China : Travel Information before you go!
Mandarin Chinese (putonghua) is understood, spoken and written all over China. English is spoken in the big companies of the large cities and by most students.
10 hrs. Beijing is 5, 071 mi from London. Time difference + 7 hrs in the summer, +8 hrs in the winter. The whole of China is set on Beijing time, despite its five time zones. British Airways
has a daily London-Beijing flight and 5 weekly flights to Shanghai.
A flight of approximately 10 hours. Beijing is 5, 071 mi from London. Once in Beijing, anticipate another 5 hours to get to Urümqi.
Shanghai is approximately 5,700 miles from London, with a flight time of around 11h 30m.
British Airways operates daily direct flights from London Heathrow to Pudong International Airport, Shanghai. Air China operates flights from London Heathrow to both Pudong and Hongqiao International Airports, Shanghai, with a connecting flight in Beijing.
London-Beijing-Chengdu-Lhasa flight takes approximately 14 hours, not including connections. The total distance covered is approximately 6, 950 mi. When travelling via Katmandu in Nepal, anticipate approximately 10 hours, including the Katmandu-Lhasa flight, which takes 40 minutes. Connections to the Tibetan capital also operate from the Chinese towns of X'ian and Chongqing.
Required travel documents for China
To enter China, you must have a passport valid at least six months after your return date, a visa, an identity card and you need to fill in a form. Please note: the form can be downloaded from the embassy's website: www.china-embassy.org.
You can get your visa at the consulate for about £28 (in cash) for a single entry and £40 for two entries. It often takes a long time to get the document. Some agencies will do this paper work for you, for the cost of about £21.
The main religion is Buddhism (100 million), followed by Taoism (30 million), Islam (20 million), and Christianity (4 million). Almost the whole of China respects the "cult of the ancestors" prescribed by Confucius.
The Yuan or Kuai (CNY), also referred to as the Renminbi Yuan (RMB) ('people's currency'), consists of 10 Jiaos (commonly referred to as Maos) or 100 Fens. £1 Sterling = 10.26 yuan. Currency exchange is available in almost all large hotels (excluding commission, the official rate is the same everywhere). Small amounts of cash in US Dollars are also very useful. International bank cards are only accepted in large establishments, hotels and shops, but cash can be withdrawn at all branches of the Bank of China. Those in Shanghai and Beijing have ATM machines which can be used 24 hours a day. Banks open at 8.00am and close for lunch and then at around 4.00pm from Monday to Friday. Some also open on Saturdays from 8:00am to noon. Be careful not to exchange money on the black market, although this practice has virtually died out.
There are numerous internal airlines now (750 in 2004). Air China alone serves more than 80 towns. A ticket costs 50% more for a foreigner than for a Chinese person. You cannot avoid this increase! Return tickets, however, can be bought at the same time. You have to pay ?cash', though the use of credit cards is being slowly introduced. By way of example, Peking-Canton costs CNY 1,500. Book a long time in advance through a hotel or agency (commission has to be paid in all cases).
Any real traveller must experience this very safe and strange means of transport, which travels at an average of 40 mph. This is the opportunity to see what Chinese crowds in the stations are like, together with daily Chinese life. There are four ?classes' available: ?hard seats', ?soft seats', ?hard couchette' and ?soft couchette'. Travelling in ?hard couchette' (rather spartan couchettes) means that you will share with families. A one-way Peking-Canton ticket costs around CNY 500. ?Soft couchette' (more comfortable couchettes in private compartments) is more the style for the ?management and military'; then again, the ticket costs almost as much as a plane ticket. There are two ways of obtaining a one-way ticket (you cannot buy return tickets): you can buy it at hotel reception, or in a travel agency (CITS), at least 34 days in advance or at the station ticket-office, which involves hours of waiting and a lot of pushing. However, it is worth the experience when you have the time and the patience. In Beijing and in some large metropolises, a ticket office reserved for foreigners facilitates things. The Chinese spend their time on the trains eating, with no regard for cleanliness. The restaurant cars often serve excellent dishes, and also sell snacks. A Beijing-Shanghai trip takes 17 hours, and Shanghai-Chongqing, 50 hours!
Often the only means of transport for reaching remote areas on chaotic roads. Long and tiring but cheap journeys, involving direct contact with the people. The shock absorbers are often worn, and breakdowns frequent (the idea of maintenance is not a Chinese strong point!). However, comfort is gradually improving, and buses with couchettes are becoming more and more frequent, though they cost double the usual price. The condition of the roads is improving, and private buses are now competing with public bus services.
Considering the local driving rules, you are better off hiring a professional driver, with a taxi or private car. For a one or two day drive, you can bargain with any taxi driver. However, you must agree on a price before departure. Officially, it varies from 1 to 2 yuans per mile, depending on the type of vehicle. This method is much better value than going through an official agency, on condition that you speak a little Chinese.
Hiring a bicycle is far and away the best way of discovering a town. Bicycle hire (CNY 10 to 20 per day) is widely used, on deposit of CNY 200 or a passport. For long stays, you would do as well to buy a new bike (allow for around CNY 500). Riding in town requires permanent vigilance to acquire the local pace and habits, such as intermittent respect for red lights, and being knocked over by a bunch of cyclists Make sure you secure your bike correctly or, preferably, leave it in a supervised bicycle park (CNY 1 or 2). Scooter hiring has not yet been authorised.
in Beijing as in Shanghai, the underground serves the town centre. The price of the ticket varies from 2 to 5 yuans. This is a good means of transport, on condition, however, that you avoid peak times (from 7:00 am to 9:00 am and from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm).
Inspection against SARS (a respiratory disease) and avian flu has been reinforced.
Furthermore, a vaccination against flu for people going to Asian countries who are affected by the avian flu has not yet been judged as useful or recommended, according to the Minister of Health Administration. It is recommended to travellers going to countries declared as infected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Epizootic Office to avoid all contact with fowls, that is to say not going to farms and fowl and bird markets, avoid all contact with any surfaces spattered with fowl droppings or animal dejections. Finally, it is categorically unadvised to bring back animals from those countries.
Steps against microbial infections are recommended, especially avoiding eating raw or half-cooked food, in particular meat and eggs; wash your hands regularly.
No vaccine is required but hepatitis A, typhoid and tetanus are strongly recommended. Ask for more information at a vaccination centre to be informed about eventual epidemic diseases and risks of infections when you get there.
Good to know: every winter, flu and colds ravage China, especially in cold regions. Bring broad-spectrum antibiotics and medicine to cure sore throats. Dust and pollution can cause conjunctivitis (bring an eyewash solution). Golden rule in the country: never drink tap water, never have ice cubes, ice creams or pealed fruits sold in the street. Drink tea or mineral water, sodas or beer (in bottles with the cap open in front of you). In restaurants where hygiene conditions seem dubious, avoid eating raw vegetables and always choose hot or well-cooked dishes. In case of an accident, get a taxi to the closest hospital. Health care is relatively reliable and inexpensive. Major hotels provide medical emergency services. In any case, it is preferable to get some sort of repatriation insurance.
Voltage is 220 V.There are 5 different types of electrical outlets! US adaptor and flat outlets are necessary.
China welcomed 49.6 million visitors in 2006.
In hotels, a government tax, going from 10 to 20% is added to the room rate. Do not forget to keep enough cash to pay the airport tax (CNY 100 for an international flight, CNY 50 for a domestic flight). It is not a custom to leave tips, but tour guides would happily accept them. A small amount of cash (or a small gift), handed beforehand, sometimes facilitates human relations.