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How Tourism in China Differs from in the West

How Tourism in China Differs from in the West

Written by GavinUpdated Nov. 24, 2023

The main ways traveling in China varies from in the West are in levels of crowding, lower prices, usually lower service standards, bigger language problems, and many different ways of doing things: from catching a train to having a meal to visiting an attraction.

If it is your first time going to China, you are probably super excited to get on that plane towards a new adventure in China but before going, you should know about the following.

Big Crowds

Tourist Crowd in Wangfujing Snack Street A tourist crowd in popular Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing.

With more than 1.3 billion people, a big crowd is a normal sight in the larger Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, therefor it is a good idea to prepare yourself for the many people. If you want to try to avoid the masses of Chinese travelers, it is a good idea to not travel during the Chinese holidays. See more about when to avoid traveling in China.


Queuing in China can also be a bit of an experience. In general, the younger generation of Chinese people is good at queuing whereas the elder generation is in a bit of a rush. It is a good idea to keep calm even though somebody is pushing from the back or trying to cut in line.

Affordable But Busy Transport System

The Chinese transport system is great. City transport and long-distance are both fair-priced. Furthermore, the Chinese drivers don't expect tips. When traveling in Beijing and other big cities in China, the most convenient way to get around is the metro which is fast, has English translations and low ticket fares. You can read more on Transportation in China.

Friendly But Business-Minded Locals

In general, Chinese people are friendly and welcoming but they are also good at business. If you want to, you should try to bargain the price if you are going to a market or a tourist destination where the prices usually vary heavily depending on you being a local, tourist or a foreigner. There's more on Avoiding Tourist Traps.


The Chinese government has cut down on smoking inside public places such as the mall, but people still smoke elsewhere. It is not uncommon for the Chinese men to enjoy a cigarette inside the restaurant after dinner so be prepared. This is usually in the outskirts of the big towns and in smaller cities. See more on dealing with things that may be a culture shock.


In Chinese tourism there are generally two types of restaurants: the authentic local type, and the purely functional ones that are laid on for processing tour groups. Don't get conned out of real Chinese food. You can find out more here about Tourist Restaurants vs Local Restaurants.

Fast But Low-Standard Service

A Rural Chinese Restaurant Expect staff to be hurried in a rural Chinese restaurant like this.

The standard of service in Chinese restaurants etc. is also usually different from the West. Staff can be both tired and in a hurry. They work many hours a day and serve many many people, and good service is not common culture in China yet.

Language can also be a problem when traveling in China. English is not commonly spoken, so be patient with locals. If you are not ready to travel alone in China, we can provide all the help you need.

Good Value Hotels

China has all kinds of hotels. The price for a nice room in a standard hotel is much better value for money than in the West and with the room also comes a western toilet, which is nice because most public restrooms have squat toilets.

However, don't expect star ratings to be like those in the West. See more on Price Bands for Chinese Cities. By booking a trip with China Highlights, we will make sure you will always stay in comfortable rooms.

Affordable Traveling

China is a moderately-priced country to travel in and you will be able to get far for less money than in the West. Because of low-fared transport and good food being more affordable, you can enjoy even more of the country.

Typical Chinese Tours

Group traveling in China differs from the West if you have signed up with a Chinese agency and the other tourists are Chinese. The guide will most likely take you to specific shops to make you buy expensive souvenirs and then rush to and through the next sightseeing spot to another commission earner and so on. Chinese tour groups are always in a hurry and there is no time to enjoy the sights.

Experience the Best of Chinese Tourism with Us

Customers Enjoying the Li RiverCustomers enjoying the Li River

These are some of the most popular itineraries amongst our customers, which will take you to some of China's most amazing places:

  • The Golden Triangle — See Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai with their highlights using our 8-day, time-smart itinerary.
  • China's Classic Wonders — The most popular destinations in China with all the highlights

We hope our information has prepared you for your next adventure to China. If you are not yet ready to go on your own, we specialize in tours around China and you can either adapt one of our tour plans or have us tailor-make your own customized China journey.

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