How to go to China by yourself
Learn how to organize your own trip to China in 2022. Visa, tickets, hotels, food, transportation, safety. How much does it cost to go to China? Calculating the cost, tips and observations.
China does not yet accept tourists from Russia. Look at the list of open countries. For convenience, we give pre-departure prices for trips and flights. Information about visas and flights may not be up to date, please check with official resources.
The material is based on the author’s personal experience of independent travel to China: three months of living in Shenzhen, as well as trips to Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
China is huge and very diverse, so it is impossible to say exactly where the prices and conditions are. I will start from Shenzhen, the center of all electronics, a young and fast-growing city in the very south of China, which borders on Hong Kong. I’ll cover what comes in handy for the tourist when planning an independent trip to China in 2022, as well as my own observations about the country and travel tips.
How to make a visa to China by yourself
A visa to China for Russians is needed, except in rare cases. A regular single entry visa costs 1,500 rubles, a double entry visa costs 3,000 rubles and a multiple entry visa costs 4,500 rubles. Plus there is a bank commission of 2.5% per person.
Single entry urgent visa costs Br2,400, double entry urgent visa costs Br3,900, and multiple entry urgent visa costs Br5,400. There is also Express visa, which is more expensive.
Read in detail how to make a visa to China by yourself (tourist and transit), what documents are necessary, how much it costs, how to go to China without a visa and other useful information.
Visa to China (Photo: Max Braun / flickr.com)
How much does it cost to fly to China: ticket prices
Where to find cheap tickets? Use the Aviasales search engine – it compares prices of all airlines. Learn the secrets of finding cheap airline tickets.
The price is per round-trip per person.
The cheapest way to fly to China is from Vladivostok – from 6000 rubles to Beijing, to Harbin – from 12 thousand. Tickets for 11-22 thousand rubles are available from other cities in Siberia and the Far East: Irkutsk, Khabarovsk, Chita, Ulan-Ude, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Flights from Moscow to Chinese cities cost from 18 to 20 thousand roubles. The cheapest flights will be to Beijing, Urumqi and Guangzhou. From Saint Petersburg the cost starts at 20,000 roubles.
From Ekaterinburg you can fly to Beijing for 28 thousand rubles and from Novosibirsk to Urumqi for 18 thousand.
Useful: changing planes in Beijing. Instructions for use
Airport in Beijing (Photo: Enzojz / flickr.com)
How much do hotels in China cost in 2022
Going to China on your own, you will have to decide where to stay. Someone chooses the usual hotels, and someone rents an apartment or a room.
Hotels. Double rooms in hotels in downtown Beijing cost from $30 in summer and from $13 in low season. In Shenzhen off-season it’s from $22. You are advised to search for hotels on Roomguru.
It is better to stay in chain hotels, because they care about their reputation. The price for a night in a chain hotel starts at $30-40 for a double room. The best chain hotels in Shenzhen are Greentree Inn, Sheraton, Novotel, etc.
- Look for a hotel with good soundproofing – Chinese people are noisy.
- Hotel photos are not always true.
- Sometimes a room can be clean and comfortable, but have extraneous smells, such as damp. Or the windows overlook the courtyard, where the dump or the Chinese street café (which produces smells no better).
Rent. If you want personal comfortable accommodation, rent a room, apartment or house. To rent an apartment in Beijing costs about $30-50 per day, in Shenzhen from $27. You can rent an apartment for about $600-$1500 for a month (rooms $500-$900). The price depends on the city, region and condition of the house. For example, in Shenzhen near the beach in the resort area a great apartment for $ 600. I will give you a discount if you rent for a long time.
Entrance to the Shenzhen Novotel Watergate (Photo: booking.com / Shenzhen Novotel Watergate)
Food and cuisine in China
Another difficulty you may encounter when traveling to China on your own in 2022 is the food. It’s very specific here, so going to a cafe can be difficult, especially if you don’t know the language. But that’s where McDonald’s and KFC come in. There are also many well-known European chains, where you can order food by picture. However, their prices are much higher – for example, a side dish with meat starts at $6. Sometimes the price includes tea. At McDonald’s a Big Mac (fries, coke, double cheeseburger) costs about $5.
In general, you can eat at cafes for $5 or more, in restaurants a simple meal costs from $10.
Where you can eat inexpensive and delicious in China:
- Cafes for locals. In them you can eat for $ 1.5, but no one guarantees the quality of products and compliance with sanitary standards. Minus – it is difficult to order food, as often there are no or few pictures, and if there are, it is not clear what it is.
- “Muslims” are local cafes run by Chinese Muslims. The food there is cooked to all standards and is very good indeed. I really love their noodles and I suggest you try them. They cook it in front of you and the process is interesting to watch. Cost from $1.50 for a huge portion.
- Supermarket. A kilo of bananas costs $1-2$, apples $2-3$, tangerines $1-2$. I would not advise buying sausage products. It’s not at all what we expect: Chinese sausages are made from soy with a lot of spices and additives. They taste sweet and have a peculiar smell, but for the sake of curiosity you can try it once.
(Photo: Jo@net / flickr.com / CC BY 2.0 license)
Internet and cell phone service in China
All sim cards are sold only by passport in specialized places. The cost of mobile communications is quite high – from $20 a month, plus they charge the same for the purchase of the card and the choice of tariff plan. To get a normal tariff and to understand everything you need to know the Chinese language. If you need internet in China, it’s easier to use Wi-Fi while traveling – you can find it everywhere in large cities.
There is another unpleasantness that many people encounter – it’s blocking all the services of Google, YouTube, Instagram. To access them, you need to install a special VPN program.
China Mobile is the largest mobile operator in the world (Photo: Open Grid Scheduler Grid Engine / flickr.com)
Transport in China
Transportation in China is excellent. The infrastructure is very well developed. Planes, ferries, trains (including high-speed ones), buses, subways and cabs. You can get anywhere without any problems. Bus fares start at $0.3, subway at $0.5.
If you are going to go to China for a month, buy a travel card. The plastic card can be recharged and used in the subway and buses, and then return and get money back. The cost is $4. This is very convenient: no need to find out the cost of tickets, buy tokens, standing in queues. Accordingly, the problem of language disappears. For travel within the same city is enough $ 10-30 for a month.
A very common mode of transportation is electric pedals. It is essentially a cab, only less comfortable, more extreme and cheaper – from $2. The main advantage – no traffic jams, as mopeds go wherever they want. The only downside is the language. You have to negotiate the price and destination.
(Photo: Lαin / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)
ATMs and cards.
Be prepared that many stores may not accept your Visa or MasterCard because China has a different payment system, UnianPay. This card can be obtained free of charge from any bank. If you need to withdraw money from your own, there are plenty of ATMs for this.
The mentality of the Chinese
Don’t be surprised if in China you feel like a monkey everybody wants to take a picture with. For a chinese person to have a photo with a European is an indicator of coolness, status, so you will always be in the center of attention. People will always turn around and look at you point-blank without hesitation. In addition to the increased interest, the Chinese will try to make money on the “white man”. For them, we are walking money, so haggle in all stores. For example, we once knocked the price of a shirt from $35 to $5.
The culture and upbringing of most Chinese can be talked about for a long time. Give way to a girl, let her go first, let people get out of transport, throw trash in a trashcan – it’s not about them. They also have no sense of tact. Don’t be surprised if at the first meeting you will be asked about personal life, salary and health. The Chinese people themselves are very artful and enterprising, but good-natured at the same time.
Useful words in Chinese for a traveler:
Safety in China
Do you know where the tradition of backpacking comes from? From China. Petty theft is very common there. In big cities, you can find a policeman everywhere, who is happy to help in any situation. There are also cameras in all buses, subways, shopping malls, and just on the street, so in large cities there is nothing to be afraid of when walking on the streets in the evening. From personal experience, I walked around with my camera equipment, and not once has anyone tried to molest.
Also, there’s an unspoken rule in China that animals, children and laowaians (foreigners) are allowed anything.
(Photo: Today is a good day / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)
How much does it cost to go to China on your own from Russia
Let’s calculate how much a trip to China for two people for 10 days when departing from Moscow costs:
- Single entry visa – $52.
- Flights from Moscow to Beijing and back – from $586.
- Отель в центре Пекина в низкий сезон — 130$. Найти отель >>
- Meals at local eateries – $120.
- Insurance is $23.
- Transportation and sightseeing – about $200.
So how much does it cost to go to China on your own? The minimum cost for a trip, if you are willing to save money – about $ 1111 for two people for 10 days.
If you are used to living in comfort, the trip will cost about $ 1711 for two (accommodation in a 3* hotel – $ 250 and meals in cafes and restaurants – $ 600). We spent $1,500 a month for two people.
Fragment of a 100 yuan bill (Photo: super.heavy / flickr.com)
Important nuances and tips
Take advantage of our helpful tips for traveling independently to China in 2022:
- Look before you travel, how the Chinese count on their fingers. It only matches our counting up to 4, then it’s different.
- Be sure to download a translator to your phone.
- Take the right medicine, as in the Chinese pharmacies you are unlikely to find something familiar. Most likely you will meet a dried toad, rather than activated charcoal.
- Download the program Baidu on your phone and maps of cities where you are going to live. This program will help you choose a route, time and mode of transport, to determine the best way. With it you will not get lost. I highly recommend it!
I hope you have a general idea of the prices and conditions. And the language problem, as you see, is not so scary. Travel around, there is so much to see and do!