China tour and travel

travel china

One of the greatest way to understand Chinese culture is to travel through China individually or in a group. We present some China travel tips to make your trip enjoyable! China is expected to be the top tourist destination for the world in Year 2010.So travel early. Travel China!

China and Asia travel tips

Travel and Tour Tips for China
China is a large country at a size of 9,596,960 sq km. China was only partially open to the world from 1980 onwards and has been a communist country for many decades. Although there is much progress in the travel industry and infrastructure of China, there remain areas that need to be improved before it can match the level that most tourist would require.

However, much of the fun for travelling in China remain that it is different from the rest of the world. China will be the host nation for the Olympics in Year 2008 and World Exposition in 2010. Travel facilities and infrastructure in China will be improving quickly as we approach Year 2008 onwards.

China is rich in culture and history. Visit the Great Wall of China in Beijing, sip Chinese tea in Xiamen, dance with ethnic tribes in Yunnan, check out 19th Century European buildings in Qingdao, suntan at Hainan Islands, Ski at Harbin – there are just so much to do and see in China! Go travel China now!

Below are some travel tips to make your travel in China easier:

Apply for Chinese Visa
China require entry visa from most countries. Apply at the Chinese consulate or through your travel agent before travelling to China. Visit our Apply for Chinese Visa section for more information on the types of visa available and application procedures to apply for one.

Climate in China
The weather in China can be extremely diverse; tropical in south of China to subarctic in north of China. Weather also change with the time of the year. Check early for weather and be prepared with the right seasonal clothing.

Foreign Exchange in China
The unit of currency in China is known as Renmembi(RMB) or Yuan. Get some Chinese Yuan in your local country before travelling. When in China, exchange foreign currency for local currency in the banks or at the hotel only. Banks tend to give slightly better rates than hotels. Take note that some banks close for a noon siesta between 12-2pm.

Unlike other Asian countries, you are not likely to find currency exchange kiosks in shopping malls or tourist sites; hence, do stock up before travelling in China.

Be careful if touts on street approach you on the street to exchange money. Note that such transactions are illegal and you have no legal recourse if there is a problem.

In Year 2006-2007, the exchange rate is about US$1 to 8 RMB or Yuan. Today, 2010, one US$ will only fetch 6.9 Yuan.

Payment facilities
Most better class hotels and shopping centres in China take Credit Card or Travellers cheques. Smaller hotels and shops take cash only. Once out of the bigger cities, credit card and ATM cards tend to be almost impossible to utilize. Cash is still king in Chinese business and trade; so carry plenty of cash whenever neccessary and especially if you're not travelling in the larger cities.

Even when you see the Visa or Master sign in a shopping mall, do not be happy too early. Many such malls take only the Chinese issued Visa or Master cards; not the international issued ones.

Counterfeit notes are common in China. Check carefully before accepting change, especially if it consists mostly 100RMB notes. You can feel a texture difference where counterfeit notes is concerned.

Use of English in China
Most civil servants, custom officials, police, hotel staff and typical men in the street do not speak English or at best a smattering of English.

Most signboards and notices will carry both English and Chinese. However, be aware that some translations can be so notorious that one can hardly understand what was it's original Chinese intention.

Do not expect hotels or shops to understand English. Only the very big or business-class hotels will have staff that will understand or speak English.

Most young people can understand basic English if you speak slowly. Even if you hire a professional translator, do not be surprised that they do not have a good grasp of English. Ensure you engage the services of a professional service provider that can supply good translators.

Social Security in China
China is generally a safe country. However, hang on tight to your wallet especially in crowded, popular tourist sites in tourist cities such as Beijing and Xian.

These tourist cities also has a lot of touts in the streets touting tourists from currency exchange to jewelleries to female companionships. Avoid at all cost! See our China Public Security page for more details.

Also be aware of counterfeit shops, unlicenced taxis or traditional medicine shops. These are best avoided to prevent troubles to yourself.

Incidentally, Caucasian tourists are less likely to be cheated then Overseas borned Chinese because the cheats would not have the neccessary language abilities to carry out their cheating tasks.

Domestic Travel within China
Bus, train, ferries and domestic flights systems in China are quite well developed but tend to be always packed due to the large population.

Avoid the crowd at the train or bus stations and book your tickets through the hotel tour desk or the nearest tour agent. Prices are likely to be competitive and tickets will be delivered to your hotel room. Again, avoid ticket touts who approach you in the streets.

Local buses are cheap (US$0.10 or YS$0.20) and you may want to try out. Taxis are convenient and are available at all hours. Starting fares differ from each city and may be as cheap as US$0.70 in Weihai and US$1.50 in Shenzhen.

Avoid travel in China during peak holiday seasons or book tickets well ahead if you need to travel during peak holiday seasons.

Local Hotels in China
There are a good choice of hotels in China ranging from one star to the most luxurious 6 stars. Most of the time, the rooms are safe and clean and in my opinion, cheap does not mean bad. Note that you're unlikely to find the hotel reception being able to speak English once you are in a 4-star or lower class hotels.

In the last few years, many clean budget hotels, such as Budget Inn, Super 8, has sprouted up all over China. These budget hotels are clean, comfortable, safe, located near transportation hub and very low cost.

There are many websites selling China hotel rooms on the internet. You can also check out the travel counters which are available in most train, bus stations as well as airport.

Book ahead if travelling in peak seasons.

Peak Tourist Seasons in China
Chinese New Year: Date varies but generally late January or early February.
May Day: First two weeks of May
China National Day: Middle two weeks of October

Avoid travelling during these period. Book rooms and travel modes way early if need to travel. Believe me, the crowds during these period of time will be scary. What do you expect when the entire Chinese nation of 8 billion people are on holiday as well!

Chinese Food
Local Chinese food is absolutely fabulous. Try as much Chinese food as your wallet or stomach can afford. Restaurants are available everywhere and open to late hours. Most restaurants will have a menu that include photographs of the various dishes. Better yet, simply point at the food that your next door table is having, especially if it looks delicious!

However, avoid street side stalls and drinking directly from the taps if you have delicate stomach.

Telecommunications in China
Mobile phone coverage in China is good in most locations. Global auto-roaming within China is not a problem. If your planning to travel to China using services like prepaid cell phones will help keep roaming cost's to a minimum.

Internet in China
There are cyber-cafes everywhere in China, especially in tourist areas. Most are patronised by young people playing online games but you still can check your Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail. Access may be a bit slow for international websites.

You will need to show your passport as China has tight regulations at Internet Cyber Cafes.

Toilet facilities in China
One of the worst experience many has with China is the atrocious toilet facilities. Things has improved very much but it may still be a good idea to empty your stomach or bladder at every opportunity in a hotel, restaurant or departmental store. Public toilets and toilets in small shops can be a nose hazard!

* Useful China travel tips *
Try to get a English speaking tour guide at every opportunity you can. China has a rich and wonderful history and culture and without a guide, somehow, the flavour and significance of most tour sites can be lost.

*Sneaky tip: Hang around a group that has a English speaking guide if you cannot afford or find one!

Always ask for a receipt from a taxi driver so that you can complain if you have been cheated or for tracing purposes if you happen to leave your camera behind in the taxi.

Try to take the namecard for each hotel that you are staying at as these cards will have a Chinese address and the map of your hotel location. This is useful if you need to seek assistance to find your way back as the English version or pronounciation of a hotel or a street name may be quite different from the Chinese version.

After a tiring day, check out Chinese foot reflexology or Chinese TuiNa (Chinese massage). Wonderful for the body after a hard day and very cheap to boot. Simply look out for shop signs that shows two feet! They are everywhere.

Make friends with the Chinese whenever you can. They love to meet foreigners and will make good tour guides. Just buy a small present as a small token of appreciation.

For more information about Chinese business culture and etiquette, check out this interesting China Book. Or email us for further information.