China, such a mysterious country with incredible culture!
Some of us could feel incredibly nervous when traveling to a country with such a big population, different language and culture, but it’s definitely worth it!
If you are a solo traveller and want to embark yourself in a journey to that ancient land without speaking a single word of Chinese you are going to need these 5 tips:
- Take with you a mobile with access to Wi-Fi. Even though most of the younger generations learn English at school, not all of them are able to communicate with foreigners and sometimes it could take a lot of time and effort to be able to communicate. Once you start traveling away from the main cities, less and less people speak English and there are small towns where finding an English speaking person would be a complete mission. Make sure you have access to translation tools on your phone, or ask any of the foreigners living in the area for the phone number for FREE translation services.
- Access to any navigation system. There are many small lanes; tiny alleys and the names of the streets are impossible to read if you don’t know the language. An online map could make a big difference when you are lost at night in a city where you can’t speak or understand the locals to ask for directions.
- Be careful with some young locals. Some young Chinese students work together with certain Tea Houses and target mainly solo tourist with the purpose of taking money from them. The students approach the travellers offering assistance or help if they are lost and can’t speak the language and then invite them to join them to a special Tea ceremony, once the ceremony and tasting is over they bring the bill and OMG!! Then you realise you are in trouble. The prices are out of this world for what you just experienced, so if you do go to a Tea ceremony are invited to one always make sure you can see the prices before hand.
- Double check when buying a train ticket. Even though in the train stations of the big cities there is a Speaking English window, be careful and confirm more than once that you have the right seat or bunk bed number, date and destination. Almost 90% of the information in the train tickets is in Mandarin so it’s literally impossible to read it if you don’t know the language. Some hostels have a picture of tickets on their noticeboards explaining in detail what to look when buying and make sure you have what you need.
- Be careful with taxis. This is generally a recommendation everywhere in the world, but here the ones in in small towns and outside the train station can be a nightmare. Language barrier is already an issue, but it could be worst when your taxi driver is also trying to sell you a tour. They could be really pushy and as a female solo traveller incredibly intimidating. So the moment they mention selling you a tour, leave the taxi straight away.
Locals are incredibly friendly and always willing to help if you are in trouble, so don’t hesitate to ask for help or assistance if you need to. Even when they don’t speak the language they will make a huge effort to try to understand. Just keep trying and don’t be shy.