China travel guide
An insider's guide to China, including when to go, where to stay, the best tour operators, what to pack and recommended reading. By our expert, Michelle Jana Chan.
With its high-octane energy, can-do drive, teeming population and challenging language barrier, China can be an exhausting destination for the first-time visitor. Common complaints I have heard from tourists include: “it’s so crowded – everyone’s pushing and shoving”; “we couldn’t make ourselves understood”; and “we needed another holiday after that trip”.
The best piece of advice I can give is to avoid trying to cram too much in. There are not many travellers who head to the US and combine Manhattan, Disneyworld, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood in one trip yet the equivalent journey in China is not unheard of. Classic itineraries often rush visitors between the Forbidden City, The Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, Chengdu’s panda sanctuaries and a Three Gorges cruise, finishing up in frantic Shanghai.
Twenty years ago, such a route would have been more palatable. There were hardly any domestic tourists in those days. But now it seems the whole country is on the move eager to explore their homeland. International visitors face long queues at key tourist attractions and then a jostle among heaving crowds. But approached wisely, China is as uplifting as it is intriguing. It is also an essential stop for anyone hoping to learn more about the direction the world is taking this century.