We are planning a RTW trip in May. We are from the UK and will spend about a month in Europe then head to China.
My plan was to fly into Beijing and overland down to Laos, my friend however believes that this will be too difficult as we speak no Chinese / Mandarin & apparently all signs are in Chinese.
He suggests flying in to Hong Kong and travelling down from their as he believes more people speak English and it'll be easier.
Any advice from experienced travellers??
Most major streets, airports, metros and train stations will have signs in pinyin (romanized characters) of Chinese. Although China is not as easy to travel in as Thailand if you stick to major tourist areas you should be ok. You have to remember that most tourism in China is domestic so tourist things tend to aimed towards them. Just bring a good phrase book with you and keep your guide book handy. Lastly pick up a China hostel guide at the first guesthouse you stay in and that will help.
me and a mate travelled overland from Beijing to Hong Kong for 2 weeks. China was the most difficult place in our round the world trip cos of the massive language barrier. but that made it one of the best places too!
in beijing there was a great hostel called leo hostel, we had a business card for them which we showed to the taxi driver at the airport and she shouted at us lots but took us there!
people may come up to you to practice their english, thats a good way of finding things you want (like train stations etc). most hostel workers speak very good english.
at all major train stations and some bus stations they have an english speaker who works there (although they can be hard to find as we found out)
just be careful of pretty girls approaching you and asking to practice their english and then taking you for "tea" which costs the earth. met a few danish lads who had been conned out of a fair amount of cash!
yeah travelling in China may be difficult specially because of communication... when we were in Xiamen and Beijing, what we did before going out of our hotel is that we asked the concierge to write in Chinese the address or destination we are going to.. we also have a hotel card with a Chinese address.. so that we can ask any taxi driver to bring us to where we want to go to...
I went to China and I dont speak a word of Chinese either.
I dont think it is too difficult as a first destination so long as u do enough research. Read all the advise in the Lonely planet book of China.
The Lonely Planet book also has a list of useful phrases. It is a good idea to have some kind of phrase book. If the Chinese dont understand what u are asking for they are likely to wave u away.
If u encounter one of the few people who speak English ask them to write in Chinese the next thing u will be needing so u can show it to the person providing the service. eg a train ticket to X on Y date .
I can't offer any advice on this as I haven't yet arrived there but we will be landing in China in mid August.
I just wanted to say great thread with sound advice, I know these postings will help me for sure!