As China prepares to have five different events kicking off around the country to mark the 2019 Golden Era, Discover China is rolling out some local tips to help you begin your first visit to the country that can make and break your trip.
With so many options to choose from and multiple flights to chose from when starting your China tour, understanding the best practices and tips for the first time traveler will put you in the right place at the right time.
Day 1 – Beijing
It’s already 2 AM. You can’t even sleep in anymore, as you just woken up from sleep to find a Chinese person on your doorstep. One evening you find yourself with a strange man inside of your home. What do you do?
Beijing is one of the most populous cities in the world. There are more than 15,000 hotels in Beijing alone, and thousands more where you will spend the night during your stay. It’s also one of the most expensive cities to stay. You will want to check it’s not the “bachelor bed” on Airbnb to find your hotel room.
You may be traveling to the country with friends or family or you could simply be an individual and hope to find someone who wants to go and see the city. Going alone can be tricky and be unavoidable when you’re in such a huge city. There are about 500,000 tourists that come to Beijing during the second week of February during Lunar New Year.
Beijing is most known for its politically sensitive displays and people will likely keep you at a distance or at least try to avoid you when they see you. Being aware of your surroundings and avoiding interactions with groups of strangers will go a long way when deciding where to go the next day.
Unlike popular tourist destinations such as Paris, Tokyo, or San Francisco, the people of Beijing still feed on local culture instead of treating you as an intruder. Try to find a place near a university or museum, something a bit off the beaten path, and don’t stick to the mainstream tourist attractions.
Be aware that things are not always as they seem with Chinese interactions. Don’t react to every Chinese person without the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.
If you choose to take an entire day off from work to enjoy Beijing, you may need to purchase a taxi ticket. Taxi tickets cost between $3 and $10 and will most likely be issued to a person with a permit because the streets are crowded in the center of Beijing. This can leave you taking a taxi to go an unfamiliar location in the middle of the night.
Unscheduled public transportation will not be included when visiting Beijing. Although there are several options within the city, navigating a major city will leave you without a public transportation option. Because taxis are tricky to navigate without a permit, you will have to book a train ticket. Train tickets can be found around the subway stations in the center of the city, on the taxis lined up to pick you up, or at some other designated places.
Day 2 – Shanghai
If you enjoy shopping in China, then getting a shopping license for a taxi or public transportation home is essential to understanding local culture and getting around town. Many people have shopping licenses for subway tickets or cab trips from anywhere within Shanghai to any downtown areas. You can even purchase an umbrella license for shopping if you have the right umbrella. If you purchase a shopping license for a taxi ride home, be aware that you will be told where the store is located. The trip home, again, will not be included with any public transportation tickets or public transportation.
Having a shopping license also gives you access to certain shops and can help you find unique items that local citizens purchase as presents. Having a shopping license enables you to shop at any supermarket or grocery store.
Shopping allows people to get the latest products at the best prices. Many important items in Chinese culture such as household necessities like soap, appliances, and food are sold at these mega stores, similar to a Walmart. Although shopping is a favorite for many locals, it is also a heavily regulated process by law and not encouraged.
Shopping will most likely be an activity you can do at home after you have returned from your trip. If you choose to shop, bring at least $100 to $200 in cash with you as a way to cover the cost of your purchases when shopping with others.
On the other hand, taking a taxi from Shanghai to Hangzhou and taking a train from Hangzhou to Shanghai will not be included in your public transportation trip to Shanghai. Similar to purchasing a shopping license in Beijing, if you are traveling with friends or family or want to try and get some shopping done on your own, you must purchase the taxi license and get a ticket to ride the public transportation line.