Traveling to China can be fantastic! It can also be a costly struggle where you fumble from one mishap to another. Insulting locals while getting sunburnt because you have been looking for your phone for ten hours should be avoided.
It can put you off traveling ever again, especially in China where the culture, infrastructure, and environment are radically different from the West. Here are some tips for what to do to make your visit to China enjoyable and what to avoid to prevent you from becoming a mosquito-bitten panicking sweaty tourist mess.
Don’t avoid travel insurance
Yes, I know it is boring, and spending your cash to protect you against something that hasn’t happened yet seems like a waste. However, what if I told you that if you that 1 in 6 people claim on their insurance (from a U.S. travel insurance association survey). Think about the peace of mind you will have when you take out travel insurance. If you get good insurance, your phone, health, flight, and bags will all be covered. You could loose everything you have, break your leg, and catch a virus and with your insurance, you would be fine!
Don’t rely only on Google maps
Don’t get me wrong, Google Maps is brilliant if you want to plan a trip from the comfort of an internet cafe but all too often when traveling in China, you will find yourself in a place with low battery and no internet connection. When this happens, the Google maps loading icon becomes an inevitable and frustrating sight. A better option would be to download the free app ‘maps.me’ which offers a similar service to Google Maps. With the extra feature that if you download a map of China, you can view your current location and plan routes when there is no internet connection.
Don’t book your flight straight away
Boring! Again I know this is Dad advice, when you want to travel the urge is so powerful to book your tickets and fly away as soon as possible, but please move your mouse away from that ‘confirm your flight’ button for one minute and hear me out. One of these greatest phenomena’s which no one can explain is why flight prices vary so much. Just wait a week and look at the differences in prices from the airlines. You could easily save yourself over 50% on your ticket price. Booking your flight on a Tuesday is a little-known secret to find cheap tickets. This saved money can go towards your travel insurance.
Don’t learn too much
What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t skip a stage of learning and learn intricacies of Chinese before knowing how to say ‘xiè xie,’ which means thank you. Obviously.
For cities like Beijing and Shanghai, you will probably only need cholera and typhoid vaccinations along with some diarrhea pills. However, if you are traveling to China and visiting a more rural area, take malaria pills and speak to your local doctor before heading out.
Do plan your trip
Plan the route you are going to take, what sights you want to see and make sure that they are near each other. If you want to see the Ir Kah Mosque and the Forbidden City in one trip, then you must be prepared to fly for hours for one to the other as China is a massive country. Do not, however, plan every day as unexpected things will always happen in a foreign country, be flexible as this allows you to be spontaneous.
Do spread out your money
Divide your money into different bags, never have all your money in your wallet in your back pocket. Although the majority of Chinese people would never consider taking your money, there are pickpocketers dotted around China. As a foreigner, you are a prime target.
Even if you are the most cautious and canny individual, you could drop your wallet on the subway. This could end your trip if all your money is in it. Spreading out your money is easy to do and can stop your trip from being ruined by one mistake. I would also advise keeping 100 yuan just in case of an emergency in your bag.
Do go over the top with precautions
I am talking about things you may laugh at when people suggest bringing them, items such as a sleeping mask, two maps, a portable phone charger, an extra hard drive for your laptop, and a few copies of your Visa. These items have all been critical to many people traveling to China and without the sleeping mask I know I would be in big trouble.
Do dress for the weather
Sun in China can be either as sporadic as it is in the UK or as sunny as it is in Australia. Take this into account when deciding what clothes to wear. Also, China does not do weather by half measures it can be boiling hot one day and then torrential rain the next.
These are the key dos and don’ts which I followed, and they have helped me immensely while traveling in China. Remember, take caution and prepare thoroughly and you will have the trip of a lifetime.