So you are planning a trip to China, uh? Great!
China is characterized by a very unique culture, which is probably the main reason why this country is so interesting; even tough it’s one of the safest countries in the world (this answers to the huge amount of CCTVs around) unfortunately it can be complicated traveling to China if you don’t speak the language, therefore in this Travel Tips I will not recommend attractions and points of interest – this country is huge! And places to visit are so many that the list would be endless – but I rather tell you about few things that in my opinion you should bare in mind when traveling to China.
1.China is not for everyone. It’s a personal thought of mine but I really believe that who goes to China must be very open-minded and ready to adapt. If you read my China & I you might have a little idea of some Chinese habits that are quite far from the western point of view; I invite you to treat these aspects with respect and to accept them even if you don’t understand nor share, because you are a guest in the country (same advise for any other country you will visit in your life).
2.Visa. To enter China your passport is not enough: even for tourism you have to apply for a visa so please, check with the embassy what kind of documents you will need, how long will your tourist visa last and how many entries you’ll have in order to arrange the itinerary accordingly (note: if you plan to visit also Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan consider those as out of the Mainland of China therefore you will get your Chinese “exit” stamp before entering one of these three and “waste” an entry in case you have a multiple entry Chinese visa).
3.Download a VPN (Virtual Proxy Network) before landing in China. Censorship in China is quite strong and a bit bothering for people like us, used to easily navigate into the ocean of Internet and Social Medias: Google, Facebook, Instagram, even Whatsapp since few years, and similar, are all banned in China so you will not be able to access to these platforms if not through a VPN. What does this thing actually do?! The VPN is an app that changes your IP to another outside of China; this allows you to avoid the Great Firewall and publish the photos of your trip on Facebook and Instagram. 😛 There are several free VPN on the web – often they are China-based so in some particular occasions they may stop working or disappear (reason why I don’t feel to recommend any) – but if you have to stay in the People’s Republic of China more than a month or two, you could pay for Express VPN or Astrill (which also offer a short free trial), the most used among all the foreigners I met. If you don’t want to download this kind of app then you will be able to use Baidu (the Chinese internet browser) and, at the time I am writing this post, Ecosia – that new browser planting trees for each research.
4.Don’t miss the yellow paper! When you enter and leave China you will have to fill a yellow paper (Arrival Card and Departure Card) where you’ll be requested to write – so keep a pen in your bag – your details, your flight number and, on the Arrival Card, also the address where you’ll stay and the purpose of your trip. Usually there’s a long queue at the immigration desk so please, don’t forget to take that yellow paper or you will have to go back, take it and start the line a second time. Gotten to the officer, you will have to show your passport with the visa, the boarding pass and this yellow card that they will keep after adding a new stamp to your collection.
You’re in China now! 欢迎你！Welcome!
5.Don’t listen to those guys asking you “taxi?” when you get to the airport or the train station. Walk with blinkers and follow the directions to the official taxis (probably you’ll have to queue again); show the address (better if in chinese characters) to the driver because he possibly won’t speak or understand English and prepare the yuan (CNY) you already took from the ATM.
6.Forget about the Chinese restaurant back home! Authentic Chinese food is nothing like the food you order in the western countries and it can be very spicy so if your palate doesn’t stand it you can say “不要辣” (bù yào là) which means I don’t want it spicy – expect them to laugh as soon as you say that. If you want to know and try my favorite specialties during your trip, ask me! I will tell you/write to you the Chinese name and explain you what’s in that.
7.Try not to drink tap water: not always but sometimes it can cause you some undesired… “needs“.
8.Trains work perfectly in China! As precise as Swiss clocks, fast trains in China are very efficient and almost always full; they remain a great option to move from a city to another. Most probably you will have to buy your ticket at the station (note: some hotels offer a service for this and it could be a good help; ask the reception if they do) and you will have to tell them the destination and time – if you are lucky, you will find an English speaker desk otherwise the dear old body language can be not enough to communicate so I suggest you to write down everything and just show it with your passport, then pay and get your ticket.
Once you have your ticket go to the check point: they will check your passport and ticket, scan your luggage as at the airport and… you’re in! Check the number of your train on the screen and go to the gate; this will open some minutes in advance, get to the platform and check your seat on the ticket so that you’ll know in what coach you are. Don’t be late! Because Chinese trains are not… (In the whole time spent in China, only once my train was late and it was because of an accident).
9.Metro to get around. Same as trains, metros (or subways) are very efficient and in rush hour in the biggest city there’s a train every two minutes. You must buy a ticket – which sometimes is not a card but a plastic coin – and you have two options: ticket desk or ticket machine; you will have to click on the station you’re going to and the machine will tell you the amount to pay. Don’t worry! They should all have English. Easy… ok, platform directions and go, another luggage scan then you can swipe your ticket (note: if you have a very small bag, you can try to show it to the officer to skip the scan – if the officer is in a good mood will allow you otherwise will ask you to put it on the scan anyway). Don’t lose the ticket! Because you will need it again to get out. (note: it is not allowed to eat on the metro; don’t do it even if you see someone else doing it)
I think these are quite enough tips to organize your trip to China, but if you have questions, if you need advise on the amazing places to visit in this country, don’t hesitate to ask me and I will be more than happy to answer if I can help.
Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page…
I’ll read ya!