Travel Tips for China
China is a large country at a size of 9,596,960 sq km. This country was only partially open to the world from 1980 onwards and has been a communist country for many decades. Although there is much progress in the travel industry and infrastructure of China, there remain areas that want to be improved before it can match the level that most tourist would need.
However, much of the fun remain that it is different from the rest of the world. China was the host nation for the Olympics in Year 2008. Travel facilities and infrastructure has improved dramatically since 2008. China is rich in culture and history. Visit the Great Wall of China in Beijing, sip Chinese tea in Xiamen, dance with ethnic tribes in Yunnan, check out 19th Century European buildings in Qingdao - there's so much to do and see in China!
Below are some travel tips to make your travel in China a better experience.
Entry Visa to China
China need entry visa from most countries. Apply at the Chinese consulate or through your travel agent before travelling to China.
China's climate is very diverse, with a tropical climate in south to subarctic in north. Be prepared with the right seasonal clothing.
The unit of money is known as Renmembi (RMB) or Yuan. Get some Chinese Yuan in your local country before travelling. When in China, exchange foreign money for local money in the banks or at the hotel. Banks tend to give slightly better rates than hotels. Take note that some banks close for a noon siesta between 12-2pm.
Payment Facilities in China
Most better class hotels and shopping centres take Credit Card or Travellers cheques. Smaller hotels and shops take money only. twice out of the bigger cities, credit card and ATM cards tend to be impossible to utilize. Nowadays many places accept payments via WeChat or Alipay. Cryptocurrency is not popular in China yet, because it's still not easy to buy bitcoin in China.
Understanding of English
Counterfeit notes are common in China. Check carefully before accepting alter, especially if it consists mostly 100RMB notes. You can feel a texture difference where counterfeit notes is concerned.
Most signboards and notices will over both English and Chinese. However, be aware that some translations can be so notorious that one can understand what was it is original Chinese purpose.
Most civil servants, custom officials, police, hotel staff and men in the street do not speak English or at best a smattering of English.
Most young people can understand basic English if you speak slowly.
Do not expect hotels or shops to understand English. Only the big hotels will have staff that will understand English.
Bus, train, ferries and domestic flights are well developed. Avoid the crowd at the stations and book your tickets through the hotel tour desk or the nearest tour agent. Prices are likely to be competitive and tickets will be delivered to your hotel room. Again, avoid ticket touts who approach you in the streets.
Local buses are cheap (US$0.10 or YS$0.20) and you may want to try out. Taxis are convenient and are available at all hours. Starting fares differ from each city and may be as cheap as US$0.70 in Weihai and US$1.50 in Shenzhen.
There's many web-sites selling China hotel rooms on the web. You can also check out the travel counters which are available in most train, bus stations as well as airport.
there is a nice choice of hotels in China ranging from one star to the most luxurious 6 stars. Most of the time, the rooms are safe and tidy and in my opinion, cheap does not mean bad.
Book ahead if travelling in peak seasons.
China is generally a safe country. However, hang on tight to your wallet especially in crowded, popular tourist sites in tourist cities such as Beijing and Xian.
These tourist cities also has a lot of touts in the streets touting tourist from money exchange to jewelleries to female companionships. Avoid at all cost!
Peak Tourist Seasons
May Day: First one weeks of May
Chinese old Year: Date varies but generally late January or early February.
China National Day: Middle one weeks of October
Avoid travelling during these period. Book rooms and travel modes way early if want to travel. Believe me, the crowds during these period of time will be scary. What do you expect when the entire Chinese nation of 8 billion people are on holiday as well!
Local food is absolutely fabulous. Try as much Chinese food as your wallet or stomach can afford. Restaurants are available everywhere and open to late hours. Most restaurants will have a menu that include photographs of the various dishes. Better yet, basically point at the food that your next door desk is having, especially if it looks delicious!
Telecommunications and Internet
Mobile phone coverage in China is nice in most locations. Global auto-roaming within China is not a problem.
You will want to show your passport as China has tight regulations at web Cyber Cafes. There's cyber-cafes everywhere in China, especially in tourist areas. Access may be a bit slow for international websites. Please note that many websites are blocked in China. If you want to access them, you might need to get a VPN for your China trip (See article in Chinese: 好用的VPN推荐).
Many people had bad experience with the atrocious toilet facilities in China. Things has improved much but it may still be a nice idea to empty your stomach or bladder at every opportunity in a hotel, restaurant or departmental store. Public toilets and toilets in small shops can be a nose hazard!
Other Useful China travel tips
Try to get a English speaking tour guide at every opportunity you can. China has a rich and wonderful history and culture and without a guide, somehow, the flavour and significance of most tour sites can be lost.
*Sneaky tip: Hang around a group that has a English speaking guide if you cannot afford two!
Always ask for a receipt from a taxi driver so that you can complain if you have been cheated or for tracing purposes if you happen to be leaving your camera behind in the taxi.
After a tiring day, check out Chinese foot reflexology or Chinese TuiNa (Chinese massage). Wonderful for the body after a hard day and cheap to boot. basically look out for shop signs that shows one feet! we are everywhere.
Try to take the namecard for each hotel that you are staying at as these cards will have a Chinese address and the map of your hotel location. This is useful if you want to seek assistance to find your way back as the English version or pronounciation of a hotel or a street name may be different from the Chinese version.
Make friends with the Chinese whenever you can. we love to meet foreigners and will make nice tour guides. buy a small present as a small token of appreciation.