15 Things you should know before traveling to China

Basic information that every traveler should know before visiting the Asian giant.

China is a beautiful and fascinating country.  But it can also be very overwhelming, (especially for those traveling there for the first time).

Currently, the number of visitors from all over the world visiting China is increasing, mainly attracted by its history, culture and food and the number visiting is increasing. But even though there are cities that have have adapted to handle a large influx of visitors ( Beijing or Shanghai being an example) there are still many places that can be complex for the average traveler.

Are you planning to travel to China?  If so, we will like to share 15 of the things you need to be aware of before visiting this great country:

1. Check on your visa documents beforehand

The main point to keep in mind before going to China is to consult and process the visa, since this is nearly to get it once you arrive there.

Fortunately the application is not that difficult to fill out.  Some agencies will even help you will do this for you. What can take a bit of more work is that you must get the invitation of a Chinese acquaintance or have a well-defined travel itinerary (dates, hotel reservations, plane tickets), but otherwise it's simple to take care of.

Just so that you know, there are about 18 cities that can be visited without a visa for 72 hours.

For more information, check with the Chinese embassy or consulate in your country.

2. You will need a passport for everything

Have your passport always handy.  In China, to book hotels, buy plane tickets, train or bus, they will ask for your passport.

One thing that you can do is to scan your passport and save it in your email.

In case of any eventuality, it is always a good idea to have a copy of your passport and other important documents in case they get lost. The replacement will be easier.

3. Beijing and Shanghai and just one of the many destinations that exist in China.

Many visitor opt to go straight to the big cities like Beijing or Shanghai and disregard the rest.  It is certainly worth it to go to these cities, but there are also many other interesting locales offered by the country. Keep in mind that that China is the 3rd largest country in the world.There are literally hundreds of places throughout the territory worth visiting.

4.  It is cheap and expensive at the same time

Although it sounds contradictory, China can be very cheap and at the same time expensive. One scenario could be that you can spend a few cents on a full meal, but in another scenario, you can pay up to $30 to get into a museum or monument.

This also applies to transportation, lodging, transportation and more.

5.  It is advisable that you learn some Chinese (Mandarin)

The vast majority of the population does not know how to speak English (Even though it is being taught in the majority of Chinese schools.  But you must learn at least the most basic phrases to communicate.

Many languages re spoken in China. Although Mandarin is the language with the most native speakers and is obligatorily taught in all schools in the country, there are other important languages nd dialects in common use such as Wu (Shanghai and Hangzhou) and Cantonese (Hong Kong).

6. Technically not communist

The political system in China is quite complex. But in general terms, despite the fact that the idea that China is a 'communist country', in reality it is not like that at all. So what system does China have?

Like most countries in the world, China has a mixed economy; that is, there is free market but there is also a government control in many other areas.

The country adopted capitalism with a more socialist approach, but a single party system (the Chinese Communist Party).

7. Prepare to pay cash

In hotels, chain restaurants and train stations they may accept your credit card as a form of payment, but in other places, only cash is taken. So be prepared for that.

8.  Let your bank know that you are traveling to China.

It is of vital importance to notify your bank when you go abroad so that the cards do not block you. This is even more important if you travel to China.

For security reasons, if you travel to this part of the world, it is very likely that the first bank transaction in China will get blocked by your bank. In most cases, you can your bank card reactivated it within 48 hours.  But in the meantime, you can lose valuable time of your trip trying to solve it, if you are not prepared for this potential eventuality.

9. Haggle and haggle some more.

Bargaining is very normal. There is the thought that prices may be intentionally inflated so that you can bargain.  Whether or not this is true, once you haggle you can save a few RMB’s.

10. The food is delicious

Chinese food is one of the most varied and delicious that you can eat in the world.

With a long history and tradition, Chinese cuisine is famous for its color, aroma, flavor, meaning and appearance. Although what we consider to be 'Chinese food' that is sold in the West is quite good, it does not reach the level of the authentic one.

By the way, food made with dogs and cats is not common in China. Only in small areas of Canton you can get meat from these animals but it is something very rare. The Chinese government is even considering banning consumption throughout the territory.

11. Yes, there are many tourist scams.

In recent years, with the boom of international tourism, tourist scams have grown exponentially.  How to discover them? If someone comes to you to sell you a suspicious tourist tour, it most likely is a scam.

12. Giving tips is not accustomed. 

In China, as in other Asian countries, it is not customary to tip.

Restaurant from Western Chain Hotels may accept your tip, but in general they do not expect it.

13. Beware of Chinese copies

Everything that we can find around us - from consumer electronics products to furniture - are made in China. There is the wrong notion that 'everything that is done in China is of poor quality. This is false. But, what is certain is that there are still cheap copies of poor quality.

If you are in China and want to buy something, try to avoid markets, because the chances are high that what you are buying there may be copies of the original.

Cell phones and watches are among the most counterfeited products you can find.

Take precautions.

14. Some web pages you visit may be blocked

Many foreign foreign websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube are blocked on the Internet in China. Some foreigners may need to have to access these websites during the trip. You may opt to use a VPN.

In the tourist areas of big cities, the Chinese government's firewall is more benevolent and you can enter these pages without problems. But outside of these places, you will need some virtual network service.

15. Do not be shy

The Chinese are very kind people and willing to help. Although communication may be a problem, even with signs or drawings they can understand you.

And if they ask you to take a picture with them, do not worry.  They are like that. The Chinese love taking pictures!

And finally: Enjoy the trip! China is a great country that you will surely love.  Let yourself be surprised and live the moment.