What are the dos and don'ts of visiting China?
For business travellers buying flights to China, you want to accept business cards with two hands. It's good etiquette and a sign of respect to read the card over and put it in your chest pocket or a cardholder for safekeeping. It's considered disrespectful to put it in your back pocket.
If you've been invited out to dinner, don’t expect to split the bill. In China, the person who extended the invite or the most senior person at the table will pay. It may also be considered offensive if you try to insist on paying. This usually applies for more formal or business outings, although those travelling on flights to China to visit close friends or family may not encounter this custom as regularly.
You don't need to tip for everything in China. It's only expected at fine-dining restaurants, and for tour guides and hotel porters.
Whistling can have different connotations in China. Whistling at night is believed to attract spirits, and during the day, many Chinese see it as mischievous and a nuisance.
What should I know before visiting China?
Get a VPN for your return flights to China
If you want to document every moment of your trip or use social media while away, you'll need to get a VPN before boarding your flights to China. Websites and platforms like Google, Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram are blocked and access is forbidden - even to tourists. A VPN allows you to bypass these blocks, check emails and social media, and keep in touch with people back home.
Know the best time to visit China
If you're looking to snag a good deal on cheap flights to China and avoid the sweltering summertime temperatures, book your trip for spring or autumn. From March to May and September to November, you can expect cooler temperatures, smaller crowds at the top attractions and drier conditions to maximise sightseeing. Avoid the crowds by planning your flights to China around the public holidays. Chinese New Year, National Day and Golden Week is when most of the locals go on holiday.
Expect a language barrier
Don’t rely on English to get you by in China. Many locals only speak Mandarin, and that includes taxi drivers. Once you've booked your tickets to China and confirmed your hotel reservation, ask the accommodation to write their address in Chinese. Having it written down will make it easier when you’re travelling from Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) or anywhere else in China.
What are China's most famous landmarks and monuments?
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China might be chalked up to be one of the main motivators for international visits to buy return flights to China. This architectural and cultural wonder was first built in the 7th century, and it stretches across 6,000 kilometres. The most visited part of the Wall is near Badaling Pass, and visitors can easily access the Wall on a day trip out of Beijing - either with public transport or an organised tour.
If you're intrigued by China's ancient history and want to book airfare to China to explore its incredible history, be sure to visit the outskirts of Xi'an. Here, you'll find one of China's most incredible archaeological finds: the Terracotta Army. More than 8000 lifesize warriors were found across three underground pits, all built and placed here to protect an emperor’s tomb. To get to the Terracotta Army, you’ll need to fly into Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (XIT). From there, you can hire a car to drive the 40 kilometres to the site or you can take Bus No. Tourist 5 (306) from the Xi’an Railway Station. Plenty of organised tours also offer trips to the site.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Visit the spectacular Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in the Hunan province to admire this incredible landscape. The park’s natural beauty captivates all travellers, including James Cameron, who used it as inspiration for his movie Avatar. The movie had such an effect on tourism here that one of the tallest pillars has been renamed the ‘Avatar Hallelujah Mountain’. Some of the parks other notable highlights include the Bailong Elevator and the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge. To get to the park, you’ll need to buy tickets to China that land at Dayong Airport (DYG) and then drive 30 minutes to the entry point.
The Forbidden City
If your flights to China land at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), don't miss out on exploring The Forbidden City while in the Chinese capital city. It's one of the country's most important historical, architectural and cultural sites. Established by the Yuan Dynasty, the palace has been the home of 24 Ming and Qing Emperors. It spans 720,000 square metres, and some of the best things to see inside The Forbidden Palace include five white marble bridges, the imperial throne room, the emperor's banquet halls and the Palace Museum. When you're done exploring the palace, you can visit adjacent Tiananmen Square and the nearby Temple of Heaven.
Top Cities in China
Beijing is one of the six ancient cities in China and has been the country's capital city for the past 500 years.
It's the world's second most populous city and is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Each year, over 4.4 million travellers flock to the city to see some of its most famous attractions.
The Great Wall of China, the Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square are just some of the places that deserve a spot on any Beijing itinerary.
Situated on the Yangtze River, Shanghai is one of the most influential cities in East China. It's considered a leading trendsetter in fashion, design and the arts and boasts the best shopping in the country.
Some of its top attractions include Disneyland, Yu Garden and the second tallest tower in the world, Shanghai Tower.
The city of Xi'an is one of the four major ancient civilisation capitals in the world. It has a history that spans more than 3,000 years and was once the starting point of the Silk Road.
Today, it's home to one of the world's most important archaeological sites, the Terracotta army, and countless other historical attractions.
Located in the south, Guilin is the pearl of China's tourism industry. Its natural wonders like the Li River and Elephant Trunk Hill attract thousands of visitors each year.
It's also an important cultural destination with a 2,000-year-old history. Spend a few days here exploring the wilderness while also learning about the role Guilin played as the political hub of the Northern Song Dynasty.
Top Attractions in China
For more than 2,000 years the Terracotta Army lay underground, until 1974, when farmers digging a well stumbled across one of the world's great archaeological discoveries.
Commissioned by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the mausoleum housing his tomb is guarded by 8,000 life-size warriors. It's believed that it took 700,000 workers three decades to create the compound, the soldiers and other artefacts found at the site.
Today, it's a World Cultural Site, and the Terracotta army attracts thousands of visitors each year. Entrance costs CNY 150, and it's best to get there early to avoid the tour bus crowds.
The Forbidden City was the imperial palace for 560 years. While the 24 emperors lived here, non-royals were not allowed to enter.
This changed in 1925 when China's last emperor Puyi was forced to abdicate the throne. The palace is now listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site and is the largest ancient palace in the world.
It's full of Chinese cultural and historical relics, boasting an impressive 9,999 rooms. 14 million people visit the site each year, and it's one of China's most popular attractions.
While much of the compound is still undergoing restoration, more off-limit areas are opening up to the public all the time.
Great Wall of China
No trip to China is complete without a stop at the Great Wall. It's the longest in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of New Seven Wonders of the World.
Located near Beijing, the wall spans 5,000 km across 15 provinces and all the way to Korea border. It's one of the world's most visited attractions with more than 10 million people flocking to the Great Wall each year.
If you have the time and want to get away from the crowds, hike this human-made wonder. The Jinshanling to Simatai West section is a challenging route, but it's rewarding. It passes more than 20 towers, and you'll have uninterrupted views of the Yanshan Mountains.
The Li River
One of China's most famous natural attractions is the Li River. Located in the city of Guilin, the landscape by the river has inspired Chinese painters and poets for generations.
It's considered one of the "World's Top Ten Watery Wonders" by National Geographic, and it's not hard to see why. The river stretches between Guilin and Yangshuo over a distance of 83 km. Its route is lined with the famous Karst Mountains, tiny villages and bamboo groves.
Boat cruises leave every day and trips last as long as four hours. It's one of the best ways to experience the Li River and see as much of it as possible.
The Yellow Mountains
Located in the east of China, the Yellow Mountains are the most famous peaks in the country. It's one of the country's UNESCO World Heritage Sights and the easiest of China's three national parks to access.
The mountains are famous for their four wonders: the granite peaks, hot springs, wind-carved pines and sea of clouds. If you don't have time to hike up to peaks, you can reach the various summits by cable car.
Entrance costs CNY 230 between March and November and CNY 150 during the winter months. The best thing about the fee is that it's the same price no matter how long you plan to stay inside the park.
Major Airports in China
- Beijing Capital International Airport
- Shanghai Pudong International Airport
- Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
- Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
- Kunming Changshui International Airport