You probably all know by now, but at the start of this year, I set myself a challenge of visiting somewhere, anywhere, every month. I also wanted to think outside the box a little and go somewhere that’s not so mainstream; to experience different countries and cultures, and so China came to mind.
After my epiphany, I Googled China (very extensive research :p), and I was blown away! I rang Darren and said “What do you think of China for our big trip this year?”. He said, “Why China?”. My answer was obviously a good one because we called go-hop.ie and booked it the very next day!
You wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve been asked “Why China?” since. Hopefully by reading all of my China related blogposts, you will be able to see why.
Booking A Trip to China
We booked our trip to China with go-hop.ie. We used them for our honeymoon and they were amazing so we said if we needed a travel agent again, we’d book again with them.
We usually book all of our trips ourselves but if we’re going to multiple destinations, we go through a travel agent (it’s just so much handier and secure to be honest).
This time, we travelled with a tour operator, G Adventures, in a group of about 10 people and we had a tour guide with us at all times. We’ve never done anything like that before but China is so big and vast, and so different, culturally, it was needed!
I really don’t know how anybody could go to China without a tour guide, and enjoy it! The language barrier is massive! One night, in our free time, we went to Pizza Hut, and I literally couldn’t get a bottle of water because the waitress couldn’t understand me!
I Googled water bottles, tried charades, nothing worked! Although she did understand beer so I didn’t parch! More about the culture shock in my “Ultimate Survival Guide…” here. If you’re going to China, you must read this post. Learn by our mistakes!
How Much Does a Trip to China Cost?
In total, the tour cost €5,600 for 2 people. This price doesn’t include our 2 nights extra in Hong Kong but you can do that as cheap or expensive as you want. All of our in-country travel was included in that price, our flights, our accommodation and most activities.
In all of those places we visited, there was the option to do other activities that weren’t on our itinerary (like the cooking classes mentioned below). They weren’t expensive though. The cost of living in China is not expensive so you really don’t need a lot of spending money. Especially when you have a tour guide with 16 years of experience who knows all the best and cheapest places to eat. More on the Chinese food later.
Travel Tip: You can book your trip directly with G Adventures and save yourself a couple of hundred bob!
Chinese Travel Visa
You need a travel visa to enter China. Here’s a quick checklist of what you need to do:
- Make an appointment with the Chinese Embassy (you must attend in person)
- Complete a visa application form, see here
- Bring your Passport (with at least 6 months before expiry)
- Bring 2 Passport sized Photographs
- Provide a copy of your Travel Itinerary (this acts as your “invitation”)
- Provide a copy of your flight details (this proves your arrival and departure dates)
- Bring the relevant fee (may vary but ours were €45 per person)
Note: You may be required to bring additional documents based on your personal circumstances so please check here before visiting the embassy. Visas usually take 4 to 5 working days but you should apply as soon as possible in case there are any complications (you can’t travel to China without a visa).
Depending on which parts of China you visit, you may need to get some travel vaccines. We usually go to the Travel Health Clinic on Dawson Street in Dublin City.
We flew with Finnair from Dublin to Helsinki. The flight was about 3 hours long and there was a lay over of about 2 hours. Then we flew from Helsinki to Beijing which took 10 hours. The planes were really nice and the journey was comfortable but we suffered with really bad jet leg when we arrived. It could have been easily avoided too. You can read how here.
Accommodation in China
The accommodation on our trip wasn’t great. It was grand but I wouldn’t be recommending that you go out and book them if you’re travelling outside of a group. We had short stays in the hotels and were never there, only at night, so you really don’t need anything special.
In saying that, after the tour ended on day 15, we booked an extra 2 nights in Hong Kong, in an amazing hotel! I can’t tell you how much we appreciated the nice smells and soft mattresses (the little things!). Also, the views were insane! More about this in the Hong Kong section of this blog post here.
Travel Trip: For a trip as active as this, you do not need amazing hotels because you spend such little time there! A clean room is what you need so be open minded.
Weather in China
We visited China in September and the weather was bizarre. It was really hot and humid and it rained in a few places. It was over 30 degrees every day and always over 70% humidity. Although that doesn’t mean you need to start packing 10 bottles of factor 50!
The clouds of pollution over the city (yes really!) means there is very little sun! The sunshine was not the only thing that the pollution effected… read more about this here.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know how picky I am with food when I travel. I live off Mc Donald’s and Sour Cream and Onion Pringles when I’m away. So you’ll be shocked to hear me say, I LOVED the food in China! Now, Chinese food is my favourite type of food back home, but I had heard horror stories about the food before I went so I was prepared for all sorts!
My most memorable dining experience in China was the night we went out for a Chinese Hot Pot. When I say hot, I mean hot in every way, shape and form. It was the spiciest thing I ever tasted in my life and it was boiling too! I ate a Sichuan pepper and one side of my mouth went numb, I actually thought something serious was happening me.
This is most definitely down to the fact that we had a very experienced tour guide, Charlie, with us at all times. He ordered for us everywhere we went. Charlie had obviously asked for preferences and allergies beforehand, but after a couple of days, he knew what we liked and didn’t like.
He brought us to random places, which just heightened the experience and authencity. We had lunch in a farmer’s house, homemade dumplings in someone’s kitchen and ate in restaurants in the middle of nowhere, but the food was always gorgeous!
Not everyone on the tour enjoyed the food though. Maybe it’s because I love Chinese food. Also, vegetarians and vegans are well catered for, with a lot of vegetables!
By the way, I am like a ninja with a pair of chopsticks now! I couldn’t use them before I went, but since they have no forks or knives, I had no choice but to learn!
We also took a Chinese cooking class in Yangshou. It was so much fun. I may or may not have burnt my green beans! Read all about the experience and recipes here.
Chinese Travel Itinerary
We visited 7 places in China during our 17 day trip so, as you can imagine, I have a lot to cover in terms of how we got there, my thoughts, experiences, travel tips and everything in between.
I’ve written about our entire trip to Beijing, Xi’an, Suzhou, Shanghai, Longji, Yangshou, Hong Kong, in detail here. I also made a Travel vlog which you’ll also find through the previous link.
Thanks for reading!