We’ve almost spent two weeks in China now (really just the cities). Here are some bits and bobs we’ve noticed that might be helpful to people planning to visit too.
Not many people speak English so be prepared. Locations and addresses need to be written in Chinese for taxi drivers. I’d also make sure you have the phone number of anywhere you’re going so the driver can call for directions. This came in very handy a couple of times in Beijing.
Also remember that people often learn American English so be aware they might be more familiar with American terms e.g. “check” rather than “bill” in a restaurant.
There is some amazing Chinese food (definitely try a roast duck) and some stuff that isn’t so good to western tastes- a dish described as “smelly tofu” comes to mind. Some restaurants have English translations on the menu but not all are accurate so I’d recommend getting out there and trying as much as you can, you’ll find something delicious.
Also, if you find yourself craving western food then there are plenty of western restaurants in the big cities although they tend to be a bit more expensive.
Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong all have metro/subway systems which make these cities easy and cheap to get around. I think the most we’ve paid for a subway journey is 4 yuan which is about 40 pence. Taxis are also cheap and there are loads of them, just watch out for ones that don’t use a meter, they may well over charge. Make sure you’ve got your destination address written down in Chinese.
The cities (especially Shanghai) seem pretty easy to walk around and navigate. They have great road signs telling you what street you’re on and also what direction you’re heading in
The Chinese people we’ve met have been kind, friendly and very generous. Conversations can be tricky but if you can learn a few words of the language it’ll go down very well even if your pronunciation is bad. Respect of older people seems to be a big thing too so be sure to give up your seat on the subway.
Some Chinese people will sometimes ask you to pose in photos with them or their family especially at tourist spots. We’ve done it a few times but have never really understood the reasoning.
There are a lot of people in China, sounds silly to mention it but there are. Tourist spots and the city centres can be very, very crowded. Personal space doesn’t really exist and queues are a bit more flexible than in Europe. Brace yourself.