Since the easing of travel restrictions by the government, China has experienced a travel boom that has attracted nearly 60 million visitors a year. This amazing inflow of visitors now contributes almost a trillion dollars to their economy and ranks China at fourth most visited country globally.
So as to avoid any problems and to maximise the enjoyment of your trip to China, here are 5 Essential Things to Know Before You Visit China:
1. China has a rich history and vibrant culture
Chinese people have always taken great pride in their culture and even after engaging in hostilities with western powers in the 19th century the Chinese people have only grown in their resolve to protect their iconic cultural landmarks and heritage. To this day China uses their own calendar and cultural events like the lantern festival and the Qingming festival are taken very seriously. It is important to know the dates of these festivals so as to anticipate possible traffic that could hinder your movements.
2. Pollution is concern but China is trying to resolve it
China has experienced rapid economic growth and industrialization that has lifted over 700 million people out of poverty but this has come at a severe price. Smog from coal burning and waste from factories has created tremendous environmental as well as health implication.
Many Chinese people living in the cities today have respiratory problems from years of inhaling polluted air but worse off are those people who have drunk water or eaten food contaminated with heavy metals.
The best way to stay safe in China is to steer clear of manufacturing cities and only eat organic food that you are certain is safe. Tap water is also not recommended and you are advised to buy bottled water from a local supermarket. China has stuck to the Paris Climate Agreement and is cracking down on people who pollute the environment.
3. China is not a communist country
China officially refers to itself as a communist country but the truth is that they long ago dropped this policy and adopted free market economics. Despite a few government services, you are expected to pay for everything else so don’t go there without a nickel to your name and expect things for free.
While some businesses will accept the US dollar, China actually has its own currency referred to as the Renminbi or the Yuan. Big hotels and businesses also accept VISA and Unionpay.
4. Many websites you are used to are blocked but there are alternatives
For safety and political reasons you will find that many websites that you are used to using may not be available in China. Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blogspot and Hangouts are all inaccessible in China.
Search engines such as Google and Bing are either blocked or very restricted. Luckily there are very good local alternatives like WeChat which is considered to be China’s Facebook and Sina Weibo which is their version of Twitter. For online videos you can try Youku Tudou which works like YouTube.
5. Chinese is not a language
Contrary to what you may have seen in the movies there is no “Chinese language”. Standard mandarin also known as the Han language is the most widely spoken language in China with nearly 900 million speakers.
Other major languages include Cantonese, Min and Wu all of which have about 60-80 million speakers. Due to the influx of tourists many Chinese business people now speak rudimentary English so it is possible to have conversations with them.