Visiting China for the first time? It’s equal parts exciting and daunting, with unique cultural etiquette to be aware of. These tips for first time travellers to China will help you to make the most of your time here.
From getting to grips with the lingo to local eats, these are the things you need to know before visiting China.
Tips For First Time Travellers To China
1. Learn the Lingo!
Mandarin Chinese is the default language across China, so try brush up your skills with an online course before you visit. While you’re there, be sure to have an offline in-app translator you can use to communicate. Oh, and be sure to carry Chinese-language business cards of your hotel to show to taxi drivers!
2. Check the Weather
Depending on when (and indeed, where) you’re travelling to China, you can expect either blazing heat or icy chills. Summertime is famously hot, with with Chongqing, Wuhan, and Nanjing nicknamed the Three Furnaces. Up north is cooler, with Harbin even hosting an ice festival every winter.
3. Plan Your Itinerary in Advance
We can’t stress how huge China is, so don’t try to fit everything in all at once. You would need months and months to see even half of what the country has to offer. Whether you stay put exploring in Beijing or seek out bamboo forests and lakes in Sichuan, plan your schedule before you arrive.
4. Eat Where the Locals Eat
One of China’s best attractions is its food, but keep in mind it’s different to the “Chinese food” in Western countries. The cuisine varies across the country, with mostly salty dishes in the north, spicy dishes in the central regions, light, seafood and fish meals in the south, and sweet and sour dishes near Shanghai. Try to eat what the locals are eating (just point at what looks good!) and don’t be shy of street food.
5. Use Public Transport
Beijing has amazing cycle lanes, buses are quick and generally public transport in China is fantastic. High-speed train travel in China is fast, punctual, comfy and clean. Plus, it’s often more reliable than air travel, which can be subject to delays and cancellations due to smog and poor weather.
A lot of websites like Facebook, Google, and Instagram are blocked in China, so download a VPN before you travel to stay connected to friends and family on Whatsapp or Gmail.
7. Wise up on Chinese Etiquette
Don’t overreact if a local asks personal questions, stares at you or takes photographs. Avoid over enthusiastic displays of public affection, stay calm when dealing with any government officials and try avoid sensitive topics such as politics or state leaders. You can read more about how to behave in China here.