Even if you’re an experienced traveler, chances are that a few Eurotrips have left you woefully unprepared for the challenges China can bring. Unless you’ve been here before and already know what to expect, you may want to read a few tips to prepare for your big Asian adventure.
#1: Pick up and re-check your checked luggage.
You’re probably used to having your bags checked all the way through to your final destination, but it doesn’t always happen. The Delta staff member in Florida assured me I wouldn’t need to worry about this, but he was wrong. I happened past the luggage carousel in Shanghai and saw my checked bags floating past, so I had to grab them and cart them to the domestic flight terminal myself. Needless to say, I was wishing I’d packed lighter.
#2: Bring a small amount of foreign currency with you.
If you need to buy food in the airport during a layover or rush into a taxi, you’ll be glad you were prepared.
#3: Change money in the international terminal of a major airport upon arrival.
Even though Chongqing is a huge city, not every bank will convert US dollars and in my experience, the ones that do will only convert $500 USD at a time. I still have US dollars I need to exchange, but haven’t been able to. Change as much money as you can before you leave a large international airport.
#4: Keep your eyes (and ears) open for English speakers who can help if you need it.
The vast majority of Chinese people are excited to see you and are extremely helpful. They might take it upon themselves to take you under their wing, walking you to your airport gate or bus station, translating on your behalf, etc. In my case, I was lucky to find a boy in Shanghai who translated the airline announcements and let me borrow his phone to arrange airport pick-up after a flight delay.
#5: Picture menus are your friend.
If you don’t speak Chinese, you will be completely lost if you don’t find a restaurant with photos on their menu. Find a picture menu and order by pointing at whatever looks edible.
#6: Bring hand sanitizer and a pack of kleenex.
Most public restrooms don’t have toilet paper or soap to wash your hands. I always carry both hand sanitizer and a pack of tissues in my purse. If you’re coming from the states, I recommend bringing a large supply of hand sanitizer with you, as it’s difficult to find here and very necessary.
It’s a grand adventure, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. A few steps to prepare for your trip can save you a lot of headache!