Did you know that if you look up the phrase “China Travel Guide” on Amazon, it will give you nearly 3,000 options to choose from? Here’s a quick breakdown of the best China travel guide based on over a decade of traveling around the country.
We’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 Travel Guides on China that you can view below. If you think you’ll spend a majority of your time in only one city, you can also check out these top Beijing travel guide books, top Shanghai travel guide books or a review of all the best Hong Kong books. Either way, for those wishing to travel the country on a budget, the only way you’ll be able to accomplish that is if you plan properly. These guides will help you do that.
Any list of guide books would be incomplete without the Lonely Planet. There’s a reason for this, though: they are just that good. If you’re in the planning phase and don’t know exactly where you want to go in China, this is the most thorough guidebook that covers the most area.
- Who Should Buy This China Travel Book? The Lonely Planet is suited for budget backpackers who are wanderers. They don’t know where they will be next week so they rely on this book to figure that out.
- Pros: incredible attention to detail, 263 maps and language guides in languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Uyghur and Portuguese.
- Cons: limited pictures and no dedicated subway maps. It’s also one of the largest and heaviest travel books on China.
For those who like a set itinerary before they ever set foot on an airplane, look no further than the DK series. The visual appeal of this book sets it apart from all the others, with detailed maps, beautiful pictures and 3D illustrations to help you fully appreciate the major landmarks.
- Who Should Buy This China Travel Book? Budget travelers who don’t like to stray too far from the beaten path. You want to see the major tourist attractions, but you also want to be an informed traveler who appreciates the history and architectural beauty.
- Pros: Beautiful maps, including country maps, city maps and subway maps. Pictures and 3D illustrations of the most popular travel destinations.
- Cons: DK China has a limited selection of hotels and restaurants, especially when compared to the Lonely Planet. Only covers the most popular tourist destinations.
Not everybody who travels to China fits the stereotypical 20 year-old who is trying to “see the world”. For those mature travelers who have been around the block a few times and might have a few extra dollars to spend on their travels, consider Frommer’s.
- Who Should Buy This China Travel Book? Those who are traveling with kids or who would consider themselves more “mature” travelers.
- Pros: easy-to-read pages with bigger fonts (Lonely Planet is tiny!); helpful guides to food and popular dishes; ratings based on being kid-friendly or even overrated.
- Cons: No pictures; Hong Kong subway map curiously omitted.
Would you rather sleep in a dorm than in a hotel? Eat at a hole-in-the-wall instead of a well-established restaurant? Do you prefer to blaze your own trail? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider grabbing a copy of the Rough Guide China.
- Who Should Buy This China Travel Book? Backpackers who want to beat their own path through China. You spend less time in the city and more time in the countryside.
- Pros: Extensive language guide and a bank of information that is more detailed than any other guide on the market.
- Cons: By far the largest and heaviest guide, beating the already-large Lonely Planet by 200 pages.
Written by the same author as the Lonely Planet, National Geographic tries to take it a step further by offering “insider tips” and spending more time on the history and relevance of each site instead of just the travel information.
- Who Should Buy This China Travel Book? You value the history of the sites you visit and wish to know about them prior to arrival instead of learning while walking around.
- Pros: Colorful layout and well-researched history for each location, something you expect from National Geographic.
- Cons: Doesn’t really cover “off the beaten path” locations
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