Headed to China? Looking for some travel tips? Here are a few notes from my recent trip to Shanghai which should help you have a smoother travel experience.
Make sure you have the address of your hotel written in Chinese and that you keep it on you at all times. If you have an address card written in Chinese it will make trying to get directions or to take a taxi that much simpler.
Bargain hard. All the time. Our guide told us to drop a zero from the price they asked for – e.g. the stall holder says Y1000, you say Y100. However, don’t tell them a price unless you are prepared to buy the product.
There are fakes and then there are fakes. The quality of bags, sunglasses, electronic goods and shoes can vary enormously – and so does the price of these goods. Make sure you take a really good look at the quality of what you are getting and pay accordingly. Some stalls keep their better stock hidden away – it’s up to you whether you go with them to check out their “genuine” Louis Vuitton bags or not!
Learn some basic words in Mandarin. It’s even helpful to have a few characters written down for common words that you can show to someone if you need to. There’s really not a lot of English spoken, especially in more rural areas, so the bigger your Chinese vocabulary the better!
Credit cards work but markets, taxis and street stalls need cash, cash, cash. You can use money changing machines in the big cities to exchange Australian dollar notes into Chinese Yuan. Alternatively, you can pre-load a cash card and withdraw from ATM machines. In the big cities banks are plentiful and almost all accept international credit cards. Also, it is quite safe to carry cash on you, even in the big cities.
Be prepared for China’s Total Social Media Blackout. Make sure you have alternative methods of communication in place, like an international sim card, roaming, or a web based phone app like Viber installed. Don’t try to install it once you get here as you may not be able to get into email to verify your account.
Taxis in Shanghai are metered but that doesn’t seem to mean much. Many drivers will simply refuse to turn on the meter. At night or in peak hour you may find yourself unable to hail one. A local Shanghainese will argue with them and threaten them, but it doesn’t work so well for a foreigner. Avoid trying to get a taxi in peak times or late at night, particularly if you are covering a short distance.
Prepare for stares and paparazzi pictures. This is especially true if you are blonde and female. No harm is meant – it is a fascination. Enjoy the pseudo-celebrity status. However, be mindful that it doesn’t work the other way round – if you just start snapping photos of the locals they may not be too happy with you. Always ask if you can take a photo and be prepared to walk away if the response isn’t favourable.
Don’t be afraid to eat on the street. If you remember to Eat Busy you will be able to have some amazing food experiences in China. If it’s hot, cooked fresh and there are locals lined up to eat it, it’s got to be good! China also has quite diverse food regions so trying street food is a great way to experience what’s famous locally.
Do you have any other tips for travelling in China? I’d love to hear them!
x Sonia x