Travel & Transport

Moving within China is amazing and I can honestly say taking a train has become almost a hobby of mine. They have High speed trains of different scales that pretty much get anywhere in the country.

You can get to Beijing from Shanghai (1207km/750 miles) in 4 and a half hours. There are flights all over too. If you’re working on a budget they have a normal slow train called a “sleeper” train. Which is an experience in itself and sometimes works out better for your trip due to times you wish to arrive at your destination(Side note: always choose the “soft sleeper – trust me). If your budget is even smaller than that there are extensive buses that go all over too. Though those are more of a nightmare of mine, but they serve a purpose to get to airports etc.

They have public sharing bicycles in most cities now and even started rolling out public sharing cars, though they won’t be eligible for foreigners passports, who knows what the future holds.

So you have made it to the Middle Kingdom (a direct translation) but you are fresh off the boat and fresh faced and have no idea what is around the corner at any given moment. Fear not. This guide should help you over come any of the immediate points that will help to transition into your new life.


China is massive. It is impossible to tell you what weather to expect. The north gets cold enough to build a city of ice sculptures in Harbin and the south has a tropical island called “The Hawaii of China” in Sanya and then everything in between. Pollution is a problem, though getting better, so it may be worth investing in a face mask once here, though it isn’t something you really need to worry too much about, unless you’re going to Beijing or nearby cities.


Now if you haven’t been in to China it would be difficult to really visualise how much a tenner might get you.

Now, baring in mind that economy fluctuates significantly day-to-day, it is a kind of safe guide to say 10 RMB is equal to 1 GBP. But what you can buy with that 10 RMB will be far greater than that 1 pound.

You will need to drink bottled water, daily unless you’re a fan of boiling water. You can get a bottle for about 2RMB 3 or 4 if you want that real fancy water.
My favourite bar serves tequila shots for 10RMB each. A big mac is about 20RMB. 40RMB buys you two spirit mixers. 80 RMB is a fancy meal for 2.

300RMB is enough for a night out that you’ll probably drink more than anyone would recommend. I don’t know if I can really express clearly to you how cheap China is or can be, but it is a place that allows you to live lavishly without really trying.

The Food

Chinese food, to the west, is often something that you are warned about. Random animal meat or how strange it is etc. Which is unfair, as local people of China would generally be as horrified as you to eat a cat or dog. Though there are a selection of restaurants that may serve such dishes, they are usually extremely up front about such. The biggest thing to fear is “Street food” which is equal parts amazing and terrible. You can feast on something that cost small change but it may also leave you hugging your toilet for a couple of days too. However if we are to take an average Chinese meal you’re looking at 30 – 50RMB (less than a fiver GBP) which is for a meal or several dishes (which is how they do it) and probably a drink.

Portion sizes are huge too. The amount you pay, obviously, differs on city size and type of food.

Generally Chinese food is delicious and extremely diverse. You can get sweet, fried and spicy traditional food from any restaurant. You can learn the dishes you like an find them repeated in a lot of others.

Internet & Apps

Your life will be QR codes and paying via your phone. It is amazing and super simple that any idiot can pick it up. The two apps you’ll need are Wechat (known as Weixin) and Alipay (known as Zhufubao) these two apps do everything in the country. Pay taxis, connect to their version of Amazon, deliver food, order cinema tickets, pay for anything in a shop. You can even send and receive money from other people, which is always a nice thing to be able to do.

We chat is also the primary messaging app in China, it literally does everything you need. Have a friend with a birthday? Quickly send them a “hongbao” (red packet) with some money. Need to pay your friend back for lunch? Bam! sent in two seconds.

Wifi is free and everywhere with no signing up needed in bars or restaurants (just passwords). Starbucks still clings to making you sign in with a phone number but other places go the easier route of telling you their passwords and making that connectivity so much easier. Sadly this does encourage people to live looking at the phone screens. But how else can you see when you get one of those hongbaos?!


Partying is a different experience in China. It has several levels and can be very different depending who you are with.

Work colleagues like to go to KTV. Which is karaoke in private rooms that you can order snacks and alcohol to your rooms and have a wide selection of songs with more than a fair amount of songs you’ll know too. The beers, whilst a little pricey here, definitely help the confidence of getting into that first song. Chinese people love to sing.

Bars in China are either big cafes or small clubs. They love their beer and order in a vast amount of bizarre and lovely IPA beers and stouts, things you won’t know of, but would like to try. Though, you are likely going to be paying for the pleasure as they’re imported with a price that matches.(anywhere from 20 – 60RMB for a bottle) Though they will have cheaper options.

Clubs are all too real and all too loud. They can make or break the night. You could get free “alcohol” for just being a foreigner. (depending on the reputability of the club it might not be real alcohol, so be careful – the hangovers are worse than death.) Clubs are expensive. So arriving after a cheaper place is a good game plan.

Drinks in the supermarkets or BBQ joints around the city are dirt cheap, and it is quite easy to go from “Just a quick BBQ and beer” to “Woooooo, Let’s go swimming in that lake”.

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