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Help! I'm 17 and going to China for the first time.

Help! I'm 17 and going to China for the first time.

Dec 30th, 2004, 09:52 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 4
Help! I'm 17 and going to China for the first time.

Hey fellow travellors!
This is my first time posting a message in a forum but I really like the way it's set up and think it could be really useful.
I'm a 17 year old girl who loves to travel! I've been on two previous school exchanges one to Spain for 3 months and One to France for one month. Now I have the opportunity to go to Chengdu,China (in Sichuan provence) with a Chineese friend for 3 weeks this July but have no idea how to prepare. I would appreciate info. and tips on:
1. Documentation required and when to apply
2. tips for women travelling alone
3. customs and proper dress
4. recommendations on places to see

I read the guide books and really enjoy them. I have confidence that someone can help me become a smart travellor since I plan on travelling in the future.
I just want to know how to travel safely and smart but also have the time of my life!

ambitious_teen is offline  
Dec 30th, 2004, 10:34 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45,322
Hi there. I have a suggestion for you. If you also post this on the Australian Board I bet Neil_Oz will give you some good advice. He has 2 daughters in China and they have visited there also.

Have a wonderful time, and good for you to start venturing out into the world.
Have a wonderful trip.
LoveItaly is offline  
Dec 31st, 2004, 12:50 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
LoveItaly, thanks for the recommendation.

ambitious_teen, my daughters are in China under very different circumstances and in a different part of the country, so I'm not sure that their experience will be much help to you. My advice in relation to your four questions:

1. See a travel agent. You will have to buy tickets anyway. Also check the Chinese Embassy website for your country.

2. Buy a guide book. For your purposes "Lonely Planet" may be best.

But, tell me - if you're going with a Chinese friend, why do you need advice for women travelling alone?

3. This is far too extensive a subject to be covered in a forum like this. Read the guide book.

4. See above.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Dec 31st, 2004, 02:47 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 119
i'm a woman and traveled through china alone this summer, i stayed in the major cities (hong kong, xian, beijing, shanghai) and didn't have a bit of trouble....very much enjoyed myself and felt safe. that being said, i played it safe as well - didn't go out much at night, dressed modestly (pants, loafers, t-shirt), didn't engage with many strangers, etc. i walked around EVERWHERE, rode all modes of transportation and kept my days packed to fend off loneliness. all the cities i visited were so fascinating and complex, that i never felt bored...

am happy to answer more detailed questions you may have...
asykes1 is offline  
Dec 31st, 2004, 06:53 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,242
When you were in Shanghai:
1) Did people speak English?
2) Was there Dim Sum available there?
3) How was the shopping- knockoffs available? Were you able to bargain much?
4) Where did you stay?
BillT is offline  
Dec 31st, 2004, 08:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 957
Another travel forum you may find helpful is on the Lonely Planet website --- http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com
JBX is offline  
Dec 31st, 2004, 09:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,869
1. You'll need to obtain a Chinese visa. I've listed the general requirements for US passport holders but if that doesn't apply to you, please check with the Chinese embassy in your country for information. The L tourist visa will be fine in your case and for that you'll need a passport with at least 6 months validity, application form, passport photo, and the $50 visa fee. The processing time is usually 5 business days but you can get it expedited for an additional fee if necessary. The single entry visa will permit you to stay up to 30 days and is valid for 3 months from the date of issuance (i.e. you'll need to enter China within that period) so don't apply too far in advance. The Chinese embassy and consulates in the US do not accept applications by mail so you'll either need to apply in person or have someone else do so on your behalf. If that's not possible, you can use the services of a visa agency, but they'll charge a fee (on top of the visa fee).

2. Travel in China is very safe. You should use common sense and take the same general precautions you would when traveling anywhere, but China itself doesn't pose any extra safety risks.

3. Dress is very casual for the most part and Chengdu will be hot and humid in July. What are your plans for Chengdu? Does your friend have family there? I agree with Neil that 'customs' is a very broad subject to address, but if you have some specific questions, I'll try to answer.

4. Are you looking for recommendations for China in general or places closer to Chengdu? How much time will you have to travel around? What are your interests? Within Sichuan province, you might consider Jiu Zhai Gou and Huang Long national parks located in the northern part of Sichuan for nature/scenery. If you're interested in Tibetan culture, Lhasa is a 2 hour flight from Chengdu. Whatever you decide, I suggest making your travel arrangements locally after you arrive in Chengdu to save money.

Hope this helps.

The best one stop shopping for knock offs in Shanghai is Xiang Yang market. You'll find watches, handbags, clothing, shoes, CD's/DVD's as well as some craft items there. Bargaining is expected (quite a bit) with market vendors.
Patty is offline  
Dec 31st, 2004, 02:09 PM
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Posts: 4
A big thank you to everyone who replied! I was delighted to read all the helpful information and tips. I feel I am better preared for this trip and know what paper work I need to get done.

In response to Neil_oz's question: I am traveling with my Chineese friend, she is from China but goes to school here during the school year. The information for women traveling alone was more for the flight home which i'll be doing alone, I more or less wanted to assure my mom that it will be a safe trip, though I myself dont have any doubts!
I have a question about the visa though, is it best to get it through the travel agent or directly from the consulate?

thank you for relating your experiences, I found it very useful and assures me that I'll have an amazing trip!

I found your information on visas helpful as well as the places to see. To answer your questions: I dont have any set plans, my friend has been asking me to spend the summer with her in her country for a while now, so I thought I'd take her up on her offer! It's more or less an opportunity to see China and see how she lives when she's not here! It's exciting! We will be staying with family and friends in Beijing for the first week, she want's to show me around, then we'll fly to Chengdu and stay with her family for the rest of the time before I fly back home by myself. I understand that the term "customs" is broad, I mainly just wanted to know about ettique so I didnt do anything wrong that I wasnt aware of.
I have a medical question: are there any shots I should get or anything thing to avoid that could cause illness specific to China. I've travelled before, I just want to know if there is anything specific.

Thanks again

ambitious_teen is offline  
Dec 31st, 2004, 07:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,256
My daughter was 20 when she was in China and I believe her advice to you would be to dress respectfully. She only wore her spaghetti strap shirts a couple times before she got tired of having her picture taken.
kp is offline  
Jan 1st, 2005, 01:34 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 5
The following link provides some very basic safety and security advice covering the major issues that you need to be aware of when travelling anywhere - it was written with Thailand in mind but is nevertheless sound and relevent to any independent travel


DadOnTheRoad is offline  
Jan 1st, 2005, 04:20 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
a_t, a few small pointers:

* If you're staying in private residences, technically your hosts should notify the local Public Security Bureau (the cops). My daughters didn't bother when we stayed with them on the grounds that neither they nor in all probability the PSB guys wanted the red tape, but run it past your friend. Foreigners staying in hotels have their passport details taken at check-in as a matter of course.

* I haven't checked, but I would think that your Department of State website would have information or at least links dealing with vaccinations. Don't forget a tetanus booster if you need one. Take a reasonable supply of common medications and toiletries (I got a cold, and wished that I'd taken aspirin and cough medicine as an alternative to miming my needs at pharmacies). Your doctor should have access to a database of requirements for different countries. They'll be influenced by whether you're likely to be in rural areas and in what parts of the country.

* The Chinese sewerage system can't handle toilet paper. You'll just have to do as the locals do and put used paper in a plastic bag for disposal.

* You shouldn't have any trouble with your return journey. If you have to make your own way to the airport, Chinese taxi services are cheap, efficient and honest, but stay clear of unofficial "cabs", identifiable by having no driver registration on the dashboard, a dodgy meter on the end of a cable and no decal on the rear window indicating meter charges. Do NOT let anyone other than the airline check-in attendant handle your bags. If you have to get from A to B by cab, ensure that you have your destination written down in Chinese, as you can bet that the driver won't have any English. Although you should definitely make an effort to learn some Mandarin words and phrases, don't rely on anyone understanding your pronunciation.

* You should definitely read up on good manners - any decent guide book will have a section devoted to this. Take particular notice of eating etiquette, especially what to do at restaurant banquets (no doubt you'll be guest of honour at more than one), also what to do about gifts. If you make a blunder don't worry too much - unless it's truly offensive, I'm sure your hosts will make allowances for the fact that you're a 'laowai'. You may be confronted with items of food that will test you - if so, just grin and bear it.

* China is a safe country in general and the Chinese people are overwhelmingly honest and law-abiding, but like everywhere it has its petty criminals - take sensible care of your valuables, especially your passport and tickets. Take 2 photocopies of key documents, leave one set at home and store the other in your baggage, just in case.

* Don't be alarmed by these and other cautions. Although the language barrier can be frustrating, the Chinese are friendly, interested in and helpful to visiting foreigners, and terrific hosts.

* If you have a problem, there'll be no shortage of people trying to sort it out (albeit some may use the opportunity to try to sell you something). If you're a blonde you'll have to get used to old ladies touching your hair.

I'm sure this will be a great experience for you.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jan 5th, 2005, 02:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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As far as getting a visa through an agency or the consulate directly, one method isn't better than the other, it's just a trade off between time and cost. I would make the decision based on how much the visa agencies charge vs. how far you have to go to get to the consulate. If you apply yourself, you'll need to visit the consulate twice (once for dropoff and again for pick up) unless you can convince them to return it in a prepaid overnight envelope but I haven't had much luck with that at the LA consulate.

As for health concerns, be prepared for possible stomach trouble during your trip and bring along pepto tablets and an anti-diarrheal. Stick to drinking bottled water, you may want to brush your teeth with it as well. Overall though I think sanitation standards in China have improved quite a bit since my first trip in 1992 and I personally have not had any problems in recent years.
Patty is offline  
Jan 8th, 2005, 01:53 PM
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Posts: 4
This trip is starting to take shape now, my friend is making lots of plans and it lookes as though i'll get the grand tour. She even plans on us staying in Beijing for a few days so she can show me The Great Wall!

I was just wondering how long it takes to get the visa and if i'm leaving in the summer, when should I apply?
Thanks Patty for the tips, usually people dont tell you about the less glamourous side of travelling, it'll be useful.
Also, for a two week trip (we decided to shorten it), how much money do you think is appropriate? And in what form should I bring it?
Thanks Again
ambitious_teen is offline  
Jan 9th, 2005, 01:14 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
You can get all the information here:


As Patty says, you can do it by mail, in person, or through a travel agent. Application form can be downloaded from that site. Since it takes 5-7 days for them to process, plus time of mail, I'd probably do it with maybe 6 weeks out.

How much money to bring is hard to answer. 5* hotels and fancy restaurants are very expensive in China, but where most local eat can cost maybe 1/5 to 1/3 of regular American prices. Public transportation and admissions also are very inexpensive.

Bring some cash (i.e. American dollars), but you can also use ATMs in large cities like Beijing to get the local currency RMB (yuan). Use ATMs as much as possible as that's the easiest and cheapest way.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 9th, 2005, 12:40 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 4
I've been doing a lot of research and have a better idea of how to go about the paper work now.

I plan on applying for my tourist visa two months prior to my departure date, as I live close to the embassy, I plan on going in person. I'm just wondering how old you have to be to apply for the visa.

As I dont want to take a lot of cash, I plan on bringing travellors cheques and my card. What type of card is best ie. debit, visa, or other? If I brought a visa, would it actually be convienent to use? In my research, I learned that a travellor should not bring RMB/yuans over, so should my forms of money be in my currency? And for the return trip, how to I change the RMB/yuans back over?
I dont want to be without any money for my trip back home, so is it possible to use dollars in the airports?

Thanks for your support
ambitious_teen is offline  
Jan 9th, 2005, 01:32 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
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ambitious_teen, think about what you're asking for! How can anyone estimate how much money you'll need from the information you've supplied? How about providing a proposed itinerary (places you'll be, for how long, whether staying in a hotel or privately, internal travel arrangements and so forth)?

Who told you that you shouldn't bring Chinese currency with you, and why? I'd be taking a few hundred RMB with (get it from a local bank or Amex office) and a debit card, combined with a credit card if you like - although I assume that a 17-year-old schoolgirl would at the least need a parental guarantee. Check with the card issuer that you'll have no problems using it in Chinese ATMs, especially Bank of China. A credit card won't be much use for many smaller purchases such as meals in less-expensive restaurants but can be used for air tickets and hotels. Our Visa card was issued by our regular bank and also functions as a debit card.

You'll probably find that your hotels will ask you for a deposit at time of check-in, either credit card or cash.

If you live close to the Chinese Embassy, why not extend your research to them and ask them for the visa info you need?

You can change any excess Chinese currency into US$ at the airport's Bureau de Change. Make sure your ticket includes departure tax, though. Departure tax (a lower amount) also applies to internal flights.

Give yourself plenty of time for airport check-ins, by the way. Major airports have many more planes than aerobridges, so you'll usually find yourself being bussed from the departure lounge to the plane.
Neil_Oz is offline  

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