Travel Preparation

Maps and Navigation

If you are participating in one of our tours, you don't need to worry about maps - your guide and driver will handle all the directions. However, if you are travelling by yourself, you will need to manage maps and navigation on your own.

Navigation in China

While in China, navigating the big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, is relatively easy as their subway systems have English signs. However, once you venture outside of these cities, it's a different story.

Most Chinese cab drivers, if not all of them, don't speak any English and even fewer can read it. You should always have your hotel's address, and any other addresses you might need, written down in Chinese. Even if the characters say nothing to you, you still need them when trying to find an address. This is especially important since some places have different names in English and in Chinese.

For example, you may think that "McDonald's" is an easily recognizable name and anyone in China can point you in the right direction to the famous American burger chain. But you may be in for a surprise, since McDonald's in China is called Maidanglao and its English name won't ring any bells with most people.

It is a good idea to install a map and GPS navigation app on your mobile phone before you leave for China. Be aware that roaming data charges will add up fast if you are using maps on your phone. We suggest that you use your hotel's free Wi-Fi to find destinations and plan routes before heading out.

Maps of China in English

Google Maps - Like all other Google services, Google Maps is blocked in China. You will need to sign up for a VPN to get around this. It is suggested that you purchase a VPN before departing to China. Other than that, Google Maps is a very good choice. Note that Google Maps' satellite view does not match with the map view. This is a Chinese government mandate.

Apple Maps - Apple Maps works well in China. Its map data is up-to-date and trustworthy. Therefore, Apple Maps is a good choice if you have an iPhone or iPad. - Another good option for navigating in China is which works with your phone's GPS and allows you to download China offline maps. However, the offline map may not be as up-to-date as the online ones.

Be aware: China is constructing new roads and buildings everyday, so you may find the streets, shops and buildings around you are different from those shown on the map.

Chinese Maps

There are a number of excellent Chinese map apps such as Baidu Maps and Gaode Maps. Unfortunately none of them support English as of yet. If you don't feel overwhelmed by the amount of Chinese characters, you can try them, as they are a reliable resource.

WeChat is China's "super app" that offers countless different services including a "location" option. WeChat's location service is especially helpful when you're trying to meet with friends who are already at a certain place. While it's all in Chinese, the "real time location" feature shows how far apart the other person is, and how to get to where they are. They can also send you voice messages to guide you.

China Tourist Map

We have customized this Google map and use it throughout our website to show you the location of different tourist attractions in China. Here, the view is zoomed out on all of China. You may zoom in on different locations to see our custom annotations (Note: that this map will not display properly if you are accessing it without a VPN in China).


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