“Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going.” - Paul Therou
China is a magnificent country with many huge cities full of history. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, China was ranked as the 4th most popular tourist destination in 2018 with 60.7 million tourists. You should know, that some cities are more popular than others. For example, Macao, China’s special administrative region, is responsible for 45% of China’s tourism income.
So how long should you spend in China? How long will it take to do everything? How long should you visit the Silk Road?
We’ve got all the answers in this article, part of our China travel guide series.
Decide What Type of Trip You’re Going on in China
With its history blending dynasties, emperors, and the Buddha, China has a rich and fascinating culture. No matter what kind of trip you’re going on, before you travel to China, you should know that China is 4,831 miles from the UK and the average flight takes around 10 hours. With this in mind, you should think carefully about the type of trip you’re going to take.
In 2017, the average tourist spent 13 days in China.
There are different types of trips you can go on because China is a vast and interesting country with big modern cities and protected natural sites:
- Visiting one or two cities in China.
- A tailored trip with cultural and tourist activities.
- A trip around a particular part of China.
- A trip around all of China.
It’s recommended that you spend between 5 and 10 days in a single city or between 10 and 15 days if you want to travel to a few cities. If you’re travelling around the country, it could be between a week and a year!
It’s not recommended that you spend less than 5 days in China given the cost and length of the flights. It’s unlikely that you’ll only spend a weekend in China unless it’s a stop-off on a trip around Asia.
To work out what kind of trip you’re going on, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want to immerse yourself in Chinese culture?
- Do you want to take the time to see China’s wonders?
- Would you like to make the most of your trip and see several cities?
If it’s your first time visiting China, it’s recommended that you spend closer to two weeks visiting two major Chinese cities. This will give you enough time to enjoy the surrounding areas as well. If you have more time, a month would be great to enjoy China’s modern, traditional, and natural attractions.
Find out more about planning a trip to China.
When Should You Visit China?
China is the third-largest country in the world and is home to many things worth seeing.
So when should you go to China?
There are a few things to take into account:
- China is very popular during school holidays and bank holidays.
- Holidays like the Chinese New Year is also very popular.
- Whether you prefer culture or nature.
- The places you want to visit.
The climate in the region or province you’re visiting will also affect your trip. For example, in eastern China (Beijing, Yunnan Region), there are monsoons, whereas, in western China (Hangzhou, Xi’an), the climate with very dry so visiting Beijing in the winter isn’t ideal.
It’s recommended that you visit China between April and October. Most tourists visit China in April and May or September and October.
You should also make sure that you book your flights well in advance as this will influence when you can go. Compare the cost of flights on sites like Skyscanner. You can find some very cheap flights, especially in the low season. Avoid flying on the weekends if you want to save money!
Your trip will depend on what you want to see.
Find out more about the best things to see in China.
How Long Does it Take to Visit the Cities in China?
As we’ve already covered how long you should go for earlier, now we’re going to go into further details.
If you’re travelling for 10-12 days, we recommend that you focus on the big cities such as Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, and Xi’an (where you can find the terracotta army). The best parts of this trip will probably be the Great Wall of China, Luzhi water town, and the skyscrapers in Shanghai. Pingyao is where the famous Ming Dynasty was founded.
If you’re travelling around for 15 days, you might want to consider visiting Guilin, often considered the most beautiful city in China, and Wuzhen, a scenic town near Suzhou. If you want to visit the locals, you might want to visit the Yunnan region. You’ll need around 3 days more if you want to visit Tibet.
Do you have 20 days to visit the north of China or central China?
This is very feasible thanks to the domestic flights. You can head to Yangshuo, home to the Reed Flute Cave. There’s also the Longsheng Rice Terrace, Huangshan Mountain, and Pan Gate with its Ruiguang Pagoda.
Zhangjiajie Park is also worth visiting but you’ll need 3-4 days to enjoy the gorges, grottos, and rivers!
Would you prefer to visit modern China, enjoy shopping, and see the sights in modern cities?
By giving yourself enough time, you’ll come back with plenty of good memories. There’s so much to enjoy in China!
Find out more about the best cities in China.
How Long Do the Administrative Steps Take?
While we have to talk about how long you should spend in China, we should also talk about how long it’d take to prepare. While this can be affected by how long you plan on going for, you’ll need:
- A Chinese tourist visa (L Visa) from the Chinese authorities.
- Travel insurance.
- Hotel reservations.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to Sichuan, Chengdu, or Hong Kong, you’ll need to get in touch with the Chinese consulate in the UK.
You should be aware that if you want to visit Tibet, you’ll need to get a special tourist authorisation in addition to your visa for China. Additionally, if China’s a stop-off as part of a bigger trip around Asia, Russia or the Philippines, for example, you’ll need to provide copies of all your other visas while still respecting the time it takes to get a Chinese visa; between 8 weeks and 3 months! It can be quite a nightmare. This can be made much easier if you use a local travel agency that offers packages.
Keep in mind that you should also spend some time learning Mandarin Chinese before you go to China. For the majority of European tourists, the language barrier is a problem when they visit China. Learning the basics of the Chinese language and the commonly used characters.
It can take you between one and six months to plan a trip to China!
So are you ready to spend some time in China?
If you'd like to learn some Chinese before you go to Shanghai, you could consider enlisting the help of one of the many talented tutors on Superprof! The tutors on the site offer three types of private tutorials to help you learn the lingo: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.
Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and tend to be the most costly per hour because you're paying for both bespoke lessons and a bespoke course. Additionally, the tutor will also be spending time outside of the lessons finding resources and planning the time they'll spend with you.
Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or over webcam. Of course, online tutorials can lack intimacy and while not ideal for hands-on subjects, they're great for language lessons. Your tutor might even be from China!
Finally, group tutorials are more like the classes you'll have had in school with one teacher and multiple students. While these tend to be the cheapest per student per hour since the cost of the tutor's time is shared, you'll also get far less one-on-one time with your tutor than you would in the other types of tutorials.
Each different type of tutorial has its pros and cons and it's really up to you and your budget to decide how much you'll need to learn, how you want to learn, and what your budget is going to be for Chinese language lessons before you go.