How to travel in china?

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Answered by: Noah, An Expert in the China Travel - General Category
Wrapping itself around the map as it does the middle kingdom can be daunting to prospective adventurers as they follow the paths of Marco Polo and Richard Nixon but keeping in mind some basics can go a long way towards making travel in China as interesting and enlightening as it should be.

Perhaps the most worrisome feature of travel in China is the language barrier. The tonal nature of the language may threaten to turn simple questions such as "How are you?" or "Ni hao ma?" into "You're good horse." as tones that are imperceptible to the untrained ear are warped by novice speakers. Pronunciation obstacles aside, the character based system of writing is not something one can adjust to overnight or over the course of a year of nights even. None of this should prevent travel in China as the warmth of the chinese people will often carry the day. The most important thing to remember is that there is an expectation that, as a foreigner, you will not be able to speak or read the language and with this understanding comes a willingness to help you get along. Additionally, even the smallest amount of chinese will ingratiate you to locals as you travel and be heavily lauded. A final note on the language barrier, when in doubt, call upon the true international language - that of the body - and pantomime your way to your next meal.

As your travels in China progress you will no doubt be assailed with vendors hawking a wide array of tourist kitsch and collectibles for what may seem like slightly exorbitant prices. These souvenir prices are, especially in high volume tourist areas, not slightly exaggerated but rather greatly exaggerated. Bargaining is recommended but out and out haggling is the order of the day as more often than not you will be able to achieve a 60-75% discount from the original price of the item. A nice strategy would be to start with a counteroffer that is as much a joke as it is an opening to negotiations. For example if you are quoted a price of 200rmb for a t-shirt, a good opening counter offer would be 10rmb. This will let the seller know that they can open serious negotiations with you as you both have exchanged your humorous offers. Going forward, let the seller offer two or three prices at the onset of serious negotiations, in the t-shirt example the price would fall to 175rmb then 150rmb then 100rmb before you make another offer ... now it is time to start your negotiation. At this point one could offer 20rmb, an 80% discount, leaving yourself room to come up in price as they come down. You should be able to meet the seller somewhere around 30-40rmb in the end, which bearing in mind the quality of a souvenir t-shirt is probably still too much. If all else fails the strategy of walking away slowly but determinedly will go a long way into revealing the true bottom line of the seller, in fact this strategy is perhaps the most important of any in negotiating as a tourist in China.

Going past purchasing knick-knacks, with the exception of train, bus and airline tickets, walking away is a strategy that will net discounts in the purchase of nearly anything in China. Remember as well that anything from a hotel room to taxi rides to food on the street is up for negotiation during travel in China, have fun with it and enjoy your time.

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