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General information

General information---Travel In China

China is a unique destination for the traveller. Similar in size to the USA, but home to one quarter of the world's population - 1.3 billion people - and the inheritor of five thousand years of civilisation, China is a fascinating mix of the ancient and modern.
The physical contrasts are vast, from mountain and forest wildernesses, or arid deserts, to crowded and bustling cities. Today, the pace of change is dramatic, as China emerges as the new economic superpower of the 21st century. Whatever you seek in travelling to China we can help arrange your trip so you get the best out of your journey.

Weather and when to go
It is difficult to generalise about weather is such a large country, but spring (late March to May) and autumn (September, October and early November) are generally considered the best times to visit as they are the most temperate. Winters are cold, particularly in the north, northwest and northeast, and summers are hot, and often wet and humid in central and south China. The south of the country is subtropical, so winters here are generally milder, but the climate here divides between a wet season in summer and a dry season in winter.

There are no compulsory vaccinations required for visiting China, but tetanus, typhoid, polio and hepatitis A are often recommended.
There is a small risk of malaria in the far south of China, including Xishuangbanna and Hainan Island, and appropriate precautions should be taken.
Travellers to Tibet and parts of Yunnan and Sichuan should be aware of the dangers of altitude sickness and should check with their doctor prior to travel if they are prone to conditions which could be worsened by altitude. In general, altitude sickness is caused by a sudden ascent to high altitude, so if flying into a place at altitude above 3,000m, take plenty of rest to acclimatise before attempting anything strenuous. Chinese health care is good, with international standard clinics in the major cities. You should be prepared that some of the tours can be tiring, with early starts and busy days.

Passport and visa requirements
All British, EU and citizens of other countries need a visa to enter China. Visas can be obtained from the China Visa Application Service Centre (CVASC), Morley House, 26 Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2AT, either in person by making an online appointment via the website (, or by postal service. There is also an office in Manchester, at First Floor, 75 Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3HR.
Visas are valid for entry within 3 months of the date of issue, so the ideal time to apply is about a month or two before you go. The postal service takes about 7 to 10 days. A standard single entry tourist visa costs £30 for British passport holders, plus £30 + VAT service fee levied by CVASC for personal applications, and £45 + VAT for postal applications. Visas are generally issued for a stay of up to 30 days. Longer stays are granted at the discretion of the embassy officials. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months before their expiry.
From 16 January 2012 all tourist and family visit visa applications also need to provide copies of roundtrip airline ticket and hotel reservations, or invitation letter from organization or individual.
British and EU citizens can enter Hong Kong without a visa for stays of up to 6 months. British and EU citizens can also enter Macau without visa for stays of up to 20 days.
Separate permits are required to visit Tibet. These can be obtained as part of a tour package organised with us.

Chinese currency, called renminbi, is issued by the People's Bank of China. The standard unit is the yuan. There are also jiao (one-tenth of a yuan) and fen (one tenth of a jiao). Renminbi comes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 100 yuan; 1, 2, 5 jiao; and 1, 2 and 5 fen (although you are unlikely to see any fen).
Only limited amounts of Chinese currency can be bought in the UK in advance, so you will have to change money once in China. This can be done at hotels or branches of the Bank of China. Travellers cheques have a slightly better exchange rate than cash. You should have few problems changing sterling cash or travellers cheques in major tourist cities, but this may be more difficult in more remote areas. Here US dollars are more likely to be recognised and changeable.
Credit cards are also accepted in large hotels, department stores and shops. Some ATM cash machines in big cites can also give cash advances on credit cards.

Local guides
Travel in China can be frenetic, tiring and confusing and the language barrier can sometimes make small difficulties seem complex problems. All tours therefore include the services of local guides. They are English-speaking and based in their home cities. At each stage they will meet you at the airport, arrange transfers to your hotel, accompany excursions, book tickets, check-in your luggage and see you off on your onward journey.

Hotels in China are ranked on a star system. Five-star hotels are equivalent to luxury hotels elsewhere in the world. Four-star hotels come close, often lacking some technical requirements, such as a large swimming pool. We tend to use good-quality 4- and 5-star hotels. See our hotel list for details of those we use regularly. Three-star hotels are usually Chinese-managed, and have fewer amenities and poorer maintenance and are more suited to those on a budget seeking a place for the night rather than a quality hotel.
Standards do vary within star ratings, and you may find that few staff speak English, especially in less visited areas. Please remember that tourism is a young industry in developing countries and levels of service may not be at the level you expect.
The majority of hotels will have a choice of restaurants, and some will have a swimming pool. All rooms have double or twin beds, private bath and/or shower, air-conditioning and TV. The Silk Road, Tibet, and parts of the west, south and north of the country are less-developed for tourism and hotels are generally simpler than equivalent hotels elsewhere.
Most hotel rooms have two large beds, on American lines, rather than a double bed. Double bedrooms tend to be smaller and there are far fewer of them. If you have a preference for a double we will request it, but we cannot guarantee that it will be met all the time.
Please note that ultimately we have no control over the daily management of hotels or the allocation of rooms and any change of hotel will be to one of a similar standard. Breakfast usually means a 'western-style' buffet breakfast at the hotel and lunch and dinner at local restaurants. These may be different in style to restaurants you may be used to, but often provide the opportunity to try local cuisine and specialities. Local interpretations of what a 'western' breakfast consists of will vary, and may be unavailable in simpler hotels or in areas away from the main tourist routes where only Chinese breakfasts are available. Special diets can be catered for, but please enquire at the time of booking.

Flights and trains
Most flights within China are operated by the four main carriers: Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines. There are also a number of smaller airlines. Routes out of Hong Kong are also operated by Dragonair. Civil aviation in China has been transformed in recent years. Most aircraft are modern Boeings and Airbus, and many new airports have been built, including Shanghai Pudong airport and the new terminal at Beijing airport.
There has also been major investment in China's railway system, with new lines and high-speed trains being introduced. There are two classes: soft and hard. Long distance trains have four-berth compartments in soft sleeper class, with some trains having deluxe two-berth compartments.
Working hours and public holidays
Working hours in China are generally 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. The main public holiday periods are Chinese New Year (usually late January/February), when most businesses are closed, 1 May and 1 January. 1 October and 1 May and the week following those dates are holiday periods, although most attractions remain open.

Electricity supply is at 220 volts. Plugs are mostly two-pin, but you may also find 3-pin plugs. Take an international adaptor.


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