Absolutely everything you need to know for planning a trip to China

It will be too hard! No one will help you, no one speaks English in China, everyone tries to rip you off, you need to go on a tour if you want to visit China. You just can’t do independent travel in China and you definitely can’t travel China with kids. Every single one of those was thrown at us when we said we were planning a trip to China.

Table Of Contents
  1. Planning a trip to China made easy
  2. Do I need a visa to visit China?
  3. What do I need for a visa to China?
  4. The essential guide to visiting China
  5. Food in China
  6. Accommodation in China
  7. Language barrier in China
  8. Using ATM’s in China
  9. Bartering in the tourist areas
  10. Know your money in China
  11. Power sockets and chargers
  12. Medication in China
  13. Transport within China
  14. Some other tips for travel in China
  15. If you are buying goods in China
  16. Travel safety with kids in China
  17. Money safety in China

Everyone said we were mad, they said we couldn’t do it and it would be too hard. We would have to sit in our room, alone, with no internet access eating only noodle cups…hopefully, if we were lucky. We were better off organising a group China tour and doing that instead because there was no way we could survive independent travel in China.

Mao picture in Beijing. Beijing is one of the top places to visit in China. When you are planning a trip to China Beijing should be on your list.
Tiananmen Square in Beijing

Planning a trip to China made easy

Through our independent travel in China, we have learned now that that is simply not the case unless you make it that way. Visiting China with kids has been a brilliant experience for us and we wish we hadn’t listened to some of that bad travel advice. To be honest it hasn’t been easy all the time but it was not the doom and gloom that people said our China vacation would be.

There is a huge language barrier when you travel in China and at times it is difficult to do some things BUT what we have learnt is to minimise the amount of trouble it gives us. In this post, we are going to tell you all you need to know about our travel in China for your visit, so you can get to planning a trip to China and not worry about the unknown. Our top tips and tricks that we learnt as we did our independent travel in China with kids will make your trip to China a success. But first things first…

Do I need a visa to visit China?

Before you do anything this is one of the first things you need for travelling to China and without it you probably won’t be travelling to China at all! If you want to spend a good amount of time travelling in China then the answer is yes you do need a visa to visit China. We have also included information here about the transit visa too which are great if you are planning a short trip to China.

The L Visa

The L Visa is the most common Visa issued to visitors to China for tourism. Most people will apply for a single entry visa for 30 days especially if they are on a guided tour in China. There are also options for double-entry or multiple entries for Australians with stays in China ranging from 30 days to 90 days. It is possible for some citizens from the US and Canada to be eligible for multiple-entry L-Visas valid for 10 years. You will need to confirm this with your local Consulate or Embassy to be completely clear as rules and change quickly.

China Travel Visa TypesAustralianUSCanadianUK
Single Entry109.50 AUD140USD142CAD151GBP
Double Entries139.50AUD140USD142CAD151GBP
Multi-entry for 6 months190.50AUD140USD142CAD151GBP
Multi-entries for 12+ months229.50AUD140USD142CAD151GBP

The Transit Visa

This is a great way to see some great sites during a short trip to China. It also can be tricky though so you will still need to contact your local Chinese Embassy or Consulate to make sure you are eligible for these Transit Visa Exemptions.

24 hour Transit Visa Exemption

If you are transiting through China within 24 hours to reach another country you may be able to apply for a 24 hour Visa Exemption. This China Visa option is available to most foreign travellers at most entry points in China. Again we stress you check with your local consulate and embassy before assuming.

Plane at Beijing Airport
Air China plane at Beijing Capital Airport

72 hour Transit Visa Exemption

If you are transiting through China within 72 hours to reach another country you may be able to apply for a 72 hour Visa Exemption. This 72 hour Visa Exemption is only valid to certain citizens from participating countries and there are only some points of entry where it is allowed.

To be able to apply for the 72-hour visa exemption, the tourist must have a valid passport from one of the 53 countries. You can check if your country is a valid one here

Cities of entry that offer the 72 hour Visa Exemption are Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Harbin, Kunming, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen, or Xi’an.

144 hour Transit Visa Exemption

If you are transiting through China with 144 hours to reach another country you may be able to apply for a 144 hour Visa Exemption. This 144 hour Visa Exemption is only valid to certain citizens from participating countries and there are only some points of entry where it is allowed.

Planning a trip to China visa tip:

You must confirm you are elidgable for these visa’s BEFORE you depart on your trip to China

What do I need for a visa to China?

  • 6 months validity left on your current passport
  • 2 passport sized pictures that are current
  • your application forms
  • proof of your outgoing ticket and accommodation or a confirmation from your paid tour company
  • you may also have to prove bank statements of your current income

Filling out the application forms for your China Visa

When you are filling out your application forms to visit China you have to be very careful and precise. We recommend you have multiple copies so if you make a mistake you can easily start again. The forms can be hard and very tricky to fill out. Take your time and read them carefully.

The essential guide to visiting China

There are so many things to know before planning a trip to China it can be hard to know what are the most important things to do before your China trip. Your trip to China and how you are able to travel within China will depend on how prepared you are. There are many things like home but there are 5 times as many that are completely different from home as well. These are our top tips for planning a trip to China on your own.

Be patient

This is our top tip for anyone planning a trip to China. China is a large country with so many people in it and it is busy. You may find when you are independently traveling China you are some of the only westerners in the attractions in China. This may not be the case if you are on a guided tour of China.

We found that most tourist attractions in China were busy with local tourists and not too many westerners but most places were equipped for English tourists. And they were busy. You have to be patient and wait your turn.

Things take longer to get to and lines are set up in most places to keep order.

crowds in China
The streets are usually full in Chinese cities

Plan, Plan and Plan

If you are not a planner this is where you will become unstuck on your first visit to China. After you have settled and you know what you are doing you will find it easier to be able to work added things into your China itinerary but we recommend that before you arrive in China you:

  • have a basic itinerary planned for both sightseeing and travel within China
  • you know what you want to see in the areas you are visiting if you are touring China on your own
  • know how to get from your accommodation to the sights you want to see
  • have a basic knowledge of how to get from place to place if you are visiting more than one city in China
  • know where you are staying and how to get there (you will need this for your visa application anyway)
  • have screenshots or a detailed note about these places (if they have a business card get one and keep it on you)
  • download all the info you will need before you leave home

Internet and mobile phones

Both of our daughters were prepared for no internet for the month we would be travelling in China. We knew we would need some for our work but at the same time knew it may have been an issue as we had been told that the internet in China for tourists was hard to get even in hotels.

sim cards in China
Sim cards in China are readily available

Sim Cards

We purchased Chinese sim cards from home in Australia before we left and had them in our luggage to put in our phones when we arrived in China. This is one of the essential things you need for traveling to China.

One problem we did come across was that we needed a Chinese landline or mobile phone number to access the internet in China at some hotels as a code is sent to that number. We were very lucky that one of the workers helped us out and signed us in with her number.

VPN in China

One of the biggest planning a trip to China tips we have is downloading a VPN before you leave your home country. We downloaded Express VPN in Australia before we left and we have not had a problem with it while travelling in China. It does reconnect sometimes but we have not had any other issues. This is an essential tool if you want to use the internet in China. If you plan on using the internet this is one of the top things you need for travelling to China.

Wi-Fi in China

Most places will have very good Wi-Fi and it has been pretty fast where we have stayed. You may need to have some help with receiving a code to a local phone to access it. See if your hostel or your hotel can help you out with a number. Accessing the internet in China for tourists is easy if you are prepared and ask for help.

China can be a cashless society

When you are planning a trip to China you have to know how you are going to pay for things. Unless you have a Chinese bank account you may have problems paying for some things in China outside of the tourist areas and even sometimes within them.

You will see many stalls and even big retailers with scanning codes for either Alipay or WeChat pay. This is how most things are paid for even in small markets. Without a Chinese bank account, you will not be able to access these options.

shop in Pearl Market Beijing
The type of market shops you will find at the Pearl St Market in Beijing

Markets in local areas in China

Little markets are a great way to see how local life is lived in China. Most people are welcoming and will yell out hello with a big smile while you are there. If you are visiting a market we do recommend that you take smaller notes with you as some market stalls do not have a lot of change due to the Alipay or WeChat payment system.

Supermarkets in China

The supermarkets mainly have self-service checkouts so you will need to find the CASHIER desk and ask them to scan your items and there you can pay cash easily. All notes are checked as well so don’t worry if they are put through a scanner.

*In the supermarkets and many other stores you will need to purchase a plastic bag if you have not bought your own.

Large shopping malls in China

We found these to be great but again they are mainly cashless purchases and we found that our credit card was not accepted at many large retailers within them. We also found that ATM’s are not as common in Chinese shopping malls as they may be in Australia or other countries.

Search more great activities and tours in China with Get Your Guide

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Food in China

Food in China can be a very tricky subject especially if you have a fussy person in your family as we do. We have gone pretty well so far I think. Most people expect to have a lot of fried rice (although you can get an amazing one here), sweet and sour pork or honey chicken when they visit China but unfortunately, they are a very western way of cooking. You will find these in larger tourist cities in China like Beijing though although slightly different.

food in china
Typical Chinese food

There are always dumplings and you can find them in a fair few places, especially around the tourist sites in China. We found so many different types of food to try that we only had them a couple of times in Beijing. When you are planning a trip to China and you have allergies or intolerances try to get someone you know or a local school to help you write your issues on a piece of paper for you.

Street Food

Anyone who is planning a trip to China definitely wants to sample the food! Street food in China is a great way to see how the locals do it and have some amazing food. Some of the best meals we have had have been in a tiny little shop or from a little stall on the side of the road.

Many street food vendors will not have a menu on display or in English but if you have time stop, watch and see what they make. We found some real gems doing this in the Muslim Quarter in Xian. A great way to see if they make good food is a line up out the front of their shop.

Top street food in China to try:

  • wonton soup
  • noodles
  • steamed-roasted lamb shanks
  • anything on a stick
  • Chinese pie

Food Court food in China

This was a real winner for us some nights with Marley having so many issues with food. Food was one of the hardest things to do on our family trip to China with Marley’s issues. Normally in a Chinese shopping mall, there will be a small food court usually located in the basement of it. You can find some great cheap food here too.

*Just a note. Many food courts in China have a card system. You need to pre-load a card to purchase your food. If you are unsure and there is not a mad rush of people at the counter most of the time a worker will help you out.


We do not have any allergies in our family but it would have been something I would worry about if we did. As English is not widely spoken I would have some cards made up with what you can’t have as well as a pre-loaded sentence on your phone to use wherever you are eating.

Top tips for eating in China:

  • normally there is no English menu but if it looks good have a try
  • try to work out what things are with pictures displayed in the restaurant
  • hygiene is not like it is at home but most places are clean
  • it is common for the whole animal to be used in every aspect of cooking. Beware of this please if it is an issue for you
  • wash your fruit before you eat it
  • Chinese food can be spicy!

Accommodation in China

When you are planning your trip to China one thing that has to be done well is your accommodation. There are plenty of accommodation options in China. You must be careful when you book through to make sure they will take foreign visitors as some are only for domestic travellers. This can really reduce your accommodation in China options. We recommend Booking.com for all your accommodation in China

Hostels in China

We found that the hostels in China we stayed in were a little easier than the hotels in China. At least someone spoke English at the hostel and they normally had an activity organised to show you around the area at some stage. The staff have all the best tips for the local area too.

Alley Youth Hostel
Alley Youth Hostel in Xian was amazing

We love using hostels with kids when we travel as there is such a mix of people there and there is always someone to have a chat to which is great for us with our long term travel. It is also a great learning experience for them to meet people from other countries and this was no different during our China vacation.


Read more: Are you travelling to China with family? Here is our ultimate guide to finding the best family-friendly hostels

Hotels in China

They are not as lively as the hostels and sometimes getting the information we needed was harder there. One good thing was they had breakfast in the morning that had a few different items that Marley would happily eat so I knew she was getting one good meal a day.

Many hotels in China are also built with a shopping centre or a shopping mall attached to a section of it as well. We found this really helps to keep our eating out costs down if we had had a big spending day.

Check-in at your accommodation in China

You will need all of the passports for the people in the group. Check-in can take a little while as your passport and Chinese visa need to be checked and entered into the computer. If you are travelling to China with young children this can take some time.

TRYP by Wyndham in Xian
Hotels in China

Double-check your payment method

Some places do not have credit card facilities so you need to double-check how you will pay for your accommodation on arrival. Most places are happy to wait while you go to get money out for your accommodation in China and they will know where an ATM is locally.

Language barrier in China

There is absolutely no doubt that this is the most challenging thing while you travel in China. Not many people speak English and if they do it is limited.


When you are planning a trip to China please don’t think English will be everywhere, it just isn’t. What we did find is that most people are scared of speaking English to a native speaker, just like we were worried about our very basic Chinese. Let them try, be understanding and help them. If you give them the confidence they will do their best to try and speak more to you, which will make things easier on you.

We found that people wanted to help us even if they were helping us in Chinese and we couldn’t understand a word they said. It really made for some great moments and some big laughs for us all.

*There are some people who are not interested at all and they will literally ignore you or just walk off. Best to find someone else in that situation.


Some places will have a small amount of English translation on a menu or on road signs which is good. These will help you a lot but there are some places that just won’t have any. Many street signs will have a Chinese name and one in English.

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Make your trip to China hassle-free and book some tours before you leave home

Using ATM’s in China

You will find many ATM’s around the cities in China. They dispense anywhere up to 20000 yuan at a time sometimes higher in the tourist areas.

Using an ATM in China is the same as the rest of the world

They are normally very secure with your own little booth to withdraw money from but you must take all of the usual precautions when you are carrying money. We found the ICBC bank in China to be the best as it had an English menu that was easy to use. Knowing how you are going to pay for things when you are planning your trip to China is a necessity and having a backup just in case is a priority as well.

*We used our Australian ANZ debit card to withdraw money at ATM’s. We found it was accepted at most ATM’s in China.

Bartering in the tourist areas

Most people who are planning a trip to China plan on doing some shopping in China while they are there. Everyone wants that Louis Vuitton, North face or Chanel purse and the tourist areas will always have a spot for them.

Here it is expected that you will barter for that sort of thing but we found at many of the local markets, bartering was not done and it was a set price with no room for negotiation. If they knock you back and you walk away without them following you then it is best not to keep trying.

Related Post: Want to shop like a pro in China? Take our top tips for shopping in China and get the best bargains to take home with you!

If you are visiting a market in a tourist area we suggest that you

  • walk around first and look at what you want before committing to one stall
  • once you ask the question ‘how much is this?’ it is on. Expect a price. If you chose to walk away they will start the process of negotiation. ‘How much do you want to pay’ This is why you must look around before you commit to one
  • there will be more than one place that will have the item you want. If you think it is too much look elsewhere
  • walk a little further into the market near the back. Somethings there are cheaper
hangbags in china
Barter hard for brand name goods in China

Visiting a market in the city

We found in smaller places the market was a traditional type one under tents or they had stalls along a street. In the cities, we found that they were more of a shopping centre or shopping mall-style market with individual shops. I found this less fun and the shop owners much pushier.

If you are visiting one of these city markets you need to have your wits about you.

  • barter hard
  • go for a price that is at least a quarter of what they said then you have room to go negotiate to a price you are happy with
  • take small notes and keep your money hidden. They will tell other shop owners if you have a lot of money on you
  • take the small notes to pay as close to the price as you can as fake currency can be a problem there

Know your money in China

This is something we recommend for anywhere you travel. KNOW YOUR MONEY, there are a few more 0’s at the end of the Yuan so make sure you take notice of what you hand over and what you get back.

Notes come in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10 and 1. There are also some old smaller notes and coins. Coins are 1Y (same as the note) 5 and 1

Chinese RMB
Chinese Currency

*We were told we would constantly have people trying to rip us off in China but this was not something that we had a problem with. We found even the taxi drivers to be quite honestYou must realise though if you are shopping at a market and you don’t know your prices or you don’t barter they will take advantage of you.

If you are leaving China and you have some money left over you can exchange it at a bank. We used the ICBC bank to exchange our money from Yuan to Euros. We needed our passport and it took about 40 minutes.

Credit Card facilities in China

When you are planning a trip to China don’t plan to pay with a credit card all the time. We found that many places did not even have the option to take a credit card. Some big hotels won’t even have them so make sure you have a backup option for paying in cash or being able to withdraw cash while you are in China.

Also, alert the local bank that you will be travelling in China so they don’t consider the transactions as fraudulent and shut off the card.

Instead of our credit card, we used our ANZ debit card to withdraw money.

We have also heard the ING travel card and the Qantas money card are great for travelling.

We recommend that you get a Revolut travel money card, that can be loaded with multiple currencies and has nearly non-existent withdrawal fees to save you money on your family trip to China.

Power sockets and chargers

This was something we loved in China. Most places we stayed in had a Chinese plug and an Australian one built-in as well. All of our devices and electrical equipment could plug straight in with no worries.

We also carry a large power board with us wherever we travel and highly recommend everyone uses the same as we do. For a family of our size with as many devices as we have it is a blessing at the end of the day.

Medication in China

I asked my doctor before I left for our trip what do I need to take with me on our family trip to China?

His response was the best:

“The question is Bec what do you need at 2 am when everything is closed?” Now, this may sound like a lot but we have some issues with our youngest daughter so I filled her prescriptions and packed what I would need for a somewhat restful night if a drama happened at 2 am. For the rest of us, I put a container on the bench and whatever I used the month before we left I bought one to go in our luggage.

As we have travelled through Asia for 8 months now I have some left. When we arrived in China I asked the customs guard if I needed to declare them and he said no.

If you are taking prescription medications to China with you:

  • get a letter from your GP or doctor stating why you have them and what you have
  • put them in a clear zip-lock bag that is easily accessible if you do need to show them to a guard
  • take extra prescriptions with you

*In an emergency situation, we recommend you call or email the EMERGENCY NUMBER on your travel insurance policy and ask them what hospital, doctor or clinic they recommend for you to visit. Even if you don’t end up making a claim you are already in a place that is a certified provider for them and a well checked out facility.

We did not attend a hospital, clinic, doctor or need to get any medication while we were in China so we are unable to give you advice on that area.

We can highly recommend Fast Cover Travel Insurance for Australians as we used them 4 times during our 7 months in Asia. We have also used Allianz effectively in the past.

We recommend using Travel Insurance Master, their website will compare the best deals from a number of providers and present you with the best value for money policy on the market. Click through to Insurance Masters to get a free quote.

Transport within China

When you are planning a trip to China knowing how you are going to get around is essential. We found that there are the usual modes of transport within China except low budget carriers for flights. After much research, we used the fast train network to get between the cities in China we were visiting and found this a great way to travel around China.

Train travel in China

We used China Rail to travel between the cities in China we were visiting. They were comfortable, clean and ran on time.

Train stations in China are just like an airport. You will need to show your passport, ticket and have your bags scanned before you enter.

fast train in China
Chinese High-Speed rail is the best way to travel

If you can we recommend that you go to the train station the day before to pick up your ticket WITH YOUR PASSPORT if you have booked them online. The lines to get the tickets can be huge and you may be waiting for a while to collect your ticket. If you are travelling in China with teenagers you should take them with you as well to collect the tickets.

If you are unable to do this you need to get there at least 1.5 hours before your train arrives. They do not wait for anyone.

Learn More: If you want to know all there is to know about train travel in China for your epic rail journey, you absolutely need our post. China Train Travel. How to book, collect, board and ride to make your experience a breeze

Tips for train travel in China

  • if you have booked more than one train ride get all the tickets printed at the same time
  • arrive well before your departure time around 1.5 hours to make sure you are through security
  • if the train says it leaves at 5.20 it will leave at 5.20 with or without you on it
  • take some toilet paper with you just in case
  • there are food and drinks to purchase onboard but please make sure you have small notes to get the correct change

—–We recommend you book your China train tickets with trip.com

If you want to see what it looks like check out our YouTube clip below

Bus travel in China

We found little information on how to travel in China by bus and the information out there was mainly about guided tour groups. The only other information was that they can be long, uncomfortable trips and we would be better with train travel in China.

Some other tips for travel in China

There are some other things that we are used to in our home country that are just not either worried about in China or they are not used. Some were a real eyeopener for our daughters and some were just strange having them.

Air pollution in China

Air pollution in China was something that really worried me before we visited China. I had heard that it was very bad and that we may have to wear masks when we were there.

The only time I felt like this was when we were in Beijing. I found the air quite fine in the other parts of China that we visited. You can purchase face masks if you have any breathing difficulties or you are worried about the air quality in China. They are available in convenience stores or you could bring some with you.

You can also download the Air Quality app to track the pollution rating

Drinking water in China

We had many differing opinions on this so to be sure we drank bottled water throughout the day but we did use it to brush our teeth.

Do not rely on google maps

Many people rely on the convenience and reliability of google maps when they are planning a trip to China. Google maps led us down the garden path and 3 kilometres in the wrong direction in the tiny alleys of the Muslim Quarter in Xian. If you are using it please be aware if you are in a hurry. Maps me is a much better option for you. You can use Maps. Me or Baidu Map

Download Didi (China Uber)

This is the best app we have come across and it has saved us so many times. Didi Rider is the Chinese version of Uber or Grab and is our top China travel essentials. This saved us on so many occasions during our China vacation. It is so easy to order a car and have them pick you up, drop you off and you know exactly how much it will cost before you even get in. We found this to be the best way to travel around China tourist attractions.

YOU MUST download the Didi Rider app as it is the English version that works in China. You can also download Didi Greater China which is another English version.

Tips for using Didi:

  • the driver can accept cash from you but nothing over 100 yuan
  • if the fair is over 100 yuan try to pick a car park that is next to your end destination. This will reduce your fair to the accepted amount
  • if you use a toll it will be added onto the fare at the end of the trip

*We had no problems with Didi until we reached Beijing. It called for an update where we had to re-enter our credit card details. It didn’t work for a couple of days but then it was business as usual. We think it may have just taken a little while to recognise the card.

Get a translator app

This is another one of our China travel essentials. While these have come to our rescue a couple of times they have also made us laugh a few times with what they actually translate what you said into. If you have a severe allergy or an important place to be, get help with this and don’t just trust the app. We found Microsoft translator and google translator worked well.

Double check everything

I am a worrier and to help with the anxiety of travel Mark has learned to check and check again to keep me happy. We have had a fail though while we were travelling in China.

Two places were spelled in a similar way. We booked a train to one and booked accommodation in the other. Luckily our hostel in China picked up on the mistake and it was able to be changed without a hassle.

Double-check the spelling of any place you are visiting in China.

If you are buying goods in China

If you do plan on buying up big where you are you MUST double-check what you are buying at the markets in China. Many people have walked away and have not checked what they have bought and it was slightly damaged or not working. It is up to you to do your due diligence and check because most market stalls will not take back an item once you have walked away.

Tips on what to check:

  • Size. It differs incredibly from home. Just because it says that size doesn’t mean it is
  • Zips. Make sure they are not broken
  • Handles of cups. Make sure they haven’t been broken off and re-glued on
  • If you buy cheap things don’t expect them to be perfect
  • Some people will tell you that they are selling the real thing but beware that this may not be the actual case

You should also take into consideration when buying some items in China the laws in your country about importing goods. You may have to declare them and you may have to surrender them at the border if they are not allowed to enter the country.

Take your time

Make time to see all the China tourist attractions that you want to and then make sure you have all the time you need to visit there. Some of the tourist cities in China you will visit are not crammed with foreigners.

They are crammed with Chinese tourists and it can take a while to get tickets and entry into whatever you are going to see. We recommend when you are planning a trip to China don’t have too much planned every day but have the option to go somewhere else if you finish early.

The Great Wall near Beijing
The Great Wall of China deserted

Many of the most popular tourist attractions in China are very busy but if you take your time, relax and just wander you will find you have time to get your nice picture and have a small amount of time to relax in that space before moving on.

Smoking in China

This is something that is done everywhere and it is not a problem for many Chinese people. We have banned smoking in so many places in Australia that it was hard to see people smoking in the hotel lobby and in restaurants. It is something we were not totally aware of before we visited China.

You will also find the faint or sometimes strong smell of smoke in a hotel room. There may even be an ashtray on the table in there as well. Please be aware that it is allowed in China.

Toilets in China

Squat toilets are everywhere in most public bathrooms but we had no problems also finding a Western toilet in the places we visited. Many old-style restaurants only have a squat so you may have some trouble there.

It is also a great idea to carry a small packet of tissues with you into the toilets. You normally get your toilet paper from a dispenser before you go into the toilet and many times the girls or myself would forget and we would have to use the tissues.

In most cases, you throw the toilet paper into a bin next to the toilet. You don’t flush it.

*If you see a western busload of tourists pull up at a tourist spot get to the toilet first or you will have a wait!

Ignore the spitting

There is a noise that is deeply ingrained into my psyche now that I have spent time in China. It is where the person is getting something up from deep, deep, deep, within their body to spit it out. And then they will spit it out onto the footpath or anywhere else nearby.

They will not be spitting at you though and they do make sure no one is around before they do it.

Also, watch out for the people blowing their noses without a tissue. That is truly something I can never unsee but it is a big part of Chinese culture.

Buying tickets for kids in China

One thing we did notice when we went to purchase a ticket for our daughters was the children’s price for entry went on their height not their age. This was one thing I did not expect when travelling in China with children.

If your child is above 1.2 m-1.4 m high they are classed as an adult priced ticket. You can assume if you are travelling China with teenagers they will be at adult prices wherever you go.

There is a lack of personal space in China

This is something my youngest really struggled with and would push back on a regular basis.

We only really found this in Beijing and mainly around the Forbidden City, to be honest, but we have had other people tell us that they felt they had no personal space in other tourist sites in China or they were pushed or shoved at times as everyone is used to less space there.

crowds in Xian
Crowds at the Drum Tower in Xian

A good thing is if you are sitting at a table by your self people are not scared to come and sit with you. They may not talk much but there is no stigma attached to it like I feel there is at home.

People are very friendly

Most people are so friendly that you just want to be able to talk to them. Many will help even if you can’t understand them and they can’t understand you either.

It’s not as crowded as people think

I expected to be bumper to bumper day and night wherever we went in China and I can happily say that there have been times when I can just relax and enjoy a moment without anyone else. Yes, the main tourist sites in China are going to be very busy but you will find that in any popular area anywhere in the world.

If you are really needing some time out the Chinese people love nature and you will find a huge park somewhere in the city you are visiting. They are seriously one of the best places to visit in China if you want to relax. You can find some beautiful open spaces and in these parks some great activities.

The Chinese people are very focused on families and getting out there to exercise and stretch. You can join in an aerobics class or a dancing class and have a great time. Or you can find a quiet spot to just chill and watch the people in the park do their thing.

Yes, everyone is staring at you

No, you are not naked! We have found that many people will actually stop what they are doing and just stare at us as we walk past. It has made us feel very self-conscious at times but after a month we are used to it. It can be a little daunting at the start though. We find saying hello a great way to break the ice!

Children are very interested in us and will openly point us out to their parents. We find smiling, waving and saying hello will put most people at ease and they are happy to smile back. At this time we have not had an aggressive encounter from this.

summer palace in beijing
The Summer Palace in Beijing

Travel safety with kids in China

If you are planning a trip to China with kids here are some tips for you. At no point have I felt that myself or my children are in danger in the places we have visited in China. I have felt a little safer actually with everyone staring at us. There is a large police presence in the main tourist areas and plenty of security guards roaming the streets.

*Police are easily identified as they are normally all in blue with Police written on their uniform

*Security guards are normally all in black and they are very helpful. They are quite stern-looking but will help if they canSome have a red sash on one arm.

We have taken the usual steps with accommodation and tourist sights with the girls that we would normally do in any other country.

One thing that does happen a lot is people taking pictures with or of the girls especially Willow and her red hair. I have found most people will ask and I actually like this much more than the sneaky shot as we can then see what it looks like. It is up to the girls if they say yes or no and I back them on their decision.

Discover More: Keeping your kids safe while travelling is a top priority. Be prepared for every situation with our best tips for keeping kids safe when travelling

Money safety in China

If we are using an ATM to withdraw a lot of money we check the ATM for a skimmer and then the both of us enter the booth. We stay in there until the money is split between us and the cards are in another spot. Then we leave the booth. This is also a tactic that we use in other countries, not just China.


I wear my backpack on the front of me if it has anything of value in it and we try to have zip-up pockets if we put anything in them. If I am walking along a road I wear my backpack on the front of me and have anything of value on the opposite side to the road to prevent people from going past and snatching it.

If something is stolen

You need to immediately go to the nearest police station. There are small tourist police stations in or right near the main tourist places where you can report it so you are able to claim on your insurance.

My biggest tip is to stay calm as much as you can. It is a stressful and hard time but you are ok and what you lost can be replaced.

We actually cut our time in China short as we listened to too many people telling us how hard it was and how much they hated their time in China. It is very easy to do in situations like this to get scared, worried and make those decisions especially when you are travelling with kids.

It is a decision we regretted after being in Chengdu for only a day. We have now travelled independently in China and we can say it is much easier than we expected as long as you have the right expectations before you get here.

The Chinese people are just like us. They laugh, they cry, they love and they get angry but they are lovely people who are really very nice.

Travelling China is as hard as you make it

We hope this post from us here at Wyld Family Travel has inspired you to plan a trip to China. Planning a trip to Chiane can be intense but with the right advice and support, you will find planning a trip to China easy.

For more amazing ideas on where to holiday in China click through to our China Destination Guide page for more brilliant inspiration.

More travel inspiration for your trip to China

Rebecca Wyld


Content Creator/SEO Editor

Co-founder and SEO editor here at Wyld Family Travel. Bec has travelled to over 45 countries across 3 continents and is a journey with kids advocate. When Bec is not planning travel, she is creating content for our family travel blog or doing local community services work. You can find all of Bec’s detailed travel guides here on Wyld Family Travel and on other popular websites such as Lonely Planet.

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4 thoughts on “Absolutely everything you need to know for planning a trip to China”

  1. Definitely gonna make a summary out of this and print it as my check list for the upcoming trip to China! Also I read a lot (as well as it was mentioned here) that you need a vpn when you’re in China. Personally I use Surfshark so that’s a different vpn than the one that was mentioned in the article, we’ll see if it works!

  2. My kids are only 4 and 6 but we’re already planning, and saving for, a trip to China. It may take us years, but we’re already excited! Thanks for this insanely thorough guide to traveling to China with kids.

  3. I take your point about double checking names – I once booked a hotel in Port Augusta (SA) for a trip to Port Augusta (WA) – oops! Partner has never let me live it down. I’m heading to Western Sichuan so everywhere has 2 names – one Tibetean one Chinese – which certainly doesn’t help!

  4. We are going to China next year. I appreciate all of your tips and things to be aware of i.e. blowing noses with no tissue……eek! Thank you for the detailed information. It really helps in preparing for our trip.


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