Travelling to a new place can be a very daunting prospect for some. China, with it being so impossibly vast and diverse isn’t any easier. Being the most-populated land on the planet, it is imperative to know what to expect once you’ve decided to travel to China. To help you venture out to the unknown, here are some basic, important first-timers’ guide for you:
Use Public Transport: It is advisable to use public transport as much as you can. For one, China’s public transport systems are very extensive. And, ditching the taxis and airplanes in favour of bikes and buses let you see the place how the locals see it. You’ll see that many towns and cities are well set-up for cycling.
Toilet: When looking for a toilet, look out for the ‘WC’ sign. And an useful word to know at such times is cesuo, which means ‘toilet’ in Chinese. Some public toilets require a small fee, while others are free.
Most public toilets are squatting ones; and be wary that most of them don’t have toilet paper. So, it is highly advisable to always carry some tissue paper with you at all times.
Scams: Beware of the infamous ‘teahouse scam’ where unsuspecting tourists are charged exorbitant amounts for a cup of tea. Make sure you order only after verifying the prices. Another infamous scam is the ‘art student scam’, where scammers approach tourists and sell them mass-produced paintings misrepresented as original works to raise money for tuition fees and the like. There are also other scams you should be wary of, like the Black Taxi scams, and others.
ATMs: There are tons of ATMs everywhere, and credit cards are widely accepted. At ATMs, check on the machine for a MC logo/Visa sign, as these machines accept overseas cards and have an English option. While AMEX is rare, Bank of China accepts Maestro.
When using an ATM, after you have entered your Pin, select Overseas, and then Savings (this seems to be the only option that works with overseas cards). If the Pin requires six digits and you only have four, add ’00′ to the beginning.
Medicines: Make sure you bring basic medicines like Imodium/anti-diarrhoea pills and other over-the-counter medications you might need. While some of them are available in pharmacies, you’ll find that the names and dosage/instructions are in Chinese.
Consider your visiting time: Consider visiting the country during off-season, so as to avoid the huge number of people travelling in China. The numbers can be really overwhelming during these times:
Chinese New Year: Date varies but generally late January or early February
May Day: First two weeks of May
China National Day: Middle two weeks of October
Also, consider the weather too, as summers can be really hot in China; and the smog gets overwhelming.
Traffic rules: Traffic can be really rough; cars are allowed to turn right at red lights, so be particularly careful at zebra crossings. Also, look out for other cars that frequently ‘forget’ to stop. Silent electric bikes often travel the wrong way on the road and pavement too!
Hope these simple guides will make a long way to determining you have an awesome time in China. Happy travelling!
You are welcome to add more info/guides in the comments section that you think will help first-timers travelling to China.