Summer vacation is upon us and friends of friends have been asking about China. It seems like the country has become a more interesting travel destination than earlier. I’m so excited about that but it also means that there are more people asking me questions about traveling there. It’s usually concerning the same topics so I thought, hey, why not just write a short and simple post about some of the main things to remember, pack and prepare for. So without further small talk, let’s get straight into it.
Most of the social media apps and websites the rest of the world is using are blocked in China. These websites include Instagram, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Tinder and Gmail so if you need an e-mail address as an example, you should create one at Hotmail because this website isn’t blocked. Furthermore if you’re in need of a chatting app, download Viber or What’s App. They are both open in China.
Another important thing to remember before departure is to download an offline map because when you arrive in Beijing, you need a working Chinese phone number to get online and because Google is blocked, your Google map won’t be any help anyway. I downloaded OsmAnd (Android) which is working fine in China according to my China friend.
Because most of the free Wifi in China can only be accessed with a Chinese phone number, I recommend you to buy a Chinese sim-card when you arrive in town. Don’t do it in the airport because it’s quite overpriced. When going to a phone store to buy one, you should remember to bring your passport because they will have to register you with that. After doing this, your life will be easier if you get lost in China which you probably will because the country is so big.
When searching online and Google is blocked, I recommend you to use Bing or Yahoo which are both open in China.
You’ve probably heard of the word VPN. A VPN can break down the Chinese blocking system so download one beforehand to your phone and computer. When in China, it will be hard to download one because most of the official VPN websites are blocked as well. You can try both the free and the ones you have to pay for. I pay for mine because I need to make sure it’s working because of my YouTube videos but heard the free ones for phones are quite fine as well.
When you arrive in China, the first thing you have to do after getting off the plane is to fill out your personal information and address in China or else you can’t get through immigration in the airport. As mentioned earlier, you can’t get online so download the first hotel reservation and address you’re going to down onto your phone or print it out so you can fill out the correct information and won’t be in trouble.
If you book from a website like Booking.com (I love this site because it’s free to cancel bookings), then you can print your reservation in Chinese. Please do that so you can show taxi drivers where you’re going. The English level in China is quite low and I’ve never met any taxi drivers who spoke English yet. Having your hotel address in Chinese characters will make your travels easier.
When you arrive in the airport, I would also recommend you to take money out of the nearest ATM because you usually have to pay cash everywhere. The only places I’ve been able to pay with my Visa/Mastercard is in H&M, Starbucks and those other big brand. All other places, you should prepare cash.
If you’re traveling during peak time such as summer (June, July, August) and the beginning of October (Golden Week) or January/February for Chinese New year, I’ll recommend you to also book your train tickets in advance. I’ve been booking my tickets through China Travel Guide which is a website with all the China information you need. They have made an app where you can find your trains and then book in advance. During peak time in China, the trains can easily be sold out so if you know where you’re going and you don’t have time to stay around to wait for a free seat on the train please buy in advance.
The last thing on my mind is an adaptor. I’m lucky because the Danish and the Chinese plugs are the same but if you’re from anywhere else, you might buy an adaptor beforehand because it’ll be difficult to find one fitting your plug when you’ve already left your own country.
This was all for this post. I hope you feel more prepared for China with this background knowledge. Let me know if you have more questions 🙂
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