Safety in China. Travelling on our own

May 14th, 2007, 10:56 PM
  #1  
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Safety in China. Travelling on our own

Hi,

Has anybody had any bad experience in China? Im planning to visit Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Zhongdian, Chongqing and Beijing as well as to make the Yangtze cruise with my wife on our own. In addition to the normal cautions, is there something special to consider in these places?
fernando is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 04:45 AM
  #2  
 
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When you're approached by young girls trying to practice their English with you, walk on. Do not go to have tea or anything else with them. Well known scams that still get lots of tourists.

When you check in at a hotel, thoroughly check the room - count the towels, make sure there are no burned out light bulbs, the mini-bar has all the listed items. Otherwise you will be paying for those items.
rkkwan is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 04:59 AM
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This one applies to everywhere in the world, not just China. But don't anything to panhandlers. If you give to one, out of a sudden you'll be surrounded by dozens.
rkkwan is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 05:14 AM
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Well - you won't be on your own will you? there will be two of you.

Never had any bad experiences. Don't tend to stay in places with mini-bars, though.

As for people wanting to practise their English. It is always hard to work out what is going on there. It would be so sad to rebuff someone who really was, wouldn't it? But as rkk says, never get too deeply involved.

China is not that hard to travel around. I was there 10 years ago and really was alone. Public transport is good - you just have to put a pile of effort into accessing it.

It's the language that is the problem - but 10 years down the track there will be many more people that speak English.

Africa, on the other hand, presents less of a language problem but if you want to go a little off the beaten track you must be prepared to busk it - pick up trucks, travel with ducks.

I did find China harder at the time.

But in 2007 it should be a doddle.
chimani is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 06:43 AM
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Fernando...may I ask, how long will you be in China? Do you plan to use guides in any of the locations? We used guides in BJ and Guilin mainly for their automobiles and it worked out very well. Just returned from BJ, Xian, Guilin and Shanghai.

The caveats listed in posts above should be followed closely, otherwise it's not much different than independent traveling in any foreign country...but you have to depend on other people driving or on public transportation. We have driven everywhere we have visited except China, the former USSR and Japan.

Stu T.
tower is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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I would avoid the long bus rides, especially overnight ones. Those are sleeper buses with questionable hygiene, and serious accidents are common.

When you're traveling in Yunnan with little or no train service, you may be tempted to ride those. I would avoid them at all cost.
rkkwan is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 11:00 PM
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Thanka all for your valuable comments.

Answering Towers question, Ill be in China 3 weeks and Im planning to use guides in order to facilitate the logistics. Im considering China Highlights or Chinaonyourmind. By the way, I posted a separate forum asking for sources of independant guides, who Id be interested on considering instead of these agencies.

Dear Rkkwan, what do you mean about avoiding to ride in Yunnan? I have great expectations about Yunnan and I know it could be more "rustic" than other places in China. The plan is to be driven by a guide from Kunming to Dali to Lijiang and Shangri-La.

Thanks again.
fernando is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 02:54 AM
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I mean to avoid long overnight bus rides, for example in Yunnan.

In general, there is no reason to do so, as there are plenty of flights from Kunming to Dali or Lijiang; and there are daytime buses between Dali to Lijiang. And there's overnight train between Kunming and Dali.

I am just using Yunnan as an example. All I am saying is avoid longhaul buses, especially overnight ones.
rkkwan is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 06:17 AM
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You are welcome to Guilin, when you walk around the bus or train station many touts will ask you to kalaoke, massage, do not listen and follow them.
jadeleo is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 08:12 AM
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Watch currency very carefully!!!
In my group of 21, 3 people received counterfeit 100 RMB bills in a 24 hour period. Cash from hotels and banks go through a machine that checks validity, so you are normally safe with 100s and 50s from those sources, just watch them put the bills through the machine. The problem is street vendors and some taxis, so every day before leaving the hotel, break a 100 to smaller bills. One of the schemes is to accept your 100 RMB note then deny the agreed upon price of merchandise, so you demand your money back and they hand you a fake bill. One woman saw the bill came from a different pocket, so she demanded vendor reach into original pocket--still got a fake! I'm going to post this as separate post as well with instructions on fake detection.
Our tour guide encouraged us to go out in Beijing and Guilin on our own, but asked that in Xi'an we leave hotel in small groups and leave passports and money back at the hotel. In the other cities I walked around by myself and took cabs alone (female) without problems.

Aleta is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 09:13 AM
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Safeguarding your passport and money is good advice no matter where you are traveling, but I'd like to know why your guide seemed to think Xi'an was more dangerous than Beijing. I (older female) have traveled alone in both and detected no difference so far as feeling safe. (Xi'an was a better walking town.)
thursdaysd is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 10:25 PM
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Dear Jadeleo, Aleta and Thursdaysd, thanks very much for your additional comments.

Dear rkkwan, thanks for clarificatiion. I feel better now.

Guys, whats your opinion/experience about the best place for exchanging USD to the Chinese currency? Just arriving at the airport?
fernando is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 04:29 AM
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Fernando - I thought you were travelling "on your own"? An adventurer - a free spirit.

But - no - you will have a guide. So you are not travelling "on your own" at all - or is your definition different from mine?

That's a disappointment. I thought for a moment there was someone out there who might actually see the inside of a Chinese bus station.

Don't think so some how.

You are in good company with the other posters. They haven't either.

But they are experts on holidaying the way you want to holiday.

I'm sure your guides, etc, will keep you as safe as houses - why shouldn't they? doesn't sound as if you are taking any risks.

chimani is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 05:55 AM
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"You are in good company with the other posters. They haven't either."

chimani - don't jump to conclusions. I saw the inside of several bus stations, not to mention train stations. And most of the buses were small rural ones, not the bigger long distance ones with AC and blaring video. Last trip I had a guide for a day in Datong and a day in Suzhou, but otherwise I spent seven weeks traveling around on my own. And I doubt I will ever speak Mandarin.

fernando - just use the ATM at the airport to get yuan directly. Check with your bank to see what fees it will charge - mine has started adding a foreign-funds conversion fee on top of the "not-our-ATM" fee.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 06:04 PM
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Thanks again thursdaysd.

Hi chimani. Yes I also think you exagerated. Im not really a backpacker although I sometimes tend to do things like that. But youre right, I still like somewhat the comfort. What Id actually like the most is to have free time to go and explore some of the places that Ive visited before but now on my own, solo, lonely. Well, with my wife. There are some places that being visited alone wouldnt be prudent, like the Uyuni salt flat for example, specially in the rain season.

Ive been on my own in Europe but of course that doesnt count since everything is very easy, specially in the Western side.

Anyway, its always nice to share our thoughts...
fernando is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 08:07 AM
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Ask the locals and they will all tell you Xi'an is less safe than Beijing or Guilin. I'm not saying it's dangerous but just keep that in mind and stay alert when you venture out.
travelmug is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 04:34 PM
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My wife and I will also be visiting China this Nov. for four weeks. BJ, Xian, Kunming and surround, Guilin, Pearl Delta, Shanghai and surround, we are apprehensive as well. Therefore, this post really interests me. We like to travel indepenently without guide which we have done successfully in other part of the world. China on the other hand, we hear a lot of stories of tourists being rip-off, or even robbed. We even hear that cars are being stopped and robbed at interstate hiways. Some of our friend even warn us as not to take any public transport except hotel arranged car. I think these people are just a bit paranoid and over-reacting, there is law and order in China, is there not?
I think rkkwan said it best, avoid bus station or even train station at night, as most guide book will also suggest, or parks at night, do not leave yourself open for unnecessary risk.
We usually leave our passport in our hotel safe and travel with photo copies, along with our driver's license, would this work in China?
The only night train we are planning to take is from BJ to Xian, will fly or day train the rest. I also hear that long distance buses have poor safety records as compare with train travel.
One can never be too careful as safety is most important.
samuell is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 05:03 PM
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China is generally safe. Your chance of being a victim of a violent crime is very low.

However, I was just listing a few things that one should be aware of. And sometimes I feel that foreign tourists have a somewhat naive notion that Chinese people are generally "gentle", "honest", "innocent" or whatever; and leave their guards down when traveling in China.
rkkwan is offline  
May 18th, 2007, 05:03 PM
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I'm really puzzled by all this concern about safety in China. I've been three times. As I said above, the last time was seven weeks on my own, including the east coast and southwest, and the time before was with a tour that used local transport and budget hotels. I did detect an amateurish attempt to steal from my backpack on the last trip (in Hangzhou, among the big crowds for National Day), but otherwise have felt very safe. I'd be more worried in Rome than Beijing.

My understanding is that the authorities take a dim view of crime against foreigners. Of course, I have read the posts here about the tea scams, but I'm a woman, and they seem to be directed at men.
thursdaysd is offline  
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