For a first time visitor of China the ‘I can-do drive’, pulsating energy level, bustling population and challenges posed by Mandarin can be quite exhaustive affairs. You can hear many of first time China visitors complaining about crowd, language and overall exhaustion. This kind of problem generally arises as mostly western tourists try to include a whole lot of itineraries within a single Chinese trip.
As we can understand that within our first ever trip to USA bounded by time only a harrowing tour itinerary will include Manhattan, Grand Canyon, Disney World and Hollywood into one. If you are expecting to follow such a cramming itinerary, you are sure to lose your hold on a relaxing experience.
Remember that gone are the days when few tourists would have flocked around famous Chinese sites. In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of domestic tourists. So plan out your Chinese trip in a reasonable way.
Different Likings, Different Sites
I want to see latest architectural marvels-> So you’re smitten with Chinese sky scrapers and other artistic architectural marvels! Then head straight to financial hub of Shanghai; contemporary art district of Beijing; it’s Olympic Village etc.
I am a history buff-> You’re always awestruck with 5000 years old Chinese history and got your golden opportunity to explore it. Start your journey from visiting the Terracotta Army at Xian; visiting the Forbidden City; Beijing’s Summer Palace; portion of Great Chinese Wall at Badaling; museums like Xi’an Museum, Museum of Han Yangling, Shaanxi History Museum, Zhejiang Provincial Museum etc.
The adventurous me-> Often adventure sites are less famous and less crowded. So you can visit such sites in a more relaxed manner. However there is no dearth of outstanding adventure spots in China. You can choose from north-western desert terrains of Taklamakan; Dunhuang Buddhist caves; Luoyang and Kaifeng, the former capital cities etc.
Close watcher of day-to-day life-> I like to watch day-to-day life of an average Chinese. This kind of tour itinerary needs good amount of time so that you can walk on city backstreets; explore public parks, traditional teahouses, quiet temples etc. Obviously when you’d go for such tours there’d be unplanned stops at courtyards with plum blossom; a street beggar playing haunting tunes with his ‘erhu’. These are far from maddening crowds at tourist spots.
Best Time to Visit
Spring time is the best season to visit China. Second best is the months of autumn. But please remember that this is also the time when the hotels and restaurants are most pricey.
Worst Time to Visit
One essential condition to visit most popular tourist spots here is to avoid the 3 main public holidays- May Holiday; Chinese New Year; National Day.
How to Get there?
British Airways, Air China, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have services from London’s Heathrow Airport.
You can take help from kayak.co.uk to plan out lengthy trips. This is specially a flight-comparison website. Additional help is available from kayak app.
How to Move Around?
Good airports, upgraded systems make Chinese air traffic an extremely popular mode of transport.
High-tech, punctual Chinese train traffic system is just exceptional and is a great way to mix-up with locals.
Good train routes include Beijing-Shanghai; Shanghai-Hangzhou; Shanghai-Suzhou; Beijing-Xi’an and Chengdu-Chongquing.
- Excellent advices about Chinese train trips are available with seat61.com.
Beijing and Shanghai have good metro rail systems. They are cost-effective, user-friendly and reliable.
Taxi services are honestly charged and plentiful in number. One, biggest problem is the language barrier.
There is no need of visas for people residing in Macau or Hong Kong. Available types of visas are 30 days single entry visa; 60 days multiple entry visa; 90 days multiple days visa. Application forms can be downloaded from visaforchina.org.
From the date of arrival, one should own a passport with minimum validation of 6 months and 3 spare pages for visa entry. You should have separate passports for children.
You are legally permitted up to 72 hours stay without a visa at selected cities. Within this period you need to fly to another country with proper documents.
Your visa should include the name of entry point if you’re crossing Chinese border through Tibet.
Prerequisites of Health Certificates
You must take up vaccinations for yellow fever if you’re coming from an infected area; in addition vaccines for Malaria, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid, encephalitis, TB, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus and Japanese B should be taken for precaution. China offers good medical facilities for all.
There are plenty of ATMs available and credit cards of major institutions are accepted everywhere.
Tips are customary and legally binding in some cases for drivers, guides and porters. Discretionary tips are available at taxis, hotels and restaurants.
It is advised for both genders to wear modest clothes and slip-off shoes especially while visiting a temple.
You can take help from translating apps like Google Translate or Bing Translator or Jibbigo while walking along Chinese streets as most street signs are in Mandarin.
Kindly ask for permissions while visiting tourist sites. At some places video cameras and still cameras are levied extra charges.
Don’t wonder at spitting on street or public smoking as these are culturally permitted in Chinese society.
If you plan your journey correctly, trip to China will be one of your most memorable ones for sure. You can touch the indigenous oriental nerve as well as watch an emerging world economy in rising; a rare view I would say.