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10 Tips for Traveling China

Updated on December 21, 2011
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Badaling part of The Great Wall.Skyline of ShanghaiLi River in GuilinSkyline of Hong Kong Island
Badaling part of The Great Wall.
Badaling part of The Great Wall.
Skyline of Shanghai
Skyline of Shanghai
Li River in Guilin
Li River in Guilin
Skyline of Hong Kong Island
Skyline of Hong Kong Island

In August of this year, myself and 5 other friends took a trip from South Korea to China for our vacation. I mapped out an itinerary for us that spanded over a 13 day period and brought us to Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin, and Hong Kong, in that order. After spending around 2 months off and on planning out this trip, I figure some things that I learned may help you.

I've heard that train travel within China is very popular, so popular that some of the trains will sell out or that there will be huge lines at the ticket booths to where you may be waiting for a couple of hours to purchase tickets. I cannot give you advice on train travel other than this: if your dates or time spent in each city is not flexible, find a travel agency online that books train tickets and plan it ahead of time. We had planned on doing all of our travels by train but figured we could purchase our tickets while we were in China and we were wrong. As time got closer, we started to do a little more research and contacted a few travel agencies about train tickets and we started finding out that the trains we planned on were sold out. We ended up having to book flights instead since our dates were not flexible.

Overall, our flights were not that expensive. Each flight cost us around $120-170. We flew from Beijing to Shanghai, Shanghai to Guilin, and Guilin to Hong Kong. The most expensive flight was Shanghai to Guilin because we booked that one at the last minute when we discovered that our train was sold out.

Here are some tips I have for traveling within China:

1. Hostel World is a great way to research hostels and book them as well. It has great reviews from other people that have stayed at each hostel. (This is also great for any other trip) See the link below.

2. Ctrip is a website for booking flights within China. We saved at least $100 booking on Ctrip versus using Expedia or Orbitz. I have to thank a friend who lives in China for that one. See the link below.

3. Waiting to book tours when you get there or booking them beforehand are both gambles. We saved money on some tours by booking them beforehand and saved money on others that we booked when we got there. I say, if you find a deal online that you think is really good, then book it. I'll go into the tours we took and my opinions on them and anything else I found out, later on.

4. My personal opinion: Don't miss out on Guilin, China! Go to Guilin and take a tour of the Li River. Other than seeing The Great Wall, it was the best thing that we did.

5. Another personal opinion: Going to Hong Kong was just like going to any other city. Yes, the skyline was beautiful, but other than that, it was just a city with tall buildings. We purchased 48 hour tickets for the Big Red Bus, which is a hop-on, hop-off bus that takes you around the city. Unfortunately, most of the stops were for shopping areas. Unlike most people that probably go to Hong Kong, I didn't just go there for the shopping. The ticket did include a free ride on a traditional junk (boat) and a train ride up Victoria's Peak to see a panoramic view of the city. Other than having Dim Sum (which was delicious!) those were the best things we did during our time there. They advertise the nighttime laser show as being something really cool to see and that you shouldn't miss it, but we saw it, and it would've been OK if we missed it. None of us thought it was anything that spectacular.

6. Eating out in China most of the time is pretty cheap, but if you want to stay on the really cheap side, then stick to the small restaurants on the street and away from the big places. When we ate dinner at one of the smaller restaurants, it only cost around $5 per person and that was including a large beer.

7. Whenever you can, ask a Chinese person that works at where you are staying to write where you are going on a piece of paper (for the taxi driver). It made things a whole lot easier. Do this especially when you are going to any airport in China. Every airport we went to, except for Guilin, had a separate place to go for domestic and international flights. Make sure you know how to tell them which side you are going to before you get in the cab.

8. Taxis in China charge an extra fee for gas which is NOT included in the price on the meter. The first time we discovered this, we looked at the meter, went to give the money, and the man handed me two paper stubs that said an amount of yuan on each. I had no idea what it was for and got angry that he wanted more money until he pointed at a sign (nicely written in English which I of course did not see) that explained that there would be an extra charge for gas when we arrived at our destination. It's very cheap and nothing to be upset about. I felt horrible after I saw the sign. So, don't be surprised when they ask for a few more dollars after you pay the amount on the meter.

9. In Beijing, we booked a tour off of a China tour website. This tour cost us each around $60 and it included visiting: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Badaling Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven, over a period of 2 days. We were on a bus with a few other people that we did not know, but it was only about a total of 12 people altogether, which was nice. The tour guide was great and very entertaining. On the first day it was raining outside, so he made a point to take us to the Ming Tombs first in hopes that it would clear up a little before we went to The Great Wall. When we saw other prices for tours of The Great Wall while we were in China, nothing compared to the deal that we received. I highly recommend it. They offer other tours as well. See the link below.

10. In Shanghai, we took the Big Red Bus to tour the city. It's very convenient, as mentioned before, because you can hop on or off at their various stops throughout the city. It took us to all of the major sites as well as included a free trip to the top of one of the tallest buildings in the city for a spectacular view and a free nighttime boat cruise which made for great views of the skyline at night. We got all of this for about $30 each and were able to use the tickets for a 48 hour period. I think we got the most out of our visit to Shanghai because of this bus. See the link below.

I thought China was a wonderful trip to take. The only big downside to going to China for vacation is the visa fee. You do not need a visa to enter Hong Kong, but you do need a visa for the rest of China. So, if you fly into Hong Kong, but then are traveling to Beijing (or somewhere else within China) afterwards, you must have a visa to enter. You can purchase a single-entry or multiple-entry visa. If you are entering the mainland of China more than once during your stay, then you need a multiple-entry visa. The price for an American to get a visa is about $180 (ouch!). The price for a Canadian to get a visa is about $60.

Our itinerary was this:

Day 1: Arrive in Beijing
Day 2: Tour Beijing, Day 1
Day 3: Tour Beijing, Day 2
Day 4: Fly to Shanghai
Day 5: Big Bus Tour Day 1
Day 6: Big Bus Tour Day 2
Day 7: Free Day
Day 8: Fly to Guilin, Sightseeing
Day 9: Li River Cruise
Day 10: Fly to Hong Kong
Day 11: Big Bus Tour Day 1
Day 12: Big Bus Tour Day 2
Day 13: Depart from Hong Kong

We stayed in hostels in each city and the entire experience was fantastic. I think hostels are a great way to meet people and learn about things to do in the city that you're visiting. Every hostel we stayed in within China was of good standards.

If you have any questions about my trip to China, please don't hesitate to contact me.

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    • nicregi profile image

      Reginald Chan 5 years ago from Malaysia

      Very good article writing. Thanks for sharing and keep it up!

    • lejonkung profile image

      lejonkung 5 years ago

      Cool, im going to China in january! going to be greaaat!!

    • Steve LePoidevin profile image

      Steve LePoidevin 5 years ago from Thailand

      Good article..I have lived in China for the last four years and love it. You made lots of good points. A couple more; don't be afraid to eat street food..it's great and super cheap, elong.com is also a great website for flights inside China, stay away from Western restaurants and hotels if you want to travel cheaply, there are tons of wonderful hostels throughout China, especially in more touristy areas like Xian, Qingdao, and Sanya.

    • CALNY profile image
      Author

      CALNY 5 years ago from Busan, South Korea

      lejonkung, do you know where you are going? I wish I had more time there because there were other places that I wanted to visit.

    • CALNY profile image
      Author

      CALNY 5 years ago from Busan, South Korea

      Thank you, nicregi and Steve! I hope this can help some people in their travels. Thanks for telling me about elong.com. I've never heard of it. I agree with staying at hostels instead of hotels. You save a lot of money!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      Great tips - you certainly demystify travel in the "mysterious Orient" :D

    • CALNY profile image
      Author

      CALNY 5 years ago from Busan, South Korea

      RedElf and ITcoach, thanks for taking the time to comment! :)

      Have an awesome time in China!

    • expatseek profile image

      expatseek 4 years ago

      We would also add Yunnan Province as possibly the best place to visit in China; it is culturally and ethnically diverse, has great sites (the disputed Shangrila, Dali, Tiger Leaping Gorge) and goes from steep mountains toward Tibet to the coast areas. China in a nutshell.

    • CALNY profile image
      Author

      CALNY 4 years ago from Busan, South Korea

      Expatseek,

      Wow, looking at some pictures online, it looks beautiful! Thanks for sharing that info! :)

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      CALNY--thanks for sharing about your travel tips to China. not sure I'll ever go, But for some planning traveling in China, you offer good advice. If I ever do go, Id like to travel on the Li River and walk as far as I could along the great wall. When I've been to ancient places, I could just feel an aura about them. Do you have anymore photos--the ones you post are very nice? A hub just about your traveling in China--like a journal with photos would be nice. Or did you do one and I missed it? Thanks again!

    • CALNY profile image
      Author

      CALNY 4 years ago from Busan, South Korea

      Ajwrites,

      Quite a few of those things I didn't learn about until planning the trip and speaking with other people about it. I hope that my hub is helpful to those who plan on going! And I know what you mean about feeling an aura. Sometimes it's a little creepy if you ask me... haha.

      I have a ton of photos from China. I haven't written a hub about my trip, but will be happy to do so. I'm actually leaving in a few days to begin a 3 month journey through Australia and New Zealand, so when I return, I will update my hubs and fill everyone in on how this upcoming trip went and all about my past trips (including Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia).

      Thanks again for your comments!

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      So awesome--teach English and see the world! I'm so jealous! Have a wondeful, safe trip!

    • expatseek profile image

      expatseek 4 years ago

      There are so many amazing places to travel to in China... it is an enormous country with so much diversity. Truly difficult to know where to start!

    • profile image

      David 3 years ago

      I was wondering if you have in any chance visited to Dubai and have done the dune bashing? I am also a traveler and have experienced dune buggy of dubai. It was remarkable experience. I would recommend you for this tour and for your easiness www.dubaidunebuggysafari.com are the ones which i done this . please try this as well.

      Thanks

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