Written by the Warrior
Since 1979, China has had a one-child policy, meaning that (with exceptions), each family can only have one child. As a result of this policy, the adult to child ratio for most families is 6 to 1.
Fast forward a few decades, this translate to – children, no matter what nationality, being absolutely adored in China. During our recent travels to China, folks often went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that the “little friends” are well cared for, in restaurants, hotels, and cultural attractions.
However, that is not to say that travelling with kids is easy, especially in a destination like China, where the language, culture and traditions are so different.
Here are some our experiences and observations during our travels.
- On the crowd factor – With a population of over 1.3 billion, China is crowded, very very crowded. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that the entire travel party stays together and to keep an eye on belongings.
- On travelling without knowing the language – Is tricky. English is not widely spoken, even in “touristy” areas. While travellers should have no issues at international airports, customs and international branded hotel, expect that most locations do not have English-speaking staff.
- On the issue of air pollution – The level of air pollution in many urban centres are absolutely unhealthy. And yes, you can feel it in your lungs. I recommend arming yourself with N95+ dust masks, which can be found in most hardware stores (i.e. the Home Depot).
- On food matters – Chinese cuisine is outstanding and exquisite and totally different from what you are likely used to. Even their buffets are entirely different. Travelling with my three picky eaters was very trying on my nerves, as at least one of them is unhappy with the food choice at each meal. North America fast food has invaded China, so there is always that choice to fall back on. While local knowledge is always key to finding true gastronomic gems, in general, the best restaurants are found in shopping malls of all places, in fact, some of the best local cuisines are found in grocery stores.
- On creature comforts – In general, China provides similar amenities as Western nations. However, there are a few notable exceptions, such as, tap water not being safe to drink without boiling, most public toilets being squat toilets and toilet paper rarely provided (so makes sure to have your own).
- On transportation – China is the third largest country in the world by landmass, and as a result, travel distances between cities can be very long. Luckily, there is a vast network of airlines with frequent services between major cities, making air travel, a great, convenient and comfortable method to get around the country. A meal is served on all flights over 1 hour. And as if that is not shockingly awesome enough, the food is even really good. Getting around within a city is much easier now compared to 10 years ago. There is usually a bus to city centres from airports and most cities are well served by metro systems. I have to admit that I have not braved transit buses in a while, but in most cities, taxis are easy to find and not too expensive to use (though the quality of the ride varies).
- On money matters – The strength of the Canadian dollar makes food, accommodation, transportation and activities super affordable for travel in China. However, when it comes to merchandise purchase, especially for items that can be found in both Canada and China, it is by far cheaper to purchase them in Canada. This is ironic since everything is made in China.
- On the issue of social media – There is a long list of banned social media platforms in China, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc… While I could do with being “unplugged” from those, I truly suffered withdrawal symptoms from the lack of Google Maps. I even had to resort to using paper maps.
While I admit that China is not the easiest travel destination, I do think that it should be on everyone’s travel list. With its long and rich history, exquisite art and culture, as well as fantastic cuisine, there are experiences that can only be had in China.