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Visiting China with kids: Tips and Advice for 2024

Visiting China with kids: Tips and Advice for 2024

Are you thinking of visiting China with kids? China has been high on my bucket list for years but I worried that I wouldn’t be able to visit with kids. We took the plunge and went with our toddler and had a great time but there are definitely some things that you need to know before you travel to China with kids. In this guide we round up our tips for visiting China with kids alongside some of the best places to visit in China for families.

Visiting China with kids Tips 

This section is dedicated to travel tips for those traveling to China with children. Most of them are relevant no matter the age of children that you are traveling with. However at the end of this section we will also give you some tips for if you are traveling to China with toddlers or babies specifically such as advice on strollers before we turn our attention to the best places to visit with kids. 

Do I need a visa to travel to China with kids?

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View of the Great Wall of china stretching into a mountain

Walking the Great Wall of China with Kids

If you are considering traveling to China with kids the first questions you probably have are about vista. Everyone visiting China, and that includes children and babies require a visa for entry.

However depending on the length of your travel and also the age of your children, will affect the type of visa you require and the steps that will be needed to be taken to get one. 

For instance, if you are traveling for less than 72 hours (3 days) there is a visa-free transit policy that allows visitors from 53 countries (which includes the US, UK and Australia) can stay in the country without a visa. This is perfect if you have a limited time stay to do something like the Great Wall for instance. 

But if you are staying for longer then a visa will be required for all members of your travel party. And if you have children aged 14 years and over you will need to have biometrics taken. While children under the age of 5 will also need a Customs Code Health Declaration Form.

We did all our Visa paperwork at the Chinese visa center in Manchester. We followed all the instructions online and had all the relevant documentation with us and found the while procedure very easy. 

More information about the application process can be found here (US-Citizens) and here (EU-Citizens).

Please note: Visa requirements can change – please make sure you check that you have up to date information before travelling to China. 

Don’t travel without insurance

One of my biggest concerns about doing China travel with kids was regarding the healthcare system. First off, I would never travel anywhere, with or without children, without having travel insurance in place.

Also if you do find yourself in need of medical assistance we found that there were lots of pharmacies and hospitals in the large cities of China. However the prevalence of spoken English varies in these places. Also be sure to bring any required medication with prescriptions with you (check what is allowed before you travel of course) and any other medical essentials. 

I traveled with childhood over the counter medicines too as I didn’t want to have to try and make myself understood in pharmacies and then have to work out required dosages etc. 

VPNs and the Great Firewall of China 

One of the biggest travel tips for China we got was finding about what websites are blocked by the Chinese Government before travel. Known as the Great Firewall of China frequently used websites such as Facebook, Gmail, and Netflix are all prohibited in China. 

If you want to access certain sites therefore you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). We used Express VPN and it worked pretty well. Just be sure to set this up and activate it before you arrive in China to be sure that it works.

Also although we didn’t have a problem getting our VPN to work there are reports of VPNs not working in some areas of China so it can not be guaranteed even if you set it up that it will run perfectly. 

However if you are traveling with children and want to use things like Netflix etc I would still recommend downloading their favorite shows or movies before travel. You can never be sure if something new is blocked etc so I like to have at least some of my children’s essentials with me. 

Eating in China with Kids

Burger King at the Great Wall of China

Burger King at the Great Wall of China

Whenever I am traveling with kids, especially my fussy toddler, I always worry about finding foods they will eat. And I have to say this was one of my biggest concerns when we visited China. However I needn’t have worried. 

Firstly even for fussiest eaters in the beige brigade there are plenty of Western food options in big cities. For instance when we were in Beijing we saw outlets of KFC, Burger King, MacDonalds and Subway so there were plenty of choices for food they recognised. 

Also if you are worried about keeping your little ones healthy, we also found lots of smoothie and juice bars in the malls in Beijing which was a great way of getting some vitamin C into my little ones diet. 

But, I did want my little one to at least try and eat some local foods too. My little one was a big fan of noodles so we asked for plenty of those. And she was also given steamed eggs, which our tour guide told us was traditionally one of the first foods given to weaning children. This was great because it wasn’t filled for sodium. So there were definitely examples of local cuisine she could try. 

Also whenever we are traveling to a country with “new foods” for our little one we will go to a local restaurant at home with this cuisine to try and get them used to the flavours to begin with. 

But just in case, providing import regulations allow, we always pack some of our toddler’s food staples and snacks.  

Please note that you shouldn’t drink the tap water in China so stick to bottled water. 

And if you are traveling to China with a child with allergies be sure to get this written down and translated. We normally try to do this before we travel but if not you could ask at your hotel.

Air Pollution

Two members of my family have asthma so a big concern for me was the infamous Chinese air pollution in Beijing especially. I didn’t realise until after we booked that Chinese Winter is the worst time for air pollution so if this is a worry for you it is worth checking annual statistics when air pollution historically tends to be at its lowest. 

But if you have no flexibility in dates, it is worth knowing how to check air pollution. I am going to be honest, on a couple of days I was there, I didn’t need an app to know what the pollution was like. Just looking out the window you could see the unmistakeable yellow haze and know it was bad. 

On these days we planned to do lots of indoor activities that kept us out of the worst of it. We stayed in the Grand Hyatt in Beijing which had a fab pool and was attached to a mall so it was easy to stay inside when the pollution was at its worst. 

However we also recommend downloading air pollution apps so you can get real time updates on pollution. The  two main resources we used to monitor the air pollution while we were in Beijing were:

  • Air Visual App which provided hourly updates on pollution levels and was easy to use and understand.
  • the US State Department which has a useful guide on interpreting the air pollution numbers.

And remember to pack air pollution masks. Pre-Covid it was hard to get little ones to put on masks but I find my kids do this much more readily now. If you are going to China I recommend buying a good quality children’s air pollution mask and testing out the fit before you travel. 

Getting Around China with Kids

Walking the Great Wall of China with Kids

Walking the Great Wall of China with Kids

Now depending where you are in China will affect what transport options are available. However if you are in big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, it is worth noting that taxis are available. However how safe you feel in them and the availability of seatbelts and car seats is patchy to say the least. 

We recommend traveling to china with your own car seat so you know that you have a safe and good quality one. Also using things like Black Lane to get transfers from the airport is a good idea as you usually get a higher standard of car with seatbelts. And if you are staying in a 5* hotel like we did (Grand Hyatt Beijing) the hotel cars are usually of a high quality. 

There are also buses in China, however we didn’t feel comfortable using them with our toddler. They were very crowded and I know she would have felt very overwhelmed by the experience. 

But obviously taxis are not going to be possible to get everywhere. If you want to go to big attractions like the Great Wall, we recommend organising a tour guide in advance and check their credentials in advance and let them know you want to use a car seat in your van or car.

Attention in China

Our daughter is blonde curly haired and blue eyed. We find wherever we are traveling to as a family in Asia she gets lots of attention. This includes people asking to hold her and taking photographs of and selfies with her. 

Now if it is up to you how to manage these requests. But it is worth preparing your child for this. My daughter actually relishes the attention, however my son does not like the attention so it is a good idea to come up with a strategy that works for you and your kids before you go so you are prepared to handle attention if you get it. 

What to Pack for China with Kids

Remember when travelling to China that the country has extreme of weathers in both winter and summer so be sure to pack appropriately. 

Also, I know they are divisive but we recommend packing reins if you are visiting with toddlers. Chinese tourist attractions get notoriously busy so you will need things that will hep you keep your little ones close.

And I would always pack some face masks for your little ones just in case the pollution gets bad while you are there.

Chinese Bathrooms

I’m not going to beat around the bush, outside of the Western hotels and at some tourist attractions you will find the bathrooms in China unpleasant. Outside of these places you will have squat toilets instead of Western toilets.

They are often very dirty and wet, and little ones are often not big enough to use them properly. 

We recommend wearing close toed shoes and rolling up long trousers or skirts before entering bathrooms and if you have a freshly potty trained toddler we recommend packing a portable potty and even some diapers with you as they may be a better option than local bathrooms. 

Swimming in China

As we were traveling in Winter, we knew there was a chance our itinerary would be affected by pollution. For this reason we booked a hotel with a pool. But if you are using a pool it is worth noting that China has some strict hygiene rules for swimming.

It is customary to use swimming caps or tie hair into a bun out of the water. The reason is that it is seen as unclean to shed hair in the pool. So be sure to bring a swimming cap or at least hair bands to tie up long hair. 

Is China Stroller Friendly? 

Depending on where you are in China will depend on how stroller friendly it is. For instance in the mall attached to our hotel we had no issues in using a stroller.

However the Great Wall and Forbidden city would have been impossible with a stroller. For this reason we recommend packing both a stroller and a carrier if you are traveling to China with a baby or toddler. 

On top of this, if you have an independent toddler who likes to walk, be sure to have some backpack reins with you as these will make sure you always keep your toddler close. Everywhere we went in China was busy and the reins made me feel safer letting my child walk.

Are there high chairs in China?

Again the availability of high chairs in China is very much dependent on the type of restaurant and where in the country you are. You are more likely to find high chairs in tourist places and cities. However even then they are not all that common. 

If you want to use a high chair when traveling you may want to pack a travel high chair with you as it is the only way to ensure that you will have one. 

Best Places to visit in China with kids

Woman and son in Beijing with temple behind them

Visiting China with kids (tips and advice)

Beijing with kids 

Although busy and polluted no visit to China is complete without a visit to Beijing. It is a great place to learn about history and Chinese culture such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Chaoyang Park and of course a day trip out to the Great Wall of China. 

Great Wall of China with Kids

The Great Wall of China was the reason we went to China in the first place. Now you can visit different sections of the wall and depending on how old your children are, how competent at hiking, time of year and how long you have will depend on which section of the Great Wall is best for you to visit. 

You can read more about visiting the Great Wall of China with kids here. 

Shanghai with Kids

Shanghai Disneyland Castle at Night

What is the best Disneyland in Asia?

Shanghai is one of the busiest cities in China but it is a great place for families to visit. It blends old and new perfectly with colonial architecture mixed with gigantic skyscrapers and it is a city that is easier to get around particularly with a hop on and hop off bus. 

But perhaps the biggest draw for kids visiting Shanghai is Shanghai Disney, one of the best Disney parks in Asia. 

Chengdu

Chengdu is the place you want to go if seeing pandas is top of your bucket list, namely the Chengdu Base of Panda Research. Just be sure you book your tickets to this in advance. 

Xi’an

Let’s face it the reason that most people visit Xi-an is to see the Terracotta Warriors. And even kids can’t fail to be impressed by the scale of the army. 

Hong Kong with toddlers, kids and babies

Hong Kong with toddlers - one of the best places to travel to China with toddlers

Hong Kong with toddlers, kids and babies is a really great option especially for your first trip to China. There are lots of things to do in Hong Kong with toddlers and there is even a small Hong Kong Disneyland which kids will love. 

Have you been to China with kids? What are your top tips? And if you have any questions about visiting China with family leave a comment below and we will do our best to answer. 

 

Thelma

Thursday 7th of February 2019

During my travels I've tested both NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Both worked very well actually so I just stayed with NordVPN because it was quite a bit cheaper. Very interesting point about your daughter getting all the attention because of her looks, definitely can be shocking to some. Thanks for sharing :)