If there is anything that I regret about traveling to China it is not spending enough time there, not meeting enough people, and not seeing enough places.
I remember sitting on the Great Wall looking at the hills that look exactly like those on ancient paintings and thinking that for many Americans visiting China could be experience equal to visiting a different world, another planet… Well, that’s also changing rapidly.
- A Visa is easy to get, but it may take a few weeks so allocate sufficient time. Also make sure that you have the travel plan worked out before you apply for Visa as you may need several entry authorizations as cities such as Shenzhen require special handling.
- The most difficult aspect of traveling to China is language, very few people speak any English and you won’t find too many signs in English either. As a result public transportation even inner country air travel becomes challenging.
- China is a reasonably safe country, and when it comes to main outsourcing destinations within country is very safe.
- With petty crime on a raise you should be aware of environment and follow common sense practices such as not carrying large amount of money, protect your passport and valuables, etc.
- The police in China are generally very friendly, though they speak very little English except in Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen, where some police can generally speak simple fluent English. If you are lost then ask for directions as they will usually be happy to help.
- Stay in 4-5 star hotels remains relatively affordable. That will also ensure English speaking staff, access to tours, restaurants, etc.
- Driving in China is somewhat strange experience – on one hand I was surprised with how closely some laws are followed, e.g. the speed limit – most of the cars travel ~5 mph below it. On the other hand I saw a lot of erratic moves and turns that were not aggressive just plain dangerous.
- Sightseeing in China can be easily arranged with the help of the vendor or hotel staff. Keep in mind that most of professional tour guides are in cohorts with retailers specializing with ripping off tourists selling you “traditional” china, tea, souvenirs, etc. at 3-5 times the price you can get them elsewhere.
- Eat only in good restaurants or at your hotel. Avoid eating buffet meals, even in high-end places. Not only drink bottled water, but also brush your teeth with it. Most of hotels provide bottled water for free. In restaurants I recommend boiled water / hot tea.