travel to china

Do You Need to Learn Chinese To Travel To China? 

Cultured, historic, diverse, and flourishing are words international travel lovers have used to describe China. 

China is filled with ancient heritage, spectacular natural wonders, and of course, excellent cuisine. No wonder so many people want to visit China at least once in their life — is it on your destination list? 

Yet, many people often have the same worry and question when it comes to traveling to China: do you need to know Chinese? 

Well, not necessarily. 

If you plan to travel to big cities like Beijing or Shanghai, you don’t really need to know Chinese because local people can speak basic English. Chinese people are usually very happy to help or talk to you in English because they see it as a chance to practice the language. 

However, if you want to dig deep into China’s traditional culture and you plan to travel to the countryside or smaller, less-visited provinces, you should learn some Chinese. Why? People in those places don’t speak English, and you will be less likely to find another foreigner to ask for help. Knowing some Chinese will make your independent travel much easier and enrich your experience. 

After all, wherever you plan to travel in China, it’s wise to know some Chinese. 

So how should you learn Chinese for travel? Here are some useful and practical tips. 

The 3 top tips on how to learn Chinese for travel 

1. Learn the names of places you plan to travel 

Knowing how to read, speak, and write down the places you want to travel to or stay in Chinese is very beneficial. It comes in handy when you need to get a taxi or want to ask local people for directions. Though this information can be easily stored in your cell phone, what if you don’t have it with you? Eliminate the risk by memorizing them before you travel to China, for example:

  • The Great Wall of China: 万里长城 (Wànlǐ Chángchéng)
  • The Forbidden City: 紫禁城  (Zǐjìnchéng) 

2. Learn basic communication phrases

Knowing how to say hello, thank you, or ask how much something costs in a market are phrases you should have memorized! It lets you communicate easier with local people. Also, it’s a nice gesture and appreciated by Chinese people as it shows that you’re interested in their culture and language. 

We’ve gathered the most important phrases that you go over before traveling to China:

Chinese phrases Pinyin Meaning 
你好Nǐ hǎoHello!
谢谢XièxièThank you!
多少?DuōshǎoHow much? 
太贵了Tài guìleToo expensive! 
好吃Hào chīDelicious!
买单MǎidānCheck, please! 
我不懂.Wǒ bù dǒngI don’t understand. 
你会说英语吗?Nǐ huì shuō Yīngyǔ ma?Can you speak English?

Don’t forget to practice listening to some basic Chinese as well. Knowing the useful phrases is all well and good, but it’s often useless if you can’t understand the response.

3. Learn basic travel-related words 

Learning basic travel words such as mountain, beach, sleeping bag, restaurant, hotel, etc., is extremely helpful as many stores or street signs in China don’t have English translations. Plus, telling a shop directly what you want to buy will be so much easier than searching the whole shop to find it by yourself. 

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