WildChina > Podcast > Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China

For our fourth episode, we are zooming out to look at China as a whole. We’ll be addressing many of the questions we’ve been asked over the years on “How to plan a trip to China?” Giving information on where to go based on your interests, how to get there, and what to expect. If you have further questions after listening, please reach out to us at info@wildchina.com, so we can help you get started planning your China journey.

China is a nation of people and their stories. Of joy and struggle, tradition and innovation. Of mighty rivers, vast wilderness, and sprawling mega-cities. We encourage you to discover the China that lives amid the aromatic sizzle of street-side woks, in bustling city markets and far-flung mountain villages, and most of all, in the hearts of the people you will meet along the way. Play your part in the story of a nation set to shape the next century. The first step – planning your trip!

Episode Overview:
  • 01:21 – How long should your China trip be 
  • 03:30 – Suggested itinerary for a first-time visit to China 
  • 06:25 – How to get around the country 
  • 10:50 – What to expect for hotels in China 
  • 14:23 – What it’s like getting around in China by yourself 
  • 16:20 – Where to go for the off-the-beaten-path portion of your trip based on your interests 
  • 16:45 – Where to go if you’re interested in animals 
  • 21:25 – Where to go if you like hiking 
  • 29:05 – Where to go if you’re a foodie 

You can also listen to The China Travel Podcast on:

Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China
Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China
Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China
Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China
Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China
Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China
Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China
Sunrise view of the Meili Snow Mountain by Andres Vargas

How long to travel in China

Minimum 2 weeks

Suggested itinerary for a first-time visit to China

The must-sees:

  • Beijing – Great Wall and Forbidden City
  • Xi’an – the Terracotta Warriors
  • Shanghai or Hong Kong to end

The above three places can be done in a week’s time, and we suggest spending the second week of your trip getting more off-the-beaten-path for a deeper understanding of China. Some places we’d recommend for this are:

  • Ningxia
  • Yunnan
  • Sichuan
  • Guizhou
  • Tibet

The overall route would look like this:

Beijing → Xi’an → *somewhere more off-the-beaten-path* → Shanghai

How to get around the country

Where possible, take a high-speed train (if less than ~6hrs duration, we consider it more efficient than flying). It’s a great way to see the scenery change while diving into a book on China

Domestic flights (if business class is in your budget we recommend it)

What to expect for hotels in China

Luxury hotels in China are a bargain compared to the US (usually around half the price of the same brand/comparable hotel is in the US)

China’s local boutiques are very on-trend domestically and popping up everywhere accordingly, however since the demand is so high they can be overpriced, so be wary.

4- to 5-star international brand chain hotels are usually around $100 per night (very good value). There are so many in China you can find them almost everywhere, but they don’t have much local flair (they are more designed for business travelers)

There are lots of bed-and-breakfast style accommodations as well which are usually priced very reasonably.

What is it like getting around in China by yourself (if you don’t speak Chinese)?

It can be a challenge, as not everyone speaks English, but in general the local people are very patient and willing to work with you to bridge the language barrier.

Really depends on what you’re looking for – if you’re seeking a stress-free journey, we recommend getting a local guide for your trip, but if you’re up for some cross-language communication, we consider China to be a very welcoming country to working with non-Chinese speakers.

Where to go for the *off the beaten path* portion of your trip based on your interests

If you’re interested in…


Snub-Nosed Monkey Yunnan Conservation


  • For guaranteed panda-sightings, go to Chengdu. There are several panda bases in/around Chengdu, you can check out our list here.
  • For seeing pandas in the wild, go to the Qingling Mountains (accessible from Xi’an)

Snub-Nosed Monkeys (in the wild)

  • Yunnan (Tacheng)
  • Sichuan (Baihe, near Jiuzhaigou)

Gibbons (in the wild)

  • Gaoligong Mountains


  • Southern Yunnan

Snow Leopards (in the wild)

  • Qinghai


  • Poyanghu Wetlands on the Yangtze
  • Black-necked Cranes in Yunnan
  • Beidaihe (near Beijing)


Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China

Zoned Scenic Parks (like the Yellow Mountains, Emei Shan, Wudangshan…)

  • Do-able in a day or so.
  • Easy to access and well-marked.
  • Many have cable car access as well as paved/stepped trails.
  • Most tourists take the cable cars, so the individuals you meet on the hiking paths are much fewer and a different (more adventurous) crowd.

Wild hiking paths, not in a zoned scenic park (like Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yading…)

  • Few on-site facilities and limited public information. So, can be difficult to know if you need a permit for the hike, or which trail is best, etc.
  • But, if you can find the resources, these are the best hiking experiences with amazing human stories.


Episode 4: Planning a Trip to China


Each province has a representative office with an on-site restaurant which is the best place to get authentic food from that province, in Beijing.  Ex the Sichuan one is called Chuanban (川办餐厅).

Peking duck

Shanxi and Shaanxi

  • Noodles at the small local restaurants

Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Hunan

  • Spicy food, fresh ingredients, stir fry, strong flavors


  • Seafood