Having recently returned from a three week long trip to China, here are three travel tips that might be helpful for those who intend to visit this wonderful country.  As one might expect, while there are certainly similarities between China and many western countries -- luxurious 5-star hotels, excellent public transport, exciting shopping, and breathtaking sights -- there are some significant differences also.  And they are differences that may be surprising and unexpected. This article suggests three simple, but essential, items that you may wish to take with you to China. 

#1 Toilet Paper

With the exception of major hotels and western style restaurants, most restrooms in China do not have toilet paper available in each stall.   Some do have a roll of toilet paper on the wall as you enter the restroom and this enables you to tear off as much as you think you might need before entering the stall.   But many restrooms do not have any paper available at all, so be sure to carry toilet paper with you wherever you go.  Remove the cardboard center from the toilet roll and it will fit more easily into a fanny pack or backpack.

And on the topic of toilets, the ladies should be aware that again, with the exception of major hotels and western style restaurants, most women's restrooms only offer a Chinese style toilet.   This toilet is a porcelain bowl set in the floor with a ridged surround on each side where you put your feet so that you can squat.   The flushing mechanism is sometimes at floor level on the wall - use your foot to flush - but may also be further up the wall for hand flushing.   Here is a photo of a Chinese style toilet just so you are prepared.

Hand sanitizer essential!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ladies Chinese toilet

#2 Salt and Pepper

While almost everything available on the menu in China's restaurants is enjoyable, there is a conspicuous lack of salt and pepper in restaurants.  The food served in restaurants in China is not typically seasoned while cooking.  It is tasty, often very spicy, but sometimes quite bland.  You can ask for salt and pepper to sprinkle on the food, but more often than not, the serving staff and management either will have no idea what is being asked for, or may not be able to come up with any salt or pepper.  In one instance, a traveler pretended to shake salt onto the dish on the table, and it seemed the waiter knew what was required and brought along a small shaker of what looked like salt.  After shaking it on to their food and tasting it, it turned out to be garlic powder!    If you like to season your food, even just a little, you may want to take your own filled plastic salt and pepper shakers and just keep them in your fanny pack or back pack while touring.

#3 Paper Napkins/Serviettes

Unlike a lack of salt and pepper shakers on the table as mentioned above, paper napkins/serviettes are usually available on the table in most restaurants.  The problem is that they are tiny and flimsy.   Normally the diner is only provided with one paper napkin/serviette which proves to be quite inadequate.   Either pack some paper napkins/serviettes from your home country, or improvise with the toilet paper suggested in  #1!

In summary, while a lack of toilet paper, salt and papper, and adequately sized paper napkins will not ruin your trip to China, taking them along with you will undoubtedly enhance both your toileting and dining experiences!