Hello followers, thanks again for reading my post. Today’s travel post is on China. I was originally going to pick another city and talk about that one specifically, but I realized offering some tips and advice to know BEFORE you visit will be more beneficial than diving right in. That being said, China is probably one of the countries that have challenged me the most. I lived in Xiamen for a year teaching TEFL and I loved, struggled, learned, challenged myself, stepped out of my comfort zone, and literally everything in between about my experience there. I consider myself a pretty seasoned traveller, but I had never experienced culture shock until I moved there.
Now, lets talk a little bit about China in general. The culture is so vibrant and I absolutely love how the history of the country is literally integrated into everything; the architecture, the food, the people, the decor, etc. You can find everything from amazing hikes, to skyscraper cities, to temples, to tropical beaches, to thousands year old history and landmarks (ahem the Great Wall of China) and so much more. Keep reading to hear some of my trips and advice for travelling to China.
Download a VPN before you get to China! You will need a VPN is you want to use anything related to Google, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, news articles, Netflix, etc. since those are all blocked there. DO NOT use Express VPN. Their servers go out often and they are incredibly slow. I have heard good things about Nord and Astril, but I never used them personally so I can’t comment.
WeChat is your life line. It is the main way to communicate and it has a picture feature that can translate Chinese text for you! Unfortunatley, if you are just travelling you will probably not have a Chinese bank account to connect to the app so you won’t be able to use it to pay for things, but if you can open up an account, I 100% recommend you do. My life improved tenfold as soon as I had WeChat pay.
Didi is essentially uber for China, but so cheap! I would literally Didi everywhere and not even think about it! My sister and I took a Didi for almost an hour and a half from the airport once and it cost like $18 USD. Again, you would need to hook up a Chinese bank account to use this, but if you have one, it comes in handy.
I am totally Android gang and I have a Google Pixel phone, however, Google doesn’t work in China. That being said, Google Maps does not work well for public transportation in China. If you have Apple Maps, you are good to go. If not, look for other mapping options. I have heard Baidu is a good option, but I am not familiar with it. If I didn’t know how to get somewhere by public transport, I just used Didi or I texted a friend with Apple Maps lol.
Download Mobike. Mobike is a bike sharing app. Bikes are left all around the city. You scan the QR code on the bike and it unlocks. Boom you have a bike to travel around and explore. I loved getting around on the bikes! It was probably the most common way I explored Xiamen. As you can see in the picture, I was actually on an Ofo, but they are no longer there.
Buy a sim card. Honestly, you can just buy a plan at the airport for a reasonable price since the tellers there are more likely to speak English. Having data so you can map stuff and call Didis and translate signs are really helpful to getting around with a lot less stress.
Allow plenty of time to get through security! Whether it is a domestic or international flight, a layover, a train, etc. you will need more time than you think! Customs and passport control is all still manual there so the ‘lines’ are long and they move slowly. Also, lines and queues aren’t a thing, so even if you are in ‘line’ expect loads of people to just push in front of you. I will talk more about this later.
Where ever you stay in China, you are required to register your address with the police, even if you are only travelling in a city for a day or two. Most hotels and hostels will do this for you since they take your passport when you check in. Yes, they literally hold onto it while you are staying there so don’t be alarmed. If you are living in a city, and leave the country for a vacation and come back, you also have to reregister with the police. Fortunately, the school I worked at did this for us, but if you are there on your own, please make sure you do this as well so you don’t get in any future trouble.
This goes without saying, but don’t do anything illegal. This is not limited to being stupid and trying to bring in drugs or something, but also to talking about their government and leaders. Just stay away from the topics politics and government in general, and that includes texting about it in WeChat. Don’t be dumb, it’s not worth it.
Now, there are definitely a few things you need to prepare yourself for when visiting China, especially if you are from a Western Country. Here are some words of advice. First, hygiene. Do NOT expect to find soap or toilet paper anywhere, always carry your own. People are constantly spitting! You can literally hear them spitting from a mile away because the really wind up to hock it. Also you will see children and adults pee and defecate in the streets (the first time I saw this I was completely shocked). All that being said, never wear you shoes into the house.
Second, there is really no concept of personal space. Expect to be sardines in basically any public transportation system. That being said, also do not be afraid to be pushy to get on said public transportation. If you wait for someone to let you on, you will NEVER make it on. Lines and queues don’t exist.
Thirdly, the cuisine. I love experiencing different countries and cultures local food. And even though much of it is not something I would eat on the regular, my motto is “I am always down to try something once.” But, that is not the main purpose of my advice. My main advice from the food is watch out for the grease, cross contamination, and how long the food often sits out before being consumed! It messed up our stomachs pretty bad. This is a bit TMI, but I was literally rotating between terrible diarrhea and constipation for a few weeks. It was awful! Please eat with caution lol.
Okay, now that I have probably scared you all away from visiting China, please remember that I 100% recommend visiting, I just want everyone to be prepared before they go. The more prepared you are the better your experience will be and you can just focus on the amazing culture and enjoying yourself, rather than stressing and being unprepared for your time there. Stay tune for later posts about specific cities I visited and my recommendations!