Talking about daily essentials here
This post is the following tips for Survival guide for traveling in China Part I , we will talk about eating, accommodation to stay, what to pack and some basic simplified Chinese learning.
Eating in China
Chinese food is magical, eating in China is an excellent experience! we found ourselves enjoying good food all the time often at a fair price, not to mention the variety is huge! Let me tell you, friends, we stayed in Beijing for a week, we still only did the top 20% traditional foods!
First off, since China is a huge mixed society, Halal foods have long roots in Chinese culture, you will find some restaurants provide Halal foods, also in a regular restaurant, after you ordering food, they will ask you if you are having any diet, to make sure you will be satisfied with the diet. they will ask you by saying: 有忌口吗？(Yǒu jìkǒu ma?) Are you on any diet?
Second, Food’s quality is very high in general all the way from the affordable places to high-end Peking roasted duck place, we were never disappointed. But there is one tip I have to mention- the proportion of food is huge!
I am a big eater and I admit I always got way too excited when browsing through Chinese food menus, they are now doing a really good job of pictures, so I always ordered way too many dishes, then later realized it’s beyond my ability to finish anything…, I made that into a new saying in ” Not only everything in Texas is big, but in Beijing too!
Third, If you were a vegetarian, there are a lot of options in Beijing too, you can tell the service people by saying ” Wǒ chīsù 我吃素” I am a vegetarian to ask for recommendations.
Forth, ordering food is tied to their digital life very tightly. As I had mentioned the Alipay payment is widely used in China, but the way people order food is also impacted by technology. At many of the restaurants, the waiter sat us down, they will immediately point to order food via the QR code placed on the table, some of them don’t even say anything about it (it is assumed everyone knows that is the way to get the menu), we wait a while then call the waiter later be informed we can order food via the QR code. I am clueless why they do this to me, but I’m guessing because I speak Chinese fluently, they assumed I had known the rules of the house. Therefore, I recommend you observe about the waiter, make eye contact if you are wondering why they don’t hand you the menu and hand wave if you need one. It might not be coming by itself.
Accommodations in Beijing
We were so in love with the old city of Beijing, which is the west north neighborhood. I booked the hotel in an authentic small alley, the ambiance was great, but the drawback was they don’t accept other credit card payment expect their local credit card- Unionpay. We end up paying with cash but learn a big lesson that Visa or Mastercard…etc are not widely used in China expect the place target to foreigners. therefore. please make sure when you booking hotels, check the policy about payment first!
Most of the big hotels all located at more tourist and mall area, which is the east side of the city, around Dōngzhímén 东直门，Dōngdān 东单 stations.
Also, since most of the tourist attractions are on the two central metro lines. I highly recommend to book your hotel along the two metro routes or stay as close as metro stations to save on transportation time.
Tipping 给小费 in China
The best thing is Chinese are very humble about the tipping. most of the time, you don’t need to tip, because they see service as a duty and they do not rely on tips either, so they don’t think it is necessary to have a tip in restaurants or taxis but there are few situations where you may tip:
- hotel bellboy for helping with your luggage, usually 1 CNY per bag.
- private chauffeur driver, it depends on your service goes, 10-15 % of a tip is good.
- masseuse usually don’t expect a tip, but a 10-15 % tip for good service is appreciated.
Public transportation in Beijing
Beijing has a pretty well-designed metro and bus system, also, a very tourist-friendly airport express, which you can take just right off the airport. The ticket prices are affordable. Most of them will just cost 1-3 CNY. Tips:
- you will need to buy a metrocard (20 CNY), this metro card can be bought at almost every metro station, and don’t throw away when you leaving Beijing, you can return it at the metro stations and get your refund 20 CNY.
- It can be topped-up, we spent about 60 CNY in 7 days Beijing trip.
- Metro card can be used to take bus and airport express as well.
- Both metro and bus in Beijing required you to swipe it when taking on and off.
- Every metro station, train station and Airport express all have security checkpoint, you will need to put your bags or luggage through it.
- When you just arrive at Beijing airport, there is an ATM right outside the customs checkpoint, if you decide to take the airport express, it’s better to have some cash.
- There is a self-service machine you can buy a ticket for airport express, but it only accepts their local credit card or Alipay.
- One way ticket for airport express is 25 CNY/person, it will take you to Dongzhimen station東直門 which is the one for center Beijing.
- Bonus: even though the metro is cheap and easy to navigate, some exits for the metro have only stairs. It will be hard if you traveling with big luggage, alternately you can take a taxi, we tired it from Dongzhimen to the airport is about 75 CNY.
How to take a train in China?
We travel to Xi An from Beijing, it was a great time in Xi’an, but I have to admit I didn’t plan the best regard for buying a ticket on Ctrip. This is something related to my Nationality and the document I have is a fussy area, I will put this part on point 10 if you are a Taiwanese, Hongkongnese, or Macao, who only hold Travel document (旅行證). Other than that, foreigners should be easy to book a ticket. tips:
- Booking a train ticket on the Ctrip website or app will save you a lot of time than buying at the front desk, also you can pick your seat on the app.
- Be sure to type the right passport number and names on Ctrip App.
- If you want to request a cancelation on your train ticket, you can do it on the Crip app before the train departs. The percentage of refunds will change depending on the time you cancel it.
- Even if you book the ticket on Ctrip App, foreigners all have to convert to a physical train ticket by asking the front desk to get in the train gate.
- Front desks at Train station has been divided into very specific services, buying, changing ticket, converting ticket, canceling a ticket or requesting for a refund are all at a different desk. So make sure you have it right at the very beginning to avoid any change.
- The service people don’t speak much English, so make sure you have everything in Chinese if you want to buy it at the front desk.
- Be sure the train station name is right. since Beijing has four train stations, every station route outbound to different cities, and it’s not close at all.
- Foreigners will need to present the passport and train ticket to the service people who have sitting at a side table beside the normal ticket exit automatic gate.
- Be at the train station earlier at least 1-1.5 hr to pass the security check.
- Travel document (旅行證) note: I booked my ticket on Ctrip app with my travel document number, however, when I check in the front desk asked for convert the ticket, they rejected me and said Travel document (旅行證) or my passport are not allowed to book on website, only can purchase tickets at the front desk. but 台胞證，港澳台居民居住証can use for booking train tickets on app or website.
What to pack for the Beijing trip?
My love says this is the one of the most important tips. There is a lot of construction going on inside the city and the nearby factories. it’s well known that Beijing has the worst air pollution especially in November and December.
Therefore we highly recommend you to wear N95 masks, and better buy it before your trip to Beijing, since I have not seen many pharmacies at tourist areas.
Another thing is SUPER essential- the tissue papers. a lot of restaurants are only sharing one tissue paper roll detached beside the sink, most of the time, especially in a tourist attraction, it is empty… so be prepared to have some tissue paper in your bags. I had mine in a compactable package, and it is a lifesaver according to my love. 🙂
As much as I love China, the place is gigantic and winter here is not a joke, it is pretty harsh, and windy all the time! so be sure to bring more layers and winter essentials. And body lotion/cream will be so good to have, I noticed my right hand which often holds camera and was exposed under the cold air started to getting dried and cracking.
to sum up what to pack:
- N95 masks
- tissue papers
- body lotion or cream
- winter essentials
- comfortable shoes
Bonus: Basic simplified Chinese for travel
Most of the people I encountered in China except the hotel receptionists or souvenir stores clerks have better English, most of the time you will need some Chinese skills, or at least a translation App to help you out. The thing about Chinese is it’s very pitch-precise oriented, one character can be pronounced in 5 pitches, and it means differently, so make sure to pronounce it correctly to avoid any misunderstanding. Here I will list some simple Chinese for you to interact with local:
Hi, Hello 你好 Nǐ hǎo
Excuse me (before asking a question) 请问 qǐngwèn
Where is the restroom? 洗手间在哪？xǐshǒujiān zài nǎ?
May I use a foreigner credit card? 我要刷国外信用卡可以吗？Wǒ yào shuā guówài xìnyòngkǎ kěyǐ ma?
I don’t have internet, wifi 我没有网路，wifi Wǒ méiyǒu wǎng lù, wifi
I don’t have a phone number 我没有电话 wǒ méiyǒu diànhuà
I would like to go to OO 我要去 OO… wǒ yào qù…
How to go to OO ?要怎么去ＯＯ？Yào zěnme zǒu?
I would like to buy OO 我要买ＯＯ… Wǒ yāomǎi ＯＯ…
I am a vegetarian我吃素 Wǒ chīsù
I don’t eat pork 我不吃猪肉 wǒ bù chī zhūròu
I don’t eat beef 我不吃牛肉 wǒ bù chī niúròu
I don’t eat seafood 我不吃海鲜 wǒ bù chī hǎixiān
Do you have recommendations? 你有推荐什么？nǐ yǒu tuījiàn shénme?
I would like to go to a metro station 我想要去地铁站 Wǒ xiǎng yào qù dìtiě zhàn
Where to go to the taxi service station? 出租车站要往哪走？Chūzū chē zhàn yào wǎng nǎ zǒu?
I would like to go to OO airport 我想要去ＯＯ机场 Wǒ xiǎng yào qù OO jīchǎng
Thank you 谢谢你 xièxiè nǐ
I also recommend you remember these four characters to help you navigate, since a lot of roads, metro and train stations all included these characters, for example: 北京西站 Běijīng xī zhàn is where we took off to Xi An. 西 is west in Chinese, and it makes sense it is at the west of the city.
East 东 Dōng
West 西 xī
South 南 nán
North 北 běi
Alright, I’ve been talking a lot about preparation, all so inspired from our latest experience and a different perspective view of the world, I know there is a lot to take in, but believe me, you will find yourselves have a good time in China, especially if you’re a self guided traveler, China has so many gems waiting for you. Feel free to ask me questions any time, wish you have a good time in your coming up trip to China!
I wish you enjoyed tips for traveling to China Part II, if you have not read Part I yet, here is the link, you will see lot of useful tips on Alipay, useful websites, apps, sim card and how to take a taxi in the post.
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