Chinese people are intrigued by the western world and will quite often stop you for a photo opportunity or for a chat to practice their English language skills. The locals are very friendly and courteous; eager to make you feel welcome in their country. Timeless villages with ancient cultures enable a colorful destination where you can find exquisite ethnic handcrafts, folk customs, and delicious ethnic food. As with every foreign country you will experience many different traditions, the Chinese do not use knives and forks instead they use chopsticks, you will find a lot of slurping going on!
Chinese Yuan - One Chinese Yuan consists of 0.14 dollars. You can pre purchase Chinese Yuan from exchange bureaus but you will need to give notice so that the currency can be ordered in. ATMs accepting Visa and MasterCard are widely available in cities and towns. ATM’S will allow you to withdraw as much as your daily allowance permits. If the ATM will not allow the cash withdrawal at first try a smaller amount, then repeat the process as you can withdraw cash several times.
If you wish to use Visa or MasterCard’s in ATMs, it is best to notify your Bank in the UK that you will be travelling to China, prior to your departure.
CHINA TIME ZONES
China is 8 GMT + 8.
WEATHER IN CHINA
The Chinese climate varies from region to region, since the country is so huge. In the northeast, where Beijing sits, the summers are hot and dry and the winters are freezing cold. The north and central regions, including Chengdu, have frequent bouts of rain coupled with hot summers and cold winters. In general, spring and autumn are the best times to visit China. Any time from March to May or from September to early November are the best times to plan a trip. October is a very busy time of year as its China Golden Week (National Holiday)
DRIVING IN CHINA
Driving permits are applied for at the traffic police station. To obtain a permit your photo will be taken. After which you will proceed to hospital for a simple eye test. Return back to the traffic police station and wait whilst your provisional licence is processed and authorised, this can take up to an hour to be processed. Allow 3-4 hours for the whole procedure.
The Chinese drive on the right hand side of the road. Traffic signs are in Chinese and English and are very easy to understand. Driving on the highways in China is very straightforward, although in big cities you may experience congestion. Cash is required to pay for road tolls.
HEALTH AND SAFETY IN CHINA
China is generally a safe country with helpful and hospitable people; they are very interested in your presence and may request photographs on many occasions. Always carry an address card of where you are staying just in case you have communication issues. We also recommend you make photocopies of important documents such as your passport and driving license, keeping the originals in a safe place.
We recommend you do not drink the tap water - stick to bottled water and double check the seal around the cap has not been tampered with prior to drinking.
Toilets are mainly squat over holes – very few European styles. Some communal without toilet doors.
Western medical facilities are available in the major cities. General health and recommended vaccination information for China.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS IN CHINA
Visa entry requirements - to travel to China from the UK you will need a full UK passport with at least six months validity beyond the date you leave China.
To apply for a Chinese visa a letter of introduction will be required which must include your flight arrangements, where you will be staying in China (hotel confirmation) and booking invoice. If the visa is rejected refunds are not given. A 2 year entry visa is the same price as a short term entry visa with all UK passports.
Apply online at https://www.visaforchina.org/
There are visa application centres in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast – select the one you wish to use. It’s also good to spend some time reading the FAQs before starting!
There are agencies who will handle applications for a fee but if you set aside a few hours you can complete all the info yourself. They are quite specific about the photo – it make take a while to upload, but even if not accepted online, take passport photos with you to the visa application centre and it will get added there.
Once the online application is completed, book an appointment time to visit the application centre you have selected. Take all the requested documentation on the day, including extra passport photos, and allow around 1.5 hours to complete the process. Credit card is not accepted, only cash or debit cards.
UK passport holders visa fees are currently (effective from 25 March 2019)
- Regular - £151 pp (pick up your passport in person after 4 working days)
- Express - £182 pp (pick up your passport in person after 3 working days)
- Postal return - £175 (have your passport sent by post, 4-5 days)
During your visit to China ensure you carry your passport with you at all times. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security and major sporting or political events. Failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention.
PROHIBITED TRAVEL ITEMS
In general it is safe to assume that nothing that might remotely be considered a weapon will be allowed on board a flight, this will include any kind of knife or sharp implement – right down to penknives, knitting needles or even tweezers. Any Poisonous drugs, habit-forming drugs, etc. are naturally prohibited, animals and plants.
SHOPPING IN CHINA
Big cities like Beijing are a shopper’s paradise, you will be spoilt for choice. You will come across an array of silk items that are very reasonably priced. There are also traditional shops that sell silverware and you can watch as jewellery, teapots, goblets etc. are created. Many tourist spots will have street vendors where they sell all kinds of home made goods such as wooden trinket boxes, jewellery, fans, Chinese pipes there is something for everyone. Shops in the cities accept card payments. The locals pay for their goods with Alipay which is an app on their phone and rarely use cards or cash even at the markets therefore, for purchases made at street vendors or markets you would need to pay by cash (Chinese Yuan).
TAXES AND CUSTOMS IN CHINA
Value-added tax (VAT) at a rate of 11% is levied on the purchase of most of the goods in China. As a foreign visitor you may apply for a refund of the VAT you pay while in the country – provided you apply before you depart. To apply, make sure you get tax invoices for your purchases. Then present these to the VAT Refund Administrator at your point of departure. All items must leave China with you..
BRINGING GOODS INTO THE UK
For limits on what you can bring back into the UK, please see the up to date information at www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs.
TIPPING IN CHINA
Tipping is not expected in China, when dining in restaurants tips are included in the service charge. Tipping for tour guides and drivers is not mandatory and at your discretion. A suggested guide price would be USD$5 per person per day.
Travel plugs and adapters
Although the motorhomes have universal sockets, it is recommended that you take a relevant travel adaptor for use in the hotels. There are three types of plugs used in China – three-pronged angled pins, two flat pins (the most common) or two narrow round pins. Electricity is 220 volts, 50 cycles AC.