While I’m away on maternity leave, please enjoy this guest post from Agnes of eTramping about traveling in China!
Visiting China can be one of the best travel experiences you will ever have. The Land of Dragons has everything that an adventurous backpacker or a typical vacationer, whether experienced or inexperienced in traveling, could dream about: beautiful mountains, stunning rice fields, lakes and vast seas, small hidden gems, big cities, skyscrapers and high hills. It’s no surprise it is perceived by many as one of the most varied, challenging and beautiful countries in the world. After living, working and traveling across China for the past two years, I can absolutely agree with that. China has left me speechless countless times, and no matter where I went, I was always blown away by local hospitality, delicious food, breath-taking landscape and interesting Chinese culture and traditions.
If you are afraid of leaving your comfort zone to set off for the adventure of a lifetime, let me tell you that China is the friendliest place on this planet. Although you may find its enormous size and language barrier challenging, these factors will also make your stay here unforgettable, and you will return home with incredible experiences. Here are some top tips to follow when traveling around China to make your stay smooth and trouble-free:
Ways of traveling
#1 Choose trains and local buses.
Trains and buses are not only the cheapest transportation in China but also the most adventurous and unforgettable. You will certainly meet amazing locals and fellow travelers on the way, so you will never feel lonely or lost. Moreover, you can admire the scenery of China from the window, and this is a great opportunity to take some photos. Before you get into a train in China, you should know that there are five different types of train tickets: standing ticket (the cheapest one), hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper ticket (the most expensive one). If your journey lasts less than 3 hours, you should purchase a standing ticket. If you travel more than 3 hours but less than 6 hours, the best option would be buying a hard seat ticket. If your journey is more than 8 hours, you should definitely pay for a soft sleeper ticket. This way, you can enjoy some nice sleep and arrive in a good mood at your destination. What might surprise you is the fact that long distance buses are usually more expensive than trains, but local buses are extremely cheap. Can you believe that a single ride by local bus costs only ¥1 (about $0.16)? It’s unbelievably cheap.
#2 Take metro in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
When in Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, you should definitely grab a metro map and go from one sightseeing spot to another. A single ticket ride in Beijing is only ¥2, but it can save you a lot of time.
#3 Avoid taxis.
If you don’t speak much Chinese, you will be taken to the wrong place, and you will surely get ripped off. That’s how taxis work in China. Therefore, before deciding on traveling by taxi, make sure to check and see if they have a meter, if it is witched it on, and how good or bad driver’s English is. This way, you can avoid unnecessary stress and money loss.
#1 Stick to local food.
The local street food in China is very affordable and easily accessible. A typical Chinese breakfast costs around ¥5 ($0.80). For this price, you will be served a basket of baozi, which are steamed dumplings stuffed with boiled veggies and mince. When it comes to lunches and dinners ¥4 ($0.60) is more than enough to buy a bowl of fried rice or noodle soup. As long as you grab your meals from street vendors, you can save a lot of money on food when in China. If you are not an adventurous eater who is not keen on eating from dirty places, you may want to visit local restaurants where traditional Chinese food is served. It will be pricey but clean and also extremely delicious!
#2 Be always adventurous with food.
When it comes to food, China is probably one of the most adventurous countries you could ever imagine. You don’t believe me? Have you ever eaten grilled chicks, chicken and duck feet, snails or dog meat in any country you have travelled to? I don’t think so! If you want to experience the real food in China, you should definitely be more adventure with meal choices. Don’t stick only to Chinese dumplings, simple rice dishes and noodle soups. Try to dig into tea eggs, lamb kebabs, stinky tofu or scorpions. It’s a great yet yummy experience, trust me.
One great way to travel the country is through Couchsurfing. You can meet locals and expats in your city through this site. However, there are several standard hostel sites. The ones we use the most are HostelBookers and HostelWorld . If you’re looking for a little bit more comfort, there can also be cheap rooms available at www.booking.com. The great thing about this site is that most of the time you pay in the local currency when you arrive. Also, a lot of the hotels on this site in China have no reviews, so you can pretend that you’re a real travel writer and review them all.
#1 Beijing –
You can’t miss out on going to the most famous ancient capital of China. Major historic sites such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Tian’anmen Square and the Great Wall have been joined by modern architecture in the city, namely the Olympic Stadium, the Bird’s Nest and the National Grand Theatre.
#2 The Great Wall of China –
There’s not a lot that needs to be said about the Great Wall that people don’t know already. Any trip to China is not complete without a visit, because, as an old Chinese proverb goes, you are not a man unless you have climbed the Great Wall!
#3 Shanghai –
It’s the largest city in China and the import/export epicenter. It seems more developed than Beijing, and you often hear travelers say, “You either like Beijing or you like Shanghai,” because of the stark differences between the two cities.
#4 Xi’an –
China’s ancient capital. At the centre is the Bell Tower, to the north, the railway station, and to the south, outside the walls, the Big Goose Pagoda. Outside the city, you have another one of the main attractions in China, the Terracotta Warriors. They are well worth a day trip, and apparently it will take around 70 years to completely unearth and piece together all the possible figures.
#5 Sichuan Province –
Whether it’s Chengdu for the panda reserve, Chongqing for the spicy hotpot, Leshan for the Giant Buddha or the Sichuanese women, considered to be the most beautiful of all Chinese women, Sichuan province is a major draw for travelers and expats alike.
#6 Tibet –
The destination on top of the world, controversially governed by China and situated in the west, is elevated on average 4900 meters above sea level. It’s a must-see place.
#7 Zhangjiajie –
A very small town located in Hunan Province, China. Have you ever seen the American blockbuster called Avatar? This is the place where the movie was partly made. The visionary idea of space travel is hard to believe. As far as the general public knows, it is fiction, but the Floating Hallelujah mountains shown in Avatar are real. Only compared to the movie, they are not floating above the ground.
Whether you are traveling solo or with a travel buddy, China will welcome you warmly with delicious food and stunning landscapes. There is nothing to be afraid of when taking local transportation. It’s a very friendly and safe travel destination you should add to your bucket list this summer!
Agness is a full-time English teacher in Dongguan, China and a part-time blogger who stands behind eTramping – a travel website where you can find plenty of budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. She loves to indulge in Chinese dumplings, take photos of sunsets and dance on the beach. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out her “Add the Brick to the Great Wall: Experience-based Advice for China from Expats” e-book which sums up her two-year experience of teaching, living and traveling in the Land of Dragons.