China is a rapidly growing destination for American tourists. Beijing, the country’s capital is the most well known since hosting the 2008 Olympics. Now, with fantastic deals offered to one or multiple cities, China is now affordable to many tourists. For your next trip, be sure to keep these tips in mind!
1. Take a Guided Tour
Sure, guided tours may not be your thing, but China is a developing nation and there are a lot of cultural quirks to navigate. Another reason to take a guided tour is because very few Chinese speak English, making communication a hilarious game of hand gestures and charades. Ordering at a restaurant can be quite an experience when you have to point to pictures on a menu and hope you get what you want.
Because of Communism in China, the government owns the planes, hotels, and businesses. Tours through groups like China Spree are able to negotiate fantastic deals to include hotel stays, admission for tours, shows, and events, and even round trip airfare. There are very few (if any) disadvantages to taking a guided tour in China.
2. Visit the Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is one of the wonders of the world and you will regret not seeing it. It can be crowded, especially if you go during the high season, and you will definitely get your daily workout by climbing the wall. The beauty of the surrounding mountains coupled with the nearly incomprehensible knowledge that no modern tools were used to build the wall will have you in awe.
Without sounding too corny, after climbing the Great Wall, you’ll quickly realize that no goal is too lofty and no dream too big to achieve.
3. Personal Space Does Not Exist
With a country of 1.5 billion people and 22 million living in Beijing city limits, go ahead and get used to close quarters. Many Chinese love being up close and personal with their fellow humans and have no concept of the “bubble” many Americans like to maintain. Given this information, you should also be prepared for a certain amount of coughing, sneezing, and spitting that may take place in close proximity to you at any given time.
4. Visit During the Off-Season
November through March is considered the “off-season” in China. Although it is winter in China, the air is much clearer and the deals are much better! Most shops are happy to deeply discount their products just to move inventory and there are significantly fewer people at the tourist destinations. Locals say if you must visit during the high season, try the months of April, May, September, or October. June through August is unbearably hot in China and air quality is notoriously poor. Also, because of the traditional summer break for both Americans and Europeans, tourist traffic is drastically higher.
PRO TIP: Even though February is considered to be “off-season,” if you visit China during Chinese New Year, expect massive crowds, ridiculous traffic, and higher prices on everything.
Nearly everywhere you go, you’ll get hustled by street vendors. These vendors have a gazillion different products and they know just enough English to talk prices with you. Whether they’re selling kites, hats and gloves, or postcards, be ready to negotiate! Also, there are many shops where you can find unique items. Some of these stores are “government stores,” such as the pearl or jade stores, while others are “individual stores.” At either type, haggling is expected, encouraged, and fun.
PRO TIP: Haggling is much more than talking down the price of one item. Don’t forget to bundle multiple items for an even better deal. Best of all, you can even score some free goodies when you start bundling and haggling.
Beijing is a wonderful city for travelers looking for more than your average vacation. With a rich cultural background and many modern conveniences, Beijing will please everyone who visits. Just remember- leave a little extra space in your suitcase for all the gifts and souvenirs you’ll pick up!
Megan Vick is a blogger, tech-geek, fitness fiend, animal and environment lover, green goddess, and world traveler. By day, she is a creative content specialist for Fridge Filters and by night, she uses organic and vegan ingredients to make bath and body products for Shorganics.