I used to think China is a cheap tourist destination. Why would I think otherwise? All Chinese made products are cheap everywhere including electronics and clothing. Tour offers to China are also very cheap. But of course the tour operators find money somewhere else – by taking commission from shopping places they drag their tourists to – this trick I am aware of. Too bad I was not prepared for other “surprises” China offers.
See below for some shocking facts about China, particularly in Beijing:
1. No complimentary mineral water at a 5 star hotel
Where on earth does a 5 stars hotel not provide any complimentary mineral water?!
We stayed at Regal Hotel Wangfujing and we arrived very late — that is, very early — at 2am in the morning. We were tired from the 6 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur and very disappointed to find out that not only was the water not complimentary but that it was RMB40 (USD 6.5) for a 1.5l bottle of water. We had no choice and paid RMB80 when we checked out!
2. No cheap food nor cheap shopping
You can’t have a proper meal at a decent price pretty much anywhere — not in a shopping mall, restaurant or night market. It’s even more expensive then in Kuala Lumpur. Not to mention if you were inside a tourist area. A small bottle of mineral water cost RMB5! We noticed that the seller will mark up prices once they notice you are a foreigner — this is normal pretty much everywhere but definitely not to this extent.
3. Taxi scam at the airport
There were no official taxi counters at the airport. When you walk out of the airport you will see a taxi stand with many taxis on stand by and everybody will approach you directly like you are meat being attacked by flies! You can’t differentiate which ones are are official and which ones are illegal taxis. The illegal taxis are even more hardcore by agreeing to what ever price you bargain to, convincing you they are official by showing you a card saying Airport taxi, then once you go inside their taxi, they will flip the card and show the “real price” which is literally 5 times more expensive then the normal rate. From airport to city center (Wangfujing area) the card showed RMB 800 to RMB 1500! That’s a CRAZY PRICE for merely 20 minutes taxi ride.
4. Taxi scam to Badaling Station to Great Wall of China
There are heartless and inhumane people who go to great lengths to fake a bus station to trap clueless tourists and lure them into taking a super expensive taxi ride to Badaling Station. This so immoral that I really can’t believe the Chinese authorities didn’t do anything about this. See full story about this scam on this blog post: Getting to Badaling by Bus – Be Aware of the Fake Bus Stop Scam to Great Wall of China
5. Overpriced night market
So let me tell you, only in Beijing night market do you need to spend RMB30 / USD5 for a coconut water. Only in Beijing night market do you always need to check your change. If the price is RMB30 and you gave a RMB50 or RMB100 bill, do not be surprised that when you receive your change, your shopping has become RMB40 instead of RMB30 they told you earlier. Or if you buy a mineral water without asking the price beforehand, whatever money you gave to the seller is that the price will be — you will most likely not get any change!
6. Overpriced services at tourist sites
Let me tell you that I am not a cheapskate or a budget traveler. I come prepared and am willing to spend money during my trip — but within reason and I really don’t like wasting money on things that are not worth it. Even with that mentality I still got shocked by how Beijing tourist sites try to rob you. One of the examples is the so called “Sliding Car”at Badaling — one of the spots to climb up to the great wall. A 5 minute return trip with the sliding car with no view and very old equipment will cost you RMB 100 / USD17. This is not including the entrance ticket to the Great Wall itself which costs RMB40. Compare that to a return cable car ride in Langkawi, the longest and tallest cable car in SE-ASIA with a spectacular view that cost only RMB57 / USD9.20.
7. No English speaking staff, English guides or announcements in public establishments
Good luck on helping yourself if you can’t speak or read mandarin. Even in 5 a star hotel the receptionist can barely understand English not to even mention speaking English. Just know about this and be mentally — and linguistically — prepared!
8. People are loud and very rude
I grew up hearing the expression “Bunyi Cina Karam” when in a place or a situation that is particularly noisy. The expression literary means “Sound of Chinese about to drown” – Well now I know from where this expression came from. It shows how loud Chinese people can be and you’ll see that when you get to China as well. It’s sound pollution is created by people not by cars or motorcycles or factory machines. Seriously!
9. No Google, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
Yes, you read it right. All those websites and apps are banned in China. Well, at least now you know then you won’t be too surprise or feel lost like I did. Remember that no Google means no Gmail, or Google Maps, or Google Search…