6 Practical Tips to Keep in Mind When Travelling to China
China is a large, exciting country booming with new prospects for the future. In recent years, it has become something of a tourist hot spot too. However, the Chinese way of life can be very different to that of Europe, America, or Australia, and as a tourist, there are some practical issues which you have to bear in mind when travelling. Here are some of our top tips for a smooth, hassle-free journey in China!
1. Beware of cars turning right
Traffic in China can be rather hectic, so pay close attention to the roads, particularly if you’re a pedestrian. The roads in big cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, will often be packed with cars, people, bikes, mopeds and buses, making crossing the road a particularly scary business.
However, one thing all tourists should be aware of is that: in China, cars are legally allowed to turn right at a crossing, even if the light is red. This means that, even if the traffic lights are red, the roads will not be clear and pedestrians should still be wary of cars coming in your direction.
Don’t linger on the roads, and pay attention to your surroundings. Crossing the road can be a tricky affair when you’re in China.
2. Watch out for allergies
Allergies are not particularly common in China, and so many restaurants and street vendors will not pay attention to what ingredients they use in their food.
Those with food allergies should be extra careful when eating anything in China. Although peanut oil is not commonly used in cooking, some nuts such as peanuts, cashew nuts, and pistachios are often used in various types of dishes. If you have an allergy or dietary requirement of any kind, make sure that you tell the chefs beforehand, as they will not double check their ingredients otherwise.
3. Learn the language
Although some people in large cities will speak some degree of English, it would be handy to learn even a few phrases in Chinese in order to assist with communication. Just an understanding of basic structures, such as ‘hello’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’ can make life a lot easier.
Learning set phrases specifying dietary needs or directions to the nearest toilets can also ensure that no misunderstandings occur.
4. Avoid vendors and scams
Where there are tourists, there will be vendors selling cheap merchandise and knock-offs. Learn to avoid and refuse them if they become persistent, and politely walk away from them if they will not leave you alone. Vendors know to target tourists, and some may even charge at extortionist prices if they believe you to be foreign.
Some will also resort to petty tricks to catch your attention. An artist may start drawing a portrait of you without your permission, and then demand to be paid, leaving you little choice but to cough up the bucks.
In such situations, being able to speak Chinese will come in handy. If you can at least put on the appearance of having been in China for some time, then they will know not to mess with you.
5. Be careful of pickpockets
China is overflowing with people. With 21.5 million people in Beijing alone, you can imagine the size of the crowds which gather in certain tourist destinations.
In such places, pickpocketing is common, so you should always be wary of where you are keeping your wallet and phone. Keep your cash in different pockets, so you will always have some to spare if the worst is to happen. Make sure your bags are zipped up and always in sight. Double check your belongings whenever you leave an area to make sure nothing is missing. Relocating missing items can be extremely difficult, and hopefully, it will never happen to you!
6. Take extra toilet paper
The final, but perhaps, the most important tip: take extra toilet paper with you at all times!
As hard as it may be to believe, many public toilets in China do not include toilet paper in the stalls as a way of saving resources. If you are lucky, paper towels for wiping your hands may be available near the sinks, or there may be a vending machine selling tissue packets. In most cases, however, there is usually nothing.
Therefore, you should always carry extra tissues or paper with you, be it in your bag or in your pockets, as you definitely don’t want to be caught unawares!
And that’s all of our top tips for travelling in China! What issues have you encountered on your travels, and what kind of tips would you give to your fellow travellers? Please share your stories in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!