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China Travel Tips and Tricks

These China Travel Tips & survival sechniques, will help you get around and make your trip to China easier, so you will be able to experience the real China with a little less stress.

China is an odd beast that needs to be respected; the major cities, Beijing, Shanghai and Xian all have their own personalities.

Some complex situations that you think would be an organizational disaster turn out to be great and you wonder afterward what all the fuss and worry was about. Then the simplest of tasks can turn out to be a major calamity.

This is when you have what we call here a “China Day”.

These days come and go and are part of the experience of everyday travel in China.

One needs to have an open mind when travelling China.

It is a place with thousands of years of history and culture that is trying overnight to adapt to Western ways of living.

You need to have a very open mind when you Travel in China.I have listed below a few China Travel Tips that will make life that wee bit more bearable on your Travel China experience.

China Travel Tips – Toilets

• Be toilets wise; Never expect a clean toilet 100% of the time.

• Be prepared; Carry some tissue.

• You may have to use a squat toilet, again if you know this before hand it is not a shock. If you don’t know how to use a squat toilet, try the following experiment at home. While holding onto something for support with both hands, lower your body down into a low squat position, so that the cheeks of your bottom is almost touching your heels or the back of your calf. Now, let go with your hands. See if you stay in this position for at least 1 minute. If you fall backwards or you cannot get up, then a squat toilet could be a problem for you! Practice, you will be happy you did.

• If you see a clean toilet, Go… it may not come again for a while.

• There are many public toilets around the cities, usually the ones you pay for are OK, (RMB 1- 0.5), the others are best to stay away from if you can. You will soon notice them as you walk around the cities.

• Be warned that public areas like bus and train stations are usually what I class as “tough toilets”; however if gotta go you gotta go.

• Outside of the major cities the toilet systems are old or have very narrow plumbing /pipes and get blocked easily. In these cases a small basket is usually beside the toilet for your used toilet paper.

One of the best China Travel toilet tips I can give you, is use hotel lobby toilets; these are everywhere and are always clean. Still they may not always have toilet paper. It depends on the class of hotel that you are using.

I do not wish to scare you. However, of all the China Travel Tips in all the other web sites I have read, this is a topic not often mentioned, but it is very important to us all.

So outside of the major cities conditions can be tough. But most of the time everything will be fine, especially if you book a tour; everything will have been checked out before hand. However even the best laid plans can go wrong, so be prepared, the toilets in the smaller cities, towns and villages can be scary.

China Travel Tips – The Food

• The food is great and the variety is overwhelming. Most of the time you get to choose what you eat, or you can recognize what you’re eating, however sometimes you do not get a choice. Carry a chocolate bar or something; this will keep you going until some food that you can recognize turns up. Drink bottled or boiled water, as the tap water is NOT safe to drink. This is for the whole of China. Even boiled water, while sterilised can contain a lot of minerals and iron deposits that you probably do not want in your system. The safest bet is to drink bottle water. Tap water in most big cities is OK for brushing teeth.

• Eating habits - Most Chinese people have a great habit of being very noisy when they eat and lunch and dinner times can be a wonderfully noisy celebration; food tends to go in all directions which is just part of being in China. Don't be put off if you see Chinese diners spitting into their plates. This is a normal method of discarding bones and gristle. 

• People also smoke at the table while everyone is eating, so some restaurants get very loud and smoky.

• If you get stuck with what to order, as most of the menus are in Chinese, just look at the table next to you, point to the dish you fancy and ask how much it is. This system works really well and no-one seems to mind.

• I have a basic menu that will help you order safe food, (no cat or dog) this will enable you to visit a larger selection of restaurants, not just the tourist ones with high prices. You can carry it with you and use it in the local restaurants which most will be able to serve what is on it. This way you will know what you are eating.

These local places are very cheap and the food it great. Contact me if you would like me to send it to you.

China Travel Tips – Taxis

• China Travel Tips - Taxis are an experience that can have you gripping the seat and gasping for breath; however you will soon get used to it, and after the first few rides, you’ll be an old hand. Taxis are a good value method of moving arouund town when your're not confident to take a bus or the metro. Always get in & out of a taxi from the kerb side - the doors on the drivers' side will not work for passengers. And after getting out, always look for wheeled traffic coming at you from either direction between the taxi and the kerb.

• The taxis in Shanghai are, overall, quite good. Try to get the Blue, Blue’ish Turquoise, Gold and White taxis, these are the best. These four are the major taxi companies and are generally recognised by their single colour paintwork. The others are OK, just older and with a rougher ride and they may have faulty meters. Always assume no taxi drivers speak English.

• Carry your hotel or accommodation business card with you, written in Chinese; this will help you return to base if you get lost walking around town.

• In all the taxis around the country you will see the drivers name and taxi registration number in plain sight. If you have any problem, or if you think you have been over charged etc, just take this number down, make a big fuss about it, and the driver then should wake up and fix whatever problem you have. Even better is to take the receipt. This has all the trip details on it and you can phone the taxi company if you want to take things further or if you’ve left something in the taxi.

• The authorities takes very seriously rip-off drivers in all cities - Beijing and Xian especially and if you complain they will lose their license. This is their livelihood. So far I have had not one driver in 5 years who has not backed down, and we have then agreed a price for the trip or solved the problem.

• In Shanghai it is common practice for taxi fares to increase after 11pm.

China Travel Tips – Shopping

• China Travel Tips - Shopping - China is a shopper’s paradise. Markets, bargain, top labels… anything and everything if you have the time. With clothes, the larger (Western) sizes can be quite hard to find. However in the major cities where you get a lot of tourist traffic you can find these bigger sizes. 

• Electrical gear, DVD’s, cameras, stuff like this is not worth buying in China as the prices are generally higher than you can probably pay at home. Hong Kong is still the best place for this sort of gear.

• Store hours in the major cities are from 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

• Visa card is still the best card to carry, with ATM’s generally quite handy all with PLUS access etc. There is usually a surcharge for use of VISA, MasterCard or other forms of credit card. Foreign credit cards are not easy to use in retail shops (high-end shops exepted), and good hotels will most likely accept them.

• Wait on purchasing if you can. Look around to get a feel for the prices. The Chinese are VERY experienced at selling and know that we halve the opening price when bargaining. In the markets go for 25% of what they first ask; go so low that they let you walk away. This will give you an idea of the bottom price. The resulting end-price will probably be around 40% to 50% of where they started. Whatever the market people say, they are used to pushing and haggling for best prices. Do not worry about being too hard, they are used to it and will not sell you an item unless they can make a profit. Don’t be concerned with the apparently hurt body language when you go low – it is all part of the game. As soon as they have wrapped up your first purchase, they will try to sell you something more. Remember to keep smiling and having fun while bargaining.

China Travel Tips – Medical Treatment and Records

• Most hotels will have a doctor who you can see. In the major hotels English will be spoken.

• Always take a small first aid kit, cold remedy, headache tablets at the very least. WATSONS is a very large chain chemist. Most of the remedies, tablets etc, that you may require should be in these shops. These shops are all over China.

• There is a great network of pharmacy type shops; these are indicated by a Green Cross. There will always be a 24 hr Green Cross pharmacy in the city you are in. It is handy to carry a phrase book, as no one will speak English, however you will end up with something that will help.

INPORTANT POINT – for most of the mass-produced packet type medicines, the packaging will be written in Chinese on one side, English on the other. However in the shops you only see the Chinese side. Have a good look, turn the packs over; it will give you a lot more confidence knowing you can read the package.

• If you have a specific medical issue, take records; most of the Doctors will have OK written / reading English, even though their oral English is likely to be poor.

China Travel Tips - Telephone

China Travel Tips - Telephone - This is tough stuff, using the phone is easy, as you would at home, however the person picking it up will not speck English or have very broken English… the Major Hotels will all be ok.

What is worth doing is buying a Chinese Telecom SIM card, they are about RMB100 and with this you get RMB50 in calls, this SIM card will go into all major brand phones and work ok.

By doing this, people can reach you within and out of China if there is an emergency, if you have a couple of phones, you can short message each other (SMS), also you are able to call your tourist guide, hotel etc if you have any major problems.. It’s a cheap way to keep in touch.

China Travel Tips on when NOT to move around China.

Spring Festival, this would be the Chinese New Year time, a moveable festival around the end of January /Early February

Early May; Labor day Holidays

Early October; National Day Holidays. Out of all the China Travel Tips this is a big one, Millions of Chinese travel at thistime of the year, major congestion occurs, most folks are traveling back to home towns or seeing family. Hotels, trains, planes, cars, buses, and roads all packed to the maximum.

If you can be patient, stay in one place and enjoy where you are; it's the best travel decision with less hassle.

China Travel Tips - TV

If you want to watch TV, most of the major hotels will have cable, and if you are in the smaller places look for the national channel CCTV9 whcih is the international English language channel. Over the last couple of years it has got a lot better with some great China Travel programs, news and views on people and places around China.

China Travel Tips – Airport Tax

• An “airport deveopment fee” applies at almost all airports but tickets prices now have this tax included, so you won't need to find this fee separately.

I hope some of these China Travel Tips will come in handy and will make your trip to China that little bit easier.

I will continue to add more as I notice something that will help.

If you have been to China and wish to share your China Travel Tips, please feel free to contact me anytime.

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