Nothing is Easy in China
Are you thinking of going to China or planning already your next adventure? Travelling around China is exciting but can also get challenging and difficult so my advice would be to plan carefully, prepare well and keep these few travel tips in mind before packing your bag and jumping on a plane.
Apply for a Visa
China is one of those countries where in majority of cases you cannot get a visa on arrival. If you are planning a trip you will need to apply for a tourist visa before travelling to China. As it might take you some time, do not leave it until last minute and expect that you will be asked to provide a travel itinerary with your accommodation details etc.
If you wish to venture out to lively Hong Kong or try your luck at the grand casinos of Macau with a plan of going back to mainland China, you will require a visa to re-enter. It might be worth starting or ending your Asian trip with these two destinations. That way you will only need a single entry visa and you will have more cash saved for these slot machines at the Grand Lisboa!
Prepare to Tackle the Great Firewall of China
A lot of websites, social media platforms and blogs are blocked in China so if you want to tweet, post some updates on Facebook, pick up your emails via Gmail or have a YouTube party you might want to set up a virtual private network (VPN) service prior to your trip. A VPN allows your device to circumvent the firewall by redirecting your internet connection. Simply search for the latest unblocked service before go and set it all up. There should be instructions included so do not panic. It is not difficult to bypass the firewall but it is certainly not the most convenient way to access the internet.
While you are still outside of China save Google maps or other useful content so you can access it offline. You might feel like catching up on some reading, which is not in Chinese while out there.
Download Useful Apps
Pleco, the Chinese dictionary app recommended by my friend was an absolute life-saver while travelling in Southern China. I encourage you to download it as it will help coping with the language barrier. The app plus the names of the places you need to find or food you do (or do not) want to eat written down in Chinese on a piece of paper should ease some of the communication pains. I know that ending up with a plate of tripe or chicken feet would be my nightmare!
If you are visiting big cities like Beijing or Shanghai and you plan to get around by metro I recommend using Explore Metro app to plan your routs. It also works offline so you can use it on a go even without the internet connection.
Buy Train Tickets in Advance
Travelling by train is a really good and at the same time very popular option in China. Make sure you buy your tickets as early as possible, especially if you are planning to take a sleeper train. As you can only do it 20 days in advance make it your priority throughout your trip. Otherwise 15 hours spent in a small train seat will be tough.
Oh, and last but not least… get ready for many curious stares!