China is a quite large country by both territory and population, the country has thousands of interesting tourist destinations, you can always find some attractions there that might be of your interest.
In the same time, China is also a very different country, you will encounter many things that can be rarely found in other countries.
Below are ten of the important things to know before you travel to China, if you have never visited China before, knowing these things will make your trip much easier.
1. Using VPN to access blocked websites
As living in an era of internet, most of us can’t live without internet. Although China has the largest quantity of internet users in the world, and WiFi spots can be widely found at many public places, cafe, hotels, the content on the Web that accessed from within the country is largely filtered, and as you might have already known, most popular foreign websites are blocked in the whole country, these sites include Google, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and many more.
This issue may set back many travelers, however, to access these sites is not difficult at all, check out this guide to learn how to access the blocked websites in China.
2. About the language barrier
In China, Mandarin is the most used language, but English is seen as the main language spoken by foreigners, so most signs found in public places, roads, all have English translation, and the audio notifications on subway is always followed with English translation, these things will make your trip less difficult.
Although English is rarely spoken among Chinese people, the language is widely taught in most schools in the country, because English is one of the most important subjects of National University Entrance Examination, almost every Chinese learned English when he or she was studying in school.
So that if you encounter some difficulties caused by language barrier, you can try to ask a high school student for help, in most cases they will be pleased to help you since they get a chance to practice what they learned in school. Due to the lack of practice, their listening skills is generally not good, you should speak slowly and use basic words, it will be better to write down or type the question and show the text to them.
Some smartphone apps can also help you a lot, such as Google translate and Pleco, the apps can even let you scan the Chinese words that you see on a paper, wall, or on some other places and then translate them.
3. You should know many Chinese people speak dialects
Unlike most other countries, dialects is very popular in China (But not as popular as ten years ago), there are thousands of dialects in China, in some provinces of southern region of China, almost every county or city has its own dialect, luckily these dialects are only existing in vocal, all of them use same text as Mandarin, and these years, most Chinese people began to speak Mandarin, though many of them have a variety of accents.
So just remember that not all of Chinese say standard Chinese or Mandarin, don’t let those dialects or accents confuse you when you are on a train, bus, subway or other public places, especially if you are learning Mandarin.
4. Best places to visit for first-timers
China is very large, the country has dozens of cities that with population over 5 million, and there are numerous attractions worth to visit, including natural views, ancient buildings and towns, and modern attractions, it’s impossible for a visitor to visit all of those attractions in one trip, so first-timers need to pick a few cities to visit first.
The best cities for first timer to visit are Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an, learn more of these cities at here. If you have more time in China, you can also try to visit Chongqing, it’s a very interesting and futuristic city. And also take a look at these 8 most beautiful and interesting attractions in China.
5. Try to take high-speed rail instead of flights
China is proud of its High-Speed Rail, the country has the most expansive network of high-speed rail in the world, the speeds of those trains is one of the fastest in the world, many types of those trains could reach a maximum speed of 350 kilometers per hour, by comparison, the maximum speed of ordinary trains is under 100 kilometers per hour, the average speed of airplane is 800 kilometers per hour.
In many cases traveling by high-speed rail is much faster than flights, as airports are typically built in suburban areas, while train station are in the city center, usually it takes much longer time to reach airport than train station. Additionally passengers need to wait for about half an hour before the plane taking off, so if you want to visit a city that not very far from the city you are visiting, for example, you are in Changsha and the next city you want to visit is Wuhan, then High-Speed Rail is the best option for you.
6. Try to ride public bikes
Cycling is one of best ways to explore the city, in Chinese cities, it’s very easy to do that because you do not need having your own bike, since bike sharing is very popular in Chinese cities, especially in some large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, in those cities, you can even hardly to find someone riding his own bike, almost every bike being ridden in those cities is a public bike.
Unlike the bike sharing systems in other countries, here in China the public bikes can be parked at any places you like, you don’t need to find a station for parking, you can ride the bike to anywhere, this just make the tour more convenient.
The two largest bike sharing operators are Mobike and Ofo, if you want to explore a city by bike, it’s fairly easy to use, just download the app and pay the deposit, then the map in the app will tell you where to find the bikes, the only thing that you may think inconvenient is it require a local bank account to use, however it’s not difficult at all to create an account.
7. Avoid the Chinese public holidays
You are recommended to avoid visiting China during the public holidays of China, on those days, the tourist attractions will be crowded with Chinese people, it will be very hard to see the scenery or other things you wish to see, as the views will be blocked by numerous bodies of visitors.
However, if you love the bustling and noise, you can have a try to visiting there by Chinese holidays.
Check the table below to see the dates of public holidays in China in 2018.
|New Year||Dec 30th, 2017 – Jan 1st, 2018|
|Spring Festivel||Feb 15th – 21st|
|Tomb-Sweeping Day||Apr 5th – 7th|
|Labor Day||Apr 29th – May 1st|
|Dragon Boat Festival||Jun 16th – 18th|
|Mid-Autumn Festival||Sep 22nd – 24th|
|National Day||Oct 1st – 7th|
8. You need a local sim card
Since the free communication tools like WhatsApp can’t be directly used in China due to the blocking, traditional phone calling is still the only reliable option to communicate with your relatives in home country.
However, the international roaming fee can be quite high, and the internet connection will not be very good if you use a foreign sim card, that’s why you need a local sim card, by using local sim card you can enjoy the fast and stable connection, and without international roaming charge, local card makes it more convenient to communicate with your family and friends.
In the same time, you can also spend a few minutes to learn how to unblock WhatsApp in China. Although the service is blocked in China, it’s very easy to circumvent the block, with WhatsApp you can enjoy free international communication in places with WiFi connection, today most hotels, restaurants, malls and other public places in China offer free WiFi.
9. Using electronic map
Electronic Map is very helpful for travelers, especially in a country where most people can only speak their own language. The method of asking a middle school student for help is not always useful, because in most times they are living inside their school campuses.
Although Google map is blocked in China, it still can provides users the detailed information of transportation in Chinese cities, including the routes, time needed, which lines of metro to take, and other related information. The only additional thing you need to do is using a VPN service.
10. Never buy smartphones in China
As Google is blocked in China, the android smartphones sold in Chinese market all don’t have Google Play pre-installed, and also don’t support the installation of Google Play Service due to the lack of a framework, which means you can’t download apps, even you can download the apk file from other sites, many android apps still can’t run on those smartphones without Google Service, to install it you must root the device to add in the lacked framework, but rooting has become really difficult nowadays.