Discover Asia Tours
 
 
China

• Full name: People's Republic of China
• Population: 1.3 billion (UN, 2005)
• Capital: Beijing
• Area: 9.6 million sq km (3.7 million sq miles)
• Major language: Mandarin Chinese
• Major religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism
• Life expectancy: 70 years (men), 73 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 Renminbi (yuan) (Y) = 10 jiao = 100 fen;
• Main exports: Manufactured goods, including textiles, garments, electronics, arms
• GNI per capita: US $1,740 (World Bank, 2006)
• Internet domain: .cn
• International dialling code: +86

PREPARING TO GO
Visas
Except for citizens of Japan, Singapore Brunei every foreigner requires a visa to enter China. This should be obtained from a Chinese embassy or consulate before departure. A tourist visa is usually valid for entry within three months of the date of issue and permits a stay of 30 days from the date of entry. If you follow any prohibited profession like a journalist, you could be denied a visa. Therefore it is advisable that you do not mention such profession in your visa. For updated information on obtaining a visa to China please contact your local Chinese Embassy or Consulate close to your planned date of travel. Hong Kong has been given separate entity as far as the visas are concerned. You can acquire a visa for China in Hong Kong but it can take a long time.

Double Entry Visas
If you wish to leave mainland China and return later you will have to request for a double entry visa when you make your application. After the visa has been issued, please check your passport clearly.

Money
Local Currency

The official currency of the People's Republic of China is the Renminbi (“People's Money"), abbreviated RMB. It is also known as Yuan (¥) 1 Yuan can be divided into 10 Jiao or 100 Fen. As two different series of notes are in circulation an unfamiliar note is not counterfeit though counterfeit notes are a big problem in China. Hong Kong uses a separate currency, the Hong Kong dollar (HK$). Approximate exchange rates as of Sept 2004 are as follows:
¥ HK$
1 Pound Sterling = 14.7 13.9
1 US Dollar = 8.3 7.8
1 Euro = 10.0 9.5
Currently there are no restrictions on the sum of foreign currency that a visitor may bring into China. However sums over US$5,000 must be declared on arrival. As said earlier, counterfeit notes have become a rampant problem in China. Therefore it is always better to check the watermark and you can also detect it by the poor quality of paper used to make these notes.

Changing Money, Credit Cards & ATM's
Foreign currency or travelers’ cheques can be exchanged into RMB in most hotels and banks. For this you will be required to show a passport or identification. The exchange rate has been set by the bank of China, which is incidentally the only bank that has been authorized to deal in foreign
exchange. In larger cities you will find ATMs but there are highly unreliable. Credit cards are accepted in some shops and only in bigger restaurants but debit cards are almost of no use in China. We recommend that you bring with you some cash as well as travelers’ cheques in either US$ or British £. Rather than changing you money in Beijing, it would be much better if you
exchange it at the airport because it is more convenient. The rate of exchange is set by the bank of China and is the same all over the country. While departing if you have some Yuan leftovers, you can exchange it again at the Bank of China when the original exchange certificate is produced. Exchanging money is a much easier process in Hong Kong. However, here the rates are not fixed and they vary. Your tour leader will be able to advise you more on where to exchange your money. ATMs can be found almost everywhere and credit cards are widely accepted. Working out your Budget You will receive a Pre Departure Booklet, which contains all the information about the things you will need to consider when budgeting for your holiday.

Optional Excursions & Activities
We have included some free time in almost all of our itineraries. During this time you are free to take optional excursions. Your tour leader will advise you of the possibilities in each area.

Meals
On most Traveler tours, you can find a meal plan on your brochure and on your itinerary itself. Breakfast is provided everyday on most Traveler tours, and many tours include some dinners. We rarely include lunches only to give you more freedom on the type of food you want to eat. To make it more convenient for you approximate costs for meals and snacks not included are given below:
Simple snack US$1
Light meal US$2-5
Duck dinner US$6-7
Drinks
To make it more convenient for you approximate costs for drinks are given below:
Prices in restaurants and hotels can be as much as double those specified.
1l of water US$0.5
Can of soft drink US$0.5
630ml bottle of beer US$0.4
We advise you not to drink the local tap water in China. Bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available throughout the country.

Local Transport
The most ideal way of getting around the cities of China is a taxi. You can pay the taxi driver according to the meter and there are slim chances that you will be overcharged. But it is always better to find out from your tour leader about how much should you exactly pay for a particular journey.
Approximate taxi fares hotels in Beijing to:
Tiananmen Square US$2
Summer Palace US$5
It may be really difficult to find taxi drivers who can speak English. Your tour leader will provide you with maps and advise you on popular destinations.

Underground Railroads
There are underground railway networks in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
These are Inexpensive and you can have a ride for about US$1.

What to Take ?
Once you have booked your tour you will be given a Pre Departure Booklet. This will contain a complete catalog of items that you should consider bringing with you. There are some items of equipment like sleeping bags and towels that you will need on some tours and not on others.

Clothing
We recommend that your clothing be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. Please refrain from wearing anything that is made out of nylon. China has hot and humid summers. Therefore, cotton wear becomes important. The evenings are cooler so you must carry thinner layers rather than carrying one thick layer. The people of China are liberal in their attitude towards dress and wearing almost anything will be fine. However, in the west China region where there is a sizeable Muslim population, you should dress conservatively. At end of the summer season, the weather can drop down rapidly. It is advisable to be prepared with more warm clothes, especially on tours in more remote areas where hotel heating systems may be primitive.

Prepare Yourself
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.

CULTURAL & ENVIRONMENTAL GUIDELINES

The Environment
Toilet Paper

Always carry toilet paper. If there are all squat toilets and you should note that toilet paper should be disposed of in the dustbins that are provided rather than down the toilet itself. A supply of antiseptic wet wipes and plastic bags can come handy for disposing your toilet paper in if it cannot be burnt. The government of China is taking initiative to make people use dustbins. We recommend that you do not litter and try as much as possible to use litterbins.

Begging
You will hardly see a beggar in China. However, if there are some, we recommend that you do not oblige a beggar by showing any act of charity. If anyone begs of you, just ignore or walk away.

Bargaining
A lot of items that are in sale in China have no fixed price and you can do some bargaining. In order to compensate bargaining the shopkeeper might raise the cost of the product but you can always haggle for a reasonable price.

ARRIVAL
Arrival Transfers
When you arrive at the airport, look for our representative who will be holding a signboard of Discover Asia Tours. He will be waiting for you in the Arrivals Hall and you will see him after exiting the Immigration and Customs area. If you are arriving at Hong Kong first, you will be landing at the airport located at the Lantau Island. We do not provide complimentary transfers from this airport. Here you will find a lot of public transports and it generally easy to find your way to the meeting point. However if you think that you still require arrival transfer, we can provide you with the extra services. Check out the "extra services' section on this PDF.

Private Transfer
When you arrive at the airport, look for our representative who will be holding a signboard of Discover Asia Tours. He will be waiting for you in the Arrivals Hall and you will see him after exiting the Immigration and Customs area. Seat in Coach (SIC) Once you clear the Customs and the Immigration sections, you will see two exits into the arrivals hall. Pass through exit B and head for the Commercial Kiosk B13. Here you will find the Vigor Airport Shuttle. You should give your name as the desk and a transfer to your hotel will be arranged for you.

Making Your Own Way
In the travel vouchers (which you will receive after booking a trip), the meeting point for your tour will be clearly marked. Getting to your meeting point is very easy in case you are not transferred.

Beijing
Once you come out of the Arrivals Hall, you must move left for the taxi stand. Here you will be able to find some metered taxis who will help you get to the meeting point. We recommend that you ask the taxi driver to turn on the meter before you board the taxi. It is also important to choose a taxi that is red in color and has a sticker in the rear window saying "1.60Y".

Hong Kong
It is comparatively easier in Hong Kong (compared to Beijing) to get to the meeting point as there are several ways to get there. Finding a taxi from the Hong Kong airport is easy. All the taxis are metered but to get to mainland Hong Kong from Lantau Island, there is an additional charge of about US$4. This is charged as a toll to cross the bridge. For every large item a charge of US$0.5 is levied. You can also take the express train from the airport terminal. There are trains for reaching the main land Hong Kong as well as Kowloon. The fare is about US$ 12 per person.

Buses
The various Airbuses are inexpensive but slower bus services to the city. Lines A11 and A12 go to the Island ($40 and $45 respectively), while A21 goes to Kowloon ($33). Alternatively, take bus S1 to Tung Chung ($3.5) and connect to the ordinary MTR for a cheap and zippy ride to the city (Kowloon $17, Hong Kong $23); and if you're feeling lucky, you can even try to hop on to the free Airport Express shuttle buses! Note that although the "E" route buses are cheaper than the "A" routes buses, the former take about 20 minutes longer. These 'External' buses are aimed more at airport workers, so make several detours around Tung Chung.

ON TOUR
Safety

The people of China are very friendly and hospitable. However, if you are not familiar with larger cities, we recommend that you be cautious at night and more so if you are a female and are alone. There could be pickpockets at tourist sites. Please exercise caution with your valuables. Helmets Consider wearing helmets when you are engaged in activities like biking. Helmets will always ensure your safety to some extent.

Tour Leaders & Guides
An experienced tour leader heads the team. He is a connoisseur in the art of trekking and it is his responsibility to run this whole trip smoothly. He can share his expertise on certain things. If you encounter any problems on the tour, please inform your Tour Leader. We are also supported by our local agents and a locally based manager. We will also be using the services of local guides at certain historical sights.

Accommodation
Comfort and cleanliness are the things we look for while choosing our hotels. On Adventurer tours, we will halt at modest hotels or rest houses. Most hotels provide twin share rooms with attached private bathrooms. We may also come across dormitories, which are in a multi share basis with shared bathrooms. On traveler tours, accommodation can be categorized as medium range. Please remember that the hotels that we stay in can encounter some technical problems.
You tour leader will arrange hotels according to requirements of the whole group. If you are traveling alone you maybe given a room with a member of the same sex, unless you have paid for single supplement. If you are a couple, please remember that you may not always get double beds. Single supplements are for single travelers who want to pay for their own room but this may not be applicable on boats, trains and whilst camping.

Laundry
A laundry service is available in most of the hotels we use and on cruise boats.

Local Food & Drink
Food
Chinese cuisine is famous all over the world. However, you must understand that food varies from region to region. Sichuan and Hunan is famous for dishes that are hot and spicy. Beijing is famous for home-style noodles and baozi (bread buns), Peking duck, and cabbage dishes, great pickles. The cuisine of Zhejiang is delicately seasoned and includes a mix of seafood and vegetables often served in soup. Sometimes lightly sweetened or sometimes sweet and sour, Zhejiang dishes frequently involve cooked meats and vegetables in combination. The meals are generally large, taken early and often end with soup. Breakfasts are more salty than sweet, and contain stuff that you normally would not eat so early. The variety of climate and local produce has created outstanding regional cooking in China. The food you get in Hong Kong is much more diverse. You can find almost any kind of food.

Drinks
Tea is the most common of all the drinks in China. It is served with hot water with many leaves on it. You can also find coffee but we do not recommend it as it is very strong and you will hardly find a trace of milk in it. Beer is very common in China, served in nearly every restaurant. The most famous brand is Tsing Dao. Other brands abound, all light lager beers and usually around 3% alcohol. You can also find imported beers in China. In Hong Kong you will find a lot of drinks that can be called international.

Special Dietary Requirements
Vegetarians
A lot of vegetarian food is available in China. However, there are limited varieties of delicious dishes compared to non-vegetarian items.

Food Allergies
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met. Unfortunately, we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.

Communications
Email
You can find internet cafes almost everywhere in China. In hotels, the cost will be about US$2 for an hour. However, at internet cafes, the rate is almost half of what the hotels and business centers charge.

Phone
The telephone system of China is good and reliable. You can easily find a phone card.
Post
The postal service is good and stamps are accessible all over. An overseas stamp will cost about US$0.7.

Availability of Film
You can find camera film almost everywhere. It is however difficult to find slide films outside Beijing.

GENERAL INFORMATION
Weather
The climate is also extremely diverse. This is simply because the country is spread over a vast area. In order to simply it, we can say that it is tropical in the South and subartic in the North. There is also a vast terrain with mostly mountains, high plateaus, and deserts in west; while plains, deltas, and hills can be found in the east. On the border between Tibet and Nepal lies Mount Everest, at 8,850 m, being the highest point on earth. While Turpan Pendi, situated in northwest China is the lowest point of the country, at 154 m below sea level. We normally do not operate our tours to China during the winter months. The best season for traveling to China is during the spring and autumn.
The following chart shows average daytime temperatures (in degrees Celsius);
Month Temperature in B K S G H
January 1 0 7 9 19
February 4 4 8 9 19
March 11 14 12 15 22
April 19 22 18 21 25
May 26 26 23 26 28
June 30 30 27 29 30
July 31 32 31 32 32
August 29 31 31 32 32
September 26 26 27 28 31
October 19 19 22 22 28
November 10 10 17 17 24
December 3 1 11 11 21
P – Phnom Penh
(B – Beijing, K – Kashgar, S – Shanghai, G – Guilin, H – Hong Kong)

Holidays
National Holidays
Secular public holidays, when banks and government offices are closed, are few and many shops remain open even on these days.
New Year’s Day* 1 Jan
Women’s Day 8 Mar
Labour Day 1 May
Children’s Day 1 Jun
Communist Party Day 1 Jul
Army Day 1 Aug
National Day* 1 Oct
(*Banks closed)
Note: Labour Day and National Day holidays are week long events for many Chinese. As large numbers of these take the opportunity to visit their families or go on holiday, expect most things to be busy during these weeks.
Festivals & Events
Chinese New Year Jan/ Feb
Qing Ming Apr
(Tomb Sweeping day in honour of the
deceased)
Dragon Boat Festival May/ Jun
Moon Festival Sep/ Oct
Suggested Reading
In Depth Guidebooks
• Rough Guide to China
• The Yangzi River and the Three
Gorges – Odyssey
• The Silk Road – Odyssey
Background Reading
• A Traveller's History of China (By
Stephen G. Haw)
• In Xanadu: A Quest (By William
Dalrymple
• Wild Swans (By Jung Chang)
• Behind the Wall (By Colin Thubron)
• Foreign Devils on the Silk Road (By
Peter Hopkirk)
• Riding the Iron Rooster (By Paul
Theroux)
• Red Azalea (By Anchee Min)
Useful Phrases in Mandarin
Even though Mandarin is the official language, there are many dialects, which are completely different from each other. Most common is Cantonese, which is used in the south, and Hong Kong. The script is the same everywhere and is understood by everyone. Mandarin has four tones, which determine the meaning of a word.

The following words and phrases are spelled phonetically to help you with pronunciation.
Hello nee how
Goodbye dzai jien
How are you? nee how ma?
I’m fine thanks hun how
Please ching
Thank you shea shea
No, thank you boo yao, shea
shea
You're welcome boo kur chee
Yes dway
Excuse me/sorry dway boo chee
How much? dwor shao chien?
Too expensive tie gwayla
Okay hao da
No problem may gwan shee
Tea cha
Coffee kah fay
Milk neeoh nai
Beer pee joe
I don't understand wor ting boo
dong
Mandarin Numbers
0 ling
1 ee
2 arr (roll the r’s)
3 san
4 sur
5 woo
5 leeoh
6 chee
8 bar
9 jeeoh
10 shur
11 shur ee
12 shur arr
20 arr shur
30 san shur
100 ee bai
1000 ee chien