China travel can be a culture shock and a bit more difficult to maneuver, especially compared to its neighbors in South East Asia. With a little planning and preparation you can travel through China with ease.
10 Tips on How to Prepare to Travel China
1. Travel Visa
Most countries require you to obtain a visa before you can enter China. Obtaining a Chinese visa is not always the easiest process but I promise you the juice is worth the squeeze!
This might be the top tip on how to prepare to travel China. If you are constantly connected online and enjoy social media like most of the world this is a MUST! China has many sites blocked (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, even Google!) This is known as the Great FireWall of China. If you want to be able to access these sites while you are away download/purchase a VPN (Virtual Private Network) before you enter China. This will allow you to connect to a private network somewhere else in the world and gives you access to these sites.
I used Vypr VPN and it worked great for me while I was traveling all over China for a month. Sign up here and receive 25% off your purchase if you subscribe for a year on any plan. I mean who wants to travel China and NOT be able to flaunt it on social media.
3. Language Barriers
The struggle is real here folks. Learn a few key words and phrases as most people do NOT speak English especially in the smaller, more rural towns. Knowing your basics will help you out tremendously. Ni hao (hello) and xie xie (thank you) are a good place to start.
Always carry the written address of where you are staying in Chinese characters to show your cab driver so you can get home or use DiDi (rideshare app).
4. Ordering Food
Outside the big cities and away from the main tourist spots, many restaurants that you sit down to eat at will not have pictures on their menus. This makes ordering food a bit more difficult. Cue Google Translator (only accessed with a VPN tho). Of course, if you’re up for the challenge of ‘point and eat’, then go get’ em tiger! Just a friendly reminder that China has been known to serve any part and any kind of animal. Think of Oscar first…
5. Cash is King
When you travel out of the country, most people bring a couple hundred dollars in cash and expect to do most of the spending on their credit cards. In China cash rules and credit cards aren’t widely accepted. I have an online account with Charles and Schwab that I use when I am traveling. I put all the money that I plan on spending during my trip in that account and withdraw cash whenever I need to because they reimburse all foreign transaction fees. This way I don’t have to carry large amounts of cash around with me and I can withdraw money at any time and as many times as I want.
In the smaller towns ATM’s are less common and may not have an English language option on the screen so plan accordingly.
6. Traveling on Chinese Holidays
With a population of 1.3 billion people you can imagine how crowded it is to travel let alone on a Chinese holiday. Do yourself a favor and research the holidays before you plan your trip. Not only is it more expensive to travel and train tickets and hotel rooms fill up quickly, but daaammnnn that’s a lot of people.
7. Toilet Paper/Napkins
Okay this one you’ll thank yourself ten fold for knowing ahead of time. Most restrooms won’t have toilet paper so bring your own! With this being said its probably a good idea to have some hand sanitizer with you as well and oh ya be prepared to squat. Also restaurants normally won’t provide you with napkins, unless your in a nicer establishment and you’ll want something to wipe your chin up with. I mean eating noodle soup with chopsticks is bound to get a little messy.
8. Culture Shock
Foreign cultures are just that, they’re foreign and you’ll see and experience things that you’re not used to. You will see spitting and lots of it. Also don’t be surprised if you see someone peeing in the street in broad daylight. The hardest one of them all is that pedestrians do NOT have the right away, so get ready as you’re about to have the trip of a lifetime!
9. Buy a Chinese SIM Card
Do yourself a favor and purchase a Chinese SIM card when you arrive in China. It only costs around $15-20 and you’ll be connected to the internet at all times and have no data limit. (Just remember to have the VPN so you can access things like GoogleMaps as it is a lifesaver.) It took me a couple weeks to wise up and finally buy one, best decision I’ve made in years…for real.
10. Download DiDi and WeChat Apps
These apps will save you time, struggle, and headache. You’ll want to have these apps downloaded before arriving in China as you need cell service to receive confirmation codes to set them up.
*Also download a bike share app that will allow you to use one of the many bikes dispersed throughout the cities. (You don’t have to do this before hand but you will want someone at your hotel to help you set it up.)
I hope these tips helped on how to prepare to travel China. The world is waiting, you’re a rockstar!