China Travel Tips
Completely filling the bag will prevent the contents from sliding around and becoming excessively wrinkled or damaged. Try stuffing socks into the toes of your shoes. Roll up sweaters and underwear and pack them on the bottom of your suitcase, followed by layers of clothing that wrinkle more easily.
It is also a good idea to leave your purse at home. Instead, buy an inexpensive nylon shoulder bag in China to carry your daily needs. This is a good idea for the male traveler as well. You will carry drinking water, toilet paper, perhaps an umbrella or rain jacket, camera, batteries, etc. each day. The bag also gives you a place to put your purchases.
China, during the spring and summer is a hot and humid place. Early spring, late summer and early fall are wet. Late fall and winter can be cold in the north and west. Pack accordingly.
Be sure to include a pair of comfortable walking shoes with nonskid soles! Wear them a lot before coming to China…avoid blisters. We suggest that you CAREFULLY CONSIDER THE RISK OF WEARING OPEN TOED SHOES OR SANDALS IN CHINA! Public toilets in China are way too dirty to wear these safely. Spitting also seems to be the national pastime, making the risk of wearing sputum a real possibility ….but use your best judgment.
Pack some old clothes!
Laundry costs could be significant in some hotels. We suggest that you bring some old pajamas, socks, a worn robe, etc. Then you will not have to launder them too frequently and will be able to discard them by the time you leave for home. This serves a double purpose: by lightening your load, you have just created space for the souvenirs accumulated on your journey.
We suggest that you bring clothing that is easily washable in your room. This will save laundry costs. Pure cotton clothing and blue jeans do not dry quickly in China…with the exception of western China, it is way too humid. Best to bring light nylon, poly/rayon or microfiber clothing that wash and dry easily in your room.
Another tip: If you are traveling with a companion, pack some of your companion's clothes in your bag and vice versa. Then, if one bag is lost, each of you will at least have a change of clothing. Also, pack carry – on toiletries (3 ounce size or smaller, due to new TSA regulations..... in a one quart zip lock bag for easy access during security checks) and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag.
Keep An Open Mind
Pack a pair of slipper-socks in your carry-on. (if you are traveling business class, these are usually provided) Be prepared in case it gets too cold for your comfort on the plane. Ask the flight attendant for a blanket if necessary.
CLICK ON THE LOGO BELOW FOR A FREE QUOTE
You can safely leave yours at home and save weight and space in your luggage!
At first glance, ‘A’ looks like the plug that we use here in the US. However, in the US, one blade is a bit larger than the other. In China, ‘A’ has two blades of the same size…so our plugs will not fit into the outlet in China. To make it more confusing, ‘B’ frequently comes in two sizes in China. The posts can be either a large or small diameter. We have seen ‘C’ in quite a few hotels also. We have encountered ‘D’ in Southern China and Hong Kong.
Dollars & Yuan
The official name for the currency in China is RenMinBi (ren-min-bee): abbreviated as RMB, the "people's money." RMB has denominations of theYuan (you-awn), Jiao (jow...rhymes with cow), and Fen (fun), which bear a relationship to each other somewhat like the U.S. dollar, dime, and penny. Notice that the word Yuan is synonymous with RMB. In fact, there are a few words in Chinese that refer to the RMB. Just as we refer to a dollar as a 'buck' or a 'greenback', Chinese frequently refer to the Yuan as 'Kwai' (kwhy). To confuse matters even more, Jiao are frequently called Mao (rhymes with cow).
1 Yuan = 10 Jiao = 100 Fen
1 Kwai = 10 Mao = 100 Fen
The Yuan comes in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 2 and 1 banknotes. There are also 1 Yuan coins. Jiao come in denominations of 5, 2 and 1 notes. There are also 5 and 1 Jiao coins. Fen come in 5, 2 and 1 Fen coins. Become familiar with the appearance of the different denominations of Chinese money. It is a common trick to give a tourist a 5 Jiao note for change instead of a 5 Yuan note. It is also a common scam to be given banknotes from other asian countries as change instead of 50 and 20 Yuan notes.
The good part is that, even if you are cheated out of 100 RMB, the maximum you will lose is $16.00.
RMB is not traded on international markets and can be officially purchased or exchanged only in China. The CURRENT rate of currency exchange is (as of April 24, 2014):
$1.00 USD = 6.24 RMB
NOTE: This exchange rate changes every hour of every day. We offer this rate only as a guideline.
To check the current rate of exchange: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
SO…1 Yuan = about 16 cents. 2 Yuan is a little more than 30 cents. 1 Jiao = about a penny. Fen are of such little value, they are not even worth carrying around. Frequently, stores will not charge you for fen and probably won’t even give you them for change.
Don't fret about exchange rates. After a few days in China, you will probably stop mentally converting Yuan into Dollars. You will get a sense of what 10 or 20 yuan can buy. Is it really important that something costs $1.65 today and tomorrow it costs $1.68? Try to relax and stop converting RMB to US dollars. The buying power of the US Dollar is still strong internationally. Remember that you will always pay more in the USA for an item than you will pay in China. Even if you don't get the best deal when bargaining, consider the discount that you are bargaining for. Many times, you will be arguing over 60 cents to $1.20. Is that amount really important to you in the long run??? You probably pay more than $3.50 for a cup of coffee, and think nothing of it! However, ten to twenty yuan is a lot of money for many Chinese citizens. Be a good traveler and subsidise the local business person. It breeds good will and innner tranquility.
The most hassle-free place to exchange your money is at the front desk of the hotel. It is recommended that you bring the majority of your money in the form of CASH. We have had some hassles trying to exchange Travelers’ Checks. We have had minimal problems with pre-paid international ATM cards. Frequently, three or four employees will line up and individually inspect each bill or Travelers’ Check. Following that scrutiny, the manager is sometimes called to inspect them again before they are accepted for exchange. It is certainly a hassle, but that is China! Smile, relax and move forward.
BRING CRISP, CLEAN, 50’S AND 100’S. THEY ARE THE MOST ACCEPTABLE BILLS TO EXCHANGE AT HOTELS AND BANKS. It has been our experience that tears as small as 1/64", defined creases or stray ink/pencil markings on the bill are adequate reason not to exchange our banknotes. We strongly suggest that you request your local bank to supply uncirculated $50 and $100 bills for you. Do this well in advance to your departure and there shouldn't be any problems for you or the bank.
In China, on the other hand, the bank may give you RMB that are in terrible shape, with no hesitation. They insist, however, on perfect US currency. Go figure! One explanation that we have heard is that well used Chinese bills have been accepted by many people, so the Chinese people trust these bills to be authentic. Crisp, newly circulated RMB are heavily examined.
You will be given an exchange slip by the hotel or bank following your exchange of funds. Be sure to retain this receipt. Since RMB is not traded on the international market, it has no value outside of China. Your home banks will not be able to exchange your excess RMB. Before you leave China, you may choose to convert your excess RMB into US dollars. You will need the exchange receipt to prove where you obtained the Chinese funds. They will not exchange jiao or fen. Alternately, Explore TCM Tours will purchase your RMB at the current rate of exchange. Ask your Tour Operator for details.
One final note: while many vendors and shopkeepers will ask for US dollars, THE USE OF US DOLLARS IN CHINA IS ILLEGAL. Most of the US bills taken by vendors are sold on the Black Market. There, they are bleached and higher denomination US bills are printed on the bleached paper. Protect yourself and our currency by using only Chinese money in China.
ATM machines are now common iin China! Recently, we have had very good success with them. Be aware, howver, that some do not work at all, or are out of cash. The good part is that, most have English translation available. Visa and Mastercard Credit Cards are widely accepted in ATMs. We have even used our Visa Bank Debit Card to access our home bank accounts. Be aware that your home bank may charge a penalty for using a foreign ATM. Consult your local bank for details. While they are convenient, please don’t depend on ATM’s as a main source of cash in China.
You might consider carrying some Traveler's Checks as a safety measure. For convenience, carry a few Traveler's Checks in $50 denominations, but higher denomination checks are accepted by the Bank of China. Although you must cash them at the bank, we have experienced only a few problems with American Express Traveler’s Checks. Personal checks are unknown in China. Occasionally, bank employees do not recognize Traveler's Checks and refuse to accept them. We have no experience with Traveler's Checks from other sources. e.g. Cook"s Traveler's Checks.. If you do bring Traveler's Checks, be sure to make a list of your check numbers and keep the list in a safe place separate from your wallet, purse, or passport.
Travel Prepaid Cards
Recently, Visa TravelMoney, and other similar pre-paid ATM accessible cards are useful in China. We have had good luck using this type of card in Chinese ATM's. Be aware of potential charges for foreign useage of this type of card. While they are convenient, please don't depend on ATM's as a main source of cash in China.
Major credit cards (except Discover Card) are generally accepted at all hotels, tourist stores, and factory outlets in China. They are NOT accepted at smaller shops, restaurants and taverns. Be sure to record your account numbers (and customer service telephone numbers) in case you lose your credit cards. Better yet, photocopy BOTH SIDES of your credit cards and carry them with you in a secure place. Keep a duplicate copy at home, where a trusted family member or friend can access it if necessary.
Make major purchases by credit card. You will get a good exchange rate, the protection of the card's charge-back provisions, and often an extra guarantee on your purchase.
You will discover that extensive sightseeing has been planned for each city that we visit. The general format for the day is to leave the hotel around 8:30 - 9:00 AM, shortly after breakfast, stop for lunch en route, and then continue touring until late afternoon. We will make every attempt to return to the hotel for rest and relaxation before going to dinner in the evening. However, occasionally, this may not be possible. We will do our best to give you time to “freshen up”, but please try to be flexible.
In addition to--or as an alternative to--the pre-arranged programs and schedules, we encourage you to discover some of China on your own.
You can simply choose to not schedule anything for a day. There are very few restrictions on where foreigners are allowed to be within a city, so you may feel free to walk almost anywhere. Taxis are inexpensive. Taking a taxi is a convenient way to travel to destinations out of walking range. Subways in Beijing are inexpensive, clean and safe. It is not difficult to find your way around, because all the signs are now in English. Subway maps are readily available and the local students are more than eager to assist you in finding your way (while practicing their English). Moreover, you can proceed with the assurance that Chinese cities are among the safest in the world. Before you set out, however, notify your tour leader, generally, where you are going. Be sure to take a card bearing the hotel's name and address in Chinese in case you get lost. Don’t forget your Chinese phrase book! Have fun and explore China on your own!
Set your own pace as far as is practicable. Do not feel that you have to see everything in order to get your money's worth out of your tour. If you feel that the schedule for the day is overwhelming, be selective. Do not push yourself beyond your limits (physical and mental). Notify your Tour Leader if the pace is not to your liking. Since Explore! TCM Tours primarily conducts custom tours, we can proceed as fast or slow as you like.
From time to time, Explore! TCM Tours will contract with local tour guides and translators. These tour guides are friendly, proficient in English, and eager to get to know you. They will do anything in their capacity to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. They want to introduce you to their wonderful country. So, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask one of your tour guides.
There are no restrictions on bringing still or video cameras into China. If you choose to bring a camera that uses film: Kodak and Fuji 35mm-100 ISO color print film is available throughout China, particularly at hotels and tourist attractions. Prices are comparable to those in the U.S. We have not seen Advantix film anywhere. There is limited availability of fast-speed film and specialty camera batteries and particularly limited availability of videotape and fuses.
We recommend a compact digital camera with at least a 1 GB memory card. Additional memory cards can generally be found in most large cities in China. Be prepared! You will take more photos than you expect.
Learn to use your camera BEFORE you travel. China is not the place to learn how to use that new camera. Save yourself grief by being very familiar with your camera before arriving in China!
Here are a few tips: Before you leave for China, take at least 100 photos with your camera. Learn what each button does and how each setting works. Practice taking photos in harsh sunlight and shade. Try taking flash photos indoors. Get an idea how long your battery survives. Know how to change your settings, flashcard and battery. Prior practice will pay off when you have to make a quick adjustment to get that perfect shot.
To make sense of all the photos you have taken when you finally are ready to assemble your vacation album: Write brief notes about the pictures you take. Don’t delete any photos until you return home. Many “terrible shots” can be rescued using photo editing software like Photoshop. Some of our best shots were “rescues”. Click away and enjoy!
Caution: Photography is not allowed in some airports, near any military base, at certain museums, archaeological sites, some exhibits, and many temples. This may be due to concern that exhibits may be susceptible to damage from countless flash photos or because authorities find it profitable to merchandise photographic rights. When in doubt, ask, or don’t take the photo. These rules are generally enforced. Should you neglect to heed the rules, authorities can confiscate your camera, flash card, or expose your film and impose heavy fines on the spot.
Locals generally do not like to have their photo taken without their permission. Be discrete in photographing people. Some may ask for payment before you photograph them. It is up to you to decide if you want to pay for a photo opportunity. However, consider what message this sends and how this affects future travelers.
Toilets (“cesuo” or “xi shou jian”)
You will encounter some PUBLIC toilets in China that are not up to international standards. Many of them are the old-fashioned "hole-in-the ground" variety where you squat and aim. We call them “kung-fu toilets” or “squatty potties”. Newer pay toilets may be better. Public toilets in hotels and restaurants may also have some Western-style fixtures. But don’t worry, your hotel room will always have Western-style fixtures.
Always carry extra toilet tissue with you. Except in hotels, toilet paper is a rare commodity! Carrying moist towelettes and alcohol based hand purifier is also a good idea. Hand towels or electric hand dryers are frequently absent.
Generally, Chinese plumbing does not accommodate toilet paper to be flushed down the toilet. With the exception of your hotel room and a few hotels and restaurants, you will see a basket next to the toilet. This is where the used toilet paper is to be deposited! To be a thoughtful traveler, and to avoid clogging up the plumbing system, your cooperation is appreciated. Needless to say, many restrooms are quite aromatic! Incense is frequently burned in public restrooms to make them more accommodating. You will, on occasion, just have to hold your breath and GO!
Useful Chinese Phrases
Thank you xie-xie “she-ay, she-ay”
I’m sorry dui bu qi “dway boo chee”
You’re welcome bu ke qi “boo kuh chee”
Toilet cesuo “tsuh swoh”
Toilet (polite) xi shou jian “she show jeean”
Where is the toilet? Cesuo zai nar “tsuh swoh zye nar”
polite: xi shou jian zai nar “she show jeean zye nar”
Chinese Language Instruction
We have tried many Chinese language instruction programs and have found ChinesePod to be the most useful. They send a 15 minute daily podcast to your computer or Smart Phone. The lessons are relevant, immediately useful and learning occurs at a rate unmatched by any other program that we have used. You can literally start speaking and understanding Chinese in 20 minutes!