China is a big and beautiful country with many sights to see. From the iconic Great Wall to the delicious food, China offers an array of unique offerings for eager adventurers. Below are 10 tips that may come in handy if you are considering your first trip to China.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with possibilities
Planning a trip to a new country can be a little overwhelming, especially if it’s somewhere you’ve been wanting to visit for a while. China is a large country, with a lot of sights to see. Try to keep the number of places you aim to visit while travelling to a reasonable number, so as not to overwhelm yourself. An itinerary can be a great way of planning out some (or all) of your trip, to ensure you aren’t overextending yourself, and can still have some time to relax and explore at a comfortable pace.
Apply for your visa early
Most people travelling to China for leisure will need to obtain a tourist visa (frequently called an L visa) before arrival. In order to qualify for an L visa, you will need to complete a China Tourist Visa Application, submitted with a passport-sized colour photo with a white background, have a passport with a minimum of 6 months remaining validity, have return tickets plus confirmation of hotel booking or an invitation letter from the government, plus any additional supporting documentation. It can take a bit of time to book accommodation and gather all the relevant information needed, so it’s worth keeping in mind the need for a visa early on in your travel plans.
Consider the season
Before you book your holiday, it’s best to consider the seasons and subsequent weather that can come with them. China is located in the Northern Hemisphere, with its warmest months occurring mid-year. Chinese summer temperatures can get quite warm and those more used to cooler climates might find the heat difficult to deal with. Summer also means rain season, which is worth keeping in mind if you are thinking about visiting a lot of exposed, outdoor sites. While spring and autumn may be the mildest and pleasant times to travel to China, it may be worth checking out flight prices during the off-season if you’re looking to save money.
Today, arguably the quickest and most comfortable way to get to China is by aeroplane, so it would be a good idea to start enquiring about the various flight options available to and from the country. With over 200 civil airports throughout, there is no shortage of available destinations to fly to, but your best bet would be to fly to the capital, Beijing.
Being China’s busiest airport, many airlines offer low-cost deals on a daily basis. Likewise, should you find yourself feeling particularly adventurous, there are also plenty of destinations outside of Beijing that are just a short flight away. Depending on the time of year, you could end up saving a princely sum on the tickets that you can subsequently spend on the plentiful souvenirs on offer there.
Make physical copies of reservations
The internet in China can be tricky to navigate at times, and as such, it can be a good idea to physically print out any important information such as confirmation of reservations for accommodation and activities. Having these documents printed (in both English and Mandarin, if possible), can help to make your travel experience smoother.
Don’t get caught out by unexpected cultural differences!
Do a little bit of research before you travel to ensure you are prepared for most of the differences you will encounter in everyday things. For example, toilet paper is a rarity in Chinese public restrooms, so it’s best to keep a packet of tissues on you at all times!
Keep a phrasebook on you
If you don’t speak Mandarin, having a phrasebook or translation app installed on your phone can prove invaluable. A phrasebook can provide you with the knowledge of how to ask common questions, including the phonetic pronunciation of the words.
Up until recently, it was still legal to use VPNs in China. VPNs are used to get around China’s firewall and are a requirement if you wish to use services such as Google Translate in the country. Recent changes to the policy have meant that people are currently unsure as to whether VPNs are now illegal in China or not. In January 2019, a Chinese citizen received a fine of $145 USD for using one, so it can be assumed that the country has begun cracking down on their usage.
Don’t drink the tap water
It’s important to remember not to drink the tap water while in China. Bottled water is readily available for purchase if you need a drink and often provided free for guests in hotels. You should also use this bottled water for brushing your teeth (although some claim boiled water is okay for this task).
Sort out money before you arrive
You should stock up with plenty of yuan (China’s currency) before you arrive. China is a largely cash-based country, and most places you go will require you to pay in cash. Some places will also accept Visa and Mastercard, but it is rarer. It’s worth letting your bank know you will be travelling to China, just in case you need to use your card while there.
Immerse yourself in the culture and have fun!
Make sure you get a feel for China’s unique culture by immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and foods the country has to offer. Check out the street food on offer rather than heading straight towards the comforting glow of the nearest McDonald’s!
China is a beautiful country filled with many stunning sights and delights. Make sure you do your research before setting off, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time!