An insider’s self-help guide to China, including when you ought to go, the best places to stay, the most effective tour operators, what you should pack and recommended reading. By our expert, Michelle Jana Chan.
With its high-octane energy, can-do drive, teeming population and challenging language barrier, China is an exhausting place to go for the very first-time visitor. Common complaints I have got heard from tourists include: “it’s so crowded – everyone’s pushing and shoving”; “we couldn’t make ourselves understood”; and “we needed another holiday afterward trip”.
The most effective suggestion I could give would be to avoid trying to cram a lot of in. There are actually not many china tour who visit the US and combine Manhattan, Disneyworld, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood in just one trip however the equivalent journey in China is not really unknown. Classic itineraries often rush visitors between your Forbidden City, The Fantastic Wall, the Terracotta Army, Chengdu’s panda sanctuaries as well as a Three Gorges cruise, finishing up in frantic Shanghai.
20 years ago, this type of route might have been more palatable. There were little or no domestic tourists in those days. The good news is it seems like the full country is traveling willing to explore their homeland. International visitors face long queues at key sightseeing attractions and then a jostle among heaving crowds. But approached wisely, China is really as uplifting as it is intriguing. Also, it is a crucial stop for any individual hoping to learn more about the direction the world takes this century.
Try to avoid cramming too much in; classic itineraries often rush visitors with the Forbidden City
Some journey to China to marvel with the skylines of cranes, innovative architectural projects and the country’s artistic endeavours. They ought to visit the financial and commercial hub of Shanghai, in addition to Beijing’s Olympic Village as well as the capital’s contemporary art district, housed inside a former munitions factory, and called 798.
Others will probably be keen to learn more about China’s 5,000-year-old civilisation. Which is best viewed throughout the country’s museums and monuments, through the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an to Beijing’s Forbidden City, which served as the imperial palace through the Ming dynasty up until the end of the Qing dynasty. However, be aware that these must-see attractions, including Beijing’s Summer Palace along with the sections of the fantastic Wall closest to the capital (notably Badaling), are often the most crowded.
To the adventurous, you will find less popular – and less crowded – sites, including the Buddhist caves at Dunhuang, the charming former capitals of Luoyang and Kaifeng, as well as the great Taklamakan Desert inside the far north-west. A number 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 will be in or close to Xi’an), as well as Zhejiang Provincial Museum.
To the adventurous, you will find less well-known – and fewer crowded – sites, including the great Taklamakan Desert from the far north-west
People who come seeking glimpses of daily living should plan a slower-paced itinerary building soon enough just to walk the city’s backstreets and explore the public parks, beijing tour or even a quiet temple. This may naturally enable unplanned pauses: at, say, the threshold of moon-shaped gateways leading into courtyards of plum blossom; to hear a street busker playing the haunting two-stringed erhu; as well as watch children cycling to school in immaculate blue-and-white uniforms. Furthermore these activities offer some respite from sight-seeing however they are also the opportunity to witness daily Chinese life (rather than the lifetime of a Chinese tourist).
One more great choice is to feature travel by train instead of take internal flights to be able to mix with locals, catch up with a travel journal and gaze out from the window. It really is experiences such as these which can make for the best enduring memories of all.
The very best weather is during spring (March until May, but avoid Easter) and autumn (late September to early November) but hotel rates are higher at those times. Pricing is lower in the shoulder seasons: February/early June and September/late November/December.
Most will want to avoid the three main Chinese public holidays: Chinese New Year (also known as Spring Festival, usually falling in late January or early February), May holiday (the initial week of May) and National Day (the very first week of October). Tourist attractions become very crowded at this time.
The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival will be the largest of the kind on the planet Credit: analysis121980 – Fotolia
Some trips are seasonal, like those to trap the rhododendron valleys of Shangri-La in bloom, birdwatching in Napahai Lake and, for example, the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival.
You will find 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 connecting flights from the Gulf. Expect 55dexqpky pay from £700 to get a return ticket in economy. You may generally fly into one city and from another for no extra expense. Fares are
British Airways offers the best direct flight choices 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 running a business class. Return fares to Hong Kong start at £1,264.26 in premium economy and £3,376.26 in operation class. The shanghai tour thrice weekly. Return fares on that route start at £621.76 in economy, £1,059,76 in premium economy and £2,757.76 in business class. All fares include taxes, fees and expenses.