Book review: Travel to China

Are you thinking about travelling to China for the first time? Or maybe you are moving here? Are you worried about things like the visa application or what should you pack that is difficult to find in China? Are you getting confusing or even contradictory information in the internet? Fret not! There is now a guidebook that can help you!

When I first heard about Josh Summers’ new travel guide, Travel to China: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go, I thought it was strange that someone would think about writing a guide that doesn’t tell you what to do or see when you reach your destination, but how to get there and what to expect instead. Then I realised there are already many travel guides about China, but I didn’t know about any guide that explained all the essentials that are useful to know before coming to China. I surely would have liked a guide like this back in 2006, when I first arrived! Someone had told me that it was better to bring period pads from Spain, I don’t remember what was the reason, so I packed several in my luggage and later found literally whole supermarket aisles full of pads here. I was only allowed one piece of luggage (thanks, Air China) and I was moving to Beijing for 6 months, so suitcase space was at a premium and I wasted quite a bit of it with the damned pads! But I digress…

Josh Summers is a very successful blogger and the man behind Far West China and Travel China Cheaper. He has lived in China for over a decade and travelled here extensively, so he has a lot of useful information to share. In this latest guide, he focuses on all the practicalities you need to think about before coming here: getting the visa, buying the tickets, booking accommodation, planning your transportation inside the country… but in a very “friend to friend” way, as if you were having a coffee and chatting with him, as he explains in the introduction.

One of the things he talks about in the guide is Chinese trains. Here’s a pic from my first train trip in China, back in 2007. Most trains now are the super new and fancy high speed ones, at least here in the eastern coast.

As Josh mentions in his guide, if you travel on a hard bed in the sleeper train, DO NOT get the lower bunk unless you want everybody to sit and put their things on it. Here I am at the tender age of 23 in the Beijing-Qingdao night train.


The guide is indeed very useful for people who have never been here (and even for those who were here years ago, as things in China change so incredibly fast) and I found myself nodding in several parts. However, the most useful sections, in my opinion, were the ones in which he talked about expectations. The same journey can feel very different for two travellers, and it will surely be because of the difference in what they were expecting to find in China. If you know in advance that beds in China are usually firm (euphemism for rock-hard) or that breakfast here is nothing like the one you are used to back home, you will be prepared and not feel disappointed or angry when you face the situation.

If you are planning to travel to China and need a bit of help organising everything, have a look at Travel to China: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go! It’s available on Amazon as an eBook and paperback.