Travel Tips for a First Time Traveler in China

Location: Dalian, Shenyang, Beijing, Dandong | Travel date: July – August 2016

After preparing your passport, tickets and visa, here are few tips that I wanted to share from my 2 months experience in China. It’s my  first time to travel in Mainland China and all these things are just related to my own experience. If you know something or want to add some pieces of advice for me, please feel free to drop a message.

I’ll post a separate article about my Dalian, Shenyang, Dandong & Beijing experiences as well.

  1. Install VPN in your mobile phone and laptop- Once you arrived in China, there are several social media sites that are not accessible such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WordPress, all Google products except for the browser, Spotify, Viber, Youtube, Skype, etc– that’s the real Great Wall of China. Here are some of the free VPN APPs that I used:

Android: VPN Master (Play Store will not work in China without VPN).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=free.vpn.unblock.proxy.vpnmaster&hl=en

IOS: FREE VPN and 91VPN

  1. Install WeChat (weixin)-  Such a very powerful APP. Commonly used as messenger or sometimes their debit/credit payments.
  1. Always prepare 1RMB– for the bus payment around the city, 2 RMB for AC buses, and for the tram it depends on the distance. China has both coin and a bill for 1 Yuan and 50 cents. Always bring cash.
  1. Download online and offline MAPS. For the first 2 weeks, you might find it challenging, but sooner you’ll get the hang of it.
  1. Download Chinese – English APP . Learn basic Chinese numbers for currency and quantity, it helps a lot.

Android APP: Chinese Lite

IOS APP: Chinese Skill, Pleco

Two of the most common Chinese word that I used are: xie xie and ni hao, these are very helpful. Add duōshǎo qián – How much?  in your vocabulary as well.

  1. Bargaining- You can always haggle to the stores that are very similar with Baclaran/Quiapo as long as it’s not inside the mall, but make sure that if the owner will give it to you on the price that you ask for, you should take it. (One night in Tianjin St, I saw a bag and it’s worth 160-Yuan, I asked if she could give it to me for 50-Yuan and unfortunately, she said no. I walked out and she again called me, she’ said she’ll give it to me for 70-Yuan, but for me it’s still expensive. We then met halfway at 65-Yuan- Twas a great deal! 🙂
  1. Gadgets in China are more expensive than in Philippines. I bought my GoPro for 2500RMB in Olympic/Electronic City, plus the batteries, memory card and monopod, I Paid 3250 all in all. Expensiiiive!
  1. Mobile Phones– if you are in postpaid and have plans of buying a simcard in China, make sure to have it unlocked before leaving the country. It’s very difficult to look for a phone repair shops due to language barrier.
  1. SIM Cards– It’s challenging to choose a sim card that is suited for you unless you have a Chinese friend who can talk with the store staff or there is someone from the store staff who could speak English. I bought a sim card from China UNIcom – a friend helped us to buy one for 30RMB, and according to them, foreigners could only purchase a sim card that has a default of 750 MB/Month for the data, 3 hours of call, and no credit for SMS. Every month, you have to prepay it in order for you to use the sim card. Don’t forget your passport when buying a sim card. After buying sim cards, follow the official account of your network in WeChat wherein you could get a lesser price for your data.

For example with, China UNICOM, if you need to add more data, you can buy it online for 10RMB – 1.5GB for 6 months through WeChat.

  1. Want to buy something? Check Taobaoonline shop. There’s a lot of affordable stuff there or you could ask your Chinese friend to help you out with that.12. Food- In different cities, the food servings also varies. When I arrived in China, my first struggle is to use the chopsticks. If you want to drink a cold water, you need to ask for it specifically, because most of the restaurants serve a hot water.
  1. Housing and Accommodation/Blue Paper/Housing Registration-If you are staying in a hotel or hostel, then you don’t have problems with your Accommodation Registration since they will be the one to process it for you. IF an official will ask you about it, you could go directly to the front office and ask for it.

If you are staying with a friend/home stay – you need to go to the nearest police station for registration. Keep that blue copy because officials will be looking for it every time you renew your passport, or wherever you go around China.

If you are on a business trip, maximize your rest days. Don’t just stay in your hotel/HQ. plan and focus one city every weekend. Read a lot of blogs and ask your Chinese friends for advise. Get up and explore the place, be with the locals, meet locals and enjoy their culture.

  1. Exchange rate- As of this writing RMB – Philippine Peso is at 1RMB = 7.06 to 7.12.
  1. Transportation– Not all the time the buses and trains are available, so better to check out the schedule first before going anywhere else.

Bus ride around the city: 1 Yuan/ Air-conditioned Bus: 2 Yuan

Subway & Tram – The price depends on the distance.

Tuktok in Bejing – One time I asked the driver to send me to Hutong from The Forbidden City, he asked me for 50 RMB.

Taxi – Flag down 10RMB for day and 13RMB after 10PM. 24/7.

On going out-of-town- Take your tickets a week before your planned date.

Fast trains speed at 300 – 320 km/hr, while slow trains speed from 60-120km/hr.

  1. Souvenirs- You may check in Hutongs and other street markets. Usually these places have a lot of Chinese souvenirs for houses and accessories. IF you want to bring your friends magnets and key chains and if you are staying a long time in China, you may check it in Taobao..

In Taobao I got 4RMB for the magnets and 3.6 for the key chains.

In Hutong stores, everything starts at 10RMB- Maybe if you still have a lot of time, there are still stores that sell lesser than that. T-Shirst at 25 RMB – if you didn’t bring extra shirts for your travel .

  1. Entrance fees- Always prepare fees especially for the temples and other spots that you wish to go. However, there are also a lot of tourists spots in China that are for free and worth an Instagram post .
  2. Addresses- If you are going somewhere else make sure you have the landmark or get a copy of the Chinese/Local address of that location. Most of the cab drivers understand Chinese addresses rather than the English version.

As of now, these are the things that I could share to you for the meantime. China is a very good place for travelling (vacation, backpacking or luxurious travel).

17. Banks/ATM- IF you have a BPI ATM Card, you may use it in China through Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China,  and HSBC . I couldn’t withdraw through China Merchants Bank (I am just not sure of the others). Make sure that before you leave Philippines, you have to activate the inter

18. Grocery/Toiletries- There are a lot of malls and convenience store in China and most of the toiletries aren’t that expensive except for imported goods.

19. Chopsticks- It’s best that you know how to use chopsticks. Few restaurants/international restaurants may have fork, but most of the restaurants in China will only give you spoon and chopsticks and they do not have even forks.

20. Water- For my first 2 weeks I was wondering why every time I asked for a water, they served it hot. Eventually I realized that it’s a culture. Hot water has more benefits than the cold one. Most of the restaurants will serve hot water unless you’ll specifically request for a cold one (冷 水 – Lěngshuǐ).

21. Security Checks– A lot of security checks are happening anywhere in China except for the malls. 🙂

22. Tourists & Crowd- Be ready for this , unless you are going there not during the holidays or summer. Expect for a jam packed China- you’ll about to experience something that you haven’t experienced before.

tiananmensquare
The crowd in Forbidden City, Beijing.

 

21. Food- Chinese has a wide variations of dishes from different minorities. From Chinese dumplings to barbecue, to veggies and poultry and even to something exotic. Everything’s worth trying for- and for bucket list’s sake! 🙂

Trying out these exotic foodies during the International Beer Festival in Dalian.

22. Comfort Rooms/Toilet- A lot of establishments, stations and restaurants are using the squat bowl.

Culture- Be ready to embrace Chinese culture. Enjoy your trip!

 

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