UPDATE on coronavirus in Wuhan/Hubei Province (February 2020): Due to the current outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), countries and health agencies across the world have advised that people should avoid travel to Wuhan and the province of Hubei.
Exploring alone is an exciting, eye-opening and challenging experience – nowhere is this more true than in Wuhan, capital city of central China‘s Hubei province. For those in the know, this metropolis is the perfect place for a one-(wo)man adventure. Read on for our ultimate solo guide.
A solo traveler’s best friend is the app store. Wherever you may be, modern technological developments have ensured that it is possible to download your way to independence in a matter of minutes. Before arriving in Wuhan, savvy travelers should all be equipped with a specialised arsenal of apps.
Firstly, you will need a decent map. It is worth noting that unless you have a VPN, Google maps will not work. Two good alternatives are Apple Maps and Baidu Maps, both of which have functions which will help you to plan the most efficient routes on public transport.
Next, see to it that you have an effective language app. Most seasoned travelers of China swear by Pleco Chinese Dictionary. The app conveniently works offline and has a range of additional features including an optical character recognizer, which translates text live from your camera.
Finally, make sure you have WeChat installed. This is the holy grail of Chinese social networking. You can use WeChat to keep track of new friends, discover local events and you can even use it to pay for dinner order train tickets or send for takeout.
As we are all well aware, technology can let us down. Batteries die out and WiFi is unreliable, which is why it is essential to have a back-up plan. Unlike in bigger Chinese cities, English speakers in Wuhan are more thinly spread. Therefore, the solo-Wuhan traveler is advised to take precautions – spend a few days before your trip learning the basics of the language, and carry a paper map with places of importance clearly marked in case of emergencies.
It’s great to share new experiences with like-minded people, and given that the Wuhan tourist pool is still comparably small, it’s likely that those who visit will share some common ground. Whether you’re backpacking the whole of China, or on a weekend trip from Beijing, there is nothing like a kindred spirit to put a cherry on your holiday. But where do you find such a person? The most productive way to seek out fellow travelers in Wuhan is through the locally-celebrated expat website, Wuhan Social. This online directory is chock-a-block with regularly updated exhibitions, events and mixers. And an added bonus – it’s in English!
Wuhan is a living museum of ancient Chu culture from one of China’s ancient empires. The city is inhabited by friendly people, decorated by picturesque lakes and due to its central, landlocked location, Wuhan is a gastronomical melting pot for surrounding cuisines. Being a solo traveler has numerous benefits in a place like this. With no tour group to worry about, you have speed and efficiency on your side, so personalise your itinerary, move to your own rhythm and get the best out of your time at a pace that suits you.
Western civilization often stigmatises those who eat out alone. However, in a city where restaurants are so affordable, lonely dining is run of the mill. So resist the urge to hole up in your hostel with instant noodles, and instead head out into the streets where endless delicacies await.
Those unfamiliar with Chinese food culture can often find themselves with, quite literally, too much on their plate. Wuhan’s culinary etiquette and Chinese food culture in general promotes sharing, which is great – unless of course you have no one to share with. Luckily, there are ways around this. Most menus have an individual dish section, which comprises one dish and a portion of rice. If you are unsure, look for this character 盖饭, or ask for ‘gai fan’. Alternatively there are plenty of places to eat catered to the individual. Look out for signs reading: 麻辣烫，麻辣香锅， 兰州拉面。
We all know that paying for a bed in a shared dorm is a cheap and easy way for solo travelers to meet each other – Wuhan Bingo Hostel is a great option if that’s what you’re looking for. However, if you’re not buying into the rustic charm of communal living and dressing straight out of a bag, then fear not; Wuhan has plenty of single person budget-friendly rooms to choose from. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, then perhaps tap into Wuhan’s couchsurfing community. Being a single traveler, it should be easier to find a room and it is a great way to see the city through the eyes of a local. Wherever you choose, bear in mind that Wuhan is a large city and public transport links do not run all night, so if you want to avoid a large taxi fare, stay somewhere central.
This goes without saying, but ask your host or a member of staff for an address card. As a solo traveler in a big foreign city, the last thing you want to be is lost!