PO Trip Adviser: China

And now a brief list of travel tips for one of my favorite destinations – China, the country that changes with amazing speed right before our eyes.

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.

2 thoughts on “PO Trip Adviser: China

  1. All good points indeed.

    Petty crime does seem to be on the rise and it’s also worth mentioning that it’s seasonal. There is a marked increase in petty crime in the two-three months leading up to Chinese New Year as some people look to boost their income before the major annual holiday. Even so it’s significant that violent crime, at least in the major outsourcing destinations, is a fraction of what it might be in the UK or the US. I have lived in Hangzhou for many years and feel no personal safety issues even if I’m walking through the streets on my own in the middle of the night.

    That all said, visitors should never go with ANYONE who approaches them on the street. There are many well reported scams where foreigners are approached by people who ‘want to practice their English’ and invite them to see an art exhibit or visit a tea house. Once inside it becomes clear that it is an extortion attempt, pure and simple.

    The visitor to China shouldn’t even think about driving. You need a Chinese driving licence to drive legally anyway so visitors would have great difficulty. If you’re visiting an outsource vendor the best bet is to ask them to arrange it so that they can arrange a reliable driver or use a reputable company – the hire car companies such as Avis also supply drivers in China.

    English is definitely more and more widespread in Hangzhou. Even my dry-cleaners have someone who speaks English and a large number of police speak reasonable English now. More and more signs are now clearly in English and negotiating your way through Shanghai is vastly simpler than, for example, negotiating your way through Tokyo.

    The only point I fundamentally disagree with is buffet meals. In many 4 star hotels the buffet should be avoided simply because it is a lacklustre affair but some of the buffets in 5 star hotels are truly superb!

  2. thanks David, great comments; thank you so much! if you ever in bay area ping me would love to meet you in person!

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