We’ve written quite a bit about China, like probably no other country. We could write much, much more, and we still won’t be able to say with confidence that we have given you everything in detail, learned the culture in depth, seen every corner and are experts on the subject of China.
However, there are things that particularly surprised us and we wish someone had told us about them before we left. Hence the idea for this blog post.
Some of the aspects listed below are generally known, some a little less so. Some of it we knew about before the trip, and some of it we learned about on the spot. Take, enjoy and plan your China travels :)
Table of contents
English language – negligible! Only in hotels and markets can you get along in Japanese, or “as such” ;-) Fortunately, at railway stations you can find special windows with service in English.
It was the first time we had so much trouble to communicate, both in stores, at stations and even at tourist information. If we already managed to communicate, we often got residual, poor information. Of course, there were also polite Chinese who wanted to help us a lot and even knew English (a definite minority, even among young people). As a rule, the Chinese don’t mind that you can’t communicate – your problem (unless it’s about buying Chinese food in the market then they will stand on their heads to get along). They are able to pour over you and start serving more people.
Important, everything is different in China, even counting on fingers! The following image is worth reviewing:
Internet in China
While we’re on the subject of communication…. doesn’t anyone know that there is Internet censorship in China? We were well aware that we would not be able to fire up Google, Facebook or Gmail at any time. Of course, nothing is difficult for the willing, so we sourced a VPN, which worked well in China, and we were able to bushwhack the web without any problems.
…well, maybe not so completely without a problem, because, however, the speed of connections in hotels varies, but it is important that it is there, even if only in common areas.
WiFi can also often be found in restaurants, cafes and tourist sites.
Water and food
Beijing’s water is not potable! What’s more, tap water should not even be used to brush your teeth – this explains why in the hotel we were put water in the bathroom and not normally on the desk ;)
The food and the need to order something at the restaurant scared us at first. Just bushels everywhere, we don’t know at all what it’s about, leaving aside the question of what the dishes are made of and how to eat them. Fortunately, we had rich regional breakfasts at the hotel, so we were able to sample something and then watch what others were eating on the town.
Generally, we initially chose diners where there was at least perfunctory information in English – then just show the menu item with your finger and show on your fingers how many such meals you want. Later we would go into those restaurants where there were pictures and point to them. We also happened to flash the same thing we wanted as others.
Food in China is rather greasy. Very greasy. Although there are times when dishes are steamed, in broth, so you can save your stomach and liver (such as hot pots, which are such a DIY ;) ).
Street food is popular – you can order fried and cooked delicacies in stalls, food trucks, or rickshaws.
Public transportation in Beijing
Transportation is one of the few cheap things to do in Beijing. Subway travel in Beijing is cheaper than in Warsaw, and there are more than two subway lines to choose from crosswise (literally ;) ).
While still at the airport, it’s a good idea to get a pre-paid card, with which you can travel by subway throughout Beijing after topping it up at a ticket counter or vending machine. We wrote more about getting around Beijing here.
Visas to China
What do you need to keep in mind before flying to China? Of course, you need a passport and a visa to fly to China. To obtain a visa, you need to complete an application and deliver it to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (Consular Department) with your photo and passport.
The application is available for download on the Embassy’s website. After złthe application, you will receive a confirmation with a number, and you should immediately make a transfer with this number – the fee for the visa is 260 zł (yes, for an infant too!).
For collection you need to go to the Embassy again with a number and confirmation of the transfer. The first and second time you do not have to do it in person (!!!), but the person who submits the documents must have your ID and passport.
Health and insurance
As with any trip, it’s a good idea to purchase additional insurance for China as well, and if you’re traveling through much of China you should figure out if any additional vaccinations are needed. In the area to which we traveled there was no such need.
China is not Poland and you won’t find a pharmacy on every corner. If you do find one, it is quite well stocked, although you will look in vain for products from Western concerns. Instead, you can find natural medicine stores in many places.
Hygiene and toilets
Many toilets are squat toilets (Asian style), which sooner or later you will have to get used to ;) Fortunately, there are more and more toilets with normal (European) cubicles, but don’t set your mind to the fact that they will always be there.
The whole of Beijing abounds with municipal toilets – in this way, the authorities are combating the problem of homes not having sewage systems and thus taking care of their needs on the street. Some of them are clean and some are not. Even in the strict center of the toilets you can first feel and then see.
By the way of hygiene… what surprised us a lot was the sight of children with or without pampers, wearing slit pants in the crotch (you know for what purpose). We saw on several occasions small children taking care of their needs in the middle of the road – something that is unthinkable with us, in China it is commonplace.
This is something that made us want to turn the plane around on the first day ;) We landed in total smog! Nothing was visible. At first we hoped it was fog (it was early in the morning), but unfortunately we quickly lost that hope. Unfortunately the smog in Beijing is, there were days that we could even smell it, but most of the time it just made our views miserable. Fortunately, there have been several very sunny days without smog.
Is it worth getting a mask? Yes. We expected to get such on the spot without a problem, but we had to search for them a bit (they are available for purchase in large stores, pharmacies).
Some practical tips
Finally, a few more tips:
- Electrical outlets (contacts) in China are different from those in Poland and Europe. You need adapters similar to those in the US and Japan. You can find them on Allegro or in stores like Saturn/MediaMarkt.
- Although it may not be obvious to you, mobile payments are the main means of payment in China! We, however, stocked up on cash and a spare currency card as standard for such trips.
- What the heck, but for China, it’s also worth getting a solid guidebook.
- It is also worth purchasing
. In China, we are not covered by any insurance (including EHIC), and medical costs are not among the cheapest.
Don’t forget our tips, too:
- About sleeping in China, i.e. where to stay overnight and how much does it cost?
- Where to go shopping in Beijing and how to bargain.
- Train travel in China.
- Beijing Metro, or a few words about transportation in China.
- About Chinese cuisine, or how to survive NOT on a bowl of rice ;)
- Beijing – our TOP 5 attractions!
- How to pack for a trip (to China) with a small child?
Questions? Comments? :)
If you have any more questions about planning a trip to China, feel free to ask in the comments. We will try to answer them all! :)