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Old 02-28-2007, 12:28 AM   #1
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Default Has anyone done China Solo??

I have just come to an unexpected cross-road in my trip, I'm planning on doing a ten month backpack around Asia and Europe. I have NO experience in travel what so ever and I'm plunging into a huge trip in less than two weeks. Now here's my real dilemma. When I get back, I am going to be studying Ancient History, It's my passion and I expect It's going to be like a wet dream for someone isolated in a place like New Zealand to travel through these places. I have a particular fascination with China, so obviously I had placed it highly on my trip, but since my departure is coming closer I'm starting to have doubts. I have heard from everybody that China is difficult to travel through, I have never questioned this, but now the reality is kicking in and I feel my naivety is screwing with my common sence.
Is it really duable for someone with my lack of experince and Mandarin to travel SOLO across China for a month?
Give it to me straight, none of this "you can can do anything if you put your mind to it" crap. IS IT DUABLE???!!!! or just naieve?
Has anyone here actually backpacked Solo around China? (cause you seem to be rarer lot than I guessed)

C
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Old 02-28-2007, 03:16 AM   #2
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Hey, I made it solo around India (and into some very ill-advised spots at that) and I'm female. You'll be fine. Probably the biggest difficulty you'll face, besides getting the tourist visa (do you have that yet??), is the language barrier. Make sure you know a few key phrases in both Mandarin and Cantonese.

And make sure you post about your trip often, because I'd love to hear about it!
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Old 02-28-2007, 04:37 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by space virgin View Post
Hey, I made it solo around India (and into some very ill-advised spots at that) and I'm female. You'll be fine. Probably the biggest difficulty you'll face, besides getting the tourist visa (do you have that yet??), is the language barrier. Make sure you know a few key phrases in both Mandarin and Cantonese.
How long does it take to get the tourist visa and does everyone need it?

I would also suggest learning the characters (it is called Kanji in Japanese not sure the name in Chinese) because regardless of dialect, literate people will be able to understand you. You'll be fine but I would start learning some now though.

I think your ability to navigate the country will depend greatly on what cities you visit. If you are sticking to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong I would think you can probably find English speakers more easily than in the rural areas. Good luck!

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Old 02-28-2007, 05:34 AM   #4
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If you are going to be in big cities, no worries. Even away from big cities I think you will be able to make yourself understood. Absolutely go for it and don't look back, particularly with your love of history. It will be quite the adventure and Chinese history is incredible - you will kick yourself forever if you pass up this chance!!

If you can get a phrase book that includes simplified chinese characters and pinyin english phonetic translations along with english definitions you will be better off. Be aware that mainland China uses a written character set called simplified chinese. Taiwan and Hong Kong use what is called traditional chinese. They are two different character sets (though they share some of the same characters). It is important that any phrase books or language guides that you buy are for simplified chinese if you plan to use them in mainland China.

If you fly into Hong Kong, I think you can get tourist visas in the airport at one of the travel agent kiosks but normally you have to send your passport to a Chinese consulate in your country to get the visa and it can take a few weeks at least (my experience is in the U.S. though). Good luck!!
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Old 02-28-2007, 07:25 AM   #5
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Do you send the actual passport with the visa application? That sounds a bit sketchy. But the Vietnamese application asks for it too, I'm just wondering if I'm reading it wrong.

I'm afraid of not getting it back.
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Old 02-28-2007, 07:56 AM   #6
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You always have to provide your passport with the visa request form. So use courrier service such as FedEx and UPS, and think of joining a pre-paid return enveloppe of a courrier service.
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Old 02-28-2007, 09:20 AM   #7
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I spent three months in China, but was definitely not solo. I was surprised at the lack of English-speaking folks, even in a major city like Nanjing - but more so the older generation. I think many young people speak some English, but they're often shy about it. It's good to go in expecting not to be able to communicate though so you don't get hit hard, and it would definitely be a good idea to learn some basic Chinese. As said, if you're sticking to the cities it'll be easier. Once you head out to the country, it gets rougher - we went to places where they didn't even speak Mandarin (most people do understand some)! BUT I think you should get out there and definitely experience rural China if you can. It's amazing, and the urban/rural divide is something crazy to experience too.

I think important things to learn would be how to buy your train tickets, since you're probably going to be sitting on a lot of trains all over the country - the train system is extensive and reliable, if you're looking for a way to travel. Figure out how to ask for times, and prices/classes. You could even get those specific characters written out beforehand so you can just show them to people!

Learn numbers though. It's important in bargaining - a quintessential skill in China that you'll definitely pick up FAST once you hit the stores. Bargain HARD, hard enough that you may feel ridiculous asking for such a low price, but do it anyway.

So...I guess it's been said - the most difficult thing will be the language barrier and I think you should start learning what you can, otherwise, China is an amazing experience with so much to offer. I found most people genuinely curious about foreigners - especially out in the country, we had no idea what anyone was saying but we were shown the greatest hospitality by perfect strangers. Either way, you'll definitely have a memorable trip! :D
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