Useful Things to Know Before You Travel to China

Traveling to China can be an unforgettable experience. It’s a destination that feels like you’re traveling to a whole other planet. When asked, have you traveled to China, I’m always hesitant to say yes.

I have a love/hate relationship with visiting China because it is not a comfortable place to travel. But please, don’t let this hold you back from your journey completely, it is a good thing.

I think I like it more for this very reason, it is a challenging country to travel around. It is for this very reason that I have put together this blog post where I wanted to share the most useful things to know before traveling to China.

Had I known these few things before leaving on my first trip to China, I feel I would have enjoyed my first trip so much more. It is a country that grows with you over time.

I hope this information will help you navigate around China much better from the start.

China also offers many great destinations for travel, such as:

  • Watch pandas at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center.
  • Explore the Forbidden City of Beijing.
  • Face the dangerous challenge of walking the wooden hill on Mount Hua.
  • Uncovering the Terracotta Army outside the ancient city of Xi’an.
  • Walking along the Great Wall of China.
  • Explore the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.
  • Relax on the tropical island of Hainan.

Simply put, China covers a large area for travelers with plenty to see and do.

After all, China is one of the most populous countries in the world. Did you know that you can find 102 cities in China with a population of more than 1 million people? Now that’s a lot of people.

There is nothing wrong with challenging, in fact, I prefer the challenge while traveling, it’s always a nice change to get lost on your own without understanding where you might end up.

Always be prepared before you travel, jump to the deep end, and most importantly, have fun. However, I can give you some tips that I wish I had known before traveling to China.

You’ll spend moments throughout your trip to China when all you can say is simply “Oh, China!” It’s a special place, and you’ll stumble upon the most bizarre of situations.

And a brief word of caution, health and safety is a completely different ball game in China. So be on your guard wherever you go and make sure you get reliable travel insurance before your trip to ensure you are covered.

You will need to arrange a VPN before your trip to China

The Great Chinese Firewall, nothing goes in, nothing goes out. The locals do not bother that everything is forbidden, because they have their own Chinese versions of popular services and applications.

Websites blocked in China:

  • Facebook social networking site
  • Google (Gmail, Maps, Translate)
  • Twitter
  • flickr
  • Youtube
  • Instagram

All banned! You have been warned.

no need to be scared. You can quickly get around this blocking issue by downloading a popular virtual private network service called VPN.

It is essential that you find a VPN that works in China, and that you set it up on your laptop and mobile smartphone before you arrive.

Once you set it up, you can access all the above blocked websites easily in China. Meaning you can stay connected to the outside world and carry on with business as usual.

Do not damage your electronic devices

Make sure you have the correct voltage and adapters to charge your electronic devices. It’s a good idea to get a plug with increased current to be on the safe side. You have been warned.

Drinking tea and bottled water in China

Coffee is not a good idea in China. After all, they do so well as a nation to make incredibly delicious tea, so why drink coffee?

Cold water is nothing. You are likely to see hot water on offer all over China as many locals like to either add tea leaves or drink it while it is hot.

Avoid drinking tap water at all costs and buy bottled water when needed. Instead, swap your coffee for tea, and you won’t be disappointed.

For an emergency drink, in China there is Starbucks. Not that Starbucks is great coffee, it’s available just in case you need caffeine in the morning.

Otherwise, I’ll have a flask filled with hot water to add your tea leaves to in the morning. Do as the locals do and savor excellent tea on your trip to China.

You do not need a visa to enter China

Did you know that you do not need a visa to enter China? I didn’t know this either, but British tourists who fly from London to Hainan directly can enjoy visa-free entry for 30 days.

For the majority of trips to China, you have to apply for a tourist visa to enter. But there are a few exceptions where UK passport holders do not need a visa.

Another example is an international traveler passing through China within 72 hours. You need to arrive in another country within 72 hours to be eligible for a transit visa.

I used this transit visa during a trip from London to Bangkok via Beijing, went for walks along the Great Wall of China within 72 hours and was able to enter China without the need for a visa.

Eat first, ask later, China will remain a mystery when it comes to food

My best advice for dining in China is to ask for the specific meal or recommended dish and then eat before asking what it is.
Food in China can be an adventure in itself; The best advice is not to ask about what you eat and just eat it. Eat first, then ask later.

You may be surprised by what you eat. China is such a fun culinary destination, and I’ve enjoyed some great dishes without a clue what they are.

Also, mock foods are popular in China, such as Mock Duck or Mock Chicken where China has perfected the method of fake meat before the impossible burger. This is mostly due to the cost because the meat can be expensive for locals and the mock version is much cheaper and has a similar taste and texture.

If you have a dietary requirement, preference or sensitivity, it can be a little difficult to fulfill your orders in China. A good idea would be to translate these words in advance so you can have them on hand to work with the restaurant on what’s in the meal before eating.

I must warn you that they may say the dish does not contain an ingredient when it does. This is entirely due to the language barrier and the component being used as a stock rather than a main component.

Jodi from Legal Nomad has put together some helpful cards for those looking for gluten-free options that will help with their translation problem. I highly recommend sorting this out before traveling to China.

Make sure you carry cash while traveling around China

Most payments in China are done through QR payment using digital wallets using apps such as WeChat Pay or Alipay.

It is difficult to get a local sim card and activate these apps; Travelers should withdraw local cash from ATMs because card payments such as American Express, Mastercard or Visa are not a popular payment method, especially for small transactions with local vendors, cash is your best option.

I recommend trying to locate and find an HSBC ATM to withdraw your money in China and be sure to inform your bank in advance that you are traveling to China to avoid having your account blocked.

Fetching, spitting and farting are all common practices in China

Trump, trumpet, burp down, one cheek squeak or how about a Breezer? Unleash your heart’s content in China where the locals honestly don’t seem to care in public.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment a resident dropped a tone while standing next to me. It was like getting permission to finally let my body unleash to perform a lifelong orchestra in public without any shame.

Please don’t be offended that it doesn’t fix anything, you are in China now. Join the local customs.

However, it was the sound of gorging on every street corner in China that reached me. It is again, a relatively common and unavoidable practice.

Welcome to China, spitting is relatively common; You will simply have to get used to it.

Another habit that you get used to is the art of queuing. It doesn’t really exist. You may end up waiting a long time if you line up.

A word of caution, some toilets do not have doors. Always carry a pack of handkerchiefs when nature calls and squat before your trip to China, you’ll need to learn.

You will stumble across the language barrier in China

Good luck trying to speak English, you will have to learn Chinese; After all, you are now in China.

Even some international hotels will struggle with language barriers, so be prepared.

I’ve also noticed that some Chinese signs with English subtitles, usually don’t have any meaning at all. You will be on your own when it comes to understanding the local language.

My best advice is to download a translation app before your trip to China. Write the main landmarks and the name of your hotel on your phone to show the taxi drivers in case you get lost.

Another idea to better understand your destination is to hire a local guide to help you navigate around the language barrier and better understand China.

Most importantly, the Chinese locals are very friendly

I first heard horror stories about how the locals in China were mean and unfriendly towards tourists; This was simply not the case from my experience.

I found China a friendly place to commute and found the locals full of curiosity and interested in learning more about your personal journey around China.

Especially in remote areas of China that hardly ever see any tourists, locals will want to know what you’re up to and stop taking a picture with you.

Embrace your visit to China, take pictures for every occasion, learn a few basic words to allow for communication and a smile, keep the kids at random for selfies (that’s a thing!) and be prepared for friendly all-round gestures and smiles.

China is incredible, and you have to take it for what it is. After all, this is China.

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