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TRAVELLING IN CHINA

 

Travelling in China Travelling around China is becoming more and more trouble free as parts of the country go through development to make them more accessible to the overseas tourist. There are numerous domestic airlines that fly to almost every corner of the country and where flights are not available there are land routes that can be travelled by train or bus.

 

As the economy of China continues to grow, many leading brand named hotels are entering the secondary cities, so travellers can expect to be met with the service and facilities they expect. For those looking for a more traditional touch, there are also a number of locally managed properties that cater to this market.

 

In the main cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, travel around the city is easy and efficient. Taxis, trains and buses are easily accessible and affordable means of transport. One important issue to keep in mind in China is that, even in the main cities, English is not widely spoken so travellers should be well prepared to have their destinations translated to Chinese in advance. It is also important to have the contact numbers of the hotels you wish to stay at, should you find yourself in a situation where you may need some directions from staff at the hotel.

 

From Beijing to Shanghai, Xian and Guilin and even more remote areas such as Lhasa and Lijiang, travel within China is now easier than ever, however the journey to reach a destination is still an adventure in itself.

 

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When to Travel?         

China can be visited throughout the year because of the stretch of its territories and sites and activities it can offer. Deciding when to visit China depends on which places you wish to visit, what type of weather you enjoy.

 

April, May, September and October are the peak tourist months at China’s most popular destinations when the weather is the most comfortable. The winter months are peak season for trips to China’s Hainan Island and to the Northeast Harbin for its world-famous ice-lantern festival. The summer months are most prominent in June, July and August and winter is generally regarded as December, January and February.

 

China has a continental and seasonal climate. Most parts are in the temperate zone but southern areas are in the tropical or subtropical zone while northern areas are in the Frigid Zone.

 

The following is a reference table for tourists to prepare clothing on their trips:

Spring: 10-22°C, Western suits, jackets, sports coats, woollen jackets, long sleeve shirts and travel shoes.

Summer: 22°C and above, T-shirts, short sleeve shirts, skirts, sandals, caps, rain wear.

Autumn: 10-22°C, Western suits, jackets, sports coats, light woollen sweaters, rain wear and travel shoes.

Winter: 10°C or lower, overcoat, cotton clothes, lined coats. In very cold areas a cap, gloves and cotton-padded shoes are required.

 

Some Facts on China    

China, officially known as the People's Republic of China, covers an area of about 9.6 million square kilometers and is the world's third largest country after Russia and Canada. With approximately 1.3 billion inhabitants, the Chinese population accounts for one-fifth of humanity and is consequently the largest country by population. Ninety-two percent of the population is Han Chinese, with the remaining eight percent comprised of 55 different ethnic minorities. The geographical vastness of China reveals spectacular landscapes with three principal features: the forest of the east, the steppes and deserts of the north and northwest, and the high plateaus of Tibet and Qinghai.

 

China is a country like no other. It is a country with a written history of over 4,000 years. Its story is more astonishing than that of any other country. It also possesses the highest mountains in the world, the deepest valleys, some of the longest rivers and perhaps the most extraordinary attractions on earth. China is truly a magnificent country, endowed with a rich heritage, spectacular natural scenery and a great variety of culture and folklore. It still remains shrouded in mystery for most travelers and has become one of the most interesting places in the world to visit. China is ready to stir your imagination and ignite your passion for travel.

 

Who Is My Guide?         

All Global Travel & Tours guides are local Chinese who have completed tourism training, before applying for their guiding license, and undergoing our own in-house training program. Our guides are our long-term family members, selected for their knowledge, language and inter-personal skills. They speak English, French, German or Spanish.

 

Apart from the expected guiding, they are happy to share their intimate knowledge of the country with clients – be it where to eat the best noodles, or an overview of the economic situation. Generally, guides are ‘stationed’ in each city, and your clients will meet them on arrival at the airport and say good-bye to them when they leave that city, however ‘through’ guides are available on request or for escorting groups.

 

Guides are easily recognized carrying welcome signs printed with clients’ name. On arrival at the first point of entry, our guide will provide your client with an updated listing of nearby restaurants, other touring options, and general information to assist them whilst in country.

 

Climate and Clothing    

China lies mainly in the temperate and subtropical zones. Generally, its southern part (East China, South China and Southwest china) is warm, humid, and rainy; its northern part (North China, Northeast China, and northwest China) is dry and windy.

 

In spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) you will need a lined jacket or woolen sweater over light clothes. In summer (June to August) cool cotton garments are recommended. In winter (December to February) a light cotton-padded coat will keep you warm enough in the south; but in the north a heavy woolen coat or down parka is a must.

 

Late spring and late summer are often rainy especially in the southern part of China, so you would be wise to bring rainwear with you. And of course good walking shoes are essential at any time of year.

 

Currency      

Renminbi, the Chinese currency, is issued by the state bank, the People’s Bank of China.

The standard unit of the Renminbi is yuan, with jiao and fen as the subsidiary units. Thus one yuan equals ten jiao and one jiao equals ten fens. Yuan, jiao and fen are issued both in bills of exchange and coins. Renminbi features the following denominations: one, two, five, ten, fifty and a hundred yuan; one, two, and five jiao; and one, two and five fen. The abbreviation for Renminbi is RMB. Conversion services are available in China for all major currencies and money can be changed at hotels or banks throughout the country.

The following foreign credit cards are accepted in China: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, JCB, Diners.

 

Shopping for Souvenirs      

Shopping in China is getting more convenient. For those who are staying for more than just a few days, favoured brands of daily necessities can be found in most large department stores and shopping malls. Western retail companies have established outlets in major cities in China which carry both domestic and imported goods.

For those who wish to shop for souvenirs, there are open markets such as the Xiushui Street and Panjiayuan Antique Market in Beijing, as well as large department stores and shopping malls. Unlike large department stores where the prices are fixed, in markets you can and must bargain. Your local tour guides or hosts are the best help when bargaining. They will prove essential in finding the best goods and bringing the prices down!

 

Telephones and Postal Services 

In towns and cities, IDD service is provided at all hotels and post offices. Phone cards are available in post offices inside hotels or in the street. Even more conveniently, most newsstands in major cities also carry phone cards. Telephone booths in the streets are mostly for local calls.

 

Tourist hotels provide postal services. If you want to send important items such as antiques and cultural relics that are under customs control, you will have to ask for the help from the local branch of the international post office, instead of the hotel post office.

 

Other Risks                                            

Vaccinations against tuberculosis and Japanese encephalitis are sometimes advised. Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is endemic in the central Yangtze River basin. Avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water. Hepatitis E is prevalent in northeastern and northwestern China and hepatitis B is highly endemic. Sporadic outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) have resulted in a small number of human deaths. Rabies is present. If bitten, medical advice should be sought immediately. There are occasional outbreaks of dengue fever.

 

Health Care                      

Medical costs are low. Many medicines common to Western countries are unavailable in China. There are however some modern hospitals in the main cities, some with foreign doctors. Medical facilities in international hospitals are excellent. There are many traditional forms of medicine used in China, the most notable being acupuncture. Medical insurance is strongly advised.

 

Safety                                              

China is generally a safe country; however petty street crime is on the rise as tourist numbers increase. In larger cities we recommend you wear as little jewellery as possible and make sure your spending money is kept in a secure place close to your body. We also recommended you take taxis rather than walk at night. Taxis are mostly metered and inexpensive, but make sure the driver activates the meter and is clear on your destination — carry a hotel card so your taxi driver knows where to take you as many drivers cannot read or speak English.

 

Only take essentials out with you on the streets. Leave valuables (passport, credit cards, excess cash, and jewellery) in hotel (or boat) safety deposit boxes where available. It would also be advisable to make photocopies of your passport, credit card numbers, and airline tickets, and keep a record of your traveller’s cheques. These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals.

 

Passports & Visas          

Visas are required by all nationalities entering mainland China (visas are not needed for most western tourists visiting Hong Kong for less than 30 days), but it is usually an easy and trouble-free process. Tourist visas for individuals and group visas can be obtained directly through Chinese embassies or consulates. Your passport must have at least six months validity beyond the expiration date of your visa. Please check with the Chinese embassy or consulate in your home country before departure.