China: Cross Off This Bucket List Trip at Prices You Won't Believe
Why 2016 is the year to go…Numerous airlines, including Air Canada, offer nonstop service to China from across Canada for less than $1000, and have been increasing routes over the last 18 months. Airfare has declined notably since 2014 out of Vancouver and Toronto and continues to drop. We may be looking at an all-time low in 2016.
China is relatively cheap for travellers coming from the West, but there are plenty of luxury options for those not worried about the cost. China is a good jumping-off point to see other destinations in Asia; it costs about $200 to fly to Hong Kong and $300 to fly to Malaysia.
An abundance of China packages are flooding the market for less than $1000 from across Canada, including air. These tours stop in all the major spots a casual traveller would want to visit and are a hassle-free way to see China on the cheap. We have seen tour prices between $699 and $899 for eight to 10 days, including air, which is unprecedented from Canada.
China has so much to offer, some of which has only relatively recently been open to Westerners; from bustling cities to the quaint villages and natural beauty. Of course no trip is complete without seeing the Great Wall and hitting up street vendors for late-night cuisine.
China is known for…Shopping! A lot of packaged tours to China have a heavy emphasis on shopping; shuttling tourists from one stop to another, some with minimum requirements for how long you have to stay. That being said, shopping is certainly not the worst way to get a taste of Chinese history and culture.
China’s cities offer crowded markets and ultra-modern malls. Beijing’s massive weekend market, Panjiayuan Jiuhuo Shichang, is a dream for bargain hunters hoping for pearls, silks and maybe an authentic antique. Haggle for tailor-made suits of beautiful fabric at ridiculously low prices in Shanghai’s South Bund Fabric Market or brave the neon lights of Hong Kong’s Temple Street for high-tech gadgets.
One insider tip…If it’s possible, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Pingyao is an incredible stop. Located in Shanxi Province, halfway between Beijing and Xi’an, Pingyao is a walled town whose buildings date to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The old town is regarded as one of the best ancient walled cities in the world. Buses, trains and cabs from Taiyuan are the best bet for getting to the picturesque place.
Best time to visit…Travel to Northern China in the early spring or late autumn, but November to February is when the temperature and humidity drop in the south. Hong Kong has pervasive air-conditioning, but China’s southeast coast has occasional typhoons in the summer months.
Try this…Hotpot in Beijing's is a social and scrumptious experience; sit around a bowl of bubbling stock and drop in thinly sliced meat noodles and produce. Some places are known for having particularly spicy broths.
In Beijing, the Dōnghuámén Night Market makes for great stories and greater Instagrams, even if it’s not the most authentic Chinese experience. Brave souls can sample fried starfish and scorpion on sticks, among other things.
- Passport needed:Yes
- Money used:It’s best to take out yuan after arriving in China, either at the airport, branches of the Bank of China or official desks in hotels and major department stores. Exchange rates are fixed daily nationwide, but money exchanged anywhere but at a Bank of China counter is being done illegally. Hong Kong uses the Hong Kong dollar, and currency should be exchanged with money-changers; those farther from main streets will have better rates. Credit cards are accepted at upscale restaurants, hotels and tourist-shops, but not everywhere.
- Visa requirements: Yes, visitors to China need a visa. It can be obtained at your nearest consulate and your trip must begin within three months of issue. Visas are usually valid for 1 to 3 months and single-entry visas cost $50 for Canadian citizens.
- Plugs: Most North American devices require a transformer; adapters are widely available at department stores or may be available free of charge from hotels.
- Internet availability: Many hotels in Chinese cities offer in-room Internet access, which may be free if you ask at reception. Most towns also have a few Internet cafes as well.