Travellers with Special Requirements
China may seem like a distant land reserved for the most extreme backpackers. But while there are a few rugged areas in the country far away from civilization, most places are sound, well equipped for foreign tourists and suitable for senior citizens. If you’re enjoying your golden years and are ready for the trip of a lifetime, here are ten helpful tips that will make for a smooth journey.
Book a guided tour
Solo traveling might be difficult in your later years, so it’s recommended to book a tour that will provide transportation and arrange everything for you. This will also give you more time to enjoy the sites without having to do too much planning, thus making your trip much smoother. If you have special needs, use a private tour organization that will accommodate your requirements.
It’s highly recommended to visit the doctor for a checkup before making the long trip to China. Though hospitals in big cities are modern, but you still don’t want to have a problem thousands of kilometers away from home. Also, make sure to bring extra of any medication you need because it will be extremely difficult to find it once here.
By and large China is a safe country, but probably even more so for seniors. Chinese culture shows a high amount of respect for elders, and it’s not uncommon for children to invite their parents to live with them. In fact, the Chinese government has recently implemented a law requiring children to regularly visit and respect their parents to continue this proud tradition of caring for the elderly. Don’t be surprised as well if youngsters give up their subway or bus seats for you.
Make sure to research and choose the cities, attractions and destinations that won’t be too strenuous on your body or health. Just about any UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with many of the developed cities on the east coast, will be suitable for easy travel. Travel conditions in the west and central part of the country are generally rougher and less developed than the east.
The Chinese diet is very different from what you may be accustomed to. The good news is that there are many international chain supermarkets everywhere, even in third-tier cities. Wal-Mart, Auchan, Lotus and Carrefour will have a variety of Western imported food that you can purchase. If you’re traveling to a small town, you might want to stock up on your favorite foods before heading out.
Buy travel insurance
Though it’s a good idea for anyone to purchase travel insurance, it’s highly recommended for seniors. Accidents unfortunately happen to all of us, so come prepared. For more information on travel insurance, check out: www.chinatravel.com/facts/travel-insurance.htm
Check the weather
China is the third largest country by area in the world, so its climate varies greatly from region to region. Check our weather chart in the beginning of each provincial chapter to get an idea of the conditions during your travel time.
Plan ahead for transportation & accommodation
Book ahead at hostels to make sure you get a private room (especially during peak season, when they sell out quickly), and research your hotels beforehand to see if they meet your requirements. It might also be a good idea to plan ahead for transportation, especially since many airlines offer discounts and priority seating for the elderly.
As mentioned above, many airline companies will offer discounts and/or priority seating, but remember that other places, such as ferries, tourist attractions, and shows offer reduced prices for seniors. Make sure to check before paying any entrance fee or ticket, and bring your passport for proof of age.
Age is just a number, so get up and go! In truth, people over 50 make up the majority of international world travelers these days, so enjoy it and have a dream vacation in one of the world’s most fascinating countries.
China is the world’s third most visited country (behind France and the USA, respectively) and welcomes nearly 58 million international tourists per year. Therefore, the government has made great efforts to ensure that all travelers, especially those with various degrees of physical and mental disabilities, can enjoy the country’s rich history and culture hassle-free.
That being said, China is an enormous country that is still developing. Even though it has gone to great lengths in improving facilities and infrastructure to meet international standards of universal access, there is still much room for improvement. As a general rule of thumb, the larger cities like Beijing (which hosted the Paralympic Games in 2008), Tianjin, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau and a few other major coastal cities will sporadically be able to meet international standards for disabled travelers. Some UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Terracotta Warriors and the Shaolin Temple, are also equipped for the disabled, while many famous mountains have cable cars and various national parks have car transportation services available, making access much easier. However, it’s not uncommon to hear complaints of the state of wheel chair ramps in world class destinations – such as the Forbidden City – let alone the vast majority of restaurants and restrooms. Some of the cable cars as well are not wide enough to fit a manual wheelchair – let alone a powered one.
Comparatively, the western and the interior parts of the country, unfortunately, are still trying to catch up with the east coast in terms of universal access. Places like Xi’an, Chongqing and Chengdu are the exceptions, but for the most part, especially in rural areas, it might be very hard to get around. While major airports – such as in Chengdu – might have all the facilities available for wheelchair access their staff might not all be on the same page with regards to procedures. There are many stories circulating of travelers with ventilators explaining how when traveling in Chinese airports they are met with staff that are not sure what to do in terms of checking if and what kind of paperwork are required – be sure to show up well in advance to go through this process.
It is also important to note that in a country where even being foreign is a novelty – and a difference of skin of eye color is enough to make someone ask to have a photo with you – showing up with even something as common as a wheelchair can get quite a lot of looks. But this is no reason not to enjoy the many beautiful sides that China has to offer.
Get a physical check up and consult with your doctor before making the long trip overseas.
Booking private tours is a good option since they can cater to any specific needs.
Purchase the appropriate travel insurance.
Contact hotels, restaurants or other places of interest in advance to see if they have the proper facilities.
Be sure to bring spare parts for the equipment you may be bringing - such as wheelchairs or walkers - and enough medicine in your luggage because it’ll be very difficult to find once you’re in China. With regards to equipment - if you need a power outlet for your equipment be sure to bring the appropriate electrical converters.