Ever since the country opened its door to the rest of the world way back in the late seventies, China has experienced rapid economic growth and even faster cultural change. During the last decade, even more tourists started flocking to the country in order to experience its culture, and explore its rich history.
While it is true that the west has deeply influenced the modern Chinese culture, and that the country has modernized in recent years, there are some things that still might surprise an unsuspected visitor. Therefore, if you’re planning to visit the country in the next couple of months, here are eight things you should definitely know about China.
1. Get a Translator
Plan on visiting a couple of restaurants? A bank? Maybe you’ll stay in a hotel? Then you’ll definitely need a translator, because most middle-class citizens don’t really speak fluent English. However, it’s important to note that some banks in major cities usually have an English-speak employee on their staff.
2. Change Those Dollars
Most of us when going on a trip, usually bring a couple of extra dollars in cash, you know, just in case. But most local businesses don’t accept dollars, and that goes both for the US and the Hong Kong currency. Instead, locals the official currency, known as the Yuan or RMB, and the notes are available for 1, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Yuans.
3. Haggling is Expected – Tipping Isn’t
If you want to buy something on the street, let’s say like a cheap scarf in front of the boutiques, it’s nice to have some good haggling skills. So never accept the first price a seller offers you, because with some negotiation, it’s possible to buy souvenirs, clothes and accessories for just a fraction of the initial price. In addition, remember that locals don’t tip, and in some parts of China, it’s even considered rude.
4. Use a Local Booking Site
Let’s say that you’re working on a tight budget, and you want to be flexible with your itinerary, don’t use a local agency to book your trip. This is because Chinese booking sites, like C-Trip don’t require any upfront payments for booking trips. As a matter of fact, some sites even allow you to cancel your trip without penalties, if your visa doesn’t get approved.
5. No Visas on Arrival
When it comes to your visa, you’ll have to make arrangements in advance of your trip, because China doesn’t offer its visitors visas on arrival. So if you want to apply for a Chinese visa, you’ll have to prove a letter from a relative or a friend who lives in the country, or give a highly-detailed itinerary of the trip to the officials.
6. There are Hospitals for Foreigners
Traditional hospitals in China are usually daunted and overcrowded places, but we as tourists have an alternative. Every major city in China, and even some of the smaller ones have that cater to tourists and foreigners who are living in the country. And if you somehow end up visiting a public hospital, don’t worry, because most doctors also speak English.
7. The Regular Internet is Accessible
While on vacation, all of us communicate with our families and friends online, but as you probably know, the country has the infamous Great Firewall that prevents its citizens from accessing certain sites and apps. But once again, don’t worry, because most of the people over there regularly access the Internet through Virtual Private Networks. So if you want to use Facebook and Twitter while in China, make sure to get a reliable provider, like Express VPN.
8. The BYOTP Policies
Finally, one of the most important things you have to know about the country is that things like toilet paper, hand sanitizers and soap aren’t quite as standard in China, as they are in the States or Europe. Top-notch hotels usually have all of this, but when it comes to public bathrooms, you have to bring your own toilet paper (hence the acronym in the sub-title).
Of course, you can always get a tourist guide to walk your through all of this once you arrive in China, but keep in mind that it’s possible to make your own way around basically every town alone. In some respect, China is indeed challenging, it has its strange, unfamiliar laws and regulations, however, it’s also a stunning country, and there are lots of things to be discovered.
Have you been to China? Do you have any tips for fellow travelers? If so, please leave a comment below and help everyone out!
Travel on, my friends!