Traveling in China
Despite the fact that it seems to be in the news almost every day of the week, China - impossibly vast and fascinatingly diverse - remains a travel destination with an unquestionable mystique. As exciting as that sounds, it also makes travelling to China for the first time an incredibly daunting prospect. To help you venture into the unknown, here's our first-timer's guide to the most populated land on the planet.
1. Break the language barrier
The number one hurdle to overcome when travelling around China is the language barrier. Even today, with Chinese children learning English from primary school onwards, it's a barrier that can be almost completely impenetrable at times. It's always advisable to try to learn a few words and phrases before you visit far-flung lands, but in China it's almost essential. Try to enrol in Mandarin classes before you go (Mandarin Chinese is the default language in almost every part of China), or try to teach yourself some of the basics - the BBC website has a decent introduction to learning Chinese.
Then, when you leave for China, be sure to bring with you one or more of the following:
- Translator apps - Google Translate is free and includes an impressively accurate speak-your-phrase voice translator. The Lonely Planet Chinese Translator app is similar but has the advantage of being entirely offline with a dictionary tailored to the needs of travellers.
Regardless of all of the above, one thing you should always do when travelling around China is carry with you Chinese-language business cards of your hotel or of places you wish to visit so you can show passers-by, taxi drivers, bus conductors and the like.
2. Focus your itinerary
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