Being the third world's largest country, China is a fascinating place with a rich history and culture which holds an appeal for adventurers all over the world. However, exploring China can be quite daunting especially if you are a first time visitor. From language barrier and culture shock to its fast growing economy, it can also be one of the most challenging places to visit. Thankfully, there are some top tips from expert travelers that can help get you to quickly get started. With that, here are 9 expert tips for planning travel in China.
Language barrier is definitely the number one hurdle that every person who travel in china has to overcome. Even with so many Chinese children learning English in schools, communication is still a barrier that can feel impenetrable at times. This is why it is advisable to try and learn some few key words and phrases during your China travel planning. If you are ambitious enough, you can enroll to a Mandarin classes (Mandarin Chinese is the main or default Chinese language in most parts of China). However, most people opt to learn some Chinese words using Pleco app on their phone. And other apps out there such as WayGo and WeChat have translation features that allow you to scan Chinese words with your phone or take a photo and it will translate it into English.
China only recognizes its own official currency which is the RMB or yuan. No business in China will accept any other currency whether it is the US dollar or the European Euro. If you are travelling to China, you can bring any of the major foreign currency and exchange it to RMB using apps like XE. This currency is available in notes and coins. If you are in the Northern or Western part of China, cash is more preferable. In addition, businesses here like to use paper money despite how small the denomination will be and reject coins outright. On the other hand, giving a driver small bills such as 1 yuan or 5 jiao notes will be just burdening him or her. They simply like the jingling of coins in their pockets.
Regardless of what time of the year it is, there are obviously some places in China that are enjoying ideal weather for travel. Therefore, you should always check out the weather before you plan a trip to china. This will help you know where’s hot and where’s cold to ensure that your first trip doesn't become a wind-beaten blowout. Typically, spring and autumn are the two most comfortable seasons to visit China, although not in all provinces.
China has an extensive network of buses and high-speed G-Trains. With the train stations being much closer to city centers than the airports, travelling between cities is relatively more efficient and cheaper compared to using domestic flights. Moreover, to see China exclusively as the locals see it, just use the buses, trains, or bikes. TravelChinaGuide-Tours is one of the most useful apps you will need when it comes to travelling using trains. Since there is no Google, Maps.me is the best alternative to Google Maps. You don't have to worry about getting lost since the Chinese people are very friendly and helpful especially to foreigners who cannot speak Chinese. Therefore, you can expect that there will be always someone to put you back on track whenever you lose your way.
The Chinese government has censored nearly everything from the media and the internet. This means that you will be unable to have access to websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google Maps. If this is a big deal for you, make sure that you download a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This will help you to by past the so-called China’s "Great Firewall".
Beware that the locals are not very used to seeing Westerners around. Therefore, when you are outside big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, you may expect locals stare at you or even take photos of you. However, don’t take it personally since most of them are just curious.
One of the most unusual things about China is that most toilets do not have toilet papers. Although the nicer hotels and restaurants will have it available, it is always advisable to carry a roll of toilet paper whenever you go. Just like toilet paper, hand sanitizer or hand soap is another thing that is not standard in most Chinese bathrooms. Always carry a bottle of hand sanitizer just in case.
Among all Chinese wonderful attractions, what really stands out is the food. Although dim sum and other Cantonese dishes are some of the most delicious here, there’s also a whole world of regional cuisines that you will need to discover: the Hunan cuisine and the fiery spice of Sichuan. Even though you will be told to eat and eat more, you should always leave some food on your plate to show that you have had enough.
Read also: 9 Weird Dining Out Habits in China Explained
Unlike most parts of the world, tipping is not very common in China, in fact it is unexpected. However, it is worth mentioning that drivers and tour guides make their living from tips. Tipping from $3 – $4 US dollars for a full day tour is quite fair. Another place where tips are expected is when in high-end restaurants catering to westerners.
Although China is quite hard to explore, it is a very rewarding place to visit. By having China travel tips in mind, you will be able to have a stress free travel and get the most out of your visit to this wonderful land.