China Travel Guide
There’s something for every traveler in China. Depending on where you go, you can gaze at modern cityscapes or explore ancient religious sites, shop luxury brands, or even spend a day at Disney®. Because this country is so vast, nearly all of my China travel guides focus on a single city. On this page, I’ve collected all my best China travel tips, guides to China attractions, and information about where to stay, what to do, and where to go in China, whether you’re traveling alone or with kids.
China’s size makes it not one destination, but many. When you’re considering where to go in China, think about what you like to see and do when you’re traveling. Do you like to dive deep into the local history and culture? Or do you want to dine in luxury restaurants and be pampered? You can find all kinds of incredible experiences in China. Here are some of our favorite China attractions:
The Forbidden City
I have included this on my list of things to do in Beijing with kids even though there’s a lot of walking involved. There’s enough to see here (the complex is part of the Palace Museum) to keep adults and bigger kids occupied, but if you’re traveling with younger kids, it’s a good idea to incorporate something like a scavenger hunt into your visit. Tiananmen Square is across the street.
The Great Wall
This landmark is famous but it’s also huge. Deciding which section or sections of the wall to visit can be tough. There are sections of the Great Wall that have been perfectly restored while other sections are crumbling. We’ve enjoyed visiting the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, which tends to be less crowded than some other sections and can be reached on foot or via cable car. Tobogganing down is a lot of fun.
This is one of the most ancient cities in China and was actually the country’s capital during the Southern Song dynasty. Hangzhou’s long history means there’s a lot to see, and I love it because it’s beautiful. It’s also the tea capital of China. Dragon well tea (also known as longjing tea) is grown here, and touring the tea fields of Hangzhou is an experience no tea-lover should miss.
The Terracotta Army
This ancient site is home to hundreds of highly detailed life-size models of the soldiers of Qin Shi Huang (along with terracotta horses and chariots) who were triumphant during the Warring States Period. These models stood underground, unseen and untouched, for more than 2,000 years before farmers digging a well unearthed the site in 1974. The site is fascinating, though I recommend hiring a guide because there is limited English signage.
This ancient water town in Shanghai’s Qingpu District is sometimes called the Venice of the East. Zhujiajiao is actually one of the best-preserved water towns in China, and you can see evidence of its 1,700 years of history everywhere. There are shops selling authentic Chinese folk art along with modern goods, ancient stone bridges crossing the green water of the canals, and lots of delicious street food to try.
This is one of the most famous tourist destinations in all of China for its architecture. On the mile-long promenade along the Huangpu River, there are Gothic, baroque, and neoclassical style buildings. Look across the river, and you’ll see a gorgeous view of the Pudong skyline. One of the best inexpensive things to do in Shanghai is ride the people mover in the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, which goes between the Bund and Pudong.
This is one of our favorite Disney resorts because it’s so different. Shanghai Disneyland has a park, two hotels, and a shopping, dining, and entertainment area called Disneytown. There are some rides here that are exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland, and the Shanghai Disneyland castle (known as the Enchanted Storybook Castle) is the largest of any Disney park. It’s one of the best things to do in Shanghai with kids.
These cute and playful animals are loved by the people of China, and you can see them in a number of Chinese zoos. The best place to see pandas in China, however, is in or around Chengdu at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, Dujiangyan Panda Base, and Bifengxia Panda Base. There are volunteer programs at Bifengxia and Dujiangyan that will give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with pandas.
China Travel Tips
Traveling in China is pretty easy, even if you’re visiting China with kids, but it’s always a good idea to research your travel destinations in advance. Here are some of the travel tips I share with friends and family who are visiting China.
Get Your Visa
Every American – kids included – needs to apply for a visa before visiting China. It’s possible to go to the Chinese Embassy and fill out all the paperwork yourself, but I recommend using a visa processing service.
In China’s big cities, retailers and restaurants will accept most major international credit cards, but even in the city, you may find yourself in cash-only establishments. Off the beaten path, cash will be an absolute necessity. Look for ATMs associated with banks to get the best exchange rate.
Learn a Little Mandarin
In some places (Shanghai, for instance), you’ll encounter a lot of English speakers, but that’s not the case throughout China. It’s a good idea to learn a few key phrases like hello (nǐ hǎo), thank you (xiè xiè), you’re welcome (bú kèqì), and “Do you speak English?” (Nǐ huì shuō yīng yǔ ma?).
Enable a VPN
The internet in China is censored by the government and can be pretty slow, but you can get past “The Great Firewall” by paying for a VPN app for your phone, tablet, and laptop. It’s better to do this before you arrive in China (considering the internet is slow), and even with a VPN you might still have trouble getting online. Do as much research as possible before you leave. We use ExpressVPN.
I hope you find my travel tips and guides informative. If there’s something you think I should add to my China travel guide series or you’d like my help booking a luxury hotel in China, feel free to contact me any time.