Travel Tips for China

  • Very few people can speak English, even in touristy areas. If in need, look for a younger person who is more likely to speak English. Expect to use sign language and a lot of effort to communicate. Use a phrasebook or download the app Pleco if you want to use Chinese words. Learn your basic numbers 1-10. The Wechat App has a very helpful translation function.
  • Chinese streets can be very noisy, smelly & dirty. Watch out for excretion and spit, and even holes in the ground. People often take off their shoes at the front door of a home as shoes get really dirty! Never place bags on the ground.
  • Plumbing in China is poor. Therefore, as a general rule, if there is a bin beside the toilet, place your used toilet paper in it, not in the toilet. The toilets in 4 star hotels & above are the exception.
  • Public toilets generally do not provide toilet paper. Always carry your own tissue (& hand sanitizer). Public toilets are usually squat toilets, often without doors/privacy between cubicles. Face OUT when using a doorless toilet – better that the Chinese peer at your face than your behind 🙂
  • Don’t drink the tap water. Only drink purified/boiled water. Water served to you in a restaurant should be fine. It will most likely be piping hot, freshly boiled, even in the summer.
  • Avoid uncooked fruits and vegetables, as well as meat served on the roadside until your stomach adjusts.
  • Google, Google Maps, YouTube, Facebook and many other websites are blocked. Also Whatsapp, BBC, New York Times and other apps are blocked. Don’t expect to be able to use them. You can download the Express VPN onto your computer and phone before you arrive in China. It gives you 30 days for free.
  • You may want to download Wechat to use while in China. It’s also how you will stay in touch with any new friends you make.
  • Be prepared to use cash. You can draw cash from ATM machines (but you may pay a fee). Credit cards can only be used at very fancy restaurants/hotels, or in ATM machines.
  • Nowadays Chinese people use Wechat and Alipay to make payments, and cash is rarely used. Unfortunately you can’t pay by Wechat and Alipay if you don’t have a Chinese bank account, so be aware that you may occasionally have troubles paying for things in places where cash is not accepted.
  • Do not expect cars to stop for you at pedestrian crossings and traffic lights. Look every direction when crossing, and cross slowly but confidently. The general rule is that whoever was there first gets right of way, so remember that when trying to cross a busy road, cars will slow down for you if you suddenly step out in front of them! A vehicle ‘in front’ might cut you off with little notice. Be careful!
  • Particularly in touristy areas, shopkeepers will try to charge you 2-3 times the reasonable price. Be willing to walk away and compare prices with other vendors. Often they will drop the price right down if you walk away.
  • If you look different, everyone will want to take your picture, and they may even want to touch you. Be prepared to feel like a movie star!
  • In the summer, in the eastern provinces, the sun rises as early as 4.30am. Bring an eye mask if it bothers you. Bring ear plugs if you are bothered by noise.
  • Be prepared to meet beggars, some very professional. You might want to consider in advance how to helpfully respond to them.
  • Outside of Beijing, taxi drivers will try to charge you a very high flat rate and refuse to use their meters. Sometimes you might have no choice but to haggle a bit or pay. Or you can get out and wait for a cheaper or more honest driver (but you might be waiting a long time!). You can call a taxi ‘didi’ through the Wechat app or download the app onto your phone.
  • Make sure you purchase travel insurance that covers lost baggage, medical costs, relocation, etc. You don’t want to end up in a Chinese hospital without medical insurance.