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Practical information China's Eastern Provinces

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Section editor

China's Eastern Provinces : Travel Information before you go!

Area

Eastern China has a total surface area of 754,292 mi2. The region of Heilongjiang covers 177,607 mi2, Jilin 72,356 mi2, Liaoning 56,332 mi2, Shandong 60,502 mi2, Zhejiang 40,235 mi2, Shanxi 60,541 mi2, Henan 64,479 mi2, Hubei 71,776 mi2, Hunan 81,776 mi2 and Guangdong 68,688 mi2.

Flights

To get to Eastern China from the UK you have to fly to Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. A large number of airlines, such as Air China, Austrian Airlines and British Airways operate flights to these cities.

A return trip to Beijing from London can be expensive in peak season. The flight time to Beijing is around 11 hours, and can be direct or include stopovers, depending on the airline.

Jet Lag

China has a single time zone, set to Beijing time. The UK is 7 hours behind in summer and 8 hours behind in winter.

Population

Eastern China is home to 616,697,722 inhabitants. 38,312,000 in Heilongjiang, 27,462,297 in Jilin, 43,746,323 in Liaoning, 95,793,065 in Shandong, 54,426,897 in Zhejiang, 35,712,111 in Shanxi, 94,023,567 in Henan, 57,237,740 in Hubei, 65,683,722 in Hunan and 104,300,000 in Guangdong.

Airports

Beijing Capital International Airport is located 17 miles from the city centre, while Shanghai Pudong International Airport is 19 miles from the city centre (take the Maglev, a train that travels at 267 mph!) and Hong Kong Airport is 21 miles from the city centre, a 45-minute taxi ride in good traffic. These are the country's main airports, serving as stopovers for flights to other cities and provinces.

For about 290 yuan (25), you can fly to the Heilongjiang Province from Hong Kong twice a week with CAAC airlines (Civil Aviation Administration of China).

Security

China's economic growth is increasingly pushing inhabitants to leave the rural regions in the hope of finding work in the cities. However, for many this dream does not become a reality and, as a result, some turn to crime. Eastern China is no exception, so always be careful and don't make yourself an easy target for thieves and pickpockets by leaving your luggage unattended or your wallet in plain sight in your back pocket.

It is also not uncommon to witness altercations in the streets, which are crowded and full of people rushing by; the jostling can quickly aggravate the situation.

Languages

Mandarin Chinese (putonghua) is understood, spoken and written all over China. English is spoken in the big businesses of the large cities and by most students.

Required travel documents for

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.

Religion

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.

Currency

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.

Local transportation

The plane:
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).

The train:
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!

The bus:
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.

Car hire:
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.

Two-wheels:
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.

The underground:
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).

Health

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.

Hygiene recommendations
Steps against microbial infections are recommended, especially avoiding eating raw or half-cooked food, in particular meat and eggs; wash your hands regularly.

General recommendations
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.

Electricity

Voltage is 220 V.There are 5 different types of electrical outlets! US adaptor and flat outlets are necessary.

Tourist numbers

China welcomed 49.6 million visitors in 2006.

Taxes and tips

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.

Telephone

To call the UK from China, dial: 00 44 (UK country code) + the number without the initial 0.

To call the China from the UK, dial: 00 86 (China country code) + the city code + the number without the initial 0.

Emergency numbers are: 110 for the police and 119 for the fire brigade.

China's Eastern Provinces : Useful addresses in the country

Before leaving

Chinese Embassy
49-51 Portland Place
London
W1B 1JL
Tel: 020 7299 4049

Chinese Consulate General
Denison House
Denison Road
Victoria Park
Manchester
M14 5RX

Cultural Service
11 West Health Road
Hampstead
NW3 7UX

Tel: 020 7431 8830.

China National Tourist Office
4 Glentworth St
London
NW1 5P6
Tel: 020 7935 9787
Email: london@cnta.gov.cn

CITS (China International Travel Service) is the governmental agency found everywhere in China. These services are sometimes rather expensive, but very reliable.
Head Office
124 Euston Road
London
NW1 2AL
Tel: 01 42 66 94 51

At the destination

British Embassy
4/F Landmark Building Tower
18 Dongsanhuan Beilu
Beijing 100004
Tel:
Tel: +86 (0)1065906903.

The tourist agencies distributed all over the country are divided into two categories: international tourism and interior tourism. The most important are the China International Travel Service (CITS), the China Travel Service (CTS) and China Comfort Travel (CCT), which have opened branches in different parts of the country. International agencies organise group and tailor-made trips for foreigners in China, provide interpreter-guides in different languages, and reserve hotel rooms, together with plane, boat and train tickets.

CITS: 103, Fuxingmennei Dajie
Tel: 66015588
CTS: 2, Beisanhuan Donglu
Tel: 64622288
CCT: 5, Nongzhanguan, Nanlu
Tel: 65940868

The Beijing Tourist Information Centre
10, Dengshikou xijie, Dongcheng
Tel: 65 12 30 43, open every day from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
Their website: www.english.bjta.gov.cn, provides updated information on events, addresses of tour operators, restaurants, etc.
Finally, note that monthly tourist information is available from the big hotels in the country, particularly in Shanghai and Peking, together with certain restaurants and bars. This is a good way of having the right and updated addresses when necessary.

Saturdays and Sundays are days of rest in China. The administrative entities are open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.