Solo Travel in China
Types of Girl about the Globe (GatG) – Cultural GatG, History GatG, Nature GatG
If you are planning to tour China, below is my solo travel to China travel guide on how to travel China solo including where to travel in China, the best places to visit in China for solos, where to stay, the best tours to China for solos, and how to get around when you are travelling China alone. Find out how to get from the airports and what to do in each place.
All companies included have been recommended by myself and other solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article for solo female travel China.
N.b. For every booking made through this article, I donate money to projects helping vulnerable girls about the globe. Thank you for helping to make a difference to their lives.
- Solo Travel in China
- About China
- Tours in China
- Accommodation in China
- Travelling Around China
- From The Airport
- How Long Do I Need?
- Plan a Trip To China
- Map of China
Solo Travel in China
Is China safe for solo female travellers? China is relatively safe for female travellers but be prepared for a bit of a culture shock. Staring, spitting, shoving in queues and using a microphone for practically everything can leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed, especially in Beijing, the capital. That's why we've given it 2 out of 5 stars. Most people are curious but once you get outside of the city, people are welcoming and friendly.
The language barrier can be a challenge. If you are lost or in need of help, younger people are more likely to speak English than older people. When in doubt, look for a high-school student. Keep an eye on your belongings, and be cautious venturing out on your own at night, just as you would anywhere else.
China is a fascinating country to explore but if it is your first time to the country and you are unsure of where to visit in China and what to see in China alone, you may prefer to take a tour of China instead.
If you're thinking of going to China, Global Work & Travel helps you to organise au pairing placements in China and around the world. Choose from a working holiday, summer camp, internship, volunteering or tutoring and teaching abroad. Their placements include all the support you need for a life-changing adventure.
Vast, timeless, and exotic, China mixes the ancient and the modern in a not-always-seamless but continuously fascinating manner. Rich in history, full of natural beauty, and constantly evolving, the country is endlessly alluring and has something for everyone. In addition, China is safe for solo female travellers and still relatively inexpensive – what’s not to love?
* Before you travel, check what paperwork or visas are required for China.
Start in the capital city of Beijing, home to many of the country’s best-known monuments. Ease your transition into the unfamiliar culture by visiting the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the places to visit in Beijing. Its grounds cover almost 3 square kilometers and feature pavilions and temples against a backdrop of perfectly manicured lakes and gardens.
Take your time touring the Forbidden City as well. The Forbidden City was once the Imperial Palace and is now a beautifully preserved site and home to a fantastic museum. For a dose of more recent history,
Other Things To Do in Beijing Alone
Tiananmen Square is literally right across the street. Here you can both pay homage to the anti-communist protesters who made the square famous as well as visit the mausoleum housing Mao Zedong’s body.
Is Beijing safe for solo female travellers? Yes, and Beijing also has excellent shopping, nightlight, and restaurants. Head to the hip 798 Art District, full of galleries, cafes, and trendy boutiques, and enjoy a lazy afternoon wandering about. If your budget allows, be sure to check out the Peking Opera, which puts on spectacular shows in centuries-old tradition.
One of the best things to do in China, is to see the famous Great Wall. Beijing is also a good base for exploring the Great Wall of China. As one of the famous things in China, numerous tour operators organise everything from day trips to multi day expeditions along the city wall.
From Beijing, head south on an overnight train to Pingyao, home to the best preserved walled city in China. Rent a bike, or simply wander the car-free alleys of this ancient city– you’ll feel as though you have been magically transported centuries back in time in the old town.
After spending a day or two soaking up Pingyao, hop on another overnight train to Xi’an. The city was the capitol of China for over 1,000 years and is home to the famous Terracotta Warriors, one of best things to do in China, as well as numerous other museums and historic sites.
As the eastern terminus of the famous Silk Road, Xi’an is also a melting pot of cultures. Check out the Muslim quarter for delicious street food and a different perspective on China.
From here, consider a side trip to Chengdu in the west, famous for its Giant Panda reserve. Chengdu is also an excellent base for organising trips further west into China or into Tibet. Dunhuong, once a stop on the Silk Road, is one highlight of western China.
The city is home to the Mogao Caves, once a treasure trove of Buddhist art and manuscripts. Today, the caves remain picturesque and extremely enjoyable to explore. You can also organise camel treks into the surrounding desert from Dunhuong.
Two hours from Chengdu is another of the top things to see in China, Leshan Giant Buddha, called giant due to its 71 metre size. What makes it one of the country’s tourist attractions is that it is the tallest stone Buddha statue in the world, and majestically carved out of a red-coloured cliff with a river below its mighty feet. To reach here, it's easier to take a day tour.
Even further west is the city of Kashgar. A meeting place of cultures and religions for thousands of years, you’ll enjoy wandering the city’s back alleys and traditional Muslim neighbourhoods. Try to make it to the Sunday market, an experience you’ll never forget. Flying is generally the best way to make it from place to place in western China as the distances are unimaginably vast.
If your itinerary doesn’t allow you to explore western China, simply continue south from either Chengdu or Xi’an and explore the Yangtze River region. The river itself is over 6,000 kilometers long, but the most breathtaking section is far and away the Three Gorges.
Take a three-day cruise from Chongqing to Yichang through a mystical landscape of fog, greenery, and mountains rising from the water. Cruise routes have changed in recent years due to the construction of a controversial damn that displaced over a million of the river valley’s residents.
Your next stop – Yangshuo – is equally scenic and awe-inspiring. Yangshuo is surrounded by twisting karst mountains, streams, and rice paddies, and you’ll enjoy relaxing in this beautiful outpost. Rent a bike and explore the countryside, go for a hike, give rock climbing a try, or simply kick back and enjoy this tranquil town.
Take a side trip via bus to Longsheng and the nearby Longji rice terraces (literally, Dragon Backed Mountain). This hilly, somewhat remote area is home to some of China’s most photographed rice paddies, as well as to numerous ethnic groups found nowhere else in the country. The Yuanyang rice terraces are also one of the beautiful areas to see.
For those planning a south China trip, one of the best places to visit in southern China is Macau. This entertainment hub with its Vegas-style dazzling lights of its casinos was once a Portuguese colony, and you can see its unique blend of multi-cultural heritage amongst the temples, gardens and fortresses, making it one of the unique places in China.
One of the main reasons that people flock here is for its nightlife. As a city that never claims to sleep, it’s definitely one for the fun, party solo. If you’re at a loss at what to do in China in the evenings in the rest of the country, the Chinese appear to love karaoke, so find a karaoke bar and join in.
Near Macao is Guangzhou, one of the lesser known places to visit in China. But this mega port city on the Pearl River has one of the country’s best amusement parks and is a hub for the bullet train. There are many free things to do in Guangzhou from seeing the Five Ram Statue in Yuexiu Park, to the European-style buildings on Shamian Island.
Another of the major cities in China is Shanghai. If you need a break from Chinese culture, Shanghai is more cosmopolitan and you will feel less conspicuous here, as it is one of the best cities to visit in China for a more western feel.
Walking along the Bund riverfront promenade, admiring the old French buildings are just one of the things to do in Shanghai alone, as well as visiting the Shanghai Museum and the pink building of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower that’s shaped like a baby’s rattle.
For amazing views of the city, the Jin Mao Tower is one of China’s tallest towers and the perfect place to see this city in all its glory. If you’re in need of adventure, the Skywalk allows you to ‘wander in the cloud’ along the tower’s 60 metre long glass walkway, 340 metres above the ground. It’s one of those crazy Shanghai attractions to get your heart pumping.
Other Places To See in China
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is one pf the best places in China to transport yourself to a movie scene. This National Park with the Wulingyuan Scenic Area with its majestic Hallelujah Mountains were the inspiration for the floating mountains in the movie, Avatar. This spectacular canyon is also where you’ll find one of the unusual things to do in China – take a thrilling walk along the World’s longest and highest glass bridge that sits 270 metres above ground.
Another best place to visit in China is West Lake. This scenic area in Hangzhou has enough temples and gardens to keep you mesmerised for an afternoon. The lake is split into 5 areas and you can hire a bike to leisurely explore their beautiful destination at your own pace, stopping to shelter from the sun, or hopping aboard a boat ride to explore the island within it.
China is the World’s second-largest country, and this is only a small sample of what awaits you. With time and money, you could spend a lifetime exploring it and still touch only the tip of the iceberg. Solo travel China and your first visit is unlikely to be your last as China will enchant you and lure you back again and again.
Thinking of going to China? Global Work & Travel helps you to organise au pairing placements in China and around the world. Choose from a working holiday, summer camp, internship, volunteering or tutoring and teaching abroad. Their placements include all the support you need for a life-changing adventure.
Tours in China
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which offers trips to China and mainly caters for budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your China travel tour you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Adventures start from a 4 day Habin Ice Festival to 21 days Ultimate China on a Shoestring including Hong Kong. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel also offer tours of China. They are similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear more costly than G Adventures.
Intrepid Tours China start from 9 days of China Highlights experiencing the best of China, and include 2 week itineraries to Yunnan & Tiger Leaping Gorge. In addition to their guided China tours they also offer tours to Tibet. With both tour companies you share a room with another female or you can pay extra for your own room. Read our Intrepid Travel Reviews
Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide helps you to find top-rated activities and tours in worldwide destinations including China. Choose from a ticket to the Forbidden City in Beijing, a trip to Mutianyu Great Wall, or a visit to the Terracotta Warriors in Xian. There are several to choose from including Beijing tours, and it’s really simple to use. Just check the reviews, price and availability then book online. * Check all tours and prices here
Accommodation in China
If you are planning a solo China trip, expect all types of accommodation from luxury to budget. In Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing you’ll find everything from hostels to five star international hotels.
If you pre-book your accommodation through a platform online expect to pay a service charge on top. Mid-range hotels are everywhere but choose a newly opened property instead of an older one to ensure better quality. There are chain hotels as well as independent budget ones. If you are staying in a rural village in China, don’t be surprised if you hear Karaoke at full blast during the evenings.
For budget GatGs there are several hostels and if you are planning on being in China for a while, it may be worth becoming a member of the International Youth Hostel Association (IYHA) where you can get a discount on your hostel stays (perfect for backpacking China alone). You could also save money on your accommodation by taking an overnight train from Beijing to Xian.
The cost of the train then includes your bed for the night. Whether you take a hard seat or a soft sleeper. When you arrive at a train or bus station you may be greeted by tourist touts offering you a cheap room in their local guesthouse.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience a capsule hotel then the Art Hotel Beijing is a great option. It’s a great experience even if only for one night. For all accommodation you may have to pay a deposit which you get back at the end with the receipt.
China doesn’t really offer camping but you can stay with a local through Airbnb, a platform where you can rent a local’s spare room or even the whole accommodation for the duration of your stay. You can save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
Travelling Around China
How to get around in China by train – When you're travelling in China, trains and buses are the best types of transportation in China to experience the country. While both options cover an extensive network, trains are slightly safer, quieter, and the fastest means of China transportation with the famous bullet trains (speed trains) which reach speeds of nearly 200 mph and offer a wider range of options in terms of seating, meals, etc. You can buy train tickets at the ticket offices in the train stations (take your passport to purchase them), and make sure you buy them with plenty of time in advance. You can purchase them online too.
China has four class trains. You can choose from a soft sleeper which has 4 beds in a carriage and are the most comfortable and costly or a hard sleeper, a more popular choice with backpackers on a budget who don’t mind sharing a cabin with 5 other strangers. Seat61 is a great resource for these ways of transportation.
For intercity travel, buses can be the best way to travel China for shorter distances. To work out which bus stations you need, you’ll need to know which direction you’re heading in for the specific bus station (north, south) etc. There are also sleeper buses.
For longer distances, the best way to travel in China is by plane. Domestic flights are relatively inexpensive and can save time for travellers on tight schedules. China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Air China all operate flights within China.
How to travel around China by car – Renting a car is unfortunately not an easy option. On the mainland, a Chinese driver’s license is required to rent a car. If you are determined to rent a car, you can attempt to obtain a provisional Chinese driver’s license in larger cities. However, this is not recommended. Either hire a car along with a Chinese driver, or use the country’s excellent train travel and bus networks.
From The Airport
Beijing – If you fly into Beijing, you have many options for reaching the city centre. Your least expensive option is to take a public bus but special airport shuttles offer more options and drop-off points within the city.
Airport Express trains are another option but only serve two locations within Beijing. Taxis are also relatively inexpensive, but be sure to take one from the “official” queue or risk traveling in a vehicle with a faulty meter and paying more than you should.
Shanghai – Hongqiao airport is only 10 miles away from the city centre. The cost is approx CNY 100 and takes 25 – 40 minutes. Make sure that you take a metered taxi instead of opting for a taxi tout in the terminal which will cost double the price. Take the Subway Line 2 for just CNY 57 to People's Square then onto your destination. Buses from across the terminal.
Shanghai – Pudong airport is 19 miles from the city. Take a metered taxi for CNY 180 which takes from 45 – 90 minutes. Buses run every 20 minutes from 0730 until 2300.
How Long Do I Need?
Ten days is the minimum you’ll need to begin exploring China. In this amount of time, you can visit Beijing and its attractions, see the Great Wall, and make quick side trips to one or two other nearby cities. To really explore China, set aside at least three months, especially if you intend to venture into western China.
Travelling Overland from China
Many of China’s neighbours – for example, Myanmar, Pakistan, and North Korea – likely have quite stringent visa procedures).
Where can I fly from here?
- Mongolia – 2 hrs 30 mins
- Japan – 3 hrs 15 mins
- South Korea – 2 hrs
* All flying from Beijing
Is tipping expected? Tips are generally not expected (and may even be refused). Exceptions include hotel porters, and tour guides (especially on multi-day tours).
Fixed price or barter? Expect fixed prices for hostels, rooms, and hotels. Bargaining is acceptable at markets and in family-owned shops, while larger stores have fixed pries.
Any ATMs? ATMs are available in larger towns and cities, as well in popular tourist destinations. Be sure to keep some cash on you, as credit cards are not accepted everywhere in China.
Which side of the road do they drive? The right-hand side.
Good for vegetarians? China can be hit-or-miss for vegetarians. In larger cities and popular tourist areas, you will likely be able to find good vegetarian options. In more out-of-the-way places or “locals-only” restaurants, you may experience difficulties communicating your needs due to the language barrier.
Many so-called “vegetarian” dishes may contain fish or meat stock, and locals may be baffled as to why you choose not to eat meat. Buddhist temples sometimes have vegetarian-only restaurants attached to them, and these can be wonderful options.
Any seven wonders of the world? The Great Wall of China.
Plan a Trip To China
If you are planning a trip to China, here are some useful websites including vaccinations required, airlines that fly there and local customs and etiquettes to help you travel alone in China.
Budget – £70 a day
Capital – Beijing
Population – 1,360,000,000
Language spoken – Chinese, various other languages
Did you know? Contrary to popular belief, fortune cookies are not a traditional Chinese custom. It is believed that they first appeared in San Francisco and that they are based on a traditional Japanese recipe. At any rate, you won’t find them in China!
Weather in China – below is the annual weather in China
Yangtze River Cruises (multiple itineraries possible)
Leo Hostel – Beijing-based Great Wall tours (they have a “private” portion of the wall and offer camping on top of the wall)
Big Bus Tour – Explore the city of Shanghai from an open-top bus.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding – offers internships in the summer
Peking Opera – Beijing (worth the price)
Where to Stay
Stay in a capsule hotel at Peng Heng Space Capsules Hotel
Treat Yourself in Hotel Eclat Beijing
Mind Body & Soul
Meridian Massage Center – Beijing (offers massage and variety of traditional Chinese medicine modalities)
China Cultural Center – Beijing & Shanghai (offers a variety meditation retreats, traditional Chinese medicine, and other healing and relaxing treatments)
Yoga retreats at Snow Mountain Retreat