Sitting in my world history class in 8th grade back in Davie, Fl I never imagined that I would actually travel to Beijing. Sure, I had seen the beautiful pictures of the great wall snaking through the mountains and watched in awe the amazing performances of the 2008 Olympic opening ceremonies, but it always seemed worlds away.
With the holidays coming up and no clue what to get my boyfriend Ryan, I wanted to surprise him with tickets to Japan and China. For the guy who (seemingly) has everything, it’s become a tradition to get him a trip somewhere special, so I started my research.
1. Get A Visa.
Surprisingly getting a visa is easy to get. We used the site Visa Express, just print and complete the forms, get a visa photo from Walgreens, and provide your flight/hotel booking. Mail everything using the prepaid FedEx slip, including your passport, and that’s it! We got our Visas in 2 weeks… beats going to the embassy and waiting, hands down!
2. You Need Vaccines
Then you will need to get vaccines; most of the time your doctor will need to order them as they usually don’t have them on hand or they will refer you to a specialist who carries them. BEWARE! Like most vaccines, there are side effects, and unlucky me got all of them! I thought “this is it, this is how I go I guess!” All joking aside, you can read more about them on the CDC to know what you’re getting yourself into.
3. HUGE Language Barrier
Once we landed, I have never felt so isolated by language as I did in China. Growing up in a Brazilian family with a Dominican step dad, the romance languages come easily to me, but here it was as if we hit a brick wall.
#FollowThatDuck Travel Tip: Speak to someone in the transit area, someone in baggage claim, really anyone that works at the airport who speaks English to write out the address and intersection in characters for you of your hotel to give to the cab driver.
What you should NOT do? Pull up a map on your iPhone with the pin of your hotel and try to sign with your driver the name of your hotel. That’s what we did and let me be the first to tell you it was awful, and we looked like such Americans.
When we arrived at the Waldorf Astoria Beijing, they gave us, with our key cards, an additional little card that had the name and address of the hotel in English and characters so that we could give it to any cab driver to take us back to our hotel. Seriously a life saver!
Don’t want to risk it? Make your own!
4. Don’t Drink The Water!
Tap water that is. Some hotels have a filtering system as to take out some of the pollutants, but it doesn’t remove everything; hotels usually provide a bottle of water in your room that’s complimentary in Beijing for this very reason. You can take a shower, but use bottled water for things like brushing your teeth, and absolutely only drink bottled water at restaurants and out sightseeing.
5. Don’t Rely On Uber
UBER WORKS! But it’s janky as hell. It may also be the best option when it comes to cabs as you don’t have to try to communicate (poorly) where you are going. If you don’t mind spending the extra cash you can also get a car service for the day through your hotel; they will pick you up and drop you off where ever you’d like. They usually charge by the hour.
6. Always Carry Cash
Most retail stores will typically accept credit cards, but not all restaurants do, and the markets have strict cash-only policies, so always keep some Yuan for during the day.
7. Google Maps Still Works
… sort of. If you didn’t know, Google is a blocked server in China, but It will pinpoint where you are on a map. Only thing is you can’t search anything, so if you’re lost and only have access to your phone that doesn’t have a connection, it will pinpoint your location. Helpful to know if you’re in a tight spot.
The more I travel, the more I learn, and some of these lessons were learned the hard way. Here is to making your trip just that little bit easier!
What are your best travel tips? Let me know in the comments below, and remember to follow me on the ‘gram @TheWanderingDuck.