10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting China
1. You'll More Than Likely Need A Visa To Visit.
China is one of the most closed off countries in the world and they require most visitors to gain a visa before the enter. UK citizens can get a visa from either the Manchester or London embassy for around £200.
2. You'll Need Your Passport To Get Into Any Attractions
A lot of attractions in China are free. However, pretty much everywhere requires your passport to get in so be sure to take it everywhere with you - just be sure to keep it in a safe place so it doesn’t get pickpocketted.
3. Students & Over 60's Get 50% Off
For the attractions that are free, students and over 60’s get 50% discount off ticket prices with a valid card or passport.
4. The Majority of Websites & Apps Are Blocked
The great firewall of China often springs to mind when most people think of the country. State control of the internet is one of the regimes major policies. Due to the majority of western companies not agreeing to store users data inside of Chinese mainland, nearly all of your favourite apps and websites don’t work. Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp are just a few examples of this. If you want to contact people at home, your best options are Skype or a chinese app called WeChat. If you really can’t survive your trip through China without these apps, you’ll have to set up a VPN (like a lot of locals do) to overcome the firewall.
5. China Is Very Very Busy
Everyone knows that China is the most populated country in the world but it takes a visit to really understand the scale of just how many people there are here. Unlike other countries, where only the major cities are busy, here in China, everywhere is busy, with major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai being unbearably so. For me, Beijing was the worst. It didn’t matter what time of day it was or where about you were, there always seemed to be hoards of people. With visits to main attractions such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City being a relief to leave.
6. It's Illegal To Talk About The Regime Or Politics In Public
Chinese people are under one of the most strict regimes in the world. The majority of them have grown up in this environment and therefore don’t know anything different. During a meal out with a chinese man from my hostel I brought up, in passing, the Tiananmen square riots, to which his face suddenly dropped. He instantly told me to keep my voice down and then continued to explain to me how its legal to take about politics or the regime in any way. He told me how the state control of the internet made it easy for the government to control what the people knew about and what they wanted to keep a secret. Apparently the majority of people under 20 don’t even know about the riots and oppression in the 80’s
7. Most Chinese People Can't Speak English
Apart from in Shanghai, which is very westernised, the majority of people in China speak very little or no English. However, 99.9% of signs are translated, generally not very well, but well enough for you to be able to have a good enough guess at what they’re selling or what the sign is pointing towards. I found myself searching for the worst translated signs during my time in China. Some of the highlights included ‘floor hole’ for toilet and ‘mouth items’ for supermarket!
8. Chinese Food Is Very Different To Western Chinese Food
This was the thing that confused me the most during my time in China. Theres a huge difference between western Chinese food and ACTUAL chinese food. In China they will eat lottery anything, from horse penis on a stick to bugs and beetles in a soup. I was especially dtiffapointed to be unable to find a popular western chinese dish ’Sweet and Sour Chicken’ anywhere in China, even in the Schichuan region where the dish supposedly originates from.
9. You'll Get Security Checked Everywhere
China is obsessed with security so be ready to take that rucksack off every time you want to go on the tube and enter a tourist attraction. Its not uncommon for them to take a finger print scan upon entry too - even in national parks!
10. Nowhere Has Toilet Paper
Apart from at your hotel it is very uncommon for toilets to have toilet paper in them. You’ll need to buy some from a store and carry a roll round with you during your stay.