Travel Tip #3: Bring a Thermos/带上自己的保温杯


It may seem like a no-brainer to bring along a water bottle when traveling, but when traveling in China, you should make that a thermos. You know, the hot water container. It’s not that China doesn’t have cool water (that would be pretty weird, huh?) but that the culture is accustomed to drinking hot water. “You mean tea?” you might say. No, I’m talking about plain hot water. Tea is an entirely different matter altogether.

Why bring this up? Because if you’re from outside of China, you might be expecting to find drinking fountains everywhere. You won’t find them in China, and if you do, I wouldn’t recommend drinking the water. That’s where a thermos comes in handy! See, in lieu of drinking fountains, there are hot water machines. EVERYWHERE. All trains, major transportation hubs, hotels, schools, and other places have them. Some are pretty basic, and some look like rejected robots from the Jetsons. The point is: if you bring a thermos with, you can drink lots of free water (and pop in some tea bags or instant coffee, too!)

What about hot summer days? Or, what if I just don’t want to drink a bunch of hot water? Well, the other alternative is honestly just buying water bottles from convenienve stores (usually 2 rmb, depending on the brand, but personally I can’t taste much of a difference so…no need to get super fancy). If you don’t like the idea of buying water bottles, then you can consider boiling water in your hotel, putting it in the fridge, and then drinking it. Or, best case scenario: if you’re staying in a nice-ish hotel, they often supply free water bottles in each room. You can just take them! But…make sure they’re actually free first.

If you’re going on a longer trip, and especially for train rides, though, I definitely recommend the handy dandy thermos. It doubles as a hand-warmer for cold weather, and it’s just an all-around staple in China.

Some useful Chinese:
保温杯 (bao wen bei) = Thermos (hot water bottle)
白开水 OR 热水 (bai kai shui OR re shui) = Boiled/hot water
矿泉水 (kuang quan shui) = Mineral spring water
我还是要喝冰水 (wo hai shi yao he bing shui) = I still want to drink cold water.






Travel Tip #2: Toilet Paper/卫生纸


Now, some of you may already know this, but many of you don’t: most Chinese bathrooms DO NOT have toilet paper in them. Yes, Chinese people still use toilet paper (obviously), it’s just that everyone is expected to bring their own. I’ve speculated about this, and have a couple theories: 1) China is trying to reduce toilet paper waste, 2) With such a large population, it’s easier to make people bring their own rather than constantly have workers stock it, and 3) China hates me (just kidding).

Anyway, the point is that you need to bring your own! You have a couple of options. The most common is buying small packets at really any convenience store in the area (for usually 1 RMB per packet). Some travelers opt for buying them in bulk from a grocery store and using them throughout the trip, which really only works if you’re going to be stationed in the same place for an extended amount of time…otherwise, you’re stuck carting it around. Others pack a small roll of toilet paper before even coming to China (which I recommend if you’re coming from overseas and don’t want one of your first Chinese adventures being “let’s buy toilet paper before I pee my pants”).

But what if you don’t want to constantly buy toilet paper? Well, you have options, good ones being: McDonalds and KFC. Yes, Chinese cities have many of these chain stores, and these friendly reminders of consumerism can be your saving grace. Their bathrooms are almost always reliably stocked with toilet paper (and you don’t have to buy anything to use their bathrooms). Don’t like this choice? Another option is to always ask for extra napkins when you buy/order food. Better yet, pad your pockets with it if you’re staying in a hotel. (Hostels may or may not have their own toilet paper, depending on the price range/quality). You can get pretty creative with where you get your toilet paper, but the biggest takeaway here is that YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT ON YOU!

Maybe even bring extra. You might make a friend.

Useful phrases:
卫生纸 (wei sheng zhi)= toilet paper
餐厅纸 (can ting zhi)= napkin
多给我点餐厅纸吧 (duo gei wo dian can ting zhi ba)= Give me some extra napkins
洗手间在哪里 (xi shou jian zai na li)= Where is the bathroom?





Travel Tip #1: Bring Your Student ID! 带上你的学生证!


Yes, yes, growing up is a beautiful thing, and we should all embrace it. But, if you look even remotely young enough to be a student, bring along your ID. I’m talking about the crappy plastic ID that’s probably faded from being crammed into your pocket for too long. I’m talking about the one from undergraduate days. THAT one. Doesn’t matter if it’s expired, bring it. (Especially if there’s a lot of English on it.)


When you go to the ticket counter, show this to them. I try to put on a “I’m so sorry, but this is all I have to prove I’m a student” face and am gently insistent that it’s the real deal. Some don’t even need the effort. If it works, you get half price, which when you’re traveling in China is a really big deal. Everything in China has an entrance ticket. Lakes, mountains, certain parks. This is where the student ID comes in to save the day.

Of course, it’s not fool-proof. Some ticket vendors know exactly what you’re doing or only accept Chinese student IDs. (Or as I unfortunately discovered: only accept undergraduate and below student IDs…as if we grad students are just rolling in the dough…) If they turn it away and refuse the discount, don’t get mad. Because really, you have no right to be mad. Just try again another day.

(And if you think “Wow, this is shady and morally wrong and I think you’re a bad person, Hannah,” you should know that there was a time I signed on for an English tour of the Terra Cotta warriors, and the guide specifically handed out fake student IDs to all of us just to get the discount. My fake ID was a French student, though I forget the name.)

Useful Chinese phrases:
有没有学生票? (you mei you xue sheng piao) = Are there any student discounts?
这是我的学生证。(zhe shi wo de xue sheng zheng) = This is my student ID.
我学生证就是这样,没办法。(wo xue sheng zheng jiu shi zhe yang, mei ban fa) = This is just the way my student ID is, nothing I can do about it.

**If the ticket vendor is still not giving you the discount, count your losses and just pay the full price. No need to make a scene.

你到买票的地方, 就给那里售票员看。我经常用一个“我真不好意思,但是就没办法,学生证就这样”的表情,然后温暖地迫使他们使用。有的时候也不用费力。如果有用的话,票会半价,在中国这就是很宝贵的因为任何一个景点都要门票:山,湖,公园等。所以学生票对你大有帮助!