Aerial view of Shanghai skyline of China.

China Travel for Beginners: How To Book a China Tour Package

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Are you eager to find out how a discounted China tour package can introduce you to China? One of the biggest reasons it’s so hard to travel China independently is the language barrier. The vast majority of people in China do not speak English and taking intensive Mandarin lessons to be able to read Chinese characters isn’t an option for many travelers either.

Keep on reading to find out exactly how you can explore China without the hurdles that often come with it when traveling independently!

If you want to check out an itinerary for independent travel in China, be sure to check out my first-time China itinerary!

Why choose a China tour package?

Walking on the Great Wall of China has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Over the years, a trip to China remained on my radar but the expense of the flight and hotels, the length of the flight, and the paperwork required appeared to make such a trip unlikely.

I began tracking the prices of flights from my home in North Carolina to Beijing and Shanghai. The prices never seemed to get below $625 for a round trip. Hotels in both Beijing and Shanghai were also expensive. Since I’m still saving for retirement, I thought this trip was unlikely to happen any time soon.

Then shortly around Christmas, I found a discounted package deal for a nine-day tour to China. Like most discounted trips to China found online, the trip included visits to Beijing and Shanghai.

Depending on the length of the trip, overnights in Hangzhou, Wuxi, and Suzhou are also typical. Some tour companies allow additional side tours to be added to the trip, from visiting Xi’an (to see the terracotta soldiers), Hong Kong, or Thailand. The price was so low that I figured even if I didn’t have the perfect trip, it would show me enough of China that I could then decide whether it was worth going back.

Forbidden City is a palace complex and famous destination in central Beijing, China.

What does the China guided tour include?

Many companies offer a version of the same trip I took. Browse this China tour package list to find the one that matches your needs!

For a flat price, you’ll get:

  • Round-trip airfare from specified major cities
  • Hotels
  • Daily breakfast buffet
  • Transportation among different cities
  • Certain excursions
  • About half of the lunches
  • A tour guide

Not usually included:

  • Flight from your hometown
  • Chinese visa
  • Extra excursions
  • Over half of the dinners
  • Tips for tour guides

Also read: The Complete Traveler’s Guide to the China Transit Visa

How to Get a Chinese Visa

Whether you go through the tour operator or on your own, you’ll need to apply for a Chinese visa. The visa costs $140 per person if applied from the US.

However, unless you have the time and patience to appear in person at the Chinese embassy or consular office in your country, you’ll need to pay a visa application company. They do not guarantee that they can obtain your visa, so be prepared for additional application expenses (simply not checking the box correctly may get the application rejected).

I highly recommend Passport Visa Express. They are familiar with the procedure and can help you navigate the process. But it can take from 3 weeks to 3 months, so make sure you plan ahead.

Also read: The Complete Traveler’s Guide to the China Transit Visa

The Advantage of Taking a Discounted China Tour

Someone from the tour company will meet you upon your arrival in Beijing or Shanghai. You’ll be taken to your hotel where you’ll meet your local guide. The local guide will review the additional tours available and confirm whether you’re interested in purchasing them.

Warning: there is usually a lot of pressure to purchase additional tours since it is easier for the tour company if everyone does the same thing.

Also read: How To Travel China by Bus and Train

The China Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Fly from our hometown to Beijing

Day 2: Arrive in Beijing – free time (depending on your arrival)

Day 3: Tour Beijing – on your own (extra excursion available to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City)

Day 4: Tour Beijing – Great Wall, Jade Factory, Olympic Stadium

Day 5: Beijing to Suzhou – Pearl Factory, Tuk Tuk Rides and lunch at local homes

Day 6: Suzhou to Hangzhou – Lingering Gardens, Silk Factory (boat ride on Grand Canal

Day 7: Hangzhou to Shanghai – Tea plantation, (Boat ride on West Lake additional) bus ride to Shanghai, walk along The Bund in Shanghai

Day 8: Shanghai – Shanghai Museum, Silk Art Exhibit, City God Temple Bazaar

Day 9: Fly from Shanghai to your hometown (overnight)

Check out more details of this tour.

Aerial view of Shanghai skyline of China.

What a Typical China Tour Day Looks Like

A typical day begins with a wake-up call at 6:30 a.m. You’ll need to be on the bus every day by 8 am. While there are slow times (especially at the mandated factory stops where way too much time is spent), a lot of the trip is either going from one place to see the next or time on a bus.

If you’re not having a free day, then lunch will be included. Dinner shows are usually extra. If you participate in the dinner show, you will find yourself back at the hotel after 10 pm.

This Tour Might Not Be For You If

  • You’re a planner who needs to be in control, this type of trip is not for you. You will have no control over when or where you’re going.
  • You enjoy having some free time to do your own thing, a guided tour is not ideal.
  • There are specific locations that you want to visit that were not listed on the itinerary, it will likely be very difficult, if not impossible, to see them.
  • You will also have no say in where you’re staying since most of the hotels are outside of the downtown area. While our hotels were mostly incredibly nice, in order to fit in the price range of the tour, the location will be further out and require some commuting time. One of my hotels was changed just a few days before departure, making it difficult to book any outside excursions (like through Viator).
  • You can’t stand sitting through government factory demonstrations and given too long to shop.

This Trip Is For You If

  • You want to see the highlights of Beijing and Shanghai.
  • You don’t speak Chinese and have no solo travel experience. You will have someone with you who can translate and steer you in the right direction when visiting.
  • You understand that the government factory visits are the main reason that the trip is so discounted – choose whether to purchase or not. I did not find them to be high pressure.
  • You’re open to new experiences and new flavors, a discounted tour is the perfect way to see China for the first time.

Top 6 China Tour Packages

Are you ready for your China guided tour?

Browse the different kinds of tour packages available, do your research and then book with confidence! I highly recommend TourRadar’s China tours because of their amazing selection. You’ll be so glad that you took a chance to check off something from your bucket list!

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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