Common Misconceptions About Traveling to China

WildChina > Editor's Pick > Common Misconceptions About Traveling to China

China is a fascinating travel destination with the full variety of experiences that you’d expect from the third largest country on earth. So why would anyone not want to go? We’ve put together a few of the common objections and misconceptions  that people have about visiting China.

“I want a relaxing trip, China is just a bunch of historical sites.”
China does have a long, rich history and yes, its one of the main reasons people come to see the country. But for those who don’t want to visit all the ancient landmarks in Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an, you can choose other options! Hanghzhou and Suzhou offer a China experience that is more relaxed; beautiful gardens, canals and tea houses on the lake. Out west, China has spectacular natural scenery and opportunities for outdoor activities. We’ve even got an up-and-coming beach and surf scene on Hainan Island!

Our suggestion: If what you’re looking for is a more relaxed China vacation, spend a couple days in Beijing to see the Great Wall, then head for the hills! You can see the gardens, tea houses, mountains and beaches.

“China has bad service standards.”
While China doesn’t have the same customer-service mentality that exists in the West, visitors will find that people here are generally very welcoming and ready to help. At major hotels, service will, of course, not be a problem. The place that visitors might encounter some frustrations is in restaurants. When traveling with WildChina, you will have a guide every step of the way who will take you to top resturants, where our WildChina guide will make sure you receive great service. If you catch yourself in a situation where you are not receiving the customer service you are used to, remember that in China the wait staff give you space to enjoy your meal and assume that if you need anything, you’ll ask for it (or, yes, shout for it from across the room). So if you need something, don’t wait for them to come to you, wave down a waiter and ask for it.

China is starting to move toward a more attentive restaurant service standard. One of the pioneers of this movement is a hot pot restaurant chain, Haidilao, that has a wait staff training school. Haidilao is famous for wait staff that takes care of your needs before you even know you have them-even down to providing a lens cloth in case your glasses fog up while you’re enjoying the tasty soup!

“China is dirty and polluted.”
What! No way… well, yes, maybe a little. Air quality in the big cities can go back and forth. Sometimes we get beautiful blue skies-days where you can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. On other days, things can feel a little gray.

If pollution is a major deterrent, just avoid the winter season when cities burn coal for heat. During the rest of the year, pollution levels are much more manageable and unlikely to affect your trip.

As far as cleanliness, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at just how much manpower China employs to keep its streets and public transportation systems clean. Sometimes public bathrooms aren’t up to the West’s standards of clean, so bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer and make good use of bathrooms in hotels or restaurants to minimize having to use a public toilet.

“It’s too hard to get around. No one speaks English.”
Not all Chinese people will be able to talk to you in English, but you’ll find that China’s biggest cities aren’t too difficult to navigate-especially with the attentive help of your guide. We integrate more free time into the Shanghai and Beijing portions of our trips because we’re confident that visitors won’t have much trouble getting around these cities. In fact, visitors are often surprised by just how modern these cities are.  There are many restaurants that are used to having foreign customers and cabs can be flagged down anywhere in the city. Just bring your hotel contact information with the phone number and address and you’ll be fine.In cities a bit farther off the major thoroughfares, it can be tough to get around without speaking the language, so it’s best to have a guide.

A foolproof plan if you’re in need of assistance? Find a young person- someone in high school or college. They’re highly likely to speak some English and will be simply thrilled for the chance to try out their language skills with a foreigner.

“China’s too big to see in one trip. Domestic air travel takes too long and there’s too many flight delays.”
China is a big place with so much to see! That’s exactly why it’s such a fascinating destination. But to hit all the major sites and not spend too long doing it, proper planning is crucial.

Tip 1: You’re going to have to pick and choose. Trying to do everything will be overwhelming, but if you can hone in on just what kind of China experience you’re looking for, you’ll have an amazing time. When we take first-timers around China, we make sure they see the essentials in Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an, but then give room for personal taste with different journeys that focus on seeing the Pandas or getting to spend time in the Guilin karst mountains. Don’t try to fit in everything.

Tip 2:WildChina builds in flexibility on the arriving side of a travel day. We don’t schedule your Terracotta Warrior visit right after you land in Xi’an. You can spend that afternoon meandering through the shops and restaurants of the Muslim quarter and save the main event for the next day. This a way to avoid any flight delay frustrations.

Tip 3:We schedule in some ‘downtime’ for our clients. While an afternoon off may seem like a valuable slot that needs to be filled with another 3000 year old temple, it’s important to have a couple of periods into your trip to just relax, and it’s often in these unstructured times that you’ll stumble upon the most memorable China experiences!

Tip 4: There are actually direct flights or flights with only 1 stop available, depending on where you fly from.  For example, some flights to the Mid-West of America only have 1 layover and flights from Seattle can be direct depending on the airline. Also, the flight is longer than most people are used to, however international airplanes usually are really comfortable, complete with movies to watch and on flight meals and snacks.