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5 Things First Time Travelers To China Need To Know

From the language and culture to the food and festivals, China is a country known for its diversity. With people everywhere, loads of noise and a constant hustle, first time visitors to this country can easily get overwhelmed. Before you land on Chinese soil, here are a few things first time travelers need to know to make your trip to China an awesome one.

1. Use Public Transport

Forget flying from city to city or taking a taxi around the city, and use China’s extensive public transport system. Not only is public transport one of the most efficient ways to travel and trusted by the locals, but it is also one of the cheapest ways of traveling - especially for long distances.

Train Travel

Being one of the cheapest ways to travel in China, especially over longer distances, train travel in China is popular amongst both locals and tourists. Instead of taking a flight from city to city, take China’s famous bullet train. The bullet train offers travelers a fast way to get from city to city. Costing under US$100, the bullet train offers travelers speed, convenience and economy.

Bus Travel

Unfortunately long distance bus travel is not the safest and most comfortable way to travel around China. With 2,633,060 miles of fairly good highways in the country, long distance bus travel does however give travelers access to all towns and cities in China at an affordable rate. With frequent departures available, bus tickets are easier to get than train tickets. Sleeper buses are available for longer trips, even though bed space is very cramped.

Inner city bus travel is a breeze in China’s larger cities. Tickets are affordable and easily available and can get you quickly from destination to destination. Be aware of getting on a bus during peak traffic hour (Monday to Friday between 07:00 and 09:00, and 17:00 and 19:00) as you could be stuck on the bus for longer than expected.

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2. Focus Your Itinerary

Being 9.597 million km², China is incredibly massive. Made up of mountainous areas, large deserts, jungles, endless grassland and the world’s largest cities, China’s landscapes are as diverse as its cultures. To truly experience everything China has to offer, it will take you months to do. Instead of trying to do and see everything, rather close one region to visit on your first trip to China. If you’re not sure where to go, here are three regions that are perfect for first time visitors:

Sichuan Province

With gorgeous bamboo forests and lakes, this province is known for its scenery. Unlike the bigger cities, this province is all about nature. Be sure to go on a few hikes and head to the remote Tibetan-plateau grasslands.

Guangxi

For adventurists, Guangxi is the perfect destination with landscapes perfect for hiking, cycling and river trips.

Beijing

Instead of Beijing just being a stopover, spend your first trip in this amazing city. The city has awesome sights and sounds The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.

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3. Eat Your Way Through China

Every first time visitor to China has to spend their days eating their way around China. Boasting one of the world’s greatest cuisines, Chinese food in China is definitely more delicious than any take away from your hometown. We’d advise heading on a food tour, which will expose you to the variety of flavors that China has to offer.

Remember that each region in China has different flavors. Northern China has simple yet salty wheat dishes,  Western China has hearty halal lamb dishes, Eastern China has sweet and simple dishes and Southern China is known for its spicy foods. A few must-try dishes are sweet and sour pork, wontons, chow mein, dumplings and peking roasted duck. For dessert tuck into egg tarts, pumpkin pancakes and almond jelly. You also try some exotic foods like Nanjing's egg embryo dish.

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4. Learn How To Use Chopsticks

Speaking about food, it is highly important to learn how to eat with chopsticks before heading to China. Even though knives and forks are available at some restaurants, for an authentic experience, travelers need to eat with chopsticks. If you haven’t got eating with chopsticks, but are still keen to give it a try while in China, be sure to wear a dark t-shirt incase you spill.

5. Break The Language Barrier

One of the hardest parts of traveling to China is overcoming the language barrier. Even though English is taught in schools, it is still not as widely spoken as most travelers think. For first time travelers it is important to learn a few words and phrases before visiting smaller, rural towns. If you can attend a basic Mandarin class before leaving, or teach yourself some words, it will truly help with communication while in China.


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About the author

Ji Guo is a former professional travel writer. He's started several businesses in China and was born in Tianjin. Graduated from Yale University.

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