Because of the language barrier, traveling in China can be intimidating to many. But with some essential information, you can travel through China with fun and ease – and even book your trip without going through a tour agency!

This guide includes tips on how to navigate through China before and during your stay to help make your journey as smooth as possible, but also what to bring on your adventure!

Traveling in China can be intimidating, but with some essential information, you can travel through China with fun and ease - no agency needed!

1) Blocked websites | The Great Firewall

One major issue for travelers in China is that search engines like Google (google maps), foreign news outlets like CNN and Huffington post, and social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, are all blocked by the Great Firewall, which restricts and regulates the internet domestically. You can check to see what sites are restricted here.

In order to access restricted sites, a VPN is needed and should be downloaded prior to arriving. A VPN is a “virtual private network” that masks your IP address and shields your location. ExpressVPN, HotspotShield, and Onion are all good apps that can be downloaded directly to your mobile device or laptop.

Traveling in China can be intimidating, but with some essential information, you can travel through China with fun and ease - no agency needed!

2) WeChat | Social Media

Download WeChat! WeChat, China’s version of social media with over 700 million users, is the main way to communicate and connect with people. Almost everyone you meet in China will have a WeChat account, and they will most likely ask for your contact info.

Like Facebook, it allows you to send text messages to people over an internet connection, share photos, videos, and other files. It allows you to make payments to any store or vendor with the WeChat Pay feature. It’s also great for international calling. Over any wifi connection, you can make audio or video calls anywhere in the world to another WeChat user for free. You don’t need a VPN to use it!

3) Where to Stay | Booking Hotels

Some hotels in China don’t allow foreigners because they don’t have a license to host foreigners, but by booking your hotels in advance, you are guaranteed to find a place to stay. All hotels can be booked prior to arriving through international booking sites. After booking, print or screenshot the Chinese name and address of the hotel so you can show it to your taxi driver.

Traveling in China can be intimidating, but with some essential information, you can travel through China with fun and ease - no agency needed!

Photo by Mingwei Li

4) Ctrip | Flights and Trains | Attractions

Ctrip is an online Chinese booking portal (an app is also available) and is a great way to book flights, trains, and attractions while traveling in China. When you first go to the site, it may appear in Chinese, but it has a language tab where you can enter your chosen language.You can also make payments in your country’s currency. You’ll need your passport number to book. Be sure to compare the cost of flight and train tickets – sometimes flights can be cheaper than the train. You can also use Ctrip to book attractions, private tours, or airport pickups!

5) Baidu Translate | Pleco Chinese Dictionary App

Baidu is China’s equivalent to Google, and it offers a great translation app (Baidu Translate) that can be used without a VPN. Download it prior to arriving.

Pleco is a great Chinese/English dictionary app that can be downloaded and used without wifi – no need to carry around a bulky phrase book!

Traveling in China can be intimidating, but with some essential information, you can travel through China with fun and ease - no agency needed!

6) I can speak a little Chinese | 我会说一点汉语

If you’re ambitious and want to learn a little mandarin before visiting, there are many great free resources to help you learn. Melnyks Chinese offers online lessons and a free downloadable podcast. The lessons are broken into different categories that focus on listening and speaking. With corny yet catchy songs, Groovi Pauli and Friends on YouTube is aimed at kids but helps with remembering basic Chinese words – the songs get stuck in your head! Duolingo is also another great free language learning resource.

7) Passport | Chinese Visa

If you are planning to visit mainland China for more than 3 days, you must obtain a tourist (L) visa  from the Chinese Embassy, Consulate-General, or other diplomatic missions unless you come from one of the visa-exempt countries. One of the easiest ways to obtain a Chinese tourist visa is to apply through a third-party visa agency. You fill out the paperwork and send your passport and information to the agency, then they take care of the rest. It typically takes 4 working days to process visas, but they can be expedited for an additional fee. The visa fee varies depending on your nationality and number of entries.

Traveling in China can be intimidating, but with some essential information, you can travel through China with fun and ease - no agency needed!

8) Adaptors | Converters

In Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, the common voltage is 220 Volt 50Hz AC. Since plugs and sockets vary from country to country, a travel adaptor is most likely necessary. You can buy these in China if you want to save room when packing.

Apple chargers for iPhones, Mac, etc, can all be used in China.

9) Feminine Hygiene | Tampons

Depending on where you are planning to travel, tampons may be hard to find. Sanitary napkins or pads are more commonly found and tampons tend to be more expensive. Be sure to stash some away in your luggage!

Traveling in China can be intimidating, but with some essential information, you can travel through China with fun and ease - no agency needed!

Photo by Manon Boyer

10) Umbrella | Sun protection

Women in China are very aware of the effects of sun damage and many carry an umbrella for sun protection. It’s also a great fashion statement! You may want to consider buying an umbrella upon arrival.

11) Dress | What to wear

All types of fashion fly in China. Less conservative styles of dress can be seen in bigger cities. If you’re traveling to more remote areas and villages or to temples, more conservative clothing should be worn (no tank tops, short shorts, etc). Jeans, shorts, and dresses are all common for women. Tennis shoes/fashion sneakers are worn with everything from exercise outfits to formal dresses. During the summer months, many places in China can be very hot. Bring cool, light clothes that can dry easily.

 

What is your top travel tip for China?


This is a guest post by Lauren Stewart.

Lauren Stewart is a freelance photographer and travel journalist from the United States with extensive international travel experience. She has traveled to over 15 countries and has lived in China, Nepal, India, and Thailand. Her work focuses on travel, culture, and the daily life of people. You can see more of her work at www.laurenalliestewart.com or follow her on instagram at @laurenalliestewart.