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Welcome to China Virtual Tours, your premier online guide to travel in China.

China Travel Fast Facts
  • Health
  • Telephone
  • Water & Electricity
  • Tipping
  • Workdays
  • Restricted Areas
  • Customs Regulations
  • Sport & Activities
  • Hygiene and Vaccinations
  • Credit Cards
  • Language
  • Visas
  • Customs
  • Health Declaration Form
  • Weights & Measures
  • Duty Free
  • Safety
  • Currency
  • Postal Services
  • Chinese Names
  • Radio and TV
  • Climate and Clothing
  • Public Holidays
  • Baggage Regulations
  • Entry/Exit Formalities

  • Health:
    Any trip which involves a change of climate and diet can lead to difficulty in physical adjustment. One should take along some usual medicines, such as those for colds, diarrhea and constipation, though they are available at drugstore. Those who take special medicine on a regular basis should be sure to carry an adequate supply with them. It is advisable to avoid unboiled water and raw or under-cooked meat. Medical treatment in China is usually very inexpensive.

    Telephone, Telegram and Telex:
    Direct phones are very common in China. Usually you can easily call from your room in a hotel, or go to a public telephone booth by street. In some large cities, You can now buy IP phone cards which can save you a lot of the usual fee. Large hotels, post offices and telecommunication centers provide telegram and telex services.

    Water & Electricity:
    Electricity supply is 220 volts, 50 cycles throughout China. Plugs at hotel are normally two-pin flat (5 amp).

    Tap water at most hotels are not drinkable. Drink only bottled or boiled water. Tea is often provided free in hotel.

    China is one of the few countries where tipping is not practised. In most places, it is not necessary to tip and nobody will ask for it. However, if you do want to tip, it is customary to do it before the service is rendered.

    Credit Cards:
    At present the Bank of China accepts Master, American Express, Dynasty, Visa, JCB, and Diners Club cards. Travellers may use these cards to draw cash over the exchange counters in China's banks, make purchases or pay bills at large department stores, restaurants and hotels in more than 100 major cities in China. A surcharge of 2% is always charged for card transactions.

    In China, both Putonghua and English are the languages of business. So, if the foreign tourists travel to China for business purpose, they can usually communicate with the chinese merchants in simple English. However, Putonghua is an official language of China. Most of the Chinese merely speak Putonghua with the outsiders. So, if the foreign tourists want to visit China but cannot speak Putonghua, they will find inconvenient on their tours. Therefore, it is essential and useful for the foreign tourists to learn some simple Putonghua when they decide to visit China.

    Foreign visitors can obtain individual or group visas from Chinese embassies and consulates, or China Travel Service offices in Hong Kong, usually within a day or two. Most tourists are included in group visas, not inserted into passports. For individual travelers, single-entry visas are valid for entry within three months. For business people and other regular visitors there are multiple-entry visas good for six months at a time. Each visa is valid for a stay of 30 or 60 days, and can be extended while in China.

    Visitors should be sure to carry their passports while in China as they are needed to check into hotels, make plane or train reservations, exchange money or establish the holder's identity. Loss of a passport should be reported immediately to the holder's embassy or consulate, and the Beijing Municipality Public Security Bureau, Foreigners Section, 85 Beichizi Jie. See also How to Obtain the Chinese Visa.

    All visitors must fill out customs declaration forms to present on arrival. The copy should be kept, to hand in on departure. Reasonable amounts of currency (including RMB) can be brought in, along with alcohol and cigarettes for personal use, cameras, radios, computers and tape-recorders.

    Certain valuable items, such as video cameras, office machines, computers and gold declared on the form must be brought out of China or else import duty will be charged on them.

    Prohibited imports include arms, ammunition and explosives; printed matter, film or tapes detrimental to China; dangerous or narcotic drugs; infected animals, plants or foodstuffs. It is also forbidden to take out any of these items, or endangered species of animals or plants and antiques without export permits.

    Health Declaration Form
    Foreign tourists are required to fill in a cursory Health Declation Form (distributed before arrival). Those planning on staying in China for a period of over six months may be required to present medical records. It is advisable to have vaccination records if you have been traveling in affected areas previous to visiting China.

    Weights & Measures:
    China uses metric system in weights and measures. It has its own system in the past, so many people are still using the old system because they have got used to it. To make it convenient for you while you are in China, we list the following conversion tables between the metric system, the Chinese system and the imperial system.

    Units of Length

    Metric Chinese Imperial
    1 km 2 li 0.62 mile
    0.5 km 1 li 0.311 mile
    1.609 km 3.218 li 1 mile
    1 m 3 chi 3.281 feet
    0.33 m 1 chi 1.07 feet
    0.305 m 0.914 chi 1 foot

    Units of Weight

    Metric Chinese Imperial
    1 kg 2 jin 2.205 pound
    0.5 kg 1 jin 1.102 pound
    0.454 kg 0.907 1 pound

    Units of Area

    Metric Chinese Imperial
    1 hectare 15 mu 2.471 acres
    0.067 hectare 1 mu 0.165 acres
    0.405 hectare 6.070 mu 1 acres

    Units of Capacity

    Metric Chinese Imperial
    1 litre 1 sheng 0.22 gallon
    4.546 litre 4.546 sheng 1 gallon

    RMB (Renminbi) is the sole legitimate currency of the People's Republic of China. The basic unit of RMB is yuan, (pronounced in local dialest as kuai), which is divided into 10 jiao (pronounced as mao), which is again divided into 10 fen.

    RMB paper notes include 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100 yuan, and the smaller 1, 2 and 5 mao. There are also 1,2, 5 yuan, 1, 2, 5 mao and 1, 2, 5 fen coins.

    Bureaux de change sponsored by the Bank of China are set up at Beijing International Airport, hotels and tourist stores. The exchange rate fluctuates with international market conditions. You should keep the form you fill in when changing money, because you will need to show it when you change RMB back into foreign currency.

    Most bureaux de change open seven days a week from 9:00 to 17:00.

    Postal Services:
    Postal services are usually provided at hotel desks. Large hotels have mail boxes and sell stamps for letters, post cards and parcels. Post offices, with eye-catching green emblesms, are usually found on main streets, at railway stations, the airport and major scenic spots. They are open seven days a week from 9:00 to 15:00.

    A letter costs 0.8yuan within China. Letter mailed through mail-boxes with yellow caps are delivered faster than ordinary services although no extra postage is needed. Stamps in China don't come ready pasted so you need to glue them onto the envelopes.

    Chinese Names:
    There are hundreds of surnames in China; Zhang, Wang, Li, Zhao and Liu are the most popular. Most Chinese names have three characters, the first being the family name and the last two given names. Occasionally, one may run into four-character names, and you can be sure that the first two characters are the family name. Women keep their own family names after marriage. See also The Origin of Chinese Surnames.

    Radio and TV:
    All large hotels in China receive many television channels, including some popular international channels. China Central Television (CCTV) currently has 10 channels, broadcasting over 160 hours of programs daily. CCTV-4, 2, 9 and 10 show some English programs every day. CCTV-4 has a 30-minute English language news program at 23:00 every night.

    China Radio International broadcasts to the world round-the-clock in 39 foreign languages and four Chinese dialects. Easy FM on 91.5 offers 12 hours of English broadcasting and Western music. This station is also a good source of information on what is happening in Beijing. Five minutes of international and domestic news is broadcast every hour on the hour.

    Five working days in a week is the official government regulation. Working hours are 8 hours a day, normally from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one hour break for lunch. All the government offices, institutions, schools,hospitals and other units do not work on Saturdays and Sundays, except some factories whose "weekends" may be within the week to avoid the electricity high peak. The emergency clinic is open when the hospital is closed. Shops are open everyday, normally from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

    Restricted Areas:
    Visitors to China should be aware that Chinese regulations strictly prohibit travel in "closed" areas without special permission. However, over 1,200 cities and areas in China are open to visitors without special travel permits, including most major scenic and historical sites. If you need to know if an area is open to travel without a permit, seek advice from the nearest Chinese embassy or consulate, or, if you are already in China, from the local Chinese public security bureau.

    Climate and Clothing:
    China's climate ranges from year-round tropical heat in Hainan to Siberian conditions in the far north and classic desert weather in the far west. Clothing is usually dictated by the weather. In winter it's a good idea to wear layers of garments - thermal or silk underwear with a sweater and padded jacket - so as to be able to strip down when necessary. Padded jackets and wool-lined boots, in all sizes and styles, are among China's best buys.

    In the warm weather clothing should be casual and designed for comfort, without being too revealing. Slacks are still the norm for women in China, and are recommended for strenuous sightseeing.

    The Chinese are generally conservative in their dress, favoring dark colors. In recent years, the Western coat and tie have become popular.

    Public Holidays:
    In China there are 11 days of national public holiday throughout the year, and they are:

    The New Year's Day-- 2 days;

    The Spring Festival (also known as Chinese Lunar New Year, usually due in late January or early and mid-February)-- 3 days;

    The May 1st Labor Day-- 3 days;

    The October 1st National Day-- 3 days.

    It is customary for people to "borrow" weekends to make the three-day holiday into a week-long holiday.

    Governments of all levels and companies in China follow the five-day week system.

    Customs Regulations:
    Foreign visitors to the People's Republic of China are allowed to import 4 bottles of wine or spirits and 600 cigarettes along with their personal belongings. Items such as watches, radios, cameras, and calculators imported duty free for personal use may not be transferred or sold to others. Gifts and articles carried on behalf of others must be declared to the customs inspector and are subject to duty.

    Chinese customs regulations prohibit the import or export of the following items:

    (a) arms, ammunition, and explosives;
    (b) radio transmitter-receivers and principal parts;
    (c) Chinese currency (renminbi);
    (d) books, films, records, tapes, etc. which are "detrimental to China's politics, economy, culture, and ethics" (e.g. pornographic or religious content)
    (e) poisonous drugs and narcotics;
    (f) infected animal or plant products; and
    (g) infected foodstuffs.

    Export of the following items is also prohibited:
    (a) valuable cultural relics and rare books relating to Chinese history, culture, and art;
    (b) rare animals, rare plants and their seeds; and
    (c) precious metals and diamonds and articles made from them.
    Antiques and imitations which are approved for export are marked with a red wax seal.

    Movie cameras and videotaping equipment should be declared upon entry into China.

    Duty Free:
    The following items may be imported into China by passengers staying less than six months without incurring customs duty: 400 cigarettes (600 cigarettes for stays of over 6 months); 2 litres of alcoholic beverages (4 bottles of alcoholic beverages for stays of over 6 months); a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.

    Prohibited items: Arms, ammunition, pornography (photographs in mainstream Western magazines may be regarded as pornographic), radio transmitters/receivers, exposed but undeveloped film, fruit and certain vegetables, political and religious pamphlets (a moderate quantity of religious material for personal use is acceptable). Any printed matter directed against the public order and the morality of China.

    Note: Customs officials may seize audio and videotapes, books, records and CDs to check for pornographic, political or religious material. Baggage declaration forms must be completed upon arrival noting all valuables (such as cameras, watches and jewellery), a copy of which must be presented to customs upon leaving the country for checking. Receipts for items such as jewellery, jade, handicrafts, paintings, calligraphy or other similar items should be kept in order to obtain an export certificate from the authorities on leaving. Without this documentation such items cannot be taken out of the country.

    Baggage Regulations:
    Allowance for carry-on luggage and checked luggage will vary with the class of your airline ticket, the dimensions of the bag, and individual airline policies. Usually, for domestic China and Intra-asia flights, you are allowed to check one piece of luggage. The limitation is 20 Kilograms (44 pounds) total. A fee may be imposed for excess weight. Passengers traveling together can have their luggage allowances calculated together on a per-person basis. There is no free luggage allowance for holders of infant tickets. Passengers may apply for insurance coverage above the minimum value for checked luggage. On domestic trains there are no luggage restrictions, but few porters are available to help with luggage. Travelers who are not part of an organized tour will be responsible for carrying their own bags.

    Sport & Activities:

  • Cycling: An estimated 300 million Chinese people use the bicycle as a means of transport and, not suprisingly, bicycle hire shops can be found everywhere, even in smaller towns. Visitors should note that car traffic has been increasing in China. Major roads outside cities also tend to be busy.

  • Hiking and Trekking: China's main natural attractions are its scenic mountains, waterfalls, caverns and great rivers and lakes. No permit is required for hiking, although a trekking permit is compulsory (and fairly expensive) for visiting more remote areas. For details of the necessary practicalities for individual hiking or trekking and for a list of specialised tour operators, contact the China National Tourist Office. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (also known as the 'roof of the world') is one of the world's most famous mountaineering destinations. Some of the world's highest mountains define the southern border of Tibet, including Mount Everest (8848m/29,021ft), Namcha Barwa (7756m/25,445ft), around which the Brahmaputra River carves a fantastic gorge to enter India, and Gurla Mandhata (7728m/25,355ft). Among the 14 peaks on earth above 8,000 metres, five are located in Tibet. The Tibetan approach to Mount Everest provides far better views than the Nepal side. Some 27,000 sq km around Everest's Tibetan face have been designated as the Qoomolangma Nature Reserve. For foreign travellers, the Everest Base Camp has become the most popular trekking destination in Tibet. The two access points are Shegar and Tingri, along the Friendship Highway to Nepal, but visitors should note that these treks are very demanding and that the altitude requires some acclimatisation. Four-wheel-drive vehicles can also take visitors all the way to base camp along the Shegar track.

  • Wintersports: Ice skating is possible on Beijing's lakes during winter. Downhill and cross-country skiing can be practised in the North-east provinces.

  • Martial Arts: The ancient 'shadow art' of Tai Chi, a series of linked movements performed in a slow relaxed manner using the entire body whilst focusing the mind, is traditionally practised in towns throughout China, particularly in the early morning hours, and visitors wishing to learn or participate are welcome.

    China has a low crime rate, comparing with a lot of other countries; however crime has increased in the past few years, principally in the major cities. Foreigners have seldom been victims of violent crime. It is still wise to be cautious with your personal possession in public place. There are pickpockets active in crowded areas such as stations, markets, shopping areas, etc. Do not show off your money in public. Use your safe in the hotel room and don't bring too much cash with you when you don't need it. If there is any problem, report to the hotel or police immediately.

    Entry/Exit Formalities:
    All visitors arriving in the People's Republic of China must complete a customs declaration form to present on arrival. One copy of this form should be retained, to hand in to customs on departure. Each traveler is permitted to bring in four hundred cigarettes, two liters of alcohol, twenty fluid ounces of perfume and up to fifty grams of gold or silver. The cash amount that visitors can legally bring in or take out is only RMB6000 and foreign currency over the value of US$5000 or equivalent. Any amount exceeded this limit must be declared. Certain valuable items, such as video cameras, office machines, computers and gold should have import duty paid on them. Prohibited imports include arms, ammunition and explosives; printed matter, film or tapes critical to the country; dangerous or narcotic drugs; infected animals, plants or foodstuffs. It is also forbidden to carry any of these items, or endangered species of animals or plants and antiques without export permits. You may be asked to present an official receipt for any cultural relics you plan to take out of the country. Generally speaking, customs don't hassle foreigners too much. There are green channels and red channels. If you have something to declare, take the red channel. Otherwise choose the green channel to clear Customs upon arrival in the People's Republic of China.

    Hygiene and vaccinations:
    Foreign tourists are required to fill in a cursory Health Declaration Form upon arrival. Recommended vaccinations for prolonged stay are influenza, tetanus, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis B, gamma globulin and polio. The best medicine in China is the same as other destinations, in regards to overall prevention. The key to prevention is pacing yourself in consumption terms of food, drink, exercise and awareness of hygiene. Useful items to bring along: general antibiotics such as tetracycline, antacid tablets to be taken before or after meals and insect repellent in the summer (in Southern China). Toilets off the beaten tourist track tend to be primitive so it is useful to bring along your own sanitary necessities and moist towels when venturing outside your hotel.

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