Frequently asked questions about China

What is the best time to travel?

The best time to travel in China is from April to October. In the spring the fruit trees and meadows are in bloom. Later in the year the paddy fields are a deep green and in the autumn, when the nights get colder once more, it is harvest time and the rural areas buzz with activity. During all journeys you will experience sunshine, rain and cloudy patches. In the winter months it can get quite cold.

What are the best festivals and when do they take place?

China has 9 national holidays: 1st January (New Year), Chinese New Year in (this date varies each year and depends on the Chinese lunar calendar. For 2012 the date is 23rd January); 8th March (International Women’s Day); 1st May (Labour Day); 4th May (Youth Day); 1st June (Children’s Day); 1st July (the CCP’s Birthday, celebrating the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 in Shanghai); 1st August (anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army); 1st October (National Day - founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949).
Special ceremonies are held in Taoist and Buddhist temples on full moon and new moon days. It is fun to get an inside view of the festivities on such days. The Lantern Festival is especially colourful (Yuàxi-o Jié). It marks the end of the Chinese New Year season. People make paper lanterns and walk through the streets with them in the evening.

Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

Yes you can pre book transfers (arrival only) and extra nights with Shoestring.You can add this on your booking form.

What about my passport?

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the date of your departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.

Do I need a visa?

You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. UK/EU passport holders currently require a visa for China but please click here to find out if unsure. Please then check your nearest Chinese embassy if you do need a visa. Make sure you inquire at least a month before departure if you need a visa so you do not run into time problems.

Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?

Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations and malaria tablets for this country and then contact your GPor a specialised health clinic to make an appointment to get your injections and pills. Please make sure that you arrange this at least six weeks before departure so you have time to complete a full program of injections. Two weeks should suffice for people who already have had a few vaccinations. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.

What is the recommended currency for China?

The currency used in China is the Renminbi Yuan (CNY). The Yuan is divided into 10 chiao/jiao or 100 fen. Make sure you exchange your leftover Yuan before returning home because this currency cannot be exchanged outside China's borders. Foreign cash can be exchanged in cities at the Bank of China. Banks are closed at the weekend. The larger hotels and the special 'Friendship Stores' designed for foreigners will accept most western currencies for purchases. Major credit cards are accepted in the main cities at various establishments, but outside the major cities acceptance is limited. ATMs are scarce outside the main cities.

What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?

During the summer months most parts of China are stiflingly hot. In Yangshuo, for instance, it is wise to wear a shirt with long sleeves and a pair of trousers for protection against mosquitoes. It's better to bring along too little rather than too much. If there is anything missing you can usually buy it locally very cheaply. An umbrella and a light waterproof jacket could come in handy. The umbrella can protect you from the rain as well as the blazing sunshine. A sweater is certainly necessary in the spring and the autumn. A pair of good quality worn-in walking shoes with a good tread and a pair of sandals is all your feet will need. You will also need the following important things: sunglasses, suntan lotion, toiletries, a first-aid kit, head covering, photographic or film equipment, back-up batteries, a pocket torch, a pocket knife (don’t put this in your hand luggage during the flight), an alarm, pen and paper, books, a valid passport with a visa for China.

What kind of bag should I take?

It is best to bring an overnight bag or rucksack, rather than a hard suitcase because this is awkward to transport from place to place. In addition, a small rucksack or shoulder bag will come in handy for daily use. To keep your money and valuables safe it is best to buy a thin money belt which you can wear under your clothes. Take care that your luggage is not too heavy; 20 kilograms is the maximum. At train stations you will have to carry your luggage to the train yourself.

What is the electricity situation?

Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are in use in this country. You might also wish to consider taking a universal electric adaptor.

Travel guides and maps

If you want to take a travel guide or map, we suggest you click on Lonely Planet.

In what kind of accommodation do we sleep?

You will sleep at 2/3 star hotels in double rooms with twin beds.

How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?

If you book alone you will share your room with a fellow traveller ( from the same sex when possible) unless you have booked a single room.

Do they cater for vegetarians in China?

You will not have any problems finding dishes suitable for vegetarians.

What kind of transportation is used?

As China is a huge country you will travel by air conditioned (mini)buses, night trains, boats and planes.

Is China dangerous?

China is a reasonably safe country. There are hardly any acts of violence against foreigners. However, pickpocketing does occur frequently, especially in the larger towns and cities. You have to beware of this in busy places. Local buses, stations and squares are notorious. The standard guideline is to carry your passport, airline ticket and travellers cheques and most of your money under your clothing in a money belt. See to it that you have enough change for the day in an easily accessible place, so you won’t have to reach for your money belt in public. Never leave money or valuables behind in your hotel room.


What local customs do I need to keep in mind?

Be aware of the deeply rooted Chinese idea that China and the Chinese are normal and the rest of the world is strange. Most Chinese are kind and curious with regard to foreigners. At best they consider us to be ‘different’, though the usual opinion is that we are ‘barbarians’. Neighbouring people learned from the Chinese, not the other way round. In the modern world, this mentality may not be very appropriate anymore, though is still largely present. According to western etiquette, a few local habits are downright distasteful. Chinese eating habits include loud slurping and belching. After a meal, the table and surrounding area is left in a chaotic and messy state with leftovers, chicken bones, fish bones etc. everywhere. It can also be hard to stomach the constant loud spitting that the Chinese dedicate themselves to so completely. There is also a lot of loud snorting and wretching. The best thing is just to be cheerful about it

What are other activities and sports could I do on this tour?

The main activity in China is shopping in its many markets, but in such a big country you will find the opportunity to go horse riding or take part in a huge variety of other interesting activities.

How are communications?

Telephone communication within China is good and improving all the time. International Direct Dialling is available in most cities. Phone cards are widely available and calls can be made from post offices and hotels; phone booths on the streets are usually for local calls only. In hotels, local calls are generally free or cost only a nominal fee. Mobile phone networks are very advanced. Operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most non-North American international operators. Internet cafes are available in most main towns and cities.

Whats is the time difference?

Please check the world clock in order to find out the exact time difference 

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