A trip to China can be quite an adventure for many. One of the richest countries in terms of its landscapes, history, and culture, China is a must-see for many travelers. But, before you travel, there are a few important things you should know to ensure an enjoyable experience. Here are 18 essential tips for your journey.
China’s L-Visa requirements
First and foremost, foreign visitors to China need to be aware of the country’s visa regulations. Before you embark on your journey, you need to apply for the required L-visa, and information about this can be found on their embassy or visa application services website. Make sure you have the right documents and apply early, as it could take a few weeks for it to be processed.
Languages spoken in China
The most prominent language spoken in China is Mandarin. While English is not as widely spoken in the tourist areas, some local folks do try and make the effort. It’s advantageous to learn a few common words in Mandarin, or you can carry a Chinese translation travel book or download a translation app when visiting the country.
The Chinese currency
The Chinese Yuan (RMB) is the official currency of China. Both credit and bank cards, as well as cash, are accepted at most places, so it’s advisable to carry both when making purchases. Some places work only with cash transactions, so having enough money with you is key.
China’s rigid internet access
The “Great Firewall” is a collective term used to describe China’s media and internet censorship. Search engines such as Google and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are not accessible, as they have been intentionally blocked. To bypass this, most tourists make use of a VPN, or virtual private network.
Etiquette and cultural customs
China has always been revered for its rich culture and traditions, which are still practiced today. The citizens practice traditional etiquette that focuses on demonstrating respect, and gestures such as a simple bow to greet someone else and using both hands when receiving or giving others items are an indication of respect. Knowing this can help give a good impression to foreigners in the country.
One of the great things about China is its public transportation system. It has some of the most innovative transport infrastructure in the world, from high-speed trains to metros. It can be a little daunting when visiting the country and trying to get around; however, to mitigate this, it’s important to look up the information surrounding this system to make sure you can navigate things easier.
Choice of clothing and weather
Depending on where in China you plan on going, checking the weather temperatures before your trip is helpful when it comes to packing the right clothes and shoes. The colder regions are typically in the north, such as Jilin, Liaoning, and Beijing, while the southern regions are generally warmer, such as Hunan, Hainan, and Guangxi.
Concerns about air quality
Among all the cities in China, Xinjiang has the highest air pollution. If you have any respiratory issues, before you travel, you can check their air quality index to find out if you should be taking a mask with you. On the other hand, visiting other parts of the country may be a better idea where air pollution is not as prominent.
The importance of travel insurance
As with most countries you visit for business or pleasure, it’s a good idea to invest in travel insurance. For peace of mind, this holds true, especially when visiting China. Checking the right type of travel insurance is key, as not all of them cover trip cancellations, expenses, or any activities you partake in.
Health considerations and vaccinations
Paying a visit to your doctor before your trip is important before you plan on visiting China, as there may be certain vaccinations that need to be administered before you visit the country. Websites such as ‘Fit for Travel’ have helpful information on this. Other things to check include information regarding risk prevention, which involves the consumption of food and water, and safety guidelines. One needs to be cautious about the street food you eat and the tap water you drink.
Exploring China’s local cuisine
China has some of the most diverse local food cuisines compared to most other countries, from the things we do recognize to the more weird and wonderful dishes. Even though you may want to be adventurous and try different dishes, always make sure to explain any restrictions or allergies you may have to the restaurant staff, as some of the ingredients may not agree with you.
Shopping and bargain hunting
The cities are filled with many different local markets that sell a variety of things, and if you’re lucky, you can get away with some great bargains for items to take back home with you. The vendors are very welcoming to tourists, and the negotiating process and bargaining are common occurrences in China’s markets. Going back and forth until you reach an agreeable price is the way to go.
China’s rich history and sites
As mentioned in the point above, respect is at the top of the list of China’s culture, and when visiting some magnificent historical sites, it’s always a good idea to keep this in mind. Some of the best historical sites are found in China and are a must-visit. Guidelines are provided at any site you visit, and abiding by them is crucial. Also, refrain from touching any artifacts, as this is frowned upon by the locals.
Mobile and SIM cards
There are a few different apps that you should ideally download onto your phone before you visit China, such as Alipay, which you can use to make payments, and the Didi app, which is their version of Uber when you need a cab ride or you want to order food delivery. WeChat is also used for most activities in the country, such as online shopping. Investing in a Chinese SIM card will significantly help with all of these.
Strict local regulations
Throughout the decades, you may have heard about the severe penalties that offenders face in China. It’s for your benefit to make sure you understand the laws and regulations of the country beforehand to avoid any troubles. Those who are caught selling or buying drugs or contraband, for instance, can face harsh penalties.
Etiquette for photography
It goes without saying that in some countries, taking photographs anywhere and of anything is forbidden, especially in a country such as China, which has strict rules around it. It’s best to use your common sense in all places and refrain from, for instance, taking pictures of strangers and children. Additionally, not all historical sites allow photography, so keep that in mind.
As a safety precaution, keeping information about your emergency contacts on hand is a good idea. This can include your friends or family members back home as well as the contacts of your country’s consulate or embassy. You may never know when you or someone else might need them. Make a list and carry it with you at all times, in your wallet or handbag.
Did you know that some ATMs in China do not accept foreign cards? There are, however, tons of machines in every corner, but before you travel to the country, it’s advisable to let your local bank know about your travel plans in advance, as there may be some restrictions when it comes to withdrawing money in the country. Keeping enough cash on hand in the local currency is also a good idea.
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