“When overseas you learn more about your own country, than you do the place you’re visiting.” – Clint Borgen
Driving in China is much harder than driving here. We complain a lot about traffic here in Northern Virginia, but we have very few traffic problems in comparison to China. Our recent trip through Fujian and Guangdong, made the morning commute on Route 7 look like a leisurely stroll through a park. Here are some of our observations about traffic in China and few pointers if you ever feel like venturing through this country.
- Defensive driving is the standard in China. Outside the largest of cities, roads are shared with bicycles, mopeds, pedestrians, and animals. This wide range of travelers and speeds create a chaotic group of stop and go traffic at a volume that far exceeds any metropolitan area in the US. The large cities have banned bicycles, animals and mopeds. While this improves the flow of traffic, the shear volume of cars, buses and trucks on the roads create almost constant traffic jams. In areas with high pedestrian traffic, it is common to see roadways congested with people because the sidewalks are full. The drivers slowly inch along behind the walkers acknowledging they are far out numbered.
- For all the appearance of chaos, there were few visible accidents. Everyone and everything travels with a trust that their fellow travelers will do them no harm. Merges occur in a fashion that we would consider rude and dangerous in America. Cars cut each other off and pass in a fashion that would elicit a long blaring of the horn in the US. Yet our drivers and the other drivers acted as if nothing wrong had occurred. There were no horns, cussing or anger. It may help that most of the speed limits are low in comparison to the United States. However, you sense there is a deeper philosophy shared by the Chinese concerning behavior in crowds.
- Double solid yellow stripes are optional. Rarely do you appreciate the American attitude that you cannot trust other people while driving, than on your way up the mountain side as your driver, along with several others, cross a double yellow line on a blind curve to pass a tour bus. There were no shoulders, extra lanes or curbs, just a straight drop down. Yet, what we saw was that the oncoming traffic slowed and/or stopped to allow this type of passing to occur. This behavior was witnessed over and over headed to various tea fields. Lets just say tea never tasted so good at the end of a trip.
To put it bluntly, do not drive in China if you are American. Their mass transit is wonderful and easy to navigate, even if you do not speak Chinese. There are plenty of affordable driving services that can get you around cities. From private drivers that often speak English, to taxis and the Chinese version of Uber, Didi. Just always travel with the addresses you need to go to in Chinese, including the hotel you are staying at.