where a boat tour along Yangtze river can be taken to admire the landscape of the Three Gorges Dam area.

Tiger Leaping Gorge located on the Jinsha River in Yunnan Province is one of the deepest river canyons in the world, with a vertical elevation difference of 3790 m. The narrowest part of the gorge is just 30 meters, which is said to be so narrow that a tiger can jump over the gorge, hence the name.

China

Worth seeing

  • Great Wall of China
  • Terracotta Army in Xi'an
  • Jiuzhaigou National Park
  • Dali Ancient City
  • Scenery around Yangshuo

LANGUAGE IN CHINA

There are two main language spoken in China: Mandarin Chinese (the official language) and Cantonese (spoken in Southeast China and Hong Kong). Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect and other dialects spoken in the northeastern parts of the country. There are also hundreds of other regional dialects.

Chinese characters in numbers...

Even though there are over 50,000 Chinese characters existing, only about 3,000 are in daily use. While an educated Chinese person will know about 8,000 characters, one is considered illiterate when knowing less that 950.

Before the 1950s the literacy rate in China was below 20%. In order to improve the rate and make learning characters easier, the Chinese government simplified a number of them. Simplified Chinese  is used in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia, traditional Chinese is still used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Tones

Apart from the characters, what makes the Chinese language difficult to learn are its tones. Depending on the intonation of a syllable, the meaning changes.

For example:

Chinese tones

Numbers

1 yī  
2 èr  
3 sān  
4 sì  
5 wǔ  
6 liù  
7 qī  
8 bā  
9 jiǔ  
10 shí  
11 shí yī  十一
20 èr shí  二十
100 yī bǎi  一百

Basics

English Pinyin/ Characters
Hello nǐ hǎo  你好
How are you? nǐ hǎo ma?  你好吗?
Thank you. xièxie  谢谢
Goodbye zài jiàn  再见
Goodbye (informal)  bāi bāi  拜拜
Yes shì  
No bù  
OK hǎo de  好的

Shopping

English Pinyin/ Characters
How much? duōshao qián?  多少钱?
Too expensive tài guì le  太贵了
I want...  wǒ yào…  我要...
sale zhékòu  折扣
this zhè ge  这个
that nà ge  那个

Directions

English Pinyin/ Characters
Where is...? …zài nǎlǐ?  …在哪里?
Go straight wǎng qián zǒu  往前走
Turn left wǎng zuǒ guǎi  往左拐
Turn right wǎng yòu guǎi  往右拐

In a restaurant

English Pinyin/ Characters
bill mǎi dān  买单
menu càidān  菜单
delicious hěn hào chī  很好吃
water shuĭ   
tea chá  
coffee kāfēi  咖啡
beer píjiŭ  啤酒
beef  niúròu   牛肉
pork zhūròu  猪肉
chicken jīròu  鸡肉
fish yú  
noodles  miàntiáo  面条
rice mĭfàn 米饭
soup tāng  

FOOD IN CHINA

According to the Cantonese saying "Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible.". In China one can find all variety of unique food dishes such as century egg, stinky tofu, fried spiders or black beetles in a fine restaurant as well as in an ordinary eatery or street market. Hence, visiting China gives the possibility to try the most unique dishes that rarely can be found anywhere else.

A surprising range of styles and techniques originating from the diverse regions of China have been developed due to local climate, ingredients grown and tastes brought by traders from other areas. The country can be divided into several regions with distinct styles of cooking:

Northern China

The food is reflecting the culinary traditions of Beijing, Xi'an, Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China. It is salty, simple with very few vegetables, focusing on wheat-flour products such as noodles, dumplings and stuffed buns. As the region experiences harsh, cold, and dry winters, Northern tend to eat dishes high in fat and proteins in order to strengthen their bodies against the chilly weather.

Western China

The food represents mainly the regions of Xinjiang Province and Tibet. Xinjiang is traditionally home to ethnic Muslim people, therefore no pork or carnivorous animals can be found on the menu. Instead, the kitchen is rich in mutton, beef and dried fruit. Tibetan cuisine on the other side, uses mainly meat (mutton, beef, or yak), dairy, barley and wheat. No fish is eaten due to religious beliefs.

Eastern China

The food is characterizing the Yangtze Delta area, features a sweet and subtle flavor, using sugar, wines, vinegar, and soy sauces. As it is a fertile region, seafood, fish, pork, poultry, and vegetables are commonly used in the local cuisine.

Central China

The food is representing Sichuan, Chongqing, Hunan regions, is spicy and comes with a lot of strong seasonings such as garlic, chilli peppers, as well as the unique numbing flavor of Sichuan peppercorn.

Southern China

 The food is mainly coming from  Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is mainly sour, with lots of preserved foods - particularly pickled vegetables and tofu, which give it its sour flavor. The many southern minorities are generally poor mountain farmers who preserve anything they are not able to eat straight away.

Chinese Food

Sweet and sour pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

Táng cù lǐ jí
糖醋里脊
mapo tofu

Ma Po Tofu

Má pó dòufu
麻婆豆腐
Gong Bao Chicken

Gong Bao Chicken

Gōng bǎo jī dīng
宫保鸡丁
wonton

Wonton

Húntún
馄饨
Chinese dumplings

Dumplings

Jiǎozi
饺子
peking duck

Peking Duck

Běijīng kǎoyā
北京烤鸭
fried noodles

Fried noodles

Chǎomiàn
炒面
hotpot

Chinese hotpot

Huǒguō
火锅

CULTURAL INSIGHTS ON CHINA

Chinese names

  • In Chinese, surnames come first and then the given names. It's common to use a Chinese person's full name to address him or her.
  • Brides in China do not adopt their husband's surnames.
  • It is polite to address people with their official title, referring them with Mr./Mrs./Ms. and their family name. Do not call them by their first name unless the person has invited you to do so.

Visiting a restaurant

  • While in China, most of the times the dishes are placed on the table and everyone shares.
  • When taking part in a more formal dinner and particularly if the host thinks you ąre in the country for the first time, he will do the best to give the guest(s) a taste of many different types of dishes.
  • It is common that a Chinese host puts food into the plates of their guests. This is a sign of genuine friendship and politeness.
  • Sticking chopsticks upright in the rice bowl is considered inappropriate. It resembles a bowl of sand or rice with two sticks of incense stuck upright at a deceased’s shrine. Instead, lay the chopsticks on the dish.

Establishing relations

  • Network of relationship, known as "guanxi" in Chinese, is a very powerful force in China. To establish good relations, one should consider to take a client out to a dinner and get to know them. Speaking a little bit of Chinese, can prove helpful and impress the Chinese partners.
  • The Chinese do not show their emotions and feelings in the public. A common form of greeting or saying good-bye are simple verbal expressions or brief handshakes (in business).
  • When handing over gifts or business cards, do it with both hands.
  • White is associated with death and mourning. Red stands for happiness and prosperity and therefore should be used for wrapping gifts.
  • Avoid giving clocks and umbrellas as presents. In Chinese, the words clock and umbrella have the same pronunciation at "the end of life" and "separation".The Chinese don't like to say "no". Instead they will use an alternative expression such as "Yes, but it will be difficult”, as an explicit denial can cause embarrassment and loss of face.

Books on China

Movies on China

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IN PICTURES

  • Beijing Forbidden City

    Forbidden City in Beijing

  • Great Wall of China

    The Great Wall at Simatai

  • Shanghai Yufo temple

    Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai

  • Terracotta Army in Xi'an

    Terracotta Army in Xi'an

  • Summer Palace in Beijing

    Summer Palace in Beijing

  • Leshan Giant Buddha

    Leshan Giant Buddha

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