Planning your trip

What’s included in the tour fee?

Our tour fees cover all accommodation, guide’s fees, entrance fees and transportation (including airport transfers). Most meals are included apart from some breakfasts and dinners in larger towns. For itineraries that involve camping, all camping equipment including tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads is supplied. We hire horses or porters to carry the camping equipment. Horses/porters to carry your personal luggage are usually not included in the trip cost.
Please see the “price” tab for each itinerary for a detailed list of what is included in your tour fee.

Do you create tours specifically for my requirements?

Yes, the majority of our tours are private tours run exclusively for your family or group of friends. You can choose from one of our standard itineraries, or if you’d like a custom-designed itinerary please Contact Us.

What is the process for booking a trip with Backroads of China?

For details of how to book, please go to our Booking process page

What is the difference between the ‘comfortable’ and ‘budget’ options?

For the comfortable option, we use private transportation for the entire trip. This can be a sedan, business vehicle, 2wd or minibus depending on the size of the group. We stay in 3 star standard hotels and guesthouses in towns and cities where they are available, and the best accommodation available in any villages on the journey.

For the budget option, we use a combination of private transportation and public buses. Public buses are used where they are clean, comfortable and run at times which do not disrupt the flow of the itinerary. Private transportation is used when there are no good public transportation options. Accommodation is in nice guesthouses with private bathrooms. Sometimes bathrooms will be shared in village areas where no other accommodation option is available.

How fit do I need to be to join a Backroads of China tour?

All of our trips are rated according to fitness level. It is important that you are aware of the fitness level required for the trip, and make adequate preparations. The hiking times given on the website are average hiking times (taken across a large spectrum of travellers) and may be significantly different from the times the hikes would take you.
Do be aware that the terrain that many of our trips cover is mountainous so even half-day hikes require a high level of fitness. You should also keep in mind that some treks include several days at high altitudes (10,000+ feet, 3,000+ meters) which takes a very strong toll on your energy levels. If you are unsure whether a particular tour is appropriate for your fitness level, make sure you discuss this with us beforehand so we can guide you in the decision making process.

How much spending money should I bring?

You will need spending money for any extra meals, snacks, drinks and any alcoholic beverages. Other expenses that you will need to pay yourself include internet usage, phone calls, horse/porter fees and laundry expenses. Generally an extra $100-200 USD per person is sufficient to cover these expenses, plus whatever you usually spend on souvenir and gift purchases.

Does Backroads of China provide travel insurance?

Backroads of China does NOT provide travel insurance for its travellers. We require all our tour participants to obtain their own travel insurance and this insurance must cover personal injury, medical expenses, repatriation expenses and evacuation expenses. It is preferable that your insurance also covers cancellation, loss of luggage/personal effects and personal liability although this is not mandatory.
The details of your travel insurance policy (including your policy number and an emergency phone number) must be provided to Backroads of China prior to tour commencement. If you do not take out travel insurance, you will be unable to participate in the tour and your tour deposit will not be refunded.

Preparing for your trip

Will I be able to use my electrical appliances from home in China?

The electricity in China is generally 220V, 50HZ, AC. There is no universal power point in China – you will find plugs with Australian, British, European and Japanese official pin designs. To be sure of being able to use your electrical appliances wherever you are, it is best to buy an adaptor, also known as conversion plugs from a hardware, department store or Duty Free stores in your home country.
Electricity supply can be problematic in some rural areas of China, so we recommend bringing a flashlight for night-time trips to the bathroom and plenty of spare batteries in case you are occasionally unable to recharge camera batteries at night.

What is the best type of luggage to bring?

The best type of luggage for any of our trips is a large backpack that you are able to carry yourself (at least over small distances). For some sightseeing tours suitcases or duffle bags are also possible- please see trip notes for your specific itinerary for more information.
For every tour we recommend you bring a small daypack to carry your essentials such as camera, water, snacks, sunscreen etc.
Please keep luggage to a minimum as luggage space in vehicles in China is quite limited.

What should I pack?

The following is a general list of items that you may consider bringing depending on the nature of your tour, and the season. For details of what to pack for a particular tour, please consult the trip notes we send after you book your tour.
• A raincoat or umbrella and waterproof cover for your hiking pack
• Basic first aid supplies-bandaids, bandages, antiseptic cream, insect bite cream etc.
• Moist wipes and/or sanitizing hand wash
• Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
• Mosquito repellent and plug-in mosquito killer
• Covered, walking shoes with good grip
• Prescription medicines and other basic medicines for headaches, indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation etc.
• Money pouch
• Spare batteries for your camera
• Conversion plug for any electrical appliances
• A small flashlight/torch
• Earplugs if you’re a light sleeper
• Some high energy snacks
• Toilet paper
• Thongs for wearing in communal showers
• Sleeping sheet (for village homestays)
• Your own small towel
• A thermos and water purificiation tablets (on some treks)

Do I need to arrange a visa for China?

All foreigners excepting citizens of Singapore, Japan and Brunei entering China for less than 15 days, require a Chinese visa to travel in China. You should submit your application 1-3 months prior to your visit. Please contact your local Chinese embassy or consulate for details of the application process.

What vaccinations do I need to have for China?

It is advisable to see a doctor specializing in travel medicine at 6 weeks before trip departure. Your doctor will decide which vaccinations are necessary depending on your past medical and immunisation history, the type of trip you’ll be taking and the places you’ll be visiting. Make sure you take a copy of your trip itinerary so the doctor can check the exact locations as the prevalence of diseases varies greatly from province to province.
Do be aware that the majority of our trips spend time in rural areas where access to medical facilities and Western medicines is very limited. Therefore we advise that you bring along your own medications for simple illnesses you may develop such as diarrohea, constipation, headaches, flu, insect bites etc. Some basic first aid supplies such as Band-Aids, ace bandages, antiseptic cream etc. are also a good idea.
In areas where malaria is a risk, you are advised to bring DEET and wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect yourself from bites. A plug-in mosquito killer is also worth investing in for nights spent in village homestays and guesthouses that don’t provide mosquito nets. Mosquito coils are commonly used by the Chinese although the fumes from these can be quite strong.

While on your trip

Will there be laundry service available on the way?

Most guesthouses and hotels offer laundry service for a small fee, or can recommend a service in the vicinity. However be aware that many places do not have clothes dryers. Therefore, it is best to only do laundry in places where you are staying for more than one night, or where the weather is warm enough to dry things quickly. There are likely to be times on all our trips where you would like to wash some clothes quickly yourself, therefore we suggest bringing a small bar of laundry soap with you.

Will I be able to call family and friends back home?

Mobile phone coverage is good in most of China, even in remote areas. However do be prepared for days where you cannot access a mobile signal if you are taking one of our extending trekking tours through mountainous areas.
If you are coming from overseas, it’s a good to check with your mobile phone provider if they have a global roaming agreement with China. If not, provided your mobile is “unlocked”, you can buy a local SIM card once you arrive. Mobile SIM cards are available everywhere and are a reasonably cheap, convenient way of keeping in touch with family and friends. Do be aware that mobile phones in China are linked to the purchase location. Once you leave that location, you will pay significant charges to receive calls as well as make them.
Another way to phone overseas is to use a phone kiosk. These can be found in most towns (large and small) and allow you to make international calls at very reasonable rates. Your guide will be able to assist you in locating one.

How often will I be able to access the Internet?

Internet cafes are everywhere in China. In backpacker towns you will be able to sit in quaint cafes while surfing the internet, but in smaller towns, they are often dinghy, smoke-filled rooms with hordes of teenagers playing net games and leaning over your shoulder to read your email! Increasingly guesthouses (even in village areas) are providing free Internet service, although the speed of this varies.
If you are just needing to keep up with emails, then mobile internet is another way to go. Mobile signal is available at least part of the way on all of our trekking tours and almost everywhere on our sightseeing tours.
Do be aware that some foreign sites such as Facebook, You Tube, Twitter etc. are regularly blocked by Chinese censors. Hotmail is also unreliable in China. Rather than deal with the frustration of irregular access to your email, you may prefer to set up an alternate email account for your time away.

What sort of accommodation can I expect?

When choosing hotels and guesthouses, Backroads of China places the focus on local character, cleanliness, proximity to places of interest and the hospitality of the owners. Wherever possible we use accommodation built in local architectural style and run by local families. We avoid the larger establishments which are frequented by foreign tour groups to provide a more authentic, local experience.
The majority of hotels and guesthouses will have private bathrooms with 24 hour hot water service and western toilets and heating/air-conditioning. In some small villages guesthouses may have shared bathrooms with Chinese toilets and no heating or cooling. Sometimes electric blankets or fans are provided.
Do be prepared for very firm mattresses (some people have likened them to sleeping on planks of wood!) and some dodgy plumbing- these things are common across hotels/guesthouses of all levels in China. You may also be surprised by how noisy the guesthouses can be- a combination of paper thin walls and the Chinese in holiday mood. A pair of earplugs is a great investment for a good night’s sleep.

What are village homestays like?

Village homestays give you an authentic experience of rural China. You will be staying in local people’s houses that are mostly unadapted in any way to accommodate travellers. Therefore, the rooms will be spartan (and often quite dank), the beds will be hard and the toilets will be pit toilets often some distance from the house. Since there are no bathing facilities available, our guides will arrange tubs or buckets of hot water for you to wash with.
One of the highlights of homestays is watching and participating in the meal preparation process- from collecting, washing and preparing the ingredients, to cooking the dishes and finally enjoying them together. The food is always extremely fresh and usually very tasty- much better than the Chinese food you find back home!

What will the meals be like?

Most of the meals in Backroads of China tours are included in the tour fee, to allow our guides the chance to introduce you to local cuisine. Our guides will usually choose small eateries with good hygiene standards, although you will occasionally eat in larger-scale restaurants in major towns/cities.
Breakfast will usually be noodles with eggs and vegetables, dumplings or steamed buns with various fillings. In larger cities and backpacker towns, western breakfasts are also available. Lunches and dinners are eaten in typical Chinese fashion where a variety of dishes are ordered and shared between group members, including yummy fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry, served with rice.
On trekking tours, the majority of meals are eaten in local people’s houses. You need to be prepared for simple meals using whatever the family has available at the time. Don’t be surprised if you find some “unusual” animals (or parts of animals) served up at meals. Pigs’ trotters, dog, yak, intestines etc. are all commonplace in some areas. There will always be a range of dishes to choose from, so it’s up to you if you want to try these novelties. We ask that you let us know prior to the tour of any dietary restrictions/food allergies you have so our guides are adequately informed.
With regards to eating utensils we advise using the throw-away variety chopsticks in small eateries or restaurants. In people’s homes, the guide will ensure the chopsticks used are thoroughly boiled before use. You are also welcome to bring your own if this makes you feel more comfortable. We also advise bringing along your own fork and spoon if you are unable to get the hang of chopsticks.
Snacks such as chocolate, biscuits, cakes and dried fruits are generally available, but taste quite different from the West, since milk and butter are scarce. We suggest you bring some muesli (granola) bars or other high energy snacks from home in case you have difficulty adjusting to the local food. If buying snacks on your tour, it’s best to buy them in the larger towns, as processed foods sold in small shops in the villages are often of low quality and may be past their used-by date.

Can I drink the local water?

You cannot drink the tap water in China. We also suggest that you do not take ice in your drinks, or use tap water for brushing your teeth.
Bottled water is readily available throughout China in cities, towns and in many villages. Guesthouses and hotels generally provide purified water and/or a thermos of boiling water for tea and coffee. This water can also be used for brushing your teeth.
Our treks cover some areas where bottled water is not available. In these areas, it is best to bring along your own thermos and some water purifying tablets. The guide will make sure that boiled water is provided at every meal stop for thermoses to be refilled.
More specific information about water availability can be found in the tour notes provided.

Is tipping expected?

While tipping was once frowned upon in China, these days it is increasingly common practice within the tourism industry.
At Backroads of China, we believe that guests should not be under any obligation to tip. Our guides and drivers are paid well for their services and do not expect any extra income.
If you have received exemplary service and would like to give a tip to your guide or driver, a tip of 80-100 Chinese yuan per day for the group is an appropriate amount.