China has for centuries been a magnet for adventure-seekers. From its mist-shrouded mountain temples to its jungles, deserts and coastline, this large country offers much in the way of outdoor activities. A few things might be worth noting as you prepare for a trip to China, however. Useful tips might address China's political situation, how to avoid scams and how best to ensure your safety as you travel.
Understand that China is a police state run by a single party. As such, it is extremely sensitive to alternate viewpoints, particularly of the political variety. Wearing a "Free Tibet" T-shirt or handing out photos of the Dalai Lama, then, could land you in serious trouble. These are obvious examples, of course, but even something as seemingly innocent as a frank political conversation with a local might lead to deportation or worse. Bottom line: traveling in China can be loads of fun, but to avoid trouble be prepared to keep your mouth shut from time to time on certain issues. As a police state, China is also heavy on checking visas and passports. You may be checked several times throughout your trip, even though you already went through customs at the airport or at the border (this is especially true if you travel to China's two western colonies: Xinjiang and Tibet). Additionally, large swathes of China are off limits to foreigners--so don't assume you can trek around with no real plan.
Scams are not uncommon in the People's Republic. There are many travel agents claiming to be legally recognized, certified or otherwise authentic that simply are not. To check to see if the travel agent you've selected is actually legitimate, try calling their offices; scam agencies often don't pick up the phone--ever. If they don't pick up during regular business hours (if calling China, be aware of China time), chances are you don't want to work with them anyway. In addition, scammers often don't have a toll-free international phone number.
Traveling solo in China is not recommended (kidnappings and disappearances are not uncommon), so try going out and about with at least one other person. Tell your family or friends back home where you are staying, and include proper contact information. Avoid leaving your valuable possessions in your hotel room since it is hard to vouch for their safety there; most good hotels will allow you to check them in at the reception desk when you leave. Pick up a hotel card to carry around with you containing the name, address and phone number of the hotel; this way, no matter how lost you get, you can always get in a cab and point to the card to get back. Avoid water that hasn't been boiled by sticking to bottled water, if possible.
Article Written By William Jackson
William Jackson has written, reported and edited professionally for more than 10 years. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, high-level government reports, books and online. He holds a master's degree in humanities from Pennsylvania State University.