Everything you need to know before arriving on the ground
A China weather article may not sound like the most riveting pre-trip reading, but if you’ve ever arrived in a new destination and been totally underprepared because it’s too hot, cold, wet or dry, you’ll understand just how quickly travel plans can be derailed. What starts out as fun quickly turns to a much less enjoyable experience - all because you didn’t check the weather.
Like so many aspects of China, weather is not straightforward. How can it be? In a country that covers a massive expanse in all directions, there are bound to be variances in China weather - sometimes really big ones - on any given day. That’s why it pays to do your research well in advance, not only of your arrival, but planning and booking your trip too.
Without drowning you in too much detail, like the rising floodwaters of a tropical summer typhoon, we’ve endeavoured to capture the all important information for adventurers making their way to China, regardless of when and where they travel.
China’s coastline just on its own stretches a whopping 18,000 kilometers, so as you’d expect with such a distance, the zones within China itself present a wide range of temperatures and climates.
During winter, China is generally warm in the south and cold - in some places, bitterly cold - in the north. Temperature differences between north and south can vary by up to 50°. The influence of the winter monsoon, which brings cold and dry winter winds from Mongolia and Siberia impacts the northern region of China. Visit Beijing during the coldest months of the year and you will definitely be pulling out your thermal gear, gloves, and beanie.
By contrast, in summer, which runs from June to August, you will find temper- atures that reach the other extreme. With the exception of the high lying Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Tianshan Mountains, the average temperature in most areas sits above 20°C. In fact, you will find that in many places in the south, the average is above 28°C.
Now if you’re thinking that sounds quite manageable and you think Turpan in high summer sounds ideal, you may just want to reconsider your travel
plans. Freezing cold in winter, temperatures in Turpan swing in the opposite direction during summer, hitting an average high of 40°C (104°F).
Remember too there is a wet season in China weather and the timing of it varies from north to south. In the south, with its more tropical and subtropical weather zone, the wet season starts early and ends late. The wettest months are between May and October.
The wet season in the north is shorter and concentrated in July and August (summer). Monsoons are a common feature of China’s weather, both in warm and cold months. Fortunately, this is most advantageous for agriculture, as it allows for diversity in crop cultivation and animal production.
But it’s not all good news. Floods, along with other natural disasters such as drought, earthquakes, and cold waves occur regularly each year, and in some cases, with catastrophic effects.
Although we’ve only provided a brief overview of China weather here, at the very least, you have the basics, and can start to plan the timing of your trip accordingly.
The takeaways on China weather for foreign visitors?
China weahter by city
China’s capital, Beijing is located in a warm temperate zone, which means its weather is affected significantly by monsoons. It is reliably cold and dry in winter (even snowing into spring sometimes), with the average January temperature coming in at a chilly -3.5°C. While walking around outside and taking in the highlights like the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square might leave you bracing icy cold winds, you will find central heating is widespread in most buildings. Beijing’s reputation for cold winters is matched only by its hot, humid summers when the average temperature in July is 26.5°C. Spring and autumn are comparatively short in Beijing, and locals recommend the months to enjoy this city at its best are in May, June, September, and October.
Unlike its more serious counterpart Beijing, the city of lanterns, Xi'an weather enjoys fewer extremes and four distinct seasons. If you like moderation in all things, you’ll find Xi'an will meet your needs with its mild climate and moderate rainfall. Spring is warm, dry and windy; autumn is cool, and winter is cold and foggy (expect snow). The best time to visit Xi'an? Pack your bags to travel from April to June, and September to November.
Trying to decide the best time to visit the oriental pearl, Shanghai? You can relax, knowing that without the extremes of other destinations in China, Shanghai provides plenty of options. With its subtropical monsoonal climate, you’ll discover a fairly even distribution of temperatures, regardless of when you visit. During summer, daily average temperatures are around 28.5°C. High-density city living and the volume of highrises limit the flow-through of cooler air during warmer months. If you melt in humidity, stay away in high summer! Although Shanghai’s winter is certainly milder than Beijing’s, a bitter northerly wind can be felt during the middle of the cold season. From a tourist’s perspective, Spring, which runs from March to May is the best time to visit Shanghai. Keep in mind though, if you plan to explore Shanghai from mid-June to early July, pack your umbrella and raincoat, because it’s the wettest time of the year. Incredibly, during this short period of just 20 days, Shanghai receives about a quarter of its annual rainfall. Think you’d prefer to catch the tail end of summer from the end of August to mid-September? You’ll need more than wet weather gear. This time of year is characterized by frequent typhoons, often with pouring rain and strong winds.
The Sichuan Basin where Chengdu is located means this city is characteristically humid. Ironically, Chengdu is also home to the famous hot pot, so named because it is extremely hot and spicy. In contrast to Chengdu city’s humidity, the hills and plains which create the Sichuan Basin (the highest mountains are over 1,300 meters), means the weather at height is much cooler. Warmer weather is found in the west and cooler temperatures in the east. The simultaneous differences in temperature are reflected elsewhere in the surrounding mountains too, where the peaks are 2-3 °C cooler. In Chengdu, winter is short (it rarely snows) and the average daily temperature for most of the year is a very pleasant 16.4°C. Not only is this perfect for the most famous local residents, the giant pandas; it is ideal for foreign visitors too.
Guangzhou enjoys a subtropical climate, making it relatively hot and humid in summer and pleasantly mild in winter. Summer-like weather extends well beyond the three months from June to August. From May to October, temperatures in this bustling international hub often exceed the daily average of 30°C (86°F), so if you’re prone to wilting at the first sign of humidity, aim to visit Guangzhou in late autumn or through winter when temperatures are much more manageable, ranging between 10°C (50°F) and 21°C (70°F). Guangzhou’s location on the Tropic of Cancer means there is a rainy season. If you plan to travel any time between July and September, expect to use your wet weather gear as this is the time that rainfall peaks. While this climate has its drawbacks for those who aren’t fans of the heat, there is one major benefit. Guangzhou earned its nickname ‘Huacheng’ or flower city for the year-round proliferation of beautiful blooms.
Located at the far west end of the Hexi Corridor, Dunhuang is an important thoroughfare on the ancient Silk Road. With Sanwei Mountain in the east, Mingsha Mountain in the south, desert to the west, and the Taklimakan, and Gobi to the north, Dunhuang is connected to the Tianshan Mountains. The unique mix of elevation, together with the desert oasis environment provides the setting for extreme temperature variation. On any given day while exploring on a Dunhuang tour, you can find yourself scorched by daytime highs of 40°C and freezing at night in sub-zero lows. If you’re ‘unlucky’ enough to find yourself in Dunhuang on a day that it rains, you needn’t be concerned. There is an average of just 21 rainy days each year during which very little rain falls (a mere 42 millimeters!). The good thing is, this hot, dry climate is perfect for preservation - and it’s the very reason the world-famous Mogao Caves, displaying arguably the finest collection of Buddhist art, have survived in such pristine condition for over a thousand years. The caves alone, which are rich in history, scholarship, and art are worth the visit, so be sure to time your arrival so it coincides with a time of year when the heat is most manageable, namely from May to October.
A place of quintessentially Chinese natural beauty, Guilin is synonymous with the osmanthus flowers (Guihua) and karst stone mountains that are found in proximity to the city and along the Li River to Yangshuo. Guilin also has a reputation for its favorable climate, which was praised by the poet Du Fu from the Tang Dynasty who claimed "All the five ridges are hot, but only Guilin is pleasant". It snows infrequently in Guilin and the weather is ideal for all year round blooming of flowers. With an average low of 9℃ and an average high of 28℃, it’s easy to understand why Guilin held such appeal historically and still does today. Due to its more temperate climate, humidity is a factor in Guilin, however, it is definitely a city that can be visited all year round. Just remember to bring an umbrella if you’re planning to travel in spring because this is when most rain falls.
Lhasa is a destination that is aptly named ‘Sunshine City’. The small temperature variations throughout the year, but frequently large changes in daily temperatures, makes Lhasa unique among the list of best places to visit in China. Located in the middle of the Tibet Plateau on the north side of the Himalayas at an altitude of 3,650 meters Lhasa sits in the plain of the middle valley of the Lhasa River. As you’d expect with a place that seems to almost touch the clouds, it can get very cold. Expect sub-zero temperatures. In fact, locals say that Lhasa enjoys ‘four seasons in a day and a cold winter throughout the year’. This is the ever-practical Tibetans dress as they do. The traditional robe allows the wearer to remove it from one shoulder during the day to stay cool, and then reposition as the sun goes down to stay warm.
Many travelers take advantage of Hong Kong’s convenience as a travel thoroughfare and why not? Certainly, Hong Kong’s climate lends itself to a visit on route to China. With a mild average annual temperature of 22.8°C that belies the heat and humidity of Hong Kong’s summer, you may want to time your transit through Hong Kong to avoid the warmer months between May to September. During this peak period, there are significant rainfalls and typhoons, both of which can detract from your holiday experience, so best to time your holiday in Hong Kong with the arrival of autumn from September to November. It’s when you’ll find there is plenty of sunshine balanced by balmy breezes that come in from the Pacific Ocean.
Want to know more about the weather in China? Work through the pages of our Travel Guide and find everything you need to know about visiting China. Discover helpful information on related topics, including China visas, things to do in China, food, culture, and more. As a China travel agent that’s been operating well over a year - and survived the impact of COVID-19, we’re more committed than ever to helping our customers discover and experience real China. We understand that your once-in-a-lifetime trip to China starts well before departure, that’s why we provide useful information about important details on topics like the weather in China to help make your China vacation as enjoyable as possible.
Our China tour started at the end of December. We began our trip in Beijing, which was a bracing -12C when we arrived. We were met at the airport and would add that all pick-ups were on time each morning for tours, and at all stations or airports as well. Our first day was free in Beijing, so we explored, following the tip to visit the National Museum which has amazing stuff on display (as did the Xi'an Shaanxi museum and Shanghai museum later in the trip). We found a great Peking Duck restaurant which was a short walk from the hotel. The queuing system was a case of organised chaos in such a small space, but the meal was well worth waiting for. Best duck ever!
William was our guide in Beijing, and our tour comprised 5 people including us. All the guides were very good, but William takes the star prize. He was interesting and informative, but also a laugh. The usual sights in Beijing were awesome and splendid, but the highlight was the Great Wall, as we expected. When we saw the Temple of Heaven, there is an area where people – or their mothers – have their CVs to find a marriage partner. One of the mothers took a shine to one of our party on behalf of her daughter, and when she discovered he was a lawyer, became very interested. The rest of us found this more amusing than he did!
The bullet train was a nice relaxing journey to Xi'an. Our party of 5 split on the second day as we went to different locations next, but we all saw the Terracotta Army, which is another “must see”. The wall at Xi'an is big enough and was getting decorated for the coming spring festival (year of the Rat), but after the Great Wall, was less impressive. We all enjoyed the market and had a lunch in the Muslim area which was great fun, followed by a ridiculously cheap group hotpot that evening involving much use of online translation on our phones!
The next day, Sally took over from Helen, and despite spending only part of a day with her, she was great. Having only two of us going around the Shaanxi museum, she was able to help us with anything we found interesting, going at our pace. We left on another bullet train to Chengdu.
The journey was shorter than before, and we met David, our guide. The next day was an early start to go to the Panda Base. What an amazing day! It was fabulous feeding pandas by hand and cleaning out their enclosures. The park has been designed brilliantly, so we also wandered to see other pandas (including cute red pandas). We were struck how lovely it was to be in a less built up space after our largely city based tours before. David had been to the Panda Base before, so knew what to do, and was a fantastic guide there.
Beijing had had clear blue skies and not at all polluted, contrary to what we had expected, but Xi'an and Chengdu were more polluted. This was the trade off going in winter, although this also meant that the tourist attractions were far less busy.
The next morning in Chengdu David took us to the Pavilion Park, where we sat drinking tea (green obviously) and learning Mahjong. We also managed to have our ears massaged and shoes cleaned, although the locals were most interested in our newly taught Mahjong prowess. It was a lovely way to while away a couple of hours and contributed to our stay in Chengdu being fondly very remembered. We went to the airport to fly to Shanghai.
Shanghai was about as different as anything could be to Xi'an, and even much of Beijing. It is as blingy and modern as Xi'an reflects the ancient part of the country. Our guide Hugo showed us parts of the different concessions in the city as well as the museum, but the Yuyuan Garden was lovely. Later we met up with two of our original tour group for cocktails at the rooftop bar of the Hyatt on the Bund, seeing the spectacular lights. We managed a return trip on the Maglev train which was a marvellous way to bring our China tour to an end.
In summary, the organisation was fantastic. Everything went as planned, and the guides were all very helpful and easy to talk to. The hotels were fine throughout, although in our case, we found the Chengdu hotel – which was the swankiest we stayed in – was less well placed to explore too much for places to eat, particularly as we arrived later in the day and had a long day at the Panda Base. Transportation was fine throughout, too. Bus, car, train and plane were all good.
We originally considered a private tour but went for a small group one at a lower price. This is well worth it in winter, as the group is unlikely to be even close to the 12 maximum. The mix of locations and sights was perfect for us. Prices of meals were similar or lower than we expected, so we spent less than we took with us.
There were so many highlights, so it is difficult to choose which pictures to show, but the attached is a very small sample from what was a truly wonderful holiday.
Date of experience: December 2019
rogergreen113 wrote a review 22 January 2020
BEIJING-XI’AN-GUILLIN-SHANGHAI PRIVATE TOUR
We are an Australian family who took the private tour from 24 December 2019 to 3 January 2020. China tours Co. had organized a meticulous tour for our family. Apart from the Shanghai stage, other stops were historic and memorable. The key attraction for China is her rich history. It would be very important that the tour guides must learn and comprehend Chinese History, not only PLA, Communist Revolution, or China Modernisation, Silk Road - One Belt - One Road, guests would be much more interested in her ancient history. Just imagine that when Qin Shi Huang connected the Great Wall to protect his newly formed dynasty - Qin, Jesus Christ was not even conceived yet, let alone the development and establishment of many great dynasties before his. Tour guides should treat this issue very carefully because of many tour guests who have studied Chinese History as their majors in High School and in University. They travel with two purposes, to see and to verify the historical records. Read more
To avoid the misunderstanding, that could be interpreted as a deception, in the itinerary of the tour, the program details must be utterly succinct and concise, i.e. Day 1: Receive the tour guests from Airport and deliver guests to the prebooked hotel. Tour guide will briefly explain the tour to the guests. This is the first day of arrival, the tour manager would like to leave the guest a resting time for recovering after a long flight.
While Beijing and Xi'an stops were very well organized and rich history, the Gullin - Yangshuo and Shanghai stops were shallow. In Gullin - Yangshuo stop, if the tour guide were not as good and friendly, this stage would be very boring. We were very lucky to have Sue as a tour guide, she was so excellent in her English and her deep knowledge of China that shined the tour stop in a very different direction.
In Shanghai stop, I would expect the tour guide would lead us to the Shanghai historical museum where we would learn the bitter lessons of the 1930 - 1945 chaotic period in Chinese history, we were taking to the Parks which we could find them ourselves. Shanghai has so many historical monuments to attract international traveling guests, not the riverside where it showed the newly built highrise skyscrapers, we have seen them enough in New York, Singapore, or even in KL. We would like to know the history of Shanghai club, the details of the day when the Japanese planes dropped bombs over the city's residential areas, etc.
It would be very useful to prepare a china-tour booklet in advance, such that the details of the 2020 tours include detailed programs of the year i.e. how many stops of the tour, cities, historical locations, etc.
Date of experience: December 2019
marioY1797DZ wrote a review 13 January 2020
Myanmar private Tour
Dear Martha our trip in Myanmar is finished and Isa and me are fully satisfied.
We have seen a lot of places, monuments and peoples.
As usual we give you a little feedback of our trip. Organization
Very good: intensive (4 internal flights) but in this way we save a lot of time and we saw a lot of things. Accomodation
Good and coherent with our request.
Only one remark regarding the Hotel in Bagan where the Hotel was good but with a poor bathroom (not coherent with the standard of the trip).
Viceversa the Hotel on the Inle Lake was spectacular. Guides
All the guides were very kind, helpful and prepared.
Particularly the guides in Bagan and in Mandalay spoke an excellent English and were very cultured in order to give us a complete overview of the local culture. Conclusions
As usual Isa and me were fully satisfied
Date of experience: December 2019
bacibesobeijo wrote a review 13 January 2020
Custom Tour of China: Beijing, Pingyao, Xi’an, Giulin, Suzhou, Hangzhou & Shanghai!
Fantastic trip organized by China Tours! All the guides were wonderful and accommodated my needs. Perfect English, highly informed and kind. One of the best trips of a lifetime! China Tours made the whole experience effortless despite the obvious barrier with language. If you are going to China, no doubt this tour is for you.
Date of experience: December 2019
Loretta M wrote a review December 7, 2019
Tampa, Florida, United States
Private Solo 35 day Tour of China from Beijing to Shanghai Stopping in Sites – Some Well-Known and Many Rare Places
This 35 day private tour through China was set up by Martha Fu and her team. The trip was more than unbelievably fantastic and if I could rate it a 10 I would! I had some very specific places I wanted to see that were the typical tourist attractions, but several that I read about that were off the tourist radar and amazing to go to. Martha spent about a year with me to customize every detail of this trip, which I kept adding and deleting. Originally it was set for 58 days so I ended up having to split it in two trips. In fact, I have already setup Part 2 for 2020 to finish what I have started. Martha was incredible! I have traveled the world and this trip was tops!!! Martha and I discussed the best time to go and obviously avoiding the 70th Anniversary of the Republic of China Holiday week was a great idea due to the crowds, but yet, coming in at the end of this holiday, I was still able to see lots of celebratory flower displays everywhere, which was amazing. Martha helped me with everything so that this trip was smooth and memorable. She responded to my emails within 24 hours and if she was not available Lori or another teammate stepped in to answer all of my questions. This company is unbelievable! Travelling solo was a concern, but not with this tour company. I felt very safe at all times. Every city I went to - from arriving by train or plane, I was met with an English speaking tour guide and a driver. All my guides (10 in total) spoke English well and were very attentive to my needs. To give you an idea of the complexity of this tour, which included trains and flights, I thought I would list some of my trip highlights: * Beijing (Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Place, Mutianyu Great Wall, Hutong Tour, Temple of Heaven) * Datong (Yungang Grottoes, Shanhua Monastery) * Pingyao (Hanging Temple of Mount Hengshan, Wooden Pagoda in Ying County, Pingyao Ancient City Wall, Rishengchang Draft Bank, Qiao Family Compound, Shuanglin Monastery) * Xi'an (Terra-Cotta Warriors, Museum, Small Wild Goose Pagoda, City Wall, Great Mosque) * Dunhuang (Echoing-Sand Dunes, Crescent Lake, Magao Grottoes) * Jiayuguan (City Gate, Overhanging Great Wall, Museum (Beginning of the Silk Road)) * Zhangye (Giant Buddha Temple, Danxia Landform (Rainbow Mountains)) * Wuwei (Leitai Tomb of Han Dynasty) * Lanzhou (Binglingsi Grottoes) * Chengdu (Wenshu Monastery, Giant Pandas, Wangjang Pavillion Park, Jinli Street) * Leshan (Giant Buddha) * Emei Mountain (Wannian Monastery, Baoguo Temple) * Dazu (Rock Carvings) * Yangtze River Cruise (Shibaozhai, Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, Shennong Stream, Three Gorges Dam) * Zhangjiajie (Tianmen Mountain, Grand Canyon, Glass Bridge, Hallelujah Mountains (Avatar), Tianzi Mountain, Ten-mile Natural Gallery, Golden Whip Stream) * Fenghuang (Stilt Houses on Tuojiang River) * Hangzhou (Feilai Park, West Lake, Tea Plantation) * Wuzhen Water Town * Shanghai (Tongli Water Town, Master of the Nests Garden) I highly recommend China Tours. I'm now very excited to go back to China and finish the rest of my planned trip in 2020! Thanks again for an outstanding tour!
Date of experience: October 2019
Kskoh55 wrote a review 3 December 2019
Private tour for 2 couples to Xi’an, Mt Hua, Yangtze River Cruise and Chongqing
We were so pleased that we chose China Tours after reading reviews from Tripadvisor to customise our itinerary. Lora was so responsive and we felt at ease planning it with her. Tour was according to itinerary and there were no hiccups. Guides, Linda at Xi'an and Mt Hua and Sherry at Chongqing were knowledgeable, professional and saw to our every need. Drivers were courteous both on and off the roads and on time. We will not hesitate to recommend China Tours to our friends. In fact, we are currently planning with Lora on our next trip to the Silk Route.
Date of experience: November 2019
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