China. Travel information

Chinese civilization is one of the major civilizations in this world, and for many centuries stood out as a leading civilization with technologies that the West was not able to match until the early modern period. China’s attractions are endless and you will never run out of things to see. Especially near the coastal areas, when finished with one city, the next one is usually just a short train ride away.

Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover or someone who just wants to relax on a nice beach, China has it all from the majestic *Forbidden City (map) in Beijing, to the breathtaking scenery of *Jiuzhaigou (map). Even if you live in China for many years, you’ll find that there’s always something new to discover in another part of the country. Perhaps unsurprisingly due to its sheer size and long history, China has the third largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after Italy and Spain.

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The gumdrop mountains and steeply sloping forested hills with incredible rock formations favored by traditional Chinese artists are not creative fantasy. The most famous example can be found in the Stone Forest (石林 Shílín, map) near Kunming in *Yunnan. Some of the most famous tourist areas in China feature spectacular karst landscapes — Guilin (map) and *Yangshuo (map) in *Guangxi. *Zhangjiajie (map) in Hunan – it is significant for its proximity to *Tianmen Mountain and *Wulingyuan, and much of central and western *Guizhou province (map).

Some itineraries cover trips that are entirely within China (wikivoyage): Along the Yangtze river / Along the Yellow river / Along the Grand Canal / Around Erhai Lake by electric scooter / Hong Kong to Kunming overland / Long March / Overland to Tibet / Qinghai–Tibet railway / Yunnan tourist trail

China observes two week-long holidays during the year, called *Golden Weeks. During these weeks, around Chinese New Year (late January to mid-February) and National Day (1 October), hundreds of millions of migrant workers return home and millions of other Chinese travel within the country (but many in the service sector stay behind, enjoying extra pay).

Travelers may want to seriously consider scheduling to avoid being on the road, on the rails, or in the air during the major holidays. At the very least, travel should be planned well, well in advance, especially for transportation (especially for travel from remote western China to or from the east coast).

Food in China varies widely between regions, so the term “Chinese food” is a blanket term, about as descriptive as “Western food.” Still, there are some broad characteristics. Chinese gourmands place emphasis on freshness so your meal will most likely be cooked as soon as you order it. Searing hot woks over coal or gas fires make even street food usually safe to eat. Indeed freshly prepared street food is often safer than food sitting on the buffet lines of 5-star hotels.

Still, use common sense: if it’s a searing hot summer day and the kebab vendor has their raw meat sitting unrefrigerated on the counter, you might want to head elsewhere.

Many Western tourists will feel safer in China than in their home country, and it is generally not a problem for women to roam the streets alone at night.

People in China are friendly without being polite (unlike countries like the UK, where people can be polite without being friendly).

Regions & Sities

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China has a land area about the same as that of the United States. The climate is extremely diverse, from tropical regions in the south to subarctic in the north. Hainan Island is roughly at the same latitude as Jamaica, while Harbin, one of the largest cites in the north, is at roughly the latitude of Montreal and has the climate to match.

Many foreign apps such as Google Maps and Apple Maps do not work in China, and tend to have patchy coverage and data quality even if accessed via VPN. Moreover, China uses its own coordinate system, which sometimes causes problems when using foreign map apps. The most common direction-finding app used by the Chinese themselves is Baidu Maps, though it is only available in Chinese. Alternative methods include other map apps based on OpenStreetMap data or renting a local GPS.

Anhui, 安徽 / Hefei
Fujian, 福建 / Fuzhou
Gansu, 甘肃 / Lanzhou
Guangdong, 广东 / Guangzhou
Guizhou, 贵州 / Guiyang
Hainan, 海南 / Haikou
Hebei, 河北 / Shijiazhuang
*Heilongjiang, 黑龙江 / *Harbin
Henan, 河南 / *Zhengzhou
*Hubei, 湖北 / *Wuhan
*Hunan, 湖南 / *Changsha
*Jiangsu, 江苏 / Nanjing
*Jiangxi, 江西 / *Nanchang
Jilin, 吉林 / Changchun
*Liaoning, 辽宁 / *Shenyang
*Qinghai, 青海 / *Xining
*Shanxi, 山西 / *Taiyuan
*Shandong, 山东 / *Jinan
*Shaanxi, 陕西 / *Xi’an
*Sichuan, 四川 / *Chengdu
*Yunnan, 云南 / *Kunming
*Zhejiang, 浙江 / *Hangzhou
Taiwan, 台湾 / Taipei
Autonomous regions
*Guangxi, 广西 / *Nanning
*Inner Mongolia, 内蒙古 / *Hohhot
*Ningxia, 宁夏 / *Yinchuan
*Xinjiang, 新疆 / *Urumqi
*Tibet, 西藏 / *Lhasa
*Beijing, 北京
*Chongqing, 重庆
*Shanghai, 上海
*Tianjin, 天津
Special administrative regions
Hong Kong (Xianggang) 香港
Macau (Àomén) 澳门

Public transport

Traveling by public city buses (公共汽车 gōnggòngqìchē) or long-distance buses (长途汽车 chángtúqìchē) is inexpensive and ideal for in-city and short-distance transportation. Coaches, or long-distance buses, may be more practical than trains for going to suburbs or smaller cities.

A coach or bus in rural China is a different experience. Often, rural coaches are the only forms of transportation in many areas of China and are usually more than willing to stop anywhere along the route should you wish to visit more remote areas without direct transport.

For travel within China, it is usually best to buy tickets in China, or on Chinese websites (these often have English versions). A useful app/website is CTrip, which is the only way you can use an international credit/debit card on the fly to buy train/plane tickets.

The main international gateways to mainland China are Beijing (Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport), Shanghai (Shanghai Pudong International Airport) and Guangzhou (Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport).

Train travel is the main method of long-distance transportation for the Chinese, with an extensive network of routes covering most of the country. Chinese train stations function like an airport, so do not count on catching a train on the last minute: gates close a few minutes prior to departure!  *Rail travel in China

::: Source: Peter and Yen
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