1. Allow for culture shock.
China tends to challenge travelers more than almost any other country. Steph from 20yearshence.com writes about what she and her partner Tony experienced
“moments that were depressing and sometimes even downright gross, and honestly, if there was one watch-word for our time in the country, it was probably frustration…..
we had to admit that China had been a letdown in nearly every arena.”
2. Consider staying in hostels.
If you’re a budget to mid range traveler and don’t speak Chinese, hostel staff (and your fellow travelers) can be some of the best sources of info for helping you figure out where to go and how to get there. You can do private rooms rather than dorms and still get the benefits of helpful English speaking staff and picking up tips from other travelers.
3. Set up a VPN before you go.
China blocks internet access to a lot of websites. A VPN will be necessary if you want to access sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even Google. It’s probably a good safety measure and not expensive. Some services offer a free trial which might suit you well for a short stay.
4. Booking train tickets can be a bit tricky.
Booking train tickets can be a bit tricky and trains do sell out. It might be worth paying a local to help you out with this and save some of the stress.
5. Beware of the pollution, especially in Beijing.
China might not be the best choice for you if you suffer from Asthma or a lung disease. Some months a year tend to be better than others in terms of the pollution but air quality is always pretty bad in the cities.
6. Try Hong Kong if you’re looking for China “lite.”
Hong Kong is an alternative if you want to eat dim sum and other Chinese style food but without quite as much culture shock as mainland China.
7. Go to Chengdu if you want to see a Panda.
Chengdu was one of Dave and Vicky’s favorite cities, although like Steph and Tony, they found China a bit disappointing overall.
8. Don’t expect many people to speak English, even in Tourist Info Centers.
When you go anywhere, take the address of where you’re going and your hotel/hostel (so you can get home) written in Chinese.
9. Get some help with ordering food if you can.
One of the most consistent comments about travel in China is how difficult ordering food can be. You can usually order off a picture menu but you’ll still probably not be quite sure what you’re going to get, and all sorts of surprising animal parts, bones etc will turn up in your dishes.
10. Add in some comfort to deal with the culture shock.
Although you don’t want to plan too little and get bored. it’s perfectly fine to take “a weekend” when you’re traveling and have a few days just chilling, revisit a favorite restaurant you found the night before and watch some DVDs.
If you’ve been to China, what are your China tips?
Did you find it disappointing or did it live up to expectations? If you had a great time, what did you do that made it great? Dave C has some great tips for street photography in China.