The Do's and Don'ts of Travelling in China
Food fit for a king, check. Skyscrapers galore, check. Extremely different culture, check. Any trip to China is a truly rich experience and if you’re one of the lucky ones who’ll be heading there soon and you’re not quite acquainted with the Chinese way of life yet, this one’s for you. Our Product Executive Philip has given us his top dos and don’ts when visiting China after his very own trip to help you make the most of your time in this magnificent country and avoid any unnecessary confusion with the locals.
DO LEAVE TIME TO COMPLETE YOUR VISA APPLICATION
Ok let’s get the boring one out of the way first. But seriously, don’t be that person who leaves the visa to the last minute, it’s just not worth it – no visa means no authentic Peking duck and that would be nothing less than a tragedy. All jokes aside, when applying for a Chinese visa applicants will need to make their application in person at a Visa Application Centre in the UK so make sure you leave even more time than you normally would. Head to https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china/entry-requirements for more information.
BE PREPARED FOR THE WEATHER
Since China is so large, its climate varies from region to region so be sure to check the climate in the city you’ll be staying in. That being said, the general rule is to pack light clothing for the summer and a warm coat for the winter.
DO BE PREPARED TO PAY IN CASH
Not everywhere takes card payments in China so make sure you carry some cash with you, unless of course you prefer to spend your precious holiday fund on international card fees instead of authentic spring rolls.
DO GET OUT OF YOUR HOTEL AND EXPLORE IN THE EVENINGS
You may be exhausted after a long day of exploring but we recommend that you get yourself out of the hotel and soak up the country’s vibrant personality. There’ll be plenty of restaurants and bars around for you to indulge in local beverages and cuisines or if you’re feeling active you can try out your Tai Chi skills or release your inner dad moves on the streets with the locals at one of their many dancercise classes. Either way you should expect to roll home, whether that’s with a newly learnt body roll or an actual roll from eating too much food.
DO TRY THE LOCAL DELICACIES
No trip to China is complete without a total pig out. Make sure you actively take the time and go out of your way to try as many local delicacies as possible – they.are.delicious. In fact, Philip has placed the “iconic cuisines which vary greatly between each destination” as the ultimate highlight of his recent trip to China. We’re talking Peking duck in Beijing, yum. We’re talking Sichuan hotpot in Chengdu, yum. We’re talking steamed dumplings in Shanghai, YUM. One thing is for sure in China and that is that it’s THE ultimate foodie experience.
If you suffer from any food allergies or intolerances then bring allergy cards – you can download these in Chinese to give to your waiter when ordering food.
Unlike western cultures, tipping in China is very uncommon. In fact, your friendly gesture could actually insult people as they’re left feeling inferior to you. Well, either that or you’ll have a distressed waiter chasing you down the road thinking you left your money by accident! A simple xiѐ xiѐ (or thank you) will suffice.
DON’T DRINK THE WATER
The water from the taps in China may appear to be clean but don’t be fooled as the water isn’t typically well filtered or sterilised and can lead to you spending the majority of your trip either on a toilet or thinking about a toilet and yeah, we could think of better things to do when in China. Fortunately clean, bottled water is well accessible and is generally very cheap but do be prepared to be served warm water in a restaurant as Chinese people believe that drinking cold water isn’t good for their health!
DON’T ACCEPT THE FIRST PRICE YOU’RE GIVEN
Haggling is well accepted in China outside of the high street shops and restaurants. The general rule here is that you can bargain, and are encouraged to bargain, for anything that doesn’t have a physical price tag. Bulk buying will tend to give you the best discount which means nothing but monstrous amounts of FOOD! Oh yeah, or souvenirs for your family or friends. But yeah, food. Be sure to decide what you’re willing to pay before you approach the vendor but also be prepared to walk away if they’re asking for too much.
DON’T WEAR OVERLY REVEALING CLOTHING
Although Chinese fashion is shifting towards Western trends, showing too much skin is generally frowned upon and you’re encouraged to cover up. A simple pair of trousers and a t-shirt which covers the shoulders will do the job and if you’re looking to soak up the sun, ladies you should opt for a one-piece swimming costume instead of a bikini to avoid any unwanted attention. Green hat lovers you should also leave your headgear at home unless you want the locals to think your wife is cheating on you! *Insert joke about Wendy and Captain Hook here*.
DON’T PANIC ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO UNDERSTAND ANYTHING BUT DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO SPEAK ENGLISH
Don’t worry about the “every sign will be in Chinese” stigma. You’ll find that most signs in tourist areas as well as airports and train stations will show all relevant information in both Chinese and English, thus leaving you with no excuse for missing your flight back to the UK (dammit!). Restaurant menus also tend to have large pictures to help guide you through their delicious offerings and don’t be afraid to try out the lingo for yourself! That being said, not everyone you’ll encounter will speak English so be prepared to use the language of hand gestures. Philip suggests asking your hotel receptionist to write down the address of your hotel in Chinese for you to give to taxi drivers.
DON’T TAKE PHOTOS OF OFFICIAL BUILDINGS WITHOUT PERMISSION
While it may be tempting to try and capture anything and everything you spot during your travels for that all-important Insta post, make sure you ask for permission first. Many government and religious buildings will prohibit any photo taking at all and some locations may even cost you per snap so be sure to clarify this before you go full steam ahead.