China’s geographic area is slightly larger than the United States, and it covers similar latitudes, with the lion’s share located in the temperate zone. This provides endless year-round variety for visitors, from ice festivals in the north to tropical beach resorts in the south.
Keep in mind the vast distances between destinations when planning your trip. Traveling along the popular Golden Route (Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guilin) is the rough equivalent of visiting Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Miami, all in one trip.
Weather-wise, Shanghai and Guangzhou’s climates resemble those of US southeastern coastal states, while Beijing’s climate is more like Chicago’s.
While China is a year-round destination, the months of May, September, and October are ideal months for travel anywhere in the country.
In the north, the winters are cold, and summers are warm, with moist monsoon air streams making it hot (80% of China’s rainfall occurs between late May and early October, mostly in the Southern regions). June through August is a good time to visit central and northern China and spring and autumn are the best months for travel in Southern China. March and April are the lower-priced shoulder season; while the lowest price, off-season travel is from November through the winter months. This is when adventuresome travelers are rewarded with unbelievably low prices and far fewer fellow tourists.
The most comfortable season of the year is early autumn (September to early October). During that period, temperatures are reasonable throughout China (about 50-72 F) with a limited amount of rain. September is the only month when the ancient and valuable paintings of the Beijing Palace Museum are displayed due to proper climate conditions (low humidity and proper temperature).
Spring can also be delightful, with the average temperatures roughly the same as in autumn (about 50-72 F). The best way to dress is to wear layered clothing that will make you comfortable in chilly and warm weather.
Summer (from June to the end of August) can be extremely hot with temperatures well above 72 F, especially in the famous ‘four furnaces’ of China: Wuhan, Tianjin, Chongqing and Nanchang. Summer is a rainy season, so bring umbrellas, light raincoats and rubber/plastic shoes.
Winter can be incredibly cold especially in the north. An off-season visit can offer its rewards. For example, the Harbin Winter Ice Lantern Festival is quite charming.
Before deciding when to visit, check the weather conditions of each city on your itinerary. Remember, the most temperate seasons are also the most crowded. Regardless of the time of the year, a visitor will always be rewarded with charming scenery and experiences.
High Season vs. Low Season
High seasons in China:
* Labor Day (May 1, 3 days duration)
* National Day (October 1, 7 days duration)
* University Holidays: Summer holiday (June-September) and Winter holiday (January-February)
Many people plan a visit during high seasons. However it is not always the best choice. During high seasons tickets for trains, planes, and hotel accommodations are hard to obtain. If you want to travel during the high seasons, consider an organized tour, as you do not have to worry about obtaining tickets yourself.
Compared with high seasons, low seasons couldn’t be a better choice for visits for the following reasons:
* Save money. In low seasons, entrance fees, travel ticket prices, and goods cost less.
* Save time. Low seasons offer you a more tranquil environment. It may take several hours to take a photo during peak times, while in low seasons you can enjoy the beautiful scenery at more leisurely pace.