Some hints for a trip to China

on under personal
4 minute read

During my trips to China, I gain some experience for surviving here, which I like to share to aspiring China travellers.

General

  • Always have some tissues with you, because most toilets have no paper
  • Most public toilets are without seats but Squat toilets.
  • Tap water is not drinkable
  • Have your passport with you. I read that some policemen will check foreigners for having a legal visa.
  • Be aware of pickpocketing in crowded places, like public transport
  • System voltage is 220V, and common 2 pin plugs should fit.
  • There are banks everywhere. Most (German) banks have partnerships with some Chinese banks for a free-of-charge money withdrawal. Check your bank's conditions.

Culture

  • There are no tips for any service. You can give some tips as a foreigner, but it is not required. Even sometimes, the people are confused.
  • As a foreigner outside tourist centers, sometimes people will approach you. Especially young people can be very curious about you and want to take pictures. This is usually a compliment and should be faced smilingly. Most Chinese I met, have a very positive attitude towards foreigners, called "Laowei" or "Wei guo ren".
  • People use both hands to show respect, like shaking hands, pouring tea or giving business cards
  • Older people are best called as "uncle" and "aunt": shushu and ai (pronounced a-i)

Food

  • Most big towns (and there are a LOT of big cities in China) have McDonald's, KFC or Burgerking everywhere. Disco's is a Chinese western style fast food brand similar to KFC, IMO a considerable alternative.
  • Learn to use the chopsticks. Most restaurants and families have no fork/knife.
  • When going to a good restaurant, there is usually no rice until the end. The host expects you to eat the "delicious" stuff first. Do not finish all the dishes, otherwise the host will lose face, because he thinks he provided to less.

Traffic

  • One short taxi trip is about 11 RMB = 1.35 EUR. Some areas like Beijing are a little more expensive.
  • Traffic is horrible, taxi drivers drive like crazy and there are mostly no seatbelts on the backseats
  • One bus "ticket" is about 1 RMB = 0.13 ct. There is no real ticket, you put a 1 RMB note in a box next to the driver.
  • Most people ignore traffic rules, so be very cautious. Also be aware of the e-Bikes, which are silent and drive on the sidewalk
  • When walking, be especially aware of trucks, cabs and busses. They usually drive very reckless and won't stop.

Phone & Internet

  • Have a smart phone with a map application/GPS. Google Maps worked perfectly fine
  • Download necessary apps before the trip. A lot of apps are not available on the Google Market/AppStore from China.
  • In my opinion, "Pleco" is the best learning/dictionary app. It has some great (paid) addons, which includes fantastic OCR Camera, handwriting recognition and a lot of dictionaries. Also good for learning Chinese, because new words can be put into a built-in Flashcard system. Available both for Android and iPhone

  • Google Reader and Google plus apps worked (surprisingly) fine for me
  • Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are not available. You can subscribe your twitter feed inside Google Reader as a alternative.
  • I also tried some Android VPNs, but was unsuccessful until now. If somebody find a good one, please share it
  • Network coverage is very good. I never had problems with mobile connection, even on the countryside (at China's east coast)
  • For the PC, I used OpenVPN Connect. I had no problems with speed - it was as fast as my internet connection. Mind, that you might need to modify your hosts file, because the DNS maybe blocked.
  • Do not make photos inside shops/supermarkets. Some shop owner thought, I am a western journalist investigating a horror story about China

Enjoy your trip!