Unlike most western countries, the tap water in China is unsuitable for drinking unless it is boiled. When you travel to China, you can get free drinking water from hotels and from restaurants. The most convenient and safe way is to buy purified bottled water from stores.
Drinking Water in Hotels
Hotel rooms often feature a water dispenser which delivers both cool and hot potable water. However, some hotels have no water dispenser but are instead equipped with a water heater or thermos. You can use the water heater to boil water or use the water directly from the thermos. If the water in the thermos has run out, you can ask a waiter to refill it. In some cases, four- or five-star hotels may supply high-quality mineral water for free or for a minimal charge. The tap water in the hotels can be used to brush teeth.
Drinking Water in Restaurants
Tap water is not drinkable in China. In most Chinese restaurants, water is served for free before the meal, although some will offer tea or noodle soup instead. Always, the drink offered has been boiled, and you can drink it without worry. Most restaurants also have bottled water or other beverages on their menu. However, you must pay for them and the price is higher than that found at the supermarket. Note that some of the restaurants may sell cold drinks, but without ice.
Drinking Water Outside
Although the tap water is not drinkable, you won’t have to worry about finding water when you go out as it is quite easy to buy bottled water in shops everywhere in China. Foreign brands are available in the supermarkets of big cities, while in small cities or rural areas only local brands are sold.
Several popular brands of bottled water, such as Wa Ha Ha, Nestle and Nongfu Spring, are available for purchase, while bottled tea and juice are also popular. Ordinary bottled mineral water and various beverages are commonly sold in many street shops, supermarkets, restaurants and hotel stores.
1. If you are using the drinking water contained in a large plastic barrel, it’s recommended that you use the water within one week. Once the date range spans more than seven days, the water can cause a health risk as bacteria may become present, especially in summer.
2. Take care when choosing bottled water in small market. Ensure the water is transparent, free of any form of deposits, and that the bottle is smooth and clear. Also check whether the seal is intact.
Food Service in China
Food has a special meaning to the Chinese people. Surprising range and variety of plants and animals are used and eaten. This has given rise to a remarkable diversity in the regional cuisine, but to Westerners it can be overwhelming – surprising, fantastic, delicious, horrifying or disgusting but above all, different. Travelers are often surprised that it is not like the Chinese take-away in their home town.
However, China is also a gourmet’s paradise, and the food can be outstanding, if you know what to order. It includes a lot of fresh vegetables, meat, noodles, rice, fish, dumplings and regional specialties, with an amazing number of ways to prepare, spice, serve, pickle or preserve the food.
China can be divided into many geographical areas, and each area has a distinct style of cooking. The ingredients used in the food are based on the agricultural products produced in the region. In the northern part of China, for example, wheat is more eaten than rice as staple food. Food using wheat as its main ingredients such as noodles and dumplings are widely available. As for vegetables, cabbage is ubiquitous, almost served at every restaurant. Compared to the rather monotonous fare of the north, China’s southern cuisine is notable for its exceptional tastiness and its great variety. Most of the famous Chinese dishes served in international capitals – i.e., what is considered “Chinese Cuisine” abroad – belongs in fact to the cuisine tradition of southern China.
Most restaurants provide tea free of charge. This is normally green tea, or similar.
Cutlery can be offered if asked.
Tipping is not expected, although service charges may be included in the more expensive restaurant.
When ordering dishes in a restaurant, make sure that you really understand what the dish is, because the name of the dish might be confusing, and you’d end up having a completely unexpected dish in front of you.