In November last year I was traveling to China. This was without a doubt one of the best trips I made. I visited and saw the Chinese Wall with my own eyes near Beijing, the Forbidden City in the center of the capital and the Terracotta army in Xi’An. In addition, I have seen many other things in Shanghai, the modern city of this incredibly large country. This trip was a real Bucket List trip. Although I have followed many tips and tricks from other travel bloggers, I can not deny that there were other things I wanted to know before I traveled there. To make it easier for you, I have listed the best China must knows.
Get a Chinese visa
Getting a visa for China was one of the most difficult things to do before the trip. The website is pretty much basic, but it’s good, because it explains how you can get the visa. However, the thing that was missing was “how” you can get it. For example, the forms must be written with a black pen (or scanned black and white) and the whole journey must be mapped out (from hotels to airline tickets and from places where you are going to eat or what you want to do as excursions). The name of the traveler must also be stated on all papers, even on the confirmation e-mails (not just the e-mail address). Also keep in mind that the whole process costs some money (European Union-residents that is € 126.55).
The Chinese language is not English
The language barrier is a fact in China. About 1.3 billion people live in China, of which only 10 million speak English. To make it clearer; if you are on the Tiananmenplein with let us say 100 people, then you are not only a big lucky human being because you can take beautiful pictures but also someone with a lot of bad luck if you want to ask something to a local. Of those 100 locals, only one person speaks English.
When I traveled to China, I mainly went to the more popular destinations (Beijing, Xi’An and Shanghai) where there was a greater chance of English-speaking people. But no matter how you turn it around; China is a big country with its own language, so a few words like Nǐ hǎo (hello) or Tīng tǐng hǎo (everything is fabulous) isn’t bad when you want to visit China.
Facebook, what is that?
When you travel to China it isn’t a luxury to buy a VPN if you want to surf on popular websites. Facebook, Google, Instagram and many others are blocked on the Chinese territory. With a VPN you can easily surf the internet without being blocked by the government.
The obstacle that is called smog
Before I left, I read that the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai do not have such good air quality. Even though you’d immediately notice the difference with Europe in China, it isn’t as terrible as everyone says. I traveled through China in November, so it may be that the smog was less than normal. But I didn’t really worry about the air quality that much. However, I would like to say that I know other people who found it really terrible. So here it is a bit of consideration whether this will be an obstacle for you or something that does not stop you.
Western people are (un)known
Earlier in this article I mentioned that about 1.3 billion people live in China. It is not abnormal if Chinese residents also travel in their own country, since it is a big country. But I didn’t know at all that these Chinese people would stare at me like I was a weird ass. Tourists are everywhere, especially in world countries, but that does not mean that you are “normal”. In China I often met locals who wanted to take a picture with me, because I was a foreign person and more specifically someone from the West. So do not be alarmed if someone suddenly stands in front of you with a camera.
Cash versus credit cards
In China they prefer cash, simply because they have their own currency and because the most famous cards such as Mastercard and Visa are not accepted. Last year in November there was more movement in the financial world, so that in hotels you could also pay with the most famous credit cards. But I’d bring a lot of cash (in China it is normal to walk around with a lot of cash) or to find the nearest ATM machine if I was you. I don’t know if it has already changed, but even at the most famous tourist attractions I couldn’t pay with a credit card.
Toilet paper is important
Well the toilets. Unfortunately you can’t get away with it. In China they have the famous Squat toilets. As if that isn’t bad enough for the people who live in the West and where the seated toilets are common, you have nine chances in the ten also a toilet without toilet paper. Now you do not always have to bring a whole bag toilet paper with you wherever you go. For example, there is a device in the somewhat clean toilets where you can pick up paper. Normally this is to wash off your hands at the washbasins, but a person has to do what a person has to do.
Public spitting and co.
It was a beautiful day, I walked with my guide through the more upscale, more expensive and traditional neighborhood of Beijing and suddenly saw a hiker spit on the ground. Just before the feet of my guide. My guide didn’t seem to mind it and did not even look at it, while I watched the walker in amazement, who was making a fast walk through the crowds in Hutong. Staring was rude of me, but that’s what I thought of the resident at the time. Now it turns out that it is one of the most common things in China. Just like to get your child to listen in a brutal and hard way.
China was a journey not to be forgotten. The beautiful monuments, the Chinese Wall and the cities as well as the small neighborhoods were incredibly nice to visit. Below you can find my blog posts about China. Have you ever been there?