Our very own Jennifer Wilkes recently travelled solo to China on our Great Wall and Warriors tour. As one of our new Business Development Managers, it’s Jen’s job to know what our tours are all about – and the best way to do that is to experience one for herself. After returning to the UK, she’s shared her best advice for solo travellers thinking of visiting China.
To some, the thought of travelling to China can be daunting, especially if you’re going to embark on the journey solo. Whilst there are some challenges, it’s such a wonderful country to visit – and most importantly safe. So here are my top tips for travelling alone in China.
1. Write down key phrases
It’s easy to take for granted that in most parts of the world, although the language may not be the same – the alphabet is! However in China, one of the biggest challenges can be communication.
Particularly when travelling solo, always ensure that you obtain the Chinese name and address for your hotel (most will have printed cards at reception). That way you can easily navigate your way back and ask locals for help if necessary.
I would also recommend that if you have any dietary requirements, medical complaints or anything else you may need to notify people of regularly during your trip, to have the Chinese translation handy to ensure you aren’t misunderstood.
2. Use local apps
China is all about using their own technology and you’ll find that many of your usual go-to travel apps are simply unavailable there. In some cases you can use a VPN to get around this, but in my own experience it was just as useful to give the Chinese alternatives a try. Not only will these apps be familiar to locals if you’re looking for help, but they’ll also help to break the language barrier.
My top picks would be:
DiDi – the Chinese version of Uber
WeChat – think WhatsApp, but with lots of added extras
Du – essentially Google Maps, but again with added features of notifications in your chosen area
3. Be ready to haggle
If you are planning to visit some of the markets in China – haggle haggle haggle! It can be daunting, especially when you’re on your own, but by nature locals will always try and extort a high price from you initially. Be confident, go in knowing what you are prepared to pay, and stick to it. If you can’t get the bargain you’re looking for just walk away. Chances are they will come and find you.
4. Keep your valuables close
China is a safe country, but like anywhere in big cities, it pays to have your wits about you. Travel with secure bags when you’re out and about during the day and even invest in a bum bag for your valuables. Don’t walk around with your bag on your back in overcrowded tourist areas. Nobody wants a pickpocket to put a dampener on their trip.
5. Manage your cash
In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai you should have no problem finding an ATM to draw out local currency. However, in smaller cities such as Xi’an this may not always be the case. Be prepared and plan ahead of time if you know where you’ll be stopping on your trip. Not all hotels offer a currency exchange service and those that do can be limited on the amount they can provide.
6. Just go for it!
My biggest tip of all – just embrace it! Travelling China will undoubtedly be a culture shock for most, but after all that is part of its charm. So I would urge you to try that new dish, sample the local culture and take yourself out of your comfort zone to fully immerse yourself in all that China has to offer – you certainly wont regret it!