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First Trip to China? 7 Questions Answered

Planning a trip to China? We answer your frequently-asked questions about this fascinating country: when to visit, what to eat and the benefits of travelling with a small group.


When is the best time of year to visit China?

Our China trips run all year round, but the weather does vary greatly depending on the season and the region you're visiting. China is vast, covering nearly a million square kilometres, and there are huge differences in its landscapes, which range from the dry plains of the Gobi Desert to the broad grasslands of the Inner Mongolian Plateau, and the sub-zero glaciers of the Himalaya. The best time to visit China is usually in the spring or autumn months, when the weather is warm and dry. It can be hot and humid in the summer and very cold during the winter; though if you’re prepared with the right clothing you should still find travelling around comfortable.

Do I need a visa?

Most British nationals require a visa to enter mainland China and will need to make an application via a Visa Application Centre in either London, Manchester or Edinburgh, where your fingerprints will be taken as biometric data. If you require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa. The team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.

Can I travel solo to China?

All of our trips to China are ideal for solo travellers. You'll be accompanied by an Explore tour leader and like-minded travellers for the duration of your trip. Each of our Explore tours has been designed to suit both solo travellers and those travelling together. This means that you'll get to enjoy the company of your fellow travellers during the guided parts of the trip, with time set aside for you to explore on your own if you wish. Our tour leaders have plenty of local knowledge to recommend the best tea houses in Guilin, where to see an acrobat show in Shanghai or the right place to try the famously spicy Sichuan cuisine in Chengdu, and can organise extra activities if they work with the itinerary. Travelling in a small group also allows you to get closer to the local culture, as you cruise on board a riverboat along the Yangtse or visit a village house in the mountains.

What is the food like in China?

Even if Chinese is your favourite takeaway, the dishes that you encounter on an Explore trip to China will probably be very different to anything you've had at home, with ingredients you might not have heard of. Internationally, it is Cantonese food that is popular, but cuisine you find in China will vary depending on the region you're visiting. You’ll find most dishes are made up of rice or noodles with fried vegetables and either steamed or boiled eggs served in a fragrant broth. For example, in the Sichuan province, such as the city of Chengdu, you'll find that the food is spicier as it includes spicy local peppers, while in Beijing the local speciality is delicious Peking duck.

Will I see pandas?

On our Treasures of China tour you can see these gentle giants at the Panda Research Centre in Chengdu, which has been working since 1990 to study the giant panda and increase the number of breeding pairs. The 92-acre centre is home to many pandas, who roam large, leafy enclosures. Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that visitors to China will see giant pandas in the wild: there are roughly 1,800 pandas living outside of captivity in China, with most of these inhabiting nature reserves. Though numbers have increased over the last decade, they are still a vulnerable species.  

Can I walk on the Great Wall of China?

You can walk on the Great Wall of China at many points along its extensive length – around 5,500km of the world wonder constitutes what we think of as the wall, but if you add together all of its branches and trenches its full length extends to over 21,000km. Around the main tourist areas close to Beijing, the wall has been rebuilt, though there are many sections that lie in ruin . In the past the stone was often looted to build houses, and there are areas that are restricted and unsafe for walking. Our Walk the Great Wall holiday takes in several parts of the wall, including the point where it reaches the Bohai Sea at Old Dragon’s Head, towards the mountains at Jiaoshan Pass, a rugged and untampered section at Panjiakou and among the watch towers of Jinshanling.

Is it safe to travel to China?

Yes, it is safe to travel to China. While travelling to any new destination should be accompanied by a degree of caution, you should enjoy a trouble-free holiday. As with all trips it’s important to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance and visas for entry, so that you’re adequately covered should anything happen. We also recommend checking the FCO advice for China before you travel, in case of any recommendations.


Explore our China tours

Is China at the top of your bucketlist? We offer Discovery, Walking and Family tours in China. 
See all China tours