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Traveling tips -- traveling in China


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I wasn't sure which forum was best for this post but I think Visa is better than others.  Some maybe have differing opinions but I think this is a good list for those of you wanting to travel while in China


I used to live in China and did lots of traveling while living there.


For those of you in the states you need to understand two things....  

        You will do LOTS of walking and you will not find a Laundromat.





American's don't understand how much walking people in other cultures actually do.  And that is probably why 80% of American's are over weight.  While living in China I would walk 6 miles every day going to and from work.  And I lived in a house close to my office.  When on vacation I think you can expect to walk 10-15 miles per day!!!  On my last trip to China we rode planes, trains, taxis, motorcycles, boats, subways ... oh and my favorite, high speed trains.  But between each an everyone you need to walk more than a mile carrying your stuff!


Things to take:

- Calluses

This is import!  My first day in China my feet were bleeding.  My mothers first day in china her feet were bleeding, and I warned her.

- 25 liter backpack.  

I love the osprey, because they leave an air pocket between you back and the bag.  Everything you own needs to fit in this small backpack!!!

- synthetic athletic clothing  

It has nothing to do with the exercise.   It has to do with Laundromats.  You won't find any and you don't want to waist time trying to get clothing dry cleaned.  Every night when you enter your hotel room wash yesterdays clothing.  If it is synthetic it will be dry by the morning.  If you brought cotton, well you are screwed.  Also think of ways clothing can be dual purposed, for example swimming suits that double as underwear.  Or shorts that double as a swimming suit.

- 2 days worth of layered clothing

2 synthetic convertible pants. 2 synthetic t-shirts. 2 synthetic long shirts. 2 synthetic underwear.  2 fast drying socks (this is hard, you may have to buy more). 

- synthetic belt with hidden money pocket

- Good broke in walking shoes

- 1 jacket preferably water resistant

- 1 unlocked smart phone

When you get to china buy a new sim card with internet access ($50).  Also because of your language barrier you will be using your GPS a LOT!

- 1 large portable phone charging battery

China uses 3G which is more power hungry.  Plus your GPS usage I was running out of electricity 3 times per day.  Plus if you ride a sleeper train you may not get to charge your phone (or wash your clothing).

- VPN service in the united states, so that you get on facebook

- watch

- passport

- Cash 

Cash is king in China.  They are slowly moving to credit cards but most merchants refuse to pay Visa 2%.  I would take 1000 RMB and 1000-2000 USD.  Then when you get there go to a bank and ask for RMB.  Chinese banks are by far the cheapest place to exchange money.  They will need your passport to do so.  If you stay at nice hotels they will also do this for you.  

- 2 debit cards, with cash in it, and they know you will be traveling.

My credit union only worked 1/2 the time.  Thus I always carry two.

- deodorant

when I first moved to china you couldn't buy it.  Now big cities sell it but why bother.

- Camera with extra batteries and SD cards

- a USB multi-port charger

- 2 camera chargers

- head phones 

- movies/books on your phone

- iPad

- iPad SD card reader.

- iPad photo manipulation software

- drugs (advil, zantac, cipro... )

- small Kleenex bag things (to wipe your butt)


Things to NOT take


- new shoes 

- laptop (if possible)

- too many clothes

- too much camera equipment.

- a roller suitcase (you may be walking 16 miles with rain ... think marathon)

- fancy clothing




- take the trains, especially the sleeper trains.  It is about $100 but you get a good nights sleep and you don't need a hotel.  I will plan my trip as such.  Take a sleeper train to the city (lets say Xian) then the best way to get to the clay soldiers is from the train station taking a bus.  You will wear your backpack while seeing the sights.  Then when you get back to town look for a hotel.  The bell tower hotel is amazing and only costs $110/nt. Spend the next day seeing the muslim quarter, spend the next day hiking with your stuff, then take a sleeper train to the next city.  You have to carry you stuff.

- have a chinese friend translate some cards if you don't speak chinese.

   "I want to go ____"

   "I want a soft sleeper bed to ____ city" (train)

- apps to bring

   - translation apps

   - gps apps

   - games

   - photo manipulation apps

   - books on tape / movies

- eat the food (lamb kabobs, Sichuan boiled fish, liang fen, liang pi, islamic food, nan)

- don't be offended if the local hotels don't allow you to live there.  They just don't want to do the paperwork.

- try the "ru jia" national hotel chain if you want to save money.

- go to the islamic street in xian.

- keep you wallet in your front pocket.

- people will lie and cheat you but not mug.

- when you see something you want look around there are probably 10 others stores with the same crap.  Use that to your negotiation advantage.

- If you buy clothing look for back stitching and KKY zippers.  If they don't have them remember the clothing will fall apart in days.

- when you enter a taxi go things in this order.  Place family, then bags, then get in the front, take picture of his license, then tell them where to go, then tell them to turn on the meter.

- keep business card of every hotel you go, just in case you can't find your way home.

- subways are they easiest way for foreigners to get around.

- If you see beautiful girls wanting to have tea or beer with you, don't let them choose where you go.  You choose.

- get two room cards. leave on in the room so that your camera can charge while you go eat.

- you can't buy train tickets online.  bigger cities have corner stores that sell them, but smaller one you must buy them at the train station.

- Learn to use a squaty potty.  Toilets don't get cleaned, and you don't want you butt on a toilet.  Spread you legs far apart over a squaty so that when you drop your pants they don't drop past you knees in into the toilet.  Then squat using your hand to hold up the crotch of your pants so that you don't piss on them.   Then let loose.  Using your kleenex to clean up.





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Thank you for the write-up. However, there are a couple of places where the $ sign instead of RMB might scare those not familiar with China ($50 for a new SIM card..)

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That's an excellent, informative and fun heads up post. Thank you very much for taking the time to share that rw86347 and I'm sure it will help a lot of people. 



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Not bad. Might help newbies. Thanks for taking the trouble to post.


You will wear your backpack while seeing the sights.


I try to not do this. You can often leave it at the ticket office of the attraction if the train station is not close to where you want to stay. I carry a small day bag for valuables and try to leave the heavier backpack somewhere while actually visiting an attraction.


take the trains, especially the sleeper trains.


As to the sleeper trains, this is only a good tip if you are able to sleep where there is noise and activity and movement. If you are a light sleeper, you will not rest well and will arrive tired. Agree it's a budget-friendly option, but not suitable for everyone.


keep you wallet in your front pocket.


Better yet, don't carry a wallet at all. Passport, credit cards and foreign cash in a money belt. I put small cash in my right front pocket and large cash (100 Yuan bills and 50 Yuan bills in my left front pocket.)

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Pretty good tips I'll say, most of them are right.



- you can't buy train tickets online.  bigger cities have corner stores that sell them, but smaller one you must buy them at the train station.

 I have to disagree with this, ctrip and qunar both sell train tickets online that you get printed at the train station.

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@noony1990, please read our guidelines for commercial posters.  In short, you need to disclose any connection you have with any website/product you link/recommend, you shouldn't post just to drive traffic to your own site, and you should only recommend your own products/services when it is directly relevant to the discussion at hand.  Also, configure your profile signature rather than manually adding a link at the end of each post.


I've gone through and edited some of your past posts also.

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Of course you can buy train tickets on line.


On www.12306.cn if you read Chinese and have a Chinese bank card.


And on ctrip's English site if you have a foreign credit card.


As said, in each case you get a confirmation number on line that you exchange for the actual ticket at the station.


(And a small travel router -- easily and cheaply bought in China -- is useful for the hotels that only have wired LAN connections, not WIFI.)

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A few things...


All hostels offer a laundry service and i'd imagine hotels would also. It's really easy to have clean clothes.


The problem I have with synthetic althetic clothing is ... it often looks terrible. Also, depsite what you'd imagine, it can often end up smelling worse if you don't take care of it or you sweat a lot over time in them. I usually find a cotton t-shirt with cargo shorts, sandals perfect. Put a shirt on over that if it gets cooler.


As for toilets, in major cities you can usually find a clean western one. In Beijing it's pretty easy if you know where to look. I do agree just using squatters is easier than hunting if you dont know the area.

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Yes,  buying train tickets online is easy. I just bought tickets for a return trip to Guilin next week. Didn't go anywhere near the station or any of the many ticket booths.

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A good alternative to cotton (comfortable but never dries) and synthetic (quick-drying but stinky) clothes are products made from merino wool. Very popular with hikers, mountaineers, trekkers and the like.

A bit pricey but can be used always and everywhere.

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Thanks for the feed back...

Actually I did spend $50 on a phone card. It gave me unlimited internet while in china.

Sounds like things have changed in terms of train tickets. I will have to try this next time I am in china.

I will also have to try a merino wool t-shirt.

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Sounds like things have changed


That is one of the great difficuties of offering advice about travelling in China. Never has a country changed so quickly in so many ways. It's not just tickets. The train service has become much quicker in the last couple of years. A train journt of twelve hours a few years ago is now about three.


I have a website with information about the city in which I live. I have to update it almost every week. If I were to leave China, I would expect the site to be largely useless after about three months!

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"The train service has become much quicker in the last couple of years." And much more expensive!


Everything has become much more expensive. It's called inflation.

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Come on!


Of course they are more expensive. It is a different service. Fast trains cost a lot more to run. They have invested zillions in building the lines and the trains.


They are competing with flying now instead of with donkey carts.


In nearly all cases the slower trains are still there. So if you are unwilling or unable to pay the higher prices, nothing has really changed.


I happily pay a bit more to get there more quickly and so do most of my Chinese friends who can.

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"In nearly all cases the slower trains are still there. So if you are unwilling or unable to pay the higher prices, nothing has really cahnged."


That's just plain wrong. While the the slower trains are "still there," service has been cut back and they've become very hard to book since they cost less than half the fare of HSR. From Beijing to Shanghai, for example, you've now got only the 1461 and the T109 in addition to HSR. In 2004, there were at least six Z trains and three T trains on that route, not including slower services.


As for investing "zillions," well, zillions have certainly been spent. How much was actually invested in the new lines isn't really known.

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So plain wrong in saying "they are still there" now means "they are still there"?


Didn't you see 'mostly"?


You cite only one route. On Monday, I will take the rapid train to Guilin for a meeting. All the slow options are still there. I choose not to use them. They are competing with the coaches.


But this is all an unnecessary diversion from my original point that any attempt to define travelling in China is going to be rapidly out of date.

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  • 1 year later...

I usually take the K trains overnight, because they do save the one night accommodation; ying wo but avoid shang pu!  However from Fuzhou to Beijing was a two-night train, 35 hours I think - that is just too much!  If you wear glasses always be aware of them when in the squat toilets.  I wear an inside trousers wrap-around money belt for credit cards (I carry 3 and have been known to lose all of them) and for cash and passport.  I cannot stand synthetic clothes, would rather wear wet cotton, and I carry a little clothesline, pegline.  Whatever you do, don't forget the Gastro-stop.  Drugs are very expensive in China, so take panadol with you.

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"Drugs are very expensive in China . . . "


Imported drugs can be very expensive, but common generics are cheap as chips. The key is knowing the correct Chinese name: no mistakes allowed.


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