China is a booming economic powerhouse of a country, and in the last few decades, especially since the 2008 Beijing Olmpyics more and more foreigners have been visiting.

If you are planning to visit China for the first time there are some important things to know before you go, and this article will really help you to be prepared and offers tips to enjoy the best trip possible. 

Hannah Skelding recently visited China seeing popular destinations like Beijing and Shanghai which are two of the most visited cities in China. Based on her trip she shares her essential list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ that she feels would be good advice for anyone planning a trip to China. 


Essential Things to Do

1. DO - book a trip to the Great Wall of China

There are lots of attractions in China and seeing the Great Wall was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. We went to the Mutianyu region and it had very few tourists, having some sections completely to ourselves. Despite it being cloudy in the morning, as it reached midday the cloud moved away and we had stunning views of the wall. 

2. DO - eat duck in Beijing

Peking Duck is famous and naturally there are many places to have it. There are a few famous restaurants in Beijing but from any good restaurant it’s a hit, much better than the average Chinese takeaway. 

3. DO - research places to stay!

If you are a backpacker travelling on a budget, cheap accommodation is a must. In Beijing there are lots of affordable hostels and the place we stayed has a great atmosphere with a bar area, the helpful staff and the wonderful people we met.

Hostels are very social, we met many solo travellers, showing how it allowed all people to come together and feel included. It was a great way to share and listen to the incredible stories that people have had, with those from all different backgrounds. 

In Beijing there are acommodation options for all budgets, from cheap hostels to luxury hotels. Search options on

4. Do - see as much as possible

China is a huge country, and staying for just a few days or even a week doesn't do it justice. There are so many places to go and one of the easiest ways to travel is by booking tours of China. Popular places other than Shanghai and Beijing to recommend include X'ian to see the majestic Teracotta Warriors, Chengdu to see giant pandas, Hangzhou to see the West Lake and Hong Kong for another super modern metropolis.


Things to Watch Out For

1. DON’T - be surprised if people stare at you

For me this was probably the most bizarre thing i’ve ever experienced. Obviously in theory it made sense that ginger, pale people are not abundant in Asia yet I still did not expect the reception I received! People stared everywhere we went, with mothers pointing me out to their children. I think people were mainly just intrigued but it was very peculiar nonetheless. 

2. DON'T - expect people to speak English

Not many people in China speak English, in hotels and accommodation, staff will be able to converse in English, but outside of this you'll struggle to find anyone. You might want to learn some basic Mandarin or Cantonese before departing, or use a language app when in-country.

3. DON’T - expect to use Facebook, Youtube, Instagram etc unless using a VPN

These are easily downloaded from the app store on Apple/Android phones in most worldwide countries, and in China, but getting them to actually work is a challenge due to restrictions. The only thing sometimes available to use is Whatsapp, but even this isn't reliable when in the country.

We completely forgot about this prior to entering China and experienced a bit of a shock to the system (as well as a very good cleanse!) not being able to use these until we were shown how to. There are lots of options available include Surfshark VPN which is highly recommended. If you want to avoid huge roaming fees, you might also want consider getting a pocked WIFI or eSim for China.

4. DON’T - expect things to be really cheap! 

You will be disappointed. Before coming I was convinced that I was going to find at least one pair of really cool cheap trainers. This before I really thought about the fact I was going to the 2 most modern and industrialised cities in China. Prices were pretty much the same as England unless you wanted to buy fakes. 

5. DON’T - fall into a tea trap!! 

Whilst walking along The Bund one day in Shanghai we were approached by a young Chinese man and woman. This didn’t seem unusual because many people when realising that we were English wanted to speak to us.

They were very friendly, asked lots of questions and painted the picture that they were also tourists in Shanghai. They said they were heading in the same direction and asked to walk with us, then asking if we wanted to go to a tea festival.

This wouldn’t have seemed as stupid as it actually was, had we not read the sign in our hostel the night before saying do not go to a tea festival!! 

The crux of these scams is normally to charge ridiculous amounts of money for the tea, hence when realising that this probably wasn’t going to end well, we parted ways with the couple and insisted we had to go and meet our friends.

On the topic of scams, they are quite common from what we experienced, also having people trying to clean our shoes. Best just to be aware!

6. DON’T - get into a tuk-tuk

Unlike Thailand where these type of vehicles are much more common, they tend to be very expensive in China. We personally didn’t use one but that was the word on the street. 

7. DON’T – drink the tap water

China is renowned for its potentially harmful tap water, and as is applied to most parts of Asia don’t drink it. It’s also important to avoid eating any foods e.g. fruits and vegetables that will have been washed in tap water, as well as any other water based foods. 


Plan a Trip to China

Whether you are looking for a unqiue travel destination or fancy spending a gap year in China, I highly recommend travelling to the far east and experiencing China for yourself.

If you like the idea of living and working in China, then there are several options. Applying to teach English in China is really popular option. I loved China, and hopefully you will too.

By Hannah Skelding