China feels like a hundred different moods, landscapes and countries rolled into one. Neon cities, remote villages, deserts, smoky markets and ancient artefacts - there are new adventures around every corner. Even after a lifetime in China, there would still be more to see, taste, admire and experience.
China Tours & Travel
All our China trips
China trip reviews
Our China trips score an average of 4.72 out of 5 based on 115 reviews in the last year.
Silk Road - China & Kyrgyzstan, May 2014
Overall tour experience was fantastic. A lovely small group of people who all got along well. Our Intrepid leader was the best one we have ever had in all our intrepid travels.
Review submitted 29 Jun 2014
North China Getaway, June 2014
Gina was the best tour leader I've ever had. She made it so much easier for us traveling through China.
Review submitted 27 Jun 2014
Articles on China
Backstage pass: 8 of the best festivals in Asia
Posted on Fri, 26 Sep 2014 by Intrepid Travel
Shakespeare once said, ‘The sauce to meat is ceremony; meeting were bare without it.’ Basically this translates to, ‘Festivals, they’re pretty cool, eh?’ And those Elizabethans really knew how to party, so I’m inclined to agree with his opinion. Ceremonies and festivals are the cultural glue that binds us as people.Read more
6 Asian hotels you really have to see to believe
Posted on Mon, 22 Sep 2014 by Intrepid Travel
What is it about Asia that throws up strange and unusual places to rest your head?Read more
11 things to wear on your head in Central Asia
Posted on Sun, 8 Jun 2014 by Tara Kennaway
If I was to give you one tip about travelling in Central Asia, it would be expect the unexpected. Everything about the region is surprising; the extraordinary landscapes, fascinating history, [...]Read more
A photo journey through Central Asia
Posted on Wed, 14 May 2014 by Sue Elliot
The Silk Road originally extended over 6,000 km through ancient China, India, Persia, Europe and Arabia, linking the mighty civilisations of the East and the West. It’s an intrepid traveller’s [...]Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in China, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in China you may find yourself staying in a:
At a glance
|Capital city:||Beijing (population 13 million)|
|Language:||Mandarin, Cantonese and many dialects|
|Time zone:||(GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi|
|Electricity:||Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type C (European 2-pin) Type I (Australian/New Zealand & Chinese/Argentine 2/3-pin)|
Best time to visit China
Due to China's large size, there are great variations in the climate - depending on what area you're travelling in, expect different temperatures and conditions. Autumn and spring are generally the better seasons to visit as temperatures are less extreme than in summer and winter. Be aware that travelling through China during Chinese New Year presents some challenges, with many businesses closing and public transport (especially rail) much busier due to locals moving around the country to visit their families.
Culture and customs
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways of experiencing a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
China can lay claim to rich culinary traditions and some of the world's most celebrated cuisine.
Things to try in China
1. Sichuan Hot Pot
Taste a bit of Chinese history by dipping into a fiery Sichuan hot pot filled with meat, vegetables, noodles and chilli. While each region in China has different varieties, the hot pots in Sichuan are among the fieriest.
2. Dim Sum (Yum Cha)
Sitting down to a dim sum banquet is one of Hong Kong's great culinary experiences. Bamboo baskets of salty dumplings and pots of cleansing tea change hands in this traditional feast that will leave you feeling very full.
3. Green Tea
China is home to one of the world's largest tea drinking cultures, with most locals sipping a few cups of tea daily. In western societies, green tea has risen in popularity of late, but has been used as a medicine in China for thousands of years.
4. Peking Duck
This famous roast duck dish from Beijing dates back to Imperial China. Succulent slices of duck served between delicate pancakes with green onions and hoisin sauce is simply one of the best flavour combinations in the world.
Geography and environment
History and government
As one of the world's oldest civilisations, China has an intriguing history that spans thousands of years. The Yellow River is known as the Cradle of Chinese Civilisation as it is thought that Chinese civilisation originated on the banks of the river. China's early history is dominated by periods of dynastic rule, fragmentation and imperialistic expansion, with each dynasty contributing something different to the annals of history. Construction of the Great Wall of China was thought to have started during the Qin Dynasty, with the Ming Dynasty enhancing the wall at a later stage. The Tang Dynasty is known as a time of prosperity and artistic expression, the Song Dynasty is famed for being a time of scientific and technological discovery, and Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty saw an overall population decline that has been attributed to everything from an administration error to the arrival of the Bubonic Plague. With the Yuan Dynasty being overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368, population numbers began to increase again and urbanisation grew quite rapidly. During this time, private enterprise flourished, with small-scale paper, silk and cotton trading providing trade income to the masses. The following period of rule known as the Qing Dynasty stretched from 1644 to 1911. This is generally seen as a time of rebellion and upheaval with the Taiping Rebellion, Nien Rebellion, Panthay Rebellion and Boxer Rebellion all testing the Qing's ability to rule. Thankfully, remnants of most of these periods of history can be found in China today.
The Republic of China was formed in Nanjing in 1912 after a military uprising. During the following years, leadership changed hands many times until the People's Liberation Army succeeded in ousting the US backed Chiang Kai-Shek after a long and bloody battle. Mao Zedong became Chairman (leader) of the People's Republic of China, which was declared in 1949, and China's society was systematically converted to communism, with land reforms and collectivisation of agriculture changing the structure of society and daily life dramatically. Mao's death in 1976 triggered leadership changes and economic reforms which had impacts that have rippled out into the future. More recently, China has seen Hong Kong and Macau returned from foreign rule, has enjoyed a period of increased economic growth and basked in the international spotlight as the host city of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Top 10 Must-See Icons of China
1. The Great Wall
At 6,000 km long, the Wall is like an old friend that keeps popping its head up on your travels. You're likely to glimpse it from train windows, but the best way to experience it is with a walk. It's steep, but with every step you're rewarded with an amazing sense of history.
2. Terracotta Warriors
These 8,000 soldiers and their horses have stood guard for 2,000 years over the First Emperor of China. Beautifully preserved and standing in full battle regalia, they are a highlight of any trip to China.
3. Longji Terraces
Nicknamed the dragon's backbone with good reason, the rice terraces soar into the sky like ribs from a mythical beast and bring different colours and moods with every season. Hike through them to small villages where life has remained unchanged for centuries.
This bustling metropolis is modern China at its best. Take in the futuristic skyline of the Bund, get a taste of Europe at the French Concession or grab a bargain at bustling Yuyuan Bazaar.
5. Giant Pandas
These gorgeous, black and white fur-balls originate from China but are loved by the world. Visit the breeding program in Chengdu that is helping to save this rare species and see for yourself why pandas have captivated the world.
6. Yangzi River
Take a cruise down the world's third largest river for front row seats to rural China. Explore tributaries, see the phenomenal Three Gorges Dam and take time out on deck to learn mah jong or brush up on your Mandarin.
7. Emei Shan
Take a cable car to the peak of this holy mountain. Then the active can choose to join pilgrims for the six hour hike back down, past cool streams and rainforests. Spend the night in a simple monastery and wake to the sound of monks chanting.
8. Shaolin Temple
Watch kung fu students practise their moves at the legendary Shaolin Temple. For those feeling game, there is the opportunity to attend a class and soak up some of the wisdom.
9. Tiananmen Square
Beijing's huge city square has seen many important historical events take place over the years. Surrounded by monuments and flags, this is an icon of China not to be missed.
10. The Forbidden City
This UNESCO World Heritage site located in the middle of Beijing has historical and political importance. As an imperial palace, the Forbidden City housed emperors - now this place is recognised as being the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Don't miss it!
China is a shopper's wonderland with a multitude of different shopping experiences: from the massive malls of Beijing to the fashion boutiques of Shanghai and the small village markets that are dotted around the country.
It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in China
As the home of silk, Chinese silk is legendary. Greatly admired by the world for centuries, don’t leave China without picking up some silk fabric, clothing or scarves.
2. Chinese Calligraphy Art
This beautiful art form has been practised in China for centuries. Buy an antique art work or get a customised piece featuring your name made on the spot.
3. Paper Cut Art
This traditional art is a painstaking process that ultimately creates an intricately beautiful result. Associated with Chinese New Year, you will be able to find paper art souvenirs all year round, with flowers, animals and people being the most common.
4. Chinese Knots
These traditional, decorative handicrafts are seen as a symbol of health and prosperity, and make brilliant gifts for friends back home.
Festivals and Events in China
Chinese New Year
This traditional holiday is considered the most important in China, where it is known as the Spring Festival. Even though the Lunar New Year falls on a specific day, satellite celebrations can be observed for 14 days around the time of Lunar New Year. Fireworks, feasts, lively parades, offerings and fairs are all geared towards clearing out the old, and welcoming in a new year of happiness, health and prosperity.
Dragon Boat Festival
This major holiday originally began as a time of warding off evil spirits and disease, and to this day people in China still see this festival as a time to cleanse, renew and cultivate peace.
Xi'an Ancient Culture and Art Festival
This annual celebration of ancient culture and art features performers from more than 30 countries. Stilt walking, dragon dance, traditional drumming, fire works, historical re enactments and folk art demonstrations celebrate and promote the ancient culture of China during this vibrant festival.
FAQs on China
If submitting your visa form in person with your local consulate, please check beforehand whether you need to make an appointment.
Can of soft drink = 3-5 RMB
Bottle of beer = 7-10 RMB
Basic lunch = 15 RMB
Basic rice or noodle dinner 25 RMB
Three-course dinner = 80 RMB
For more information on insurance, please go to: [site:intrepid_insurance_link]
Feb 10 Spring Festival/Chinese New Year
Apr 4 Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival
May 1 Labour Day
Jun 10 Dragon Boat Festival
Sep 19 Mid-Autumn Festival
Oct 1 National Day
Please note these dates are for 2012. Further holidays may be celebrated in regional parts of China. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/china/public-holidays
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
China Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for China
1. Be considerate of China’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
4. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
5. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
6. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
7. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
8. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
9. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
The Intrepid Foundation
The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.
In China, The Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:
Braille Without Borders
This organisation aims to facilitate the integration and acceptance of the blind in Tibetan society by providing rehabilitation and education for blind children. In Lhasa, they have a preparatory school, medical massage training and a Braille printing press. At the vocational training centre and farm in Shigatse they teach skills including animal husbandry, market gardening, agriculture, cheese production, bread baking and kitchen management.
This proactive not-for-profit organisation helps the disadvantaged local community to live more independent lives. Art and craft workshops teach skills and foster employment options while public education projects enlighten the community about the ways in which people with disabilities can contribute to society.
Image supplied by Kim Bowden and Jane Crouch.
Providing skills, training, employment services and housing assistance, this organisation works to better the lives of disabled people in Xi'an by increasing the amount of opportunities available to this marginalised section of the population.
Image supplied by Xi'an Huiling.
To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org
|The Last Chinese Chef||Nicole Mones|
|River Town||Peter Hessler|
|The Painted Veil||Somerset Maugham|
|Wild Swans||Jung Chang|
|The Last Days of Old Beijing||Michael Meyer|
|Mao's Last Dancer||Li Cunxin|
|Leaving Mother Lake||Yang Erche Namu|