Every year, thousands of tourists flock to China to visit its major tourist attractions like the Great Wall or the Temple of Heaven. Thanks to its efficient public transportation system, friendly locals, and affordable hotels, it is also effortless to travel through the country’s huge landmass. However, for first-time travelers, China’s vast size, unique culture, foreign rules, and language can be quite baffling.
Here, we discuss 9 essential things that you must know before you set out for China.
1. Apply For The Chinese Visa Well In Advance
All foreign tourists except those from Japan, Brunei, and Singapore will need a visa to be in China for more than three days. An important thing to note is that China does not offer visas on arrival. To apply for a Chinese visa, contact the local Chinese consulate.
When you apply for a tourist visa, the authorities will ask you to provide a detailed timetable of your trip or a letter of invitation sent by a Chinese citizen. Alternatively, you can apply for a visa through a third-party company that will do all the paperwork for a fee.
The visa process can take anywhere between two days and a month.
2. Carry Cash When You Are In China
Although China has advanced a lot in financial technology and mobile payment gateways such as WeChat Wallet and Alipay are accepted in most places, most of these have to be linked with a local bank account. Therefore, it will be prudent for you to carry cash everywhere, except for large hotels and restaurants that accept international cards like Visa or Mastercard.
You will find international ATMs in all big cities, and you can easily withdraw local currency with foreign cards.
3. China Is Huge, But You Can Navigate Easily
China has big airports like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing, with in-terminal metro stations for easy exit. You’ll find signage in English and Chinese, so language won’t be a barrier in finding your way. In Shanghai, Hong Kong, and other major cities, subways provide ticket machines, system maps, station names, and announcements in English.
If you want to avoid rush-hour metros and jam-packed buses, cabs with sturdy roof racks can be a cheap and comfortable alternative. Write down your destination name in Chinese so that the driver can understand where you are going.
4. Be Smart When Booking Hotels In China
Compared to the USA or Europe, hotel prices are lower in China. Hence, it would be good to book hotels that are more upscale than standard ones. Fortunately, even highly-rated international hotel chains such as the J.W. Marriott prices are low in big cities like Shanghai.
If you want to have a flexible travel plan, make bookings through sites that do not ask for advance payments and have the facility of free cancellations. Try to book a hotel which is closer to the spots you want to visit.
5. China Has Several Primary Tourist Spots, Each With Different Flavors
China has many popular tourist destinations, and you must select the ones matching your taste. Beijing is famous for Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall of China. Shanghai is well-known for its cruise starting point and vibrant economic center. If you have the mind for cruising, go to the Yangtze River.
For wildlife lovers, Chengdu is the place to go, which is particularly famous for the pandas. Guilin, a world-famous picturesque city, situated on the west bank of the Li River, is liked by tourists for its river cruises and unique karst hills. Xian, an ancient city, is full of monuments as well as historical and cultural sites.
6. Haggling Skills Can Be Useful In China
Besides big restaurants, boutiques, and stores with fixed price tags, the price of non-essential stuff fluctuates highly, especially in tourist markets. Therefore, exercise your bargaining skills when visiting such markets in China.
If you are not comfortable with such adventures, you should stick to brick-and-mortar shops for buying your souvenirs. If you have a friend who knows a bit of Chinese, you can easily get a good deal from sellers at the local markets.
7. Natural Air And Water Quality Is Below Par
Both water and air quality in highly industrialized zones of China are deplorable. You should never drink tap water as it contains high levels of metal particles. You can use the tap water to wash the odd thing, but always drink bottled water, which is cheap in China.
Similarly, when you are in bigger cities like Beijing, wearing a mask would be normal. The locals put on masks when they are out, but if the day’s air quality is particularly bad, you should avoid going out altogether.
8. You May Get Special Attention From The Chinese People
Chinese people are extremely helpful to foreign visitors. However, even after millions of foreigners visiting China every year, the local people are still fascinated by international visitors, especially in smaller cities or rural areas. A group of locals may ask you to have a photo with them, which they will probably upload in social media. So, don’t shy away and be ready to pronounce Qie zi (“Eggplant” in Chinese).
9. You’ll Require A VPN To Visit Several Websites
When you are in China, the ‘Great Firewall’ will block your regular social sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. For accessing these and other blocked sites, you’ll need to obtain a virtual private network. Choose paid VPNs as they cover all of China and provide high speeds with unlimited data usage. For longer stays in China, you can use WeChat to interact with your family and the locals.
In the last few decades, China has rapidly grown economically, technologically, and politically, attracting people worldwide to be a part of its spectacular development and rich cultural heritage. Although a first-time visitor may find China overwhelming in many ways, with the right knowledge and necessary adjustments, your visit to China can be enriching.
Amelia cooper is a full-time content marketing specialist. She has been closely following the Travel industry trends for quite some time. She has dabbled in various domains before the Travel industry But currently focused on Travel roof rack. On her off days, She likes to spend her time at the nearest animal shelter, lift weights or be nose deep in a novel.