Monday, December 09, 2013

Coming to Beijing? China Travel Tips

One of the perks of living abroad is acting as a travel guide. I haven't had many visitors, but I have had plenty of questions about what to see, what to do, and where to go. And, boy, do I have advice! I'm going to split this into a series {General advice for China, and then one for actual things to see in Beijing, Tianjin and perhaps other cities as I visit them}.

Here we go:

1. Breathe and be patient: People here don't have the same sense of personal space that you do. They will stare at you, touch your hair {especially if you have blonde or red hair, and sometimes curly hair}, push your bum to get you to move faster, etc. Also, lines don't really exist. It's more of a crowd that pushes around the entrance to the train or the cashier. I've waited in a "line," been the next one at the counter and had someone jump in front of me. This is normal. Deep breaths.

2. Be adventurous: Yes, the guidebooks say go to the Silk Market, the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. Those are definitely good things to do. BUT, make sure to plan a few days to wander around, get lost in a local market {or find one!}, pop into random local restaurants, grab street food, etc. Did you know, for example, that there is a toy market behind the Pearl Market? Or a glasses market near Jinsong? There are little pocket parks all over the place, and these places are where you'll really see "China."

3. Prepare Medically:  Look, I live here and I go to the doctor here. It's OK, but it's definitely not the U.S. medical system {even with all of it's problems}. But, I am vaccinated, I have my shot records, and I am insured. I also carry Immodium and ibprofen with me everywhere and I have prescription antibiotics in case of stomach issues. I highly recommend travel insurance, HIGHLY. Hospitals here WILL NOT treat you if you cannot pay, even if it's an emergency. Make sure you can.

4. Learn some Chinese: You can get around with no Chinese pretty easily, but taxi drivers {and everyone} like to ask questions and it just makes everyone really helpful if you try and speak some Chinese. I suggest things like xie xie {pronounced, shee-eh shee-eh, meaning thanks}, wo shi mei guo ren {pronounced woh sheh may gwa ren, meaning I am American; substitute your country of choice, obviously} and bu yao {don't want!}. Also useful are numbers {especially if you plan on bargaining anywhere} and some foods if you have dietary restrictions.

5. Use public transportation {or don't}: This is one of those things that is definitely something you want to do, or definitely something you don't. The subway is croooowded. As I mentioned earlier, there aren't lines, courtesies or personal space. People will rush the car before anyone has had a chance to get off, and if you're there during rush hour you'll probably be sandwiched between people who smell like garlic and are talking loudly onto their cell phones. But, it is SUPER cheap {2 yuan per ride to anywhere in the city. That's about 32 cents} and generally faster than a cab depending on the time of day. Taxis are cheap compared to the U.S., but it's sometimes hit and miss with the language barrier.

Have you been to China? What are some general travel tips you have?
6. Carry toilet paper: You think I'm kidding, but tp isn't always provided here. Asia is the land of random stomach bugs, and the last thing you need is to be caught somewhere with no tp. I admit to once sacrificing a sock. While we're at it, China doesn't have many "western" toilets; most public ones are squats. Usually you can find western toilets in hotel rooms, nice western restaurants, etc., but honestly, squat toilets are really not that bad relatively speaking.

No comments:

Post a Comment