China Activities and Itineraries
It’s not to say that I didn’t have high hopes for our visit to the Middle Kingdom, but travelling around China exceeded expectations in every way.
We were warned that China is not an easy country to travel around on public transport, but a bit of planning in advance goes a really long way.
We met some really helpful people too. Some of which even insisted that we ate lunch with them AND they paid.
Tips for travelling around China
The language barrier
This is a biggie! China isn’t like many other countries where the locals learn English because their businesses depends on western tourism. There are certainly enough domestics tourists within China to keep the country going, so it’s up to us to do the hard work, for once.
The best translating app we found was Baidu. You can take a photo of a menu and it will translate the whole thing, a lot better than Google Translate can. It’s not perfect though, so we used a mixture of Google Translate and Baidu.
It’s no secret that there is a firewall in China, which blocks access to various websites from within the country. If you want to stay connected to these sites, you’ll need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). We chose Express VPN*, which worked great. It gets taken down from time to time, so there may be a day or two here and there where you’re without Google, Facebook and WhatsApp, but there are alternative search engines available to help you get around. Bing still works, for example. We weren’t inconvenienced by the outages. It’s important to have a VPN installed before you arrive, as there’s little to no-chance that you’ll be able to download it once you are in the country.
* Note: If you sign up to Express VPN using the link above, we may receive a small commission for the referral, but this won’t have any affect on the cost to you!
Using public transport is all part of the fun of travelling around China. The subways in main cities have station names translated to English, so are easy to use. Just get ready to enter each station through airport-style security, when travelling around the major cities.
We used Apple Maps for public bus services, which are cheap as chips, by the way. I’m talking less than a pound/dollar for a journey.
We discovered Maps.ME quite late on in our trip. It’s a must-have, especially for hiking around not-so-popular areas with little signage.
Get used to people spitting. In the street, on the bus, in your shared overnight train cabin (gross!) – everywhere. Maybe it’s because of the smog, or because some people smoke 10,000 a day that they need to spit so much, I don’t know. I learned that it’s just what happens – you get used to it eventually.