China travel advice

Language barrier advice

Andy Burt, from our holiday specialist Intrepid, shares his China travel advice on getting over the language barrier: “For me, the interaction with the locals in China is one of the highlights of a trip there. It’s hard to anticipate how little language you have in common, but yet with body language and a sense of humour you can still have a meaningful interaction with people. A lot of people presume that Chinese people are quite rude and a bit standoffish, but they’re not at all. Where the Japanese are reservedly polite and don’t want to lose face by having bad English, the Chinese don’t care, they just speak Mandarin at you like you’ll understand it, which of course you don’t, much to their amusement. But within that you find a way to communicate. There’s a lot of spitting in public in China, it’s just what they do, so leave your cultural baggage at the door and appreciate them for who they are.”

Health & safety advice

Olly Pemberton, from our holiday partner Exodus, shares his China travel advice on health and safety: “Health-wise, if you have asthma, or any related breathing problems, and you’re in the main cities, you need to be aware of the pollution in China as it can really affect some people. Overall, China is a very safe place. Be vigilant as you would be anywhere, but bag snatching and crime against others is not really something that’s in the Chinese culture at all, which is a great positive. You never feel threatened in China, in fact you can almost switch off in that respect. Your biggest danger is probably the traffic because there’s so much of it, so be mindful of what’s happening around you when walking around cities and crossing roads.”

Food advice

Andy Burt, from our holiday specialist Intrepid, shares his Chinese food advice:
“Some people think that because they get a Chinese takeaway every Saturday they know what Chinese food tastes like, which is ridiculous. There’s one and a half billion people in China and they don’t all use the same cookbook. The other thing people tend to think is that the Chinese eat really weird stuff. Of course there is a lot of unusual food in China like bullfrogs and chicken feet, but you don’t have to eat those in order to experience food that’s different from what you’ve eaten before. The food really is delicious and you can move around the different regions of China and try all sorts of wonderful dishes. Try the green beans with garlic and ginger wherever possible, it’s a really tasty side dish, and Chinese dumplings in all their varieties are amazing. My advice would be to have an open-mind and try it all.”

Finding your way around advice

Liddy Pleasants, from our holiday partner Stubborn Mule, shares her China travel advice on how not to get lost: “My biggest tip for someone travelling to China is to always make sure they carry a copy of the hotel business card with them because the hotel business card is always written in both Chinese and English. If you go out and about in China, some people speak English, but a lot of people don’t. If you get into a taxi and say the name of a hotel in English, the way that it sounds in Chinese will be completely different and you’ll be met with a blank stare and a driver with no idea where you want to go. In fact, ask the receptionist to write down in Chinese all of the names of the places you want to go to before you leave and getting from A to B will be so much easier.”

Health & safety in China


Visit your GP or travel clinic at least six to eight weeks before departure to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations and that they are up to date. Medical care is generally good in China’s major cities, though some hospitals can be very crowded. Outside major cities, the standard of healthcare is variable. Healthcare is not provided free of charge in China and medical bills can be high. Medical evacuation from China is very expensive. Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance covering healthcare for the duration of your stay. If you will be travelling in rural China, where getting hold of medicine can be difficult, it’s worth taking a first-aid kit with you. Include bandages, plasters, painkillers, rehydration sachets, medication for upset stomachs and antiseptic cream. The most common health hazards in China are the cold and flu infections and diarrhoea, usually in a mild form while your stomach gets used to unfamiliar food. In both instances, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and replace lost salts with rehydration sachets. This is especially important with young children. Outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever do occur across southern China in the summer months, usually in localised areas and both require immediate medical attention to ensure that there are no complications. You can minimise your chances of being bitten by mosquitoes in the first place by wearing light-coloured, full-length clothing and insect repellent. The high levels of air pollution in China can aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are usually the worst affected and it is worth buying an anti-pollution facemask if you’re going to be spending time in cities. Tap water in China is generally not safe to drink. You should drink only bottled water and only accept ice that you know is from a safe source. Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun during China’s spring and summer months. Temperature and humidity can take time to adjust to, so apply sunscreen regularly, wear loose clothing and drink lots of water.


Fortunately, travel in China is very safe and still largely free of the major banes of travel in other parts of Asia: theft and begging. It’s never a bad idea to stay as safe as you can and there are ways to ensure your trip is as enjoyable and trouble free as possible. Bar the odd bag snatching, petty crime is not commonplace, even in China’s bigger cities. However, it’s always best to exercise the usual precautions and avoid having valuables on show. One of the most dangerous things you can do in China is cross a road.  Most motorists pay little attention to pedestrian crossings and a green light for you to cross still means that cars are permitted to turn in to or out of the road. Add to this mopeds, rickshaws and loads of other people and you have dangerous combination – keep your wits about you. You may fall foul to a scammer in China; beware of ‘tea-tasting’ outside of your organised itinerary, this can lead to exorbitant charges. As with anywhere, walking alone at night isn’t recommended in China and neither is walking alone in the remote countryside.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about China or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

China tips from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful China travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday - and the space inside your suitcase.
Allow space in your luggage for purchases! You can get a tailor-made Mandarin dress in the Muslim Quarter, Xi'an for about £20.
Ė Davina Greeves
"Pack for all eventualities, especially weather-related. The travelling is tough but the reality is never as bad as expected." - Colin Nelson

"Be prepared for the sleeper trains, there is no privacy on them and if you end up with an end compartment the smoke can really impact you. Also, be prepared for the squat toilets, they really take some getting used to!" - Lisa Calmiano

"I enjoyed the amount of free time involved which allowed for some independent wandering around towns and cities, but it does mean you need to have self-motivation to get the best out of the trip." - Sarah Cordey

"Take a phrase book. The rules of the road are very different in China to the UK so every road crossing involves dicing with death; however towards the end of the trip we were crossing roads like a local." - Jo Watts

"Make sure you try as many local specialties as possible. We even braved scorpion and snake in Beijing." - Anna Pierssene

"If youíre walking the Great Wall, take your own roll of toilet paper and keep a few sheets on you. Take your own antiseptic hand cleaner and keep it handy too." - Sally Payne

"Every bit of my holiday was great, but the most outstanding part of it has to be walking on the Great Wall Ė itís so varied, in condition and terrain. Truly, the trip of a lifetime!" - Phyllis Ryan

"Try to get to Tiananmen Square for the flag raising or lowering - you need to be there very early in the morning before sun rise." - Ewan Macnair
Walking the Great Wall involves a lot of scrambling and climbing of steep steps, but is great fun and the views are amazing.
Ė Michael Martin
Written by Polly Humphris
Photo credits: [Page banner: Emile Guillemot] [Language barrier advice: Gregory Hayes] [Food advice: Marta Markes] [Health & Safety: Michael Discenza] [Davina Greeves quote: Yiranding] [Michael Martin quote: Bruce Rottgers]