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In China for the first time – tips for travellers

Published
28.1.2016 at 07:00
If you are visiting China for the first time, I recommend Beijing, as it is an unforgettable experience. Rich history and culture are visible everywhere. With over 20 million inhabitants, Beijing has been the Chinese capital since the 1200s.

I believe that a guided tour is the best way to ensure you see and experience as much as possible. It also means that you don't need to worry about practicalities, such as finding and getting to places, since the distances and the sheer scale of the city are bound take first-time visitors by surprise anyway.

Walk on the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is the largest construction project in human history and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Its current form originates from the 1300–1600s, the Ming dynasty era. The wall is over 6,200 km in length.

People are allowed to walk on top of the wall, and most opt to cover the distance from one watchtower to the next. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the wall from Beijing by bus.

It has been said that the wall is visible all the way from space, but that probably isn't true! However, it is an impressive sight from an aeroplane.

Other ‘must' destinations are the world's most extensive palatial area, the Forbidden City, as well as the heart of Beijing, Tiananmen Square, also called the Gate of Heavenly Peace Square.

Spring and autumn are the best seasons to travel to Beijing. In the winter, air pollution can be too tough on the most sensitive travellers, and the summer heat can also feel unbearable. Prices are often slightly lower outside the summer season.

Delicious Peking Duck

Beijing is not an expensive city to visit, but can, of course, offer a huge range of options, thanks to its vastness. You can eat and shop, enjoying just as much luxury as in any other metropolis, or keep to a tight budget by eating at the cheaper cafés and markets.

Food is generally safe, but, as always, you should avoid uncooked foods. Street kitchens tempt visitors with the most exotic offerings, from crickets to scorpions.

You can't normally find a common language with the waiters, but many establishments have menus with photos of the meals. It's also perfectly fine to wander around the restaurant to check what other customers are having and make your choice from those.

While in Beijing, you should always have some Peking duck. Eating it is a proper ceremony, as the cook brings a whole duck to your table and shows how to wrap it in the thin pancakes the correct way.

Often the duck is served on a large round table with a rotating glass tray in the centre, allowing the entire group to easily reach the accompaniments, ranging from soy sauce to onion shoots.

Prepare well for your trip

Ensure you read a good travel guide before travelling to China, and familiarise yourself with the maps as well. Otherwise you just won't be able to digest all you see and experience during your trip, as everything is so big and wonderful in China.

Most Chinese don't know many foreign languages, but the youth are sometimes eager to get to know tourists. As a result of the one-child policy, children are extremely important in this country, and any attention directed to a family's only little one is usually rewarded with a happy smile. You may sometimes be asked to pose for a photo with the locals.

I would also advise you to ask your hotel for a card with the hotel information in Chinese, and to ask the hotel personnel to write your chosen destination on a piece of paper in Chinese for the taxi driver. Taxis are a cheap and handy way of getting around.

Wishing you an unforgettable trip!

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