One of our readers – James in the UK – wrote to us to tell us about his recent trip to China, with some tips to share with you all.
I started my trip in Beijing in July, and getting from the airport to the city by taxi took about 25 minutes and was really cheap.
Whilst here and if you're brave, hire a bicycle; there are cycle lanes everywhere but be aware that to a Chinese driver that means nothing, and you will find cars driving in them.
But don't even think about hiring a car… you will die!!! I would say driving standards in Beijing were higher than I saw elsewhere, but that doesn't set the bar very high. Three lane roads turn into unofficial 5 lane roads with cars under and overtaking, weaving in and out. Very, very scary.
Trains, on the other hand, are amazing, but be aware that to buy a ticket you will need your passport. In fact for many things, including most tourist attractions, you will need your passport, so I would carry it at all times. You can get the Chinese equivalent of the London Underground Oyster Card, which means you can tap on and off all public transport.
The Great Wall
We visited from Beijing and it cost very little to go by bus, but like almost everywhere in China be prepared to queue. My advice would be to go early in the morning as the last bus back to Beijing is at 17:00.
There is a very good chance of rain at the Great Wall because it is so high, but if you forget your raincoat there are plenty of sellers of disposable plastic overcapes for the equivalent of 50p/$1. They may not be that attractive but lots of people wear them. Wear comfortable shoes with good grip as it can get slippery in the rain and sections of the wall are steep. Also be prepared for crowds of people – this is a popular tourist attraction for the Chinese people too.
Whilst in Beijing, you'll want to see The Forbidden City. But also check out Wangfujing street where all weird, unusual street food can be seen – including scorpions!
We took a really fast train to the port and were there in around 30 minutes. This city has the same population as London but in a smaller area. Tian Jin is a major import/export location which has sadly been in the news recently after a tragic explosion. The building style is very eclectic here, with lots of European styles because this is where the embassies used to be.
Enjoy the food
Be sure to try Jian Bing, a street food made fresh for you whilst you watch. It's a savoury pancake made with egg and spring onion. Cheap at around £1/$1.50 and totally delicious.
In Beijing and Tian Jin you can enjoy food styles from all over China and Asia, so take advantage and try as much as possible.
Try Rice Wine but try the good stuff, i.e. the strong wine, not the cheapest which tastes like burnt rice – not nice. Local beer is weak and really cheap at around £2/$3 for 5 litres/10 pints.
Be sure to take…
- Your own medicines e.g. Paracetamol because you can't buy them in China. They don't stock the same stuff we are used to in the West.
- Your own sunscreen to be sure of the quality.
- A Kindle or e-reader because with flights, transfers and delays there will be plenty of time spent sitting around.
- Lots of shorts and lightweight clothes – it's hot and humid in summer.
Whilst there are lots of Western clothing brands available the sizes are small… even the Chinese XL would be considered a Small/Medium in Europe.
The Chinese love bright colours, so enjoy.
Leave at home…
- Your umbrella – you can buy them everywhere and really cheaply too.
Consider before you leave home…
That the internet is very restricted by the Great Firewall of China, and you will not be able to access anything Google related. This may mean you need to set up a new email address to keep in contact. Or set up auto-redirect on your emails, but you must do this before you leave home.
I had the most amazing time, I totally loved it and felt safe at all times. I can't wait to return and see more of this amazing country.
Thanks to James for the article. Have you been to China? Do you have any other tips to share? You can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.