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

(下面有中文版)

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.

当然旅行者应该自己带一个杯子,但是在中国这个“杯子”应该换成“保温杯”就是为了喝热水。不是因为中国没有冰水(太奇怪了吧)就是因为这个文化习惯喝热水。(“你应该说‘茶’吧!”你说。不,我的意思就是白开水。茶就是完全另一件事情。

为什么要提呢?因为如果你不来自中国,你可能习惯看到公共饮水机,但是中国很少有。(而且说实话我不那么相信它们的卫生)。所以呢,保温杯会给你很大的帮助!中国可能没有饮水机,但是到处都有热水器,包括在火车上,交通核心,学校等等。有些热水器比较简单的,有的有点像《杰森一家人》被拒绝的机器人。主要是你带上保温杯,你随处都可以喝免费的水(也可以泡一杯茶,咖啡等)。

那如果是夏天呢?或者你就不愿意喝热水呢?其实你只能去超市买一瓶矿泉水(基本上两块钱,有些品牌比较贵,但是味道其实都差不多了)。如果你不那么喜欢买很多瓶水,你也可以在宾馆里烧水,然后把烧开的水放在冰箱里,然后放在你的杯子里。或者,如果你在稍微好点的宾馆,有可能你的房间里已经有几瓶水,免费的!就可以把它们拿走……但是你要先确定是否是免费的。

如果你的路线比较长的话,尤其是如果你要坐火车,我还是建议你带上自己的保温杯。它也可以当做你的热水袋,也是中国旅行路上的必需品。

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Travel Tip #2: Toilet Paper/卫生纸

(下面有中文版)

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?

有些人已经知道了,但是有些还不知道:中国的大部分洗手间没有卫生纸。那当然中国人是用卫生纸的,只不过每一个人是应该自己带的。(我考虑了这个问题,有三个可能性;第一,中国就是想要减少纸的浪费;第二,因为人口很大,每个人自己带卫生纸比每一个店断断续续地换卫生纸更方便;第三,中国恨我(开个玩笑)。

关键是你要自己带的!有几个选择。你可以去任何一个商店买一包纸(就一块钱而已)。有些游客去市场买很多包,然后慢慢地用完(如果你一直在同一个地方旅行,这是个好选择,但是如果你要去很多地方,后来会变得有点麻烦因为还是要带上那么多……)。有些人来中国之前买几包(如果你是从国外来的,我建议你还是来之前带一点,要不然的话你在中国的第一个回忆就是“我去找卫生纸的漂游记”)。

那么如果你懒得常常去买卫生纸呢?还是有办法:这就叫麦当劳和肯德基(对呀这种消费主义的符号会救了你的命!)他们的卫生间经常有卫生纸,而且你不用买东西才能上他们的厕所。不想要这样吗?那你每次出去吃饭多拿一些餐厅纸。如果你住在宾馆里,你可以把很多卫生纸塞进你的口袋。(青年旅社未必有卫生纸,如果质量差点的话那肯定没有)。你就要用你的想象力去找办法吧。主要是:一定要带上!

最好是你多带一些。结果呢:你可能会交一个新的朋友。

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

(下面有中文版)

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.)

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THIS ACTUALLY WORKS

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.

当然,长大是一个好事情,而且我们应该尽快适应这个生活阶段。但是,我跟你说,就算你只有那么一点点学生样,你就应该带上你的学生证。哪一个学生证?就是你上大学的学生证。
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!

当然也不是每次都是那么容易的。有些售票员很清楚你在干什么,或者只看国内的学生证(或者,像我这样发现:只看本科以下的学生证……似乎我们研究生那么有钱哎呦)。如果他们不接受你的学生证,那你千万不要生气。因为说实话,你就没有权力生气因为学生证毕竟是没用的。你就换个地方换个时间再试试吧。

(还有:如果你读这篇文章感觉我特别坏,我跟你说,有一次我是跟着一个英文旅行团一起去参观兵马俑,然后导游竟然带上了很多假的外国的学生证为了买半价票!我那边假的学生证好像是一位法国女性,但是具体我已经忘了)。