One of the reasons why I started writing this blog is the chronic lack of information regarding travels to China. Tourists and bloggers ignore China. Moreover, the amount of misinformation circulating in the Western media is enormous.
common believes are:
- everywhere in China the air is unbreathable;
- there is nothing to visit except for Beijing and Shanghai;
- it’s a communist country therefore is dangerous
- cities are super dirty
- people hate foreigners
and more of this nonsense.
In most travel blogs there is no trace of China .
Even among the pages of the most famous Italian and English-speaking blogger it’s very rare to come across an article about this country. Under the “Asian destinations” section of the most popular blogs you will 100% find memories of a trip to Thailand or Japan, a list of the top 5 reasons to visit Korea, Malaysia, Singapore or even Brunei (!!!).
As a foreigner who has been living in China for 4 years I think I can analyze the situation in a rather objective way.
let’s get started!
Why do western tourists and travel blogs ignore China?
Fore several reasons:
- China doesn’t do a good job in advertising itself as a top rated tourist destination and the Government is not very interested in publicizing the nation’s beauties abroad.
- tough competition from Thailand and Japan, opened to mass tourism for decades and now classic destinations for a trip to Asia.
- (negative) clichés on China, highly unlikely to disappear anywhere soon.
- complete ignorance of what China have to offer (China boasts an amazing number of UNESCO Heritage sites and will soon surpass Italy at the top of this special list).
- concerns about pollution.
- Chinese Visa can be very expensive (180-220€ in Italy)
There’s not much to see…right?
Without diminishing the beauty of Japan and Thailand, both wonderful countries, China can certainly offer a dream vacation to all kind of travelers.
Roughly as big as the US or Australia, this country has an enormous number of places of interest (have a look at my top10) that outperforms any country on Earth.
While tourists attractions in countries like Australia or Russia are relatively few in relation to the size of the territory, in China this index is incredibly high.
China is in fact the country with the highest number of UNESCO Heritage sites, shortly after Italy.
It ‘s possible to find beautiful temples and breathtaking scenery even in the most remote and apparently uninspiring places. Guangzhou itself (the city where I live) has a decent number of attractions and can easily beat very popular destinations like Sydney and Stockholm.
How about pollution?
The pollution is a serious problem. However it mostly affects the northeast of the country, almost exclusively in the coldest months ( November to February ).
I’d say it’s relatively safe for western tourists to visit during summer and spring.
This is because the factories stop burning the coal for the households heating systems!
Chinese cities are dumps…
Chinese tier-2 and tier-3 cities can be as dirty as any other SE Asian city. Have you ever been to Hanoi or Bangkok? then you know what I mean.
However, tier-1 cities (Beijing – Shanghai – Guangzhou – Shenzhen …) tend to be quite clean especially in the “city center” (sometimes it’s even hard to find a center in these monstrously big cities). You’ll notice an increasing level of mess as you start heading towards the outskirt.
We all agree that Japan and Korea are in a different league here! Their level of tidiness and cleanliness are very far to be reached.
Is it safe to travel to China?
China is the safest place I’ve been to and I’ve never been in any kind of danger in 4 years. As a matter of fact, foreigners are well accepted and welcomed everywhere.
There’s no danger whatsoever if you want to hang out at night or if you are carrying an expensive camera with you. Actually the probability to have your phone stolen in a Chinese metropolis is exactly the same as if you visited Rome or Paris.
Mind your belongings with reasonable safety measures and nothing unpleasant will happen to you.
All in all there is no reason to keep ignoring China as a travel destination.
And now that we’re all happy and reassured we can begin to explore this wonderful country ! 😉