For non-Chinese speaking tourists, getting around in China is pretty challenging. To make the matter worse, they don't offer free tourist map like every other country.
The first thing I did when landed in China was to search for the tourist map at the airport. To my surprise, there was none! I was so used to seeing shelves and shelves of tourist maps and information sheets greeting me at the airport. Such cold treatment in China was quite peculiar.
Although you can purchase the map from the tourist center, it might not be in English (I asked to take a look at the map but they refused to show it to me by giving a lot of excuses). You might find some brochures or booklet that features all the famous tourist spots, but it is very rare that you'll find them in English.
Here are my advises prior to your flying to China:
- Download the map into your phone. Make sure it is usable offline. Wifi is quite rare in public places.
- Technology being technology, can be unreliable at times (especially during emergencies). It is better to go old school and print the map at home beforehand. Make sure you have a separate general map, city map and subway map in your hand.
- If you're not as cheapskate as me, you can always purchase a reliable guide book in your local bookstore. Lonely Planet seems to be favorite of many travelers, but I've never been a fan. I prefer DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. It is more user-friendly with colored photos of attractions and colored map.
We were quite lucky to have a personal driver in China. That helps a lot to ease the travelling. Or else I would be really lost like a sheep without a shepherd.
Go and see the world. Happy traveling everyone!