Written by Chief Global Gal Brenda
Recently I traveled to three major cities in China—Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai—and was pleasantly surprised by the ease of traveling alone as a solo gal! I have been coming back and forth to China since 1992, and each time I visit I’m amazed by how many changes—particularly with their transportation—are taking place. On this particular trip to China it struck me how much easier it has become for solo women travelers to navigate their way around—even with the cultural and language barriers. Whether taking the high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai (a 5-hour trip), riding the subways, or traveling by plane within the country, I was impressed by how modern, clean, safe, efficient and organized it all was. Moreover, the Chinese staff were helpful and many of the signs were clearly marked in English. While taking taxis, I was able to get around if I presented my taxi driver with directions and addresses in Chinese (which I would obtain from my phone or have my hotel write beforehand).
Interestingly, I felt as if I experienced less stress getting around China than I sometimes do in my own country! If you’ve ever considered going on a solo trip to China, I’d definitely encourage you to do so! Of course, I tended to stick to the “touristy areas” like Pudong in Shanghai and booked reservations through sites like Hotwire, so if you do travel to areas outside the major cities, you might want to consider booking an English-speaking tour or day-trip, hiring a local Chinese guide or English-speaking graduate student, or doing your homework before coordinating logistics and travel arrangements. For example, if you want to go to the Great Wall—which is quite a distance outside of Beijing—I might suggest just booking a day-tour from your hotel or sites like viator.com to let them handle all the logistics and allow you more time to enjoy the journey and, of course, this amazing “Wonder of the World.”
I also feel as if the US could learn a lot from China, too, in the area of transportation and catering to their passengers. For example, I took a regional airline from Beijing to Shanghai and despite it being a flight of less than 2 hours, they provided us with a full meal, blankets, newspapers, movies, and tons of leg room! A completely different experience compared to the one I had on the 13+ hour United flight from the US to China! I always seem to have a much better “passenger experience” on Asian airlines and try to book international flights with them when I can!
As a solo gal in China, you will likely feel safe but of course, here at Global Gals we always tell our gals to exercise good judgement, trust your instincts, be prepared, and follow our suggested safety tips. That said, I never experienced any negative situations on my recent trip—safety-related or otherwise—and would suggest considering a solo trip here or traveling with friends or family, too!