China Travel: ‘China is not what we expected,’ say foreign travelers

“City or not city, ah?” “Very city, ah!” An American vlogger in China has shot to fame on social media with his invention of this meme blending Chinese and English.

The vlogger, known as “Hug Hug Bear” or Bao Bao Xiong in Chinese, often asks his family, “City or not city, ah?” The term “city” here can be understood as urbanization and modernity.

In fact, more and more foreign travelers are coming to China and experiencing firsthand the “city” that is vastly different from their previous perceptions. While some still view China through a biased lens or even slander it, the truth cannot remain hidden. As two foreign vloggers simultaneously wrote in their video titles, “China is not what we expected,” a theme that resonated with many.

Helping more people understand and experience China requires an open and inclusive environment and supportive policies.

As of November 17, 2023, foreign nationals from 54 countries were eligible for the 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy. Changsha, Harbin, and Guilin have also implemented the 72-hour visa-free transit policy, while Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Jieyang, Shenyang, Dalian, Qingdao, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Xiamen, Wuhan, and Kunming have all implemented the 144-hour visa-free transit policy.

To ensure foreign travelers have a smooth experience, they can now download payment tools like Alipay and WeChat, bind their international bank cards, and enjoy an all-in-one service for dining, entertainment, and shopping in China. More than 30 e-wallets are available for use within China, making mobile payments incredibly easy.

Reservation services for attractions have also become more tourist-friendly. For instance, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has opened an online ticket purchase channel for passport holders, and the Shanghai Museum has an English reservation channel for foreign visitors. In April this year, the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum launched an international integration service platform to help foreign tourists make online ticket reservations, covering 39 countries and regions in 24 languages and 29 currencies.

In terms of accommodation, many hotels have upgraded their registration systems, offering English maps, bilingual signs, and Western-style breakfasts. These thoughtful services remove many barriers and make a foreign tourist’s experience in China more seamless.