Teaming with culture, history and natural beauty, holidays to China will be magical and unforgettable. Find out why you should go...
It has a long history with the first dynasties dating back to around 2000 BC and many unique and wonderful attractions to visit; from the Terracotta army buried with the first emperor over 2000 years ago to Tiananmen Square via the Great Wall. There is so much to see, do and experience that one trip will never be enough.
Once you have arrived there is so much to do and getting around efficiently can save valuable time. The country is one of contrasts and is fast changing in both look and feel which is reflected in the people and places you will see as you travel about. The contrast can be great, rural communities are still very poor in comparison to the cities. If you have flown into Beijing then it is easiest to start your tour there by visiting all the sights that Beijing is famous for; the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and the more recent Olympic Birds Nest Stadium.
Any trip to China will be an amazing experience; the sheer age of the civilisation is incredible. You can experience food and history both ancient and modern, travel back in time and explore Xian for the terracotta Warriors who have watched over the tomb of the first emperor for many hundreds of years. The natural beauty of the country has to be experienced as well; take a trip down the Yangtze River and through its gorges, or head to Guilin which is considered the most beautiful of Chinese towns.
The quickest way to get around China is to fly; it is such a huge country that any other transport method will take you days to get from one side to the other. Domestic flights are inexpensive and can be found between most major cities and tourist destinations and prices are fixed but discounts are available if you buy tickets once you are in the country through your hotel or over the internet. Buying tickets before you arrive may seem like good planning, but you will pay more. Travelling by train is popular with residents and the ever increasing and improving network makes it a good way to get about; the fastest trains travel at up to 300 kilometres per hour, but are currently on limited routes.
Buses are a cheap way to travel within cities and for shorter journeys, but city buses can be difficult if you don't understand the language. Coaches from the larger cities tend to be comfortable and air conditioned, whereas those in the more rural regions will be far more difficult to use, with no English spoken, difficult to follow timetables and uncomfortably bumpy roads. Major cities have easy to use subways and taxi drivers are on the whole honest, get a price up front from a designated taxi driver for trips along major routes such as airport runs. Look out for drivers with a high star rating displayed on their licence; no stars is not necessarily bad but many indicates a helpful, knowledgeable driver. Tips are not expected as they are generally seen as a form of corruption in China.
Bicycles are a popular way of getting around cities in particular, but the traffic can be crazy so take extra care. Bike theft is also a problem and a lock won't help, leave your bike in the care of a guard where possible. Driving is illegal without a Chinese driving licence so a hire car will come with a driver, riding a small moped is allowed without a licence in some cities so check the local rules, although this is a risky way to travel due to the general disregard for rules of the road.
There are a few options for your journey to China - find out the best way to get there for you...
For travellers to China flights are the quickest way to get there from Europe and you can fly into the capital Beijing (BJS), Shanghai Pudong (PVG), Guangzhou (CAN), Chengdu (CTU), Nanking (NNG) and Xiamen (XMN) or fly into Hong Kong (HKG) which is now under Chinese control.
Direct flights are available from most major airlines but check out connecting flights as well as they can be a lot cheaper. You can also get to China by train from any of its 14 land neighbours and even all the way from Europe on the Trans Siberian Railway which is an adventure in itself.
Arrival by boat is also possible from surrounding countries by ferry, and cruise ships from Alaska tend to move over to this part of Asia during the winter months.
China is a vast country, and with such a pick of wonderful places to visit, where should you stay?
Beijing, the colourful and exotic capital of China, is top of the list for many visiting. Staying here will allow you to visit the historic and fascinating sights that have carved out the city's past. Highlights include the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and Tian'anmen Square.
Or maybe the buzzing metropolis of Shanghai is tempting you. With its impressive waterfront and modern architecture, you can also enjoy attractions such as the Huangpu River Cruise and the Jade Buddha Temple.
History junkies can get their fix by staying in Xi'an, brimming with ancient relics and historical sites. Unmissable sights include the Entombed Warriors, The Great Mosque and the First Emperor's Tomb.
Those in search of outstanding scenery should head to Guilin. The city itself is sandwiched between Longsheng and Yangshuo, both of which are stunning.
Outstanding Hong Kong is another option for your stay. Shopaholics will be in their element, while there are numerous attractions for children and parkland with great hiking trails.