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Travelling in China

Make your trip to China unforgettable!

The Middle Kingdom is the fourth largest country in the world and stretches over 3,300 km from the high north to the tropical south and over 4,000 km from the west to the east. This large area is home to a variety of cultures, people, attractions and travel destinations. Before travelling to China, you should think about what you really want to see and experience, and which destinations can be combined to make the China adventure an unforgettable one. Achieving these goals requires you to keep few things in mind while in China.

Rule of thumb
As a rule of thumb, all travels to the targets within 1000 km radius should be planned with the Chinese high-speed trains. The network now covers more than 15,000 km of rail tracks, so that you can reach all major destinations quickly (about 300 km/h), comfortably and without delays by train. Trains are modern, and delays are a rarity, unlike the Chinese domestic flights, which are often affected by delays. Only for significantly distant destinations within China, flying should be considered. The likelihood that a flight will be delayed or cancelled, and you have to wait many hours at an airport in China is after all around 75%.

Visa for China
It should also be noted that you cannot travel to Hong Kong or Macao with a single-entry visa and then re-enter China as you would have officially left the People’s Republic of China. It is all considered as one country, but with two different systems. Either you apply for a multi-entry visa, which is not always that easy, that you could travel to and from China several times, or you visit the two special administrative areas Hong Kong and Macau directly before you enter Mainland China.

Travel dates to avoid
You should not consider two appointments in the annual calendar as a travel period. These include the Chinese New Year festival in January/February and the national holiday week in early October. Over 500 million Chinese people will visit their hometowns during these periods, or they will use these days off to travel without China themselves. Most sights will then be crowded with people and travelling around China will be very difficult.

To get from A to B in cities
In the big cities, it is easy to wave a taxi. The taxis are equipped with taximeters and are very cheap compared to the US and Europe. However, only a few drivers speak English, so it will be necessary to have your destination, hotel address etc. in Chinese characters at hand. It should be noted that the traffic in large cities, especially in rush hour, is very overloaded and it is better to use the metro. Beijing and Shanghai both have excellent metro systems that are user-friendly, affordable, fast and reliable. But smaller cities also build very diligently on metro systems, therefore the metro network in China grows at a significant speed.

Food in China
Each region of China has its own cuisine and it is as diverse as this country is huge. In the north, it is a very hearty cuisine, which offers a lot of meat and wheat products rather than rice are eaten. Shanghai offers excellent seafood dishes and the famous Xiaolongbao, a dumpling stuffed with soup. In the Midwest, fiery-red chilli peppers are the main ingredient of the spicy Sichuan cuisine. The southern region of Guangdong is famous for Cantonese cuisine and dim sum. The Xinjiang cuisine is a poem for lamb and many other Halal dishes that master the Muslim minority of the Uyghurs skilfully. Although, the vegetarian diet is not widely practised in China, there are many delicious vegetable and tofu dishes that contain no meat. Most restaurants will not have English menus, but the big restaurants will mostly have menus with pictures in them. You do not have to be embarrassed if you just point to the dishes of the next tables and order the food in this form way.

Cultural differences and language
One must be aware that Chinese culture and Chinese behaviour can often be very different from our one’s own. Especially in the rural areas, spitting on the street is not considered rude or disrespectful. Also, smoking in public places and even in restaurants is very common. In areas where foreigners are a rarity, you will often attract curious looks, sometimes stared at and even secretly filmed or photographed – simply because one is a “peculiarity”. It may also happen that you are politely asked if you would take a photo with the locals.

Another point is communication; the official language of China is Mandarin/Chinese, which has its origins in Beijing. Although Mandarin is the language of instruction in all schools and the official language on television, the entire country has many different languages and dialects. The use of English is becoming more and more common in the big cities, but not as much in the countryside. Even if you do not speak the language – a Nihao (hello) and XieXie (thank you) will please every Chinese.