Travelers can visit China any time of the year with each season having positive and negative contributing factors. Fall and Spring season tend to be the best in terms of weather, offering a consistent 50-72 F temperature throughout the country. Summer can also be a great time to visit for those who are prepared for sunnier days and higher temperatures above 72 F and more frequent bouts of rainfall. Winter can be very cold in the northern regions, but also offers fewer crowds at certain populated sites such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an. Chinese travel season tends to be highest the first week of May, first week of October, and then June - Sept and Jan/Feb when school holidays are granted. Visiting China outside of these times will leave you facing fewer tourist crowds. Regardless of when you travel, you are certain to enjoy your visit so long as you are prepared for the weather at that time of year with layered clothing and possible rain or snow gear.
2. What are the accommodations like?
In each location, we strive to use charming accommodations that are locally owned and characteristic of the area. They can best be compared to small, family run bed and breakfasts rather than international chain hotels. All hotels have private baths, hot water and clean, comfortable rooms except in instances where noted such as a homestay. We strive to also find hotels in good locations, whether that be walking distance to main attractions, or out of the city if it is consistently noisy. Larger hotels are used in metropolitan areas as typically these are the only available options.
3. Do I need a converter/adapter for the electricity?
China generally uses 220 volt, 50hz AC electricity with Taiwan using 110 volt. Many hotels however offer 110V and 220V sockets in the bathrooms in larger cities. It is recommended to bring a converter or to purchase one in China upon arrival, and one will likely be needed to adapt the plug shape for any device you bring.
4. Are meals included?
Most meals are included for yourselves as well as your guide. You will need help translating the menus, and thus the guide will typically eat with you unless you specify a different arrangement. Occasionally, when you are in a larger city with many restaurant options, you will have the option to choose where you would like to eat.
5. What are the tour leaders like?
Our tour leaders are exceptional! They are fluent in English and Mandarin, and some speak Korean or Japanese as well. Our tour leaders all attended college and are licensed by the China National Tourism Board. Many were born and raised in the local areas where they guide and are among the very best guides available in each region. Some specialize in specific adventure activities as well, such as hiking. All of our tour leaders treat our travelers like friends, showing visitors both the major highlights and the local treasures.
6. What type of transportation is used?
Our China tours utilize a variety of transportation including private vans/cars, comfortable high speed trains, flights, etc. We use a mix of private/public transportation to provide travelers with the safest and most efficient transportation in each area. Occasionally, we may include non-typical transportation modes (rickshaw, bicycle taxi, pedi-cab, etc.) for short distances to give travelers a sense of local flavor. Each tour itinerary page has a description of the transportation included on that tour. If you have additional questions, just ask!
7. What type of food is typical of China?
Chinese cuisine includes styles ad methods originating from centuries of ancient China practice, as well as outside influences. Eight major cuisine schools exist within China: Anhui, Cantonese (Dim Sum), Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu (Peking Duck), Shandong, Szechuan (Kung Pao), and Zhejiang. Many of these names correspond with the respective provinces from which they originated. Regardless of the methods and presentation, all Chinese cuisine uses similar staple ingredients such as rice, noodles, vegetables, and varying sauces and seasonings.
8. Are these trips suitable for kids?
While the trips are suitable for kids, they may not be ideal. Some tours involve a fair amount of car travel and transit in between main destinations that may not be advantageous for younger kids. We are happy to customize an option that involves less travel time in between activities, as well as more engaging activities (and fewer temple visits) when asked. Please just let us know what you prefer and we can put something together that keeps the whole family engaged.
9. What is a typical age range on the China tours?
Typically, ages range from 12 to 65, however we have seen children as young as 6 and the "young at heart" as old as 90 on our trips.
10. Are these trips a good choice for solo travelers?
Absolutely! Our China tours tend to attract a great mix of solo travelers, families, friends, etc. We can often match you up with another group traveling on one of the set tours, or one with a more customized twist so long as it lines up with your dates and budget. Solo travelers should also take a look at our exclusive Solo Traveler Departures.
11. Do tour rates include international flights?
Tour rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. You can purchase international flights on your own, or we can certainly help you arrange these flights with an airfare consolidator who specializes in international flights.
12. How do I get to the hotel from the airport when I arrive?
A driver will be there to greet you at your arriving airport holding a sign with your name on it. They will take you to your hotel the first night. You can opt to take a taxi transfer on your own. Please just arrange for this in advance and be sure to bring the name and address of your hotel in writing to show the taxi driver. Many taxi drivers do not speak English.
13. Are there any discounts available?
Absolutely! We offer select trip discounts periodically throughout the year. Check out our Traveler Discounts Page for the latest offers and on-going discounts.
14. How much should I budget for tips?
Tips are not required on any of our tours. However, it is customary to offer a small tip for exceptional service. Tipping amounts vary widely, though some travelers report that ~$4-$7/ day for your guide and ~$1-$3/ day for a driver is common. Other travelers opt to bring small gifts from their home to give to service providers along the way.
15. How far in advance should I book?
You can book your China tour at any time and generally the earlier you book, the better. Booking early (4 months or more recommended) is especially important for travelers visiting during the height of the high season to ensure that first choice hotels are still available. Further, we usually recommend that you wait to book your international flights until after your tour is confirmed. The sooner that we arrange your tour, the sooner that you can take advantage of flight deals as they become available. We are often able to accommodate last minute travelers as well (some even departing in less than one week!!), so give us a call and we will do our best! For last minute bookings, it helps to be flexible and organized. Your first choice hotel may not be available for your selected dates, but your trip planner can recommend some other similar options that would be equally interesting!
16. Are tour dates flexible?
YES. Please contact us if you are not able to travel on the set departure dates listed online. Most tours can be arranged on alternative departure dates for a minimum of two travelers as long as hotels and a guide are available.
17. Can I extend or change my stay?
Absolutely! Check out our China extensions for ideas. Extra days can also be arranged in Beijing, Shanghai, Yangshuo or other areas if desired. Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you.
18. What should I pack?
You will receive a detailed packing list after you book your tour. Since the climate varies depending upon locations and season, it is difficult to offer many generalizations. Comfort is the rule and fancy clothes are not necessary for any of our China tours.
19. How concerned should I be about the altitude?
This is only a concern if you are traveling to a high elevation location within China, such as Tibet. Altitude affects each traveler differently and until you have visited an area with high altitude, it is impossible to predict how your body will react. Allowing your body to acclimate before strenuous activity at altitude is key to helping prevent altitude sickness. An extra day or two at altitude provides travelers a good indication of how they will feel once they begin hiking (as altitude symptoms are generally the worst on the first day or two at elevation). Sometimes our travelers report mild altitude symptoms such as fatigue, headache, or lightheadedness during their first day or two at elevation. Severe altitude sickness is rare. In this case, the best treatment is to go down in elevation as soon as possible. We have never had a traveler that had to be evacuated to low altitude. Many severe cases of altitude sickness are the result of a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by the altitude. It is important to ask your doctor whether or not travel to high altitude is advised, especially if you have a pre-existing heart or lung condition such as high blood pressure, asthma, angina, etc. You might also want to ask your doctor about prescription Diamox, a diuretic that many travelers swear by to help them adjust to the altitude more readily.
20. How safe is China?
China is a relatively safe country both in the rural countryside as well as in larger cities. As always, travelers need to be aware of their surroundings and use common sense when venturing out at night, but crime rates in general are very low, particularly against tourists. The most common issue reported are pickpockets when visiting crowded marketplaces or shopping areas. Be wise and keep your possessions hidden under your top layer of clothing to prevent anything from being stolen.
21. Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water is generally not safe to drink anywhere in China. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, & restaurants, and hot water (boiled to make it safe) or tea is generally offered with a meal at a restaurant. It is recommended as well to use bottled water when brushing your teeth!
22. Can I use US dollars, or do I need local currency? What is the local currency, exchange rate, etc.?
Generally USD are not accepted in most establishments in China. RMB (renminbi) also known as CNY (yuan) are the only way to pay in China. Upon arrival, you should plan to exchange your money at a bank. The airports and hotels generally will give you a worse exchange rate. Check out a currency converter such as, www.oanda.com/currency/converter/, for the latest exchange rates.
23. Should I bring cash or Traveler's checks? Are ATMs available? Can I use credit cards?
Credit Cards are widely accepted, but traveler's checks are not. Cash is recommended for travel to more rural areas and can be easily obtained in larger cities.
24. Can I use my cell phone?
Yes, so long as your carrier has not locked your phone and it is possible to operate on their network. You should contact your phone carrier to find out if your phone will work properly. Another option is to buy a local SIM card once you are in China if you do have an unlocked phone. It is advised to also double check your international calling rates with your provider.
25. Do I need a visa/passport?
US citizens need to apply for a visa in advance. Travelers will all need a passport valid for at least 6 months after they depart to apply for the Chinese visa. Travelers should check with their local Chinese consulate to obtain the application. It should be noted to be sure to apply for the proper type of visa (business, tourist, student, etc) as well as for the visa offering the correct number of entries for your planned trip. For example, if you are in China, then leave to visit Hong Kong and then return again to mainland China, you will need a double-entry visa to come in the second time. Most visas are valid for 6 months or 12 months, but only allow for a set number of entries during that time period. It is the traveler's responsibility to ensure they have obtained the proper visa and/or special permits for visits to other restricted regions (such as Lhasa).
26. What immunizations are recommended/required?
No immunizations are currently required for visiting China. A yellow fever vaccination is required if you are arriving from another country with risk of yellow fever. This vaccination, which is valid for 10 years, must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival in the destination with yellow fever risk. Travelers must bring along their International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) as proof of vaccination. Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. Hepatitis B, Malaria, and Polio preventatives are also loosely recommended depending on where you plan to travel in China. For the most current information, please consult your doctor and/or check out the Center for Disease Control web-site.
27. What time zone is China?
Since 1949, China has followed a single standard time of UTC+08:00. Another time, UTC+06:00 is also unofficially used in Xinjiang and Tibet. China does span 5 time zones and used to operate with 5 different standards, but now has consolidated down to the one, known as Beijing Time or China Standard Time.
28. Is travel insurance recommended?
Absolutely! We work with a company called TravelGuard that provides reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellation, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. They have two different types of insurance available, depending upon whether or not you will need the cancellation coverage. Check out our Once You're Booked page for more information.