Let's face it, weather-wise, winter is not the ideal time to travel in the People's Republic of China. That said, it's a low period of travel for domestic tourists so major tourist destinations won't be terribly crowded. Travel to Tibet is also advised. While it is very cold in Tibet in the winter, this is the pilgrimage season so you'll be able to see many farmers, having left there farms for the season, making their way to holy sights for prayers and offerings.
In December it can be nose-numbing, cheek-freezing cold in the north and it's bone-chilling damp and chilly across central China.
The southern part of China will be milder: you'll cool to warm temperatures but it will still be damp in December, but not as damp as it could be later in the winter.
December Temperatures and Rainfall
Here are listings for the average daytime temperatures and average number of rainy days for a few cities in China in December. Click the links to see the stats by month.
- Beijing: the ave daytime temp is 37F (3C) and ave number of rainy days is less than 2.
- Shanghai: the ave daytime temp is 51F (8C) and ave number of rainy days is 8.
- Guangzhou: the ave daytime temp is 69F (20C) and ave number of rainy days is 6.
- Guilin: the ave daytime temp is 59F (15 C) and ave number of rainy days is 11.
December Packing Suggestions
I think I advise it for every month of travel in China: layers are essential in winter weather. Don't underestimate how cold it will be if you're planning to travel in Beijing. You might even consider a ski mask because it's just that cold - and if you're planning on a trip out to the Great Wall or a day walking through the Forbidden City, you'll be thankful for long underwear, good gloves and hats.
The farther south you go, the less harsh the weather in winter. By they time you get to Guangzhou you'll be stripping down to just a light jacket. I advise weather-proof outerwear and plenty of layers that you can add or remove depending on the outdoor temperature.
- North: it will be cold during the day and below freezing at night. You'll probably be thankful if you bring along a light pair of long underwear, a fleece and a wind-proof or down jacket.
- Central: it will be quite chilly during the day and cooler at night, but rarely freezing. A heavy base layer (e.g. jeans, boots and sweaters) along with a rain/wind-proof jacket will be enough.
- South: it will still be relatively warm. Late fall dressing is fine but bring something lightweight for the occasional cool evening and rainy day.
Read my Complete Packing Guide for China for more.
What's Great About Visiting China in December
- There aren't any national holidays in December and people are working hard leading up to Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb) so China's top attractions won't be as crowded as in peak times.
- Dry weather in Beijing and the rest of northern China makes for cold, but almost-guaranteed dry sight-seeing.
- Mild weather in central and south China is comfortable for sight-seeing and touring.
What's Not So Great About Visiting China in December
It's cold! Cold but dry in the north, cold and damp across central China and cool in the south.
What's Happening in December
There aren't any big festivals or local holidays in China during December. But you can find all the vestiges of Christmas from early in the month. There's no escape from that!
Read more about Christmas in China.
The Weather Month by Month
The Seasons in China