How to Choose the Best China Tour or Travel Agency – The Complete Guide

How to book a tour in China

This article is based on our personal experience of taking tours in China from 2008 up until now. We have had the opportunity to explore tours organized by both international agencies and local Chinese companies. Additionally, we have also worked as consultants for the Chinese Government and local travel agencies, providing our insights and expertise.

What are the most popular China tours?

Important information:

  1. The values in USD are approximations. Click here to see the actual exchange rate.
  2. None of the prices that you see on this page includes the international flights.
  3. All the prices listed are indicative. If you would like a you can request a detailed quotation here.

“Classic China” Tours

Classic Tours China

Unless you have specific wishes (such as seeing Everest), if this is the first time you’re visiting China, I suggest you start in Beijing, which I compare to Rome because everywhere you go, you’ll stumble upon something interesting.

Here are the most common tours that start in Beijing:

Only Beijing

Description: You will have the opportunity to visit all the renowned landmarks in the capital city, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Hutong, and Tiananmen Square.
Duration: 4 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 4,000 CNY (560 USD)
Private Tour (6 people): 2,600 CNY (360 USD)

To get more detailed information, you can check our comprehensive guide about the tours in Beijing.


Description: You’ll visit Beijing, then the Terracotta Warriors and the Muslim neighborhood in Xi’an, and finally move on to Shanghai, which may not offer any Warriors or Great Wall sections, but nowadays it’s probably one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world (and, for what it matters, my favorite city to live in).
Duration: 9 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 11,400 CNY (1,600 USD)
Private Tour (6 people): 7,800 CNY (1,100 USD)


Description: Besides Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, you’ll enjoy the Li River’s cruise, which is probably one of the most spectacular cruises in the world.
Duration: 13 days
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 17,300 CNY (2,400 USD)
Private Tour (6 people): 11,300 CNY (1,600 USD)


Description:Starting in Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, you will be able to see the Leshan Giant Buddha, the Chengdu panda reserve and take a cruise down the Yangtze River.
Duration: 13 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people):17,550 CNY (2,500 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 12,000 CNY (1,700 USD).


Description: This is a very popular tour, which includes Pingyao and Datong, two small towns halfway between Beijing and Xi’an that are very historically important and conserve a large portion of their old architecture.
Duration: 15 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 21,000 CNY (2,900 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 13,200 CNY (1,800 USD).

Tibet Tours

Tour Tibet

Tibet tours rank among the most popular tours in China. However, it’s important to note that visiting Tibet differs from other regions. Special permits are required to enter, and foreigners are only permitted to visit the autonomous region if they arrange a tour with a registered tour agency.

To learn more about the specific requirements, you can check our comprehensive guide on Tours in Tibet. It provides detailed information and insights to help you navigate your Tibetan adventure.

Lhasa-Everest Base Camp-Kathmandu

Description: You’ll start your trip in Lhasa (the capital of Tibet), then visit the lakes and temples between Lhasa and Shigatse. You’ll then arrive at Everest base camp and, finally, cross the Nepalese border and end your trip in Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal).
Duration: 7 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 9,500 CNY – 11,900 CNY (1,300 USD – 1,700 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 5,400 CNY – 6,600 CNY (750 USD – 900 USD)
Group Tour: 6,530 CNY – 7,790 CNY (910 USD – 1,100 USD)

Lhasa-Everest Base Camp-Lhasa

Description: This tour is similar to the previous one. The difference is that instead of ending your trip in Nepal, you’ll come back to Lhasa after reaching Everest base camp.
Duration: 8 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 8,200 CNY – 9,700 CNY (1,150 USD – 1,400 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 5,000 CNY – 5,600 CNY (700 USD – 800 USD).
Group Tour: 5,950 CNY – 7,310 CNY (840 USD – 1,000 USD).


Description: This is one of the tours I took. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to reach Everest base camp, so I stopped in Shigatse. Besides visiting Lhasa, you’ll still enjoy plenty of lakes, temples and amazing landscapes.
Duration: 6 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 5,200 CNY – 6,600 CNY (700 USD – 900 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 3,400 CNY – 4,200 CNY (450 USD – 600 USD).
Group Tour: 5,000 CNY – 5,880 CNY (700 USD – 800 USD).

Lhasa – Yamdrok Lake

Description: If you have little time and/or a tight budget, this tour is ideal, as you will be able to see the capital of Tibet and enjoy nature while visiting one of the sacred lakes located at 4,500 meters altitude.
Duration: 5 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 4,100 CNY – 5,000 CNY (550 USD – 700 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 2,700 CNY – 3,400 CNY (390 USD – 480 USD).

Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar

Description: This is the tour of my dreams. You’ll arrive in Lhasa, move to Shigatse and then keep going until you reach the western extremity of Tibet, where the sacred Mount Kailash is located.
Duration: 15 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 17,600 CNY – 20,900 CNY (2,500 USD – 2,900 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 10,000-10,900 CNY (1,400 USD – 1,500 USD).
Group Tour: 12,800-14,200 CNY (1,800 USD – 2,000 USD).

Silk Road Tours

Slik Road Tours - Dunhuang

Silk Road tours primarily focus on the lesser-known northwest region of China, one of the most diverse and beautiful areas of the country.

Dunhuang – Urumqi – Kashgar

Description: This is a basic tour where you’ll be able to visit the main Chinese enclaves on the Silk Road. These consist of Dunhuang, where the Mogao Caves, a world heritage site, are located; Urumqi, the capital of the Muslim province of Xinjiang; and Kashgar, one of the few living remains of the Silk Road.
Duration: 8 days.

Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people):14,900 CNY (2,086 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 8900 CNY (1,200 USD).

Lanzhou – Zhangye – Dunhuang – Turpan – Urumqi – Kashgar

Description: This tour is similar to the previous one, but also includes Lanzhou, the capital of the Gansu province, which is located on the banks of the Yellow River, and which is the place where the different silk roads separated. In addition, it includes Zhangye, whose geological park is without a doubt one of the most spectacular landscapes in China, as well as Turpan, a small town that was one of the main oases on the Silk Road.
Duration: 11 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 21,200 CNY (3,000 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 16,300 CNY (2,300 USD)

Lanzhou – Xiahe – Tongren – Xining – Zhangye – Dunhuang – Turpan – Urumqi

Description: This tour also includes Xining, the capital of the Qinghai province, which was the starting point of the road that crossed the Tibetan plateau and arrived at Lhasa.
Duration: 12 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people):22,700 CNY (3,200 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 16,100 CNY (2,300 USD)

Sichuan Tours

Tour Sichuan

Chengdu-Leshan-Mount Emei-Chengdu

Description: You’ll arrive in Chengdu (Capital of the Sichuan Province), visit the Giant Pandas Center, then go to Leshan to see the biggest Buddha’s statue in the world. Finally, you’ll climb Mount Emei, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains.
Duration: 5 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 4,900 CNY (700 USD).
Private Tour (6 people):2,900 CNY (400 USD).

Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong

Description: You’ll visit the wonderful parks of Jiuzhaigou (which is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site) and Huanglong, in Northern Sichuan. You can either fly or arrive by car from Chengdu.
Duration: 4-5 days
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people): 6,400 CNY – 11,000 CNY (depends on the season and if you move by plane or land, 900 USD – 1,500 USD)
Private Tour (6 people): 3500 CNY – 7900 CNY (depends on the season and if you move by plane or land, 490 USD – 1,100 USD)
Group Tour:

Yangtze River Cruise

Description: The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia. I put 5-12 days because usually nobody travels to China only to cruise the Yangtze. You’ll find all kinds of tours that also include the cruise, such as the Beijing-Xi’an-Yangtze Cruise-Shanghai tour or a similar one.
Duration: 4 days.
Price (per person): 2,700 CNY -3,200 CNY (380 USD – 450 USD)

Khan Tibetan region and the western Sichuan

Description: Get to know Tibetan culture without having to go through all of the paperwork to enter Tibet. The western region of the Sichuan province has a large Tibetan community that still hasn’t been very contaminated by tourism.
Duration: 13 days.
Price (per person):
Private Tour (2 people):21,200 CNY – 24,000 CNY (2,9600 USD – 3,3600 USD).
Private Tour (6 people): 10,400 CNY – 11,900 CNY (1,500 USD – 1,700 USD).

Kungfu Tour: Visit to the Shaolin Temple

Click here to read our complete guide to the “Kungfu Tour”

How to spot an honest travel agency?

Here what I suggest to looking at:

Does the agency provides a “safe” payment method?

Sure, Western Union is awesome because the payment arrives in a few minutes. However, you can’t track the transaction. This is the reason for which many scammers ONLY accept payments through Western Union or an offshore bank account (Hong Kong, Cayman Islands and so on). This is true for any international transaction, and not only for tours. Therefore, ask your agency if you can pay through wire transfer or Paypal.

How does the agency’s website look like?

Generally speaking, scammers have a short-term view. In addition, they need to close their website and start a new one every time somebody takes the time to legally pursue them. A great website doesn’t guarantee that the agency is honest, however, if an agency has invested time and money into building a beautiful and functional website, it’s probably honest and long-term focused.

Is the sales manager pushy?

An agency that has a decent turnover and many customers doesn’t need to be pushy. Watch out for pushy sales managers!

Are the guides honest?

The first time I came to China with a tour, our guide kept bringing us to overpriced shops in the hope that we would buy something (The vendors pay a commission to the guides that bring customers. Now I know that this is a typical “scam” in China).

And most importantly… What does previous customers say?

While you can judge some of the points I listed by yourself (Is the sale manager pushy? Can I pay with wire transfer or Paypal?), the only way to know if the guides are honest is to read the referrals that previous customers have left on the website of the agency you chose. Every reputable agency will have a referrals page with the feedback of previous customers.

Also, check the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the agency. Do they have any followers? Most importantly, do they interact with them? What are other people saying? What are the comments of the previous customers on social networks?

What should I look before to book a China tour?

Besides the overall honesty of the agency, I would consider the following points:

Can the agency help me obtain a Chinese travel visa?

Getting a visa for China is extremely tricky. Any decent travel agency will help you get a travel visa (also called L Visa).

Do I have any flexibility in my itinerary?

A good agency will usually offer some flexibility in itineraries or will at least have a large number of tours to choose from. If the agency only offers two to three itineraries, it’s probably new and has limited resources and experience.

Will the agency send someone to pick me up at the airport?

The main reason for booking your trip with a travel agency is to minimize hassle. The first hour in a new country is always the worst because you’ll feel lost – especially if you’ve never been to Asia – and airports are full of scammers (especially at the moment of getting in a taxi). A good agency will send someone to pick you up at the airport.

Will the agency organize my internal trips?

China is huge. If you’re planning to visit more than one city, make sure that the travel agency of your choice will handle domestic flights/train rides for you.

What does the tour’s price include?

In my experience, the basic requirements are a guide, domestic plane/train/bus tickets, hotels fees and attraction tickets (example: will you have to pay the entrance ticket for the Forbidden City or is it included in the tour price?). Food, international plane tickets and visa fees are usually only included in the price when clearly specified.

What will be the overall quality of the hotels?

This is tricky because it depends on how much you’re willing to spend: if your total budget for a tour is 600 USD, you can forget about four stars hotels. However, even among two to three stars hotels, there may be large differences. I’ve slept in quite decent and clean two star hotels in China. Nonetheless, I’ve also slept in completely shitty two star hotels.

Again… What does previous customers say?

Where should I buy my tour?

I suggest that you buy your tour from an agency based in China. There are two main reasons:

First of all, an agency that is based in China will, most likely, specialize in China tours. I strongly suggest avoiding huge tour operators that offer tours in any part of the world, as they won’t be “China experts.” It’s a bit like the difference between a local restaurant and a global fast food chain: from which one do you expect the best quality? The same goes for tours.

Moreover, a travel agency that has offices in every city will have to deal with huge overhead costs (the rent of the offices, the travel agents’ salary and so on). An agency that only has offices in China will have less expenses and will probably be in a position to offer you a better deal.

If you live in China, this is different, as you may find the office of a local agency in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In this case, there is little difference between buying the tour online or in a physical agency.

When shall I book a tour and when shall I travel by myself?

I suggest you to book a tour if…

You want to visit Tibet

Nowadays the ONLY way to visit Tibet is through a licensed travel agency that will provide you with a TTB Permit (Tibet Tourism Bureau Permit, necessary everywhere in Tibet) and a PSB Permit (also called Alien Travel Permit, necessary to visit “special” areas such as Everest base camp).

Note that the cost of your Tibet tour should include the mentioned travel documents as part of the fee. Finally, if the agency has an office in Lhasa, you’ll be less likely to have problems with your TTB or PSB Permit.

You have more money than time

Organizing a trip to China takes time. You have to get a visa, choose a rough itinerary, book the hotels, book the domestic flights and so on. Also, if you only have 7-10 days to spend in China and want to visit several cities or provinces, getting on a tour will allow you to see many more destinations as you won’t get lost and you won’t have to figure out where the train station or the hotel is and so on.

Clearly, if you have time and you love to get lost (I do), then a tour isn’t the best option for you.

You have never traveled outside your country

Once you can drive a Volkswagen Golf you can easily learn how to drive a truck. The same applies for traveling: if you’ve already traveled around the world, a trip to China shouldn’t scare you.

Sure, the culture is different. And yes, outside Shanghai very few people will speak English. However, the internet offers a ton of information (you can start by digging into the articles of this website). Besides Tibet where you can only travel with a tour, if you already have some experience, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to travel around China alone (as long as you are patient and open to the unknown).

However, if you have no travel experience or you don’t think you can adapt to something completely different from your country, booking a tour may be your best bet.

Should I book a private or a group tour?

A group tour is often cheaper while a private tour gives you much more flexibility. It’s up to you. Keep in mind that if you are at least three to four people, it’s possible that the price for a group or a private tour will be the same. Ask the agency!

How to prepare my trip and what to bring to China?

Get a Visa

We published one of the most comprehensive articles that you can find on the web on getting a Chinese Visa. Click here to learn the details. Keep in mind that a good agency will help you get the Visa by providing you with an invitation letter.

Get travel insurances and the right vaccines

Again, we published a whole article on the topic. Here you’ll find all the info you need to know about travel insurance and why you need it.

There are no compulsory vaccines for visiting China. However, I recommend that you check with your doctor to see if you’re vaccinated for diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), polio, typhoid, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. If you aren’t vaccinated or your vaccines are out of date, I suggest that you update your vaccines.

Book your international flight

Click here to read our complete guide on China flights.

What shoul I bring to China?

This is a question that I receive often. My answer is that you don’t need to bring anything special besidse some medicines (I recommend aspirin, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrhea drugs), warm clothes if you’re a coming in winter and a couple of books if you like to read.

Other frequently asked questions

What are the recommended tours for China?

China is an enormous country, and because of this, there are a variety of tours adapted to the needs of every type of traveler. Even so, if it’s your first time in China, I recommend that you choose one of the “classic” tours suggested in this article. If you want more suggestions, you can check out our article on itineraries in China

What’s the best tour agency for China?

There are a large number of tour agencies operating in China and many of them offer quality tours. Nonetheless, there are also a lot of agencies of doubtful quality and some that are even scam artists. Before choosing a tour agency, I recommend that you read the section of this article on the things to keep in mind. Also, you can contact us and we will suggest a local agency offering quality tours to you.

Do I need a tour to travel in China?

Except for a few regions of China such as Tibet, it’s not necessary to hire a tour. However, as we mention in this article, in some cases it’s recommendable to take a tour to make your trip easier.

Is it necessary to give tips while on a tour in China?

In China, tips are rarely given, whether in restaurants, hotels or other services. Even so, many services oriented at foreigners have become accustomed to receiving tips, so drivers and tour guides are likely expecting a tip for their work.

What’s the best time of year to take a tour in China

Due to the size of the country, China’s climate varies greatly, and different parts of the country can be visited during different times of the year while enjoying a pleasant climate. Still, the best time to visit China is the month of September and October, when it isn’t too hot and there isn’t excessive rain. However, you should avoid the first week of October, during which a national holiday takes place, which means that tourist areas are saturated with domestic tourism.

Can I drink the tap water?

In the majority of the country, in theory the tap water is drinkable and not too many precautions have to be taken when brushing your teeth or even rinsing food. However, Chinese people never drink tap water unless it has been boiled beforehand, which means that it’s recommended that you only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled. Restaurants tend to offer hot water or tea, which means you don’t have to worry about this aspect.

Can I pay with dollars or euros in China?

The official currency of China is the Chinese Yuan and the majority places don’t accept other currencies. There are places where they are accustomed to dealing with tourists, such as counterfeit markets, where they will also accept other currencies, but it’s obvious that the price will be a lot higher than if you pay in the local currency.

Is China safe to travel alone?
The country is very safe and the main problems that you can encounter (the language barrier and scams) can happen if you’re alone or with others. The risk of being attacked is very low, although you can always be a victim of pickpockets, because of which it’s a good idea to be careful in very busy areas.
How can I survive in China without speaking Chinese?
Booking a guided tour will spare you a portion of the problem, but it’s a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in Chinese which will help you get out of difficult situations. Remember to keep your hotel’s address and other important information written Chinese on a piece of paper or on your cell phone to be able to get out of a tight spot in case you get lost.
Will my cell phone work in China?
China has GSM and CDMA networks, and because of that, you will be able to use your cell phone in China if it’s tri-band and you activate international roaming. Make sure to carefully check the rates before traveling, because in many cases it’s a better idea to purchase a Chinese SIM card.
What is the best time of year to visit the Great Wall of China?
The Great Wall offers spectacular visits all year, but it’s preferable to consider the time and level of the visits. Because the majority of people visit the Great Wall near Beijing, the best time to go is in the fall, from September to November, when there is less rain, the temperatures are more pleasant and the skies tend to be clear.
How do you plan a tour?
Start by finding out the documentation necessary for your trip, establish a budget and create a draft version of your itinerary to not forget any place that you’re interested in. Once that’s done, look for an agency that offers the possibility of going on the tour that you’re looking for. Once you have booked the flight and accommodations, think about purchasing travel insurance.

Are you looking for a travel agency?

If you’ve already decided to book a China tour but you aren’t sure what travel agency to choose, we can suggest a reliable agency to you. Just contact us using the form below:

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    Cover Photo Credits: Photo by gianliguori on Depositphotos©

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