Travelling to China? This is the ESSENTIAL list of travel tips:

Travelling to China? This is the ESSENTIAL list of travel tips:

Top China Travel Tips for First Timers

China is an awesome country with so much to discover – but whether you arrive by rail, road or air, we can’t deny you might encounter a slight culture shock when you first visit! Nothing that an adventurous explorer like yourself can’t handle though, right? Here are our top China travel tips to help you out when you’re travelling around

1. Don’t drink tap water and be careful with street food

If you want to avoid getting a stomach upset, it’s best to stick to restaurants that look (as far as you can tell) modern and hygenic. Make sure all your food is nice and hot when you receive it and never drink the tap water as it’s not purified. Most hotels and hostels will supply bottled water for free, or sell it at reception. It’s also very cheap to buy in local shops.

2. Be prepared for different bathroom arrangements.

While hotels and hostels will have Western style bathroom facilities, elsewhere squat toilets are the norm. You will also need to bring your own toilet paper in most public bathrooms (including at museums and restaurants) as it’s usually not supplied. Hand sanitiser is also a must! Don’t freak out – in many locations squat toilets are the most hygenic solution, and you’ll adjust quicker than you think.

3. Make sure you always have your passport on you

This is generally a requirement of your visa, and you will need to show passports whenever you visit attractions such as The Forbidden City or museums. Save yourself the disappointment and make sure you carry them all the time.

4. Security Checks are the norm

You will generally have to scan all your bags and go through a body scanner when entering museums and metros etc. Security is especially tight around busy and important locations, for example Tianmen Square in Beijing. Don’t be alarmed – this is normal. Just be cooperative and you’ll have no trouble.

5. Bartering is for markets – not shops

Don’t try to barter in shops – this is not an accepted practise. Markets however are totally different! Try to look at what locals pay and get the vendor to match it. Otherwise you may well be charged a much higher “Foreigner” price. Top China Travel Tip: To compare prices across the language barrier, use the calculator on your phone to show the vendor your offer.

6. Download an offline maps app such as MAPS.ME

Google maps doesn’t work in China because of the great fire wall, but maps.me will allow you to download the map for an area when connected to wifi. Then you can use the gps to find your way around. If you book your trip through us you’ll obviously also have your travel pack directions and maps to help you out – use these in combination with an app and you should have no trouble!

7. Download a VPN to keep in contact with home

If you’re keen to access blocked social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook, you’ll need to download a VPN. We’ve used Vypr VPN in the past – just sign up online and then download the app to your phone. You can then use it to connect to blocked sites via VPN. Some hotels do block the use of VPN services though, so you may not always get very reliable access despite your best efforts! In which case, sit back, relax and enjoy the digital detox…

8. Watch out for “foreigner” scams

Common scams include people offering taxi services as you exit stations or airport, or strangers befriending you on the street to then take you on some kind of “local tour”. As friendly as they may seem, these offers are probably not legitimate and you’ll just end up getting ripped off, so just ignore anyone who tries to flag you down in the street to be on the safe side. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of honest people around – but you’ll more likely find them in your hostel or hotel bar, rather than hanging about on the street corner.

9. Download the Pleco dictionary app

This will save your life when trying to communicate simple phrases – for example if you’re trying to buy something in a shop, just type the name of the thing you’re looking for and show it to the sales assistant so they can show you where to find it. Also useful in restaurants – for example to explain any dietary requirements.

10. Print off or screenshot any essential addresses or attractions in Chinese characters

This way you will be able to ask for help with directions when you’re out and about. Also useful to show to taxi drivers and to compare to street signs. Use your travel pack if you’re booking through us as we’ll give you all your hotel names in the local language.

11. If you can, avoid taxis unless absolutely necessary

It’s a stereotype, but unfortunately often true, that taxi drivers are not always as honest as you’d hope. If at all possible, try to take public transport – it’s really good in China: cheap and straightforward to use. If you can’t avoid getting a taxi, make sure you go to a taxi rank, only get in an officially branded car and never accept offers from touts on the street. The starting meter price in Beijing should be 10-15Y, and a 30 minute journey should cost about 30Y. Avoid Tuctucs and moto-taxis if you possibly can as they are notorious for ripping off tourists.

12. Be aware of behavioural differences

There are some things that happen in China which are very different from Europe. These things aren’t considered rude, so just be aware that people aren’t trying to cause offense! It’s all part of the beauty of travel. These include:

 

  • Spitting on the street – this is normal and you’ll see/hear it all the time.
  • Pushing/jostling when queuing for things (you’ll find you need to be assertive to keep your place when lining up)
  • Loud dinners in restaurants – in China the ideal atmosphere for eating is “Hot and Loud” and locals do their best to contribute!
  • Bluntness – you might find that people come up to you and make comments/ask to take photos of you, they’re just interested and don’t mean to come across as rude.

Hopefully these China travel tips should make adjusting to Chinese culture and customs just that little bit easier when you’re travelling. Remember – we travel to learn and broaden our horizons, to meet awesome people from different cultures and to have amazing experiences. If something doesn’t quite go to plan don’t panic – it’s all part of the experience! All around the world you’ll find friendly and helpful people who are more than willing to help you out – and if you’ve booked through us you’ve always got the 24 hour phone on hand to make your trip run as smoothly as possible. Happy travels!

Not sure where to begin with planning your next trip? Take a look at all our Asia tours here. If you’re heading to Europe, why not take a look at our Ultimate guide to travelling Europe, or if you’re not yet sure where to visit, head to our destination guide – see where you should go next based on your travel style!

Words & photos: Catherine Livesley

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