When you get your visa and book your first trip to China, it’s a very exciting time. China is a beautiful country that features bountiful opportunities for exploring the landscape, landmarks, and big cities. But before you head for the airport, there’s a few things you should know in order to have the best possible visit to China. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience.
1 Try to avoid traveling during Chinese holidays
During Chinese holidays, national monuments and landmarks become intensely crowded. The crowds anywhere on any given day are enough to be jarring, particularly for anyone who doesn’t live in a big city, however during holidays, offices are closed and the good citizens of China take to the roadways, railways, and airports to go to the beaches and other popular places. Research accordingly so you don’t wind up stranded somewhere without train tickets or other modes of transport.
2 Always carry cash
In big cities, especially at the larger Western-based hotels, you’ll be able to use your credit cards. However, it can’t hurt to carry cash because most of the places you’ll visit will only accept cash. Be familiar with the conversion rate too so you’ll know how much you’re spending.
3 Be prepared to be stared at
A homogeneous country like China means that foreign faces will always stand out. This is especially true if your skin is darker. You’re less likely to be pointed at in big cities, but no matter where you are, try not to take offense. Most people don’t mean any harm and are just curious about you.
4 Take tissues and hand sanitizer with you everywhere
China is a place that is not known for its clean bathrooms. In fact, the only clean bathrooms you’re likely to find are in the 5-star hotel establishments. Bathrooms often have no toilet paper or soap. They almost all involve squatters which is nothing more than a flushable hole in the ground. Some places are even worse than that. You’ll find bathrooms that have no doors on the stalls and sometimes, even no stalls at all. So when you find yourself in a nice place with a good bathroom, make sure you use it!
5 Learn a few key phrases
Mandarin is a very difficult language to learn. There is no alphabet, only characters that you’ll either know or won’t. That makes it hard to read. But fear not! There are many phrase books you can choose from to take along on your travels. There are also apps that can help you translate too. And if nothing else, just remember to smile and say, “Ni hao” which means “hello!”
6 Know how to use chopsticks
Unless you plan on dining at all Western establishments, it will do you good to learn how to use chopsticks. Most places won’t have a fork so make sure you practice first so you won’t have a dining disaster!
7 Bring over-the-counter remedies
Healthcare in China is very different. Plus, trying to get what you need can be difficult if you don’t speak the language. Pack OTC stomach relief as well as pain relievers. Make sure you have bandages too just in case. Going to the hospital on your first trip to China is something you truly want to avoid.
8 Try to supply addresses in Chinese
For your hotel, landmarks, or businesses you plan to visit, plan ahead and print the names out in Chinese. This will save you from any confusion when taking taxis.
9 Don’t drink the water
The tap water is not safe for drinking. For this reason, you’ll only be served hot water or even hot tea in any Chinese restaurant. If you want fresh water that’s not boiling hot, purchase bottled water.
10 Stay close in lines
There is no such thing as personal space in China. Do not be offended when people stand too close to you. Similarly, make sure you don’t leave a gap between you and the person in front of you or someone will cut in front of you. They’re not doing it to be mean. They simply think because of the space you left between you and the other person that you must not be on the line.
11 Be adventurous
One last thing you should know is that visiting China is the trip of a lifetime. Don’t blow it by not trying out new foods or embracing the culture. And speaking of food, Chinese food is very different in China compared to the Westernized versions you get elsewhere. Be open-minded, keep safe, and you will have the time of your life!
First time visitors to China should be prepared to experience an exciting new world. Follow these tips to get the most out of your travel adventure as you step out of your comfort zone to explore and embrace the Chinese culture.