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Practical Guide to China

14 September 2015

Great Wall of China

With diverse cultural experiences on offer and a vast expanse of land, it is no wonder that many holidaymakers are heading to China.

The country is experiencing somewhat of a boom in tourism of late with international visitors soaring to 26.36 million last year. People flock from all corners of the globe to see iconic wonders such as the Great Wall of China and embrace the culture and customs of the Chinese way of life.

Many ocean and river cruises visit China with stop offs in cities such as Beijing, Xian, Fengdu and Shanghai, making for some incredible experiences. However, there are a few things you need to know before heading for the Far East, here is our practical guide to holidaying in China.

Getting in

China is hugely accessible from the UK with flights leaving airports such as London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh among others. Airlines such as Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Hainan Airlines all offer direct services to reduce the need for transfers. Flight time from the UK is around ten and a half hours.

To enter China you must have both your passport and a visa, the latter can be obtained from a Chinese Embassy or Consulate prior to your trip.


China deals in the Chinese Yuan with the current exchange at 9.62 CNY to the pound.

What to see

If you are heading on an Iglu river cruise, the first destination is likely to be Shanghai. China's largest city combines modern architecture with the history and culture of the nation's past. Head down to the Jing'an District to see the famous Jing'an Temple, a Buddhist place of worship which has sat on the same the site since 1216. Literally meaning 'Temple of Peace and Tranquillity', the temple was originally built in the Wu Kingdom in 247 AD. It features the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Three Saints and The Precious Hall of the Great Hero. Once inside you will be transported away from the urban metropolis in which it sits.

If you are visiting Shanghai for the first time then a trip to the Bund is an absolute must. From the Anglo-Indian term for muddy embankment, Bund was once considered to be the most important financial street in Asia and is filled with Western institutional banks and business buildings. A walk along will provide great views of Old Shanghai, a beautiful juxtaposition between classic and modern.

South of the Bund is Nanshi, the old town of Shanghai, which will give you a clear idea of what the city was like in generations gone by. These lively streets are filled with locals going about their daily business providing a real buzz around the place.

Make sure to visit the Zhujiajiao Water Town, a 400-year-old water village with a signature five-arch bridge spanning the Cao Gang River. This is an important place for local trade and goods being shipped up and down the river. It is a little way out from Shanghai itself but is well worth a visit and is connected via public transport.

Eat and drink

While Chinese food is attainable all over the world, there is nothing better than tasting the real deal. Different approaches and twists are taken on classics across the country but Shanghai food is characterised by some sweet and oily dishes. Pork is the meat of choice in the city and it is used in dumplings and bun fillings, as well as served in strips.

Arguably the most famous dish in Shanghai is xiaolongbao, small steamed buns served with a delicious broth and some form of meat inside. Before heading off on your cruise around China, be sure to try both xiefen shizitou, crab meat and pork meatballs, and Shanghai mao xie, the city's 'hairy crab'.

Across China food tends to be split into the Four Great Traditions - Jiangsu, Cantonese, Shandong and Sichuan. All of these display a different style of cooking, some of which you may be familiar with while others could be foreign concepts. There are other traditions such as Teochew, Guizhou, Hainan and Imperial, experience them all for a true culinary adventure.

When it comes to drinking, China loves a beer with Tsingtao remaining the nation's most popular brew. Grape wine is also popular in the nation with Suntime, Yizhu, Mogao Ice Win and Shangrila Estate widely available brands. For non-alcoholic beverages, you can't go wrong with authentic Chinese tea.

Stay safe

As with any major country across the globe, China's crime rate differs from place to place. While the larger cities are relatively safe, tourists should be aware of potential pickpockets at some of the popular attractions. It is always wise to bring a little extra money just in case of the unlikely event that something does happen.

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