Student Stories

Traveling to China: Alexandra's 28 Must-Know Tips

By September 15, 2015 3 Comments

Alexandra's Must-Know Tips for Traveling to China

Planning on traveling to China anytime soon? Bookmark this blog post right now!

Alexandra Wolff, an ASM student (and successful Kickstarter launcher) recently came back from a trip to China and shared her headache-saving tips and hacks that you can use on your own travels.

Alexandra Wolff

Alexandra Wolff, ASM Member, China traveler, and Kickstarter expert

Find Alexandra’s tips and tricks for traveling to China below!

I just returned from my first trip to China, and what a whirlwind trip it was!

I visited two manufacturers in three cities in six days, and in the process, I picked up some things I thought might help others thinking about making a similar journey.


Download an app called WeChat. It?s used in China as the best means to communicate/instant message because you can send photos and videos quickly and easily without having to worry about file size. I am in much better contact with my manufacturer now as well, versus email or messaging.

There is no Google or Facebook in China. Just know you?ll need to go without. There is, however, Google Translate. Go figure.

Purchase a Chinese SIM card for your phone when you get to China. (You will need your passport for the purchase.) You can then connect to the internet without incurring expensive international phone service charges. I paid dearly for international phone service, but could only connect when I could find free wifi in hotels, coffee shops, etc. I found out about this option two days before my return.

Currency & Documents

Don?t forget to apply for a Visa with plenty of time to spare (at least four weeks before your trip). If you need an expedited service like I did, came through for me.

Take copies of your passport, visa, driver?s license, prescriptions, and travel itinerary. Keep the numbers in a separate place (like your phone) just in case.

Bring some cash ($300 is a good amount), but mostly you will be using ATMs. Credit cards are rarely used there ? cash only. ATMs are all over and you will be withdrawing Yuan directly that way. (Note: Renminbi (RMB) and Yuan (Y) are used interchangeably.) It is the cheapest way to directly get currency because they offer the lowest bank fees and conversion rates.

Use a RDIF wallet/money belt for your documents and cash.

Don?t forget a converter for electronic devices.

Take Gifts

Chocolate never fails, but may melt in summer months.

Local items from your area are always special. (Silver and gold key chains with various ?Colorado? designs, playing cards with Colorado scenes, and picturesque magnets, etc. were a big hit.)

Take some family photos with you. The locals may love to hear your personal story!


Pack a spare set of clothes and the minimum amount of essentials (glasses, medications, toothbrush, etc.) in your carry-on bag, especially if you have connecting flights ? just in case they lose your bag. Or, if possible, pack light and take your suitcase as a carry-on.

At 90 degrees and 80% humidity, it ?felt like 106 degrees? according to my phone. Bring the lightest, most breathable, and washable clothes during the summer months.

It rains often, but it?s still warm. You can take a travel umbrella, but I didn?t find it necessary. Plus, it?s just one more thing to carry.


Simply put, don?t plan on driving. Taxis are inexpensive and public transportation is efficient.

Pedestrians don?t have the right-of-way. Give cars a wide berth.


Be prepared to eat things you normally don?t and probably haven?t seen before. Black chicken isn?t pretty, but it is a delicious delicacy.

Eat what is put in front of you whenever possible. But if there is something you really can?t handle, it?s okay to say no.

Drink bottled water, juice, soda pop, or boiled water/tea/coffee.

Find some Dragonfruit/Pitaya (Hu?lóng gu?). The bounty of vitamins in it will help you with jet lag, and its water content will hydrate you. They come in white or red, but red is sweeter and more nutritious. And try the grapes. You have to peel them, but they are better than any dessert.

Dragonfruit from China

Alexandra shares a photo of the white dragonfruit, a very hydrating and healthy fruit!

It?s common for your hosts to pay for the meals you have together.

Meals are ?family style? (communal). Restaurants usually have a large Lazy Susan (a revolving tray in the middle of the table) to pass the food around.

Don?t tip in China.

Dietary Restrictions

If you have health/dietary issues, search the internet for an already-translated explanation you can then hand to your hosts or restaurant personnel. Take several copies. Here is one for gluten issues, for example (PS: Gluten turned out to be nearly impossible to avoid).

Send the translation/explanation to your hosts/contacts ahead of time, so they can prepare for your visit.


Have written translations and explanations for any medications you need as well. If you lose them or need a refill, you will have something to give to the pharmacy, physician, or hospital.


Toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels are almost non-existent. Bathrooms are bring-your-own toilet paper and western-style toilets are rare. Bring lots of travel packets of tissues. Carry one with you throughout the day. Also carry a small bottle of hand-sanitizer or individual packets of sanitary wipes.

Most Importantly…

When traveling to China, remember to be friendly, open to new experiences, and gracious and you?ll make friends for life.

Have you traveled the China or another foreign country for business and have more tips and tricks to add? Please share with us in the comments!

Looking to start your own business? Check out these 50 hot products you can sell right now on Amazon.


  • Marilyn Schauber says:

    Thankyou, your travel tips are appreciated … China is on my bucket list. If you have any comments about your visit to the manufacturer site/sales office … Im sure it would be a good read

  • Monique Smith says:

    Thank you for this information. I am going to the Canton Fair and haven’t thought about packing etc., as yet. I have downloaded WeChat already and added the info to my notes for my shopping list before I go. Wonderful blog!

    • Linda Smith says:

      Hi Monique, I’m a s Smith, too. What dates are you going to the Fair? I’m going for the first time and haven’t picked a hotel yet. Have you?

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