With large crowds of people, a challenging language barrier and bustling cities, China can be intimidating for a first-time visitor. But don’t put your dreams of walking along the Great Wall or soaking in the city lights of Shanghai on hold! We’ve come up with eight important tips and tricks to keep in mind when planning to travel to China:
- First, and most importantly, narrow down your destination. China is equivalent in size to the United States, so it’s necessary to prioritize the places you want to see. There is simply too much to see and do in one trip (giving you an easy excuse to come back)! Monograms travels to many regions in China including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’An and more.
- A tourist visa is required to visit China. You should plan to contact the Chinese embassy or a visa service at least 90 days prior to your departure as it may take several weeks for your paperwork to get processed and approved. For U.S. citizens, a Chinese visa is about $140 and can be secured via online application.
- Don’t assume that locals will speak English. Unlike more Westernized countries you may have visited, it is uncommon for the China locals to speak English. If you plan to explore independently, ask your hotel concierge to write down the name and address of the hotel in Chinese. Take this with you to ensure that you return to the right place.
- Ready to shop ’til you drop? Stick to the local markets, including one of our favorites: The Silk Alley Market in Beijing. Here you can find knock-off designer goods, jewelry, shoes, electronics – you name it! Chinese markets offer a more unique, cultural experience and a better bargain than you will find in commercialized shopping districts.
- Don’t be afraid to barter! It is customary throughout Asia – in street markets and local shops. A standard starting offer would be one-third or half of the vendor’s original price.
- It is unsafe to drink the tap water in China. Water sources are often heavily polluted with chlorine, lead and other toxins. Stick to bottled water! Hotels and restaurants will typically provide filtered water for you free of charge.
- Tipping has become more common in China over the last few years. You should plan to tip roughly 10% for good service, however, check to see if the restaurant added an automatic surcharge to your bill before you leave a tip!
- Before you depart, review China’s cultural traditions, as many of them will differ drastically from your own. This will give you a better understanding of this incredibly unique destination.