How much money should we bring?

Your site is wonderful and gets better the more I read. :) We have about 10-12 days for our China trip at the end of June/beginning of July. We are a family of 4 and we want to see and do as much as we can but we are also probably average spenders nothing too extravagant as far as eating, etc.

Can you give me some idea of about how much money is needed for an average trip of two weeks? I know it all depends on personal spending, but for hotel we will use a credit card I am sure, but for all else I would imagine we would pay in local currency.

I guess I just want to have an idea of costs of entering the zoo, a boat ride, or a museum. Are things comparable to the United States as far as cost? Thanks again so much for your wealth of information and your wisdom.

J.K. from California

How much money to bring? China is considerably cheaper than the U.S., Shanghai is probably the most expensive city. Boat rides, entrance fees, etc, are reasonable, allow on average $5 each per activity, some will be less, some a bit more. For example, entrance to the Beijing Zoo was about US$2, to the Forbidden City US$8, the Terracotta Warriors were a bit more US$12, the boat ride to the Summer Palace less than a dollar, renting bikes at the Xian Wall about $2 each.

For food, with $3 - $4 per person you will eat really well, with $5 per meal you will eat like kings, except in Shanghai, there is everything here, like in California, there is a great variety of food... and prices.

Regarding transportation, taxis are inexpensive, metro and buses even more. A single ride in the Shanghai Metro for example is only a few cents (Rmb3-8) Here's more on transportation in the cities.

So I still haven't answered your question of how much money to bring. The easiest answer is, there are ATM's everywhere, specially at airports and train stations, so there is no need to bring too much cash. You can always make a stop at the ATM if you are running low.

When exchanging money, the rates at the hotels, banks, etc are all the same, but you get a slightly better exchange rate with traveler cheques rather than cash.

China Cruise Land Excursions

We are going on a cruise and will call on Xiamen - 10.00-18.00 and 2 full days in Shanghai. Would we be able to see the Great Wall and Terracota Army. Can you recommend best places to see within this limited time?

Sindy from the U.K.

Unfortunately your cruise itinerary is very tight. Xiamen is in the southern part of China, the Great Wall is in Beijing, in the north. The Terracotta Army is inland in Xian. You would have to fly to both places, so I don't recommend seeing either of them on this trip. You can easily spend two days in Shanghai, there is a lot to see and do here, there are some recommendations in our Shanghai page:

Things to do in Shanghai

In addition, you might want to visit the Shanghai Museum, we didn't since we were with the kids, not their thing, but it is one of the best ones in China.

I haven't been to Xiamen and can't give you any recommendations, but check out the forums for things to do for a day:

Activities in Xiamen Fujian

On the other hand, if you would like to give it a try, it is technically possible to do either the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors in one day from Shanghai, but it would mean sacrificing one of your Shanghai days.

There are flights early in the morning and returning late in the evening, check or for flights.

Once you land, I would recommend hiring a guide ahead of time so you can make the most of your short trip and visit a few other places. The Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Tiananmen, Hutongs etc. are all close to each other, and you could choose one of the wall sections nearest Beijing, either Badaling or Juyongguan.

You can check the forums in there are a few guides recommended by travelers and they have their own cars, will pick you up at the airport and drop you off at the end of the day. Other way to find excellent guides is through concierge services at hotels.

It can be done but know it won't be a relaxing day, so try to get your rest on the other days of the cruise!

If I had to choose between the Wall or the Warriors, I would go with the Wall. Sometimes the Warriors go on tour and you might be able to catch them by your place, they were in London a couple of years ago.

Flights to China

We are a military family with two kids the same age as yours. We have traveled Europe extensively all on our own and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were initially going to take a tour for our upcoming trip in June/July but after reading through your site we are doing it on our own.

Your trip and advice is priceless and I just wanted to thank you for such a wealth of information.

Do you personally recommend flying into Shanghai or Beijing or no preference? We are flying from Los Angeles. Also, we have about 10 days or so. Do you recommend just Beijing or do you think it is worth trying to get a few more cities other than Beijing? How easy is travel within China?

Jill from L.A.

With 10-12 days I would definitely try to see a few cities.

Flying to Beijing and flying back to the U.S. from Shanghai (or viceversa) to avoid going back to the same place to catch the flight home. There should not be any big difference in the airfare.

With 12 days you could try: Beijing 4, Xian 2, Guilin/Yanghsuo 2-3, Shanghai 3. It is very easy to travel within China, you can check flights in advance at either or

Even though it is cheaper to book your flights while in China, I would recommend having them ready before you arrive because with only 12 days, you don't have much room to play with. You could also try the overnight train from Beijing/Xian, saves on one night hotel and the kids love the adventure.

About Vegetarian Food in China

Hi! Miriam. Your website is very helpful. I'm planning a trip to Beijing and Shanghai for my family next month. I would appreciate if you could give more information on family friendly restaurants, where to get Muslim or Vegetarian food in both cities. Thanks so much.

Sri from Malaysia

Vegetarian restaurants in both Beijing and Shanghai are becoming more popular. Shanghai being more of an "international city" will have the most options. It is hard to recommend specific restaurants because it will depend on the areas where you will be, both cities are spread out, you might find yourself traveling for an hour before you can reach a specific restaurant.

What I can recommend is taking a look at the "Happy Cow" website, which lists several options, you can look them up on the interactive map, and they also have reviews where other people comment on the restaurant. Here are the links:

As far as "family firendly" all restaurants in China are family friendly and love kids, this is not a problem.

To be honest, we never really purposely looked for a vegetarian restaurant, we just found ourselves eating in the area we happened to be, instead of looking for specific restaurants. If the restaurant passed the "people test" (full of patrons which would assure freshest food) then that’s where we headed to.

Chinese food is generally very "veggie-friendly", but that being said, "vegetarianism" per se is not that common. You will find that many Chinese that call themselves "vegetarians" also eat fish and dairy products. Also, the vegetables might be cooked in lard. So when eating at a "regular" restaurant you are better off having your veggies steamed or boiled.

Have a wonderful trip, let us know how your trip went and specially how you got along with the food!

Transportation in the Cities

I have read people are spending $600 on cab rides to go visit the wall. Are they serious or are they just not bargaining or is that really the rate? We would like to be able to fly into Beijing then take trips to all the places you recommended and is it realistic to be able to take buses, metro, cabs, etc

Jill from L.A.

US$600 for a cab to the wall? Maybe they meant Rmb 600? That is about US$80.

There are different places to go see the wall, one of the further sections, the one at Simatai/Jinshanling is about a 3-4 hour ride, a taxi there would cost approx US$80-100 for the four of you.

I'm not sure how much prices have changed after the Beijing Olympics, but can't imagine going up that much!

Regarding transportation in the city, Metro and buses can get VERY crowded, I would recommend sticking with taxis, they are inexpensive. The ride from Beijing airport to the hotel for example (about 30-40 min.) was about US$12. Since you have 4 in your group, easier than trying to figure out public transport.

Remember to have all your addresses written in Chinese. You don't bargain with the city taxis, they use the meter.

You only bargain for places like the Great Wall, where they will bring you and WAIT for you to bring you back.