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|Tips For Traveling and Touring China
|China is a large country at a size of 9,596,960 sq km. China was only partially open to the world from 1980 onwards and has been a communist country for many decades. Although there is much progress in the travel industry and infrastructure of China, there remain areas that need to be improved before it can match the level that most tourists would need. However, much of the fun in traveling China is that it's different from the rest of the world.
China is rich in culture & history. Visit the Great Wall of China in Beijing, sip Chinese tea in Xiamen, dance with ethnic tribes in Yunnan, check out 19th Century European buildings in Qingdao -- there's so much to do & see in China!
Below are some travel tips to make your travel in China more enjoyable.
China need entry visa from most countries. Apply at the Chinese consulate or through your travel agent before travelling to China.
Very diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north. Be prepared with the right seasonal clothing.
The unit of money is known as Renmembi (RMB) or Yuan. Get some Chinese Yuan in your local country before traveling. When in China, exchange foreign money for local money in the banks or at the hotel. Banks tend to give slightly better rates than hotels. Take note that some banks close for a noon siesta between 12-2pm.
Most better class hotels and shopping centers take Credit Card or Travellers cheques. Smaller hotels and shops take cash only. Away from the larger cities, credit card & ATM cards tend to be impossible to utilize. Money is still king in Chinese business and trade.
Counterfeit notes are common in China. Check carefully before accepting notes, especially if it consists of mostly 100 RMB notes. You can feel a texture difference where counterfeit notes is concerned.
Most signboards and notices will be in both English and Chinese. However, be aware that some translations can be so notorious that no one can understand what was the original Chinese purpose.
Most civil servants, custom officials, police, hotel staff and men in the street do not speak English, or at best a smattering of English. Most young people can understand basic English if you speak slowly. Do not expect hotels or shops to understand English. Only the big hotels will have staff that will understand English.
China is generally a safe country. However, hang on tight to your wallet especially in crowded, popular tourist sites in tourist cities such as Beijing and Xian.
These tourist cities also have a lot of touts in the streets soliciting money from female travelers for jewelry. Avoid these people at all cost!
Bus, train, ferries & domestic flights are well developed. Avoid the crowd at the stations and book your tickets through the hotel tour desk or the nearest tour agent. Prices are likely to be competitive and the tickets will be delivered to your hotel room. Again, avoid ticket touts who approach you in the streets.
Local buses are cheap (US $0.10 or YS $0.20) and you may want to try them out. Taxis are convenient and are available at all hours. Starting fares differ from each city and may be as cheap as US $0.70 in Weihai & US $1.50 in Shenzhen.
Avoid travel in China during peak holiday seasons or book tickets well ahead.
There are many websites booking China hotel rooms on the Web. You can also check out the travel counters which are available in most train and bus stations as well as at the airport.
There is a nice choice of hotels in China ranging from one star to the most luxurious 6 stars. Most of the time, the rooms are safe and tidy and in my opinion, cheap does not mean bad.
Book ahead if travelling in peak seasons.
Peak Tourist Seasons
- May Day: In the first week of May
- Chinese old Year: The date varies but generally late January or early February.
Avoid travelling during these period. Book rooms and travel modes way early when traveling then. Believe me, the crowds during these period of time will be scary. What do you expect when the entire Chinese nation of 8 billion people who are on holiday as well!
- China National Day: Occurs during a week in the middle of October.
Local food is absolutely fabulous. Try as much Chinese food as your wallet or stomach can afford. Restaurants are available everywhere and open to late hours. Most restaurants will have a menu that include photographs of the various dishes. Better yet, point at the food that your next door desk is having, especially if it looks delicious!
However, avoid street side stalls and drinking directly from the taps if you have delicate stomach.
Mobile phone coverage in China is adequate in most locations. Global auto-roaming within China is not a problem.
You will want to show your passport as China has tight regulations at web Cyber Cafes. There are cyber cafes everywhere in China, especially in tourist areas. Most are patronised by young people playing online games but you still can check your email. Access may be a bit slow for international websites.
One of the worst experiences many have when traveling China are the atrocious toilet facilities. Things have greatly improved, but it may still be a good idea to empty your stomach or bladder at every opportunity in a hotel, restaurant or departmental store. Public toilets and toilets in small shops can be a health hazard!
Useful China Travel Tips
Try to get a English speaking tour guide at every opportunity you can. China has a rich and wonderful history -- its culture can be explored but without a guide, somehow, the flavor and significance of most tour sites can be lost. Sneaky tip: Hang around a group that has a English speaking guide if you cannot afford to!
Always ask for a receipt from a taxi driver so that you can complain if you have been cheated or for tracing purposes if you happen to be leaving your camera behind in the taxi.
After a tiring day, check out Chinese foot reflexology or Chinese TuiNa (Chinese massage). It's wonderful for the body after a hard day and cheap to boot. Just look out for shop signs that shows a foot. They are everywhere.
Try to take the namecard for each hotel that you are staying at as these cards will have a Chinese address and the map of your hotel location. This is useful if you want to seek assistance to find your way back as the English version or pronounciation of a hotel or a street name may be different from the Chinese version.
Make friends with the Chinese whenever you can. Chinese love to meet foreigners and will make nice tour guides. Buy a small present for them as a small token of your appreciation.