tips for traveling in China...
Chinese phrase book...
Don’t leave home without this. The majority of people
in China don’t speak English. Advertising, street
signs, maps and menus will be in Chinese. The phrase book
will make your travels easier and you’ll make new
friends as you try to communicate.
Many Chinese people have never seen a foreigner, even
those living in large cities, so don’t be surprised
if you get stared at. It can feel rather intimidating
being the object of such open curiosity. The best way
to deal with it is to smile or wave and say ‘hello’
in English. You will be rewarded with big beaming smiles,
giggles or shy hellos uttered in return.
The food in China is guaranteed to be very different from
the food at your local Chinese restaurant. Chances are
the menu will be in Chinese script. You’re starving
and really want to try some delicious food. So what do
a) You can be adventurous, close your eyes, point to something
on the menu and see what arrives. This is a great way
of trying something you’ve never had before.
b) Use that trusty phrase book. ‘The Lonely Planet’
phrasebook has a comprehensive list of dishes to choose
c) Look around at what your fellow diners are eating,
if you see something you like, motion to the waitress
that you’ll have the same.
d) Find a Yin Cha (Yum Cha) restaurant where you can leisurely
wander about, viewing all the food before making a choice.
These are great places to eat at and the food is often
If you aren’t very handy with chopsticks practice
at home before your trip. You will make a big impression
if you can confidently wield a pair of chopsticks over
dinner. When not using your chopsticks always rest them
on the side of your bowl. Never stand them upright in
a dish of rice. This is very offensive as it replicates
incense burning for the dead.
simply must try…
Dumplings (jao zi) are found everywhere and they taste
sensational. Made fresh to order you can have them boiled,
steamed or fried. They come with a variety of fillings,
the most common being pork, lamb, beef, cabbage &
pork or tomato & egg. They taste divine dipped in
the sauce of chilli, garlic, soy sauce and vinegar that
accompanies them. Beware; they can be slippery and hard
to handle with chopsticks. The trick is to stab the dumpling
with one chopstick to secure it while using the other
for stability. This normally prevents runaway dumplings
but if one escapes just shrug and move on to the next
one. Don’t pick the offending dumpling up off the
table, the Chinese view this as dirty.
your feet do the walking
Bring comfortable shoes. China is a place that’s
best explored on foot. Go for a walk and meander through
the numerous alleyways. You will find markets bursting
with colour, fresh produce, an array of clothing stalls
and much more. When shopping at markets it’s always
advisable to barter. It can be a lot of fun and always
do this with a smile. Note: You can buy almost anything
in China for a bargain price, but if it’s shoes
you’re after things can get tricky. If you’re
a size 39 or above you may have trouble finding shoes
in your size.
about getting lost?
Always carry a business card from the hotel where you
are staying. If you get lost simply hail a taxi and show
the driver your hotel card. Most Chinese cannot read English
so ensure the card has the address written in Chinese.
Dress standards are very similar to Western countries
with the only real difference being that they don’t
show off their midriffs. Short skirts and strappy tops
are all perfectly acceptable. Just keep your tummy covered
and you won’t cause offence or attract unwanted
Ladies bring tampons. China may be a fast developing country
but outside of Beijing and Shanghai tampons will be near
impossible to find. Earplugs are a handy accessory to
combat the noise of the cities and take up very little
space. Change in diet, chilli and poor sanitation in China
makes it a place where you can suffer the dreaded upset
bowel so as a precaution bring medication from home. Always
drink bottled water in China as the tap water isn’t
fit for direct consumption.
China has some token throne toilets in more expensive
establishments but the squat toilet reigns supreme. The
cleanliness of them varies dramatically. Often public
toilets don’t supply toilet paper so always carry
tissues in your handbag. Depending on where you travel
you will encounter squat toilets with private cubicles
and others will be a much more public experience. Some
have no doors, dividing walls only a metre high and a
trench running the length of the room. Leave your dignity
at the door and put it down to a fab travel story.