Hitchhiking and Backpacking in China

Update:04 May 2007
China, formally known as the People's Republic of China is about the same size as the USA, and has coasts on the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea. It borders Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam to the South; Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to the West; Russia and Mongolia to the North and North Korea to the East.

China is a very diverse place with large variations in culture, language, customs, and economic levels. The major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai are rich and modern. However, more than half the popuation, some 800 million rural residents, still live as peasants.

Keep in Mind...

China has recently experienced a huge economic explosion, and many rural residents (over 200 million by some estimates) have moved to the cities, creating a two-tier social structure in most cities. While urban locals and recent migrants ometimes have roughly equal economic footing, the latter group tend to behave in a manner that many people (local or foreign) find inappropriate. However, these behaviors are usually benign in nature. The lesson is this: keep an open mind; if you do this, you'll find that behind the idiosyncratic and sometimes plainly unrefined and coarse manners, people tend to be warm and friendly.

It is illegal for foreigners to drive in China without a Chinese license- international licenses are currently not recognised. Train travel is the major mode of long-distance transportation for the Chinese themselves, with an extensive network of routes covering the entire country. Travelling by public city buses or long distance buses is inexpensive and ideal for in-city and short distances transportation.
Walking across a road or very close to a roadway in China can be dangerous because pedestrians do not have the 'right of way'. Use extreme caution.

The Mandarin language is virtually universal in Mainland China, though many dialects do exist. Although most Chinese are taught some English at school, few learn it well enough to be able to understand an English conversation. Outside of the largest cities and the major tourist areas, it is quite rare to find locals who speak decent English. While it is very different from English or other Western languages, there is no reason that a traveller can not learn a bit of Chinese; every bit you learn will be of enormous help. The main difficulty with learning to speak Chinese is the pronunciation; grammar is very simple. You can largely get away with pronouncing Chinese "flat" (without the tones), and still be understood. If you do try English, keep your questions and answers very simple. Instead of, "Would you mind if I come back tomorrow?" -try, "I will come back tomorrow."

Petty crime is not considered a big problem throughout most of China. Just use normal safety precautions and do not flaunt what you have. In cities, beware of scams that involve you becoming someone's "new best friend", to be taken to the cool spots for free. This can turn into a high-pressure situation for you to spend money at a shop or otherwise give up what you have.

Bring your own toilet paper and soap. Don't expect to find these at most public toilets, and prepare to crouch rather than sit!

Internet access can be easily found for cheap in most cities, and in many towns that bring in tourists.


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