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Here are some tips that might be beneficial to first-time travellers in China, especially if you're going there on National Day Week (first week of October).
Search for “scams in china” and READ EVERYTHING. Start with this: http://www.chinahighlights.com/beijin...
Tea scam: friendly group invites you to a tea show, split the high bill, but in effect you are the only one who pays (and it's still 10-50 times the real price).
Driver offers to take you for a very cheap price. Stops somewhere and demands much more to continue.
Official bus attendant (this one was in Dongzhimen station) sending you to the wrong bus and wrong stop for the Great Wall (read: https://artydubs.com/2013/11/07/great... , there are more accounts of the same thing). This is true for both Mutianyu and Jinshanling parts of the wall.
Person gets on the bus and tells you this is the stop you need (acting as a conductor, quoting it by name) when in fact it’s not. Or, they may otherwise try to persuade you to get off the bus. Then you have to take a taxi.
Taxi drivers on bus stops saying there is no bus coming.
All and any Chinese have a cellphone, most usually with a translation app. You should get one too, including a Chinese keyboard support. Google translate usually has some mistakes, but it's free.
Some recommendations for apps (make sure you download additional files in the apps for offline access, and try the apps at home to make sure they work and you understand how to use them):
MapsMe (download China map)
Pleco - nice dictionary (download offline dictionary and OCR demo addons)
Google translate (get offline Chinese)
Google Pinyin input
WeChat (friendly Chinese will ask you for this)
SIM card - supposedly China Mobile is the largest provider, and covers all China. You need your passport to get one, and your number will be linked to it (big brother’s watching!).
Make sure you ask to try a SIM and see that you can use data (internet). Some western phones might not support Chinese protocols.
Make sure you ask and get a package deal/prefix number that is not local to the province you're in, but covers all China!
China Mobile explains that the SIM expires after 3 years of inactivity.
Fellow tourists report that if you get a valid international SIM deal for China at home, then the censorship restrictions don't apply.
Cellphones and ipads and any transmitting devices must be turned off during the entire flight. Not even in flight mode.
If you have a power bank > 100Wh, you need a special permission (up to two banks). In any case, has to be in your hand luggage. To calculate Wh, multiply the output voltage (usually 5V) by your Ah rating.
There are reports of some trouble with personal heating bags (the ones you break and they produce heat for several hours) in two airports, so might want to take in hand luggage as well.
International flights - don't arrive with fever. They measure your temperature.
Domestic flights - arrive about an hour and a half before departure. If it's national day week - at least two and a half hours! Don't risk it.
There are cold and hot water dispensers - good if you're bringing an instant noodles meal.
While your goal should be to get as far away as fast as possible from the large cities, take into account that your luggage may be lost or delayed! Spend 1 night and have a late flight the next day, or better spend 2 nights in the first location. Since you might want to see the attractions in Beijing, a suggestion might be to postpone it to the end of the trip and start with Shanghai.
Unless you like big crowds (really, really big), plan to stay at most one or two nights in each location, where your goal is to get to the more remote places, where there would still be many people, but less or no masses of people in the streets. e.g. Shanghai to Chengdu to Kangding. Don't plan on historic attractions (e.g. Xian and Beijing).
There is a chance your flight will be overbooked (at least in national day week) - plan your schedule accordingly. You should also receive a compensation.
You can still find cheap flights ($50-$65) if you look in the right places and times. Use www.ctrip.com.
Even if you booked a hotel or hostel - depending on its policies, “no show” could be as soon as 23:00. Because there is so much demand, they will accommodate someone else and are supposed to cancel the order rather than charge you. So if you see you're going to be late, make sure you contact the hotel early. Better by phone.
Avoid buses, especially long distance ones. Even if you get a ticket and even if you board, an 8h ride can very easily turn to 13h or even 20h due to traffic congestion! This also applies to private cars. Flights might be more expensive, but are much more comfortable and save time (plus the time you need to recuperate after a day long bus drive!).
In the metro they screen your bags; no pressurized canisters (spray deodorants, camping gas), matches, etc.
If you are marking places in Google Maps, note there is a ~500 meters shift between the satellite map (“correct”) and schematic map (“shifted”), apparently due to differences of Chinese mapping protocols relative to others. The schematics in MapsMe appear to be correct.
American electrical plugs are fully compatible with Chinese sockets (in the majority of places).