ItinerariesThe Ultimate 1 month China Itinerary

The Ultimate 1 month China Itinerary

China is the world’s most populous country and has become more and more popular amongst tourists, with so much to offer. My trip to China was my first ever time abroad ‘solo’. I backpacked China for around a month when I was 18 as part of this trip with The Dragon Trip. This one month itinerary is based off of that trip and includes the top things to do in Hong Kong,

Shanghai, Beijing and lots of other cool places.

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When it comes to planning your one month China itinerary, don’t panic. I arrived in China with my HUGE yellow suitcase (don’t get me started), my excitement and being able to (just about) say “Hello”, “Thank you” and “Excuse me” in Mandarin. 

Did it take me a few hours to find my hostel? Yes. But I made it. Here’s some top things to know for first timers to China:

Currency: The official currency of China is Renminbi (RMB) but is often referred to as Yuan (CNY). Hong Kong uses the Hong Kong Dollar and Macau’s currency is called the Pataca. Currently, £1 will get you 8.81 Yuan or 9.57 Hong Kong Dollar or 9.85 Pataca.

Language: The official language in China is Mandarin which is spoken by more than 70% of the Chinese population. However, there are many dialects that are used all over China. Cantonese is also widely spoken.

Weather: Because China is such a big country, the weather changes drastically between regions. The most popular time to go to China is between September and October. But watch out for typhoons in Southern China, these are particularly bad between July and September. Make sure to read up on the air quality too as that changes throughout the year.

Cash or Card? Similar to most places in Southeast Asia, I found that China mainly uses cash. Although big brands and fancy hotels are likely to accept cards, it is less likely in smaller cities and outside of touristy areas. So it is best to always carry cash on you.

Visa? As a UK citizen, I needed a visa for mainland China, but not for Hong Kong or Macau. A lot of people get their visas whilst staying in Hong Kong but I preferred to get mine beforehand. I think now you need to do it in person, so make sure you research.

Hong Kong

My flight from the UK to Hong Kong was my first EVER flight by myself!! I managed to find the right taxi for the region I needed to get to and it took an hour or so to get to my hostel. Unfortunately I only spent one day in Hong Kong (due to jet lag) and I really regret this (but hey I have my whole life ahead of me to go), so I’d really recommend spending at least 5 days exploring this HUGE city!!

Where to stay in Hong Kong

Whilst in Hong Kong, I stayed at the YesInn At Causeway Bay. This was my first ever hostel that I stayed in! YesInn has a 9.1 rating for location on booking.com as it’s very close to the Causeway Bay Metro Station as well as the main buses. There is a rooftop bar and small common area inside which is always filled with other backpackers. Check out more info and prices here.

Yangshuo

Cross the border by bus into Mainland China from Hong Kong and take the bullet train to Yangshuo. 

Yangshuo isn’t really at the top of every backpacker’s bucket list, but it should be. Yangshuo is one of my all time favourite locations. Not only is it home to the infamous Li River boat trips, but it’s also the cutest town filled with the quirkiest little shops and restaurants. 

On my first day in Yangshuo, I arrived in the evening & decided to explore the town a little more and discovered “Lucys Cafe” – which soon became my favourite place to eat. I had the banana pancakes every morning for breakfast!! They also had a lovely lab called yoyo who soon became my best friend!

Where to stay in Yangshuo 

I stayed at The Hidden House which has an overall rating of 8.6 on booking.com, with a 9.2 rating for location – the hostel is just over the road from the heart of all the hustle and bustle. The dorm I stayed in here was one of the cleanest and comfiest I stayed in throughout my time in China. Check out prices and more info here.

Chengdu

To get to Chengdu from Yangshuo, take a bus to Guilin and then board a sleeper train to Chengdu. This journey was my first ever sleeper train, and also the longest one I’ve ever taken, being 25 hours. 

Chengdu is one of the must-go places in China, due to the fact it is home to the Research Base of Giant panda breeding, one of the most popular things to see in China. Some tourists may not feel comfortable visiting the panda centre, and I too was quite skeptical at first but after I read this post, I decided to go and really enjoyed my time there but similarly to Claire, strongly advise AGAINST holding a baby panda for a photo.

Where to stay in Chengdu

So I stayed at the FlipFlop Backpacker Lounge whilst in Chengdu. It’s got a 9.2 star rating on booking.com and is one of the most popular choices for backpackers. Not only is this “Poshpacker hostel” a 5-minute walk from Chunxi Road Station, this hostel also offers the COOLEST social scene from things like dumpling parties to group trips to watch a Sichuan opera show. You can check out more info and rates here.

To get to Xi’an, take another sleeper train. Xi’an is one of my favourite places I visited in China. It’s filled with so many different cultures, and you can explore so much by foot. It’s most famous for the Terracotta Warriors. One of my favourite things was to explore Muslim Street! Where you’ll find quirky little bazaars and mouth-watering food stalls. 

Where to stay in Xi’An

I stayed at International Party Hostel which was so cute. The bar here was awesome and there was such a great social scene, not to mention, drinking scene. It’s also right next to the train station and within walking distance of some of the top tourists attractions, so it’s in a really awesome location. 

Dengfeng

To get here, take a coach ride from Xi’an!

Dengfeng is famously known for being home to the Shaolin Temple. I only stayed for one night, which was a shame because it was such a beautiful little village. I stayed in a local villagers guesthouse, which was amazing! They cooked us 5 meals and they were absolutely delicious. 

Beijing

Beijing is the world’s most populous capital city, and is home to some of the most iconic and famous sights in China. Beijing is perfect for any traveler: from first time backpackers to families, there is so much to see and explore.  

On your way to Beijing, make sure to take a break and visit the Olympic Park!

One of my highlights of Beijing was being lucky enough to camp on a private section of the Great Wall of China, owned by a local farmer.

Where to stay in Beijing

I stayed at the Leo Hostel which is really popular amongst backpackers. When I visited, there was travellers from all over the world staying and the social life was awesome. There’s a really fun bar and common area as well as there being some great restaurants nearby. Check out prices and more info here.

Moganshan

To get to Moganshan, take a sleeper train to Hangzhou and then take a bus ride to find Moganshan, deep in a forest of bamboo. 

Although Moganshan is not your typical China bucketlist destination, it’s SO worth the visit. It is the perfect place to pause this hectic itinerary and relax. 

Where to stay in Moganshan

There are a few different villages and towns in Moganhsan to visit, so pick your base carefully. I stayed in the beautiful village of Hou Wu, at the Moganshan Howoo Life Hostel. With a 9.1 review on booking.com and the beautiful surrounding bamboo forests, you’ll want to be checking this out. View prices and more info here.

Shanghai

Shanghai is China’s ​biggest city and a global financial hub. It’s one of the most visited cities in China. The best way to get to Shanghai is to take a bullet train. My favourite thing to do in Shanghai was exploring the artisan’s lane and taking iconic photos of the sky-line. 

Where to stay in Shanghai

I stayed at the Blue Mountain LuWan Youth Hostel and this hostel was one of my favourites in China. Most likely because it was my first time in an all-female dorm and I loved being away from men for a few days. But seriously, this hostel was great. As well as only being a 15-minute walk from the Bund and People’s Square, this hostel had the COOLEST bar area and went on quite a few bar crawls whilst I stayed. AND it’s only a 5 minute walk from the metro station!! Check out prices and more info here.

Fujian

To get to Fujian, take a bullet train from Shanghai to Nanjing and get a bus to Fujian!

In Fujian, I stayed in a tiny little place called Tianluokeng. I spent one night sleeping in a traditional round house (‘Fujian tulou’) and another at Mr. Liu’s Guesthouse.

Fujian is one of the most beautiful places I have visited and I fell in love with this little village so quickly. 

Macau

Macau is very small and can easily be covered in a day trip from or on the way to Hong Kong but for this itinerary, I recommend taking some time to chill in Macau and enjoy yourself!

To get to Macau from Fujian, take a sleeper train to Guangzhou East and then hop on a bus to the Zhuhai border in order to go through the border into Macau.

Another popular option is to take a day trip from Hong Kong and hop on a return ferry to Macau – this costs about 360 HKD (£36). When you arrive at Macau ferry port, there are lots of FREE buses which will drop you off at numerous casinos – your best bet is to try and find the one that will take you nearest to your accommodation. 

Where to stay in Macau

There isn’t really any hostels in Macau, but the Macau Hotel S is the most popular amongst backpackers and is one of the most funkiest hotels I’ve ever seen! As well as having a location rating of 8.3 on booking.com, the hotel itself has it’s own bar and restaurant. Check out some more info and rates here.

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12 Comments

  • Heather

    What an amazing itinerary this would be. I love how you formatted this post, makes it really easy to read and plan what I want to see!

  • Amber

    Your blog is beautiful! I’ve lived in China for a year and you’ve been to way more places than me! And I NEED to go to Yangshuo after reading this!

    • Lana

      What an incredible place to live!! YESS – visit Yangshuo! It’s so amazing 🙂

  • Tiana Bantis

    What a great quick read! China looks so diverse, would love to visit after reading this!

    • Lana

      Thanks so much! I hope this helps to plan your trip whenever you go 🙂

  • Sandy Vyjay

    China has some incredible experiences and it is a huge country. One month there must be a great experience. There is so much to see and experience. The culture and heritage of China is so colourful. Have never been to Mainland China, though have spent a few days in Hong Kong and Macau. It is was an awesome experience. Your post is a ready-reckoner for planning a trip to China.

    • Lana

      Thanks so much for your comment! Indeed there is so much to see and experience and I feel like I only just touched on it!

  • Julie Ruhl

    Wow, I would love to spend 1 whole month traveling China. This post was so organized! Riding a bullet train sounds super fun. I will definitely be back to this post whenever I plan a trip to China.

    • Lana

      Thanks so much for your comment! I really hope this helps you to plan an awesome trip!

  • Megan

    What a great guide! I studied abroad in China. Pinning this post for if I ever get to go back.

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