Trip to China: General Information
ELECTRICITY: The electricity supply in China is 220 volts, but sockets with adapters are available in the bathrooms of most hotels.
WATER: Do not drink the tap water anywhere in China. Most restaurants provide boiled water as do the hotels. You can also buy bottled water at most of the places you will visit. Just make sure that the bottle cap is sealed. Some vendors will refill bottles and try to sell them as new.
LAUNDRY: Laundry and dry-cleaning services are available at each of the hotels. The service is usually fast and of good quality. Coin laundry is generally not available in China.
TAXI: In most of the big cities in China finding a taxi is fairly easy. Taxi fares vary from city to city, ranging from 1 to 2 Yuan per km. You should always be charged based on the figure shown on the meter. However, there are some cases where taxi drivers tend to try and take advantage of tourists by over charging them, especially when they do not speak Chinese. You should always choose a taxi with a business permit, and before you leave the cab ask the driver for a receipt. If you need a taxi, ask the hotel staff or the tour guide to help you get a taxi instead of finding one yourself. The taxis that the hotels contract with are a little bit more expensive, but they are regulated and safer.
Most taxi drivers do not understand English. Thus, it is always a good idea to have your destination written down in Chinese. Always bring a copy of the hotel’s brochure or business card with you. Usually the hotel can provide you with a “Please take me to this hotel…” card in Mandarin to present to the taxi drivers for your return trip.
TIPPING: Tipping is generally not a custom is China. However, some of those who work in the travel and hospitality industries are now expected to be tipped. The amount is discretionary, but commonly ranges from U.S $5-10 per person per day for the guides and $3-5 per person per day for the drivers. Luggage handling is $1-2 for the service (not per bag). It is not required to tip waiters, waitresses or taxi drivers.
LUGGAGE ALLOWANCE: for the Chinese airlines, the free luggage allowance by weight for every passenger holding a ticket with full fare or half fare for an international or regional flight is 40 kg for a first-class ticket, 30kg for a business class ticket, and 20kg for an economy class ticket. Domestic flights are limited to check-in one piece of luggage per passenger.
CARRY-ON BAGGAGE: 2 pieces for a passenger holding a first-class ticket; and 1 piece for a passenger with a business or an economy-class ticket. The dimensions for each piece of luggage allowed should not exceed 20x40x55cm, and the maximum weight shall not exceed 5kg. You will have to pay extra if you bring more luggage aboard than is allowed in terms of piece or weight.
IMMUNIZATIONS: Currently, there are no required immunizations for entry to China. However, it is best to consult your physician or international health advisories from the US State Department services Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington.
You can visit their Web site at: www.travel.state.gov/travel.
TRIP INSURANCE: We strongly recommend passengers traveling to China to take trip insurance, which covers cancellation, interruption, health emergencies, accidents and baggage loss. There are many programs in the markets. You may do your own research or contact us for suggestions.
MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS OF NOTE:
Your passport ALWAYS goes with you wherever you go! Do not lose you passport!
Don’t flash your cash! If you need to count out cash in public to pay for a purchase, do it discreetly.
If you shop at any of the local vendors or free markets be aware that you can bargain, but be cautious of the quality. As in any place, you get what you pay for. If you are offered a priceless 500 year-old Ming Vase for $10 you will probably find that it was made 500 days ago.
All sales in China are final! They do not have the same exchange and return policies as found in the U.S.
Please remember to pack your common sense! Follow your normal safety practices that you would in any big city. For example, don’t walk unescorted on darkened streets at 3:00a.m., don’t leave your bags unattended, be aware of beggars, etc.
In China, for domestic flights, airlines require that all check in luggage be locked (this is the exact opposite of current U.S. policy). So bring ample luggage locks with you. Of course you can always buy them in China, but the price is always better if you buy before you need them.
If you buy any fruits from local markets or vendors always be sure to wash them thoroughly. Of course any fruits served during your meals at restaurants will have already been properly cleaned and prepared.
Check-in baggage X-ray machines will ruin film. Always carry your undeveloped film in your carry-on. You can even ask to have it hand inspected to totally avoid the security machines if you like.
You will have plenty of opportunities for photos. Just keep in mind that there are some places where photography is forbidden for religious or preservation reasons. These places will have signs; please respect them. When in doubt it is always safer to ask first! This includes taking pictures of local people. Just as in any country, some won’t mind and some will. Your guide can help you as well.
There are many good travel guides out in circulation and we recommend that you do some research to find the one that best suits your travel style. Amazon.com at www.amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com at www.barnesandnoble.com are both great resources for researching books.
However, for general guides with good information you usually cannot go wrong by sticking with the top names in travel guides:
- China (Lonely Planet Travel Guides Series)
- Frommer’s China
- The National Geographic Traveler: China