With over 5000 years of history, expansive and impossibly diverse China remains as a travel destination with an unquestionable thrill even to the veteran travellers. From the old preserved temples, to the natural landforms of blues and greens, and the sleek 21st century buildings hovering in the skies, exploring China to many can be a challenge and sometimes, deemed as daunting.
Travellers around the world are flocking to China for its immense culture and serenity in the smaller cities. Exploring such places on a shoestring may not be a breeze but knowing your ways will definitely make it more enjoyable. Here’s how:
1. Staying connected
Staying connected to our social media accounts has become an indispensable trait in 21st century travellers. Some of us succumb to extreme means such as camping at cafes or even returning to the same cafe everyday just to post a picture of that significant landmark or to check for an important e-mail or even just to answer to our chat group discussion. However, the fear of losing our original SIM cards and bill shock can cause undue stress. Some of China’s prepaid SIM cards cost $35 for only 280MB or $60 for 1GB, and not all are inter-cities.
Tired of being a WiFi hunter when you travel? Singtel provides unlimited data on your travels with no hidden costs. When you travel in China, get the DataRoam Saver Plan at only $20/day for unlimited data. You can even stay connected with friends on Facebook. The best part is easy activation while you are on-the-go. Simply download My SingTel app > Select ‘Roaming’ > Select ‘View DataRoam Saver Plans’ or dial *100# (only applicable while overseas) now. For more information, visit official site here.
2. Narrow down the places of interests
Home to many of the world’s largest cities, one can easily get overwhelmed and distracted by the varying attractions. Knowing the purpose of your travel will be a great start to planning your budget and choosing a region to explore.
The demographics and geography differ greatly between the cities. For instance:
Xi’an – Best suited for travellers who want to understand Chinese history. The capital city during the feudal years, it is the most ancient city in China.
Beijing – The capital after Xi’an, it is both home to Chinese history of 1000 years and some of China’s greatest architecture.
Shanghai – Best suited for urban travelers where you can experience the cosmopolitan and globalised China.
Yunnan – Best suited for adventure seekers or nature lovers. Nestled in the mountainous area, Yunnan is mostly about its majestic mountains and soothing lakes.
3. Getting Around Between Cities
Trains are approximately 75% cheaper than domestic flights. There are bullet trains between big cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Xiamen, Shenyang, just to name a few, and can be booked online conveniently. Also there are sleeper trains available, saving on both ticket prices and accommodation.
4. Cheaper Domestic Flights
No doubt, while bullet trains are already much faster than local trains, sometimes you are so pressed for time or covering much longer distances, you will still have to fly. Try Ctrip or eLong,as they often offer even cheaper flights compared to Skyscanner or Expedia and accept international credit cards.
5. Getting Around the City
In bigger and more developed countries like Shanghai and Guangzhou, there is not a need to hire a driver. Buy a transport card; or walk, when most of the attractions are located side by side. For example in Shanghai, walking from People’s Square Station to East Nanjing Road Station, you will pass by the famous Bund, the colonial buildings, and clock tower.
However, in cities where attractions are further apart, it is advisable to hire a shared van to save on waiting time and miscellaneous transport fares.
One of the top worries of travellers to China is the language barrier, and while you seek refuge and comfort at your accommodation every end of the day, you would want someone who will understand and could cater to your needs. As a rapidly globalising country, gone are the days where most Chinese spoke just dialects and hostels are shabby. The staffs now speak fluent English and are also very helpful.
Tip: China is more lenient with additional beds in rooms. If you are staying in hotel with a bigger group, you can get cosy in a standard room with 2 extra beds instead of getting another room.
7. Habits of life
Lastly, while these are not necessarily a Budget Traveller’s issue, here are some additional pointers for traveling in China:
– Tipping is not needed, there is no tipping culture in China.
– Don’t drink from taps unless stated. Some hotels in Shanghai have drinkable water from taps.
– Toilet paper during your sessions is a MUST!
– Do not poke your chopsticks upright when having meals, especially with the older generations.
This article is supported by SingTel