Archives For Travel / Traffic

Mar22_Baby_car_seatChina has one of the high­est and most dan­ger­ous traf­fic acci­dent records in the world. When­ever I am dri­ving, road safety is always on my mind, espe­cially when trav­el­ing with two young chil­dren. We always make sure Tanya and Ali­cya are securely strapped into their car seats, but this is not com­mon in China. In fact only 1% of Chi­nese fam­i­lies with cars use child seats. It’s a fright­en­ing sta­tis­tic, which results in 185,000 deaths a year in China of chil­dren under 14. It is more com­mon to see par­ents hold­ing their chil­dren in the back seat or even in the front seat with­out either wear­ing a seat belt. The prob­lem is due to a lack of cul­ture towards safety, insuf­fi­cient knowl­edge about the dan­gers and weak laws, which if they exist are not rig­or­ously enforced. Also many chil­dren don’t like to use car seats at first, so many par­ents give up when their child is cry­ing and scream­ing to get out. We went though this sit­u­a­tion with Tanya, so it was painful and dif­fi­cult period for every­one, but I insisted she had to use it. Now she is pretty good and enjoys being in her own seat, which gives us all the peace of mind when dri­ving on the roads in China.

(Blog posted by Ray on March 22, 2014. You can see the original article by following this link to

U-Turn on Tough Traffic Light Law

john  —  February 9, 2013


Dri­ving in China is more haz­ardous and dan­ger­ous than almost any other place in the world. Mainly for two rea­sons: firstly 80% of car own­ers are first time dri­vers. So they don’t have expe­ri­ence and road sense that we grow up with in the west. Sec­ondly: most dri­vers ignore the traf­fic rules and reg­u­la­tions because they don’t agree with them and the penal­ties are low and not enforced.

How­ever, this was set to change in the New Year when the gov­ern­ment intro­duced new laws. This would mean tighter restric­tions and tougher penal­ties to reduce traf­fic fatal­i­ties and make the roads safer. The most con­tro­ver­sial new law stated that if you jumped an “amber” light you would get a six point penalty on your license. Which is the same penalty for jump­ing a red light, so if you did it twice you would lose your license.

How­ever, there has been so much oppo­si­tion from dri­ver that the gov­ern­ment has caved in and sus­pend this new law. As some­one who have dri­ven in China for sev­eral years I agree with this new law and think it should have remained. It may be harsh but at present when dri­vers see amber traf­fic lights they just speed up try­ing to get passed before it turns red. An amber light in China means “drive faster”, whereas in the west in means slow down and dri­vers do. At the end of the day any­thing that can cut speed­ing cars and make the roads safer has to be good for everyone.

(Blog posted by Ray on January 8, 2013. You can see the original article by following this link to

How to Use a Squat Toilet in China

john  —  November 25, 2012


The “western” toilet is making inroads into China and in big cities and airports, you’ll find a few of them in the row of toilets in the bathroom. However, there are still lots and lots and lots of squatty potties and likely as not, you’ll venture into one. It’s not as hard as it seems, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into before you go…


1. Pack Tissues. Before you even leave the hotel, make sure you’ve got portable toilet paper with you. Lots of public restrooms don’t provide it. Wet wipes and hand sanitizer are also good to have along as if there’s a sink, there may not be any soap, and probably no towels either.

(1. 装好卫生纸


2. Plan Your Business 1. “Preventive Peeing” or going before you go is a good way to avoid getting caught in a place that won’t have a nice toilet. (Nice doesn’t necessarily mean Western by the way.) Pretend you’re all five years old and make sure everyone goes before you leave the house.

(2. 计划你的旅游A

“预防你的小便”或者说在你出发前你得想到你要去的地方可能没有一个让你觉得舒服的厕所(这里的舒服不是说只有俺们外国的才最舒服,中国的厕所其实没啥 不好的)你就当自己是个五岁的小孩,出门前一定要尿尿。然后大家一起出发别落下任何一个人。)

3. Plan Your Business 2. If you’re going to be out and about, think about where you’ll be and try to plan some pit-stops in between. Especially in big cities, international hotels, upscale restaurants and shopping malls will have clean washrooms with most of the amenities (toilet paper, Western toilets, soap and towels).Places to avoid using the bathroom: large markets (especially outdoor markets), street-side public bathrooms (though they’re improving), tourist spots.

(3. 计划你的旅游B


4. Bag Hand-Off.

If you can, hand any unnecessary bags to a friend while you use the washroom. There are generally no hooks and you’ll need your hands to balance, to dig around your purse for tissues and to hold on to the door if the lock is broken.

(4. 别带你的包


5. Queuing Up. If you find yourself outside the comfort of your hotel, don’t panic. It won’t be unbearable. Queues in China don’t work the same way as they do in the States. Women generally line up in front of a particular stall rather than hang back as one opens. This can create a free-for-all so it’s best to stick to one door and keep your eye on it. If it happens not to be a Western toilet, better to get in there than re-queue. Many times, doors have pictures or signs indicating Western or squat-style toilets. Also, check the lock, if it’s red, then it’s occupied. Green means free but always knock.

(5. 排队这件事儿

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA如果你发现你自己已经不在那个舒服的旅店外了,别难过。这不是那么难忍受的事情。排队这件事在中国虽然不那么流行不过我们在美国也有不排队的时候不是吗。女厕所里面大家经常是一个个排在各个厕所前,并不是说在每个门前都晃来晃去等谁出来了就进去。所以说你得看准了自己等待的那个厕所位置并且一直盯着。如果前一位上完厕所出来你不幸的发现这不是座便器,我建议你最好还是进去吧,不然你又要重新排队了。不过很多情况下,门上面都会有标准注明那个是蹲厕那个是座便。还有一点要记着,上厕所前检查一下门锁,如果上面显示转到红色,那就是锁上了,要是绿色那就表明里面没人。)

6. Pants Check. I don’t want to scare you but some washrooms are rather wet – either from splash effect or the toilet maid (usually there is someone assigned to sit in the washroom and clean it) running amok with her mop. Either way, it’s not moisture you want on your new linen trousers. If it’s wet, roll them up, especially if you’re in line for a squat toilet. If you see other Chinese ladies rolling, then be sure to. They know something you don’t.

(6. 检查好你的裤子


7. The Squat. OK, well, you’ve found yourself in a squatty potty. It’s really not that bad and many argue it’s actually healthier to go this way than sitting down. Whatever, if you’re not used to it, squatting can be really difficult. Face forward and try to let your pants down while ensuring that the ends are up (hopefully you’ve rolled) and not touching the floor. There are grooved places for your feet on either side of the toilet. Try to get somewhere in the middle, feet flat on the floor (you don’t want to fall in, believe me) and aim for the potty.

(7. 蹲下


8. Paper Discard – Not in the Pot! Chinese plumbing in public restrooms generally doesn’t handle paper. If you can remember, please put anything other than #1 or #2 in the basket. Try as hard as you can NOT to look at the basket, it’s usually open and teeming with things on which you’d rather not lay eyes.

(8. 扔掉卫生纸


9. Finish Up. Out you go, you accomplished squat toilet user. Unroll your pants, wash your hands, if you can, and find your friends waiting for you outside.

(9. 结束

用完厕所,你已经完成了作为一个使用蹲厕的人的步骤。放下你的裤腿,洗干净手,然后找到在外面等你的朋友= =)


It’s really not that bad once you get the hang of it and isn’t it better than hovering over a public toilet seat?

China’s reputation for horrible public bathrooms used to be well-deserved, but these days, the government is doing a lot to improve the state of the facilities. You’ll often find public toilets rated with stars. There’s a lovely 4-star public toilet on the Sacred Way outside of Beijing, for example.

Have a few coins (1-2rmb) with you for use in public restrooms. There’s usually a charge and toilet paper will be given with the fee.

Try not to freak out about the squat toilets. Likely as not, you won’t have to use one and if you do, it’s all part of the experience.

What You Need

Toilet Paper (e.g. pocket tissues)

Anti-bacterial wipes or gel

Handkerchief for drying hands when towel isn’t available

An open mind and a sense of humor













(Pick from kdnet &

Canthy paid for her mum to go away on two-week holiday to Europe and she was arriving home today. In China it’s the custom that you see off you friends, family or client when they leave. Which means for long trips you often take them to the airport and pick them up on their return. In England you would normally drop them off at the tube, coach or train station and let them make their own way, but in China that’s not the custom. The airport is only 20 miles (32km) from where we live in CBD and it can be a nice drive as there is a dedicated airport express toll road. China has 70% of the worlds toll roads, so these tend to be wide, modern, fast and relatively cheap. This journey only costs CNY 5 (50p) going, but it’s free coming back from the airport into the city. We made the journey in under 30 minutes but arrived too early. So we did what most people do and parked up on the side of the road just after the Chinese imperial (Forbidden City) style toll gate. The only problem was coming back we got caught in a huge traffic jam and the return trip took two hours!

(Blog posted by Ray on August 29, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to

Tricycle Rickshaw Car Crash

john  —  July 18, 2012

I always drive Canthy to work in the morning then go off and do my own stuff. On the way home I got stuck in another traffic jam, which is not unusual. But then I saw it was caused by a crash between a van and a bicycle rickshaw. The poor old cyclist was still on the floor, hurt but luckily not dead. A crowd had gather around but the ploice or ambulance had not yet arrived. Couldn’t tell who fault it was, but in most cases it’s the cyclist or electric scooters rider that has ignored or jumped the lights. It’s a serious problem in China, as no one seems to pay attention to the rules of the road. Many times I have had swerve to avoid scooters and even had pedestrians step in front of my car, trying to cross the road when the lights are red. Driving in China is a nightmare, as no one follows or obeys the rules and everyone just wants to get ahead. So drivers continually switch lanes without indicating, pull out without looking and drive using their mobile phones. It sometimes feels more like your driving in a video game than in real life. Except that China has more road deaths than any other country (except India) and that is for real.

(Blog posted by Ray on July 4, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to

China is incredibly vast and distance between 2 cities is most likely hundreds of kilometers rather than kilometers. It is easy to travel via air to reduce time travel but it can become rapidly expensive. That’s why several travelers prefer train travel. It gives the opportunity to enjoy sightseeing and also to discuss and share experiences with locals or other travelers.

Railway is highly developed in China and the government puts lot of money to continue this fast development (with potential troubles sometimes like the recent fast train crash in July).

Hard and soft

Trains get two different classes (like usual European trains): “hard” and “soft” seats. A third class is also available for the courageous travelers, “stand-up” tickets. The guys will stand up until they can find a free seat or lay down on the floor… :(

Lot of night trains are available to cover long distance travels. You will find the 3 mentioned classes (yes, you can stand up during 10 hours in a night train…) and 2 different sleepers, hard and soft. Don’t expect any difference on the bed between these 2 classes – it refers only to the number of beds in the compartment, 6 for hard instead of 4 in soft class.

Classification of China’s train

They got 4 common categories. The first letter is used to determine the category and usually followed by several numbers:

  • ‘Z’ trains which are overnight trains
  • ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘G’ trains which are high-speed trains
  • ‘T’ trains which are national trains, slower than high-speed trains and stop on major cities
  • ‘K’ trains which can be compared to our regional trains with lot of stops in several cities

Book a train ticket

It is possible to buy tickets in the railway stations or on some ticket offices which are usually on the main district of major cities. Note that a 5RMB additional cost per ticket will be applied in these ticket offices.

Thanks to Rough Guide China, I discovered this website which is useful to find train timetable and exact reference:

Tickets are available between 10-15 days before departure. It is better to book the travel as soon as possible because Chinese people used a lot this way of travel. Passport will be required for ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘G’ trains.

Travelers must know that it is impossible to buy round trip tickets. The Chinese booking system is decentralized and each station manages their trains. Run in the ticket office as soon as you arrive to your destination to buy your next ticket if you want to avoid potential delays or rerouting.

Hint for non-Chinese speaker: ticket officers don’t speak English so I recommend to bring your destination written in Chinese character and if available the train reference. I also usually asked to people in the queue if they speak English and help me to book my train tickets. Chinese people are keen to help foreigners in this situation.

Adventure and friendliness

I had the chance to travel in train several times since I have landed in Beijing couple of months ago. The travel was always part of the adventure. Find below some anecdotes of my different travels:

  • A stand-up travel during 2h30 between the toilet door and the corridor. It was like a travel at rush hour in the subway but everybody was laughing and chatting
  • A small fight to get in the train at Shidu station then a total disorder with people everywhere who play, eat or sing
  • A friend who went to the wrong station for a weekend trip: there are 6 different railway stations in Beijing!
  • One of the fastest trains in the world between Beijing and Tianjin, 340 km/h for 30 min travel
  • Sleep with my friends on the floor in the restaurant car because we were able to get only stand up tickets on our way back from Shanhaiguan.

(Blog posted by Julian. You can see the original article by following this link to Julian, A French Man in Asia)

Canthy came back from her business trip and got dropped off at the office so I went to pick her up. It’s only a 5 km trip but can take 15 to 20 minutes if the traffic is normal. In the evenings it can be 30 minutes or more as the rush hour traffic around CBD is heavier. Despite having a car with a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph) I rarely get about 50 km/h as the traffic is bumper to bumper most of the way there, I know people complain the traffic is bad in Beijing, but I don’t think it is any worse than any big modern city. At least the roads are bigger in Beijing compared to London, which was never designed for cars and the heavy commuter traffic.

(Blog posted by Ray on April 9, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to

Ok, so you have arrived in China, you have a hit list of places to visit and now you need to work out the best way to travel to all those great places. When it comes to how to travel inside China, your choices are almost unlimited. You can travel by plane, train, car, bus, the back of a truck (did that in Inner Mongolia), walking, biking, horse, camel and I could go on.

Hands down the best way to travel in China if you have the time is by train. I simply cannot emphasise enough just how good trains are. Here is a basic cut down list (the full list would be at least 2-3 pages) of why trains are so good for travelling in China

-Comfortable. Your choice range from hard and soft seats to hard and soft sleepers and even deluxe sleepers on some trains. Just imagine travelling through the heart land of China in the way to see a magnificent world heritage sight while lying stretched out on your back enjoying the view outside.

Most trains have a restaurant car that services good meals. Attendants regularly go up and down the train selling everything from hot meals to toys. You can get of at each station to stretch, buy food from platform vendors and have quick one if you are a smoker. You can even smoke on the train at each end of the carriage. Try doing that on an airplane.

The toilets (essential features of travel) are hygienic and cleaned regularly, comfortable and queues are rarely if ever a problem.

-Cultural experience. Planes and airports are the same world over where as travelling by train in China is a unique cultural experience, a great way to meet local Chinese and make friends. The locals will play cards with you, exchange photos, share food, tell you about China, invite you back home for dinner and in general make the trip a delight.

-Efficient. The Chinese are experts at train travel and have built up a train system second to none. Every major location in China can be reached by trains that leave at least daily and are extremely reliable and fast.

-Scenery. You can see so much of China without even leaving the train. Going from Harbin in the north to Shenzhen in the south, you can see how the climate, vegetation, weather and even culture changes over the distance.

-Safe. Planes occasionally fall out of the sky. Trains on the other hand never blow up, explode, over take the run way or experience any of the numerous calamities that can befall planes. Every train carries at least 2-3 members of the police force and numerous carriage attendants who make sure passengers are safe and protected.

-Environmentally friendly. Face it. Travel is not the most environmentally friendly practice and even the famous lonely planet travel guide founders admit this. So do your bit to save the planet and travel by trains which have a much lower carbon footprint than planes.

-Convenience. Most train stations, Beijing being a great example, are in or close to the center of the city and easily accessible by buses, subways and taxis. Airports on the other hand tend to be out side city limits and not easy to get to. No annoying security and queues that take ages. Travel is often over night so you catch the train in the evening, sleep and arrive refreshed the next day.

To illustrate just how good train travel is, I’ll give you an example of my last trip from Beijing to Xian. Spent all day seeing the sights, had a relaxed evening meal of beef noodles then caught the 9:20pm from Beijing West train station. The trip from the hotel to the train station took 25 minutes maximum. Arrived just 20 minutes before the train left which was plenty of time. Boarded the train 10 minutes early, found my bed (hard sleeper) and stowed my gear. Lights went of around an hour after the train started and went to sleep. Arrived the next morning at 8:20 am 11 hours later at the Xian train station which was a quick taxi ride from my hotel.

Now if I flew from Beijing to Xian I would have left my hotel at a similar time. Taken at least an hour to arrive at the airport. Would need to be at the airport at least an hour in advance. Land in Xian at some god forsaken hour of the morning. Disembark, find my luggage, stagger out of the airport to the taxi rank, haggle with the driver who’d be asking for 3-4 times the going rate. Finally arrive at the hotel, recover, have breakfast and be ready to see the sights by around 8:20 am.

(Blog posted by China Travel Go on March 14, 2011 by Brendon. You can see the original article by following this link to China Travel Go)

Ever wanted to travel in China but were worried about not being able to speak Chinese and the language problems you’d have? Don’t worry. You are not alone and the language barrier is really not the problem you think it is. Many people have a great time travelling all over China with out knowing the language and basic Chinese is not hard to pick up.

I am going to show you basic Chinese for travel that you can pick up in a few hours and will be very useful to you during your travels. Some simple Chinese words and phrases will make your travels easier, be very helpful and will open a few more doors for you. Even if you make a mess of your Chinese and get it all wrong, your effort will be deeply appreciated by so many of the locals you will meet.

Background of Chinese

The Chinese language has at least seven dialects that are spoken by different groups in different parts of the country. For example people in Guangzhou speak Cantonese and people in Shanghai speak Shanghainese. The main dialect that is the official language of China is Mandarin in English or Putonghua in Chinese.

Basically all native Chinese speak Mandarin so this is the dialect that will be most useful for you in your travels in China. Don’t try to use Mandarin in your local Chinatown when you return home after your travels because Cantonese is the main language for overseas Chinese.

The basics of Mandarin

Pinyin – This is a system of using the Roman alphabet to write Chinese words instead of the traditional pictographs or characters. The roman letters in Pinyin are used to represent the sounds of standard Mandarin. When you walk around Chinese cities you will see that the street signs have both Chinese characters and pinyin.

Tones – Chinese is a tonal language with four different tones where words with the same pronunciation but with different tones can have completely different meanings.

First tone uses the symbol “-“ and your voice has a high and level pitch
Second tone uses the symbol “/” and your voice rises in pitch like it does when you ask a question
Third tone uses the symbol “\/” and your voice dips and then rises
Fourth tone uses the symbol “\” and your voice starts high and drops in drops

The word “ma” is a great example of how different tones can affect the meaning of a word.

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