If you are looking to start a new adventure, then watch the video below to learn more about travelling in China.
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International teacher recruiters, Harris Green and Joanne Vazquez, have both been living and working in Shanghai, China for about one year now. They gave us a little bit of insight on what it’s like to travel in China. The recruiters also opened up the floor to questions from the live Instagram audience which we’ve recapped here:
Q1: Do you need to be able to speak Chinese to travel around China?
HG: No, you don’t need to be able to speak Chinese. Obviously it helps in some scenarios but you can get by without it.
JV: Airports and train stations usually will have English signage, so it’s nice to have that reference. There’s also a ton of translation APPs that you can download for your phone.
HG: When you’re in the big Chinese cities, people are very friendly and they’re keen to help you as a foreigner. If you’re curious about their culture and city, and show a little humility, they will welcome you in. I’ve also taken language courses here, and actually travelling helps you to develop and practice your Mandarin if that’s something you’re interested in.
Q2: What is the best water town to go to?
HG: What is a water town? Essentially imagine an old village from the Qing Dynasty that have ancient sort of the temples and water canals, almost like an Asian Venice. They’re all over the place and they’re very accessible from bigger cities.
JV: Suzhou has been my favorite, it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been too. It’s a good combination of city and nature.
Q3: What city is a must see to visit?
JV: If you’re coming for the first time, the cities you have to see are Shanghai and Beijing. Beijing is the capital so there’s a lot of culture; the Forbidden City as well as the Great Wall. But then Shanghai is a combination of history and modern China so it’s also a must with the Pearl Tower and the Bund. The scenery is very unique to China itself.
Q4: How easy is it to book plane or train tickets?
HG: It’s incredibly easy. We use an APP here called Ctrip and you can actually book hotels, trains, and flights all from your phone. You can select your destination, input the dates you want to go, and you’re able to book right then and there.
Q5: What are some essentials I should pack when travelling in China?
HG: Obviously you’ll want to pack your identification, and then you’ll want to pack your phone chargers, and a good camera if you have one.
JV: Bring hand sanitizer and tissues!
Q6: How much money do you suggest I bring in cash? Or Or should I be okay with WeChat/AliPay electronic money?
HG: It’s quite surprising actually, I remember we were in a yurt in Qinghai province having some yak milk tea in the middle of nowhere and my friends were visiting here. They thought “okay, we might have to bring cash for this and the little old lady who’s serving us, brings out her phone and I scanned her QR code to pay by WeChat wallet. So while most transactions will be handled electronically, it might be nice to have a couple hundred RMBs in cash because you never know; your phone might die, you might lose your phone, or you might not have signal.
Q7: Are there any times of the year that I shouldn’t travel?
JV: Yes, during the bigger Chinese holidays like Chinese New Year and National Week, you need to be smart and strategic about when you’re going and how you’re getting to your destination. These are high travel times, so booking your flights, accommodation, and tickets early will pay off in the long run.
Q8: Is it safe to travel by yourself in China?
JV: On my trip to Inner Mongolia, we booked our tickets separately, so we were all in different carts. I was the only foreigner in my cart, and shared a six-person bunk bed with five Chinese locals wanting to practice their English. That was a really neat experience. And as a woman, travelling by myself that night, I felt fine and safe.
Q9: Is accommodation expensive?
JV: It really depends what you’re looking for and where you’re going. Hostels can range from 50 to 100RMB. 100RMB is equal to about 15USD. I’m a fan of hostels especially because it’s a good way to get to know fellow travelers.
HG: In China, I can get a hotel room for about 150RMB total, which is about 75RMB per person if my friend(s) and I share a room with two double beds. In the end, sometimes a hotel room is about the same price as a hostel.
Q10. In your first year as a teacher, is it possible to travel to the main must-see destinations?
JV: Yes, so again, I started as a teacher and in my first year in China, I think overall I did around six destinations. It’s a nice perk, you have 21 days total (your annual leave plus national holidays), so use these days to your advantage and be strategic in how you plan trips.
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