An insider’s help guide China, including the best time to go, where you should stay, the ideal tour operators, what you should pack and recommended reading. By our expert, Michelle Jana Chan.
Featuring its high-octane energy, can-do drive, teeming population and challenging language barrier, China is surely an exhausting place to go for the first-time visitor. Common complaints We have heard from tourists include: “it’s so crowded – everyone’s pushing and shoving”; “we couldn’t make ourselves understood”; and “we needed another holiday next trip”.
The ideal suggestion I could give is always to avoid looking to cram excessive in. There are hardly any china tour who visit the US and combine Manhattan, Disneyworld, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood in a trip however the equivalent journey in China will not be unheard of. Classic itineraries often rush visitors involving the Forbidden City, The Truly Amazing Wall, the Terracotta Army, Chengdu’s panda sanctuaries and a Three Gorges cruise, finishing up in frantic Shanghai.
20 years ago, this type of route might have been more palatable. There are almost no domestic tourists during those times. However it seems the whole country is on the move keen to explore their homeland. International visitors face long queues at key places of interest and then a jostle among heaving crowds. But approached wisely, China can be as uplifting because it is intriguing. It is also an important stop for any individual hoping for more information on the direction the world takes this century.
Attempt to avoid cramming too much in; classic itineraries often rush visitors through the Forbidden City
Some journey to China to marvel on the skylines of cranes, innovative architectural projects and also the country’s artistic endeavours. They must visit the financial and commercial hub of Shanghai, in addition to Beijing’s Olympic Village and the capital’s contemporary art district, housed within a former munitions factory, and called 798.
Others will be keen for additional details on China’s 5,000-year-old civilisation. Which is best viewed with the country’s museums and monuments, from your first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an to Beijing’s Forbidden City, which served as being the imperial palace from your Ming dynasty up until the end of your Qing dynasty. However, be aware that these must-see attractions, including Beijing’s Summer Palace and the sections of the Great Wall nearest the capital (notably Badaling), are often by far the most crowded.
For that adventurous, you can find less well known – and fewer crowded – sites, like the Buddhist caves at Dunhuang, the charming former capitals of Luoyang and Kaifeng, and also the great Taklamakan Desert in the far north-west. Some of China’s exceptional but less frequented museums include Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an Museum as well as the Museum of Han Yangling (all 3 are in or near to Xi’an), in addition to Zhejiang Provincial Museum.
For your adventurous, there are actually less popular – and less crowded – sites, such as the great Taklamakan Desert from the far north-west
Those that come seeking glimpses of daily living should plan a slower-paced itinerary building over time just to walk the city’s backstreets and explore everyone parks, beijing tour or perhaps a quiet temple. This will naturally provide for unplanned pauses: at, say, the threshold of moon-shaped gateways leading into courtyards of plum blossom; to know a street busker playing the haunting two-stringed erhu; as well as to watch children cycling to school in immaculate blue-and-white uniforms. In addition these activities offer some respite from sight-seeing however are also an opportunity to witness daily Chinese life (instead of the life of a Chinese tourist).
Another great option is to incorporate travel by train instead of take internal flights in order to mix with locals, catch up on a travel journal and gaze from the window. It can be experiences like these which can make for the best enduring memories of most.
The ideal weather conditions are during spring (March until May, but avoid Easter) and autumn (late September to early November) but hotel rates are higher at those occasions. Costs are lower inside the shoulder seasons: February/early June and September/late November/December.
Most will prefer to prevent the three main Chinese public holidays: Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival, usually falling in late January or early February), May holiday (the very first week of May) and National Day (the initial week of October). Tourist attractions become very crowded currently.
The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is definitely the largest of the kind in the world Credit: analysis121980 – Fotolia
Some trips are seasonal, including those to hook the rhododendron valleys of Shangri-La in bloom, birdwatching in Napahai Lake and, for example, the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival.
There are actually direct flights taking approximately 12 hours from Britain to China on Air China (Beijing), British Airways (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chengdu), China Eastern (Shanghai), Virgin Atlantic (Shanghai, Hong Kong), China Southern (Guangzhou) and Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong). There are also connecting flights with the Gulf. Expect 55dexqpky pay from £700 for any return ticket in economy. You can generally fly into one city and away from another for no extra cost. Fares are
British Airways has got the best direct flight options to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Chengdu. From Heathrow it flies daily to Beijing and Shanghai, with 14 flights every week to Hong Kong. Return fares to Beijing start at £731.76 in economy; from £1,169.76 in premium economy and from £2,661.76 in flat-bed business class. Return fares to Shanghai start at from £1,169.76 in premium economy and from £3354.76 in business class. Return fares to Hong Kong start at £1,264.26 in premium economy and £3,376.26 in business class. The shanghai tour 3 times weekly. Return fares on that route start at £621.76 in economy, £1,059,76 in premium economy and £2,757.76 in operation class. All fares include taxes, fees and charges.