Thankfully, in the past twenty years China travel requirements have become significantly less of a hassle. But, in comparison to a European vacation, there is a bit more planning necessary for a trip to China. The iconic image of Great Wall and other historic sites such as the Forbidden City lure travelers again and again to this fascinating country, but it's not a destination for a spur-of-the-moment trip.
One absolute necessity is a visa. Visas for China are hardly difficult to obtain; you can apply for one at any Chinese embassy or consulate. A standard, 30-day visa can be received within a matter of days, even faster if you acquire one through a travel agent. China visa requirements are pretty straightforward too—you just have to pay the fee. Up to two 30 day extensions are also fairly easy to come by, though after that you will have to get a different visa, which can be a bit more of a hassle. These extensions can be awarded on the spot, or can take up to five days to acquire; it depends on where you are when you do it. The further you are from the big cities, however, the more likely you are to get an extension immediately.
Multiple-entry visas are also necessary for those who wish to visit Hong Kong and Macau along with the rest of the mainland, though the price is about three times as much as a standard visa. One China travel tip is to fly into Hong Kong and get your Chinese visa there. That way you can avoid the additional costs of the multiple-entry option. This is only advisable if you have a few days to spend in Hong Kong first, though. And don't try to do the same thing in Macau—it's not an option there.
Moving through the country is not especially different from most other Asian countries, and in fact it is probably a bit easier. The rail system is more advanced and the country is more set up for tourists and backpackers. One increasing problem throughout the country is the passing of counterfeit money, so one simple China travel tip is to be careful where you exchange money. Banks and ATMs are, obviously, the best way to go. The black market, of which it is hard to avoid, actually give much more favorable exchange rates (as US dollars are requisites for keeping the trade alive), but you have to watch for fake money. If this is a risk you are willing to take, make sure to ask a foreign resident for reputable moneychanger.