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How to survive a 24-hour layover in Guangzhou, China

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

In November of 2018, I went on my first solo trip to Bali, Indonesia. I took a collection of 3 flights to and from Bali: Atlanta to New York, New York to Guangzhou, Guangzhou to Seminyak, and the opposite to get home.

A cool thing China Southern Airlines (a Delta partner) offers is a free hotel stay if your layover is over 8 hours! They take you to and from the hotel and give your your choice of what hotel you go to. But, staying in China is not so easy. Here is how to survive...

Keep a spare outfit in your carry on

Before you can leave the airport, you have to go through customs, meaning that they need to approve you to go into the country. This can take 15 minutes to 2 hours... And, there is no guarantee that they will allow you out, so there is a risk in letting your baggage stop in China or just carry on to your destination. On my way back from China, I was terrified that I was going to loose my baggage because they were taking so long to accept me. If for whatever reason you cannot leave the airport, having some extra clothes will allow you to be comfortable.

Exchange your money in the airport before you leave

On my way to Bali, I did not exchange any money before going into the city. I also couldn't find an ATM anywhere. I decided to go for a walk and explore, but when I got hungry I couldn't buy anything because all of the shops were cash only. I was lucky that the hotel I was staying at offered a free breakfast.

Bring something to do that does not require technology

China is a communist country, and regulates nearly everything online. I planned on working on my blog while there, but the wifi would not allow me to access my back office, or social media pages. I couldn't even check my email. So, I ended up watching about 2 hours worth of the Chinese military trying to balance cars on a giant balance and doing donuts in tanks! haha

Be prepared to be sworn to silence for a day unless you speak Chinese

Being in Guangzhou had the feel of being in New York City, but where you cannot understand anything, read anything, or communicate with anyone because of the language barrier. And, like I mentioned above there is no wifi so you can't look anything up either.

Use the word "toilet"

Before leaving for the airport, I desperately needed to go to the restroom because I got food poisoning from the buffet that morning. I was trying to ask the front desk assistants where the bathroom was, and they did not know what I was asking until I said "toilet". This word is universal all over the world, I think.

Bring charcoal pills on any trip you go on

Charcoal helps settle an upset stomach. I thought my friend was crazy when she told me that, too! When in Bali, I go Bali belly and as soon as I finally gave into trying the charcoal pills, I was better in 20 minutes. I got food poisoning in China on my layover back home, and didn't have any of those pills. I was sick for hours! Those pills would have saved me. You can order them on Amazon.

This is the buffet that got me sick...

Bring a face mask

I don't mean like a beauty face mask, but a medical one. In photos, you always see Chinese people wearing them and I didn't understand why until I was wondering around the city. The air pollution is so bad that after a few minutes, it gets a little harder to breathe and leads to lots of coughing. The sky is permanently grey. I think you should definitely go exploring just be sure to bring that protection.

Don't drink the tap water unless you boil it first!

The water in Asia, and most countries around the world is not safe or filtered. You will get sick if you drink the water or even use it to brush your teeth. Every hotel room has a kettle in it to boil the water. It can be kind of tedious to do. When I arrive I boil the full kettle then use it little by little throughout my stay.

These are all precautions to take, but don't let this discourage you from making a stop! It is always an exciting challenge to experience a place you are new to! There is much to do if you go prepared!

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