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How to Plan a Trip to China and South Korea

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Apr. 10, 2024

Planning a trip to China and South Korea could be both thrilling and daunting as it involves navigating a wealth of options and logistics. These challenges sometimes make the prospect of exploring these fascinating destinations feel a bit overwhelming. However, with the right guidance and preparation, you could plan a smooth and splendid adventure.

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How Long to Spend in China and South Korea

A typical trip to China and South Korea usually takes 2–3 weeks, with 1–2 weeks in China and 1 week in South Korea. The vastness of China means that you have more to explore there.

In China, a 1-week itinerary allows you to explore the classic route, including Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai. This is the most popular choice for first-time visitors to China. In these three cities, you would gain insights into Chinese culture, history, and modernity while admiring the famous landmarks.

If you have an additional week, you could delve deeper into the diversity of China. If you love nature, you could visit Zhangjiajie or Huangshan. If you want to see adorable pandas up close, head to Chengdu. If you wish to experience Chinese rural life and stunning landscapes, Guilin is a great option.

In South Korea, 1 week is sufficient to explore the classic route, including Seoul, Gyeongju, and Busan. These cities would meet your needs for experiencing Korean culture, history, food, and entertainment. If you have extra time, you could allocate 2–3 more days to explore Jeju Island for its magnificent natural scenery.

Itinerary Suggestions

We have provided you with two itinerary suggestions, one is a more extensive 3-week itinerary and the other is a 2-week essence itinerary.

1. A 3-Week Itinerary in China and South Korea

  • Days 1‒3: Seoul with nearby cities (palaces, street walking, folk villages, markets...)
  • Day 4: Gyeongju (historical sites)
  • Days 5‒6: Busan (temples, beaches, markets...)
  • Day 7: Fly to Beijing
  • Days 8‒11: Beijing (the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, hutongs...)
  • Days 12‒13: Xi'an (the Terracotta Army, a food tour...)
  • Days 14‒15: Zhangjiajie (Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and the glass bridge)
  • Days 16‒19: Guilin (a cruise, cycling, bamboo rafting...)
  • Day 20: Shanghai (the Bund and some free time)
  • Day 21: Departure

If you are visiting China and Korea for the first time and want to gain a deeper understanding of the cultures of both countries, you could refer to this itinerary.

This three-week itinerary not only includes iconic landmarks such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City but also provides a more in-depth insight into the cultures of Korea and China.

For instance, you could visit the must-see Changdeokgung Palace in South Korea, the last palace of the Joseon Dynasty, where you could even try on traditional Hanbok clothing. You could also explore traditional Korean houses and learn about their folk culture.

In China, to better understand and engage with the authentic culture, we could arrange a home visit for you, where you can learn to write Chinese or paint Peking Opera facial masks, learn about the life philosophy of Beijing people, and see the traditional residential architecture of Beijing (hutongs).

2. 2-Week China and South Korea Itinerary

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing
  • Days 5‒6: Xi'an
  • Day 7: Shanghai
  • Day 8: Fly to South Korea
  • Days 9‒10: Seoul
  • Days 11‒13: Jeju Island
  • Day 14: Back to Seoul for departure

While this itinerary is relatively short, you could still have some in-depth cultural or culinary experiences that showcase the local essence.

In the Beijing itinerary, in addition to visiting classic landmarks, if you want to know more about the local lifestyle or traditional culture, we could arrange a walking tour of Beijing's old neighborhoods. Guided by our local experts, you would explore local communities, markets, and parks that are off the beaten path, providing you with the best insight into the daily lives of the people of Beijing.

During your stay in South Korea, the itinerary would include a visit to Jeju Island. If you enjoy hiking, climb Mount Halla, and don't miss the sunrise at Sunrise Peak (Seongsan Ilchulbong). You could also explore Dongmun Market and savor a variety of local delicacies.

We Can Tailor-Make Your Itinerary

The itineraries above are just two options for reference. We offer totally personalized tour services. Contact us to share your specific preferences and requirements, and we would tailor a customized itinerary that suits your needs.

How to Travel Between China and South Korea

Flying is the most convenient and quick way. The main cities that usually link the two countries are Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in China and Seoul, Busan, and Jeju Island in South Korea.

The journey is about 1 to 2½ hours. We would manage the transportation between China and South Korea and also the domestic transfers in each country.

When planning a trip to China and South Korea, we suggest starting with a visit to South Korea before heading to China. This suggestion is rooted in the idea that South Korea offers a relatively relaxed cultural exploration, while China provides a deeper cultural experience. This sequence of travel allows you to gradually delve into East Asian culture and gain a more nuanced understanding of its cultural development.


Private touring in China costs about US$220–350 per day per person, and the cost in South Korea is about US$400–500 per day per person, including 4- or 5-star hotels, flights/train journeys within China and South Korea, tickets for attractions, private cars, and private guides.

We recommend booking 3 months in advance to ensure that you have more options and opportunities for comparison.

When booking with us, you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to 3 weeks before departure (see more details here).

Best Times to Visit China and South Korea

China and South Korea share similar weather conditions. Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are the best times to visit both of them with warm-to-cool weather and less rainfall.

For a less-crowded month among the best times, you could choose from March, April, September, and November.

Although summer (June to August) is the rainy season, it is the peak season for traveling because of schools' summer vacations (Booking 3 months in advance is recommended). The rainy season won't be a big activity-affecting factor for a well-prepared and flexible journey.

Winter also has its charms. Both China and South Korea have beautiful snow scenes, such as in Harbin and Jeju Island. If you want something a little different in winter, go to southern areas in China, such as Yunnan, Hainan, and Hong Kong. They offer sunny days with warm and active outdoor sports.

The Christmas and New Year holidays would see an increase in travelers. Be sure to book 3 months in advance.

Visa Requirements

For South Korea: South Korea requires visitors from visa-exempted countries to obtain a K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorization) before their trip to South Korea.

But to encourage tourism, from April 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, a K-ETA is not required for 27 countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Singapore, for short-term business or tourism purposes.

For China: Normally, a tourist visa (L visa) is needed to visit China. We recommend that you apply for the visa 1 or 2 months before the intended travel date. You could refer to the requirements for visa applications here.

Tour China and South Korea with Us

All of our tours can be adjusted or customized based on your requirements. Just contact us if you have a good idea about what you want to do or if you need some help to start planning.

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