China is a place of great beauty, culture, and history, and of course, tourists. Foreigners are welcome to journey through the land, as many do each year, but there are a few things to consider before booking plane tickets and accommodation.
Learn the Language
Learning some Mandarin before your plane touches down in China will help you navigate that first trip to your hotel room or buying a meal, and there are plenty of online courses as well as brick-and-mortar schools which can help.
Although many Chinese people living in urban areas learn some English in school, keeping some common phrases under your belt is essential for anyone wanting to explore beyond the big city.
That Suitcase Life warns that you shouldn't underestimate the value of being able to ask how much something costs or get directions to your next destination, especially since all the roads and tourist attractions are known first by a Chinese name. If you reach the end of your Mandarin rope, downloading a translation app to your phone as a backup can't hurt.
The application process for a visa is the bane of many a traveller's existence, but if you're China-bound, an entry visa is essential. Travellers can make a visa application approximately one month (dependant on applicant) before setting off to guarantee validity for the whole stay. Applications are made through Chinese Visa Application Service Centres, which can be found in most capitals around the world. It's also worth considering the data restrictions and internet censorship in China. Facebook is famously blocked in China, but buying a VPN for your trip will enable you to snap and share to your heart's content.
If your goal is to stretch your travel fund to the maximum, finding an inexpensive flight is a great way to start. It's worth taking the time to research prices before you buy a ticket, if only to save a bit of cash for a souvenir or two along the way. When trekking through China, you would be wise to make use of the world-class public transport systems, including high-speed rail lines which travel up to 200 kilometres per hour, or simplyrent a bike.
China's plentiful natural and cultural landscapes are enough to make any visitor dizzy, but as with every destination, there are a few must-dos during your first trip.China Highlights recommends Beijing for the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven, while Shanghai is packed with historical sites.
Xi'an is the place to go for ancient architecture, and for something more earth-based, you can find beautiful national parks and rivers in Guilin. These spots in particular have seen many a tourist pass through, but if you're desperate to venture beyond these beaten tracks, you'll need a decent knowledge of conversational Mandarin to find your way around.
China’s cultural depth shows through everyday behaviour just as it does through beautiful architecture and ancient scripts.
Advantour suggests the biggest indicators tend to come from small, everyday practices, such as greetings. Bowing to show respect is an old custom, still upheld by many in official positions.
If you’re planning on visiting cultural landmarks like ancient temples (and of course you are), it would pay to read up on the customs. According to China Highlights, it boils down to dressing appropriately (covered from shoulder to knee), putting the camera away, and avoiding physical contact with the monks.
Eat Something Extraordinary
Chinese food is a popular staple in many Western nations, but there's plenty you won't have seen until you cross the Great Wall itself.Escape calls China's cuisine the most diverse, misunderstood cuisine of all, and for good reason: each province seems to offer its own delicacies.
If you're a fan of soup or shrimp, Suzhou is your go-to, but if it's fermented tofu you're after, Hangzhou is for you, and of course, you can’t miss Beijing duck when in the nation’s capital. There are also plenty of opportunities to traverse beyond your comfort zone;Very Hungry Nomads rank snake soup, scorpions, and tuna eyeball amongst the strangest foods on Chinese menus.
China has a reputation for terrible pollution which is known to cause health issues. To minimise the amount of pollution you ingest,The Blonde Abroad recommends wearing a respiratory mask as a simple precaution. These masks aren’t just for show, either; a study byThe Guardian found that the most effective masks kept over 99 per cent of particle pollution at bay, and at the least still prevented between 70 and 80 per cent.