How to Prepare for a Trip to China

China is a fascinating and diverse country that offers a wealth of cultural, historical, and natural attractions for travelers. Whether you want to explore the ancient wonders of Beijing, the modern skyline of Shanghai, the scenic beauty of Guilin, or the ethnic diversity of Yunnan, China has something for everyone.

But traveling to China can also be challenging, especially if you are not familiar with the language, customs, and regulations of this vast nation. To help you plan a smooth and enjoyable trip to China, here are some tips on how to prepare before you go.

1. Get Your Visa Before Entering China

This is the most important step in planning a trip to China. Without a visa, you will not be allowed to enter the country (if you are a US citizen). On the application, you will need to provide your travel dates, travel itinerary, and proof of onward travel. The application must be typed with no handwritten corrections or it will not be accepted.

You can apply for a visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate-general serving your area. You can also use a special visa agent or an online service to handle the process for you. The visa fee varies depending on your nationality and type of visa (tourist visas are usually under $100). You should apply for your visa at least one month before your departure date.

If you are planning a layover or a short stop in China (less than 72 hours), you may qualify for a transit visa exemption.  This allows you to visit certain cities without applying for a visa in advance. However, you still need to register with the immigration authorities upon arrival and stay within the designated areas.

2. Purchase a VPN Before Arriving in China

The Great Firewall of China blocks access to many popular websites and apps that we use every day, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, Netflix, and more. If you want to stay connected with your friends and family back home or access online services that you rely on while traveling, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

A VPN disguises your computer’s IP address so it looks like you are connected from another country where these websites are not blocked. You can download and install a VPN app on your laptop, phone, or tablet before arriving in China. You will need to pay a small monthly fee (around $10) for this service.

There are many VPN providers available, but some may work better than others in China. Some of the best VPNs for China are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and VyprVPN. You can find more by searching Google using Chinese such as “VPN推荐”. You should test your VPN before leaving home and make sure it works well in different locations and networks. You should also have some backup options in case your VPN stops working while in China.

3. Learn Some Basic Chinese Phrases

Although most tourist sites in Beijing and Shanghai have signs in both Chinese and English, learning some key phrases is a great way to prepare for visiting China, and will absolutely endear you to the locals. Basic phrases like “hello” (ni hao), “thank you” (xie xie), and “sorry” (dui bu qi) are a great start, along with counting to ten.

You can also learn how to ask for directions, order food, bargain at markets, and express your preferences. You can use apps like Duolingo or Memrise to learn some vocabulary and grammar. You can also use translation apps like Google Translate or Pleco Dictionary to help you communicate with native speakers. However, be aware that these apps may not work well without internet access or may give inaccurate translations sometimes.

Another useful tool is having some business cards printed with your name and hotel address in both English and Chinese characters. This way, you can easily show them to taxi drivers or other people who need to know where you are staying. You can also carry around some maps or guidebooks with Chinese names of places that you want

to visit.


China is a fascinating and diverse country that offers many attractions and experiences for travelers. However, traveling to China also requires some preparation and planning, especially if you are going there for the first time. Hope these tips on how to prepare for a trip to China can help you with your next trip to China!