Is Travel to China Safe?
(Photo: china image by Luisafer from Fotolia.com )
China is a fascinating and diverse country that welcomes more than 100 million tourists a year and lays claims to being the fourth most popular destination in the world. Its economy has been booming for years and its interest to the outside world, heightened by the Summer Olympics of 2008, appears to be increasing as well. While there are precautions one should take when traveling to and around China, it is generally a safe country to visit.
Unlike much of the world, China s economy has been thriving in recent years and the country boasts the fourth-highest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world. Jobless and homeless rates are relatively low, which translates to a low crime rate as well. You hear about the occasional pickpocketing, but violence, particularly targeted against foreigners, is very rare.
Awareness is perhaps the most important safety precaution you can take when visiting China. It s not uncommon to have someone make an attempt at your wallet or camera if they re easily accessible. Since you ll frequently find yourself in the middle of a crowd of people bumping up against you, always make sure your valuables are well-protected. Avoid carrying a wad of cash or your wallet in your back pocket. Keep things where you can either see them or keep a hand on them. Also keep your belongings with you at all times. If an item is left unattended, it could be snatched up before you realize it.
Scams are a huge concern in China, since there are countless Chinese businesses that exist to make money illegally through counterfeiting and deceit. Know that just about all supposedly brand-name items for sale in small shops or on the streets are not the real deal. Also assume that the first price a shop owner throws out is way above what he s willing to sell the item for. Everybody bargains, so be prepared to do so. Take small bills with you when shopping, since having exact amounts helps. If you re worried about not recognizing a scam, shop only in larger stores and malls where everything has a price tag and bargaining isn t allowed. Be wary of people who approach you on the street. Many con artists offer one thing, such as a place for tea or a look at an art show, but then try to trick you out of your money.
Counterfeit money also is not uncommon–you ll notice taxi drivers and shopkeepers will almost always scrutinize the money you hand them before accepting it. All the bills except the one yuan note have metal ribbons from top to bottom, a little left of center. These should be visible as a silver line on the front of a shadow when looked at from the back. Also, the flower design near the middle of each note and Chairman Mao s jacket image are textured, so you should feel some slight bumpiness when running your finger over them.
Contrary to how Chinese are so often portrayed in martial arts films, they are actually a peaceful people, typically aggressive only in business dealings. The majority of people you meet will most likely be genuinely interested in getting to know you and even practicing their English with you. Don t let stereotypes get in the way of enjoying the Chinese people and their country.