Ming’s Travel Tips

Through many years of organizing trips, I came up with this useful information to give travelers a wonderful experience.
Click the arrow on the right to learn more!

Visa Requirements

You may work with us to obtain your People’s Republic of China tourist visa. We can usually obtain the visa faster and easier than if you do it on your own.

If you wish to obtain your own visa, bear in mind that an old one you have probably won’t be valid. Most tourist visas are valid for only one entry. Travelers require a new visa for additional entries into China. Chinese authorities fine those who arrive without a visa up to 5,000 renminbi (about $600 U.S.) at the port of entry and may not allow them to enter China.

Tourist visas for individuals cost is $100 and are routinely issued at Chinese embassies or consulates abroad. You can apply for a visa at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., or at a Chinese consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.

To apply, you must apply in person or through a visa agent with your application form, valid passport, two photographs and fees. CCE can help you to apply for your visa. Our fee is $30, plus visa fee of $100 and postage. U.S. citizens applying for visas outside the United States may be requested to fill out visa application forms both in English and in Chinese.

Whether you visit on your own or with a tour, allow several weeks for visa processing. The Chinese Embassy and consulates in the United States often require 10 working days to process visas.

Customs

Foreign visitors to the People’s Republic of China are allowed to import four bottles of wine or spirits and 600 cigarettes along with their personal belongings. Items such as watches, radios, cameras, and calculators imported duty free for personal use may not be transferred or sold to others. Gifts and articles carried on behalf of others must be declared to the customs inspector and are subject to duty.

Chinese customs regulations prohibit the import or export of the following items:

  • Arms, ammunition, and explosives
  • Radio transmitter-receivers and principal parts
  • Chinese currency (renminbi)
  • Books, films, records, tapes, etc. which are “detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture, and ethics” (e.g. pornographic or religious content)
  • Poisonous drugs and narcotics
  • Infected animal or plant products
  • Infected foodstuffs

Note: Videotapes may be confiscated by Chinese customs to determine that they do not violate prohibitions noted above. Tapes are sometimes held for several months before being returned. (There is no guarantee that they will ever be returned.)

Export of the following items is also prohibited:

  • Valuable cultural relics and rare books relating to Chinese history, culture, and art
  • Rare animals, rare plants and their seeds
  • Precious metals and diamonds and articles made from them.

Remember, antiques and imitations which are approved for export are marked with a red wax seal.

Be careful of dinnerwarepurchased in China. Use it only for decorative purposes, since improper glazing of some dinnerware for sale in China can cause lead contamination in food.

Movie cameras and videotaping equipmentshould be declared upon entry into China.

Currency

Chinese currency is called Renminbi (RMB). The unit of Renminbi is the yuan and the smaller units are the jiao and fen (10 fen=1 jiao, 10 jiao=1 yuan). Yuan, jiao and fen are issued as paper banknotes but there are also yuan, five jiao and fen coins.

Denominations of yuan banknotes are 1 yuan, 2 yuan, 5 yuan, 10 yuan, 20 yuan, 50 yuan and 100 yuan. Jiao banknotes are 1 jiao, 2 jiao and 5 jiao and fen banknotes are 1 fen, 2 fen and 5 fen. The abbreviation for Chinese currency is RMB¥.

Foreign currency cannot be circulated within the People’s Republic of China. However, licensed exchange facilities of the Bank of China and other authorized banks will accept and convert the U.S. dollar into Chinese Renminbi. Before leaving China, unused Chinese Renminbi can be converted back into foreign currency with a “foreign exchange certificate” which is valid for six months.

Money exchange facilities are available at major airports, hotels, and department stores. Major brands of traveler’s checks are accepted at such exchange facilities and cash advances against a credit card can be arranged, a service charge is usually added. The Bank of China can cash travelers’ checks sold by international commercial banks and travelers’ check companies in the United States. Also the Bank of China sells travelers’ checks for such banks as American Express, Citibank.

Consult with your bank before departing the United States to be sure that your brand of check or credit card will be accepted. Major credit cards (American Express, Mastercard and Visa) are accepted by most major hotels and in many well-known restaurants. Holders of these cards can also draw cash from the Bank of China. However, many of the smaller merchants accept cash only.

Legal Matters

Remember, while in China, a U.S. citizen is subject to Chinese laws and regulations, and those laws can sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States. Carefully obey local laws, as the penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses, and the legal system does not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.

Chinese authorities have seized documents, literature, and letters which they deem to be pornographic or political in nature or those which are intended for religious proselytizing. If you seek to enter China with religious materials in a quantity greater than what is considered needed for personal use, you could be detained and fined. Religious proselytizing or passing out of religious materials is strictly forbidden. Americans suspected of engaging in such activities have been fined, arrested or deported.

Magazines with photographs considered commonplace in Western countries, including some advertisements, may be regarded as sexually explicit pornography. Books, films, records, tapes, etc., which are “detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture, and ethics” will be seized by Chinese Customs to determine that they do not violate these prohibitions.

American citizens should be aware that foreign visitors and residents in China have sometimes been detained and heavily fined for having improper sexual relations with Chinese citizens. In most of these cases, the foreigners involved had invited Chinese citizens to their hotel rooms.

Any U.S. citizen who is detained by Chinese authorities for questioning regarding this or any other violation of Chinese law or regulations should notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. consulate as soon as possible. U.S. consular officers cannot serve as attorneys or give legal advice. They can, however, provide a list of local English speaking attorneys you may retain and help you find legal representation.

Carry photocopies of your passport data and photo pages with you at all times so that, if questioned by P.R.C. officials, proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available.

Do not carry your original passport with you. Your passport and other valuables should be placed in a hotel safety deposit box.

Criminal penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in China are strict. Convicted offenders may receive severe jail sentences and fines.

Health

Remember, there are no Western-style pharmacies stocked with drugs common in the United States. Make sure you carry your medications, packed in their original and labeled containers, in carry-on hand luggage to avoid emergencies.

No vaccinations are required for travel to China, however, the U.S. government recommends you be immunized for hepatitis B and Japanese B encephalitis before traveling to China. Tetanus and typhoid vaccines are essential for travel anywhere, and a rabies vaccination is recommended. Check with your doctor for current information.

Malaria occurs in China, particularly in rural areas and in southern China. Depending on the season and your destination, you may need to take antimalarial drugs, use insect repellant, and take other measures to reduce contact with mosquitoes.

Information on health precautions for travelers can be obtained in the United States from local health departments, private doctors, travel clinics, and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559.

While foreign visitors who become ill in China are usually provided with the best medical care available in the country, remember that hospitals may not be as modern and sanitary as those in the U.S. But generally speaking, the doctors and nurses are qualified and competent.

Before your trip, review your health insurance policy. If your policy does not provide coverage overseas, consider buying coverage that does. Hospital costs for non-Chinese visitors are similar to those charged for similar services in the United States.

The U.S. government highly recommends insurance covering medical evacuation. Such insurance is inexpensive (less than $100 for a 30 day visit). Without insurance, the cost of evacuation can be extremely high. For example, the estimated cost of evacuation, using a stretcher and a medical escort, from Beijing to San Francisco is over $20,000. There are two internationally-recognized emergency medical assistance firms with representatives in Beijing:

Asia Emergency Assistance Ltd. (AEA)

14 Liangmahe South Road, 1/F

Beijing 100600

Tel: 462-9112

Fax: 462-9100

International SOS Assistance (SOS)

Kunlun Hotel, Office Suite 433

2 Xin Yuan Nan Lu, Beijing

Tel: 500-3419

Fax: 501-6048.

Bear in mind that tourist travel in China can be extremely strenuous. Tours often involve walking long distances and up steep hills and may be particularly difficult for someone in poor health. All visitors, especially those with a history of coronary/pulmonary problems, should have a complete medical checkup before making final travel plans.

If medical problems exist, a letter from your physician in the United States explaining treatment and, if relevant, copies of your most recent electrocardiograms, would be helpful in case a medical emergency occurs in China.

Given China’s weather extremes and high air pollution rate, sore throats and chest colds are also possible, so bring appropriate relief medicines. Pollution may impact travelers with asthma – a mask may be useful.

Visitors are advised not to drink tap water in China. Hotels almost always supply boiled water that is safe to drink. Bottled water and carbonated drinks are readily available. Travelers should carry water purification tablets to use when neither boiled water nor bottled drinks are available.

Although food is prepared fresh and cooked or cleaned thoroughly, stomach upsets are possible so it is advisable to take some medicine with you.

Wear sunscreen + hat + sunglasses

Wash hands often with soap and water or antibacterial wipes.

Climate and Clothing

China has a complicated climate. For instance, northern Heilongjiang Province has a winter climate the year round without summer, while Hainan Island has a summer climate the year round without winter.

You may check with Ming to see what kind of clothing to bring. Meanwhile, here are some general recommendations for packing clothing for your trip to China:

  • Spring: 10-22°C, Western suits, jackets, sports coats, woolen jackets, long sleeve shirts and travel shoes.
  • Summer: 22°C and above, T-shirts, short sleeve shirts, skirts, sandals, caps, rain wear.
  • Autumn: 10-22°C, Western suits, jackets, sports coats, light woolen sweaters, rain wear and travel shoes
  • Winter: 10°C or lower, overcoat, cotton clothes, lined coats. In very cold areas a cap, gloves and cotton-padded shoes are required.

Measurement and Electricity

China uses the metric system for measurement.

The electricity used in China is 220 volt AC. Many middle and high-class hotel wash rooms have transformer plugs for electric shavers and hair dryers, but it is better to be prepared with an adapter plug.

Useful Telephone Numbers

  • 110 — Police
  • 112 — Inner-city telephone mishaps
  • 113 — Operator of domestic long-distance calls
  • 114 — Inner-city telephone number inquiries
  • 115 — Operator of international long-distance calls
  • 116 — Information on domestic long-distance calls
  • 117 — Time
  • 119 — Fire
  • 120 — Ambulance
  • 121 — Weather forecasts

Postal Service

Cities have post offices and some hotels also offer mailing service. Most post offices offer express mail service, as do express mailing companies.

Preparing Your Family to Travel to China

Here some some useful tips:

  • Walk more often – We will be doing a lot of walking. It is best to get kids accustomed to long walks. A typical sightseeing walk in Beijing ranges from 1.5 – 2 hours. While we do stop and rest, we don’t want children to poop out completely.
  • Stay away from using stroller with 4+ aged children – Even children under the age of 4 can walk the tour. Strollers are not always practically when traveling in China due to the street surface and closed spaces.
  • Eat with Chopsticks – If your children aren’t chopstick proficient, buy them Zoo Sticks or try putting rubber bands on the top of the chopsticks and practice often. Play chopstick games like picking peanuts or grains of rice.
  • Eat more Chinese food – Try eating a greater variety of Chinese dishes. Also, try cooking some Chinese food at home. Have children accustomed to eating dumplings and white rice.
  • Drink more water – Part of staying healthy in China at any time of the year is drinking bottled water. In the summer month when it is hot it’s even more important. Add some flavored powder to the water to make it more flavorful.