China Travel and Country Information

Here is a concise list of useful China travel and country information for people visiting China on tour, for business or an extended stay. If you would like a copy of this information, a printable version (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) is available HERE.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Capital: Beijing
Total Area: 9.6million sq km (3rd largest country in the world)
Population: 1,369 million
Time Zone: GMT+8 hours with no summer time (daylight saving time); the whole country is in a single time zone.
Official Language: Putonghua (Mandarin). Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong and Guangdong province.
We have some useful phrases in Mandarin on our travel blog at:  http://asianhorizons.co.uk/chinese-phrases/ …Our blog also has phrases in Cantonese, Tibetan and Uighur

Voltage: 220 Volts, 50 cycles AC.Plug types Plugs come in a variety of shapes (quite confusing!). You can find either plug A, B, C or D (as shown below) or all of them at hotel. Plug D (used in Hong Kong and the UK) is more common at 4* and up hotels.  Most 3* and up hotels provide conversion plugs.

Giant Pandas in Chengdu

Chengdu Giant Pandas

VISA REQUIREMENTS

Visas are required by all nationalities. A tourist visa is normally valid for entry within three months of the date of issue and allows a stay of up to 30 days from the date of entry. Asian Horizons provides a Chinese Visa Processing Service, we can assist the visa application, please contact us for a copy of application form.

Hong Kong and Macau: Both territories are treated as a separate entities with their own visa regulations and most travellers do not need to obtain a visa in advance to visit them. A Double Entry Visa is required for those who plan to leave mainland China and return later including visits to Hong Kong or Macau. Note: For more information please view our website at http://asianvisas.co.uk/ or contact our visa specialists at info@asianvisas.co.uk

Customs Procedures: As a basic rule-of-thumb, all valuable items brought into the country such as jewellery, cameras, electrical equipment, etc. should be declared upon arrival and subsequently brought out of the country upon departure. (In actual practice however, it is not necessary to declare cameras or computers or even jewellery). To further improve the cash flow for tourists, now a new regulation allows foreigners to bring in up to US$10,000 per person undeclared into China.

No International or Domestic Airport Departure Tax: Departure tax for international and domestic flights has been cancelled. Therefore Travellers no longer pay a separate departure tax as it is included in the ticket price.

Baggage Allowance: Most international flights permit 23 kilos and one piece of hand luggage (more for premium classes).  Please note that most domestic economy flights throughout East Asia permit only 20kgs (more for premium classes). Thus we suggest carrying a maximum of 20kgs to avoid possible excess baggage charges whilst travelling.

CRIME & SAFETY

Most travellers find that China is a very friendly and hospitable country. Cases of crime against foreign visitors are rare. In larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, you can walk freely at any time of day or night without fear. But as a rule of thumb, avoid walking along small hidden lanes alone at night.As with any other destination, it is always wise to be wary of pickpockets and petty thieves around tourist sites, on trains and in markets. Spread your money between a numbers of pockets and wear a money belt beneath your clothes. Where possible, important documents that may not need to be carried on a daily basis (such as passports) should be stored in the safe in your hotel room or hotel reception.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall at Mutianyu

WEATHER

As with all countries of its size, China is subject to enormous variations of climate and temperature depending upon location and season.  Spring and autumn have traditionally been considered the best times to visit China, but with the exception of Tibet & Inner Mongolia during mid- winter, it is possible to travel all year round. China weather forecasts: www.bbc.co.uk/weather/

Average Monthly Temperature (in °C)
City J F M A M J J A S O N D
B -5 -2 5 13 20 24 26 24 19 12 4 -3
C 8 10 14 19 22 25 29 29 24 19 14 10
S 4 5 8 14 19 23 28 28 24 18 12 6
G 8 9 13 18 23 26 28 28 26 21 15 10
HK 13 14 18 22 26 27 28 28 27 24 19 15

(B – Beijing, C – Chongqing, S – Shanghai, G – Guilin, HK – Hong Kong)

SOCIAL CUSTOMS & CULTURE SHOCKS!

Toilets: Away from your hotel, toilet paper is not always provided, even in locations such as restaurants, trains and public toilets, even at tourist destinations. Remember to carry yours when going out! Re recommend taking a supply from your hotel room on a daily basis, Hand washing facilities are also not always adequate and we recommend you carry alcohol hand wash with you.

Bargaining: Expected for tourist souvenirs and at local markets. The shop keeper will start with a high price which you are then expected to bargain down until you reach a fair price. Consult your local guide about the standard price. Bargaining can be a lot of fun and sometimes top up your shopping experience!

Tipping: Generally not necessary including taxis and normal restaurants, but tipping your tour guide, driver, the luggage boy in hotel at high-end restaurants are a common practice. A tipping guideline is provided with all tour confirmations for holidays booked with Asian Horizons.

Opening Hours: Most banks, business, and government offices are open Monday to Friday only, usually from 9am – 5pm, some may close at lunchtime (12:00pm – 2:00pm). Tourist sites are generally open daily, from 8am – 5pm. Most restaurants open daily from 6am – 9am, 11:30am – 2pm, and from 5pm – 9:30pm. There are increasing numbers of restaurants operate non-stop from 6am to midnight, especially those around hotels and in city centre.

HEALTH & IMMUNIZATIONS

THE FOLLOWING IS GENERAL ADVICE ONLY. IN ALL EVENTS WE RECOMMEND YOU CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR ON FULL REQUIREMENTS.

Although China is a relatively safe country and presents very few particular health hazards, it is always advisable to take out comprehensive Travel Insurance for the duration of your stay.

ADVICE: Tap water is not safe for drinking. In most 3 star (and above) hotels, bottled water available in hotel rooms and is safe to drink. Asian Horizons also provides bottles water on our group tours. Bottled water can be purchased almost everywhere, including small shops and street vendors but please always check that the seal on the bottle cap is unbroken before purchasing.

IMMUNIZATIONS: Recommended Immunizations

Hepatitis A: Immunization against Hepatitis A is recommended. In China this is often spread by consuming contaminated food and water.

Typhoid: Caught from contaminated food and water. Recommended if you are going to visit the rural areas.

FULL VACCINATION GUIDELINES: Discuss with your doctors well in advance of what you may need in terms of immunizations. If any, shots normally require 4-6 weeks to take effect.

Disease Recommendation When to see a doctor
Typhoid Vaccinationrecommended 10 days before travel
Hepatitis A Vaccination recommended 2 weeks before travel
Diphtheria Vaccinationsometimesrecommended 3 months before travel
Tuberculosis Vaccination sometimes recommended 3 months before travel
Hepatitis B Vaccination sometimes recommended 2 months before travel
Rabies Vaccination sometimes recommended 1 month before travel
Meningococcal meningitis Not required
Yellow fever Not required
Japanese B encephalitis Vaccination sometimes recommended 1 month before travel
Tick-borne encephalitis Not required

OTHER DISEASES: Traveller’s Diarrhoea: The number one illness in travellers can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which can contaminate food or water. This can be generally avoided if precautions are taken such as: washing hands before meal, avoid drinking tap water, etc.

Malaria: Malaria risk exists only in some rural areas of China. This is a parasitic disease spread by mosquito. Consult your doctor if you are planning to go rural areas.

MEDICAL KIT: Although pharmacies are plentiful and sell a variety of drugs over the counter without prescription. It is advisable to take a small amount of common drugs for your journey, such as Aspirin (for pain or fever), Cold and Flu tablets, and Antiseptic (for cuts and grazes).

In larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, you can usually find decent medical services specially catered for foreigners (please refer to ‘Useful Contact Information’ section). Private foreign clinics offer high levels of services, at a price. State hospitals can also charge foreigners high prices. Below are some useful websites for more information on travel health advice:

UK Website: www.traveldoctor.co.uk
US Website: www.cdc.gov
Australian Website: www.tmvc.com.au

For further information we recommend you contact your family doctor or travel clinic.

LongshengLongjiDragonsBackbone

Dragons Backbone, Guilin

Money Matters

Renminbi is not yet fully internationally convertible. Your bank will be able to order Renminbi on request although it may take a few days. Other places in the UK (such as Thomas Cook) can also exchange your money but we suggest you to wait till you arrive in China to exchange your money due to a more favourable rate obtained in China.The monetary unit in China is Renminbi (RMB), also know as Yuan (¥). 1 yuan is equal to 10 jiao (or Mao), and 1 jiao is equal to 10 fen. Six large notes are in circulation: 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100 yuan. There are also smaller sized notes worth 1, 2 and 5 jiao. As for coins, there are 1 yuan, 1, 2 and 5 jiao and 1, 2, 5 fen. Note The Fen is almost valueless and is hardly ever used.

There is a set exchange rate in China, determined by the Bank of China. So wherever you change the money, the rate is always the same. Approximate exchange rates (as at 01 January 2015):

   ¥ (RMB) HK$
£1 = 10.00 13.00
US$1 =   6.20   7.75
€1 =   8.50 10.60

You will have to prepare enough cash when getting around the cities. Here are some recommend options for obtaining Chinese currency.

Cash (recommended): the easiest method of exchanging money into China. They can be easily changed throughout the country (including banks and 4*+ hotels).  All major currencies are accepted including the US dollars, British Pounds, the Euro, Canadian dollars, and Australian dollars. Ensure your notes are clean and undamaged, as banks and other exchanges will not accept any notes which are torn, excessively crumpled or have writing on them.

ATM (recommended): The Bank of China and/or HSBC have branches or ATMs located in every international airport, major city and many 4 star (and above) hotels where you can draw money immediately. Chinese ATMs accept Visa / MasterCard debit & credit card with a PIN number. Advisory: Only use ATMs that display Visa and Mastercard logos. ATMs of many smaller Chinese banks only accept Chinese cards. Contact your bank in advance to inform of overseas transaction as some banks may not allow overseas transaction without prior notice for security reasons. Please be aware of your daily withdrawal limit before you depart the UK.

Credit Cards (recommended as a backup): Credit Cards are generally accepted at 3* (and above) hotels, large department stores, souvenir shops and top end restaurants. They are generally NOT accepted in other locations. Advisory: It is generally a good idea to take along a credit card just in case of emergencies as few insurance policies provide instant cash for things like lost luggage or medical emergencies etc. Please contact your issuer to ask about service charges and to let them know you will be travelling in China so your card will not be flagged for “possible fraudulent use abroad”.

Traveller’s Cheques: Although the most secure way to take money abroad, they are increasingly difficult to exchange. It is our experience that large hotels and main bank branches only exchange American Express’s own dollar travellers’ cheques. Smaller hotels and banks may not provide this service.