China is best known for its ancient history, incredible landmarks, and varied cuisine. Since the country is comparable in size to the United States, it has many different landscapes, weather patterns, climates, and cultures.
Some Chinese from varying areas of the country sometimes find it difficult to understand one another!
Before you head off to the Middle Kingdom (which is China’s name itself), you should do some research on the best times to visit. This also changes depending on your preferences and where you go in this country.
There are times of the year when plane tickets are cheaper and others when the prices shoot through the roof. Let us help you figure out when to visit this majestic and ancient place!
Why You Should Visit China
Even though the Great Wall is synonymous with China, that doesn’t make it a cliché destination or any less breathtaking. Located in Beijing, the Great Wall of China is not only one of the wonders of the modern world — its age and size are simply surreal.
Also in Beijing are the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City, monuments to another world that are beautifully colorful. However, Beijing is not the only place in China to visit, not by any means.
Yunnan in south China has the largest concentration of various ethnic groups in China that are not Han, and one tribe even has a matriarchal inheritance system. Yunnan is also where the tea in China comes from, and you can visit the incredible sweeping tea fields.
In the center is Sichuan province and the mini-province of Chongqing, known all over China for its spicy food, especially Sichuan hot pot.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is also home to the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The center also hosts adorable red pandas. It’s difficult for those of certain nationalities to make it into Xinjiang, the Uighur Autonomous Region in the northwest.
If you can enter, you can ride camels in the Gobi Desert, eat enormous bowls of donkey noodles, and ride down dunes on a flat cafeteria tray.
Gaining entry to Xinjiang is difficult and not advised due to political unrest in this area. We also cannot forget Kunming. The karst stone cliffs jutting out of the water are so majestic and stunning that they are on some Chinese banknotes.
You can marvel at the natural beauty of Kunming (in Yunnan province) from a boat, on a hiking trail, or simply sipping tea on a veranda.
Overall Best Time to Visit China
The overall best time to visit China is either in the spring (March to May) or autumn (September to early November). This is because, despite its size, these are universally the months with the mildest weather.
You are unlikely to freeze or sweat terribly during these months, no matter which region you visit. If you head to the Great Wall in autumn, there is almost nothing like it.
The Great Wall is surrounded by trees and greenery, and in autumn the leaves light up the whole mountainside with their fiery colors. Although autumn is a great time to visit China, you should also be aware that National Day is on October 7, and it is usually quite a big deal.
Schools shut down for the whole week, and the Chinese take this time to be tourists themselves. Plan your trip around that particular week in autumn if you would prefer less tourist traffic at the sights you’re planning on seeing.
Cheapest Time to Visit China
The cheapest flights and hotel prices in China are usually right after Lunar New Year, so the last week of February is when prices drop. The cheapest time to visit China is from the last week of February to the third week of April.
This time is when there aren’t any major holidays and folks aren’t rushing to get plane tickets to and from China or within the country to visit their relatives.
You can get cheap flights by using an incognito tab on your device so that no cookies track your activity and hike the flight prices up. You can also get better deals if you fly out of major airports rather than using a regional airport to connect to the larger airport.
Renting a car and driving to a major airport is almost always cheaper than flying out of a small regional airport. Trip.com and Rome2Rio are great sites to start checking out flights to China.
Least Busy Time to Visit China
The low season in China is made up of those bitterly cold months, from November to the first or second week of February. Then the Lunar New Year hits and things are extremely busy again.
But during the low season, if you don’t mind the cold, you can take advantage of walking through the Forbidden City like you’re the only person in the world, or admire the mountains of the north like you’ve been there your whole life.
Despite the bitter cold winters of Beijing and the provinces of Shandong, Jilin, Inner Mongolia, and especially Heilongjiang to the far north, not all of China is freezing during the low season.
You can visit Gansu, Yunnan, Sichuan, Chongqing, Hunan, Guangdong, and Hainan provinces. These places may be a bit chilly, but wintertime here is nowhere near as unforgiving as in cities like Xian and Beijing.
Shanghai is a subtropical city, and you can take advantage of a break from the heat during the low season. You will likely still need winter gear in the south, but layers are key.
As long as you wear layers during the South China winter, you will be able to remove some when you use public transport and put them back on should you experience a sudden icy rain.
This is the best time in Chongqing and Sichuan provinces to sit down with a refreshing beer around a hot pot table and let the spices and boiling chili oil warm your body and your soul.
Keep in mind that even though November through February is considered China’s low season, Lunar New Year still falls sometime between late January and mid-February each year, and this is the busiest time in China both for domestic and international tourism.
If you plan on visiting China during its least busy times, make sure to find out when Lunar New Year hits so you can avoid trying to travel during those specific weeks. The crowds are unbelievable.
Worst Time to Visit China
When is the worst time of year to visit China? In general, it would be during Lunar New Year because the prices for transportation and hotels skyrocket.
Tourist sites are crowded, and many businesses and restaurants have odd hours or are inconveniently closed. The first week of May, we advise that you steer clear of traveling to China because Labor Day is another week-long ordeal like National Day in October.
May 1 is the official holiday, but children are given a week off and families use this time to visit relatives in other cities or provinces. May is also when southern China begins to heat up and its major cities earn their nicknames of the Furnaces of China.
In the west, the weather is not quite as hot as it will get in peak summer months, so you can still enjoy your time there in May. June and July are wet in the south and boiling in the north.
The summer months in China are nothing most travelers aren’t used to if they come from home countries with temperate climates, but keep in mind that China is home to both the Gobi Desert and a huge subtropical belt in the north and south respectively.
August is China’s hottest month. This does mean that there may be less tourism and busyness.
But you will have to fight against the climate and find ways to keep yourself comfortable, especially if you wish to do outdoor activities like hikes, sightseeing, or just exploring whichever city you’re in.
Things to Consider When Visiting China
While China is an amazing country, there are a few unique things to keep in mind before visiting (pay VERY close attention to these!):
- China is generally safe for its citizens and tourists, as long as you obey the rules.
- Getting a visa for China is a long process and requires you to send your passport to the Chinese embassy nearest to you. It takes several weeks to get approved and to get your passport returned to you.
- Always be careful anywhere you go, but generally speaking, China is safe for you to walk around in, even at three in the morning.
- China has a general lack of violent crime because the death penalty for such crimes is doled out heavily.
- Many people in China do speak English as a second language. Even so, you should never assume someone speaks the same language you do. It’s a good idea to learn some basic greetings and phrases in Chinese so you’re able to initiate conversations in the local language.
- It’s always great to have an umbrella with you because the weather can be unpredictable. And if it doesn’t rain, you can use an umbrella for shade.
- One US dollar is equivalent to seven Chinese yuan, or renminbi.
- In southern China, beware of the huajiao. These are little black Sichuan peppercorns also known as numbing pepper. If you bite one, your mouth will go numb.
- Many cities in China have stations where you can rent bicycles or e-bikes for cheap.
- You can find many very authentic-looking knock-off luxury items in markets in large cities. These make great souvenirs and gifts for when you return home.
- Loud phone conversations are common, even on public transport.
- The cuisine in China varies immensely. In the north, people usually eat noodles rather than rice, and Xi’an is famed for its delicious sandwiches. In the south, folks consume a lot of seafood, rice, and spicy food.
- In older buildings, you may not have the option of heat AND air conditioning. Apartments and hotels that were built decades ago in northern China only have heating, despite the sweltering summers. In southern China, older homes and buildings only have air conditioning units with no heaters. Fortunately, this is changing rapidly to allow for more comfort during the whole year.
- It is polite to refuse a gift twice but to accept it on the third presentation.
- It is also polite to bring a gift to a Chinese home if you are invited.
- If you need to go to the bank to exchange money, always make sure you have your passport with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about the best time to visit China:
What month is best to go to China?
The spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October) months are the best to visit China weather-wise. Be sure to avoid traveling during the first week of May and the first week of October, as these are major holidays (Labor Day and National Day).
How long should I spend visiting China?
Many tour companies offer two-week tours. This gives you enough time to visit different regions and landmarks without being rushed. Take a leisurely pace so you can enjoy your visit without hurrying around. Doing so will let you see some more uncommon sights, like Hainan Island or the tea fields of Yunnan.
It’s my first time visiting China. Where should I go?
The usual must-sees begin in Beijing. You can explore the Great Wall ( one section even has a slide you can ride a pallet down!). You can also see the glorious Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City, where emperors used to reside. Next, you should go over to Xi’an to see the famed Terracotta Warriors.
They are still excavating as there are many more statues still underground. Finally, for a modern Asian experience, you can check out the coastal city of Shanghai. You can enjoy seafood and the bustle of a major Asian metropolis.
Is China friendly to tourists?
As we mentioned, you will almost certainly be stared at openly, but as for safety, China is one of the safest countries to visit. Just keep your paperwork with you, make copies of everything, and obey the laws, and you will have a trip without any wrinkles.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit China?
Overall, the best time to visit the People’s Republic of China would be March through May, excluding Labor Day week, and September through October, excluding National Day week.
This allows you to enjoy comfortable weather, local culture, and exciting destinations in China. Of course, it is all up to you — perhaps you would prefer to ice skate in Beijing or go to Harbin’s famed Ice Festival sometime in December through February.