China Travel Guide & Information
China is one of the most diverse and unique countries in the world. Actually more like a continent with a massive variety of cultures, foods and even languages across such a huge area; it takes months, even years to truly see and experience this mysterious land. I spent 5 months there and I am still looking forward for the day I get to go back and see even more of this wonderfully unique country.
It is VERY easy to travel cheaply in China, in fact I will rank China as the number one cheapest place I have ever been! Not only is it cheap but the people are amazingly kind and generous. Everywhere you go people will invite you to dinner, buy you drinks and take you wherever you want to go. Beer is as little as €0.20 in a shop. I even managed to buy a full sized keg one time for €12, now that was a great party!
One problem in China though, is that in some areas it is illegal for a foreigner to stay in less than a 3 star hotel... I think it was the governments bullshit idea to try and only show tourists the best side of China so they will go home and tell their friends how wonderful it is. But the law can usually be bent if there are no other hotels around to report them and more importantly it is extremely easy to find a free host in China. Hitchhiking is also fairly easy once you manage to get out of the city, and if you stick to the main highways you can cover huge distances very easily. I even set my personal record of 2300km in around 30 hours on these Chinese highways!
The only thing that you might find expensive in China are historical/tourist sites. I remember paying €15 to see some caves which literally turned out to be a few holes in a cliff, and to see the terracotta army for example will cost you a ridiculous €20 per person if you are not a student, although I do believe that this one is a must see. The only solution is to be careful which places you visit and always check online before you go to see if they are really worth the price. The Great Wall also has an entry fee of around €5-€10 in some places, however you can usually find many free entry points away from the crowded areas. Just ask some locals where to find them or google it in advance.
Food & drink
It is very hard to be hungry in China, no matter how poor of a traveller you might be. Everywhere you go there are small local restaurants serving super cheap and delicious food. What you can find varies greatly from city to city but generally speaking you will find much more spicy food in the West when compared to the East (be especially careful of the spicy food in Sichuan!) and you will find heavier foods like wheat noodles and potatoes in the North compared to more rice noodles in the South. It can also be very useful to learn a few Chinese characters as menus are very rarely in English, and the old lady who serves you definitely won't speak a word of English 😉 Here are a few you can print off to at least give you a rough idea of what you are ordering:
Chicken 鸡 Jī
Pork 猪 Zhū
Sea(food) 海 Hǎi
Egg 蛋 Dan
Noodles 麵 Miàn
Rice 饭 Fàn
Soup 汤 Tāng
Fried 炒 Chǎo
Spicy 辣 Là / Not spicy 不辣 Bù là
Dumplings/buns usually end in the 子 Zi character.
No meat 不肉 Bù ròu (there will more than likely still be some small meat in your food)
Click here for a jpg file if you can't see the characters above.
Partying in China is... Different... But there is still a lot of fun to be had. Most cities have a foreigner community, you can usually get connected to that group through couchsurfing, they will surely know some fun places to hang out. You can also just walk into a Chinese club, even alone, and as a foreigner you will be treated like a rock star, like a REALLY FAMOUS rock star, always a nice feeling 🙂
Of course the most famous festival is the Chinese New Year, which is 15 days of fireworks, parades, traditional foods and more fireworks! It is definitely an amazing time to visit China but be aware that the price of flights, accommodation and many other things may shoot up around this time. Another festival that might be worth checking out is the Qingdao beer festival, China's version of Oktober fest which takes place in August and lasts for 16 days.
It's really hard to write about a country that has every kind of everything. Especially when it comes to nature China literally has every kind terrain on Earth, and so many beautiful places it would be nearly impossible to see them all. You have deserts, tropical rain forests, huge mountains, beaches, endless rivers, caves, waterfalls, and stunningly beautiful villages dotted around the country. It would be impossible for me to list the places to check out but I did see one great article on CNN travel you can check if you want to see just a little bit of China's nature. You can find that article here: 40 beautiful places to visit in China - CNN Travel
In the cities public transportation is excellent and very very cheap. If you are travelling between cities there are also quite a few options, also being cheap and comfortable. Hitchhiking is also very good as the highways are very modern and have many large active petrol stations spread around them.
Sadly the Chinese immigration are not as welcoming as their citizens. They are quite paranoid about national security and therefore for most nationalities you must apply for a visa at a consulate where they will hold your passport for several days to several weeks. Always do your research at the website for the Chinese consulate where you will apply to find out the requirements and cost. For me I paid 40USD in Vientiane for 2 month duel entry (total 4 months) which took 3 days to receive. You should also know that you will need an additional permit to enter certain parts of China such as Tibet.
China is a very safe country. I hitchhiked alone, sometimes at night and never once felt in any danger at all! I hear stories of people being pick pocketed there, although never noticed anything similar myself. Many people are worried about food poisoning in China but I can say out of all the Asian countries I have been to China was one of the cleanest! Of course I didn't go poking around restaurants kitchens but food was always served extremely hot and I never had or heard of anyone having any problems there. I can say the only thing to be aware of is that the police are very strict in China. One time I was stopped by police for absolutely no reason, they took my passport and spent about half an hour calling people and doing checks on me! So just try not to do anything illegal or overstay your visa, I'm sure the punishments can be quite severe.
China really is such a huge country it is impossible to describe it in one article, I strongly recommend spending AT LEAST a month there, get lost, meet the people and enjoy all the wonderful food, culture, history and nature that China has to offer.