China's vast size and different landscapes mean that the climate varies from region to region. The country lies mostly in the northern temperate zone, influenced by monsoons. Between September and April, monsoons blow cold (but dry) down from Siberia and the Mongolia Plateau. During the summer months, monsoons blow in from the ocean bringing warm and wet weather.Beijing has four, distinct seasons - a long, hot summer, a cold winter and a short spring (with lots of rain) and autumn. July is the hottest month and January is the coldest.Shanghai has a subtropical maritime monsoon climate. Within the four, distinct seasons, July and August are the hottest months and January/February the coldest.Hong Kong enjoys good weather year-round, the average is 23 degrees.Harbin, home to the Ice and Snow Festival, has long, cold winters and short, cool, summers. Temperatures range between -14 degrees in the winter and 20 degrees in summer.Hainan Island has a tropical climate and temperatures hover between 23 and 26 degrees.
When to fly to China
Deciding on the best time to take cheap flights to China depends on where you want to go and what you want to do.
If you are going north, time your trip for spring or autumn. For the centre of the country (Yangtze River Valley for example), the spring and autumn months offer the best weather. This holds true for the south of China too.
Bear in mind that during public holidays, most of China is on the move. The major holidays are National Day (October 1), Chinese New Year (late January/mid-February), Labour Day (May 1), Dragon Boat Festival (May/June) and Mid-Autumn Day (September/October). During these holidays, flights, trains and buses will be packed and accommodation booked up.
May, September and October are high season months.
The winter months are of season (late November - February)
March/April and June/August are shoulder season months.
Getting around China
Lots of travellers taking cheap flights to China will be on package tours - and perhaps visit the most-popular destinations as part of a group (a cruise along the Yangtze River or to see the Terracotta Army in Xi'an for example), but if you are doing a bit of independent travel, there are lots of domestic airlines offering flights, including Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. Train travel is amazing in China. They're clean, very punctual, comfortable, cheap and very, very fast. Bus travel is via comfortable coach.
In the cities, there are clean, fast, punctual and reasonably priced public transport networks.
Renting a car is not necessary in China, unless you are planning on travelling around the country. Taxis are cheap, but ensure that you have your destination written down. Most hotels will have taxi cards that you can take with you for the journey back to your accommodation.
China insider information
- Tipping is not common in China.
- Travellers started going to Yangshuo to escape the number of tourists in Guilin. It's about a 90-minute journey from Guilin. Yangshuo has become a "foreigners'" town. It's popular with backpackers and foreign workers living in China who want to enjoy the green-cloaked karst peaks.
- Once upon a time, Guangzhou was the only Chinese city that foreigners were allowed to trade in. Today, it is the economic centre of the Pearl River Delta. It's modern, but Guangzhou boasts more than 150 historical sites including the Guangzhou Bowuguan, Six Banyan Temple, Nanyue King Mausoleum, Chen family temple, and Shamian Island. The city is also famous for local opera, embroidery and food.
- Songtangzhai Folk Carving Museum in Beijing is a hidden gem. The fascinating museum was set up Li Songtang's family to spread knowledge of traditional Chinese architectural art. It's on East Liulichang Road.
- Climb the bridge over the Nanpu River in Shanghai. There are 360 steps to the observatory at the top. From there, gaze out over the city, to the Expo site, Pearl Tower, Financial Centre, People's Square, and skyscrapers, skyscrapers, skyscrapers.
- The Terracotta Army is one of the most popular attractions in China, but if you feel it's overexposed, go east and view Han Yangling. This tomb is where Jing Di rests. He ruled in the second century BC, a benevolent leader, the opposite, by all accounts to Qin Shihuangdi. The tomb with its adjoining museum is beautiful, still and calm and stuffed full of 1700 relics that have been discovered over the past 30 years.