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5 Top Tips When You Visit China

chinese wall

Despite the fact that China appears in news feeds just about every day, this country is significantly vast as well as fascinatingly diverse. It also remains as one of the top travel destinations that holds unquestionable mystique.

As exciting as it may sound, it also contributes to a daunting task when you plan to travel to this country, especially if this is your first visit. After you book your flights get your visa from and get ready to go. To assist you in your discovery into an unknown country, here is a first-timer's guide that deals with this highly populated country.

1. Breaking the Language Barrier

The first hurdle that you need to overcome when you travel around China would be the complex language barrier. Even though today, with the Chinese children that learn the English language from primary schools and upwards, it is still a barrier that is often just about impenetrable at certain times. It is always recommended to attempt to learn a few phrases or words before visiting the far-flung lands, but when it comes to China it becomes essential. You may want to attend a few Mandarin classes before your trip, as Mandarin Chinese is a default language in just about all the areas of China. You can also try self-taught lessons about the basics. The BBC website offers an introduction that is decent for learning Chinese.

When leaving for China, make sure you travel with at least one, preferably more of these items:

  • Mandarin Chinese phrasebook
    You can grab your copy on Lonely Planet.
  • English-To-Chinese and Chinese-To-English Pocket Dictionary
    For me the Oxford version was simple to use when I was just starting out.
  • Translator Apps
    You can use Google Translate for free and it comes with an accurate and impressive "speak-your-phrase" voice translator. In addition, the Chinese Translator app on Lonely Planet offers the same features yet also offers the benefit of being offline along with a useful dictionary that is designed for the needs of a traveler.

Even when you travel with these useful tools, you should also travel China with Chinese-language business cards from the hotel that you are staying in or any places that you would like to visit. You can use these to show bus conductors, taxi drivers or passers-by.

2. Streamline Your Itinerary

China is unbelievably large. It contains the highest mountains in the world, a few of the biggest deserts in the world, endless grasslands, remote jungles, and the largest cities in the world. It would take months maybe even a year of traveling to even start doing it any justice. So, to avoid just skimming the surfaces of this amazing country, choose just one region or a province so you can get the most out of exploring. Check on the new Regions at a Glance in the latest China guide on Lonely Planet to assist you in deciding. If you are still not sure, here is a list of my top 3:
  • Sichuan
    This area features 1 province with 3 regions. Stay in the south or the center for cute Ming-Dynasty villages or steamy bamboo-forests. You can also plan a trip to the north where you will find beautiful lakes set amongst alpine mountain scenery. To the west you will find remote Tibetan-plateau grasslands.
  • Guangxi
    Worldly karst-peaks and picture-perfect rice terraces dominate an almost jungle-like and lush landscape, which is the ideal destination for river trips, cycling and hiking.
  • Beijing
    Beijing offers more world-class sites compared to what entire countries can offer. The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, The Great Wall, magical imperial parks, and ancient hutong-alleyways, with so much more.

3. Find Out About the Weather

There is ideal weather to enjoy at all times of the year in certain places in China, but just about none of these areas are weather-perfect throughout the year. To ensure your trip to China does not turn into an energy-sapping sun scorcher or wind-beaten blowout, or even damp and miserable, make sure you find out what the weather is like for the month you have planned to travel in. Typically speaking autumn and spring are the more comfortable seasons, but not for every province, and in most parts autumn and spring only includes a couple of weeks.

4. Using Public Transport

Ditch the airplanes and taxis and use trains, bikes and buses to explore China the way the locals do. Of course, it is much easier to fly from one city to the next and using taxis to travel around in each city. But there is not much fun with this approach. The public transport system in China is really extensive and is becoming larger and larger with each passing year. Many of the cities and towns are already set up for cyclers. For example, there are cycle lanes all over Beijing. If you are worried that you will get lost, the people in China are generally very helpful, honest and friendly, especially with foreigners that are unable to speak the language. This means you can always rely on the locals to direct you back on your way should you take a wrong turn.

5. Experiment With the Cuisine

China is packed with fantastic features, yet perhaps the main attraction would have to be the food. The cuisine in China varies significantly from one region to the next and even a simple meal like breakfast can tantalize the senses, so be sure to try out as many dishes as you possibly can. Avoid the rumors about staying away from street food. It often forms an essential part of the culinary experiences that a city has to offer.

A final tip on food from one of my relatives, who recently went to China for the very first time, if you are unable to use chopsticks, don't wear white. Noodle-slurping stains are unavoidable for many first-timers to this beautiful country, and it would be cheating to ask for a knife and a fork.

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