China is an immense country and there are things we need to do to experience the country with much less stress. In the tourism world, China is simply an odd beast that should be respected by new and seasoned travellers. There are many major cities in China, such as Beijing and Shanghai, each with their own unique characteristics.
Just like when travelling in any country, we should have an open mind when we go to China. The country is filled with ancient history and people from Western countries need to adjust themselves to the local culture and surrounding. As an example, we shouldn’t expect public toilet to be 100 percent clean all the time and we should always carry some tissue wherever we go. Like in many Asian countries, we should be prepared to use the squat toilet and this could be a shock for new travellers.
In general, food in China is great and tasty, with overwhelming variety. In many cases, we won’t be able to eat all food offered in the menu, so we should have at least basic knowledge on what we should eat. If no one can explain about available food, we may need to bring some chocolate bar or bread, until something recognizable turns up. Tap water isn’t safe to drink and we should always drink from bottled water. This is applicable even in large cities. Boiled water may not be safe, if it contains a lot of unknown deposits and maybe even chemical contaminants. However, tap water should still be safe for brushing teeth. People in China are known to be quite noisy when eating. For this reason, it is generally acceptable to get a little bit noisier when we eat, like when we eat casually at our own home. Some restaurants can also be quite smoky, because many people also smoke after eating. In most cases, we could be in a situation when everything is written in Chinese. In this situation, we could point to any dish we want and this system should work well most of the time.
However, we should at least ask someone with knowledge about local cuisine, because people habitually eat dogs and cats in some parts of China. We should also be wary of restaurants in touristy areas, because they usually sell food at higher prices and they don’t necessarily represent the local cuisine in its original taste. However, newcomers could eat at these places initially if they are not too sure about what to eat.
Taxi in some larger cities, like Shanghai are quite good and there are major taxi companies across the country. However, we should be aware that very few drivers can converse in English, but most should understand some basic words. If we are lost when walking around town, we could show the hotel’s brochure so locals could provide us with enough information. In general, travelling in China can be quite enjoyable if we know what to do.