China Travel Tips

Before you leave :

Luggage Allowance
Even though each passenger is allowed two pieces of checked luggage on international flights, flights within China limit each passenger to one piece of luggage not weighing more than 44 pounds and one carry-on piece of luggage of reasonable size. Officially, the carry-on baggage can not exceed 12 pounds, but this is hardly ever weighed. Therefore, you are advised to bring only one piece of luggage plus a carry-on bag. You can purchase another piece of luggage when you reach your last stop in China and then you will be able to check two pieces of luggage home. If you have extra luggage when traveling within China, you may have to pay an excess baggage charge at each airport.

Packing Tips
Lightweight (canvas or nylon) luggage is the most practical. Experienced travelers often suggest this tactic for packing: lay out everything you think you will need and then pack only half of that. Another suggestion is to walk around with your packed bags for a few minutes to see how heavy they are since porters and bellmen are not always available.

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.

Above all, do not pack anything fragile, valuable, or perishable in the luggage that you intend to check.
We have used Spacesaver® compressible bags, with great success. They dramatically decrease the size of clothing in our luggage. Valuables of any kind--money, jewelry, important documents, and prescription drugs should be placed in your carry-on luggage. Leave all expensive jewelry at home and enjoy peace of mind in your travels.

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.

Packing Checklist
We have created the following packing checklist for your convenience:


  • TSA compliant locks for luggage (bring an extra or two)
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Small handheld calculator (for use when bargaining)
  • Sewing kit
  • Moist towelettes in packages
  • Individual packages of toilet paper (Charmin has small rolls that fit easily in the pocket) or individual packs of kleenex
  • Alcohol based hand sanitizer (2 oz bottles fit in your pocket easily)
  • Language dictionary and phrase book (we can suggest a few)
  • Photocopies of important documents: passport, visa, credit cards (a must!) 
  • Diary or journal to record your trip
  • Lightweight raincoat and fold-up umbrella  (both of these can be purchased cheaply in China…save the weight and buy them there)
  • Sunscreen lotion – at least SPF 30
  • High SPF rated lip balm
  • Anti-fungal powder for feet and body creases (we suggest Zeosorb AF)
  • Broad brimmed hat or baseball cap (avoid green colored hats; please be PC and avoid logos!)
  • Nylon shoulder bag for daily use instead of a purse, fanny pack or daypack – easily purchased in China and quite convenient (see above)
  • Voltage convertor and Asian plug adaptors for electrical devices (OPTIONAL: see Electricity below)
  • 12 foot electrical extension cord (optional)
  • Sunglasses
  • Address book
  • Spacesaver® or similar compressible packing bags (optional)

Medical supplies:

  • Aspirin or aspirin substitute
  • Decongestants and decongestant nasal spray
  • Vitamins
  • Antacids (Pepto Bismol is multifunctional!)
  • Mild laxative
  • Anti-diarrhea tablets (loperamide or lomotil)
  • Packages of oral re-hydration drink (Gatorade or similar…to replace electrolyte loss due to exercise or possibly intestinal problems)
  • Bandage strips
  • Your personal medications
  • Antibiotics (we recommend 2 azithromycin “Z-paks”, and Cipro if you are exploring off the beaten path)
  • Copy of your medical history, prescription duplicates, extra eyeglasses and dentures, etc.
  • An elastic bandage (in case of sprained ankle)

Dental supplies:

  • Toothbrush – every hotel supplies toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste – bring your favorite, Chinese toothpaste isn’t great!
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash

Personal Care supplies:

  • Razor and shaving supplies
  • Travel Size Deodorant
  • Shampoo and Conditioner -- every hotel supplies these too! TSA Compliant 3 oz bottles are recommended
  • Feminine hygiene supplies (pads and mini pads are readily available in China; tampons are not)
  • Small package of Woolite® or other laundry soap for hand wash clothing in your room

Carry-on items:

  • Passport
  • Comforts for air flight: slip-on socks, gum or candy to alleviate ear pressure
  • Neck pillow or inflatable pillow (optional)
  • Compact digital camera
  • Extra flash card for digital camera
  • Extra “specialty” batteries for camera (AA and AAA batteries are available everywhere in China, specialty batteries are not)
  • Battery charger for specialty camera batteries
  • Security pouch or belt (worn around the neck or under clothing to carry money and passport)…a must!
  • Cash/Travelers Checks
  • Gels, Liquids or Aerosols in 3 oz. or smaller bottles (See TSA regulations)
  • One QUART sized zip top clear plastic bag for the 3 ox bottles above



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.

Before Departure Home Security
Notify family members and/or neighbors as to how long you will be away from home. Place valuables in the bank. Suspend all deliveries, including your newspaper subscription. Have the post office hold your mail. Leave a house key with a neighbor and set up automatic timers to activate lights and play the TV or radio at set times. Turn the thermostat down to 55-63 degrees (if you generally keep it set at a higher temperature); turn the thermostat up to 76-78 degrees (if you live in a hot and humid climate). Disconnect electrical appliances. Secure all window and door locks.

Arrange for the care of your house, lawn, garden, plants, and pets. Well-kept grounds give the impression that the house continues to be lived in. Arrange for the in-home care or boarding of your pets. Ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to make periodic checks of your home or consider employing a house-sitting service.

Leaving For the Airport
Always reconfirm your airline reservations before leaving home, preferably 72 hours in advance of your departure. When making or reconfirming any arrangements, be sure to obtain the name of the person with whom you have spoken as well as a confirmation number.
Arrive for your flight a little early. Airlines suggest that passengers on international flights arrive a minimum of two hours before take-off. Give yourself extra time to avoid getting frazzled should you be slowed down by heavy traffic or inclement weather on your way to the airport.
Leave an itinerary with hotel telephone and fax numbers with someone. Let one or two people know where to reach you.

Keep An Open Mind
When you leave your home in North America, you are embarking on a journey that will take you to places that are very different from your usual way of life. Try to be flexible and enjoy the unexpected. Embrace new sights, sounds, smells, people, and the culture around you. Sample the food, try to speak the language, ask questions, and smile; you will return home a more knowledgeable person with happy memories. Many travelers have told us that Chinese people are the friendliest people in the world--find out for yourself!

Air Travel
Luggage Check-in
When you arrive at your departure airport, make sure that your luggage is checked through to your first city in China. For example, if you live in Cleveland, are flying to China via Chicago, and your first stop in China is Beijing, double-check that your luggage is marked for arrival in Beijing.

On-board Comfort
It is a long flight from North America to China. After all, you are traveling halfway around the world. During the flight, try to move around as much as possible. Walk the aisles frequently in order to minimize swollen feet and ankles. When seated, put your feet up on the edge of your carry-on case in order to keep the seat edge from limiting the circulation in your legs. Place the airline's pillow or your own roll-shaped cushion behind the small of your back. Neck pillows or inflatable pillows also help to make long flights more comfortable.
There are exercises you can do while seated that will help you relax. Move your head back and forth and from side to side in order to relieve neck tension. Loosen your shoulder muscles by shrugging. Relieve facial tension by opening your mouth as wide as you can, letting your tongue hang out, and opening your eyes as wide as possible. Stimulate your abdominal and gluteal muscles by contracting and releasing several times. Point your feet and wiggle your toes. Flex your hands, spread your fingers wide, and then make a fist.

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.

Set your watch to China time as soon as you board the plane. This will help you start thinking in terms of your destination time and diminish some of the psychological effects of jet lag. In order to prevent dehydration, try to drink at least four ounces of water per hour of flight time. Flight attendants will serve water and fruit juice frequently. Avoid alcohol as it accelerates dehydration. Also, to counter the effects of the dry air in the cabin, use a moisturizer on your face and hands or spray your face with water from an atomizer bottle. Some people develop earaches during flight. To prevent problems, we suggest that you take a decongestant, like pseudoephedrine, a few hours before takeoff. Repeat this medication well before landing. In order to relieve ear pressure, "pop" your ears by holding your nose shut, closing your mouth, and attempting to blow air through your nostrils before take-off. During the flight, swallow frequently, chew gum or candy, and "pop" your ears as pressure builds. Do this especially if you feel you are coming down with a cold. To avoid jet lag, consult your physician about the possible use of melatonin. Many have benefited from this.

Lost Luggage
Luggage loss is rare--at an average of one piece out of every 1,000 items. If an airline does lose your luggage, complete the lost baggage report with the appropriate airline. Leave your itinerary with the airline so that when your luggage is found it can be delivered to you wherever you are. Keep receipts for any items you may have to purchase while your bags are missing in order to make it easier to obtain compensation from the airline for those items. Also, check your bags carefully for damaged or missing items before leaving the airport; the airline may not honor your claim once you have left the baggage claim facility.
Lost luggage is not a disaster in China, since you have not packed anything very valuable in your luggage anyway….right? You can buy just about anything there, so this becomes a great excuse to buy a new wardrobe. Relax and move on to the next adventure!

You are required to have Travel Insurance that includes Trip Cancellation Insurance and Medical Insurance in order to participate in any tour arranged by Explore! TCM Tours.
You will need to document that you have Travel Insurance prior to your final payment.

Explore! TCM Tours offersTravel Insurance at competitive rates through Allianz Global Assistance Insurance Company, THE international leader in travel insurance products.



Four- and five-star hotels in China are excellent and rival the quality and service of the best hotels in major metropolitan areas in the U.S. In fact, a lot of hotels in China are managed by Europeans and Americans or by Chinese nationals who were trained in Western hotel management. The cost for hotel accommodations is based on twin-bedded rooms with private bath and shower, while the cost for single occupancy room accommodations is usually based on one king- or queen-size bed with private bath and shower. Hotel arrangements typically include amenities such as a business center, fitness center, swimming pool, massage service, restaurants and lounges.

Generally, following hotel registration, hotel guests proceed to their rooms. Your luggage will be delivered to your room by the hotel bellman. Occasionally, however, you may have to carry your own luggage to the room. Pack light!

The cost of your hotel room is included in the tour price. Incidental charges, including room service, long distance phone charges, mini bar, laundry, and restaurant and bar charges, are not included and must be settled directly with the hotel cashier upon check-out. Settlements can be made by cash or credit card. Remember, the hotel ALWAYS checks the room before you leave. Taking something, even as small as a map in the room folder, can incur a steep price. Every hotel provides toothbrushes, combs, soap and shampoo free of charge. Other items on the bathroom vanity may not be free. If it has a price on it, it is not free! These items are usually bath powders, skin remedies (lots of fun to read the claims!), condoms, mineral water and sanitized compressed washcloths.

Note also that most hotels offer travelers a complimentary buffet breakfast of both Western and Chinese breakfast foods.

All four- and five-star hotels provide access to the Internet in the business center. Ask the personnel there for details.

All four- and five-star hotel rooms will have common amenities, including soap, toothbrush and toothpaste (not as tasty as US products), shampoo and conditioner, lotions, nail file, and comb. Many hotels also have hair dryers in each room. If a hair dryer is not available in your room, you can obtain one from the housekeeping department.

You can safely leave yours at home and save weight and space in your luggage!
You will receive a hotel card. Usually the folder containing your room key is also a hotel card indicating the hotel name, address, and phone number. Keep the card with you at all times so that, should you get lost, you will have all the information you need to return safely to your hotel. It is a good idea to get a few extra hotel business cards from the front desk.
When you enter your hotel room, you will need to place the key card into a holder on the wall in order to turn on the electricity for the room. Remember to take your key card with you before you leave your room. Once your key card is removed from the holder, the flow of electricity to you room will stop.

The Chinese electrical system operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz. Appliances designed to operate at 110 volts, 60 Hz, which is the North American standard, will need a voltage converter. There are a few devices that can operate on EITHER 110 volts or 220 volts. Most laptop computers and CPAP machines can operate on either voltage. Check your device before travel. BEWARE: Most hotel rooms have two electric outlets in the bathroom -- one labeled 110 volts and the other labeled 220 volts. We suggest that you do not trust the 110 volt outlet. It may be mislabeled. When in doubt, use a voltage converter. It is better to use a converter unnecessarily than to zap your appliance! In this case, white smoke is not good.

Electrical plugs in China are quite different than in the US. There are 4 common types:

=  A:   Two parallel blades of the same size
=  B:   Two posts of the same diameter; two sub-types: large and small posts
=  C:   Two blades of equal size, positioned at an angle
=  D:   Three large pegs

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.

You can purchase plug converters at most stores that sell luggage and travel supplies. We have seen them at Walmart, but they were sold with the voltage converter. We suggest that you seriously evaluate your need for electrical appliances while traveling. If you can substitute a non-electrical or battery powered device, it will save you a lot of problems and space in your luggage. However, if you absolutely, positively need the device, bring it, along with a voltage converter and plug adaptors.

A final suggestion for those who will be bringing laptop computers or medical devices: bring a 12 foot extension cord and an adaptor that converts a light bulb fixture into a plug. Electrical outlets are not always located in convenient or logical locations. In many hotel rooms, the nightstand lights are hardwired into the wall and there are few if any convenient outlets. With such an adaptor, you can remove the light bulb and replace it with the plug adaptor.

Every hotel in China has a mail desk for postcards, letters, and stamps.

International direct dialing (IDD) is available from your room. All charges for telephone calls made from your room must be settled with the hotel cashier upon check-out. You may have to place a deposit, perhaps via credit card, for this service to be activated at the time of check-in. We suggest that you purchase a calling card to use for calls back to the US. We have had excellent connections and reasonable rates using a Sprint Prepaid Phonecard. You can also purchase a calling card in China. They are available with English directions and operators. We can assist you with these if you wish. We do not know the charges per minute, however. Check the rates from your home phone, direct dial to China. It may be cheaper for you to have your family call you while you are in China. MCI sells a prepaid International Phone Card that we have used to call from the US to China. The rates are reasonable.

All hotels offer safe deposit boxes either in your room or at the front desk at no charge. Please use them. Loss of money or valuables CAN spoil your trip.


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:

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 Access

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. 

Traveler's Checks

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.

Credit Cards

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! 

Tour Pace

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.

Tour Guides

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!