Independent Travel In China


What was I so worried about?
Before we came to China I was genuinely concerned about visiting this vast and diverse country. I think the language was my biggest fear. Language and lettering. As a (self-acknowleged) control freak I think I was bothered that I’d potentially be truly lost all the time.

Now that we’ve been here for nearly three weeks I’m wondering what the hell I was so worried about.
Sure, we can’t speak Mandarin or read the script and have to use a phrasebook or rely on some random stranger who can speak English to help out but overall China has been quite easy to navigate so far. There are, of course, some areas for improvement e.g. ordering in restaurants that don’t have an English menu (or English-speaking staff) so that we don’t end up with stewed eggplant when we thought we were ordering bbq ribs.

We do know how to say “two cold beers” in Chinese and that’s been working pretty well :) Priorities, priorites, people.

We’ve met a greater diversity of people in Chinese hostels than in South America or South East Asia. Most YHA China hostels seem to offer private rooms which give a pleasant respite from shared showers (and their sometimes noxious drains) and the hostels themselves are genuinely comfortable. There are Hiltons and Marriots and similar international chain hotels in most of the Chinese cities we’ve visited but the hostels, although sometimes out-of-the-way and maybe a notch or two on either side of “good” or “bad”, are giving us a locally hosted and internationally flavored version of China which is better (I think) than the uniformity of brand hotels.

We have had to change our travel style in China. It’s too damn big and there are too many people. We’ve found that we just can’t turn up at a train or bus station and get the next transport out. The Travelzen website has been a life-saver. I still prefer trains, but honestly, the distances are too far. I had initially dismissed internal flights as too expensive until a friend introduced us to Travelzen. We’ve been able to get seriously cheap flights (less than USD$100) between large cities booking less than three days in advance. This has really helped logisitics for this part of our trip.

We’ll be in Beijing for a week. Today we visited the heavenly Palace of Heaven in beautiful sunshine. We plan to see the Forbidden City, the Great Wall (natch) and the Ancient Observatory over the next few days. Then we’ll swing west to follow our planned route over the old Silk Road into Central Asia. If you’d like to follow along at home, I highly recommend Insight Guides Silk Road. We picked this book up in Shanghai and have been loving the photos, stories and background information.

Like what you’ve read and interested in reading more? Subscribe to the WanderMom rss feed, follow me on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

Information on traveling to China with Children.

Related Posts

[catlist tags=China]


Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
This entry was posted in China, International Escapades and tagged , on by .

About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

9 thoughts on “Independent Travel In China

  1. walkingontravels

    I know exactly how you feel. The first time I traveled to China I was a nervous wreck. Now I am back traveling alone with my almost 2 year old. Granted I am here on business and have some support from my Chinese colleagues, but still. If I had never been to China before, I don’t think I would have brought him with me this time. The people are just so amazing over here. I couldn’t wait to get back.
    Beijing is AMAZING! Have an incredible time. I can’t wait to hear about your trip through the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. What section are you going two? Those two places are still the highlight of my trip. Make sure you hit the Summer Palace though. It is worth it!

  2. Sherae

    So glad we bumped into you. Enjoy your journey and hey thanks for the travelzen travel tip. Didn’t know about that website but will find that very helpful planning our next adventure outside Chendgu.


  3. Bluegreen Kirk

    I would love to travel to China. I have only heard great things about visiting there well there have been a few mishaps but still worth visiting. I did hear that China was a large place so you have to kinda pace yourself unless you are going to be staying for awhile.

  4. Amy

    Glad you wrote this. We plan on going to China with our little family too but I have found the research and the general idea of travel in China overwhelming! Glad to know it is not as bad as I perceive it to be!

  5. Shawna

    I love reading your blog! I would never have considered this kind of long term travel with my kids but now it is a spark in the back of my mind. Thanks!

  6. Aimee is also a great site for flights in China and they have a v good English service. If you’re planning on doing any train travel, check out as a useful resource for schedules and pricing.

  7. Pingback: House-hunting in China -- Easier than it Seems | Travels with a Nine Year Old

  8. Pingback: House-hunting in China -- Easier than it SeemsEscapeArtistes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *