China is so vast that boiling a visit down to five tips is seemingly impossible! Since my fear of public toilets is never far from my mind, my main advice is that bathrooms in China vary wildly, and it’s never a bad idea to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with squat know-how. Besides knowing how to take care of potty needs, there are a few other things all ladies should know before visiting China. Here’s my list of the top five that will help you out (as well as a few Chinese highlights on Evisumservice that I found while researching):
Know what to bring
This includes toilet paper, tissues and paper masks (obviously, you can buy these in China and just take them with you everywhere). You can get tampons in major cities but they aren’t common otherwise, so stock up. Water filters/pills are also a good idea, and bottled water can sometimes be expired (!), so stick to juice or pop in restaurants. Also, bring medications and birth control. I wouldn’t recommend wearing flip flops. If you’re bigger than a size 8 (38) in shoes, 34B in bras, or have child-bearing hips, bring several items that will stand up to repeated use. I lost count how many salesgirls have burst out in a shriek/giggle when I told them my bra size, so searching for your “oh, so big!” size can get disheartening really quickly.
Know what to buy
China’s pretty cheap, but legit Apple or Samsung etc. items are super pricey. Wait until you get to Hong Kong to buy electronics, since they’re cheaper than China and parts of the Western world. When shopping in markets, you’ll definitely be quoted an inflated price; it’s up to you if you want to negotiate. Pick-pocketing is on the rise, so don’t let down your guard.
Know what to splurge on
This means accommodation. Budget places can get sketchy fast if you’re alone, so this is one time when it’s best to stick to the well-beaten path. China has an absolutely enormous domestic tourism market, so there should be nice enough hotels most places you visit. A decent budget hotel will run you from US$45/night. If you want anything Western, a nice cocktail or to see more common sights like the Forbidden City, you’ll be paying a premium. You can eat for super cheap, but only if you speak or read a little Chinese, or are just adventurous. Some things will offset an occasional splurge; for example, the metro in Beijing is 2RM flat, no matter how far you go.
Know your internet limits
Wi-fi is non-existent except for in nice hotels. Internet cafes are a hellhole of cigarette smoke and teenage boy gamers, but this is basically your only other option. Google can be spotty and don’t expect Facebook or Twitter. If you’re setting up for awhile, you can always ask about getting a VPN from someone in the know to unblock all those sites.
Know your physical limits
There is no concept of personal space in China, but there is definitely a concept of personal comfort, and you will get an elbow in the ribs if you violate it. Don’t be shy when trying to get comfortable or get in line! After all, you’ll definitely get stared at whether or not you acquiesce to someone’s fight for more space. Expect to get stared at in the city and the country and everywhere in between, but full-on gaping rarely goes further than that. Like pretty much everywhere in Asia, women don’t show off their shoulders or cleavage, so expect extra unblinking thousand-yard stares from men and women alike if you choose to show off the girls. And there is a chance you’ll see little kids and maybe even adults relieving themselves in public (there is huge resentment against mainlanders doing this in Hong Kong at the moment), but it’s not uncommon in mainland China.
What would you recommend for a visit to China?