Some of my friends are coming to visit at the end of September and wanted to know if they need to do anything to prepare other than doing the normal visa/tour package thing. So in the next few posts, I’ll add a few tourist tips, even though I suspect that many people reading this blog have been to China already. (Yes, shockingly, I have a very small audience.)
10. Deodorant – Already mentioned in this blog before, but more important than ever now that temperatures in Shanghai surpass 30 degrees C (85 degrees F for the non-metric speakers) everyday with high humidity to boot.
9. Splenda – Drink coffee? But not with sugar? China is strictly BYOS. You may get lucky enough to find a few packets of Equal at Starbucks, but you will not find any little yellow packets of chemical sweetness.
8. Immodium AD, Pepto-Bismo, Milk of Magnesia – If you have a weak stomach, or if you just can’t help but eat the grilled pork skewers being sold off the back of a bike on the street, you will get sick. A friend of mine just got sick at the most famous soup dumpling place in the main tourist area. You may never need this, but believe me, the cost of not having it is far worse than the cost of the medicine itself.
7. Pocket packs of tissues – Most restaurants in China will charge you for napkins. Bring tissues which are of equal quality to the “napkins” that the restaurants sell. Also, in the oppressive weather, you’ll need something to wipe your face and your hands when you touch something really dirty.
6. Chinese guide book – You can use City Weekend and Smart Shanghai to find the latest restaurants and bars, but for tourist locations, shopping areas, and a quick language reference, nothing beats Lonely Planet or Let’s Go. Don’t come empty handed, but don’t bring an old copy borrowed from a friend. China is changing too quickly for a two year old guide to be relevant.
5. ATM card – Don’t bring cash, use the ATM. Even thought most places don’t accept credit cards, you can use your bank card and withdraw RMB without waiting in line at the bank.
4. Digital camera storage – You will take lots of pictures here. While you can buy these memory cards in any electronics store, the United States is still the best place in the world to buy cheap electronics. Bring at least a 2 or 4 GB card for your camera to ensure you’re not deleting pictures to free up space.
3. An appetite – Chinese food here is not what it’s like in the United States, but it is often good, and almost always cheap. You’ll have to have room in your stomach to find out how Sichuan cuisine differs from Shanghainese, Yunnan, and Cantonese.
2. Business cards – Everyone carries them and you’ll definitely meet a lot of people here. Your hotel may even ask for one. It also helps to have something to write on when you need someone who speaks English to write an address in Chinese for your taxi driver.
1. An unlocked GSM phone – I’ll write more about the wonders of mobile telephony outside the confines of the United States. But simply put, if you bring the right phone, you can call back home for less than 4 cents a minute.