When it comes to Backpacking in China, there are two solid claims that are crucial: it is insanely interesting and it is crazy big.
So there are only so many tips you can apply to this piece of land, home to some 1.3 billion people. The number that plays a major role in shaping both China’s culture and the Chinese behavior.
Don’t get too surprised if you hear a person sing while he or she is walking the street alone or is simply talking to himself while squatting in a cabin next to yours in a public toilet. Privacy has a whole different concept in China!
All the toilet business does not only end with squatting and singing. Some places don’t even have doors! And some, like stations in more rural areas go even further, providing you with just a low wall.
As a foreigner you will attract attention
As a foreigner you will attract attention no matter what you do, so once you sit down to squat in the low walls toilet, people might be looking at you. Yes, squatting and staring at you! Just remember, they are looking at you not because you are doing what you are doing, but because you are a foreigner (if that is not comforting enough, think how unhealthy it is to hold it all in!). Perks of backpacking in China, I know.
People in China are extremely friendly, once you manage to find one that you can actually talk to. They will call your hostel, give you a lift and help in any way that they can. If they can understand what you need.
pocket dictionary or an app
In my experience, those that do not speak English get somewhat horrified by your approach and wave their hands so badly that you can’t even squeeze in these 5 phrases in Chinese that you know. So getting around can be tricky, especially when you are backpacking in China, thus a pocket dictionary or an app is a good idea!
Japanese style rooms
Japanese style rooms are pretty common through out China. They are cheap and offer a bit of privacy. Staying in one is also an experience in it self, so worth a try, but spending several weeks in such rooms is challenging. The mats you sleep on have a very specific smell, which I found interesting only the first hour or so. Furthermore, there is no sound isolation, and Chinese are the noisiest people I have met! Basically, you will live in a closet in a common hall.
Menu might be only in Chinese
And above all China is delicious! Each region is very different, but local places offer simple, delicious and cheap meals. Menu might be only in Chinese, so my advice go through the place, look at what others are eating and simply point to the dish you would like. While when choosing a place to go, look where locals eat – they know where food is good and if there are many people, the place does not store food for too long. Yet still, bring the right meds just in case.