Posing travel to China by free was, in the past, a journey only suitable for intrepid, however, doing so now has become an acceptable option. The economic, political and social changes that the Asian giant has experienced have opened up endless possibilities when it comes to discovering a vast country full of contrasts.
Communication difficulties - in China, very little English spoken - and their particular customs, which often clash with Western basic norms, add greater doses of emotion to an adventure that leaves no one indifferent. And it is that the beauty and the spectacular nature of landscapes and cities and the character of its people will make you fall in love.
Currently it is possible to find flights from Spanish airports to different Chinese cities at very interesting prices, so if you decide to buy tickets, beyond documenting the destination, keep in mind the main formalism: you need an entry visa . You will spend a few weeks getting it, so process it one or two months in advance (not earlier than three months, since it could go extinct).
Traveling without a visa can cause serious problems with the authorities, detention, and even expulsion from the country. Check the requirements for your specific destination. Approaching corners like Tibet, for example, must be done through authorized and group agencies, and entering and leaving Hong Kong or Macao from mainland China requires a visa with multiple entries.
To request it, it is essential that the passport has a minimum validity of six months, so that, if your documentation is about to expire, renew it and avoid unnecessary shocks .
You can apply for the visa at the Chinese Visa Application Center in Madrid, at the Consulate of Barcelona or on the Internet through China Visa Direct , the latter option only available if you are dealing with groups or a minimum of two people who plan perform the same itinerary. The price ranges between € 60 and around € 140, depending on whether it done in person in Barcelona, in the office of the Spanish capital or digitally (approximately € 80).
Health insurance and foreign exchange
With regard to health issues, it is essential that before leaving you get a travel insurance that includes medical, health and evacuation coverage. And it is that the Chinese health system is private and, in case of needing to be attended, the costs could become high.
You should also bear in mind that in such a large country, the infrastructure is disparate. While in large cities there are centers whose medical care is good, in many rural areas care is precarious or practically nil. In any case, one of the big handicaps in this sense is compression, since in hospitals, the level of use of English is really low.
During the trip, with the exception of very few exceptions, you will not be able to use the foreign credit card. They just do not accept it. The locals have their own bank card exclusively for them. So, be forewarning and carry cash on top.
You can acquire the currency upon arrival in the country, since the change in Chinese territory is much more favorable for our pocket, especially if you perform the operation at the Bank of China, one of the largest commercial banks owned by the state.
Such a large country requires large journeys, so plan well what you want to see, the routes and means of transport to use. If you decide to opt for the plane, do not worry, the airports are quite new and are usually well organized. You can buy the tickets in time to get more beneficial prices.
Do not ever rent a car. The country's traffic is hellish and you are likely to throw in the towel before facing the chaos that reigns on the streets of your cities. The train, on the other hand, is a better option. Although many of them are old and often crowded, with the exception of high-speed ones, they are a valid solution. Traveling on some of these railroads is an experience in itself.
The buses also tend to be old and slow, but can be a solution when opting for short trips. For longer trips by road, there are bus-beds, ideal for journeys longer than five hours. You will sleep in bunks, although you must be prepared for the abrupt driving that characterizes the traffic of the country.
Finally, to move around the city, taxis -with well-visible taximeters- are a good option, although you can also opt for the Chinese version of the Uber, Didi Chuxing, it is cheap and comfortable, but often the use of the card Credit can be a handicap.
If you do not decide on any of these possibilities, you will always have the tuk-tuk, much cheaper, or the bicycle - the national means of transport.
The Chinese cultural abyss can be a shock for Westerners. Beyond the language barrier, do not try to understand the locals with gestures, as it is usually very complicated. Although what will most shock you, surely, are some of their customs, which do not always fall within the parameters required by the label in our homes.
Do not be surprised if you notice that they spit, burp or yawn with total calm or even if they throw papers on the floor or approach you excessively, for them they are habitual attitudes. We advise you to try to ignore it, otherwise you can have some bad times.
But, surely, what can get you uncomfortable is the lack of hygiene in your public toilets, especially in remote areas. They are spaces without any privacy, equipped with simple holes in which to fulfill the needs, and in which hygiene shines by its absence. If you can avoid it, do not approach them.
Telephone and internet
If you want to use your mobile phone or for example, you need to buy a essay for your teacher, do not pretend to buy a SIM card, this is only available for Chinese numbers, although there are some plans that include 4G for foreigners. You can buy them at the airport, hotels or tourist establishments. The other option is to wait to connect when you arrive at your accommodation.
You'll notice that Wi-Fi is available everywhere, but usually it's only available for local devices. The only way to access is through WeChat, an application that integrates mail, messaging, social networks, translator (a very useful tool this last one, by the way).