5 Tips When Traveling to China

31 May, 2016

Having lived in Shanghai during my exchange and traveled to various Chinese cities over the past few years, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with China’s notorious tourist traps. Here are 5 tips to avoid getting scammed if you’re visiting the country for the first time.

1. Ignore Taxi Touts

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The moment you land at the airport, the arrival gate will be flooded with taxi touts urging you to ride their cabs. Some may even lie and tell you that the airport shuttle bus has ceased its services. Ignore them all, follow the signs and join the official queue for metered taxis. If you are unfamiliar with the place or language, have your hotel address and directions printed beforehand in Chinese to show the cabby.

2. Bargaining Tips

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As a tourist, unless you are Chinese proficient (i.e. being able to Taobao without Google Translate), shopkeepers will almost always mark up the initial selling price. Be vicious, be heartless, and throw away all shame while bargaining. Walk away if you must, and more often than not, you would get called back with a much better offer within seconds!

3. Instant Photo-Printing

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At famous places like Shanghai’s Bund or Beijing’s Great Wall, you will typically find sellers bugging you to purchase instantly printed photographs of yourself with the attraction in the background. But when your Samsung Galaxy S5 has a 16-megapixel camera and you can take the time to choose the perfect angle, why waste the money?

4. Beware of Beggar Gangs

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It is common to encounter beggars along the streets. In fact, syndicates exist with beggars operating in gangs. There are reports on criminal networks profiting by capturing disabled children and forcing them to beg. The dilemma you face in choosing between sympathising with the pitiful children, aged or disabled and winding up supporting such syndicates is understandable. Regardless, always be alert and stay aware of your surroundings.

5. Avoid Purchasing the First Item

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At tourist spots, hawkers often gather by the entrance touting their wares, enticing visitors to purchase their souvenirs. Avoid buying from these hawkers near the entrance as they typically charge higher prices. Take your time to browse other stalls and you’ll often find more reasonably-priced items.

If you are visiting China for the first time, do your homework because it always pays to be prepared. There is no doubt many tourist traps and conmen exist. Yet, incredible travelling opportunities abound in this vast country, so don’t strike it off your to-go places just yet. It is, after all, a country with thousands of years of history, a rich food culture and breathtaking scenery. If you have any other tips for travelling in China and avoiding tourist scams, let us know by commenting below and sharing this article with your friends who are considering a trip to China too!

6. Understand How China Visa System Work

The China visa system is a complicated one and you risk a penalty of 500 Yuan per day or detention period between 5 and 15 days if you overstay your visa. So be sure to get the right visa for the right purpose. Following changes to visa rules, foreigners of Chinese origin will be able to apply for visas valid for multiple entries over a period of five years, up from one year previously. If you want to play safe to get the right via, check out this useful guide -> the new Chinese Work Visa System Explained

Featured Image Credits: Shutterstock

Astrid Lim

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