Should I travel to China?
While we are all looking ahead and dreaming of future travel plans, one of the most frequently asked questions at the moment is ‘should I still travel to China?’
In this post we will look at this question and offer our take on why we think yes, you absolutely should still consider China as a travel destination. Some of the main questions we will address are:
- Is China safe to travel to?
- Where should I visit in China? We have ideas for both first-time visitors and return travellers.
- Where should I stay in China?
- When is the best time to travel to China
China is a country of many things. Futuristic skyscrapers sit alongside traditional alleyways, unchanged for years. One of the world’s oldest civilisations has become one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and the pace of change is lightning-fast. I myself have been living in and travelling to China regularly for over a decade, and every time I go back there is something new to be discovered.
The effect of the coronavirus outbreak this year has impacted travel and tourism across the world, and nowhere more so than China. This will be an inevitable setback to China’s growing international tourism business, but we think that the country still has an incredible amount to offer and we hope that you will join us when we head back to the Middle Kingdom.
Is China safe to travel to?
One of the main concerns people have at the moment is whether China is safe to travel to. We have been in regular contact with our partners over in China throughout this situation. All our Chinese colleagues and their families are safe and well, and life is starting to get back to normal as the country takes steps towards the future.
Many provinces have seen no new cases for many weeks, and schools and businesses are reopening across the country. A number of major tourist sites have also been reopening in recent weeks, from Shanghai Disneyland to the Forbidden City in Beijing. For now, visitor numbers are being kept very limited, and health checks and other safety measures are being implemented across all walks of life.
So when will it be safe to visit China again?
In short, while we cannot give a fixed answer to this question at this stage we are optimistic that long-haul international travel will begin to resume over the coming months and your trips in late 2020 and 2021 will be full steam ahead. We are monitoring the local situation constantly and receiving regular updates from our partners in China and all our other destinations.
Tourism is a huge industry in China, and a lot of hotels and local businesses who depend on international visitors have been hit hard this year. They will need our support to get back on their feet. We are confident that when travel to the region resumes then China will be safe and ready to welcome you!
If China is still on your bucket-list, then we have plenty of great ideas to get you started…
Where should I visit in China? – First-timers
For a first-time visit to China, then the main places most people want to tick off are Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, and Yangshuo, as seen in our ‘Highlights of China’ tour. This combination of places gives you a great introduction to China’s historical & scenic highlights, as well as an insight into modern urban and rural life. This itinerary is a fantastic way to experience China if you just have a couple of weeks, but if you are lucky enough to have longer then there are endless ways to extend.
We love suggesting those more unusual places to give your trip that unique edge which makes it perfect for you. Here are some ideas:
- How about a side trip to Chengdu to see the Giant Pandas? Chengdu is well-connected on the high-speed train from Xi’an, so fits into a first-time Highlights trip with ease.
- If you are interested in Chinese history, then include a stop in the ancient town of Pingyao in between Beijing and Xi’an. Pingyao has one of the last remaining intact Ming Dynasty City Walls in the country, and with its remarkably well-preserved buildings it is sure to be a highlight.
- For a further glimpse into China’s stunning countryside scenery and gain a deeper insight into rural life then we would recommend extending your stay in the Yangshuo area. You could hike around the Longji Rice Terraces, or take a short train ride from Guilin to visit the beautifully preserved rural villages of Sanjiang.
- Shanghai is well placed to take day or overnight trips to see Hangzhou’s West Lake, the water towns of Suzhou, or the dramatic peaks of the Yellow Mountain and the fascinating ancient villages which populate the nearby area.
- The bustling city of Hong Kong has great flight connections to the UK and makes for an unforgettable start or end to a China tour.
- If you are a keen hiker, then we really recommend extending your stay in the Beijing area to include an overnight stay at the Great Wall, allowing you to visit some of the sections away from the tourists.
Where should I visit in China? – Return-visitors
China can be an addictive destination. Due to the country’s size and the endless variety of experiences on offer, one trip is not enough to see everything. We find many of our clients who visit once end up returning time and time again.
If you have already visited the main highlights, then here are some ideas for getting a bit off-the-beaten-track and deeper under the skin of this ever-changing and endlessly fascinating country:
- Yunnan Province is an epic trip all in itself. Its landscapes stretch from the tropical south of Xishuangbanna up past the picturesque Yuanyang Rice Terraces, the dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge & the serene Shaxi Valley. On to the Old Towns of Dali & Lijiang and beyond to Zhongdian and the Tibetan Plateau.
- If you are looking for jaw-dropping dramatic scenery, then including a visit to one of China’s many beautiful national parks is a must. The Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, in Sichuan Province, has recently begun to reopen after a long closure. Here you can see crystal clear jewelled lakes and alpine forested peaks. The Wulingyuan Scenic Area (including the celebrated Zhangjiajie Forest Park) has rightly become one of China’s most popular destinations in recent years, due to its otherworldly floating peaks and vertigo-inducing glass bridges. Our ‘Natural Wonders of China’ tour is a good starting point if you are looking at a national park focused trip.
- The Silk Road conjures up almost mythical images of remote desert and mountain landscapes. The swift and smooth high-speed train line makes it easier than ever to follow in the footsteps of traders past and traverse China’s ‘Wild West’. The scenery and ancient treasures unearthed on this once-in-a-lifetime journey are unmatched by anything else in China.
- Many people visit the Guangxi countryside on their first visit to China. However if you take a bit more time for the south you can dive off the tourist track and delve deeper into the minority villages of Guizhou. Our ‘South China Explorer’ tour takes you on an overland journey from Yunnan through Guizhou to Guangxi, stopping at out-of-the-way rice terraces and authentic minority villages along the way.
- For history buffs, China is a real treasure trove. The imperial summer resort of Chengde and the spectacular hanging monastery at Datong are both within easy reach of Beijing and are well worth taking a couple of extra days to see. Or, for a real in-depth dive into China’s history, take a look at our ‘Tracing China’s Past’ itinerary which takes you on a journey through China’s historical heartland.
- Tibet is the furthest frontier of China travel, and can be a full trip in itself or an extension to a wider tour of China. Take the train from Xining for an unforgettable arrival to the Roof of the World.
Where should I stay in China?
Here at Bamboo Travel we love characterful and unique hotels. China is no exception to this, boasting a burgeoning boutique and luxury hotel scene.
When in Beijing, we always stay at one of the city’s courtyard hotels. These give you a taste of the ‘Old Beijing’ which is disappearing from some areas of the capital, and the range on offer means there’s one to suit every budget and taste. Our favourite mid-range option is the Shichahai Shadow Art Performance Hotel, or for a more luxurious stay the Cote Cour is a stylish alternative in the heart of the city.
China’s countryside regions have some great boutique hotels, many of which have been painstakingly converted from genuine traditional buildings. Some of our favourites include:
- the quirky Pig Heaven Inn near Huangshan, which has branches in Xidi and the quieter Bishan Village.
- the Old Theatre Inn, in a untouristed village just outside lovely Shaxi .
- the Linden Centre in Xizhou, just outside Dali, which operates as a cultural and community centre as well.
- the impressive Li An Lodge, built in the style of traditional artisans and which has some of the best views of the Longji Rice Terraces.
- the Tea Cozy & Secret Garden hotels, both located by the quieter Yulong River in Yangshuo.
Luxury boutique hotel brands such as Banyan Tree, Six Senses, and Aman have some stunning offerings across China. Take a look at our ‘China in Style’ tour to see the highlights with a bit of luxury.
When should I visit China?
China can be a year-round destination. The best times of year for all-round good weather are Spring (April-June) and Autumn (September-November). However, visiting in the Winter can make for spectacular winter landscapes, and offers unique experiences such as the Harbin Ice Festival. The summer is hot and humid but the rainy season is not as pronounced in some if its Southeast Asian neighbours, so China can be a fantastic family summer holiday destination as well. Just be careful to avoid any national holidays, such as May Day or National Week in October, as tourist sights and hotels get extremely crowded as the whole country is on holiday.
We have a range of tours covering the different areas and aspects of China, and remember with our tailor-made service we can put together a unique bespoke trip just for you.