Voltage: 220V, Frequency: 50Hz
Yuan (CNY) exchange rates
UTC +8 hours
What to expect
China is immense in all respects: the most populous nation on Earth features every kind of landscape you could imagine, has a long and complex history, is both ancient and starkly modern, and is home to myriad cultures – from the Khampas and Tibetans of the high plateaus, to the Muslim Uighurs of the north-west.
In the past two decades, the tourism industry in China has been subject to rapid development. In major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong you can expect to find a wide range of hotels and restaurants with service levels on par with those in Australia. If you are travelling further afield to more remote areas of China, you will encounter loud trains, roads with uneven surfaces, and clean yet basic accommodation – which is all part of the experience! Patience and flexibility will serve you well: approaches to customer service, though well-intentioned, are likely to be different to what you may be used to.
From Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne
approximately 11 hours
approximately 12 hours
Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed below. You can also expect possible disruptions to travel plans, and significant crowds at popular tourist sites. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our Australia-based Asia specialists for details.
Chinese New Year. Your travel could be interrupted and popular attractions are likely to be crowded.
Formula 1 Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Chinese National Day.
Health & Fitness
As with travelling to other parts of Asia, you need to take precautions when visiting China. The following diseases are all known to exist in China: tetanus, tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis A and B, malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We strongly recommend you consult your doctor with regards to vaccinations and up-to-date health advice at least a month before you depart.
You can expect to find medical care facilities of an international standard in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, however facilities in rural areas are more basic.
As of November 2012, transit visitors (up to 72 hours) can travel to China without a visa, if entering the country via Shanghai or Beijing International Airports. Otherwise, Australian citizens need a visa to visit China. If you are a citizen of a country other than Australia, please check with your closest Chinese embassy or consulate for details.
You must organise your visa before leaving Australia. You can arrange your visa up to 6 months before you depart on your holiday from your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate. You will need a full passport that is valid for 6 months beyond your return date from China. Tourist visas are normally for periods of up to 30 days. If you need to stay longer, you should request a 60 day validity at the time of application.
Note: You will automatically be given a SINGLE ENTRY visa for your stay in China. It may not be possible to change the status tourist visa once you have arrived in China so if you plan to enter China twice during your holiday you will need to ensure that you request a MULTIPLE ENTRY visa when you apply.
Hong Kong: If you are an Australian citizen and only travelling to Hong Kong, you may enter without a visa for periods of 90 days to six months. If you are visiting Hong Kong from the China mainland, then returning, you will need a MULTIPLE ENTRY Chinese visa.
Tibet: In addition to your China tourist visa, you will need permits to travel to each region of Tibet. Note: Chinese visa regulations are subject to change. We strongly advise that you check with the Chinese embassy or consulate closest to you in Australia prior to travel. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa.
Safety and security
China is a generally a safe country to travel in; however, petty crime can be an issue in tourist areas. You should apply common sense as you would when travelling anywhere. Make sure your spending money is out of sight and near your body, and keep jewellery to a minimum. You may wish to use a money belt, especially if you are travelling on trains during your stay.
In major cities, we recommend travelling by taxi if you are out at night. Make sure your driver activates the meter and knows where you are going. It is always a good idea to carry a hotel address card that has the details in Chinese characters, in case your driver can’t read or speak English.
While on holiday in China, always keep a photocopy of your essential documents i.e. passport, airline tickets and credit cards, separate from the originals in a safe place. Most hotels have room-safes or deposit boxes at reception where you can store valuables.
If you would like to know more about how to stay safe when travelling with Travel Indochina, you can read our full safety guidelines here.
Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
is a memoir of a privileged upbringing in northern China during a period of great upheaval in the country, and the emotional abuse the author endured from her stepmother. It is a powerful and ultimately triumphant account of a girl's journey to adulthood in twentieth century China.
Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Chang
is an autobiography published in 1987. It is a graphic account of the author's six-year imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution.
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
is an account of a family history spanning three generations of women in China, with much focus on the Cultural Revolution and the impact it had on the family's lives.
China Wakes by Nicholas D Kristof & Sheryl Wudunn
is an analysis of daily life in China, and reveals its transformative journey to becoming an economic and political superpower.
Red China Blues by Jan Wong
is a political-focussed book written by a Chinese-Canadian journalist. It delves into the country's political climate in the 1970s and 80s, including the author's eyewitness account of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Heartlands: Travels in the Tibetan Land by Michael Buckley
is a darkly humourous account of a Lonely Planet writer's travels in the remote regions of Ladakh, Bhutan, Mongolia and Tibet.
Useful words & phrases
Hello (or hi)
How are you?
Ni Hao Ma
Wo Hen Hao
What is your name?
Ni Jiao Shenme Mingzi
My name is…
Wo De Mingzi Sh.i..
How old are you?
Ni Duo Da Le
I am …years old
How much is ...?
Duo Shao Qian
It's too expensive!
Tai Gui La
Excuse me /I'm sony
Dui Bu Qi
Thank you, but I don’t need a plastic bag
Xie Xie, Dan Wo Bu Xuyao Suo Liao Dai
Arrival and departure transfers
Arrival transfer: If you have booked an arrival transfer for your holiday in China, you will find your driver waiting for you at the airport. He or she will be wearing a Travel Indochina t-shirt and carrying a Travel Indochina signboard with your name on it.
Road: For six travellers or more, we use air-conditioned Hyundai with 25-40 seats when travelling by road in China. If you are travelling in a smaller group, travel will be by air-conditioned minibus or modern sedan car. We always use the best quality vehicle available but bear in mind that in remote areas of Tibet and Sichuan, vehicles could be of a lesser standard than other parts of the country.
Air: Your itinerary will probably involve at least one domestic flight in China. Planes are generally modern Boeing or Airbus models. Schedules can sometimes change at short notice and could affect your travel plans.
Boat: If your China holiday includes a Yangtze River boat journey, you will be accommodated in private twin-share cabin on a deluxe cruise ship.
Train: All rail travel booked with Travel Indochina will be in shared, ‘soft-sleeper’ four-berth compartment, with beds and air-conditioning. Other: Bicycles, rickshaws and your feet.
Internet: In major cities and most tourist centres, internet access is widespread and affordable. Wi-fi is increasingly available. Bear in mind that hotel internet and email services can be more expensive than an internet cafe.
Phone: Mobile coverage is generally good; contact your mobile phone service provider before you leave to ensure roaming is activated. International phone calls made from hotels can be expensive, however reverse charge phone calls are available in some places.
Mail: International mail sent from China takes around ten to fourteen days to reach its destination. Prices are a little less than Australian postal rates. If you are sending parcels home, these will need to be inspected by customs officials at the post office before they are sealed.
Food & drink
Most Australian travellers will be familiar with the basics of Chinese cuisine, but may be surprised by the incredible diversity available. Cuisine varies throughout the country: Beijing is, of course, famous for its namesake Beijing Duck; Shanghai’s Hu cuisine features plenty of fresh seafood, is often sweet and rarely spicy; whereas Sichuan dishes tend to be hot, with a liberal application of the local peppercorn.
Meals in China are traditionally served as a banquet, with dishes designed to share. This is a wonderful way to try a variety of dishes, and makes for a communal eating experience. Rice and noodles are a staple and soup is often served last. In larger cities, and tourist centres such as Yangshuo, you will find a good range of restaurants serving Western and other Asian cuisines, as well as vegetarian options.
Food is generally freshly prepared in China but remember that raw and undercooked food is more likely to cause stomach upsets. It’s best to avoid drinking tap water, however boiled water is generally available in a flask in your hotel room, and on trains, and filtered bottled water is cheap and widely available.
You should never feel obligated to tip; it is entirely a personal matter. However you may find that, when travelling in China, a tip is often an appropriate way to show your appreciation for great service.
If you are joining one of our Small Group Tours, your Western tour leader or local guide or will ask for a small sum at the beginning of your stay in China. This will be used to tip hotel porters and boat crews during your trip. This means that you do not have to worry about having small change on hand, and helps to prevent over-tipping. You may also choose to show your appreciation for Travel Indochina guides, drivers and tour leaders with a tip; however, it is not compulsory to do so.
Throughout China, many luxury hotels now have swimming pools. They are often indoor, which means you can swim any time of the year. Remember to be mindful of your personal safety while swimming, especially if you are travelling with young children.
You are unlikely to have an opportunity to swim at a beach or river on the China mainland; however, there are some lovely beaches in Hong Kong and some of them even have surf. Beaches are not usually patrolled.
Travel Indochina is committed to responsible travel in China and is keen to show you a side of this incredible country that is sometimes obscured by the spectacle of mass tourism. It isn’t possible to avoid this side of China completely, however when you travel with us you will also have a chance to partake in traditional cultural activities and support sustainable projects and small-scale, local operations.
Hutong rickshaw ride & lunch: If you travel with any of our Small Group Tours to Beijing, you will discover the ancient quarter of the city on a fun rickshaw ride. We also stop for lunch with a local family, a chance to interact socially with the city’s residents.
Traditional Uighur lunch: If you travel with us along the Silk Road, you will enjoy lunch with a Uighur family in Xinjiang province. The Uighurs are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese, and have a long association with this part of China.
Regional local guides: In Tibet and outlying provinces like Xinjiang, we try where possible to encourage our local partners to employ guides from the regional ethnic groups.
Giant Panda Research & Breeding Base: On the outskirts of Chengdu in Sichuan, this centre houses giant and red panda in large, well-kept areas, providing an environment that is conducive to breeding.
Read more information on our approach to responsible travel in Asia.