How to Plan Your First China Trip

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From December 1st, 2023 to November 30th, 2024, travelers from France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia can enjoy a 15-day visa-free entry to China for tourism, business, transit, and visiting friends and relatives in China.

You can start planning your trip to China now! We will provide you with a flexible, tailor-made private tour of China. Do not hesitate to contact us for your China tour planning.

Thinking of traveling to China?

China, with its long history and unique culture, may be a must-visit place for you. The numerous destinations, vast geography, and unintelligible language make trip planning appear challenging. Is this true? Not at all!

Our 11 easy-to-follow tips, based on our 25+ years of experience in custom travel, will help you create the perfect itinerary with ease. So, if you want to plan your first China trip effortlessly and make the most of your vacation, read on!

1. Determine Your Travel Duration in China

Given your limited time, it’s advisable to focus on 2-3 cities for a richer travel experience, enabling you to delve deeper into China’s culture and attractions.

After years of experience and feedback from our travelers, we have found that the best destinations for a first-time trip to China are Beijing, Xi’an, and Chengdu. The classic three-city tour takes about 7 days. Click to check the itinerary of 7-Day Private Foodie, Heritage and Culture Tour of Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu

If you have an additional 3 to 4 days, we recommend visiting one of the following cities: Guilin, Chengdu, or Zhangjiajie.

                                          Choose Your Destinations from the Top China Places

1) Take a Classic China Tour to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai

Beijing – China’s capital and a major gateway to the country.

Begin your journey in Beijing, the bustling capital of China. Immerse yourself in history as you explore the iconic Forbidden City, stroll along the majestic Great Wall of China, and marvel at the architectural marvels of the Temple of Heaven. Delve into the city’s rich culture by wandering through the ancient alleyways of Hutong and unwinding amidst the tranquil beauty of the Summer Palace.

To cover the city’s highlights, you would need about 3-4 days.

Xi’an – the place to go if you are interested in history.

Uncover the mystery behind the creation of the magnificent Terracotta Warriors, a profound archaeological marvel discovered in the Qin Dynasty. Explore the ancient city walls of Xi’an, marvel at the towering Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and indulge in the flavors of authentic local cuisine.

With an abundance of attractions to explore, consider dedicating 2 days to your visit to Xi’an. Conveniently located, Xi’an is just a 4-6 hour high-speed train ride away from Beijing, making it easily accessible for travelers.

Shanghai – China’s biggest and most prosperous city.

Explore Shanghai’s blend of history and modernity with a 1-2 day tour and extend your itinerary for 2-8 days to nearby Suzhou, Hangzhou, or Huangshan for more culture-rich experiences.

Want to start planning your private China tour now? Click on the tailor-made tour to arrange your unique trip.

2) Extend Your Trip to Guilin, Chengdu or Zhangjiajie

Guilin–offers an ideal escape into nature’s beauty, where you can bask in picturesque landscapes and rural charm.

Embark on a serene Li River Cruise to Yangshuo and be mesmerized by the breathtaking scenery. Explore the quaint Yangshuo countryside on a cycling adventure, trek through the stunning Longji Terraced Fields, and indulge in thrilling outdoor activities like Ferrata, Drifting, and Kayaking.

Immersing yourself in Guilin and its surroundings for 3-4 days promises a delightful experience.

Chengdu–renowned as the habitat of the Giant Panda and the birthplace of delectable Sichuan cuisine, invites exploration.

Get up close with the adorable Giant Pandas, marvel at the towering Leshan Giant Buddha, and ascend to the Golden Summit of Mount Emei for panoramic views. Don’t forget to savor authentic Sichuan dishes like kung pao chicken and spicy hotpot.

A 2-4 day sojourn in Chengdu ensures ample time to enjoy these captivating experiences and more.

Zhangjiajie–beckons with its enchanting natural landscapes and thrilling outdoor adventures, perfect for a 3-4 day getaway.

Take a scenic cable car ride to the Avatar Hallelujah Mountains, traverse the exhilarating Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, and conquer the 999 steps to Tianmen Mountain.

If you are interested in exploring other parts of China, such as Lhasa for Tibetan culture, Yangtze River for the Three Gorges Dam, and Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-la for a diverse range of minority cultures and history, don’t hesitate to contact us.

We can organize a custom tour that is tailored specifically to your needs and preferences.

2. Choose How Long to Spend in China

Evaluate how much time you have for your trip. China’s vast size means you may need to prioritize certain areas if you have limited time. For a first-time visit, it’s recommended to allocate at least one week to explore this fascinating country.

For 7-10 days, we suggest visiting China’s “Golden Triangle,” which includes Beijing for 2 days, Xi’an for 2 days, and Shanghai for 3 days. You can refer to our 7-Day Private China Highlights Tour: Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin and Shanghai for more information.

If you have 11-16 days, you can discover more of China, such as the beautiful Guilin, charming Chengdu, wonderful Yangtze, etc. Check out our carefully selected 13-Day China Adventure Tour, and 16-Day Panoramic Impression of China.

If you want to get more inspiration, please contact us about your requirements, including the length of your holiday. Our experienced travel specialists can design a travel plan tailor-made to your needs, ensuring a uniquely fulfilling experience.

3. Decide on the Travel Season

The ideal time to visit China largely depends on your preferences, chosen destinations, and available travel dates.

For popular tourist spots like Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, you can plan your trip year-round with favorable weather conditions.

Spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October) are generally considered the most pleasant times to travel throughout China. During these seasons, you can expect comfortable temperatures and minimal rainfall, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities.

Summertime (July to August) can be hot and humid in some regions, particularly during the afternoon. However, with proper planning and accommodations, you can still enjoy your trip while taking advantage of various summer activities.

Winter (December to February, excluding Chinese New Year and New Year’s Day) typically sees fewer tourists and lower prices. While temperatures may be cooler, this can be a great opportunity to explore popular attractions with fewer crowds and discounted rates.

For more detailed insights and tips on the best time to visit China, feel free to explore our comprehensive guide on the subject.

4. Consider Budget and affordability

Exploring China may not always be budget-friendly, but strategic planning can help you save money without compromising on your travel experience. Your budget will play a crucial role in determining your destinations and the duration of your trip. While major cities like Beijing and Shanghai tend to be more expensive, rural areas offer more affordable options. Conduct thorough research on accommodation, transportation, and activity costs in different regions to make informed decisions.

International airfare typically constitutes a significant portion of your expenses. Direct economy round-trip flights from the US or Europe to China can range from $1200 to $4000. However, you can save money by securing great deals or opting for stopover flights. It’s advisable to start searching for flights as soon as your travel dates are finalized.

For a high-quality China tour catering to two people, including domestic flights or trains, 3/4/5-star hotels, attractions, meals, private tour guides, and transportation, you can expect to spend approximately $180–$350 per person per day.

China experiences peak tourist seasons during the first weeks of May, October summer holidays, and Chinese New Year (late January or early February). During these periods, prices for hotels and airfares can increase significantly, often by 30% to 50% or more compared to low seasons.

To avoid higher costs during peak season, we suggest you book your travels at least two months in advance. If you book with us, we offer a guarantee of a 100% refund if you cancel your travel plans up to three weeks before departure.

5. Consider Traveling Independently or Taking a Guided Tour

Should you go to China with an organized tour through a tour agency, or make the tour arrangements yourself? It depends on your needs.

Opting for a private tour is ideal if you seek immersive experiences in China.

Private guided tours offer several advantages, ensuring you make the most of your time while enjoying a worry-free and enjoyable trip.

Choosing a reputable and reliable travel agency, such as Discover Beijing Tours, is crucial when planning a private China tour. With over 25 years of experience in crafting custom tours, we prioritize providing exceptional service and tailored experiences for our clients.

You can be guided as much or as little as you like. Our professional trip advisers will customize a tour that suits your budget and interests, and local drivers and guides will make your trip a carefree and insightful experience.

Customize Your Own Tour


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