Your Essential Travel Guide to China

So you are going to take a trip to China? Great choice! There is so much to see and do in this diverse country that you will definitely run out of time before you run out of activities.  You are bound to see and do things that you never will in any other part of the world and with a little bit of pre-planning you will set yourself up for a memorable and enjoyable trip. This guide will help point you in the right direction. Have fun, and let the planning begin!

Places to See


Some Handy Tips


Best Time to Go

Spring (Mar-May)
Autumn (Sep-Nov)


Yuan Renminbi (¥)

Getting around

  • Taxi (most taxi drivers don’t speak English so make sure you have your directions printed out in Mandarin before leaving)
  • Metro (in larger cities)
  • Hire a driver. Sometimes this is the best way to take the stress out of figuring out how to get around and is essential for smaller cities.
  • Mo Bikes. Download the app and rental is a snap. (In larger cities)
  • Your own two feet



  • Temporarily switch your current plan to an international plan.
  • Inquire whether your phone is eligible to be unlocked. If it is, you can bring an unlocked phone to China and purchase an inexpensive SIM card with a local phone number to use while visiting. Cost for a SIM card=about $30 and can be purchased at the airport.
  • Purchase an inexpensive phone, or bring an old phone with a SIM card and proceed with the suggestion above. Smartphones are suggested (iPhone or Galaxy)
  • Regardless of which option you choose, download the WeChat app. This app is incredibly popular in China. You can text, voice, and video call anywhere in the world using only your data. Plus, it tends to be the most stable form of communication.


Internet usage in China can be sporadic. Wi-fi signals go in and out. Please bring your patience. The internet may be fast one day, and not work at all another. Also, some websites such as Facebook are banned in China. The only way to access them is through a VPN. If certain sites are very important for you to access while you are here, you may consider researching a VPN you can install on your device.

Thoughts and Things

  • China is 12-13 hours ahead of the EST zone depending on Daylight Savings Time.  You will experience some major jet-lag no matter how hard you try to avoid it. The first three days are the most difficult, but it’s really a full week before you feel normal again. Something to think about when planning your trip’s length.

    Young or old, you just can’t escape jet-lag
  • You can exchange money at the airport or in town. Cash is still the most widely accepted form of payment, and the only form accepted in most markets. Many stores and restaurants accept MasterCard or Visa. Fewer accept American Express.
  • Always carry your passport in case you are questioned by the authorities.
  • Make a copy of your passport, Visa, immunizations, health issues, insurance card, and blood type. Medical care is very different here and you should always have your information readily available in case of emergency. You may also want to check with your insurance provider regarding international coverage.
  • A visa is required for all U.S. citizens staying in Shanghai for more than 144 hours. Check with your local consulate about how to obtain your visa.
  • The Chinese culture believes it is ok to openly stare at something or someone they find interesting. They aren’t being rude, they are just curious. And if you are tall, have blonde or red hair, or dark skin they may ask to take their picture with you. Don’t worry, you aren’t a freak of nature. It’s just the way they are.

    Exercising like the locals in Fuxing Park. Notice the old dude in the back staring at our ridiculousness.
  • Some locals don’t feel the need to…ahem…find a bathroom if necessary. They will just go wherever they want. So if this happens, try not to stand there mouth gaping open in horror. Just look the other way and move on.
  • You will need a converter, and/or adapter for most of your electrical appliances. Most cellphones and computers are dual frequency and do not require conversion. You can purchase one on Amazon relatively cheap. 
  • Water is not safe to drink unless filtered. Brushing your teeth and showering is fine.
  • Some days have a high AQI, or air quality level. This means the air is heavily polluted. Wearing masks may be recommended. You can purchase masks before you leave (VOG masks are the best). Here is a link to one on Amazon.

    It looks like we are in a sci-fi film
  • Pedestrians in China do not have the right of way-EVER. Use extreme caution any time you cross a street. Cars and scooters will come at you from all directions.
  • Many toiletries and medications are difficult or impossible to find here. Please bring all you may need.
  • Many toilets are still squatty potty type. Be prepared and always carry tissues or toilet paper.

    Just in case you are confused.
  • Hand sanitizer wipes are useful to carry with you.
  • Tipping is not common practice for meals and services.

There you have it. Everything you need to know about visiting China. I hope you enjoy your trip. Let me know how it went and if you decide to include Shanghai in your itinerary, drop me a line. I would be more than happy to show you around my fantastic city!



  1. Such valuable information! I see you left out street food! Your tips sure made my trips to China easier!


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