China United States Travel

Transportation Options

Traveling from the United States to China or vice versa involves international planning. The most heavily traveled route is via aircraft, with a few alternative transport options that travelers may explore. Several airlines offer direct flights from most major US cities to China and vice versa. China’s national carrier, Air China, can fly from Beijing and Shanghai to North American hubs like Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. Other airlines offer flights from major hubs in the US to Chinese destinations such as Hong Kong. Additionally, travelers may consider train services, such as China’s rail network. Passengers may choose to ride on a train from cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanning to major cities in Russia and Mongolia. For road trips, travelers may explore rental car options or driving their own cars across the border. However, there are restrictions and regulations in both countries that must be taken into account.

Tourist Visas

All tourists wishing to visit China for business or leisure must obtain a valid visa from the Chinese government. The most common visa type is the L-visa, which is necessary for travelers wanting to visit family, friends, or businesses for tourism, as well as for all educational purposes. Travelers require a valid passport to apply for a visa and must also have return tickets home. Furthermore, travelers may need to provide a letter of invitation from a local contact in addition to other paperwork. It is important to note that visas may take up to a month to process and that the maximum stay in China on an L-visa is 90 days.

Money Exchange

To purchase items or services, it is necessary to convert US currency into the Chinese Renminbi (RMB). Before departure, travelers should check for exchange rates with local banks and exchange services. There are also ATM’s at the airports and throughout the large cities in China that accept international cards, making withdrawal of RMB easy. To keep costs down, travelers should consider bringing traveler’s checks in US dollars, as the conversion rates may be more favorable. Furthermore, it is important to inform credit card companies about travel plans, as most companies are increasingly wary of international charges, and they may block transactions even if legitimate.

Cultural Considerations

China has a rich cultural legacy and a history spanning back thousands of years. This makes for an incredibly diverse and vibrant travel experience. As such, it is important to be sensitive to the history and culture of the people and country. Most importantly, avoid making derogatory or dismissive comments about the Chinese people and culture. Similarly, double check the appropriateness of clothing in a given situation and take note of local customs and rules. For example, some restaurants may have no-cigarette policies or do not allow shoes inside. Tourists are also encouraged to learn conversational phrases like ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, and ‘please’. This will go a long way in terms of showing respect and understanding.

Safety Concerns

Safety is always a travel consideration, especially when going to a foreign country. China is generally known as a Safe country as long as travelers exercise caution. Tourists should habitually avoid isolated areas, street crime, and walking alone at night. Keep important documents and a photocopied version of your passport in a safe location. Furthermore, take precautions regarding food. Although Chinese food is generally safe, tourists should avoid street vendors and food that looks suspicious.


Accommodations come in all shapes and sizes in China. From luxurious five-star lodging to family-run guesthouses, travelers have many options when it comes to finding the right place to stay. China has been expanding its hotel industry rapidly over the past few years, offering guests modern facilities. Additionally, tourists may opt for the traditional Chinese ryokans. These are inns or guesthouses often located in rural areas offering simple yet comforting accommodations. Prices vary depending on location and comfort level, from low-budget youth hostels to high-end luxury hotels.

Shopping and Gifts

Shopping is a great way to explore China and to bring back an array of souvenirs. From delicious snacks to art, antiques, carpets, local products, and many other products, tourists will find it easy to find that special item. However, shoppers should always be aware of fakes in China. Some markets, like the Silk Market in Beijing, are known for selling cheap counterfeit items. Prices for both authentic and non-authentic items must also be negotiated since most stores will not have fixed prices. Furthermore, to avoid conflict, it may be wise to check with customs at the airport for allowable items.

Want to Travel outside Mainland China?

China’s overseas territories offer some of the most alluring attractions and experiences for travel lovers. The beautiful islands of Taiwan and Macau, with unique cultures and breathtaking scenery, have for long been popular destinations for tourists wanting to experience something different. Visitors to Taiwan can bask in the laid-back atmosphere of Taipei, an incredibly cosmopolitan city with its bustling street food culture. Meanwhile, Macau is Asia’s answer to Vegas, with world-class casinos and burgeoning nightlife. Experiences on both of these islands will prove sure to leave travelers with a unique impression of the world.

Traveling by Sea within China

Unlike air and train options, sea travel within mainland China may be relatively limited. In the Yangtze River, tourists can choose between deluxe and regular cruise tours, while marine routes also exist for other rivers and coastal cites. Different itineraries offer different activities, from exploring ancient villages to long hikes. Tourists may find themselves on a hearty fisherman’s boat and relaxing with delicious seafood or exploring canals and ancient temples. Moreover, with most tour packages, travelers can choose their own route and stopover anywhere on the mainland.

Beach Vacations

With stunning beaches and phenomenal landscapes, China is a great place to vacation without flying too far away. Popular destinations on the east coast include Sanya, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Qingdao, and Beidaihe. Meanwhile, on the south coast, tourists can find Hainan and enjoy the tropical climate and beach activities. Tourists may also explore the central coast and visit resorts at the likes of Shanghai and Chongqing. These areas offer different outdoor activities and laid-back atmospheres. Tourists can also take part in a range of watersports, from sailing to surfing, scuba-diving, windsurfing, and other exciting aquatic adventures.

Leisure Activities

When in mainland China, tourists may be interested in outdoor activities like hiking, road trips, and nature appreciation. With its varied landscape and terrain, China has much to offer visitors wanting to spend time in nature. For hikes, some popular destinations include the Great Wall of China, a symbol of the nation’s ancient civilization, and Huangshan, known as the “Yellow Mountain” with its fascinating peaks and stunning views. Tourists may also take road trips through rural Chinese villages and explore the diverse landscapes. Additionally, for lovers of birds and wildlife, the wetland ecosystem at Poyang Lake serves as a bird watcher’s paradise, with many species of wild birds present in the area.

John Melendez

John J. Melendez is a journalist, author, and commentator specializing in Chinese culture, politics, and international relations. He is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, and is the author of several books on Chinese culture and politics. He currently resides in Beijing, China.

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