Though most long-haul Chinese travellers participate in group-based tours, many young Chinese are now travelling overseas to acquire educational qualifications. These ‘study tourists’ travel independently around their place of study, often accompanied by friends and relatives whom they are hosting. Understanding the characteristics of such independent behaviours may offer insights into China's future outbound travel market. This study of 1400 Chinese studying in Australia highlights distinctions between independent student travellers and youth travellers more generally such as backpackers. The findings challenge established typologies of independent youth travellers and raise prospective implications for marketers. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.