5 ways to travel comfortably in China

The consequence of booking your train at the last minute. This was our hard seat train From Dunhuang, Gansu to Turpan, Xinjiang.

Give the address to a taxi driver in Mandarin. Get someone at the hostel to write down the address in Chinese characters. When first in China, ten years ago in aTibetan part in the rather wild West of Sichuan province, we met a girl who was studying Chinese, she did this for us and it seemed like a super power to me. Still does in a way. You can ask an English speaking hostel staff member to do this for you or even better show them the Chinese in your guidebook or on a translation app like Pleco.

Take toilet paper everywhere. Everywhere. The reason for this is that in China, commonly, public toilets do not have toilet paper or soap. You can can buy little packets of tissues from everywhere for one yuan- always make sure you’ve got at least one. Reminds me of my first time in Chengdu, again ten years ago, when I got a really upset stomach and had to be within running distance of a toilet at all times on our trip around the city. Now imagine that with no loo roll when you do get to the bathroom(I had some).

Take Hand sanitiser. This is a must for China. You can take wet wipes as well. The reason, same as above, soap isn’t provided usually in bathrooms, if you think this is nonsense, try leaving Shanghai. You Can get cheapish hand sanitiser in big cities from Watsons (a chemist/beauty store) or similar. The best I’ve found though was 12 yuan with it’s own mini carabiner to attach it to a bag from Decathlon.(which itself is a good tip with something stupid like 130  sports catered for and cheap with good quality outdoors stuff) Some stores are here in Shanghai..

http://www.smartshanghai.com/listings/all/?chain=decathlon

Avoid travelling on Chinese national holidays if possible. Basically, you may or may not know but the Chinese workforce, largely, all have the same holidays. Worth Checking When these holidays fall when you travel to China as you don’t want to bet going to a tourist site with everyone in China and his Mum. The first reason is it’ll be ridiculous crowded, the other is obviously cost- of everything. I should know, I went to Sanya on the Tropical Southern Island of Hainan during Chinese New Year

Holidays to watch out for are Chinese New Year, National day- the 1-7 October and to a lesser extent QingMing in May.

Book the train a few days before travel. This seems common sense, but it’s amazing the amount of times I fall foul of this. See the picture below of a seated train in Xinjiang- nice.

A traveller tip- book your leaving train when you enter the city, While you’re still in the station, or if you’re posh, get the hostel to do it at an inflated cost:) This actually reminds me of an extremely rewarding experience booking a train from Xi’an when I’d only been in China 3 days. Take the guide book, memorise ‘tomorrow'(mingtian) ‘soft sleeper’ (ruanwo)and ‘how much?’ (duoshaoqian?), bingo.