China

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

Top holiday deals in China

Departing Days Price USD
27 Aug 2016 China Experience 21 $3541
24 Aug 2016 Beijing to Hong Kong 23 $2496
3 Aug 2016 North China Getaway 12 $1516
25 Sep 2016 Explore China 13 $2552
16 Aug 2016 Tiger Leaping Gorge 13 $1629

All our China trips

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Travel through Shanghai, Xiamen, Yangshuo, the Longji rice terraces and Hong Kong on a remarkable city to country...
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Travel on lightning-fast trains to bustling cities and tranquil towns. See the sights of Shanghai, feel the zen in...
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China trip reviews

Our China trips score an average of 4.77 out of 5 based on 431 reviews in the last year.

China Highlights , July 2016

Zoe Speer

China Experience , June 2016

Malcolm Crouch

Video

Articles on China

Introducing our brand new Expedition trips for 2016

Posted on Thu, 12 May 2016

After months of planning, arguing, drinking and pondering, we've come up with the craziest adventures on the planet: our Expedition trips.

Read more

Mothers of Intrepid: 3 amazing women you’ll meet on a homestay

Posted on Wed, 4 May 2016

Whether it’s a Mongolian Nana or a Peruvian Mama, homestay cooking, hospitality (and life wisdom) are simply the best.

Read more

Want to know what Overland travel really looks like? (video)

Posted on Wed, 27 Apr 2016

There aren't many things left in the world that can be called a genuine Adventure, but this is one of them.

Read more

Why we sometimes lose the travel itch (and how we can get it back)

Posted on Fri, 9 Oct 2015

"This was the life I’d chosen. It was the life I’d life a decent job in Vancouver, Canada for: spend six months on the road throughout Asia en route to a year spent in Australia."

Read more

Transport

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:

Accommodation

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:

About China

At a glance

Capital city: Beijing (population 13 million)
Population: 1.3 billion
Language: Mandarin, Cantonese and many dialects
Currency: CNY
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)
Dialing code: +86

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.

Bejing weather chart Hong Kong weather chart

Culture and customs

Permormers at a festival in Beijing
As one of the world's oldest cultures, China has a fascinating array of cultural treasures to observe, taste, admire and learn about. Ancient mythology and spirituality is infused throughout the traditional dance, art, music and literature of China, with many contemporary customs being directly attributed to century-old traditions. While modern China is changing at a rapid pace, with technological advances and infrastructure cropping up at a speedy rate, much of China still clings to age-old traditions and ways of life. This culture clash is particularly evident when visiting large cities like Beijing that are home to ancient hutongs, modern skyscrapers, time-worn temples and glorious UNESCO World Heritage sites, which can all be found near each other. Culturally, China has given the world everything from martial arts to mah jong, with the greater world enjoying China's rich cuisine, delicate art, evocative dance and enlightening philosophy. Although the language may be impenetrable for new comers and some of the customs and foods a little strange to western tastes, China's culture remains one of the world's most fascinating.

Eating and drinking

Peking duck

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

Rice paddy fields
As one of the world's largest countries, China's vast land mass spreads across a large part of northern Asia and includes a diverse range of terrain and people. With fertile rice terraces, inhospitable desert, towering mountain ranges, earthy steppes and life-giving rivers and channels, China is a revolving door of natural environments. The diversity of topography is also matched by the different ways of living that have evolved over the years. Contemporary China is a mixture of sleepy villages, busy port cities, burgeoning industrial centres and thriving metropolises.

History and government

Forbidden city, Beijing Boy waving flags at Tiananmen square, Beijing

Early History

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.

Recent History

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 Picks

Terracotta Warriors, Xian Giant Panda, China Forbidden Place, China

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.

4. Shanghai

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!

Shopping

Chinese Calligraphy Art

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

1. Silk

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

Citizens from Singapore, Brunei and Japan are allowed up to 15 days stay without a visa. All other nationalities require a visa. When filling out the visa application form, please list the hotel in China specified in the start, continuing or finishing point listed in the Trip Notes as the "company or person to visit in China". You require a single entry visa to complete this trip.

If submitting your visa form in person with your local consulate, please check beforehand whether you need to make an appointment.
Generally, tipping is not expected on mainland China, although leaving spare change at restaurants and giving a small amount to porters or bar staff is becoming more commonplace (although not mandatory). Some large hotels and restaurants may already include a 10%-15% surcharge within the bill. The culture of tipping is different in Hong Kong, where taxi drivers and restaurants will usually round up the bill, and service staff like porters will generally expect a tip.
Travellers can access the internet via internet cafes and Wi-Fi hot spots in China's cities. Internet access is less available in rural and remote areas. Please note that some web sites are censored in China.
Mobile phone coverage is generally very good in China's cities, but less so in remote and rural areas. Ensure global roaming is activated before leaving home if you want to use your phone.
Most of China's toilets are squat toilets, although flushable toilets can sometimes be found in modern hotels and restaurants. Be sure to carry your own supply of toilet paper and soap, as these are rarely provided.
Metro ride = 3 RMB
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
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in China. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Ask your leader where filtered water can be found; some hotels we stay in may have drinking water available. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Credit cards are accepted by China's large stores, hotels and restaurants, but less so by smaller vendors and market stalls where cash is usually the only payment option. Carry both modes of payment to be sure.
Travellers will be able to access ATMs in China's large cities and regional centres. Rural and remote areas will have less ATM access so ensure you have other payment modes before venturing out of the city.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year's Day
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 Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

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.

Beijing Huiling

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.

Xi'an Huiling

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

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
The Last Chinese ChefNicole Mones
River TownPeter Hessler
The Painted VeilSomerset Maugham
Wild SwansJung Chang
The Last Days of Old BeijingMichael Meyer
Mao's Last DancerLi Cunxin
Leaving Mother LakeYang Erche Namu