12 Tips for Traveling within China
We all come across challenges when traveling abroad and China is no exception. As we recently returned from a trip to China we recognized some things that we thought could help you on your next adventure there. Here are 12 tips for traveling within China.
1. Use CTrip
If you want to book tickets and/or hotels within China, Ctrip.com is handsdown the best website to use. Their service is very good as they have both a Chinese and English tailored website and service staff. Also is it cheaper than going to bookings.com or agoda.com.
2. No Need for Adapters
If you are from Europe or the US you don’t have to bring China plug adapters with you (excludes UK), Chinese outlets nowadays fit perfectly with the both EU and US plugs. It is a waste of space to bring them. Just be weary of the voltage which is 220v in China opposed to 110v in the US, therefore you may need a power transformer.
3. Check Your Number Plates
When taking a taxi in China, please check the license plate first. If the second letter is ‘T’, the taxi is legit. If there is no ‘T’, the taxi is a black (unofficial) taxi.
4. Try People’s Uber
Instead of taking legit taxis, you can also take Uber in China. The service is available in all Tier 1 cities and most Tier 2 cities. You only have to download the app and everything works the same as Uber elsewhere.
5. Ask for the Meter
When riding a taxi, always ask the driver to turn on the meter and make sure it is not tampered with. Meter tampering happens way too often. If they don’t want to turn on the meter either get out or negotiate a price beforehand. If possible ask a local or the hotel staff the estimated price first. If you know how much it should cost you should name that price and if they give you a counter offer only go up the price by max. 5 RMB more.
6. Bring Your Own Toilet Tissues
The majority of public bathrooms do not provide toilet paper. Therefore it is a necessity to bring your own. You won’t want to find this out the hard way, trust us. This does not mean you have to bring a roll of paper, but tissues will do the trick too. Easier to carry as well and maybe a bit less awkward.
7. Try Pleco or Baidu Translate
In China all Google apps are banned, this includes Gmail and Google Translate. For a translation app you can either use Pleco for words or Baidu Translate for sentences. With Baidu Translate you can take a photo of the thing you want translated, highlight it and it will translate for you. You can download offline language packs within the app, the same goes for Pleco.
8. Use Apple Maps
Google maps does not work in China, but Bing and Apple maps do. Use the Apple maps app if you are on an iPhone as it is convenient and already pre-installed. Though the exact GPS location can be hazy at times it is still dependable.
9. Hide Your Cash
When going shopping at places that allow you to haggle (normally these are small private shops, outside of fancy malls) make sure you have enough cash with you. Always keep in mind you want to pay one third of the price they start with. When opening your wallet, make sure you have only a little bit of cash visible, as the salespeople like to look into your wallet. We suggest hiding the rest of the money elsewhere, you can always take it out later.
10. Be Weary of the Exchange Limit
It is highly recommended you exchange most of your RMB at a Chinese bank before you go home, as Chinese banks normally offer a much better exchange rate than Western banks. Do however keep in mind that you can only get up to 500 USD or 430 euros per trip.
11. Try a Native App
For restaurants and other things like concert tickets we recommend the app Dianping, however you need to be able to read Chinese. So this is only a tip for Chinese readers.
12. CDMA or GSM?
You can easily buy a phone card that comes with talk, text, and data. Do however make sure you test the service provider ahead of time, as we found out, China Mobile is a GSM only carrier and China Telecom and Unicom are CDMA. Make sure your phone is compatible, otherwise you might end up with an ‘E’ for internet, which is extremely slow.