If you’re planning to visit China, you should be prepared for various cultural differences. Starting from very specific cuisine, to unusual manners and highly crowded streets that leave very little personal space to every person walking, China may seem like an entirely different universe if you’re visiting for the first time. To be sure you’re not coming unprepared, we have listed a few tips that will be invaluable for your trip to China.
You’ll need a visa
First and foremost, you’ll have to get a visa before travelling to China. Get ready to prepare a detailed list of information regarding your trip unless you have a Chinese friend or relative to send you a letter of invitation. You’ll need to state return flights and confirmed reservations for your hotel bookings. You’ll need to type the application for the tourist visa without spelling or grammar mistakes, and if you notice you’ve made any other mistakes, don’t try to correct them manually because an application with handwritten corrections will not be accepted. If you’re just going to pass through China on your way to some other country, you may get a 72-hour visa.
Get a VPN
Before you arrive in China, you’ll need to ensure a VPN if you want to have access to Facebook, Google and various other services. A Virtual Private Network will make it look like the computer’s IP address is in the US or Australia, or any other country in the world, instead of China. This is the only way you’ll be able to use your laptop and mobile phone when travelling to China. Remember to buy your VPN before your trip, because China even blocks access to the VPN companies.
Ask the locals about the food
When it comes to Chinese food in China, it will greatly differ from anything you’ve tried in your home country. So, if you don’t have experience in choosing food, and you don’t want to end up staring at the food menu in Chinese with no translation, ask the locals about the best food choices. Even better, inform yourself about food and anything else you might be interested in by reading the Week in China digital magazine that will give you all the reliable info you need. Where you spot the line of people waiting to be served at the street cart, that’s the place to eat at. The same goes for restaurants. Ask the locals and you won’t have to worry about trying noodles or other delicacies that won’t agree with you.
Bring bathroom essentials with you
The most surprising thing you can expect in China is that their bathrooms don’t look like they’re from the 21st century. On the contrary, you’ll rarely find toilet paper in their bathrooms, and don’t expect them to be particularly sanitary either. That’s why you should always bring toilet paper with you, alongside toilet seat covers, hand sanitizers and anything else that comes to mind that can aid in sanitation. You won’t find soaps in many Chinese bathrooms, so be sure to pack well for your trip.
Be careful when paying in cash
In terms of paying, Chinese people are very exclusive. They won’t accept anything other than their own currency which is RMB. Notes are available for 1RMB, 10RMB, 20RMB, 50RMB, and 100RMB and don’t even try to pay in dollars (US or Hong Kong), euros, or any other currency other than Chinese if you’re paying in cash. Exchange the cash at the hotel or get the money at an ATM. You will be able to find international ATMs in all major cities, but if you’re travelling to the less tourist-friendly places, you might have it harder to find international ATMs. The airport will charge you ridiculously high fees so you should avoid exchanging your money there. Instead, use credit cards where possible, but make sure you still have some cash on hand in case you decide to travel outside the big cities. Don’t be surprised if your Visa and MasterCard don’t work somewhere in China because they have their own card scheme called UnionPay.
Travelling to China will without a doubt be an exciting journey. Meeting the locals, trying out their food and experiencing a completely new culture will certainly be worthwhile. However, before you embark on this journey, go through our few tips and look for some extra guidance to be fully prepared for your adventure.