From Suzhou to Nanjing: My journey to the Middle Kingdom & a small China guide for you

I was just sitting at the Frankfurt airport on my way to Bali when I opened the invitation to travel to China a few weeks later in my e-mail inbox. To China? Wow, although I already had a lot of ideas about China, I honestly didn't know exactly what to expect there.

I already have a little teaser from the trip in my blog article Street photography in China shown. But before I go into the details of this extraordinary trip, I would like to share my travel tips for China with you. Therefore, I have prepared a small China Guide for you, with tips on organization and a checklist. Of course, my travel guide cannot be applied to the whole of China. The country is just too big and too complex for that. At least I would like to share a few travel tips with you based on my own experiences.

Press trip to China

Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum
Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum

Planning & Organisation: How do I plan a trip to China?

Of course, I was very curious and accepted the invitation with a pounding heart. And then? Right, then we started planning. The trip was organized by China Tours in cooperation with the tourist offices of Suzhou and Nanjing. So most of the organization was taken care of for me, but it is important to be well informed before traveling to China. Since it was my first trip to China, I am also very happy to have had a competent and reliable contact person in China Tours, both locally and in Germany.



Your compact China Guide: organization, travel tips & checklist for China
Usnisa Temple 

Short & sweet: Your China Travel Guide

Do I need a visa?

Let's get to the most important question if you want to travel to China. Because yes you need a visato be allowed to enter the Middle Kingdom. Make sure that you apply for it in good time, but not too early. Visa is recommended a month before the planned trip to China to be applied for, but not 3 months in advance. Why? Very simple: A Chinese tourist visa is usually valid for 3 months from the date of issue. If you apply for the visa too early, it could be that it is no longer valid by the date of entry. If you have any questions about your visa, it is best to contact the Federal Foreign Office in good time.

Where can I apply for my visa?

You can get your visa for China at China Visa Application Service Center apply for. There is currently no electronic visa (e-Visa), as you may already know from other countries. All forms must be submitted either by mail or in person on paper. However, there are also visa agencies that can handle everything online. I applied for my visa the traditional way and drove to the China Visa Application Center in Frankfurt.

How much does the visa for China cost?

The tourist visa for a 30-day stay (single entry; validity of 3 months) currently costs €125,45 if you apply for it in person. It is slightly more expensive by post, at €161,15. Current information on the costs can be found on the page from China Visa Application Service Center.

Checklist before traveling to China

Before we start, there are a few things to organize. Here I have put together a small checklist for you.

Your compact China Guide: organization, travel tips & checklist for China
Bridge in Suzhou

1. Vaccinations

Pay attention to the necessary vaccinations and whether you should possibly refresh some of them. At the Foreign Office Find out which vaccinations are recommended.

2. Validity of your passport

Let’s come to what is probably the most important point: your valid passport. Attention: Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months on the day of your visa application.

3. Free credit card

The official currency in China is the renminbi, also known as the yuan. You can withdraw money free of charge worldwide, for example, with the Cortal Consors Visa, DKB Visa, DAB MasterCard, comdirekt Visa, wustenrot VISA and the norisbank MasterCard. In large cities such as Shanghai or Beijing, you can almost always pay by credit card. However, I have found that in some other cities, credit card payments are unfortunately not accepted everywhere and WePay is popular.

4. Health insurance when traveling to China

You should make sure you have adequate travel health insurance. If you want to travel to China, you need additional insurance or international health insurance, since the statutory and private health insurance companies in Germany do not cover the costs in the event of treatment.

5. Don't forget mosquito spray!

I really didn't think about that and was then allowed to get annoyed about one or the other stitch. The good news is: I survived my trip without mosquito spray without any damage. Since China is a modern industrial country, I simply suppressed the fact that the annoying mosquitoes are also spreading there. Depending on the region, summers can be quite warm and humid. Our trip took place right in the short rainy season. So there were always mosquitoes. Of course you can get a mosquito spray on site.

6. Internet & VPN in China

Let's get to the particularly exciting part of my journey: Internet access. In principle, the Internet can be reached almost everywhere in China and WLAN is available in almost all public facilities. But you've probably already noticed that access to the free Internet, as we know it in Germany, for example, is being blocked. Even the Google search engine is blocked. In order to be able to use the Internet and popular social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Co. as usual, you need VPN access.

Don't despair: Which VPN worked for me

Before my trip, I therefore downloaded four different VPN providers, of which only one worked perfectly in the end. VPN access is regularly blocked, so it is important to always be up to date on this topic. You should definitely download the VPN apps before you travel to China, as it will be difficult to get a VPN locally. I had good experiences with ExpressVPN did. According to blog reports, for example, NordVPN was still working perfectly in the spring of this year. In June, on the other hand, access in China was no longer possible. To be on the safe side, be sure to download several VPN apps at the same time. Many are chargeable, but usually offer free trial versions, which can be ideal for short stays in China.

Your compact China Guide: organization, travel tips & checklist for China
Suzhou or also called the Venice of China

China individual trip or with a tour operator?

I was traveling in a small tour group with other bloggers and photographers. In addition, we had a German-speaking tour guide in each city. Although I usually prefer to travel individually, on this trip I was very thankful that we had local guides by our side in each city. The tour guides explained a lot to us and also translated. With one or the other dish in the restaurants, this was not only helpful, but also very interesting to learn more about the regional cuisine. There aren't that many western tourists in Suzhou and the region yet, so English is rarely spoken. Unfortunately, for many sights you will not find any information in English. With the tour guides we learned a lot of interesting things that we would not have understood otherwise. Otherwise you can go to Google Translate and use the image translation. Of course, you have to be careful here, too, because the quality of the translation is far from reliable.

China Tours travel modules

We felt we were in safe hands with China Tours. Everything went not only flawlessly, but also professionally. In my opinion, China Tours has contributed enormously to making our trip an unforgettable, beautiful experience. By the way, you can choose from several on China Tours travel modules put together your individual China trip.

Getting around China by train

We flew China Air to Shanghai and from there took a private bus to Suzhou. We took the train on the routes between Suzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai. The train connections between the cities are very comfortable and reliable.

Nanjing
Nanjing

Sense of security - Nice travel destination for solo female travellers

On my trip I experienced China as a very safe and pleasant travel destination. At no time did I feel uncomfortable and would therefore recommend the destinations Nanjing, Shanghai and Suzhou to solo travelers. When I travel, my sense of security as a woman is particularly important to me. Therefore, I would like to emphasize this point in particular, because I have rarely felt as safe in a country as in China (at least in the areas I have visited). I like to remember the evening walks in pleasant summer temperatures. Many shops and restaurants are open until late in the evening and you can end the day relaxed and comfortably. Above all, I was very surprised by the tranquility, after all I walked through cities with several million inhabitants. Nevertheless, it was relatively quiet, which is probably due in particular to the electric scooters. Only the honk reminded me that I was in a big city.

From Suzhou to Nanjing

I hope that my short and sweet China guide was able to give you some answers to your questions. I will explicitly dedicate my next blog articles from the China series to the cities that I have visited. Until then, I wish you lots of joy, impressions and a pleasant journey, no matter where you go?

Note: This research trip was created at the invitation of China Tours and the tourist offices Suzhou and Nanjing. Thanks a lot for this!