I hope you all have been enjoying my little recap of my great adventure to China. I still can’t believe it is already in the past. I hope it might have a few people planning a trip to see this great country! I feel like so many people I talked to before my trip would ask me “Why China?” and my only answer was to visit my friend Sarah…well my answer has changed. China is spectacular, full of mystery and culture, a place everyone should see in their lifetime. Standing on top of the Great Wall of China was one of the most amazing experiences ever, and honestly something I think everyone should experience once in their lifetime.
That being said, I do understand where a a lot of the hesitation comes from when thinking about China. It is a very foreign country to many…so I put together my list of TEN things you should know before you visit China. Luckily, I knew a lot of these before hand, or learned them while planning for our trip. I know this list may come across as a little scary, but it is truly meant to inform you to ensure that you have a wonderful trip to China!
The Forbidden City: Beijing
1. You Need a Visa: This may be a well known fact to some, but I was not aware travelers needed a visa to enter the country. Luckily our tour group offered to get our Visas for us. This made the process much easier, mainly because the closest place to get a visa was TEXAS!
2. Pack Tissues: The bathrooms are DISGUSTING. They have no toilet paper so bring your own. Hand sanitizer is a must as well. One of our group members even brought a small roll on perfume that she would share when entering a public bathroom.
if you were lucky there would be an “old man” aka real toilet
3. Practice Squatting: going along with the disgusting bathroom is the fact that very few bathrooms have actual toilets. The first time I was horrified, but by the end of the trip I was a pro, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
one of the markets
4. Be Ready to Bargain: People will try and sell you things EVERYWHERE you go. I have found some great finds, but you have to be prepared to haggle. I am the world’s WORST haggler but lucky for me our group had some really good hagglers. One woman’s tip was to start with HALF of HALF of what they are asking! Also be wary of what you are buying. If you buy it on the streets chances are it is not good quality.
Our Rickshaw Ride
5. Watch out for yourself on the roads (and sidewalks): The roads are full of cars, busses, trucks, bikers, pedestrians, and occasionally water buffalo! They do have road signs and street lights, but drivers in China seem to make their own rules.
6. Find a tour group or a local guide: China is HUGE! I can’t imagine navigating it solo. Having a guide with us was a blessing in disguise. I am in NO way shape or form a tour person, but like I said China is big and I do not speak the language (nor can I fake it). Our guide booked hotels, flights within China, got us in and out of attractions without waiting in lines. It was the PERFECT way to see China. Our group was 18 people and they were all so much fun. It was really nice to have more than just yourself. If you want to just have your family look to get a local guide in each city you visit!
7. Embrace the Culture: China is very different than America in many ways. It is full of tradition and interesting culture. It is all very different than anywhere I have every visited. I loved learning about all the different dynasties, groups of people, and just the way of life and the beliefs of the people. I recommend trying everything that comes your way! (I even tried SNAKE WINE)
Cute Little Toothpaste!
8. DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER: in regards to trying everything, do not try the tap water. The water in China is not potable. They said you can brush your teeth and be fine, but I did not want to take any risks. Every hotel we stayed in provided two bottles of water daily for us. Also avoid fruits you do not peel yourself!
the last stretch!
9. Push Yourself: When you are at a crossroad of going a little farther or sitting out…GO FARTHER. I promise it will be worth it. I kept telling myself “When is the next time you will be in China, you gotta do this now” By the end of the trip I was getting sick with a pretty nasty respiratory cough but I did not let that slow me down. There was one day where I almost stayed at the hotel. I would have been so upset to have missed that day. Another example was our hike on the Great Wall, only 6 people made it to the end and that sense of accomplishment was unlike anything I have ever experienced.
We got stopped and asked to take a photo with this girl
10. Be Prepared to be Photographed: The Chinese people loved taking pictures of our big group of Americans. They loved when you wave and say hello. One of the sweetest moments was passing a group of students at the zoo. When they saw us they all started waving and saying “Hello how are you!” The teacher in me was so happy to see them so eager to practice english!