Practical tips for traveling to China: Complete Guide

Travel recommendations for China:

What do you need to know before you go to China?

Here I leave a list of 25 practical tips for traveling to China and some curiosities that can help you if you dare to visit this curious, different and incredible country. 

China is a country so big that each province is a world, of course they have their similarities but also their own characteristics. That is why it would be a mistake to generalize these tips to each of the provinces.

In my case I have been living in China for 7 years. Most of the time I have been in China I have stayed in Yunnan province, so that is the one I can talk about the most and it is from there that I have learned everything I know about China. I hope that my practical advice for traveling to China will be helpful to you.

Tips for traveling to China - Yunnan - Yuanyang
China – Yunnan – Yuanyang Local

Practical tips for traveling to China

Processing of the Visa for China

  1. News! No visa fee is required for a 15-day stay! For citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia, from December 2023 to November 30, 2024, ordinary passport holders of these countries will be able to do business or travel to China without a visa for up to 15 days. Take advantage of this to go to China!
  2. But, if you need more than 15 days you should do this: Previously, you had to go to the Chinese Embassy in Madrid or the Chinese Consulate in Barcelona to get a visa,but now you have to go to the China Visa Application Service Center. In this post I explain step by step how to apply for a visa to China.
  3. Basically, you will be asked:
    • The original passport.
    • Photocopy of the passport
    • Copy of the reservation of the return flights.
    • A copy of hotel reservation receipt for at least half of the stay or invitation letter from a friend/relative residing in China.
    • Fill in the application form, which includes bringing a passport-size photo.
  4. The visa currently costs 120 euros. If everything is in order, once you submit all the documents you will get your passport back within a week with a month’s visa for China. You have three months to use it and the month they give you will start to take effect once you enter China.
  5. You do not need a visa to enter Hong Kong and once there you can also get a tourist visa to China.

Visa Extensions in China

  1. Once inside China you can make two visa extensions of one month each, for which you are allowed a maximum of three months as a tourist. Once this time is exceeded you have three options:
    • Leave the country and do the same again. (The most expensive).
    • Pay a Chinese course and get a student visa for half a year or a year. (The most common).
    • If you find a job, get a work visa. (The most difficult).
Tips for traveling to China - Yunnan - Erhai Lake
China – Yunnan – Erhai Lake

Practical tips for traveling to China

How and when to go to China?

  1. In my case, I usually find the cheapest air tickets on Skyscanner for international travel, and for travel within China on ChinaTravel.
  2. National Day and Chinese New Year are the most important holidays in China. They are also the worst days to come and visit China as they give a week’s holiday and there are millions of Chinese people travelling. Any time of the year is good to travel around China except those days.

Do they speak English in China?

  1. In cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai you will find many foreigners or Chinese who speak English and can help you, but in other areas it is not common.
  2. So when you travel in China, you can ask your hostel to write down the name of your next destination in Chinese so you don’t have any problems and end up somewhere else.
  3. Although the official languages are Mandarin and Cantonese, almost every city, town or ethnic group has its own dialect. It is curious to see how in many rural areas far from the big cities they do not even understand Mandarin.
Yunnan - Luoping - Jinji-Village
Yunnan – Luoping – Jinji Village

Cost of living in China

  1. The official Chinese currency is the “Renminbi” (RMB) or “Yuan” colloquially called by the Chinese “kuai”. As of today, 1 Euro is 7.77 RMB.
  2. In Yunnan Province the approximate prices are:
    • The bus is 1Rmb, a 10 minute taxi 12Rmb.
    • A 7 hour journey by train: 100-150Rmb.
    • A 7 hour journey by bus: 200-250Rmb.
    • Daily Chinese food between: 10-30Rmb.
    • Foreign food: 30-50Rmb.
    • Accommodation in a hostel in a shared dormitory: 35Rmb.
    • A shared flat: 1000-1500Rmb.
    • Single apartment: 1500-2000Rmb.

Chinese culture and customs

  1. China is one of the safest countries in the world. You can go out at night without fear and go to areas away from tourism with complete peace of mind. The Chinese people are generally quite nice, very rural and, in general, good people.
  2. Even so, many Chinese people do not understand the meaning of “queuing”, so when you go to buy things or get into a bus that is almost full, stick your nose in it and if necessary, elbow it out.
  3. Visit their beautiful parks. Daily life is on the streets and in the parks. At dawn and dusk the Chinese parks are full of people playing badminton, doing traditional dances, tai chi, etc.
  4. Travelling in China there are everyday things that can be done in a somewhat heavy way. For example, the frequent spitting in the street or the bus trips at rush hour, where you have to fight to get in, once inside you can’t even breathe and the driver drives away. For this: patience.
China – Yunnan – Monihei – Mud festival

Practical tips for traveling to China

How do the Chinese treat foreigners?

  1. The Chinese are quite curious and sometimes like to take an interest in foreigners. Their favorite questions are where you are from, how long you have been here, and if you are used to the type of life in China. Also, they will always tell you that your Chinese is very good, even if it is not true.
  2. It depends on the area where you go out, if they are not used to seeing foreigners, it is possible that when entering a bar or a discotheque they will want to invite you to drink with them.
  3. The Chinese generally like to drink alcohol, the most famous drink is the “baijiu” which usually contains between 45 and 60 degrees of alcohol approximately. In any event, food or party it is possible that they come to toast you with baijiu so… start getting used to it!
  4. The words “lao wai” (老外)/”wai guo ren”(外国人) mean “foreigner”. You will hear them on more than one occasion when you come across children, young people or adults. Don’t take it wrong, the term “lao” is used to indicate familiarity. For example, if my name is “Make” (马克), my Chinese friends call me “LaoMa”.

China’s ethnic groups: the ethnic minorities

  1. There is a total of 56 different ethnic groups in China. Yunnan is the province with the most ethnic variety, there are up to 27 ethnic minorities.
  2. Yunnan is one of the most visited provinces by the Chinese themselves because of its cultural diversity and its wonderful landscapes.
  3. The most famous and tourist sites are: Kunming (昆明), Dali (大理), Lijiang (丽江), Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡), Shangrila (香格里拉), Xishuangbanna (西双版纳), Luoping (罗平) and the Yuanyang Rice Terraces (元阳).
  4. You can check my guide of the best places to visit in Yunnan.
Tips for traveling to China - Yunnan - Kunming - Green Lake
Yunnan – Kunming – Green Lake

Prohibitions in China

  1. China, like every country, has its faults, but try not to air them, otherwise you will have problems. The Chinese don’t take kindly to your criticism of their country, let alone the Chinese government.
  2. Facebook, Youtube, Blogger, Instagram, etc. are block. So forget about trying to use them, unless you pay for a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
  3. Anyway, contrary to what you might think, the Chinese don’t lack anything, they have all those same apps but in their Chinese version. The most famous one is Wechat, which is the What’s app there but much more complete.
  4. If you have a student visa you are not allowed to work, although in provinces with less foreigners, they turn a blind eye to the need for English teachers.

Chinese food and eating habits

  1. Chinese food is very varied and in each province it is different. For example, in the provinces of Sichuan, Chongqing and Yunnan it is characterized by spiciness, so you better be prepared to sweat a little.
  2. In Chinese gastronomy there are infinite flavors: spicy, salty, sour, bitter, sweet, a mixture of salty and sweet, a mixture of sweet and sour, etc.
  3. Most people eat out so if there is one thing that characterizes China it is that it is full of restaurants and you always see people eating at any time of the day.
  4. Learn to eat with chopsticks. Forks are used by children in kindergartens when they are not yet able to use chopsticks.
  5. Most Chinese people make a lot of noise when they eat, apart from talking loudly and sometimes spitting. If you can’t stand it, you can order take-out and eat it somewhere quiet.
  6. We foreigners have a reputation for liking a dish called Gong bao ji ding. I love it.
China - Yunnan Gastronomy
China – Yunnan Gastronomy

Practical tips for traveling to China

Learn vocabulary for your first trip to China

  1. Learn some Chinese, you’ll enjoy your day-to-day life more and everything will be easier for you. Here’s some vocabulary that might help, although if you don’t pronounce the tones properly, they will most likely not understand you:
    • 你好 (Ni hao): Hello.
    • 谢谢 (Xie xie): Thank you.
    • 不用谢 (Bu yong xie): You’re welcome.
    • 这个 (Zhe ge): This.
    • 我要这个 (Wo yao zhe ge): I want this.
    • 不要 (Bu yao): I don’t want it.
    • 我要去。。。(Wo yao qu…): I want to go to…
    • 多少钱? (Duo shao qian?): How much is it worth?
    • 漂亮!(Piaoliang!): Beautiful!
    • 听不懂 (Ting bu dong): I don’t understand.

Conclusion tips for a good trip to China

All these practical tips for travelling to China, in my opinion, define quite well what this country is like: different, unique, exotic, unknown, beautiful and ambiguous, among many other things.

Just remember that China is much more than spring rolls or fake products, so if someday someone is curious to see something different, my advice is to venture into China or other Asian destinations. Go with an open mind, ready to surprise you every moment and willing to live something different. Go for it!

For more curiosities about China you can read my article about the most surprising things about China. If you found this post about Tips for traveling to China useful, help us to keep growing: comment, evaluate and/or share. And if you want to go on a trip to the Chinese province of Yunnan you can have a look at our guided and chauffeured route through Yunnan.

Follow your dreams to the end of the world and then back.

Yunnan - Black Dragon Pool - Lijiang
Yunnan – Black Dragon Pool – Lijiang

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