Preparation and Tips for China Travel
Louie Yi, President, Lotus Travel
- "Must See" Spots: for a first trip, it is common to visit Beijing, Xian, Guilin just to see the country for a short, introductory trip. If you have more time, or if you plan only one trip to China, it is suggested to consider adding some of the following: Chengdu to see the pandas; the Yangtze River cruise to see the Three Gorges Dam; Shanghai to see modern China; Hangzhou to see the beautiful West Lake; and/or Suzhou to see the traditional Chinese gardens. Most travelers consider two weeks as an ideal timeframe to spend in China for a trip.
- Opinions: other traveler's opinions should be taken lightly and only as a reference. This is because some suggestions from another traveler may not suit the ideal excursion for your family. Some hotels are recommended highly on the internet for its beautiful and peaceful surrounding scenery, but when a family arrives, they realize it is rurally located without any access to taxis, buses or even bikes. Some people may like it for the remote location and others may dislike it for the same reason. Keep these preferences in mind when planning your trip.
- Luggage: travel as light as possible with your luggage, especially if you are expecting train transportation. You will have to walk up and down at most train stations before boarding. A luggage with wheels and extending handle will be helpful when traveling. There is no bellman service at most train stations, so pack as light as possible.
In Country Travel Tips:
- Train Tickets: most train tickets are issued as one way tickets and are issued directly to travel service professionals, such as travel agencies. Do NOT try to purchase a train ticket directly on your date of travel, as you may then end up standing in line for 5-6 hours, possibly with thousands of others, to get a chance at 10 available tickets from the train station gate. More than 90% of train ticket sales are done in advance via a travel agency or service.
- Jet Lag: most travelers have jet lag for the first week in Asia and the second week they have no more jetlag, but may struggle with stomach challenges from food changes. It helps to get lots of fresh air and drink plenty of bottled water. Don't drink too much coffee, tea or carbonated drinks. Avoid staying in the air conditioned bus or hotel rooms too long.
- SWI Visits: most orphanages are located in small town or county cities. Due to the lack of tourism to these parts of the country, there may not be any "Westernized" hotels; simple guest houses are available in its absence. If you choose to spend the night within the orphanage city, there may not be a 4 star hotel available in the area.
- Peddlers: realize around each scenic spot there are likely to be peddlers and hawkers of souvenirs. One may also encounter beggars in large cities, particularly around Westernized hotels. You will want to be prepared and have a plan. Some families bring useful items such as crackers, pencils or toothbrushes etc. Some families bring a pre-set amount of bills to hand out to beggars, and then once this is gone, are focused on moving on. Tour guides may not always be able to stop aggressive behaviors from the beggars, as sometimes these groups are organized and bring revenge to the tour guides for being too strong against them.
- Money: bring enough US cash bills so you can exchange money to local currency at the hotel's cashier
Most importantly, approach travel with a flexible, positive attitude and a sense of adventure since there are typically unexpected twists and turns on your travel experience. Prepare your children to do the same. The hotel may run out of hot water. Realize that the local staff working there may have only had a wet towel for bathing that day. Periodically the electricity goes out. The SWI visit may not be exactly as you dream it would go. Don't create a tight image of what each day will bring. Know the plan and flow with the unexpected. Equip yourself and family with a sense of adventure and a positive frame of mind. Be ready to help your kids go through unexpected experiences with a positive attitude.