China is the largest populated country in the world, with over 1.4 billion people making well known through the world and interest in traveling. This is a guide to help those traveling for China, possibly for studying, work, or touring. There’s no right way to travel, especially not left (pun), but this is coming from someone who went to China for an immersion program and can speak Mandarin Chinese.
As someone who was trekking on very thin ice like it was cool by doing all my documents and packing last minute, I would suggest giving yourself at least 3 weeks with a passport; 2 weeks is fine but it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when handling important documents that may take time. If you don’t have a passport, then I highly suggest at least 8 weeks, it takes time to get a passport, even expedited.
One of the most crucial things people don’t tend to remember or know when coming to China before anyone can start packing is to have documents ready. There are multiple documents you’ll need and to prepare leaving.
Passport: Of course, to travel internationally you need a passport. Even before booking flight tickets, I highly suggest to get at least a passport since that will take the longest document. That is the most crucial document to travel with as it grants you access to leave the country and to enter another. If you don’t have one, this link will help: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html Applying for a passport for the first time, can only be done in person. Local libraries sometimes have programs to apply for a passport but I highly suggest a federal building, call 1-877-487-2778. In my opinion, they’re more well put together and sometimes a faster process.
Visa: Not the credit card but for those who don’t know, a Visa is a document that goes into the passport to allow access to stay in said country and to leave it. To get a visa for China, you’ll need to go to a local Chinese embassy, those who live in Houston: http://houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/zgqz/t1251843.htm. You’ll need to bring a passport, hotel or housing reservations, birth certificate, passport picture, and yourself. For a Visa to be ready, it will take at least 4 days.
Toilet paper: There’s a bit of culture shock for foreigners who come to China as there are no toilet paper in public bathrooms, there’s occasionally a roll at the front or near the entrance of restroom but it’s not common. So, bring your own! Also, toilets are not like American or Japanese toilets where you sit, they’re instead, squatting toilets. Squatting toilets are what they sound like, they’re not ideal but it helps build your leg muscles especially if you’re planning on walking the Great Wall. I say at least 5 rolls for a 2-week trip.
Clothes: Depending on the weather or season, pack accordingly but if you’re going there for the summer; I highly, highly suggest to pack shorts and short sleeve t-shirts. In China, you can find a lot of fans, whether it’s manual or powered, they’re cheap and will save your life. Look at your carrier for bag limits. Here’s a video on how to pack for carry-ons: .
Toiletries: China unlike the United States, do not have toilet paper in their stalls nor do they have sitting toilets. So, like I said before, bring that with you. Hair shampoo and conditioner are available in convenient stores but if you don’t have time to purchase them, then I suggest packing some in 3.4 ounces or less in carry on. Check in baggage has a more flexible ounces’ limit but I suggest looking into airlines for that.
Fan: If you go during the summer, you’re not going to be a fan of the heat (pun intended). I highly, highly suggest bringing a hand-held fan with you to China, everywhere. If you don’t have one, you can bargain or buy one for a cheap price in China. I prefer electric ones over the ones you fan with.
Converter: If you’re traveling to anywhere out of the country, specifically, China or Asian countries. You should definitely pack a converter to have your US plug work in Chinese facilities.
Apps you might need:
If you don’t know Chinese, it’s perfectly fine, some natives speak English but I suggest you download an app called Pleco, it’s a dictionary app that can be translated from English and Chinese. It doesn’t have travel phrases but it can help you learn words.
Google Translate helps but Google is banned in China so, I suggest you download the Chinese offline part of the app. If you’re like me with an android phone, it will be difficult to download so do it a head of time or download a VPN a head of time as well.
China blocks Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. So, if you like to be connected, then definitely download a VPN and especially, a head of time if you have an android (You win this battle Apple).
Phrases you need to know:
Fortunately for me, my trip to China was an immersion program where I already know to speak Chinese. For those who don’t, consider yourself lucky since it’s a bloody difficult language but it’s good to know what to say and how to say things in Chinese. Keep in mind, Mandarin is the most common dialect of Chinese but more of south China, people speak Cantonese. Mandarin phrases can work in Taiwan.
Here’s a couple of videos: