The specifics of how to plan a trip to China can stump even the most experienced of international travelers. Amidst the challenges posed by the many China ‘unknowns’, you might even wonder where to start with making arrangements.
While asking friends and family who’ve been there, done that can be helpful, sometimes, it can create even more confusion. One person’s negative experience can taint your perception and leave you unnecessarily concerned about planning your travel arrangements. It might even make you apprehensive about how to manage once you’re on the ground.
If you’ve scoured Google for every tip and trick on how to plan a trip to China, you’ve probably discovered much of what’s written comes from lifestyle bloggers. Sure, you’ll find some helpful information, but many of these bloggers have planned and prepared for just a single trip to China.
Over a decade of researching, designing and planning holidays to China means we know a thing or two about how to create beautiful travel memories for customers, so in the spirit of transparency, we’re sharing our insider knowledge about how to plan a trip to China when you have no idea where to start.
Let’s do this!
How to plan a trip to China: Start with destinations
If this is your first trip to China, your biggest hurdle will be narrowing down your list of must-see destinations.
Covering a landmass that is larger than either Australia or the USA, this won’t be an easy task, so it’s essential you pull out a map before you get too far into your planning.
A quick scan and you’ll soon see that favourite destinations like Beijing, Shanghai, and Lhasa aren’t exactly within easy reach of each other (they’re actually three corners of a very large triangle across the country!). So knowing how to make plans for your China trip means understanding travel distances and the potential limitations imposed by geography, available transport, and accessibility.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with our list of recommended destinations for first time China trippers. Plan to visit Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Chengdu, and Shanghai, however if your schedule doesn’t allow, stick with the Golden Triangle - Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai.
Explore these recommendations from our CEO for anyone planning their first trip to China.
Making plans for a China holiday: Getting there and getting around
The destinations at which you start and finish your trip will be dictated to some extent by the city you fly into.
Beijing and Guangzhou are the main international arrival hubs, but they’re not the only ones, so you may want to consider how to get the best deal to save money on flights, keeping in mind you may need to book in country flights or train travel.
Booking international flights yourself, rather than relying on a travel agency, means more holiday spending dollars in your pocket. Be sure to access these flights directly from an airline’s website instead of third party booking platforms. You might even be lucky enough to find a great seasonal promotion or offer.
Another point to keep in mind is that international flights with a stopover are less expensive than direct flights. If you don’t mind the longer travel time - or you want to take advantage of the opportunity to visit another destination, this is a great way to see more of the world. US travelers flying from Los Angeles to Beijing could stop in Tokyo for a couple of days. Similarly, if you’re on route from Shanghai to LA, why not consider two days in Osaka? Breaking up your travel this way just makes sense, and with leisure travel plans seriously curtailed, we envisage travelers will look for ways to maximise their vacations when borders reopen.
Choosing an China travel company: How to know what’s best
When it comes to choosing an in-country China travel company, the decision-making process can become very confusing, very quickly.
As tourism has boomed over the past decade, we’ve seen astronomical growth in China-based travel companies. It has become highly competitive, which is great for western travelers. It means you can pick and choose a provider according to your values.
As travelers ourselves, we always look for companies that tailor the experience to what the customer really wants; not what they think the customer wants. It’s on this point that many China travel agencies miss the mark. For example, companies offering commission-based shopping don’t realise that the majority of western travelers seek a real experience of China, not a shopping expedition. The opportunity to meet and connect with locals and their culture has far more value to them than visiting an overpriced retail outlet selling wares of questionable authenticity.