Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. Check with the Chinese Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. Securing required documents is the responsibility of the traveler. You will have to pay a departure tax in local currency before you check in for your homebound flight. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
It is good advice to always drink as well as brush your teeth with bottled water. You should only eat fruit that can be peeled, and be sure to wash it well in bottled water before eating. In restaurants, insist that they bring a sealed bottle to your table and avoid ice. Take extra care with hygiene and make sure you wash your hands before and after eating. It is a good idea to bring along hand sanitizer. Carry a kit of the basic emergency medicines you might need for diarrhea, fever, etc., plus mosquito repellent, band-aids and antiseptic ointment. We recommend you see your doctor for advice about local health conditions and precautionary medicines, as you may need to be immunized against certain illnesses.
The official currency in China is Renminbi, "People's Money," called yuan. The Bank of China issues RMB bills in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 yuan. Coins come in denominations of 1 yuan, 1 jiao, 5 jiao and 5 fen. Paper versions of the coins remain in circulation. Counterfeit notes are a problem in China. Debit cards are an effective way to carry your money; ATM locations are growing steadily in the larger cities. Credit cards are being used more frequently in China, with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club the most common. Credit cards can be used in most mid- to top-range hotels, Friendship and department stores, but often aren't accepted to cover your transportation costs. If credit cards are not an option, then cash is a good alternative and exchanging currency is relatively easy. Generally, USD is the best currency to carry. Foreign currency and travelers checks can be changed at the main branches of the Bank of China, hotels, Friendship Stores and some department stores. Hotels usually charge the official rate. You will need to keep your exchange receipts if you want to change any of your remaining RMB at the end of your trip. If you have to exchange cash, stay away from less reputable sources, as they may try and slip you counterfeit notes.
China has 220 V at 50 Hz, with a type A, I or G socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you'll need a converter and an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is available throughout most of China. Many of the hotels we use offer this service free or at a small charge. There are also Internet cafés in main cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge. China's Internet censorship is one of the most strict in the world, so not all sites that you want to access may be available.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
Much of China, particularly the big cities, are a shopper's heaven, but be sure to bargain. While bargaining is essential, it is not accepted everywhere; most small shops and markets are happy to bargain but large shops and department stores have their prices set and clearly marked. While many places expect bargaining, remember to always be polite. Ask your Travel Director, Local Travel Expert, or local host for advice.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Tipping is not expected in mainland China, however all four- and five-star hotels and some high-end restaurants add a tax or "service charge" of 10-15 percent to your bill; all other consumer taxes are included in the price tag.
Taxis are easy to find in the large cities, are generally metered and present a good way to get around. Motorcycle taxis and pedicabs can be found around most major train and bus stations. While they are cheap and useful, you will have to be comfortable heading into the traffic with little protection. If you are confident enough, the best way to get around is by renting a bike and joining the pedaling throng. Major public holidays, in particular Chinese New Year, are best avoided as it is difficult to get around and/or find accommodation. When traveling in China, it is best to carry a card from your hotel, written in Chinese, as many taxi drivers do not speak English.
Generally, casual jeans or slacks, shirts and comfortable walking shoes are all you'll need. If you plan on an evening at a nicer venue, dressier clothes may be called for. Carry warmer clothing for the evenings. It is important you check the weather and temperature predictions for the region you will be visiting and pack accordingly. When visiting temples you may be asked to cover bare shoulders or to take off your shoes. Shorts, tank tops or halter tops are sometimes not permitted in temples.