With 56 plus ethnic groups (including the main Han group) and a landmass spanning 9,600,000 square kilometers, a China culture tour is not for the faint of heart.
Add to this a history of empires, dynasties, and intrigue and it’s easy to understand why a single China culture tour is probably not enough to gain a deep understanding of what makes China simultaneously so diverse and unique. In fact, contemplating how you’ll ‘see it all’ on a single tour can be overwhelming.
But if your heart is set on a culture tour in China, and you want to avoid any of the typical pitfalls, then consider these insider tips for planning and organizing your travel.
#1 Research well: make a China culture tour bucket list
Unless you have unlimited time and budget, research in advance of any China tour is essential. A good place to start is by making your own China culture tour bucket list.
It’s a vast country and there’s simply so much ground to cover, so if you can refine your list before even looking into tour options, you’ll know what meets your needs.
If you’re a first-timer to China, there’s every chance you’ll want to take in at least Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. As China’s modern and ancient capitals, there is so much on offer. Culture hungry? You’ll find enough here to last lifetimes.
Beijing is home to the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, easy access to the Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, Sanuanli market, Confucius Temple and Imperial College. Modern history is available too. Explore Tiananmen Square and Beijing’s Olympic stadium and pool, the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube.
In Xi’an, the city’s more relaxed style is reflected in its culture and history. Adorned by red lanterns, Xi’an’s appeal is also found in the famous Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Xi’an’s City Wall is a step back in time. Restored to excellent condition, it allows locals and travelers to experience what it must have been like to look out over the city hundreds of years ago.
Shanghai is the quintessential modern city, but don’t be deceived. History abounds here too. Take in the Bund, Shanghai History Museum, Yuyuan Gardens, the French Concession and Xin Tian Di (New Spot). Get your fill of shopping at Nanjing Road and the Shanghai Bazaar, where you can experience the contrast of modern and market wares.
Traveling to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, you’ll find ample opportunity for insights into China’s culture. The only question to ask is how deep do you want to go?
#2 Plan ahead: travel, tickets, and accommodation
Planning ahead, and getting help to do so, is a wise idea. That means booking travel, tickets, and accommodation well before you arrive. In fact, entry to China is contingent showing where you’re headed.
If you’re not a details person, planning a China culture tour is not the place to start developing those skills! Our tip? Talk to someone who knows how things work. Not only are experienced travel consultants a wealth of knowledge, they understand how to bring all the pieces of a tour together so it flows beautifully from start to finish.
#3 Enrich your China culture tour: travel with a local guide
While you’re on the ground in China, a bilingual local guide is like the glue that binds all the elements together. Knowledgeable on all things culture, history, and philosophy – and a personal connection to local people – a guide enriches a China culture tour in a way that simply can’t be achieved by referring to a guide book. They can help navigate between venues, recommend local favorite restaurants, assist with entry to sights, and much more.
As part of your research, check out tour reviews from other like-minded culture lovers. You can very quickly see where tour companies and guides are delivering.
Choose your own travel style
Whether you’re an experienced traveler or novice, it pays to know the style of travel that suits you.
Do you like to travel solo and enjoy maximum freedom and flexibility? Maybe a private or custom tour is your best option.
Do you enjoy meeting new people on your travels? Perhaps a small group tour is the way to go. Providing the opportunity to engage with others and share the adventure, group tours are more cost effective too.
More experienced adventurers may discount the idea of a group tour, but with the chance to mix with others, and connect with local people too, for those seeking a China culture tour, it’s the ideal way to experience more.
Of course, there are many more ways and destinations in China where culture can be found. From the highest peaks in Tibet to the most remote natural landscapes of unique places like Zhangjiajie and Dunhuang, China’s culture is available for exploration and experience. You may find – as many do – that one China culture tour isn’t enough.
China’s culture and history are rich and diverse and a single tour won’t reveal everything there is. As an ex