How to Plan a Trip to China from AustraliaT3X51sA
There are many reasons why people decide to plan a trip to China from Australia. The mysterious Orient is rich in history and culture, spectacular landscapes and fantastic food. China’s unique mix of modern life with ancient traditions can be the exact culture shock that travellers wish to experience.
Those looking to plan a trip to China from Australia may be surprised to learn it is much easier (and cheaper) than they may initially think! To make it even simpler, we’ve detailed many of the elements to consider in this article including travel tips, visa information, and the best places and times to visit. So get planning!
Some basic need-to-knows about China
China, much like Australia, is in the Eastern Hemisphere; however, in the northern region meaning the climate is entirely different to what we are used to. China is in East Asia and borders fourteen countries by land and six by sea.
In terms of air travel, the shortest distance between Australian and China is 7,448 km, and there is undoubtedly a time difference. Sydney is three hours ahead of China for reference. A non-stop flight from Sydney to Shanghai will take around 10.5 hours, or 11.5 to Beijing.
When to visit China
The first thing to consider when you plan a trip to China from Australia is what time of year you want to go, and this will be primarily dictated by climate. China essentially has the opposite seasons to Australia as follows:
- Spring: March to May
- Summer: June to August
- Autumn: September to November
- Winter: December to February
Autumn is a popular time to visit China as the weather is sunny and warm, and it is a very colorful time around the country. The busier periods which you may want to avoid include the beginning of October (China National Day Holiday), and Chinese New Year, which takes place from late January to early February. It is important to note that while Chinese New Year is a busy time, it is also a lot of fun with many fantastic events to see in a festival atmosphere. A main one that many visitors attend is the Spring Festival which runs for about a week
Australian passport holders will require a visa to enter China which can be acquired from the Chinese Embassy or consulate in Australia. For tourists, an L-visa allows you a maximum 30-day stay and only requires a valid passport, passport photo, completed visa application form, tour Itinerary, return flights and accommodation booking. This is where we can help, at Texvisas we are a Visa Processing Agent. Meaning we will process your visa application for you, so you don’t need to waste potentially hours of your time dealing with the confusion that applying for a visa can cause. At Texvisas we offer you hassle-free visas, by saving you having to line up at the embassy and return your visa to you in 3-5 days. Texvisas is a personal service that offers you convenience, reliability, and security.
You also need to keep in mind:
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date you intend to leave China
- It would be best if you had some consecutive blank pages in your passport (between two and four)
- It can take anywhere between four to seven working days to process the visa application, but it’s always a good idea when travelling to organise this much earlier, just to be safe
Visa exemptions for Australian citizens
- Hong Kong no visa required can stay for up to 90 days
- Macau no visa required can stay for up to 30 days
Where to land
Most Australian air routes land in either Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Hong Kong, but in some cases, several other smaller regions are being added as gateway cities.
What to see
There is so much to see and do in China, from landmarks like the Great Wall and the UNESCO heritage Terra-cotta Army in Xian to major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and of course, pandas. So, it’s best to consider which of these are priorities for you as this will dictate the time required, as well as where you actually need to go.
The following are some of the most popular places and things to visit in China:
- Beijing: As well as being a great 3000-year-old city, you will also be able to access wonders like The Great Wall and Forbidden City. It is also worth visiting Hutong and courtyards, and the Olympic structures.
- Xian: If the history of China interests you then Xian is the place you want to be. The ancient capital is home to the Terracotta Warriors and plenty of ancient architectures.
- Shanghai: The epitome of modern living and old traditions in China, Shanghai is known for its fashion, old streets and traditional houses.
- Zhangjiajie: More for those who enjoy the outdoors, The Zhangjiajie mountain views are amazing, and the skywalk on the Glass Bridge is a must-do.
- Guilin: One of the more picturesque landscapes in China, Guilin offers the Li River cruise to Yangshuo which is a very popular trek with visitors.
- Chengdu: Home of the pandas! The giant pandas live in this small cultural city full of ancient architecture and small tea houses, and pandas, pandas, pandas!
- Zhangye: Famous for the ancient Silk Road and the Danxia Landform Park full of colourful mountains, another place for stunning views.
The culture is very distinct in China, which is a country of contrasts. The chaotic, big-city feel of Beijing and Shanghai is offset against the rural, underdeveloped areas in the west. Below are some of the typical costs associated with travelling in this fascinating country.
To give you a rough idea of the conversion, at the time of writing one Australian dollar is worth 4.75 Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY).
In the smaller cities, a dorm will cost around 25 CNY a night, and this can go up as far as 90 CNY in places like Hong Kong and Beijing. A private room will cost around 125 CNY, double that in the larger cities. Budget hotels can cost about 75 CNY per night, but this is basic accommodation.
Airbnb is widely used in China in all the major cities but is barely an option in rural areas. Depending on the cities, prices can sit anywhere between 260-780 CNY per night.
If you are really outdoorsy and are travelling with a tent, there are lots of campgrounds in China that will cost around 20 CNY per night.
Chinese food is delicious and very cheap. Street vendors offer noodles, rice and soup for around 7-14 CNY. A meal in a restaurant can cost anywhere between 15-54 CNY, and you can expect to pay a fee for a bowl of rice. As with most of these things, the prices are significantly lower outside of the big cities.
Western food is widely available; however it will cost a lot more, and you will likely be fairly disappointed with it. Stick to the local stuff, eating street food is very safe and very delicious.
China is a vast country, but luckily, it’s easy to get around. Buses are a common way to travel and will only cost around 1.50-3 CNY for a ticket. The major cities have extensive underground systems for approximately 6 CNY per ride. Taxi fares start at about 6 CNY, and a high-speed train is also an option.
If you were to travel on the high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai you would be looking at roughly 545 CNY for 2nd class, and 930 CNY for 1st class. If you really like to travel in style, a VIP seat will set you back 1,800 CNY for a VIP seat.
There are plenty of regional carriers for flights in China with Air China being one of the main ones. Internal flights rarely run on time, something to consider if booking connections!
Popular attractions like The Great Wall or Forbidden City will cost around 68 CNY. Smaller temples will cost approximately 14 CNY.
Outdoor activities can be a little more expensive depending on the season. For example, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain will cost around 175 CNY to visit, and the Jiuzhai Valley is 405 CNY.
Winter in Beijing
Beijing may not be the first location that springs to mind as a winter getaway, but maybe it should be! Beijing offers plenty of winter activities with small crowds and cheaper ticket prices as it is considered the low season.
The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, so the ski facilities are quite impressive with many modern resorts in the mountains for easy access to the slopes. The Beijing Huaibei International Ski Resort is an excellent example of this. The sizeable state-of-the-art resort offers a 3km-plus ski trail, Beijing’s tallest cable car (a height of 1,200m) and ski runs of multiple levels. It also just happens to be right next to the Great Wall which can be viewed on the slopes.
The heart of Beijing in the city’s historic Hutong neighbourhood, Houhai Lake is a great spot to go ice skating during winter. The lake also has electric bumper cars, ice bikes, and chair-skating!
If this is all sounding a little too cold, you can partake in the local dish of hot pot. This simmering pot has a spicy broth with vegetables, noodles, and tofu is cooked before your eyes ready to warm you up.
Breakfast in China
A big day of sightseeing needs a big breakfast which in China, may be different from what you are used to. Two popular Chinese breakfast dishes that can be found in most areas are:
- Steamed stuffed buns (bāozi, 包子)
Stuffed wheat buns available in all shapes and sizes filled with finely-sliced vegetables
- Congee (zhōu, 粥)
Thin rice porridge for which rice is cooked in water until the grains break down served with various toppings
The language barrier and safety
It is important to note that English is not very common in China, body language, Google Translate or even drawing pictures will be the best ways to communicate with the locals (unless of course, you speak Chinese).
China is also extremely safe. If you do not know the language and are somewhat stumbling around trying to figure things out, the locals are very helpful and friendly. Crime is incredibly low in China as they have a somewhat controversial government and strict death penalty.
There may be reports of the occasional pickpocketing in bigger cities, but standard travel rules of being aware of your surroundings and not bringing too many valuable things out on your day trips and exploration apply as they do anywhere else.
You may need a VPN
Depending on how important your connectivity is, you may like to purchase a Virtual Private Network (VPN) before you get to China. China blocks all access to major sites including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube which can make staying in contact with people back home or posting your Great Wall pictures very tricky.
A VPN will disguise your computer’s IP address to make it seem like you are connecting from Australia for a small monthly fee. If this is something you think you will need to do, please note you have to purchase the VPN before getting to China.
Bartering and payments
Pretty much everything in China can be bargained for, even groceries. Bartering can be fun, and you will score some bargains, but it’s important to keep general respect in mind and remember that many people are trying to make a living. Have fun with it but remain fair.
It is also important to note that your Visa or Mastercard may not be as widely accepted in China and what you are used to. China has its own credit cards so having some Yuan with you may come in very handy.
Plan a trip to China from Australia!
As we mentioned earlier, travelling through China can be a real culture shock and a rewarding experience. It does come with some challenges, but the right amount of preparation will ensure that you have a trip to remember.
China is an excellent destination for either tours or independent travel, just have an open mind and immerse yourself in the culture. Don’t be scared to interact with the local people, and soak in the history and sights. We’re sure that after your first trip, you’ll be very keen to plan another!
Texvisas is here to make planning your trip easy. Give us a call on (02) 9332 2424