Council on China Exchange

Cultural Exchanges between China and the United States

Photo of the Great Wall, China, by Susan Kullmann

 

 

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Traveling in China - FAQs

Everything you have every wanted to know about CCE China program amenities and traveling to China in general - and then some. : )

Also visit our Chinese Pronunciation Guide and suggested online resources.

Browse through the topics or select one topic from the drop-down menu below. Also see links in our useful online resources listings.

ADMISSIONS—entry fees to places listed in the itinerary are includes; some optional events may be offered at additional cost.

AIRLINE TICKETS—yours are group tickets and are non-refundable, non-transferable, non-endorsable and unmodifiable. If you lose your ticket, you will need to purchases one at the regular price and apply for a refund AFTER the 12 month period of ticket validity has passed. (You will receive a refund for the price of the regular ticket you had to buy.)

AMENITIES—in the room, one or two small soaps, shampoos, and even tooth brushes with paste may be offered. Sometimes there is a separate basket with spa products FOR SALE (such will have the price in Chinese yuan on the label).

ATTITUDE—you will travel well and happily if you relax and go with the program; Chinese culture is different from yours, as are its customs, ideas of politeness and friendliness, etc. Travel is stressful, so when you find yourself angry and frustrated, simply remember that you are in a stressful ("foreign") situation and try to focus on what you are seeing and learning about past and modern culture, arts, and life. Simply put, do not be rude.

BAGGAGE—You are allowed 20 Kg for checked bags (44 lbs) and one carry-on; in China you may check only one bag (international flights permit two) so plan accordingly (you are fully responsible for your bags, not CCE China); overweight baggage fees are high.

BARGAINING—almost everywhere, including state stores/factories. You might comparison shop first, when buying in small shops and stalls ("original" price might vary by 200%). If state stores are amenable to bargaining, try at least 50% for starters; "bulk" purchases also may bring discounts. If you are looking for street vendors with specialty products such as watches, don't pay more than 50 yuan/watch (and be sure it's running).

BARS—if you must include this cross-cultural experience, outside the hotel bars, ask for a recommendation at the desk; beware of touts offering to take you to bars and nightclubs.

BEER—good, usually lager, based on German recipes. (available at lunch and dinner)

BEVERAGES—bottled water, soda pop, beer, hot tea and coffee are offered at meals. (one glass with lunch and dinner, except hot tea; additional beverages are extra)

BIRD FLU—Chinese authorities are being quite open about this issue and taking major steps to protect the public. Unless you plan to bed-down with a bunch of ducks or chickens in their coops for a month, sharing their mash, don't worry.

BREAKFAST—buffet with American/European food (eggs, bacon, pastries, breads, omelets, pancakes/waffles, coffee, milk, cereal, yogurt, etc.), Asian dishes (rice soup, miso soup, vegetables, etc.)

BUS AND DRIVER—are included in the program price; so are tips for the driver (you may always offer more for good service, or leave a souvenir from your home town/state); in major cities buses are newer with room for you and your bags and daily shopping; in remote and mountainous areas, buses are older and perhaps less comfortable.

CANCELLATION POLICY—The deposit is not refundable; cancellation 45 days prior to departure is subject to an additional $100 fee; 30-44 days before departure, an additional $200 plus airfare; 15-29 days before departure, additional hotel, entry, etc. cancellation charges will be assessed; if you leave the trip, additional costs are borne by you. We recommend you consider trip cancellation insurance.

CHILDREN—under 12 years may stay with two adults in a room, but without an additional bed, at 75% of the adult price; an additional bed increases the cost; children over 12 years travel as adults.

CHOPSTICKS—yes, they will be at the table for lunch and dinner; if you need a fork, ask for one. Do not put your used fork or chopsticks back into the serving dish -- it's a recipe for spreading illness. Request that servers supply large spoons for each dish.

COFFEE—at breakfast, usually excellent (decaf not usually available)

CONVENIENCE STORES—for water, snacks, shampoo, etc., there is bound to be the equivalent of a"7-11" within a block or two of your hotel; they are a bit higher than a supermarket (not so common) and a lot less than the hotel or restaurant.

CUSTOMS—400 cigarettes and 2 bottles of alcohol may be brought into China; no alcohol may be carried in hand luggage on domestic flights in China.

DELAYS, NATURAL DISASTERS, EQUIPMENT FAILURES, ETC.—while highly unlikely to affect us, CCE China cannot assume responsibility for such occurrences; any such losses and additional expenses with fall to the group; if part of a tour is cancelled because of the above, CCE China will re-arrange comparable programming to the extent possible

DEPOSIT—your trip deposit, $250, is not refundable; no-shows and those canceling close to departure (within 30 days) will be assessed for expenses to that point, minimally airfares. (see CANCELLATION POLICY)

DIET DRINKS—no such appellation in China; ask for "light" and look for the silver Coke and Pepsi cans in convenience stores.

ELECTRICITY—220 volts; conservation includes electricity that goes on when you put your room key-card into the slot next to the door; then individual switches work as usual.

E-MAIL AND FAX—the hotel business center offers these services for a modest price (hours may be restricted); there are low cost Internet Cafes.

EXCESS BAGGAGE—weight restrictions are firm; therefore, pack lightly and arrange your checked and carry on bags accordingly both in-bound and out-bound; excess baggage charges (weight, number) can be high.

FLIGHTS—China Eastern Airlines is our main carrier; if your international or domestic flight is delayed, CCE China will work on your behalf to rectify the situation; however, despite our efforts, you may forfeit 1/2 - 1 day of the tour in some unusual circumstances.

FOOD—Full American/English breakfast, plus Japanese and Chinese dishes; lunch and dinner are Chinese family style (6-12 dishes/meal). MSG and salt are less than traditional Chinese food.

HAIR DRYERS—there are hair dryers in each room.

ILLNESS—minor ailments (headache) may be treatable at the hotel clinic; serious illness may require a trip to a local hospital that caters to westerners; in general, hospital visits are inexpensive. If you are careful about food and drink, you are unlikely to suffer intestinal problems -- however, changes in one's internal flora occur whenever one travels from home. (see health under Useful Online Resources)

IMMUNIZATION—basic immunizations are recommended (see health under Useful Online Resources)

INSURANCE—CCE China recommends you purchase health, personal property, accident and baggage damage insurance, if your own policies do not offer this coverage. (CCE China offers such insurance.)

HONG KONG—yes, Hong Kong is part of China; however, for visa purposes it is considered a separate port of entry. That means, if you arrive in Beijing or Shanghai, you have used your single entry visa; should you continue to Hong Kong, you will need a second visa. Therefore, CCE China trips that include Hong Kong require a multiple entry visa.

LANGUAGE—Tour guides will speak in English about sights, hotels, etc.; they also speak Mandarin (and local guides will speak the regional dialect as well); drivers speak only Chinese. (See Chinese Pronunciation Guide)

LAUNDRY SERVICE—our hotels provide laundry service at modest cost.

LOST?—missed the bus or simply out on your own, always carry the hotel card with you, it has directions in Chinese; carry your itinerary so you can arrange to catch up with the group, as needed. Ask a hotel staff person to arrange taxis -- most places are perfectly safe, but there is the occasional "gypsy" or "black" cab. (Ask the local guide or hotel person about the approximate cost of the cab ride, in advance.)

MASSAGES—treat yourself, at the hotel ($12-20) or in an establishment near the hotel for half that (ask for a recommendation from the local guide or hotel desk); foot massages, leg massages, etc. (just point or act out what you want). Massages are not done singly with candles and essences; you might be given tea and a bit of fruit at the hotel facility.

MEALS—all meals are included as per the itinerary; if you skip a meal or eat on your own, it is at your cost (no refunds or reimbursements); American, English, Japanese and Chinese dishes are offered for breakfast; Chinese dishes are offered for lunch and dinner. (Reduced MSG and salt are standard.)

MEDICAL CARE—we have the location and addresses of the best facilities in each major city we visit. Care is excellent and low cost (if you have to pay out-of-pocket and apply for reimbursement when you return to the US); herbal medicine stores are common, as are excellent places for foot massages, etc. (see health under Useful Online Resources)

MONEY—the currency is the Chinese yuan, about 8 yuan/1 US dollar. Small street vendors and shops are likely to accept only yuan. Larger shops, state stores, hotels, and department stores accept Visa or MasterCard. Since there is a charge to use your card, save it for major purchases. You can change money in the hotel lobby or in a bank; the rate is close enough. It is far more expensive to exchange dollars for yuan in the US airports, so hold off. Baggage handlers in hotels will take a $1; if you have small yuan (bills, coins), use them. Bills are 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 yuan (different sizes and colors); coins are in small units up to 1 yuan, and 1 yuan, for the most part (they say "yuan" or "jiao," the latter is in hundredths of a yuan -- 50 jiao=1/2 yuan = $0.125). For today's exchange rate see Currency Cheat Sheet under Useful Online Resources.

NIGHTLIFE AND BARS—if you wish to enjoy nightlife "off the program," ask the concierge for suggestions; NEVER let anyone near the hotels escort you to night clubs and bars.

PASSPORT—carry it with you at all times, along with a drivers license and two extra passport-sized pictures; should you lose your passport in China, you can continue on the trip (after fulfilling Chinese regulations) but must go to a US consulate for a replacement passport before being permitted to depart. (The extra expenses are yours.)

PHOTOGRAPHY—except at noted by sign, you may take pictures and videos. Be polite and don't intrude on peoples' privacy.

PRONUNCIATION—many letters that transliterate Chinese characters into the western alphabet are close to American; however, there are vowels, consonants and combinations that differ somewhat. To learn more, please read our Chinese Pronunciation Guide.

RESTROOMS—the bus will stop at major rest stations most of which are basic (bring your own paper); there are also convenience stores associated, with snacks (candy, nuts, dried meats, fruit, ice cream [try Magnum]) and even coffee bars. Goods are well worth a try.

ROOMS—hotel rooms are standard, double occupancy, generally with two single or two double beds; single supplement is extra. Rooms have beds, wardrobe/closet, TV, phone, hair dryer, small table/desk and chair; DO NOT remove items from the room as souvenirs; larger rooms and suites are available at extra cost. (order in advance)

SAFETY—pedestrians beware! Of cars, taxis, buses, bicycles and even other walkers; take particular care with your possessions and keep moving (yes, there are pick pockets in tourist areas). Curb height and stair heights are not always standard so watch where you walk.

SECURITY—on planes, in buses, hotels and restaurants, these suppliers and not CCE China bear responsibility, based upon their regulations.

SOAP—soap is available in hotel rooms and many public restrooms; we recommend you bring a small bottle of soap-less hand wash and use it before meals, after shopping, etc.

SHOPPING—we will visit state-owned factory stores where items are genuine (be sure to try and bargain, even there); you will have free time for street shopping. (Bargain but be sure you check for quality.) [US customs is on the look out for pirated DVDs, so beware.]

SMOKING—all CCE China rooms, planes and buses are non-smoking; there is a heavy fine for smoking in non-smoking hotel rooms; we aim to organize meals in non-smoking rooms or areas, but cannot guarantee a smoke-free environment. (We can make special hotel arrangements for smokers who inform us at the time of application.)

TEA—most rooms have a thermos with hot water (or a hot pot) and tea bags; many restaurants provide hot tea at meals. If the tea pot at the restaurant runs dry, invert the top so the server will know to refill it.

TELEPHONE—there are one or more phones/room; check with your own service about cell phone coverage. (Beware, costly roaming and charges by the minute often apply.)

TELEVISION—there is TV in every room; some cities/hotels have cable and a few programs in English; it is fun to follow the Chinese soaps, many set in historic times, simply for the architecture, clothing, furniture, and social customs that are easy to follow.

TIBET—part of China, of course, but not open to foreign journalists and diplomats on CCE China programs (as per Chinese regulations).

TIME—Beijing Standard Time operates throughout China; it is 8 hours ahead of GMT.

TIPPING—except as noted, CCE China programs include tips for local tour guides and drivers; if you particularly enjoy a guide, service from driver, etc., feel free to offer a small additional gratuity. No tips to servers in restaurants. If you wish, manage your own bags; otherwise, tip up to $1/bag/event. It is always generous to leave $1/night for the maid service (leave tips in the bathroom).

TOILETS—hotels have western toilets in rooms, and a mix of western and eastern (you squat) in public places. Do not flush paper town public toilets (there is a basket provided) but you may in your rooms. Most facilities are clean and well-maintained; if you run across one that isn't, keep your sense of adventure!

TOILET PAPER—available in your room and hotel facilities; not available in all restaurant and public bathrooms -- we recommend small packs of tissue and/or "handy-wipes".

TOUR GUIDE—Local tour guides meet us at each main city/airport but do not accompany us on flights.

TRANSFERS—between airport and hotel, transfers are included; in some cities, buses cannot accommodate travelers and baggage so a separate baggage truck may be used; if so, tip the baggage handlers, accordingly. (see TIPPING)

TRAVEL TO AND FROM CHINA—the program price includes international airfare to and from Los Angeles (LAX), internal flights, bus and other transportation listed in the schedule; you are responsible for travel to and from LAX from your originating city (as well as hotel and meal costs incurred).

VALUABLES—leave them behind; ostentation is simply an invitation. Most rooms are equipped with room safes; all hotels will keep your valuables over night. Carry your passport with you at all times -- in a very secure place on your person.

VOLTAGE—220 volts throughout China (check your appliances for dual capacity); plug adaptors present in hotels.

WATER—unless specifically indicated in the hotel, tap water is not potable. Rooms come with 2 complementary bottles of water or thermoses with hot and cold water. Extra water is expensive in hotels; we recommend you shop at the local equivalent of "7-11" for bottled water, cokes, etc. for your room. The bus may carry water for you to purchase -- pay no more than $1 for 3 bottles. (They are 2 yuan/bottle in the convenience stores.)

WEATHER

  • Cool in the early morning and evening, spring and autumn.
  • Hot and humid in summer throughout the east and interior.
  • Cold/cool in the north in winter; mild in the southern half of China (see Weather under Useful Online Resources)

WINE—traditional wines are fortified and/or distilled (more like raw whiskeys or vodkas); today, China makes French-style wines as well -- these may be ordered at meals for an extra cost ($10-20/bottle, depending on vintage); some of the "vodka" or local traditional wine may appear gratis on the table.

photo of the Pudong skyline from the Bund in Shanghai, China, photo by Susan Kullmann

Our Mission

Council on China Exchange (CCE China) specializes in bilateral cultural and educational programs in China and the United States. We provide high quality cultural, educational and professional experiences to the interested public, students and teachers from the U.S. as well as from China.