Main Claire's Itchy Feet logo

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

If you want to travel to China from USA, you might be wondering if there are China travel restrictions to be aware of. Solo travel to China does have challenges and can be complicated, but there are plenty of fun things to do in China alone. Is it safe to travel to China? Yes! China is generally considered a safe destination for solo travelers, and this solo China travel guide will help you plan an epic adventure.

I have a lot of experience planning travel to China and handling China travel restrictions—let’s jump into this travel China guide to help you arrange a trip without using a China travel agency.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Solo China Travel Guide

From enjoying the Forbidden City to seeing the futuristic Bund in Shanghai, there are so many fun things to include when you travel to China from USA. All the activities in this travel China guide can be done solo, and I’ll show you how.

Walk Along the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and probably the nation’s most popular attraction. It spans 21,196 kilometers across Northern China, although the most popular starting point is from Beijing. The Great Wall is ideal for solo travelers, as many tours leave from Beijing and visit less touristy destinations. When I traveled solo in China, I did a camping tour with China hiking!

Visit the Forbidden City

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best China ToursClick here to check out the top China tours
Best China Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in China
Best China Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in China

The Forbidden City is probably the best attraction in Beijing, near Tiananmen Square and several fun, offbeat activities in Beijing. If you’re staying in a Beijing hostel, it’s easy to find a travel pal for the day as people always head to the Forbidden City. You can also visit alone by getting a metro to Tiananmen West Station and purchasing a ticket there, though you must have your passport to buy a ticket.

Pro Tip: Google Maps won’t work in China, and even if you have a VPN, it can be inaccurate. I recommend downloading and using the offline maps. If you have an Android phone, you’ll need to download the map before entering the country.

Climb the Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

Ascending Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl TV Tower isn’t the cheapest attraction in China, but it’s a must-do when you travel to China.

The good news is it’s easy to get to, thanks to the nearby metro stop, and it isn’t more expensive to visit solo. Chinese people love photos, so if you want some pictures at the top, they’ll be happy to help. You can also visit the Shanghai History Museum in the tower’s basement, which I highly recommend.

See the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

Xi’an might be my favorite Chinese city because it has a mix of cultures due to its Westerly position, which is reflected in its worship places and cuisine.

However, the most famous attraction in Xi’an is the Terracotta Warriors. These are easy to visit independently by public transport (the X bus goes directly from the North Bus Station), but guided tours are also available.

Walk Around the Hangzhou West Lake

Hangzhou isn’t as famous as other places in this China travel guide, but it’s worth a trip. Beautiful West Lake is famous for its postcard-perfect scenes, and staying in a hostel nearby lets you easily visit and walk around.

Marvel at the River Li

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

Considered one of the most beautiful places in China, you may recognize the River Li from the 10 Yuan note. You can take a bus from Guilin (the nearest big city with a station and an airport) to Yangshou, a fantastic city with a small yet fun backpacker scene. Alternatively, there are many day tours to the River Li from Guilin, which is a great jumping-off point for the nearby Longsheng Rice Terraces.

Go Hiking in Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou has to be the most beautiful place I’ve visited in China, though it’s one of the most challenging to get to. All the more adventurous for solo travelers! There are many amazing things to do in Jiuzhaigou National Park, including waterfall hikes, Tibetan Buddhist temples, and a friendly, unique local culture.

Tourists can fly to Jiuzhaigou from various cities, including Chengdu and Xi’an. Another way to get to Jiuzhaigou is by taking a 10-hour bus from Chengdu toward the Tibetan plateau.

Purchasing tickets if you don’t speak Chinese can be challenging. Still, it’s not impossible—buy tickets in Chengdu by going to the Xinnanmen Bus Station or Chadianzi Bus Station the day before your trip. You could also ask someone at your hotel or hostel to write your request down so you can show it to the ticket attendant. Once in Jiuzhaigou, you’ll find hostels, cheap street food, and endless hiking in the park.

Be Amazed by the Avatar Mountains

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

Another national park that’s slightly more accessible than Jiuzhaigou is Zhangjiajie, which inspired the scenery in the “Avatar” movies. You can get a direct train to Zhangjiajie and explore the famous glass bridges, then transfer to Wulingmen, where most of the national park is. Plan your Zhangjiajie itinerary before you go, as there’s a lot of ground to cover here.

As with most Chinese national parks, entry is quite pricey, but it’s no more expensive for solo travelers.

Eat Spicy Hotpot in Chengdu

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

You can’t travel to China from USA without sampling some of the delicious local cuisine. Unfortunately for solo travelers, most restaurants are primarily geared to groups. Spicy hotpot is no exception—it typically consists of broth prepared in a big pan in the middle of a table with various add-ins. However, Chengdu’s street food scene is a good compromise where you can select skewers of vegetables and meats to be cooked in a communal pot. This is also very cheap, as a meal costs slightly over $1.

China Travel Guide: Nightlife in China

China won’t top the list of worldwide party destinations any time soon. While there are nightclubs in China’s major cities of China, I wouldn’t recommend visiting them alone. That said, I have made friends in China hostels and gone clubbing with them.

KTV (karaoke) is big in China, but you need a group of people to go with. If you’re staying at a hostel, you’ll probably be able to rally some backpackers into going. You could also use Couch Surfing to meet locals, many of whom would gladly show you their KTV traditions!

If you’re alone and don’t fancy going to KTV or a club with a group of new people, many craft beer bars are springing up in Beijing and Shanghai, which are great for solo travelers. I also stumbled upon a comedy night in Shanghai, which was great for meeting people, as everyone was friendly.

In Beijing, Shanghai, and other big cities, there are plenty of things to do at night that don’t involve going drinking. You could check out the Beijing Opera, Xian’s Street Market, or a River Cruise on the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

How to Get From the Airport to the City Center

You’ll probably arrive in Beijing or Shanghai, and getting a train to downtown from both is easy. There’s an airport link in Beijing, which I figured out the first time I arrived in China. Shanghai boasts the fastest train in the world, connecting the airport and the city in just eight minutes. People who work for the airport rail links are used to tourists and typically speak basic English.

You can use taxis, but they will be expensive—all major cities in China have a metro network that’s easy for tourists to use, as it operates in Chinese and English. Generally, I recommend solo travelers use these options as a safe, cheap alternative.

There’s no Uber or Grab in China, but there is DiDi, a Chinese ride-hailing app. I’ve never gotten the app to work on my phone—I thought it couldn’t be downloaded on foreign phones, but I’ve found people who did successfully download it. If you want to use DiDi while in China, try downloading it before you arrive.

Traveling Around China

Traveling by train is safe, cheap, and easy in China. Book your trains on Bookaway or before you travel to China. They range from high-speed bullet trains covering 300 kilometers per hour to slow sleeper trains with beds. I’ve taken dozens of sleeper trains across China and have always felt safe, but I suggest solo female travelers book second-class sleepers, which are open cabins. Neither my Chinese family nor I have heard of cabin incidents, but it’s more of a precaution to make solo female travelers comfortable.

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

Some trains depart at night, and the metro systems are generally safe until closure. I haven’t had issues walking to the station in any of the cities I’ve visited, as Chinese cities are usually safe. However, get a taxi if you feel uneasy.

You can also take buses between the cities, which are fine but typically slower and not as comfortable. The roads are more dangerous than the railway, but I haven’t experienced safety issues taking buses throughout China.

Taxis are usually safe, but working out prices with the language barrier can be difficult, so I always opt for the metro.

China Accommodations

Are There China Travel Restrictions? Travel to China From USA

China hostels are great for solo travelers, though the quality and prices depend on where you are. In some cities, the hostels consist of bunk beds in a small apartment—cozy but often lacking in atmosphere. More touristy areas often have hostels with cafes, bars, activities, and luxury pod-style dorms. WiFi in hostels can be intermittent, but I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my trips over the last few years.

Where to Stay When You Travel to China:

Green Hostel & Sunny Guesthouse
Yi’s Hostel
Traveling With Hostel in Xi’an: This has pod-style beds, a large bar, and a restaurant.
Mix Hostel in Chengdu: There’s a great restaurant, bar, and courtyard area, and many travel activities are led in English by the staff.

There are also mid-range and luxury accommodation options that are relatively affordable outside of Beijing and Shanghai. Solo travelers may find them isolating—I recommend staying in a combination of hostels (most have private rooms) and hotels if you’re introverted or want a luxury stay but still want to meet people.

Of course, you could also stay in hotels or Airbnbs and meet people on day tours and Couch Surfing meetups.

Is it Safe to Travel to China?

China is generally a safe country with virtually no violent crime. I suggest those who travel to China from USA check with the locals, but I’ve had no issues walking alone at night in any of the cities I visited. In popular touristy areas, tourism has led to more petty thefts and pickpocketing in crowded places, so keep an eye on your possessions.

Some scams, mainly in Beijing and Shanghai, involve someone taking you to a tea house and presenting a massive bill at the end of the tour. However, most are locals who want to chat with tourists and suggest different tea blends. Your guesthouse or hostel should have advice for spotting a scam artist.

With a population of over 1.4 billion people, the traffic in China can be a little nerve-wracking. You’ll be told constantly that you don’t need your seatbelt, but you definitely do! While I did use buses and taxis in China, I usually chose the metro and train first for safety reasons.

Warsaw Travel Guide Planning

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m traveling?

I strongly recommend using Bookaway. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

The Solo Guide to China

Final Thoughts on Travel to China From USA

My top tip for navigating China travel restrictions and planning travel to China from USA is to learn several key phrases in Mandarin. You can also ask someone at your hostel or hotel to write these phrases down.

If there’s one thing to take away from this China travel guide, you should manage your expectations and be flexible. Things often won’t happen as you expect, but that’s part of the fun! You don’t need to use a China travel agency to have an unforgettable time.

The Solo Guide to China,china travel restrictions,travel to china

Claire Martin is a British travel blogger and freelance writer.

She blogs about eco-travel and overland adventures on her blog Claire’s Footsteps; she has driven around the entirety of Australia, traveled from Bali to London without flying, and has spent a lot of time living in Mexico.