"There are public toilets all over but often no toilet paper. Tissues are a must when travelling on trains and buses."
Originally I wrote this blog for travelling in China. However after being on the road for 12 months I quickly began to realise that some of these tips apply to other countries too.
Make sure you pack some ear plugs. As nice as the Chinese are they do not have a quiet a button. Whether it's loud talking or movies on full blast, be sure to have those ear plugs ready.
Take antihistemines with you because unless you speak Chinese or have someone with you who does it will be pretty difficult to buy these. I have had staff from the hostels come with me to the pharmacy or they have written it down for me, but even then it has still proven to be difficult at times.
#3 WRITE IT DOWN
Whether it's something you need to buy, hostel names, addresses, directions, bus stops or travel tickets, whatever it is get it written in Mandarin. Trust me it will save you a lot of stress and time. Remember to email the hostels ahead of your arrival asking them for their address in Mandarin. Make sure you get their contact number too, then if the driver doesn't know where they are going they can call. Once you are there if you need anything written down ask the hostel staff to do so, everyone in China is super helpful.
#4 PHONE NUMBER
Have a phone number saved of someone who speaks Mandarin and English, this is easier than it sounds. There are loads of Chinese people out there happy to help! We have literally only exchanged hellos with people and they have given us their number incase we needed help.
#5 WATER BOTTLE
At first I was confused as to why it was difficult to buy water, especially large waters in the airport. I quickly cottoned on though. All the airports have water machines or fountains. So remember to take your empty bottles with you and be sure to fill up before you catch your flight. If you are really lucky some have hot water dispensers too, so you can make yourself a nice brew!
#6 SIM CARD
Be sure to purchase a Chinese sim with internet. This can be a life saver in many situations, and especially if you are lost or wanting to check you are heading in the right direction. Also some places don't have wifi or sometimes it's poor so researching your trip or staying in touch can sometimes be difficult.
The internet or should I say Chinternet is very temperamental in China. I'm not just talking about accessing Facebook either! Sometimes it won't let you access simple websites.
#8 USE BING
China doesn't like Google or anything related to it.
#9 DEODORANT AND SUN CREAM
These two simple items can be hard to come by in China so make sure you don't leave home without them. I've hung around with a fair few smelly people in China because they've not been able to purchase deodorant.
Remember nothing is in English! So make sure you allow plenty of time to catch your bus or train. Plenty of people are willing to help. Show your ticket to people and they will help you find your way. The bus stations in China have absolutely no organisation. Once you are on the train or bus get someone else to double check your ticket. You are allocated seats, even on the buses. Sit in the right ones and when booking make sure they know you want to sit together if possible.
There are public toilets all over but often no toilet paper. Tissues are a must when travelling on trains and buses.
The last thing you want to do is to have to use the wall or door to keep your balance in public toilets, so start your squat practise now. Some public toilets are clean but some are pretty dam disgusting. When on the buses prepare yourself for a tour of some of the worse toilets in China. On the plus side at least they stop for toilet breaks! And yes it's true, some toilets don't have doors!
#13 LUNCH STOPS
If you're travelling on a long bus ride during the day, more often than not it will stop for a 30 minute lunch break. Usually the driver has been paid by the owners to stop off there. There is normally quite a lot to choose from, even if you only want to opt for crisps or fruit. We took our own food with us most of the time, but incase you don't get time don't worry, you won't starve.
The roads and driving are crazy here. Don't let it bother you! Just go with the flow, understand the rules are different. Even when the green man says walk, cars will still go. Scooters go on the pavements. Listen out for the horn, it's them making you aware that they are there. Sometimes when you are waiting for a safe time to cross the road the opportunity never appears. You just have to go for it, with confidence. Don't worry they will slow down.
Remember China is HUGE! Each province is like it's own country with it's own climate. Make sure you pack wisely. Always have an umbrella, rain coat and waterproof bag cover.
The Chinese are fascinated by us, remember some of them have genuinely never seen a Laowai(foreigner) before. Don't be surprised if they stare or if they want a photo of you or with you. Or if someone wants to sit and talk to practice their English. Embrace it! They are so happy to have you in their country.
It's hard to get bad noodles in China. So even if you are eating somewhere that little English is spoken which is most places. You can order mian(noodles), miantang(noodle soup). Mian is pronounced me en. They usually come with mince pork, coriander, spring onions and some other delicious flavours. Different provinces have different flavours. If you want something different most places have pictures that you can point to. There is a lot of good food here! Real Chinese food is nice, nothing like what you get in the West.
This is a free app and doesn't need any internet. It's a must have translator whilst travelling in China.
#19 ONE FOR THE FEMALES
Waxing is very hard to come by in China, they just don't do it here! So be prepared to get a little hairy!
Yes the language is very difficult to learn, especially with all the different tones and dialects. Try learn the basics of hello, thank you and the numbers, they are all quite easy to pick up. Once you have learnt 1-10 the rest is easy. Remember the Chinese are also a little embarrassed that they don't understand us, so sometimes if they shy away from you or seem unhelpful it's usually out of embarrassment. Most of the younger population speak some English. Just don't be shy to ask and talk to people.
#21 TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
Firstly remember that the tourism in China is set up for the Chinese tourist. The tourism that foreigners bring to this country is minimal, the Chinese population is over a billion. Also if somewhere has become a tourist attraction then that is exactly what it means. Be prepared for hundreds of Chinese tourists, especially during holiday periods. If you want to see somewhere and enjoy it's beauty arrive early in the morning before many coaches descend on the destination. The busy holidays that I'm aware of are May Day, summer hols which are July and August and also the first week in October.
#22 DEEP BREATHS
Don't let what we see as annoying habits get under your skin. Enjoy this beautiful country and the beautiful people that live there. It's truly a very special place! Slurping and burping are all part of the environment here.