We recently returned from a trip to Chengdu, China, a the capital city of the Sichuan province known for panda bears, spicy food and face-changing opera.
China blocks many familiar and frequently-used websites and apps such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and many others. If you rely on these applications to stay in touch, you will will find them not working when you try to access them in China. Work around this issue by getting a VPN before you go.
A VPN is a virtual private network within the wider internet that allows users to send and receive data while maintaining the secrecy of a private network. We used Express VPM which cost about $12 for a month of use.
English is not commonly spoken or understood — even by taxi drivers, hotel bellman and tour guides — in Chengdu. Of course there are exceptions but it is good to have a translator on your smartphone. Google Translate works if you have a VPN, but the free, basic Pleco app works better in China. Pleco is an all-in-one Chinese dictionary and document reading app that is available for use with iPhone, iPad, or iPods as well as Android devices.
While free Wi-Fi is available in China, it can be difficult to access without knowing Mandarin and having a local phone number. If you want to have readily available, inexpensive mobile Wi-Fi, get a Glocal Me my-fi device (works in many countries around the world)
Via AMAZON, we bought the GlocalMe G3 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot. This device (which is about the size of an iPhone 6) worked great to leave on and carry in our day bag – giving us fast Wi-Fi everywhere we went. (We also used this device while traveling in Europe and Japan.)
Mobile payments by smartphone are used everywhere in Chengdu, but Apply Pay is not a frequently used platform. While we didn’t use it, WeChat is widely utilized for communications and payments. We would advise downloading and setting up the WeChat app before you travel to China.
For payments, we used cash, withdrawing Chinese yuan from ATMs. For a rough estimate of how much something cost in US dollars, we divided the yuan price by 6 and rounded up.
Designated by the Chinese government as the country’s western center of logistics, commerce, finance, science and technology hubs, Chengdu is a vibrant, ever-changing city that’s fascinating to visit.
Have you visited Chengdu, China? What know-before-you-go travel tip can you add?
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