4 Ways to Get Around China Without Speaking the Language

Is it at all possible to take a trip to China without speaking a word of Mandarin (Chinese)? It all depends on which part of the country you’re going to, but generally it is doable. But, Mandarin isn’t as difficult as you may think, so it’s always worth learning a few words to get by.

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While speaking Chinese isn’t a must, it is advisable. It makes it easier to get around the bustling cities like Shanghai and Beijing, but don’t worry. Taxi drivers, for example, know enough English to help you out, most restaurants have English menus and you can book English-speaking guides.

How to Get Around China Without Speaking the Language

If you don’t have time to learn Chinese but still want to explore the bigger cities in China, you have a few options that will allow you to experience more of the local culture.


A popular way to get around the country without speaking Mandarin is to use your smartphone. There are hundreds of podcasts and apps that can help you learn enough Mandarin for your travels. There are those apps designed to help you translate to and from Chinese, too.

With a translation app, you speak into your phone and it translates your words into Chinese. Conversely, you can have a local person speak into the phone and it will translate the words to you in your native language. Just remember, if you want to use your phone as a translator, you’ll need to have an internet connection on the go. 

Invest In A Phrasebook

Another option is to invest in a Chinese phrasebook. Most come in handy pocket-sized editions that are easy to use and light enough to carry around with you on your adventures.

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Try A Flash Language Course

Mandarin language courses are a quick way to learn the language in time for your trip, and they’re usually available via audio or online. You should start these courses about a month before heading off on your travels and make sure you practice every day!

Go Through A Tour Company

If you’d prefer a relaxing trip or just don’t want to learn a new language, join a tour group. This way, you’ll have an English-speaking guide who will look after you and you won’t need to speak a word of Chinese. You can even take advantage of private guided tours to China for a much hassle-free trip.

In fact, plenty of tourists want to visit China without learning the language, so that means there are professional tour companies to help you. That means you can navigate around big cities like Shanghai and explore some off-the-beaten-track destinations without needing to know the language and still get to learn about the country.

You Can Travel To China Without Speaking Mandarin

By learning the four ways to get around China without speaking Mandarin, you should be able to enjoy your vacation. 


A trip to China does not mean you have to learn the language. You can definitely get around the country using just English, and definitely with translation apps, phrasebooks, and tour guides. But it’s always worth learning a few phrases before you go. Even a simple greeting in the local language could get you a better price when it comes to bargaining.

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