A few days in Hong Kong on video with its impressive skyline, buildings and shopping centres.
First country during our round the world trip, China is and remains one of our huge favorite. A country that has left a strong impression on us and touched us a lot ( and in which we will hopefully return...) Besides the fact that it was there that Ben proposed, it was really a country that stole our hearts. On this page you will find a lot of "general" information that should help you plan your future trip, and at the end of the page you will find all our articles written during our 2.5 month trip.
In total, we spent nearly 10 weeks in China. It may sound like a lot, but believe us, if we take it back to the size of the country we have hardly seen anything of the country yet ;)
Moreover, if we have fun calculating according to the surface area of the countries, our time spent in China corresponds to the same thing as a Chinese tourist who comes to Switzerland for 7 hours!!!! (and we used to make fun of them...)
If you want to see all the articles we have written about China by location, we let you click on the button below to display the China map with all our articles on it.
Travel Budget in China
China is an incredibly diverse country rich in beautiful landscapes and cities to discover! In terms of budget, China is probably a little more expensive than the countries of South East Asia (although not even sure...) but it is also a country in which there are strong differences between regions!
For our part, our itinerary led us to visit cities such as Beijing, Xi'an, Canton, Chengdu, or Guilin, but we did not visit Shanghai or Shenzhen (which are considered more expensive). In short, your budget will depend a lot on your activities and accommodation, but to give you an idea here is what we spent on average per day during our trip (prices are for 2 people). If we make the total we arrive at a budget of 22€ per day and per person.
|Accommodation||8,5€ (9.5 US$)|
|Transport||11€ (12,3 US$)|
|Food & Beverage||15,8€ (17,7 US$)|
|Extras||4,4€ (5 US$)|
|Sights||4,6€ (5 US$)|
However, here are a few comments:
- The accommodation budget is relatively low. Out of our 67 nights spent in China we spent 10 nights doing Couchsurfing and 5 nights in trains/buses
- We have almost crossed China from north to south by making hooks to the west... in short a lot of road in 2 months! Hence the relatively high average transport budget.
- Food is proportionally a little higher because in general when we do couchsurfing we don't pay for our nights but we try to spoil our guests by preparing good dishes and buying "special" things like Swiss cheese (needless to say that a piece of Swiss Gruyère is sold pretty expensive in China) ;)
- The prices distribution will probably be a little different depending on the type of trip, but the overall idea is correct.
Above you have our "average" numbers for all of our 2.5 months in China. However, if you want to see more details by region then we invite you to check out our special budget article below.
China visa - how to proceed
Do you want to go to China? Then you will absolutely need a visa! And I'm sorry to tell you, but the acquisition of a Chinese visa is not totally trivial... nothing dramatic I reassure you, but between the online agencies that charge crazy amounts and the embassy and consulate websites that date from 90's, it's not that easy neither...
Chinese Visa For Americans - Where to go?
We are not Americans and therefore we did not make our visas in the USA.... But we did some research and here are the results:
- The Chinese visa costs 140 Us$ regardless of the type of visa.... single entry, double entry, multiple entry valid for 6 months
- This price is the one you pay if you go directly to an embassy... The thing is, you can not apply for a Chinese Visa at any Chinese embassy; you have the obligation to go to the embassy which is connected to the state in which you have your legal residence.
- Otherwise it is also possible to go through agencies that take care of everything, but it is of course more expensive... In short, if you see a price higher than 140$ you know that you are dealing with a third party agency.
A very good resource for chinese visa for US citizens would be this one.
Chinese Visa For the Swiss - where to go?
For Switzerland there are also many agencies, but the easiest way is to go through the embassy in Bern. During the preparation of our trip this was what we had done and it had been without any problems. The price of the visa is CHF 70. This price is the same for a single entry, double entry or multi-entry visa valid for 6 months (the one we had). Price list
List of documents required for the Chinese visa
Whether you are Swiss or French or American it doesn't matter. In order to validate a visa application you will need to provide certain information:
- The official visa application form (downloadable from the official website)
- The original of your passport (which must be valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel) and a photocopy of it. Attention: the passport must contain at least 2 blank pages (double page)
- A passport photo
- Proof of travel insurance. If you do not have special travel insurance, we invite you to take a look at our travel insurance comparison table (it should help you find the best deal)
- An employment contract or a bank statement from the last 3 months (basically they want proof that you can afford to travel and especially that you have "something waiting for you" at home)
- Hotel reservations in China with full contact details or a certificate of accommodation.To get our visa we made a a bunch of reservation for hotels without cancelling fees.... Once the visa was in our pocket, we cancelled everything. And once on site we managed the accommodation as we went along, reserving 1-2 days in advance according to our program.
- Details of the planned visit.... Ok this is very thoretical... But officially you can be required to provide a detailed trip itinerary when applying for the visa. Basically they want a list of your program day by day. For our visa application we had done something in the line of "Day 1-4, visit Beijing center, Day 5-6: visit the Great Wall in Jinshaling, Day 7, night train to Xi'an, etc..... in short, no need for you to respect the program you put there, so don't hesitate to be a little creative ;) But stay realistic!
- A copy of your entry and exit tickets! Plane ticket, train ticket... it doesn't matter, but they want proof that you are coming in and that you plan to get out!
Tip for exit flight ticket
If you need an exit flight for your visa application but you do not yet know how you will leave the country (especially if you are leaving by land) there are several solutions. We often talk about "air ticket rental". We have heard good feedback but have never tested it. In the case of China, another solution (and not necessarily more expensive) is simply to buy a low-cost oneway flight! From the south of China you can find flights at 20€ to Thailand, Singapore... In short, buy a flight around your theoretical exit date and you'll see if you take it or miss it;)
To find a cheap flight just go to Skyscanner and enter "China" as the starting point (it is possible to put the whole country) then enter "Anywhere" in destination. All you have to do is choose the cheapest combination! :)
Internet in China
The Internet is an important issue in China, or at least if you plan to connect to your social networks or Gmail account during your stay...;)
Internet censorship is still very present in China today and there are more than 18,000 blocked sites (gambling and pornographic sites certainly... but also less expected content such as the New York Times or Facebook).
If you want to surf freely on the Internet in China, we recommend that you use a VPN. ExpressVPN is the service we have been subscribing to for many years. Of course we are no longer in China, but we have continued to use it, especially to secure our connections when we are on public wifi. If you want to know more about our use and ExpressVPN you can take a look at our article.
Note: The VPN must be installed before entering China... VPN sites are blocked there, so it will be almost impossible for you to install one once there.
Tour in China: our itinerary
In all, we spent 9 weeks in China and here is a general outline of what we did:
Note: please excuse the sometimes unprecise placement of some regions... we did the best we could! The image is in french, but in short "jours" means days, thus this means we've spent 9 days in and around Beijing, 5 days around Xian, 11 days in the area of Chengdu, 19 days in western Sichuan, 10 days around Kunming, 9 days around Guilin and 4 days in Guanghzou.
As you can see, we have only traveled a tiny part of the country! But the good news is that we still have a lot to see for a future stay. If unlike us you don't have 2-3 months ahead of you, then we really recommend that you focus on a certain area for your stay. The distances are really important and even by taking national flights it seems unrealistic to do such an itinerary in only a couple weeks..
Regions like Yunnan and Sichuan combine very well for a tour and they are really great regions!
Beijing and Xi'an also combine very well because the 2 cities are connected by a night train. So in absolute terms it is possible to see Beijing, go up to the Great Wall and then go to Xi'an in 2 weeks.
Getting around China
If you would like more information about transportation in China (plane, bus and train) we invite you to read our very complete article on Transportation in China. We wrote it at the end of our stay and we all give our best advice.
China with a guide?
For our part, we have organized 100% of our trip ourselves, but China is a country that can sometimes be a little "intimidating" if this is your first big trip. We know the Evaneos travel agency well and if you are looking for a trusted agency we really recommend them! They only work with local guides and guarantee that the price paid at home is the same as via the guide (but they carefully select the guides). Without knowing it, we met one of the guides with whom Evaneos cooperates during our visit to Kunming. We wanted information about Yunnan and had written him an email. Rather than answering us by email, Yann suggested that we go to dinner together (that's amazing no??? he speaks very good French and wanted to practice a little with us). Well, if you want to visit China we really recommend Yan from the bottom of our heart!
Chinese cuisine is probably the most "exported" in the world.... no matter where we live, we all have at least one Chinese restaurant around our house! So even if Chinese restaurants are common in France or Switzerland, I will tell you something: Chinese cuisine in China has little to do with what we find anywhere else on the globe! :)
Overall we ate extremely well during our trip, although we will often admit that we did not understand 100% of what we had in the plate.
But so they really eat dog meat?
Yes, we can find some! But on the other hand, we are reassured, eh, the dog is a delicacy, so there is little chance that you will be served it without your knowledge because this meat is much more expensive than pork or beef!
Otherwise, in China it's a lot of vegetables, a lot of frying but especially parts of animals that we are not necessarily used to eating.
In China when they slice chicken they don't only take the white as they do in our country! The cutting is much more radical and the bones are part of the service. Nothing is lost and everything is eaten! :)
But the other most surprising point? it is SPICES!!!!! Mama mia, for some dishes (especially in Sichuan and Yunnan) we were in tears all along the meal! And little note: when it's spicy (very spicy) it tends to hurt twice... #JustSayin :)
Useful resources to prepare your trip to China
- We told you about it before already, but a VPN is really a good idea for your trip
- In China it is often easier to book your accommodation in advance by internet. It is one of the few countries where even we who do not usually book have booked our nights. For youth hostels we recommend Hostelworld (we used their mobile app during our trip to China) and for hotels rather Hotelscombined.
- A traveller language book helped us a lot during our trip! :) An image book made to communicate when travelling! But to be honest with google translate you can get by now ;)
- As far as travel guides were concerned, we had left with China's Lonely Planet and were very happy (even if for hotels we rather trusted online reviews)