Advance Planning

Three months before Book accommodation at standout hotels; visit a doctor to get your vaccinations done.

One month before Get your visa sorted; reserve a table at top restaurants in Shànghǎi, Běijīng or Hong Kong.

One week before Book train tickets online for domestic journeys in China. Check the weather online.

Resources

  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/china) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.
  • Ctrip (www.english.ctrip.com) Hotel booking, air and train ticketing.
  • Chinasmack (www.chinasmack.com) Human-interest stories and videos.
  • Popupchinese (www.popupchinese.com) Excellent podcasts (great for learning Chinese).
  • Far West China (www.farwestchina.com) Indispensable resource for Silk Roaders.

Top Tips

  • Be patient and understand that many things you may take for granted – orderly queues, international levels of English ability, personal space – may not exist.
  • Although they are not that user friendly, choosing to take local buses instead of taxis could mean you're the only foreigner on board and a local could well strike up a conversation with you.
  • Sightseeing on foot is also an excellent way to get under the skin of Chinese cities and towns.
  • Treat China as an adventure and learning curve, rather than purely as a holiday.
  • Dining in local street markets is a great way to eat out of your comfort zone and discover the full, flavoursome variety of Chinese cooking.

What to Take

  • Passport
  • Credit card
  • Phrasebook
  • Money belt
  • Travel plug
  • Medical kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Mobile-phone charger
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunhat and shades
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Torch
  • Pocketknife
  • Earplugs

What to Wear

You can pretty much wear casual clothes throughout your entire journey in China, unless dining in a smart restaurant in Shànghǎi, Běijīng or Hong Kong, when you may need to dress less casually. In general, trousers (pants) and shirts or tees for guys, and dresses, skirts or trousers for women will serve you well nationwide; shorts and short sleeves are generally fine in summer, but don long trousers and long sleeves in the evenings to keep mosquitoes at bay. A sunhat can be invaluable. A thin waterproof coat and sturdy shoes are a good idea for all-weather hiking and sightseeing. Winter is a different ball game up north and especially at altitude: you’ll need several layers, thick shirts, jerseys and warm coats, jackets, gloves, socks and a hat.

Pre-departure Checklist

  • Check the validity of your passport
  • Make any necessary bookings (for accommodation and travel)
  • Secure your visa and additional permits well in advance
  • Check what clothing you will need
  • Check the airline baggage restrictions
  • Organise travel insurance
  • Check if you can use your mobile/cell phone
  • Work out your itinerary
  • Inform your credit/debit-card company