The right travel tool can make the journey so much easier.
As I’ve traveled around China and the rest of Asia, I’ve come to appreciate certain travel tools and resources that make things so much easier.
Some of these tools are free; some are paid. All of them have been used by me at some point or another. In some cases, I have an affiliate partnership with some of these companies so that I get a small commission if you decide to use their service. Your support helps keep this website running!
China Travel Resources
The following are the companies and tools I recommend for your most basic China travel needs.
Passport Visa Express
If you need a new passport or you’re applying for a China visa, using a reliable visa service like Passport Visa Express is a must. I’ve used them for multiple visas as well as a rush job and each time they delivered above and beyond my expectations. Note: this is a service that will only be useful to those of you in the United States.
World Nomads Travel Insurance
As I’ve said on this website before: if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel to China. It’s true, and I have a ton of first-hand stories that I could tell you to prove it. There are a number of companies out there, but in my experience World Nomads has been one of the best.
ExpressVPN – Unblock China’s Internet
If you have any desire to stay connected to your family and friends back at home while you’re out traveling, a VPN is an absolute must. Not every VPN works well in China, though, which is why I recommend you spend your money on ExpressVPN. I’ve been using it for almost 7 years now and they’ve never let me down!
SkyRoam – WiFi Anywhere You Go
China has plenty of free WiFi…as long as you have a Chinese phone number to verify your identity. Without that, you’re stuck with crappy hotel WiFi. If staying connected is important to you while you’re traveling, SkyRoam is one of my favorite options for mobile, international WiFi coverage. Pay only for what you use!
Recommended China Transportation & Hotel Booking Services
As you prepare to travel to China, you’re going to be looking to buy flights, train tickets, hotels, etc. As with many things in China, you tend to get better deals using Chinese-based (or at least Asia-based) companies.
Here are the transportation and hotel services that I use and recommend for those traveling to China.
Flights – Trip.com (aka “Ctrip”)
It used to be called “Ctrip” before they spun off the English version of the website. You can still get better deals on the Chinese version, but in my experience even the Trip.com prices beat anything you’ll find on international options like Expedia, Kayak and others.
Flights – Save $$ Using Airmule
If you’re looking for creative ways to save money on international flights, I’m a huge fan of Airmule. If you thought the concept of being an “air courier” was dead, you were wrong. It’s not for everybody, but if you’re interested to see how you could save $300+ per person on your flights to China and still have questions, check out this review of Airmule and list your trip using the button here.
Book China Train Tickets
It’s entirely possible to buy China train tickets at the train station and in some cases you can even buy directly online (you need to read Chinese and have a China bank account). For those who prefer to book in advance (which I recommend), you can use a service like China Highlights. They’ll have the tickets delivered right to your hotel room!
Hotels in China – Agoda
There are plenty of places to book hotels around the world – and feel free to check those as you do your trip planning. I will say, however, that for travel around Asia, the best place to go is Agoda. They have the best selection with the most pictures (pricing is usually about the same). Use Agoda as one of the places you check for good hotels in China.
Hostels in China – Hostelworld
Hosteling has started to become popular among Chinese travelers, which means that there are a lot of hostels in China now. Unfortunately, many of them either don’t allow foreigners or they aren’t nearly up to our standards. Booking a HostelWorld member hostel ensures that you’re getting a good hostel that will meet your expectations and will be allowed to house you as a foreign passport holder.
Resources for Chinese Language Learners
If you’re one of those people who is brave enough to tackle the difficult Chinese language, kudos to you! During my time trying to master the Mandarin language, I’ve bought books, listened to podcast, taken classes, gotten tutors…pretty much everything you can think of.
Some of it has been helpful. Other things haven’t. Based on my 8 years of studying Mandarin Chinese, here are the tools I use every week to further my Chinese studies.
ChinesePod – Comprehensive Language Course
I started listening to the ChinesePod language podcast at least 7 years ago and it’s always been one of my favorite things to do whether I’m biking or walking. Since that time, they’ve added an entire language course with classes, tutors, homework (if you want) and more. It’s a great deal and you can try it out for free using this link.
Chinese Language Tutor (free lesson!)
The reality about language learning is that the fastest way to learn is by interaction with a native Chinese speaker. Unless you live in China, that’s going to be hard. Thankfully, getting an online tutor of Skype is getting easier and easier with the internet. It’s definitely worth a try, and with eChinese Learning, they’ll give you a free trial lesson (30 min!) by using the link here.
Skritter – Have Fun Writing Chinese
Not everybody cares to learn how to read and write Chinese characters, but it’s been a fun challenge for me. I love it! If you’re like me, you’ll probably also like using a tool like Skritter, that not only uses spaced repetition to keep characters in long-term memory, but it also make learning like a game. That keeps me interested, which in turn makes me study more. Seriously, Skritter is one of my favorite tools and I dare you to give it a try 🙂
Resources for Expats Living in China
I’ll complete this list of resources by focusing on those of you who – like me – will be making China home. Whether that’s for a year or for a few years, welcome to the China expat family!
Everybody’s situation in China is different, so I anticipate that only one or two of these resources will apply to you. Still, it’s good to know what’s available and what you might need while you’re living as an expat in China.
Traveling Mailbox – Digitize Your Physical Mail
A few years ago I stopped using my parents’ address as my “home” address and finally made the leap to my own virtual mailbox. It’s been awesome. I now have control of my mail! I have my own address and when mail comes, it gets scanned and I receive a message on my phone. I can have them open/scan the mail, shred it or even forward it to wherever I am in the world. It’s basically a digital version of my physical mail and it’s been an amazing service for me as an expat in China.
TransferWise – Moving Money to/from China
The biggest headache I hear from most expats has to do with moving money. The truth of the matter is that the best way to get money out of China is just to wire it from a bank. However, if you’re needing to wire money into China and you want to avoid a lot of the bank fees, using something like TransferWise can save a lot of money. Gift them a try to see for yourself.
i-to-i TEFL – Get Certified!
Did you know that people with a TEFL certification get as much as 30% more pay as a teacher in China? That kind of pay raise pays for any certification within two months or less. Not to mention the fact that a TEFL certification truly does prepare you to be a better teacher. If you aren’t certified, check the online courses offered by i-to-i to see if it works for you.
Moving – Relocation Service
This may not apply to many people, but if you’re looking to move to/from China and you have a lot of stuff (i.e. more than fits in a few boxes to ship via the post office), then you’re going to want to shop around for different moving quotes. Thankfully, you can save up to 40% off your moving costs by getting a free quote using the form below.
China Resources for Travelers and Expats
I trust this list of China resources has been helpful to you! If there’s anything you’d like to add or you think is missing on this list, please feel free to contact me using my contact page.
I wish you the best of luck as you travel, move to or study China!