From December 1st, 2023 to November 30th, 2024, travelers from France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia can enjoy a 15-day visa-free entry to China for tourism, business, transit, and visiting friends and relatives in China.
China, with its long history and rich geography, may be on your bucket list. It is also the top place to explore Far-Eastern elements and culture.
Below are seven easy steps for planning a first China tour using our first-hand knowledge, being based in China, and our experience creating over 100,000 custom-made China tours, the majority of which were for families and couples.
- 1. Choose Where to Go
- 2. Decide How Many Days to Stay
- 3. Consider When to Travel to China
- 4. Consider Your Budget
1. Choose Where to Go
With our knowledge of China and feedback from our customers, we suggest you visit Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai for your first trip, extending it to Guilin and/or Chengdu if you have the time.
1) Beijing — Explore China's Imperial Past
As an imperial and modern capital of China, Beijing is a must-see, because it is home to many of the finest icons of China's medieval and recent past. It is also China's top gateway city.
For a special experience and some private time, we can arrange a less-crowded sunset visit to the Great Wall with a romantic picnic for you.
If you are interested in Beijing's local lifestyle, a locally-guided walk through Beijing's hutongs with your children or husband/wife is highly recommended.
If you want to try some new things with kids, we recommend a family morning tai chi session, a local home visit, trying Chinese calligraphy, and playing with a Chinese yo-yo.
2) Shanghai — Explore Its Unique Blend of Old and New
If you want an intuitive sense of how China's recent past and present meet and collide, Shanghai is the place to go.
Hop on a ferry to cross the Huangpu River. You will see the historical architecture on the Bund as well as the modern skyscrapers opposite, giving you a distinctive contrast between modern life and the post-imperial past.
We have specially designed an in-depth Bund culture discovery walking tour for those who want to learn more interesting stories about the Bund and old Shanghai. See our 2-Day Shanghai Essence Tour itinerary.
If your schedule allows, extend your tour to Hangzhou or Suzhou to see water towns and classical Chinese gardens.
3) Xi'an — Discover China's Ancient Civilization
Xi'an is an excellent and interesting place to discover where the nation of China really began. China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, established the first capital of a united China there.
The Terracotta Warriors are definitely a must-see. We offer a more interesting and in-depth experience to learn more about the Terracotta Warriors: make a mini clay warrior with local artisans and visit their disappearing cave dwellings.
For couples and families, a hanfu costume experience in an ancient academy could be a highlight. A bike ride on the 600-year-old city wall is also great to do with kids.
All our tours can be adjusted based on your needs. Just contact us.
4) Guilin — A Relaxing Escape with Picturesque Scenery and Minority Culture
First-timers love Guilin for its beautiful landscapes and relaxing places to escape from the cities — it is a true masterpiece of classic rural China.
A Li River cruise is the best way to enjoy karst peaks combined sublimely with the Li River.
Yangshuo and Longsheng, two counties next to the city of Guilin, offer most of Guilin's top highlights.
Yangshuo is a place where children can put down their phones and iPads and still be well entertained… by cycling around the idyllic countryside and even experiencing the life and work of a Chinese farmer.
Yangshuo also offers a natural romantic atmosphere for couples. A romantic riverside candlelit dinner set in a mountain retreat garden could be a great way to celebrate your 20th, 30th, 40th, etc. anniversary. Contact us to design a special time for you.
If you are interested in minority culture, the Longji Rice Terraces in Longsheng are really a highlight — both for enjoying the magnificent tiered fields and for experiencing the world of the Zhuang and Yao minorities.
- 5-Day Dynamic Guilin and Yangshuo Tour — Best for Summer Vacations
- 11-Day Family Happiness — Beijing–Xi'an–Guilin/Yangshuo–Shanghai
5) Chengdu — Have a Close Encounter with Pandas
Chengdu's giant pandas are for many the icing on the cake, the finishing touch to a China must-do list.
An even more special experience would be to have a close encounter with pandas by taking part in our giant panda volunteer program — clean panda enclosures, make panda food, watch a panda eat it, and more.
Chengdu is also famous for delicious Sichuan food like kung pao chicken and spicy hotpot. A food hunting tour is the best way to taste the delicious specialties of Chengdu.
If you are interested in cooking, you can try cooking the most authentic Sichuan cuisine with a local chef.
2. Decide How Many Days to Stay
After a long journey to get to China, you probably won't want to just scratch the surface of China and just take snapshots with the landmark attractions.
We suggest you take at least a week for your first trip to see a spectrum of the highlights in the top three cities: Beijing (3–4 days), Xi'an (2 days), and Shanghai (1–2 days). See our 8-Day Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai Tour for inspiration.
To discover more of China, like charming Guilin and lovely Chengdu pandas, you would need a few more days. See our 11-Day Classic Wonders tour of Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin/Yangshuo, and Shanghai. See How Long to Spend in China: Itineraries from 1 Week to 1 Month
Tibet is also open again for international visitors now [March 2023]. If you want to visit this pure land, you may need 3 to 5 more days. See our 2-Week Private Tour of Beijing, Xi'an, Lhasa, and Shanghai.
All our tours can be adjusted based on your interests, travel time, group size, and other needs. Just contact us.
Or get ideas from our:
- How to Spend 10 Days in China (5 Best Options & Costs)
- 2 Weeks in China: 3 Top Itinerary Ideas for Couples and Families
- How to Spend 3 Weeks in China (Best 3 Options & Costs)
3. Consider When to Travel to China
China's cultural and historical attractions are good for a visit all year round. Things to do in Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai are seldom affected by the seasons.
Spring (April–May) and autumn (September–October) are generally the most comfortable and recommended times for a China tour. They are neither too hot nor too cold, but fall is generally drier and warmer than spring.
A more ideal travel time for you could be March and early April or September when there are smaller crowds, favorable prices, and still good weather.
China is a good summer holiday destination too. There are not many rainy days in summer. It rarely rains continuously for a whole day, with rain coming in less and less frequent downpours as the summer draws on.
It can get a little hot in summer, but air conditioning and expert arrangements would help you avoid the heat as much as possible.
You can find more detailed tips on Best Times to Travel to China.
4. Consider Your Budget
Traveling in China is not very expensive. The biggest cost could be international airfares. The cost of airfares from the US or Europe to China varies a lot depending on when you fly and which airline you use, from around US$1,200 to US$3,000 for an economy round trip.
The peak tourist times in China fall on the first weeks of May and October (China's two golden weeks), the summer holidays, and the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The biggest price difference between the off and peak seasons is in the price of hotels and airfares. Prices in peak season can go up by 50 to 100%.
For a private tour, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5-star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport.
If you travel in the peak season, book at least 2 or 3 months in advance. When booking with us, you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to three weeks before departure (more details here⇒).
5. We Believe Private and Tailor-Made Is Best
Our clients are talking to a local people.
A private tour is recommended for your first trip to China.
If you don't want to visit the Great Wall of China with a coach-load of 40 people and perhaps only have 20 minutes on the wall and so on, a private and tailor-made tour is definitely the better choice.
With our private tours, you would have much more personal choice in how your tour goes. You could have more hand-picked and interactive experiences, like walking on the "wild" untouched Great Wall or visiting a local family with your own local guide.
With private guiding and transport, we would maximize your time. You could focus on the sightseeing you want to do, skipping what's not of interest and the long queues in the most crowded attractions.
Just contact us if you would like a tailor-made private trip to China. We also offer economical, but still high-class and uncrowded, small group tours.
Olivia Tian, a sunshine tour guide!
In October, my friend Amy booked a tour with Chinahighlights, Olivia Tian was our guide in Beijing, she is such a sweet n happy person to be around, not only she gave us the best guide service, also very accommodating, alter the plan as per our interest, took us to very local shopping n food district. Above all, she takes awesome pics, very patient!! Thank you so much for such pleasant 5 days in BJ, look forward to see you when we are back in China, Olivia!!more
Dec 2023, Venture216019
One whole of a good experience !
Kevin was always making flexible arrangements for us making sure we meet our needs. Kevin also walked us to our desired restaurant daily making sure all are well before he left. Kudos to the whole team. Highly recommend ?more
Dec 2023, Cornelius C
China is Amazing Wonders that do not stop coming at you.Great country
Great job,Loved every minute of it,Ethan did an amazing job,True Ambassador of China,Just like the Chinese people,Friendly, dignified and hardworking,Very happy.China Highlights exceeded expectations and then some,I will never even think of travelling with another company.more
Dec 2023, Philip Sardar /Maps10321171537
Wonderful trip to Beijing and Xian
Had a great trip to bejing n xian. Our guide lily liu is so well versed in english and we have no worry here at all. We managed to dine in great halal restaurants though out our trip. Highly reccomended to all muslims travellers.more
Dec 2023, Efen Reyes
Great experience, highly recommended!
Additionally, she helped me with all my personal needs like getting a SIM card, finding an ATM, shopping, dining, checking in at the train station, hotel, suggested a couple additional very entertaining art events. Was also punctual and spoke good English.more
Nov 2023, Wayne S.
Excellent tour with Tom from China Highlights
We used China Highlights for the 3 days of our Beijing trip. Tom was a fantastic guide. Very knowledgable with excellent English. He was able to accommodate changes to our tour at short notice, allowing us to make the most of our limited time. Couldn’t recommend highly enoughmore
Nov 2023, Ross
Wow this tour was honestly the best tourI have ever taken! Our guide Simon Yao was simply superb! His English was excellent and he was very easy to talk to. He was personable and friendly but not overpowering or overbearing. Very knowledgeable about history. Thankfully the weather was good so we were not super hot !Finally at the wall we were amazed by it's beauty and grandeur. It really is something and pictures don't do it justice.more
Nov 2023, Annika M
Excellent two day visit to Great Wall
Our guide ‘Mark’ was incredible. So friendly, knowledgable and funny. The itinerary was perfect, we got to see two different parts of the Great Wall (one of which at night which was magical) and our hotel stay in Gubei was wonderful. Highly recommend to anybody visiting Beijingmore
Nov 2023, James_Wolstenholme
Great Experience from start to finish!
Jack was my guide and his local knowledge and English skills were fantastic. He was punctual, friendly and willing to flex as we went about our tour. Couldn’t recommend China Highlights more!more
Nov 2023, Scott Smith
Helen in Beijing - thanks for paying great attention to details, for your small surprises for the children every day, for selecting amazing restaurants, and leading wonderful walking tours. Your cheerfulness added to our enjoyment.more
Nov 2023, Kamila
Great day out with Mark, thanks China Highlights!
We did a 1 day private tour with China Highlights to see Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Communication was great throughout - from trip planning/booking with Roger and from our guide Mark who contacted us the day before to confirm meet up time/location. Avoided a lot of the queues and definitely learned quite a bit of history from our guide Mark…thanks again! No language barriers/issues…highly recommended.more
Nov 2023, ykeezy
China Three (3) Cities Tours
To the tour guides, Ethan, Jason and Tony, you guys have made my visit an awesome and memorable experience. All the tour guides spoke english and communicated very effectively. They are knowledgeable about all the sites visited including, Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, Panda Breeding and Research Center, Leshan Giant Buddha, Hallelujah Mountains, Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon and Glass Bridge, and Tianmen Mountain. The tour guides ensured I got the most out of my time I stayed in the various cities Beijing, Chengdu and Zhangjiajie.more
Nov 2023, Kadar
13 days in China
We booked a 13 day’s tour of China with China Highlights. Our travel advisor, Ms Leah Zhou organised an itinerary that suited what we wanted. She was really helpful and patient will all our needs. Leah helped us organised our 30th Wedding Anniversary Dinner and my 60th Birthday celebration?? in Beijing. For this to be possible, she had to liaise with our guide in Beijing. The flowers and cake were a real surprise. My husband and I, were really touched at the good service provided by China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou. Thank you China Highlights and Ms Leah Zhou for your constant care of your customers. I will certainly recommend China Highlights to my friends.more
Nov 2023, Eda Adams
Perfect Beijing experience
Covering all major sights our exploration of Beijing and surroundings was flawless guided by Lily, along with her knowledgeable and balanced information on Chinas culture and history. In particular, Lily was able to adjust the tour according to personal preferences, e.g. focus on photography, as well as suggesting additional activities like an impressive authentic artistic show. I highly recommend China Highlights as China tour operator and Lily Liu as excellent guide regarding the Beijing area.more
Nov 2023, Perfect Beijing experience
Our first trip to Beijing
Our tour guide was Lucy Yubo. She was awesome. Very friendly, informative and passionate about her job. We really enjoyed her company and guidance.more
Nov 2023, Sreelatha Reddy
Anne and Bob’s tour of Beijing
We did the China Highlights tour of Beijing with our excellent guide Mark and his driver. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Beijing highlights including the Lama Temple, the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Lama Temple. The Summer Palace with the boat ride and the Garden of Virtue and Harmony were memorable also and the Mutianyu Great Wall was a highlight. We were impressed with Mark as a guide. He knew his history and he was kind and thoughtful. He took us to some excellent restaurants and we were introduced to some beautiful food. We enjoyed his company and will always remember him.more
Nov 2023, BendigoBob
Excellent end to end service
Helen is a positive, full of knowledge, experienced guide.She provided us an implacable service abd experience for 3 days .Highly recommendedmore
Nov 2023, Sariel Engel
Amazing Beijing Tour with Risa!
Risa gave us a wonderful tour of the city! She thoroughly explained the cultuaral importance of each exhibit while also educating us on the Chinese culture. Appreciated having this wonderful Beijing trip with Risa:)more
Nov 2023, Angelica M.
Amazing Beijing Tour With Risa!
We were very kindly received in Beijing by our tour guide Risa. She gave us a very thorough tour of the city and showed us wonderful places, while also explaining the important history/culture of China! Very beautiful city filled with many things to do and full of culture! This was very well planned and made it very easy for us to visit the city and foreigners:) Thank you Risa!more
Nov 2023, Angelica M
Do Beijing like a local
They organised my trip very quickly and efficiently. On the day, Anna was very friendly to me, my mum and my baby. Very accommodating to our needs. The car was immaculately clean and very comfortable. We visited everything we initially wanted and more. Also, Anna took us to the best meal we had in China. It makes a difference to have a local choosing the dishes!more
Nov 2023, Natali A
6. Check Out Visa Policy
Visitors from most countries need to apply for a tourist visa (L visa) to visit China. We recommended that you apply for the visa one or two months before the intended travel date.
When booking with us, we would provide the invitation letter that you would need for a tourist visa application.
If you do not have a Chinese visa, you could use the 144-hour visa-free-transit policy to visit China.
From December 1st, 2023 to November 30th, 2024, travelers from France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia can enjoy a 15-day visa-free entry to China for tourism, business, and visiting friends and relatives in China.
Whether you want to visit China via visa or visa-free, we can help you plan a trip including entry formalities. Feel free to contact us.
7. Getting to/around China
Flights from all countries to China have resumed, though maybe not yet at pre-pandemic frequency. At present, there are one or two direct flights a week from New York to Shanghai, Los Angeles to Beijing, Seattle to Shanghai, London to Guangzhou, etc.
There are also many flight options with stopovers that are more frequent and affordable.
Beijing and Shanghai are the top gateway cities for international flights. Most customers chose them.
Flights and high-speed trains are the best and fastest ways to travel intercity in most of China. Booking a private tour with us, we will arrange your transportation within China and provide worry-free and comfortable private transfers.
Popular China Tours for 2024/2025
Our private tours are designed to be the most convenient and fulfilling option for your trip to China. We would create an itinerary according to your flight times, interests, and any other requirements.
Just contact us and we'll create your ideal China trip. Our consultants will listen to and answer your inquiries carefully and promptly and prepare the best tour plan for you.
Here are some popular options that you could base your trip on:
- 8-Day Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai Highlights Tour — the classic Golden Triangle trip
- 11-Day Beijing–Xi'an–Guilin–Shanghai — our top itinerary for families
- 2-Week Beijing – Xi'an – Chengdu – Yangtze Cruise – Shanghai Tour — the choice for panda fans and cruise fans