Travel guide to China

» Places to visit in China

» Ways into China

» Chinese Food

» The Chinese People

» The Chinese Language

» Do's & Do not's

» Places to stay

» Potential for home?

» FAQ's on China

A long time ago I actually thought China could be the place to live. But in reality it proved not to be. Riots in Tibet, and a human rights record I do not see eye to eye with. However, China is one of the most amazing countries in world to travel, and the local people are great.

Places to visit in China

Xi'an: Very old, full of history and surprises.

Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China

The Terracotta Army - Take a bus from near the train station and head off to see the great Army. There are guides at the entrance way, but with a guide book they are not needed and can be painfully boring. Start at the small pit (3) and work your way up to one. Have a camera with a good zoom and low light settings if you are expecting close ups.

The Hidden Pyramids - This has been a personal project for years. There should be a travelogue about it soon with a lot more information. Learning Chinese is a help here. The Maoling Mausoleum is what you are looking for.

The Computer Markets - Like computer equipment, head to the new and old markets on the corner of Dian Zi Yi Road. Bring a Chinese speaker and don't expect bargains at the new mall. At the second hand market know your stuff, and remember if you don't read Chinese the software may not be worth the effort.

Beijing: The capital and home to the Olympic Games 2008. I was thankfully there before the games.

The Great Wall - Little needs to be said about this place. There are many different sections to visit. Mutianyu for me was less touristy. While Badaling and Juyongguan are tourist traps.

Forbidden City - Of all Beijing, this was my favorite spot. You can easily spend a day in here with a good reference book and camera.

The Streets - From the bustling back streets to Tiananmen Square and onto the Temple of Heaven. There's a few days worth of walking around here.

Shanghai: The last city in the overland portion of my journey.

Nanjing Road - A shoppers haven, in the sense of malls and mainstream items. Head here at night for neon lights and a night out. the overland portion of my journey.

The Bund - A river side embankment with a stunning view of a famous Chinese city scape at night. Open food stalls and, a place to buy as many counterfeit watches as you want.

Maglev Train - Heading to the airport? Why not take the fastest train in the world?

Ways into China

Make your way overland from South East Asia. Take a train from Tibet, Mongolia or Russia, or fly into Beijing or Hong Kong. Either way, just make sure you get your visa is sorted before hand!

Post pandemic China has still got closed borders. Do please check with your nearest embassy should the situation change again.

Try my custom flight search for the lowest priced flights to and from China! 

Chinese Food

Peking Duck anyone? Ignoring Chinese food problems is not a good thing. Check the ingredients and pray for English. Avoid the glow in the dark sweets and foods and stay with fresh produce. Chinese food when fresh is really good. When you pick something from a Chinese menu and it's got legs still attached then you might want to try again. Or at least go for some of the menu's with pictures.

The Chinese People

Day to day Chinese people were very nice and helpful. Language and communication is the real problem here. English in Beijing is not too much of a problem. Meet the police or army outside of Beijing and meet a genuine brain washed person. Hissing and shouting is common. Best thing to do is ignore them and act the dumb tourist.

The Language

Good luck again. In actual fact the basics are phonetically easy. Just remember  them. But if you have a Chinese speaker with you, the difference in what you can do is huge. The strange thing is traveling in another country with language barriers was not as hard as China. You can always use a translation app, but remember Google is often blocked.

Do's & Do not's

Do respect the culture of the people. Do take photos. Do try to take local transport rather than tours, it's a lot cheaper. Try to converse with the locals. Watch out when pointing your camera at any police or army types. In Beijing the police are quite friendly, but outside of the capital it can be another story.

Places I stayed

Xi'an - Bob's Guesthouse Just take an immediate right from the train station and keep walking. Friendly English speaking Bob has good internet.
Leo Hostel  - At $9USD per night for a dorm there are cheaper. But this one was attached to a hotel with all the mod cons and good location.

Jade Hotel At $50USD per night for good room with large buffet breakfast close to public transport.

Prefer local accommodation? Try Airbnb (get up to USD $40 discount)

Potential for home?

Nope. Human rights violations and language barriers galore on this one.

FAQ's on traveling to China

How much is a daily budget?

The internet was full of people saying how expensive China was. Just another reminder how everyone has different ideas and tastes.

I found hostels charging $10-12USD for dorm rooms to be clean and secure.

Hotels on a budget start at $35 for singles.

Food from local eateries is dirt cheap with a bowl of noodles starting at $1-2. In restaurants it goes up and fast food is not so cheap $5-6.

Transport is a bit pricey, mainly because of the long distances involved in China. Even local transport is not as cheap as you would expect.

I would put in $30-55 USD per day including some entry fees and local transport. The above is based on a low budget, you can spend a lot more per day depending on your needs.

The Chinese Visa Question?

During the Olympic Games the Chinese changed all the rules and have made it harder than ever. Though now that seems to slowly be changing and it's again up to the embassy nearest to you to issue a visa. At one stage it was not possible to get extensions, nor multiple entry visas. And, proof of flights were required even if you were leaving overland. Your best bet is to check the Chinese embassy website where you are applying to. Or drop into a tour operator and ask them, pretending like you want to go with them. Gather all your info and have everything ready for your day at the Chinese embassy.

What's up with the Chinese taxi drivers, they don't stop for me?

Taxis are fairly cheap in China. But, outside of Beijing, they never wanted to stop for me. The reason is, they don't speak English and don't want the hassle of spending time trying to figure out where you are going. Get an Asian friend, restaurant or the hotel to stop a taxi for you if you are stuck. Taking your hotels business card, with the address written in Chinese, is a big must.

How are Chinese Trains?

Quite nice actually. Very efficient and on time. Bit of a crush getting into the stations though. A lot of hotels and hostels offer to buy a ticket for you, that's a better option than going yourself to buy a ticket. They have security scans, so keep your penknives well tucked away! The sleepers are comfortable but baggage space is an issue. I would go for top sleepers as there is extra room at the top for a backpack. Mine did not fit under the lower bunk.

How to tell a taxi driver, bus or anyone where I want to go?

Firstly if you have the time. Print off the Chinese symbols of all the addresses you think that you will need to ask people for. Most guide books provide this for you.
However, the best thing I found was to ask the hostel reception to write out in Chinese where you want to go on little bits of paper. Simple phrases like "Please show me where the ____ is?" or "Please take me to the railway station." This was my biggest help in China.

Nepal, Patan Check out my Travel Nepal to Tibet overland guide for a lot more!


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Please keep in mind all the above is based on my own personal experience in China. It's not intended to be a full guide. If the information here can help you on your own travels then that's a good thing!