HomeIndia Travel Guide India vs China: 16 Major Travel Differences

 India vs China: 16 Major Travel Differences

 

If you have ever found yourself wondering:

Should I travel to India or China?

Then we're here to help.

In this article, we will compare India and China and discuss some of the major differences that cause travelers to enjoy one country more than the other. By the end, we hope you will have a clearer idea about whether India or China is the best destination for you.

India and China Comparison Overview

  India China
History India's history is a series of many invading foreign forces that have all added to the current diversity and culture of the country. China's history is a series of dynasties and ruling families that fought for power. Historically, China has been less influenced by the West.
Diversity 500 minority tribes with a total of 104 million people. China has a more homogenous society with 92% of people being ethnically Han Chinese.
Religion Religion is a very important part of Indian society. India was the birthplace of 3 major world religions.  The majority of Chinese people are atheists, but many still practice ancestor worship and folk religion.
Festivals Diwali and Holi Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival
Travel Route Delhi, Agra, Jaipur Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai
Things to Do Taj Mahal, ancient Mughal forts and monuments, Rajput palaces Great Wall, Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors
Food Bread and curries. Includes more spices and is more likely to be spicy Rice or noodles with delicious stir-fried veggies or meats
Streetlife More open bazaars and chaotic markets Cities are cleaner and more organized
Accommodation Heritage hotels, palace hotels, luxury retreats Newly built clean and comfortable business or boutique hotels
Convenience of Travel Fewer direct international flights and slower less developed domestic transportation. More direct international flights to more cities. Very efficient and convenient trains, metros, and taxi systems.
Best Time to Visit Year-round, but best in winter Year-round, but best in autumn or spring
Budget Cheaper cost of goods and travel. Foreign credit cards are more widely accepted. Slightly more expensive goods and travel. Foreign credit cards are not as widely accepted.

Skip ahead:
1. History
2. Diversity and Minority Groups
3. Religion
4. Festivals and Celebrations
5. Nature and Wildlife
6. Things To Do and See
7. Food
8. Streetlife
9. Accommodation
10. Convenience of Travel
11. Language
12. Best Time to Visit
13. Expected Budget
14. Economic Growth
15. Access to Wi-Fi
16. Travel Visas
Main Takeaways

1. History: China Has Been Less Influenced by the West

Both India and China have incredibly long and interesting histories. These two countries are members of the world’s four ancient civilizations along with Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

While the histories of both countries are rich and complex, China has had less western influence and is a great place for travelers who are looking to go somewhere that is very different from their home country.

While India is also a great place to visit if you are looking to contrast your culture against another, more people in India are familiar with western culture and have adopted certain aspects of it.

China's History: Dynasties and Ruling Families

Most of China's history takes place in the Imperial China Period. This period starts in 221 BC and consists of the rise and fall of many different powerful dynasties. The Qin Dynasty was the first to unite all of China under one empire and is how the country got its name.

India's History: The Mixture of Many Cultures and Peoples

India's history has been one full of foreign invaders who's people mixed together to create the diversity of modern India. The first civilization in India was the Indus Valley Civilization in 1800BC. Afterward, India was invaded by many different forces including the Arabs, Turks, Mongols, and even Alexander the Great.

2. Diversity: India Has More Minority Groups and Protected Classes

The people of both India and China are very diverse. China's diversity comes from its minority groups and regional differences.

India's diversity is very largely due to differences in religion and ethnicity. Both countries have protected minority groups that have distinct cultures and languages.

Minorities in China

Minorities in India

India is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse countries in the world. Ethnically there are two main groups in India which are the Indo-Aryans of North India and Dravidians of South India.

3. Religion: India is a Very Religious and Spiritual Country

Religion has been an important part of the history of both China and India.

Today most Chinese people are atheists but practice folk religion while in India religion is practiced devoutly and is a very important aspect of society.

China's Ancestor Worship and Folk Religion

You can experience the religious culture in China by visiting during one of their traditional festivals such as Tomb Sweeping Day or Mid-Autumn Festival.

India's Rich Religious Diversity

4. Festivals: Diwali vs Spring Festival

Both India and China are countries with unique religious festivals that act as incredible windows into the local culture.

So which country has the best festival for you?

China may be a good country to visit if you would like to experience a beautiful festival without dealing with large crowds. India is a great place to go if you want to enjoy the chaos of a beautiful but intense religious celebration. 

Top Festivals in China

Top Festivals in India

Other important Indian festivals include Islam's Eid-Ul-Fitr, West Bengal's Durga Puja, Rajasthan's Pushkar Camel Fair, and Jaipur's Kite Festival.

5. Nature and Wildlife: Indian safaris vs personal experiences with Pandas

Both countries offer incredible ways to see endangered animals and to take in stunning natural scenery.

In China, you can spend time with Giant Pandas or explore the incredible scenery of the Avatar Mountains in Zhangjiajie. In India, you can search for wild tigers and rhinos or take in striking views of the Himalayas in Leh.

Pandas in Chengdu

Tigers at Ranthambhore

Taking a safari is a more exciting and adventurous way to experience a country's wildlife, but when you take a safari it is not guaranteed that you will see the animals. In order to see them, you might need to spend multiple days at the park.

6. Things to Do and See: Great Wall vs Taj Mahal

Both China and India have certain cities that are must-see destinations for travelers. These places are often called the 'golden triangle' itinerary. In China, the golden triangle is Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. In India, it’s Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.

In both countries, the golden triangle itineraries offer travelers incredible experiences. In China, travelers will walk along the Great Wall, see the Forbidden City, and explore the excavation site of the Terracotta Warriors.

In India, travelers will take in the beauty of the Taj Mahal, visit ancient Mughal monuments, and explore the palaces of Indian princes.

Example China Travel Itinerary

Travelers with more time can also see the gorgeous karst mountains of Guilin, hold pandas in Chengdu, or try spicy hot pot in Chongqing.

Check out some of our China tour options!

Example India Travel Itinerary

On your last day, you can explore the gorgeous Amber Fort and take a cooking class to learn more about authentic local cuisine.

Travelers who have extra time in India can also visit Ranthambhore to see the tigers, Varanasi to observe religious rituals, or Jaisalmer to take a camel caravan into the Thar Desert.

Check out some of our India tour options!

7. Food: Chinese Food is Typically Rice, Noodles, and Stir Fry whereas Indian Food Commonly Includes Rice, Bread, and Curry.

Both India and China have incredibly delicious and diverse options for food and in both countries, the flavor profile and ingredients used in the food changes drastically depending on which region you visit.

Food Comparison

Tea Comparison

Both India and China are completely obsessed with tea. Although tea originated in China, it was brought to India by the British and since then has become one of the country's most beloved beverages.

Food Safety

In general, the average restaurant in China tends to have better food safety practices than the average restaurant in India.

However, in both countries, it is a good idea to avoid consuming raw vegetables, ice, and tap water. Street food can also cause problems so it is best avoided unless recommended by your tour guide.

At Asia Highlights, we usually plan meals in hotels and quality restaurants in order to minimize the chances of feeling ill.

We arrange for our guests to eat meals at the hotel restaurant or at upmarket specialty restaurants which offer both local and western options. We also recommend specific restaurants that serve delicious regional foods like Peking duck in China or barbecue tandoori kebabs in India.

8. Streetlife: India Has More Open Bazaars and Chaotic Markets

9. Accommodation: India has More Unique and Luxury Hotel Options

Both India and China have nice clean hotels that are perfect for every type of traveler.

The main difference is that India also offers an abundance of beautiful colonial-era hotels, palace hotels, and luxury resorts that can really add to your experience.

India's Heritage and Resort Hotels

India is also well-known for its luxurious resort hotels. In Agra, travelers can stay in a resort that offers spa services with Ayurvedic treatments and tea in the afternoon with a view of the Taj Mahal.

China's Hotel Boom

China doesn't have unique historical hotels like India, however, China has been building hotels faster than any country in the world. In China, visitors can find clean and comfortable international business hotels and charming boutique hotels.

10. Convenience of Travel: China has a Better-Developed Transportation System

China definitely has India beat when it comes to providing affordable and convenient transportation.

If you choose to travel to China, you will find that there are many more options for international direct flights to various different cities within the country.

When flying internationally to India, you are less likely to find a direct flight and the two main international airports are in Delhi and Mumbai.

Domestic Travel

Traveling with a Private Car and Guide

To make your trip easier, we recommend taking a private car with a chauffeur in both China and India. This way, visitors will be more comfortable while traveling between attractions and also spend less time traveling and more time exploring.

To get the most out of your experience traveling in India and China, it is best to see attractions and monuments with a guide. Guides add to the experience of traveling because they are able to explain the history and other interesting points about what you are seeing.

Travelers who choose not to use a guide often do not have as many meaningful experiences and learn less about the country and culture overall.

11. Language: Indians Tend to Speak Better English

Just like kids are taught Spanish in the US, school children in both India and China study English as their second language.

Although both countries study it, the average Indian tends to speak more English than the average Chinese person. This is most likely due to the influence of British colonial rule. 

If you travel with a private tour, your guide will speak great English so the language barrier is unlikely to be a problem.

China's Native Languages

Mandarin is the official language of China and the most widely spoken. Another important Chinese language is Cantonese which is predominately spoken in South China such as the cities of Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Although there are two main languages in China, there are also countless dialects and regional languages that exist within the country. Today, many linguists believe that 297 languages are spoken in China.

India's Native Languages

India is also a very linguistically diverse country with 22 languages that are officially recognized by the government.

Out of these languages, Hindi is the most commonly spoken followed by Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, and Tamil. English is considered an official language in India and is used in government and business settings.

12. Best Time to Visit: Both Can be Visited Year-Round

China is a destination that can be visited year-round. The most popular time to visit is in autumn when the weather is the most pleasant all over China. Spring is also a great time to visit for cooler weather in northern China, although southern China does experience monsoons during this time.

Winter in China offers unbeatable views of the Great Wall and the Ice Festival in Harbin. In summer, the heat can be avoided by visiting attractions in the early morning.

India is also a destination that can be visited year-round. India has three main seasons which are winter, summer, and the monsoon season.

The high season for tourism in India is winter which is from November to February. Summer in India is from March to May and is the best time to see the tigers and other wild animals.

India’s monsoon season typically lasts from June to September. Although visiting India during the monsoons can seem daunting, there are actually plenty of beautiful places to see in India that aren’t affected by the rain.

The cities of Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Leh, and more can be visited during the monsoon season.

13. Economy: China's Economy is Growing Faster

China and India are the two major economic powerhouses in Asia and both are often compared to each other when it comes to economic growth and the rise of the middle class. China and India have both experienced some of the highest economic growth rates in the world as they both head towards modernization.

Still, China has India beat when comparing economies. Currently, China's economy is estimated to be five times larger than India's. China also continues to have higher economic growth rates each year as well as a higher overall GDP and income per person.

What this means for travelers is that you can expect a higher degree of modernization in China than you can in India. While India is a cashed based economy, China's is almost entirely based on mobile payments. China also has faster internet speeds and better public transportation including modern metros and shared bikes.

While India's economic growth has not been as quick as China's, the country has made a lot of major achievements since its independence in 1947. Although poverty is still a major problem, the country has managed to develop a large and growing middle class. India is also the world leader in the software development and customer service industries.

14. Budget: India is a More Affordable Destination

When compared to traveling in a western country, both India and China are very affordable.

Because these countries offer great value for money, many travelers find that they can take private tours and splurge on luxurious hotels without breaking the bank.

Overall, it is slightly more affordable to travel in India than it is to travel in China. India has a lower cost of goods, so things like food and souvenirs will often be cheaper. Hotels and services in India can also be more affordable depending on your style of travel.

Mid-range hotels often cost less in India than they do in China, but India offers guests the chance to stay in incredible luxury hotels which will increase the prices of travel in the country.

Guests who want upscale and special experiences will most likely NOT see a large difference in affordability between the two countries.

For our private tours, the starting price is approximately 160 USD per day in India and 200 USD per day in China. This cost includes guided tours, private cars with a chauffeur, 4-star accommodation, free breakfast, and a hearty lunch.

The price of our tours can change depending on the wants and needs of the traveler. Travelers who want to have special experiences or stay in luxury hotels will spend more.

Currency and Cash vs Credit

15. Access to Wi-Fi: China has High-Quality Wi-Fi but Limited Access to Western Websites

Access to Wi-Fi in both countries has its positives and negatives: 

In China, most hotels, airports, and cafes offer free Wi-Fi. However, while in China you will not be able to access certain websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google.

It should also be noted that even if you buy an international data plan, it is very unlikely that you will get any cell service in China with a foreign SIM card.

In India, websites are not blocked, but it can be more difficult to find free Wi-Fi. The good news is that your hotel will have Wi-Fi, although most hotels do charge for this service.

If you buy a temporary international data plan from your cell service provider it should work just fine in India.

16. Visas: Indian Visas are Easier to Get

The price of a short-term e-visa to India is usually around $100 for Americans, but it can vary from 40-100 USD depending on where you come from.

Conclusions

You May Enjoy China More if:

  • You are interested in visiting a country that has been more isolated from western culture and influence.
  • Access to comfortable and convenient public transportation is important to you.
  • You are planning your trip for autumn or spring.
  • You are interested in Chinese cuisine and history.
  • Seeing pandas or the Great Wall is on your bucket list.
  • A more clean and organized city life appeals to you.

You May Enjoy India More if:

  • You are interested in the incredible cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity of the country.
  • You are drawn to tiger and rhino safaris or an abundance of royal palaces and monuments like the Taj Mahal.
  • You are interested in all the spices that come together to create Indian dishes.
  • You are planning a trip during the winter or spring.
  • You want to participate in spiritual activities like yoga and meditation.
  • You are looking for unique accommodation options or luxury resorts.

Explore the World with Asia Highlights

If you want to take the stress out of planning your trip to India or China, we can help. At Asia Highlights, our experts are great at planning tailor-made trips to suit the travel goals of each individual traveler. We do all the planning and difficult stuff for you so you can just focus on the experience.