I was slightly apprehensive about going to China, I’d heard so many bad reports from fellow backpacks that I really didn’t know what to expect. But in reality, China is just like any other developed country, it’s clean, easy to get around, great food etc. There’s absolutely no reason for people to avoid a visit to China, in fact you definitely SHOULD go, it’s incredible.
China ended up being our most expensive country to date with a daily average of £90! Hotels, food and daily life is actually fairly cheap, so how come we spent so much? There are two main reasons for this:
1. China is MASSIVE, which makes getting around by bus a lot more difficult and sometimes impossible. You have no option but to fly, and there aren’t many budget airlines operating in China so your travel costs add up quickly.
2. ‘Luxury items’ are expensive, this includes entrance fees to national parks and landmarks etc, they will take up a large percentage of your budget, for example Zhangjiajie national park costs 248¥! But these attractions and parks are the reason your planning a trip to China anyway, you’ll soon forget about the price when you’re enjoying yourself too much to worry about budgeting.
You Need A VPN:
A lot of websites are banned in China, including all of our communication apps, (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Gmail etc.) to be able to communicate with the outside world or even use Google you will need a VPN. I don’t really understand how it works bus basically it confuses your phone and makes it think your still in the UK, USA, or wherever you choose.
You can download a few different apps (we used Betternet and it worked ok) for free. You also need to disable you location tracking and your good to go.
Don’t expect many people to be fluent in English, most people in China only speak Chinese. You can download lots of different translation apps for free, they won’t be perfect but should be enough to get you by. It’s also worth learning a few basic phrases before you go.
Getting Around (City to City):
China is massive, if you want to see as much as possible then you will need to take domestic flights, skyscanner constantly showed trip.com as being the cheapest so we downloaded the app and took 5 flights with them.
The rail system in China is good and sleeper trains often provide a better alternative to flying if your going off the beaten path. We booked our trains in advance using www.china-diy-travel.com, they have a really good service and provide lots of useful information, for example a letter to the taxi driver (in Chinese) telling them which train station to take you to, most city’s have 3 or 4 major stations. They also have YouTube videos explaining different ticket options and how to collect your tickets etc.
Buses are generally not an option thanks to the huge distance between cities.
Getting Around (Inner City):
Google maps in a no no in China, even with your VPN. You can look at it when your on wifi but can not pinpoint your location.
Make sure to pick up free maps wherever you can, usually at the airport when you land or when you check into your hotel.
Taxis are fairly cheap in China, pick up a business card from your hotel to give to the driver if you get lost. They usually have the address in English on one side and Chinese on the other.
When To Visit:
Everybody who’s ever been to China will advise you to avoid any public holidays, me included. We visited Xi’an during their May festival and it was CRAZY. There are so many people that you can’t see the street your walking on, and generally the big crowds like to yell, push and shove, it’s all a bit overwhelming for us westerners.
You certainly need a visa to enter China, it was the most awkward frustrating rigmarole getting a visa into China, if your already traveling then you’ll need to go to the closest embassy in person. If your in the UK then you can post you passport to the embassy in London. You must have all hotels and internal flights booked before you apply for your visa. We booked everything with free cancellation then cancelled most of it as soon as we had our visa.
At the time of writing you don’t need any vacations or malaria medication for China.
ATM’s are everywhere and they are all free to use. The currency is referred to as RMB or CNY, both mean the same. Exchange rates in May 2018 are below:
£1 (GBP) = ¥8.60
$1 (USD) = ¥6.38
€1 (EUR) = ¥7.51
I hope you found this useful, be sure to click HERE to read our 1 month itinerary.