You have been thinking about it for years, ever since you saw those first poorly-dubbed martial arts movies. As a kid you even tried to imitate the moves and accidentally kicked your brother in the head. Oh, wait that was me. You love the dragons, the watercolor art, the Great Wall, the haunting but beautiful music and now you are going to do it. You’re going to China!
Well, grasshopper, slow down a little; there are a few things you should know before you start hopping on planes. I am here as your unofficial guide to things Chinese.
First of all, ol’ excited one, you need to know where in China you want to go. China is a huge, beautiful country filled with so many things you’ll want to see that it is nearly impossible to see it all in one trip, unless you are staying indefinitely. So, you might want to narrow things down a bit.
- Beijing, where the Great Wall and all things ancient and government are;
- Guangzhou, where you can taste all the crazy foods you have seen on the Travel Channel;
- Shanghai, where East meets West and turned it into a space age city; and
- Sichuan, where there is spicy food and pandas, of course.
Unfortunately, these cities are pretty far apart. You could fly to the different cities and deal with the trouble of trying to book all of your tickets with Chinese airlines or you could take the long distance train that will be about 20 or so hours on a overcrowd train. That is not my idea of a good time at all — so your best bet is to break up your trips.
Next you need a visa. As Americans we usually do not need a visa to travel to most countries for 90 days or less, however, in China a visa is necessary for every country. They have a strict visa policy, so if you don’t have a visa you don’t get in, period. To fly toChinaisn’t as expensive as one might think. A ticket to China could range from $900 to $4000 round trip, depending on where you are and what time of the year it is. Advice? Don’t buy your ticket until you get your visa; those things are non-refundable.
Okay, destination…Check! Visa and ticket…Check! All that is left is what to pack. If you want to travel light, thinking you can buy stuff in China that you need, think again. China has a wealth of shops and markets, however unless you’re a size 5 or less, you are not getting into too many clothes.
Make sure you pack medicines. If you have any allergies, or prescription meds you need to take regularly please make sure they are filled. China has many hospitals and pharmacies; however, they do not always carry the medicines you can get in western countries — some they haven’t heard of at all. If you have some hair products you need or love — like gel, hairspray, conditioner, or weaves — bring all the necessary items with you. There are hair salons everywhere, but they are not so comfortable with doing different textures of hair. Yes, girl, pack the hot comb; it is going to be rough. Ladies a heads up: Chinese women have not caught on to the use of tampons; so unless you want to wear the large, bulky pads of the type that your grandmother wore you might want to stock up.
A few other things you might consider:
- Imodium – if you are going to be trying different kinds of food this is your best friend;
- batteries – for some reasons the batteries don’t last very long here;
- an adapter – China, like Europe, uses 220 volt outlets, not 110 outlets, so you don’t want to blow your stuff up; and a VPN. China is famous for its Great Firewall, and if you do not have a VPN you will be unable to reach many of your favorite websites — and sometimes even Google is blocked.
The last thing, I suggest you bring is your PATIENCE. Chinese culture is very different from any I have ever experienced, and sometimes what we consider rude they think is normal. So if someone pushes you off a bus or into the subway don’t get angry, unpack your patience and use it.
Now you are ready for your adventure, and when you step out of that airport and take a big deep breath and you smell something strange; that is the Smell of CHINA, baby!
Jo Gan, is a Black American woman married to a local Chinese man living in China. She spends her time as a Director of Foreign Teachers, freelance writer and blogger and just trying to figure out the Chinese wife thing. You can follow her personal blog at www.lifebehindthewall.wordpress.com