Tips At Bars
Although there is generally no tipping in Shanghai, it is wise to be careful of the tipping scam that happens in many bars.
When you go to a bar, girls in many will sit with you. They will ask you to buy them drinks. Of course, they are attractive, and you may be inclined for them to join you for a few drinks.
However, they will dance with you, rub up with you, and do their best to make sure you have a good time. When you are finished, they will demand a tip. Sometimes two or three hundred yuan.
Girls can make a pretty decent living from the tips of foreigners. Although these bars are technically breaking the law, they cover it up by not having a staff list and posting a sign that tips are not allowed. These are both just bogus ways to confuse the police into not shutting them down.
Be aware, if a girl sits with you at a bar, you could be in for an expensive evening. Bars (not the clubs, but the small bars) on Maoming Road, like Diablo and even more notoriously Nelly's are the highest risks. Best advice is to go there accompanied by someone and say you don't want company, or avoid these places altogether.
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The language barrier can often be a big problem
If you dont speak some or fluent Mandarin, then your holiday in China is indeed going to be an adventure! Ours certainly was, and thats an understatement. Most taxi drivers, shop owners, and even Hotel Staff speak little or no english. But, we seemed to get by with knowing only a few words in Chinese, ordering food from only pictures, and if all else failed, then just by using body language! Most Chinese dont know the meaning of "toilet" so we struggled with that one, trying to actually find a toilet. We learned very near the end of our trip that "WC" sometimes works and the word "pee" sometimes works, and also pretending to rub your hands together sometimes works, as Chinese quite often refer to going to the toilet as washing your hands. When we were at the Great Wall with Alvin, he kept asking us if we wanted to wash our hands, and we kept replying that we were fine, that our hands were clean, then later we worked out he was asking us if we needed to go to the toilet!
I can tell you the few Chinese words we did learn that came in very handy.
xie xie (pronounced she she) meaning thankyou
ni hao (pr. nee how) meaning hello
bu yao (pr. boo yow) meaning dont want
bu yao la (pr. boo yow la) meaning dont want chilli - this one worked great!
duo shao (pr. door shou) meaning how much?
bu (pr. boo) meaning no
far peow (thats how its pronounced) meaning ticket or receipt, this worked both in taxis and an shops.
Getting cash from ATMs in China
Even though many will tell you that your ATM card will work in China (including your bank) don't count on it. We found ourselves in a worrysome situation, as our cash depleted and we couldn't get our ATM cards to work. We eventually were able to get cash from a Bank of China ATM in Shanghai, but only after many attempts at different places. Part of the problem is that they use 6 digit PIN numbers, as opposed to our four. Mine finally worked putting two zeros in front of my normal PIN. For another person with me, two zeros after worked. My mom was never able to use her ATM. Take plenty of cash with you! It can be easily exchanged in the lobby of most of the larger hotels. Also, travelors checks can be troublesome. One of our friends had trouble cashing an AMEX travelors check at a major hotel because they said her signature didn't match. She had another that they cashed.
BICYCLE KINGDOM! Beware!
Bicycles Bicycles everywhere. And they really think they are king/queen of the roads. Try to cross a busy street in SH on a morning and you will find how difficult it is as the bikers will not give way to buses/cars/pedestrians all alike.
Exercise caution when crossing the road as you are more likely to be knocked down by a biker than a car!
Also watch out when alighting from buses/cars as I once knocked down a biker who cut into that tiny space between my cab and the curb as I was getting off - it was her own fault. They do this all the time thinking that they can get away with it and on most occasions, they do as people are resigned to it.
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Tourist touts in Nanjing Road
When you are enjoying the pedestrian mall of Nanjing Road, beware that there are many professional tourist touts trying to make a living out of you.
You may be accidentally nudged and a conversation ensued to a proposition.
So my advice is to be aware. Just act like you cannot speak Mandarin or English. Walk into a hotel lobby or restaurant if the person continue to stalk you.
Do not be too friendly to strangers. You may be threatened, robbed or worst.
Crowds Everywhere & Can't See Much !
Avoid traveling to Shanghai during these time since every where will be packed with local tourists:-
1st May to 7th May (Labour Day Week-long Holiday)
1st October to 7th October (National Day Week-long Holiday)
However, you may get to enjoy some discounts or promotions offered by shopping malls, restaurants and hotels during this period.
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Chinese toilets are not much fun!
Im sure many people have done warnings about Chinese toilets before, so this will be not unlike the warnings! I will say that the toilets we encountered were not quite as bad as I was expecting, although I will also say that it is an added travel problem to have your periods whilst travelling in China!!!!! (sorry guys - had to be blunt here!)
The majority of toilets we came across were squat toilets, and I guess you kinda get used to them, although I did miss a few times, and its also sometimes difficult to keep the bottom of your pants or skirt from dragging on the floor which is covered in urine!!! We did only come across a few toilets that were so putrid we had to refuse to use them. Oh, and of course about 95% of toilets do NOT have toilet paper, so you always have to have with you little pocket tissues.
This pic is of a typical squat toilet, this one slightly cleaner than most!
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR WESTERNERS - in most public toilets you will usually find one western sit-down toilet, and it will usually be marked with "disabled/wheelchair access" on the door. It was always either the first or last toilet, so remember that when you enter a toilet block, look first for the disabled toilet. Rather funnily, if there was a line-up for the toilets (and there usually was!) the Chinese ladies will usually opt NOT to use the western toilet, but to wait in fact for a chinese squat toilet to become available!!! We found this quite amusing, as we were always waiting for the sit-down toilet to be free!
McDonald's Deaf Beggars
Spend any time in a McDonald's or KFC in Shanghai (and other cities in China), and you will likely have a deaf beggar come to your table. He or she will sit down at your table and try to show you a printed card written in Chinese and English that they are deaf and need money. Sometimes they'll be trying to sell a small trinket for a few yuan *.
This is a scam, one that works well in China because it's easy for such folks to work the floor of McDonald's and KFC in this way without being chased out (immediately). Unless you enjoy having your meal interrupted and paying money in this way, the best thing to do is ignore such people and DON'T read their card. If they see that you don't look at their card they will leave quickly. If you read the card, they will pester you - best think to do then is raise your hand in the air and wave your head around like you're looking for an attendant to come and help you - this will usually get the beggar to bugger off!
Line Cutting Part 1 of 2
Que-cutting is a China-wide problem, and is worse in other cities than in Shanghai. However, because it happens less in Shanghai than say, Hefei, you are more likely to let your guard down and be suprised by having some people jump in front of you.
Most establishments will not stop line-cutters and will give them service before you even if they see the line-cutter jump ahead of you. It is my opinion that some line-cutters specifically look to break in front of a foreigner because they link the foreigner is more defenseless.
This is what you should do to protect your place in line:
1. When you first get into a line that is not well formed, i.e. it resembles a huddle or has huddle-like characteristics, you need to visually note all the people that were there first.
2. Try to fall into the line as where it seems appropriate. If anyone comes to the huddle after you and jockeys ahead of you, put your arm, foot or body in front of them to indicate to them that they are behind you. Even if you can speak Mandarin it's best to not say anything to the person if you are still waiting behind 3 or more people (wasted effort).
3. When it is about your turn to be served, make sure you have your money, tickets, papers, etc. ready. Do not wait until it's your turn at the window to get somethign out of your pocket. You will need to be very aggressive (defensive actually). By now you will see who is trying to jockey past you. They will likely have their arm extended with money in hand to the cashier/attendant. Block them somehow with their body. If you can speak Mandarin tell the line-cutter and cashier/attendant that it is your turn.
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Scarcities in China
Even at Hotels, they were stingy in providing toilet paper, mostly only giving us half a roll per day! And most if not all toilets provided toilet paper, so you MUST bring your own, or even better are the small tissue packs, fitting easily into handbags or bumbags.
Also something we found difficult to source was Lipton Black Tea, it took us 4 days to finally track some down! None of the Hotels we stayed at provided it free in the room, so it took us days of searching in Beijing to finally find some to buy. We bought 3 packets and kept it in our room safe, along with our toilet paper, passports and cash!!!
The other thing we found impossible to find at the shops was the liquid hand wash you use, like Dettol or other brands. I did bring 2 small bottles from home, but ran out and couldnt find it anywhere, luckily I also brought some anti-bacterial wipes from home also. So, make sure you take a huge stash of handwash stuff.
Oh, and another thing we found hard to come by (and had to steal them from shops!) was sugar for our cups of tea. We usually went to Starbucks or King Coffee (the chinese equivalent of Starbucks but cheaper) and had a cup of tea or coffee and then stole about 10 sachets of sugar each! Also, something not given in our rooms was teaspoons to stir our cuppas, so had to steal these also, from Starbucks or KFC! So, if you like a cup of tea or coffee in your Hotel room, it might be wise to bring your own sugar, teabags, coffee and teaspoons. The milk we just bought on the street, guessing it was low fat milk and getting it right every time!
THIS ONE IS FOR US GALS - If you are going to have your periods while in China and you use tampons, you MUST bring enough with you as we never once saw them for sale, only pads.
Powerpoints in Hotels
I was unclear as to what adaptor to take from Australia, so I took two. The one with 2 round prongs and one with 2 flat prongs. All Hotels we stayed at took the one with 2 round prongs, but not the other one. Also, at our last Hotel in Shanghai, The Metropole, it also had a power point in the room that you could plug Australian plugs straight into, without an adaptor.
So, just do your research, cover all possibilities and you will be ok. Someone here on vt will tell you exactly which adaptor to take to any country in the world!
On Nan Jing Road, between the Bund and the pedestrian area of Nan Jing Road, young couples approaches foreigners. They usually say they are students from Beijing University. They asked you to take a look at their art gallery.
I was approached many times in this area. I always politely said I do not have the time. I have heard they take you to an art gallery where the art is not that good but charge very high prices. This supposes scan has been talked about very often on the internet.
It is up to you if you want to go but be aware.
This does not seem to be as bad as the famous Tea House scam. Young people say they want to practice their English and take you to a Tea House. You get a bill at the end for something like 1000 rbm. About $147 USD.
This scam is even listing as a warning in the US Government travel warnings.
This is a real shame because I like to meet local people when I travel. They make it harder for locals that just want to be friendly.
Please rate this and my other tips when you find them helpful, interesting or you like the photos.
You may see local people do it, but I would not recommend it. On several occasions, I have seen Shanghai police writing tickets to people caught jaywalking. It's best to use crosswalk and follow the street lights and the directions from the crossing guards on larger streets. It's not worth it to have your trip ruined because you got a ticket from a police, or worse, got hit by a car.
On smaller side streets, well, use your own judgement then :)
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Line Cutting Part 2 of 2
Sometimes line-cutters will try to explain that they are just there to ask a question. As a foreigner this can be very confusing. If they really just want to ask a 10 second question, then you probably don't mind them cutting ahead to do this. However, this is often just an excuse to cut in front. Yes they'll ask a question, then they'll do their transaction. Don' t fall for it! .
If you find that you've had your line cut and there's nothing you can do about it, you might try reliefing your anger by heckling the person that cut your cue. If you can't speak Chinese, just batter them in English with a lecture on how they shouldn't do that. No need to curse; just lecture the line-cutter like he/she is a 8 year old. Also tell the cashier/attendant that you don't appreciate that they tolerated line cutting.
Finally - don't expect the line cutter to appologize or acknowledge any wrongdoing. They won't. If you follow the steps above you will minimize line cutting and embarass the individual when he does cut.
If you would like to know some non-vulgar things to say to a line-cutter to embarass him, email me and I'll be glad to suggest some words!
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Beware of pickpockets!
Always make sure you have your eyes on your belongings at all times (especially when walking/dining in busy streets/restaurants). Also, if possible, keep your wallet in your jacket inner pockets instead of back pockets of pants. When carrying haversacks/backpacks, try to carry it on your side or front especially in crowded places or to avoid carrying valuables such as cameras, wallets in the front pockets of your haversacks/backpacks. When in your hotel, always double lock the door and put on the safety latch. When away from the hotel room during the day, make sure all your valuables are locked in the safe and your luggages securely locked. I had witnessed a local being caught trying to steal from tourists at a 5-star hotel.
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