Since China is such a large country, China tours focus on a fixed set of cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, as well as world-famous attractions, such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army.

Day-trips and five-day trips are popular since they are relatively inexpensive and can cover a lot of ground in terms of culture, scenery and history. Budget-conscious travelers can save money by touring China in the winter months and booking all-inclusive tours, which can include all of your daily meals.

Top 10 Most Reviewed China Tours Companies

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What features matter most?

Time

How much time you choose to spend at each location depends on your preference, but remember that it is easier to soak in the culture of a place when you spend more than a few hours there. Longer tours can immerse you in different aspects of Chinese culture and help you understand more about your host country.

  • One-day tour: A one-day tour is just enough time to see an attraction or city, have a few meals and do some shopping.
  • Three-day tour: The three-day tour is popular because it is the most affordable way to visit China for more than 24 hours, and immerse yourself in a foreign culture.
  • Five-day tour: The five-day tour allows for more locations and meals and a deeper connection with the location.
  • 10+ day tour: For an intensive experience among China's people, historical attractions and modern ways of life, the extended tour is the best way to go.

Locations

It can be difficult to decide which cities to visit in a country you haven't been to before, which is why signing up for a tour makes planning much easier. Top cities are always featured in tour packages.

  • Beijing: This is China's capital city, located on the eastern coast next to the Yellow Sea. Here you will find the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.
  • Shanghai: South of Beijing is Shanghai, a modern and trendy city full of amazing places to eat, sleep and explore. Check out the Yu Garden, and venture outside of the downtown area to find small, traditional houses.
  • Tibet: A long-disputed region, Tibet is considered both independent by some and part of China by others. Believed to be a spiritual part of the world, Tibet is home to monastery monks and mountain communities. You'll need a special permit to visit, which you have to apply for after receiving your Chinese visa, and before you leave your home country.

Tour Guide

One of the most important features of your tour will be the tour guides. Depending on the type of trip you have booked, you will either have one for the entire vacation, or one at each attraction or location. You'll also be able to choose a guide that speaks your own language.

  • Personal: The personal tour guide will accompany you during the entire tour, getting to know you and your group as you travel.
  • Attraction by attraction: In most cases, you will meet a new guide for each city and each attraction. For example, you may have one guide at the Great Wall and another to show you Shanghai.
  • Audio: In some places you will be provided with an audio cassette or wireless headphones. This will be programmed to explain each facet of an attraction in your first language.

Travel documents

No matter where in China you go, or what you do once you are there, you'll need certain travel documents to show that you are visiting legally. Many tour providers will arrange these documents for you ahead of time.

  • Chinese tourist visa: You may be issued leave to remain in China for three months or six months, either with Visa L or Visa G.
  • Chinese business visa: Business travelers need to apply as business tourists with the Business F or M Visa and must have a letter of invitation from a Chinese company.
  • Tibet entry permit: Visitors can apply for a Tibet entry permit after they have already secured their Chinese entry visa. If you want to travel outside of Lhasa, you will also require an Aliens' Travel Permit.

Season

The difference between seasons can change your itinerary because of the temperature, weather and varied cultural festivals.

  • Spring/Fall: China's moderate seasons offer mild weather to enjoy a variety of locations and activities, such as the Sisters' Meal Festival in April and the Jiuzhaigou Valley during September when the leaves are changing color.
  • Summer: The summer months are hot and rainy. Consider traveling along the Silk Road and visiting the mountains.
  • Winter: If you are traveling in the colder months, you can take advantage of lower prices and thinner crowds. Check out Harbin's Ice Festival or the rime scenery of Jilin.

Inclusive Extras

Every tour provider has its own style of doing things and its own bevy of extras to make your trip more comfortable.

  • Meals: It is common to have breakfast, lunch or both included by your tour provider, though dinners generally must be booked and paid for by the traveler.
  • Entry passes: Passes to paid attractions may or may not be included in the price of your tour, so make sure to double-check as this will change your budget.
  • Accommodation: A place to stay is not always included in a travel tour. If it is, some of the stress is taken off you when planning the trip; if it isn't, you have more choice about what kind of accommodations you book.

What are different types of tours?

Pre-planned

Pre-planned tours are put together by the tour provider to include a popular mix of locations and attractions.

Flexible

A flexible tour is generally based on a pre-planned trip, but it can be tweaked at short notice to include or exclude certain features, such as a day-trip.

Custom

A custom tour is comprised of your choice of locations, attractions and day trips that you can choose to put together on your own custom tour with many different providers.

Group

Group sizes normally range from three to 10 people, and they can be arranged for single groups or mixed groups made up of people who have signed up for a tour at the same time.

Private

A private tour can be arranged for singles or groups with certain tour providers. These usually feature a personal tour guide who will travel with you.

Who's it for?

Singles

People who are traveling alone.

Couples

Married or unmarried couples who want to explore a new destination.

Families

Groups of relatives with a wide age range that includes young children and seniors.

Friends

Small or large groups of friends can make wonderful travel companions.

Business travelers

People who need to travel to meet colleagues, partners or prospective clients and investors away from home.

Company reviews

  • China Odyssey Tours

    Under the parent company Tang Dynasty Tours Co. Ltd., China Odyssey Tours has 20 years of experience organizing private and custom-designed tours. The company has been operating online for 10 years and is based in Guilin, China.

    • Best for China Odyssey Tours is best for families, friends and business travelers because of its specialized private tours and business packages.

  • Tauck China Tours

    In the early 20th century, Arthur Tauck, Sr. founded Tauck tours with his all-inclusive motorcar tours of New England. Today the company hosts tour packages around the world.

    • Best for Tauck China Tours are best for singles and couples without children, since they focus on an active itinerary and joining other groups.

  • Laurus Travel

    Founded in 1998, Laurus Travel operates out of Vancouver and Beijing. The company focuses on travel in Asia.

    • Best for Laurus Travel is best for families and couples because of a 20-person tour group size limit.

  • Pacific Delight Tours

    Pacific Delight Tours has been providing tours of China and other Asian destinations for more than 47 years. The company focuses on providing high quality tours for an affordable price.

    • Best for Pacific Delights Tours are best for families and friends in groups made up of 10 or more people.

  • Gate 1 Travel China Vacation Packages

    For more than 30 years, Gate 1 Travel has provided guided tours, river cruises and package vacations. They offer tours across the world for an affordable price.

    • Best for Gate 1 Travel's China Vacation Packages are best for singles, couples, families and friends traveling as a group.

  • Intrepid Travel China Tours

    Intrepid Travel takes the focus off of popular attractions and guidebooks and helps travelers connect with a more local scene.

    • Best for Intrepid Travel is best for small groups, and could work best for families, friends and couples who want to connect with other couples.

  • China Discovery Tours

    Established in 1986, Travel Design U.S.A, China Discovery Tours is a family-operated company.

    • Best for China Discovery Tours are best for business travelers, singles and couples who want to soak up as much culture and adventure as they can.

  • ChinaTours.com

    China Tours is owned by Xi'an ANZ International Travel Service Co., Ltd, based in Xi'an, China. The company focuses on providing China touring holidays to English speakers.

    • Best for China Tours are best for families and groups of friends that can save on discounted deals.

  • China Spree

    China Spree is a travel company solely focused on providing China tours to the U.S. market for a reasonable price. They are a self-described low-profit company.

    • Best for China Spree is best for singles, couples, families and friends.

  • Wendy Wu Tours

    Wendy Wu Tours has been in business since 1994, and has won dozens of international travel awards. The company is staffed by experts who have traveled to the locations they offer clients.

    • Best for Wendy Wu Tours is best for travelers and families who can take advantage of the private tours.

  • Affordable Asia

    Affordable Asia is an online travel booking and package service that focuses on providing fully comprehensive tours throughout Asia.

    • Best for Affordable Asia is great for singles and couples who want many options and the ability to cut costs.

  • Charming Asia Tours

    Charming Asia Tours provides a variety of getaways throughout Asia. They have been in the business for 30 years.

    • Best for Charming Asia Tours is best for singles and couples.

11 – 13 Most Reviewed China Tours Companies