On these " Travel Guide " sub-pages I will give you practical advice based upon my usually hard won experiences traveling in China. There is no school where you learn as much as you do or as quickly as " The University Of Difficult Experience."
In July of 2011 I came to Guangzhou for my third visit. While Guangzhou is my favorite city that I've explored in China it is not without problems. Some of those difficulties are listed below.
1. Bai Yun International Airport is a tourist's disaster. ALL of those folks that you think are there to help you when you arrive are NOT !!! There is no controlling government authority such as an Airport Authority that oversees this airport. Well what does this mean to the tourist you ask? Here is your answer. ALL the people that you think are there to help you navigate your way through this airport are NOT !! Everything is PRIVATELY owned. They do not give a damn about you. They are there to make money for their owners ANY WAY THEY CAN !! They WILL lie , cheat and steal at every opportunity you give them. Should you need to take a bus downtown if you don't happen to get lucky and ask the one you need first NOBODY will tell you which one to take. Worse yet not only will they not tell you but they will lie to you. Also be aware that the taxi drivers are bandits. Do NOT patronize them. If you absolutely must patronize them be aware that there is POSITIVELY no reason to pay more than 100 RMB for a ride downtown. " Well D.D. how do we solve these problems you're probably thinking? " I'm glad you asked. Here is your answer. There is a Metro / Subway right in the airport. NOBODY will tell you that either so you must look carefully for the sign. Basically when you walk into the terminal from your flight arrival the Metro will be at the far R end of the airport. A ride downtown will cost you 15 RMB. Make sure and save your token since you will need it to get out. Now the bad part of the Metro for me was that I was staying on Shamian Island which required me to change twice. The signs are in English and Chinese and the subway map is also in English and Chinese. It's about 11 stops to downtown. What I suggest you do is take the subway the 11 stops or to as near to your hotel as possible and then get off and go upstairs and take a cab. Depending on where you're going a cab ride should cost you anywhere from 5 RMB to 40. Now isn't that better than getting ripped off for 300 RMB minimum and getting all frustrated and aggravated dealing with the stupidity of these folks?
2. Guangzhou reminds me a lot of Quebec. Allow me to explain. There are two main languages in China , Mandarin which 90 % of the country speaks and Cantonese which is spoken in Guangdong / Gaungzhou and Hong Kong. Now the Chinese government mandates that ALL students learn Mandarin in school. I think this policy has not yet reached some of the more remote areas of China since many folks can't speak it. Many folks in Guangzhou refuse to speak it. Many folks in Guangzhou also will not acknowledge a lao wai speaking Cantonese unless his Cantonese is PERFECT. Now how is that for quality business practices? I'm sure that those of you that have been to Quebec now understand what I meant with my opening statement.
3. Tipping is NOT the custom in China . As a matter of fact they will get very annoyed with you if you tip them. In their culture you see when you tip someone you are telling them that they have a low paying meaningless job. They get insulted at this. THAT custom is China but you are in Guangzhou now. Be aware that TIPPING in many places in Guangzhou is allowed and expected. Also be aware that in many places they tack a 20 % tip onto the bill WITHOUT even telling you. It may be on the menu in VERY SMALL print and in Cantonese. Be careful of this. The way I generally handle this is to decide what I want to eat , figure out the prices , and then get the bill and pay BEFORE I eat. They will most likely hate you PASSIONATELY for this but I frankly don't care. I do NOT like being ripped off because I am a foreigner. They can be a s angry with me as they please. They will get over it. Just be aware of this problem. Handle it as you see fit.
4. If a beautiful young woman invites you to a tea house to have tea and become "friends" do NOT accept her invitation. It is most likely a scam. If you do accept you'll get stuck with a HUGE bill. Some times they'll be as much as 5,000 RMB. If this happens to you do NOT even think about calling the police. THEY are in on the scam. Pay the bill and chalk it up to hard experience.
5.. I'll have more observations about Guangzhou as they reveal themselves to me. The picture below was taken on Shamian Island in Guangzhou. These sculptures appear all over the Island. They are very life like wouldn't you agree?