This past week, China Daily reported that Beijing’s rescue team, “Luye,” responded to four emergency calls during the week-long October Holiday alone – all from travelers who needed assistance in remote areas outside of the city proper.
As, according to the article, this and similar teams received only 9 similar calls for all of 2009, what is causing this rising trend in travel emergencies?
Luye head Lu Zhonghong attributed the increase to lesser-known spots preferred by travelers and lack of know-how, saying, “Most people who get into trouble those days are travelers without professional knowledge and the equipment they need to hike.” Though “people increasingly prefer to travel in undeveloped areas and in the mountains around the city,” he said “it can be very dangerous to climb such peaks, especially when people are not familiar with the terrain.”
We’re strong proponents of off-the-beaten-path travel in China – but, safety is also our first priority. Here are our tips for experiencing China’s unique sites without ending up lost, injured, or worse:
1) Choose your destination wisely: Adventure is one thing; danger is another. Research destinations carefully, because someone’s definition of “difficult” might be your idea of certainly unsafe. Consult travel operators, travel review websites, and other travelers.
2) Explore with an expert: Just because you’re a good adventurer doesn’t necessarily mean you can navigate unknown terrain without a local guide. Do your research and make sure that you are traveling with a well-trained, experienced guide who can knows the area, terrain, and routes like the back of his or her hand. (We know plenty – just ask.)
3) Off-road during the off-peak: Holiday periods in China are notorious for logistical issues that may cause delays and cancellations. If you are traveling remotely during a Golden Week or other popular travel period, emergency services may not be able to act as swiftly on your behalf. Choose a time to adventure when rescue teams, hospitals, and police will be less busy.
4) Have connections handy: If you’ve traveled China extensively or live in the country, you might not want a guide to take you beyond the tourist hubs. In that case, make sure that you have plenty of local contacts whom you can call or find in the event of an emergency. Information for friends’ families, local hotel / lodge owners, and regional emergency hotlines should be on hand at all times.
5) And, of course, do not travel alone.