I traveled to China with my family during my Sophomore and Junior year of high school, with each trip being about 10 days. China was an incredibly unique experience, and there was definitely some traveler shock.
My first shock? The toilets. While the airport, hotels, and main metropolitan areas cater to our Western tastes with a sitting toilet, I found out that the more traditional bathrooms have squatting toilets. There are also small waste baskets in most of the bathrooms to accommodate toilet paper disposal; and yes, some of these bathrooms did have the accompanying smell. I thought it was weird at first, but they actually use a smaller pipe size in their plumbing that toilet paper can clog. After a bit of practice, it really wasn't too bad. They rate their public restrooms, so I would stick as close to a 4 or 5 star as possible (though not all ratings seem to be accurate).
My tip? I would insist on traveling with a bottle of hand sanitizer and pack of tissues on your person at all times. Many of the bathrooms don't have tissues while others don't have soap and /or sinks to wash your hands.
My next shock: Like many other countries, the water is so different from our own that they recommend not drinking from the tap. Our guide told us to even use the bottled water for brushing our teeth, but the members of our group who used tap were just fine.
My tip: I would definitely say drink bottled water and other bottled drinks. If you're going to be adventurous, drink from the sink of the hotel. There were always tons of street vendors when I was there who sold water bottles for cheap. While it may not be the best sustainable tourism practice, I didn't have the alternative filtering water bottle at the time.
Just a few other travel tips:
- Make sure your documentation is correct. I unknowingly had the wrong gender listed on my passport... luckily I just got a few laughs and stares when I went through customs. Double check your passport, Visa, and airport information.
- We made color copies of our passports to leave at the hotel so we had the originals on us. You never know what can happen, and it's always a good idea to have your passport on you in case.
- If you have travel insurance (which I would strongly recommend), you should carry a copy of your policy numbers and other important info as well- it doesn't do you much good in the hospital if your papers are sitting back at the hotel, or worse, at home
- Don't touch the animals! Being raised by a vet, I had this ingrained in my mind at an early age. They can be soo cute or lonely, but you don't know if they're healthy. It could be fine, or you could unknowingly take something back with you to your own pets, or even get something yourself. Even domestic animals may not have necessary vaccines, so my advice is to not take any chances,
I hope this gave you at least a brief intro to travel in China. If you would like to learn more, visit utourdoc for other helpful tips, and the CDC's travel page to learn about the regional risks.