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Travel in China isn't as hard as you may think: If you can manage Paris without speaking French, you can manage Beijing without Mandarin. China's international visitor arrivals have rocketed from a mere 300,000 back in 1978 to an impressive 22 million in 2006 -- and that was some four years ago. Already pundits are predicting that in less than 6 years from now, the country will rank first in terms of visitors, passing the current top three of France, Spain, and the United States. Tens of thousands of visitors travel in China independently each year, making their arrangements as they go, with nothing more than a guidebook and a phrase book to help them. You can certainly arrange various levels of assistance, either upon arrival or from home, but you can also travel just as freely as you would elsewhere, perhaps using agents to get your tickets, and picking up the odd day tour.

But whether you plan to travel at random, with a preplanned, prebooked route, or with a fully escorted tour, reading this chapter carefully will not only assist you in avoiding common pitfalls, but will enhance your time in the Middle Kingdom.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.