China Travel FAQs

General Information

Q1: How to use phone Cards and mobile phones in China?
Q2: How to get the internet access in China?
Q3: How many people can speak English in China?
Q4: How are the Public Facilities in China?
Q5: Can we take photos as we like in China?

Q1: How to use phone Cards and mobile phones in China?
A: Apart from calling IDD from your hotel room, there are various phone cards available in post offices inside hotels or at most newsstands on the street in China.
Among them IC card and IP card are the most popular ones .Most public telephones you see in booths are IC telephones, which allow you to call home directly. IC card is issued by China Telecom; international calls with IC telephone cards are relatively expensive, usually over 10 RMB/M. When you buy an IC card and want to call back home, simply just find a telephone booth either in hotel, restaurant, airport or some other places, insert the card into the phone, follow the vocal instructions to dial the number you want.
IP cards are issued by different issuers such as China Telecom, China Unicom, China Netcom and China Jitong, thus the Rates for international calls are different. China Unicom's rate for calls to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan usually is 1.5 RMB/M, 2.6 RMB/M to America and Canada while 3.6 RMB/M to other countries. The other's rates for international calls are either a little bit higher or lower than that of China Unicom. Currently, the IP phone service has covered the whole country, providing international service between China and over 200 countries and regions. There will be instruction on each IP card to tell you how to make a call, you can use the hotel phone to call with IP card and the hotel usually will charge some fare as that of city call.
Please note: some of the IC cards or IP cards can be used only in certain provinces or regions, so please check it and also the expired date before you purchase them.
In China, GSM networks operated by China Mobile provide coverage in every major city, while CDMA network run by China Unicom is improving its coverage, so if you have a dual band or tri band mobile phone or use COSMOTE card, then you can use your mobile phone in China in most big cities, though any calls you make will be considered long-distance. A cheaper option is to buy GSM SIM card, which is a telephone number. There are mainly two kinds you can choose: Shenzhouxing issued by China Mobile, Ruyitong issued by China Unicom. Usually when you buy SIM card, no document is required but prepaid charge and you need to finish using that amount of prepaid charge before indicated date. You can buy charging card in amount of 50 RMB and 100 RMB to recharge in post offices, stores and newsstands easily.
P.S.
The following is how to dial international call from China:
00+country code + region code + phone number
The country code for USA and Canada is 1, 44 for UK, 61 for Australia, 43 for Austria, 41 for Switzerland, 852 for Hong Kong, 39 for Italy, 31 for Holland, 64 for New Zealand, etc. For the other countries, please check the instruction book in the hotel room.

Q2: How to get the internet access in China?
A:  You can use the Internet service in the business center of the hotels; some rooms of certain hotels have the internet access, in which you can use your own computer. And internet cafes are a booming business in China and you should have no difficulty in finding one in cities, big or small, the charges in those internet cafes may be cheaper, but please don't go and stay there for too late for the sake of safety.

Q3: How many people can speak English in China?
A: As China continues to open up to the outside world more and more people are learning English. In our hotels, most staff members can speak moderate levels of English. However, on the streets and in local restaurants very few people can speak English and street signs and menus are mostly written in Chinese characters. With the help of our local guides and tour leaders these communication problems are easily overcome.

Q4: How are the Public Facilities in China?
A: In China, most public toilets are squatting ones which can be found in commercial areas and are usually well-marked. If you need to answer the nature's call, look for a "WC" sign. A useful word to know is Ce Suo ( washroom ), which is Chinese for toilet. Most public toilets are free but without toilet paper, so it is advisable to always carry some tissue paper with you at all times. If you can't seem to find a washroom, try to find a McDonalds or KFC or decent hotels, where there is a clean washroom available.

Q5: Can we take photos as we like in China?
A: You may photograph in most locations, except in most museums and archeological sites (notably the main pit of the Terracotta Warriors), while some institutions allow you to take photos if you pay a fee in advance. Do ask for permission first if you try to take photos of people closely. Color print film, memory stick for digital camera is widely available, especially in the medium-sized and big cities, black and white or slide film much less so. Video film can be found but not always readily. All security X-ray machines on mainland China and at Hong Kong airport are film-safe. It is advisable to have filters with you as sometimes it might be hazy in the city/area you are to visit.

Travel

Q6: How much money will I spend per day on tour?
Q7: What should I do if I can not find my guide?
Q8: What kinds of transport are used on tour?
Q9: How is train travel in China?
Q10: What are the necessary travel documents in China?
Q11: What is the best time to travel to China?

Q6: How much money will I spend per day on tour?
A:  Approximately US$15 per person for day to day living. China is a country that offers great value for your money. For around US$15 you will be able to buy lunch and dinner at good restaurants, as well as refreshments (non-alcoholic) during the day. You will notice a major price difference for food between the major cities and provincial towns. Eating Western food will add to your food bill - as will some of the flash Western and Chinese restaurants in major cities.

Q7: What should I do if I can not find my guide?
A: Upon your arrival:
Our guides will surely be waiting for you at the airport upon your arrival. However, if for some extraneous reason you cannot find our tour guide upon arriving at the airport, and then please call our emergency number for help. It would be wise to keep a contact list with our office number on it in an accessible place in the unlikely event that you have a problem.
At scenic areas:
Some of the popular tourist spots in China can be crowded during the peak seasons and China's public holidays. Some guests may lose their guide in a crowd. When you find the guide is not with you and can not find him or her in the immediate area, please follow the following steps:
1. First of all, Don't Panic. Relax and breathe. Realize that your guide is not far away and he or she is actively looking for you. You will be found soon.
2. Secondly, stay where you are and let the guide find you. Do not move far away. This will ensure that you are found in a timely manner.
3. Lastly, if there seems to be a problem with your guide finding you, find the nearest phone and call our emergency number and your travel advisor will help you to find the guide.

Q8: What kinds of transport are used on tour?
A: For road journeys and inner city touring, air-conditioned coaches, coasters or mini-buses are generally used. These are modern, spacious, comfortable, well maintained, safe vehicles - good for small group travel. In cities and towns we use a combination of boats, bicycles (optional) and we also like to walk the streets and through the villages. All China tours involve at least one domestic flight. Flights are on modern Airbus or Boeing aircraft. Some China tours also involve at least one first class rail journey.

Q9: How is train travel in China?
A: Train travel is a fun, interesting and a comfortable way of moving around China. All rail journeys are in first class compartments. Accommodation is in shared, four-berth soft sleeper cabins that are air-conditioned. Sheets and blankets are provided and are generally of good standard. Western-style washrooms and toilets are located at one end of each compartment. Meals and drinks can be purchased in the train's restaurant carriage but you may prefer to bring your own snacks or pot noodles. Please note: porters are not always available at railway stations, so travelers must be prepared to carry their own luggage.

Q10: What are the necessary travel documents in China?
A: Passport, valid for at least 3 month after your visit China and the necessary visa or permits if you are traveling with our program. The visa should be approved prior to entering China and a permit for Tibet must be obtained 15 days before entering Tibet. If you only plan to travel and stay in Hong Kong you are exempt from applying for a China visa.
Most people only need to apply for a single-entry visa, which is usually valid for 3 months after the issuing date and will permit you to stay in China for a maximum of 30 days.
You need permits to go to Tibet. If you only go to Lhasa, a Tibet permit will be sufficient but, if you want to go further to the "unopened" areas, you also need an Alien's travel permit issued by the PSB of Tibet.
If you are to travel to Tibet, you are required to provide a doctor's certificate stating that you are fit to travel and your blood pressure and heart condition are normal in case that the very high altitude have the possible effects on you.
We suggest you take your medical record with you in case that you need it in the event of an emergency, and please also take with you your doctor's name, address and phone number, emergency contact name and phone number, and your insurance company's name, address and phone number.
Health Requirements
Immunization against smallpox and cholera is no longer required for entry into the People's Republic of China. While you travel to China with China Odyssey Tours, we always carefully select restaurants and hotels that are clean and safe in order to provide you with a safe and healthy environment. However, we do suggest you have sorts of vaccinations 4 to 6 weeks before your trip as the following, especially if you choose to go and visit those remote and /or rural areas.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)
Hepatitis B
(We suggest 11 to 12-year-old children who did not receive it as infants have vaccination of Hepatitis B.)
Rabies, if you might have possibility to be exposed to wild or domestic animals.

Q11: What is the best time to travel to China?
A: From April to November are the best months for traveling through China. Outside of those months temperatures can fall well below 0 degrees Celsius, especially in the north. The ideal months are those of spring and autumn: April-May and September-October. Many China Tours focused on the south where climatic variations are less severe. Beijing experiences very cold conditions in December, January and February. On the far north western reaches of the Silk Road, it can be extremely cold from October through to March. July and August are very hot and dry in these regions. Tibet experiences cool weather year-round and travelers should prepare for four seasons in one day.

Food

Q12: What type of restaurants and food will be available on tour?
Q13: How about the restaurants we will have lunch or dinner?
Q14: Where can I have the local dishes and snacks in the city?

Q12: What type of restaurants and food will be available on tour?
A: Chinese cuisine incorporates a number of styles with each region having its own distinctive flavors. We endeavor to select restaurants that have a good balance of great food and atmosphere, good hygiene levels, and practical locations. Choose from a selection of seafood, chicken, beef, pork, duck and vegetable dishes. Some travelers prefer a mixture of international (Western) and Chinese food while touring. There is now some Western cuisine available in most places we visit, including the hotels we use. However, international options are limited in more isolated areas, especially on the Silk Road tour and throughout Tibet. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually a mix of western buffet, continental and Chinese styles, though again, remote areas tend to provide more local dishes. Vegetarians will find a reasonable selection of fresh foods available, with options more limited on the Silk Road and in Tibet. Vegetarians should specify this in their booking so that tour leaders and local guides can factor this into restaurant and meal suggestions.

Q13: How about the restaurants we will have lunch or dinner?
A: Restaurants we will take you for lunch or dinner are all designated tourist restaurants approved by local tourist administration bureau. They have very good sanitary conditions and the food is prepared fresh and clean.

Q14: Where can I have the local dishes and snacks in the city?
A: In china, each city has its snack of local flavor. Normally it is not included in the program unless you have the specific request. If you have interest, you can ask the local guide to make arrangement for you. But you have to pay for the snack and the bus transportation. You can also go by yourself. Before you go, you can consult with your local guide and she or he will give you suggestions on what to eat and where to eat. Also you can follow-up the travel guide book's recommendation.
Credit card is only accepted in large hotels. For most of the restaurants in China, Cash in Chinese Yuan is acceptable. So bring some cash in Chinese Yuan before enjoy your meal.
Here are some delicious snacks in Chinese major cities

In Beijing, Peking Roast Duck, Mongolian Hot-pot, Imperial court cuisine, Tan-style cuisine
In Shanghai, Din sum dinner
In Xi'an, Tang Dynasty dinner and show, Dumpling dinner
In Guilin, Tea food banquet

Shopping

Q15: What can we buy in china?
Q16: Shall we have time to buy some souvenirs? Where can I find the shops?
Q17: Will the tour guide allow us to decide what kind of factories we can go?
Q18: What should be careful if I want Shopping in free market?

Q15: What can we buy in China?
A: China has myriads of souvenirs to offer to its visitors. Just to name a few: silks, embroideries, brocades, traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, furniture, medicinal herbs, cloisonne, ceramics, carvings and sculptures, woven hand works, artistic fans, lacquer wares, traditional Chinese stationery, tea, beverages, folk arts and crafts of different ethnic backgrounds, and native products and local specialties.
Silks
China is a 'Kingdom of Silk" of world renown. Jiangsu, Guangdong, Hunan and Sichuan provinces abound in natural silk and products made of it. The most distinguished silk products, however, are found in Hangzhou, where they come in a dozen varieties including pongee, brocade, damask, faille, and satin. All of them are pleasantly colored and soft and smooth to the touch.
Embroideries and Brocades
Suzhou, Changsha,Guangdong and Chengdu are known as China's four major schools of embroidery. The most famous Chinese silk products include the cloudy-patterned embroidery of Nanjing, Song-style satins of Suzhou, and Sbu-style embroidery of Sichuan. Some ethnic minorities, such as Zhuang, Dai, Li, Dong and Tujia, produce silk products in distinct styles.
Calligraphy & Painting
With a long historical and cultural tradition, calligraphy and painting are an epitome of traditional Chinese culture. A finely wrought piece of calligraphy or painting always makes an ideal souvenir. Apart from the renowned xuan paper, there are a good variety of media for traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. These include shell mosaics produced in Dalian of Liaoning, Qingdao of Shandong, Beihai of Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian; tree-bark pictures from Jilin; cork patchwork of Fuzhou; paintings on bamboo curtains from Sichuan; wheat straw patchwork from Chaozhou of Guangdong and Heilongjiang; and feather patchwork from Shenyang and Shandong.
Ceramics
Ceramics is a traditional Chinese handicraft with a long history. The best pottery-making centers are Yixing in Jiangsu Province, Shiwan in Guangdong Province, and Luoyang in Henan Province. Luoyang's tri-coloured pottery in Tang style is known throughout the world. Yixing's pottery is mostly made for everyday use and is especially known for its purplish brown, glazed, polychrome and refined products. Luoyang's tri-coloured pottery, glazed red, green and white, made a name for itself as early as the Tang Dynasty. Famous Chinese porcelains include celadon ware from Longquan of Zhejiang Province; the Ru-style porcelain ware (glazed grayish blue with a jade like material) from Linru, and the highly decorate Jun-style ware of Yuxian County of Henan Province; and products from Tangshan and Xuanhua of Hebei Province. None of these porcelain-making places, however, rival the fame of Jingdezhen, the 'Capital of Chinese Percelain-making Industry', and famille-rose, blue-and-white, eggshell-thin, and exquisite porcelains are its trademark products.
Carving & Sculpture
Traditional Chinese carving and sculpture are based on every material imaginable: jade, stone, wood, bamboo, black amber, crystals, tree roots, shells, and whatnot. Whatever the material, the products are distinguished by the ingenious integration of likeness of imagery with graphic expressiveness and spiritual resonance. There is no lack of exquisite works at your choice.
Cloisonne
Cloisonne, also known as filigree enamel work, is perhaps the most famous of all traditional Chinese metal craftworks, with Beijing as the producing center. Cloisonne is called "jingtailan" because its popularity reached a peak during the Jingtai reign (1450-1457) of the Ming Dynasty. The Chinese cloisonne comes in such forms as vases, bowls, plates, table lamps, and cups used as prizes.
Traditional Stationery
Traditional Chinese stationery , more popularly known in this country as 'Four Treasures of the Study', namely, writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper, are a fitting symbol of traditional Chinese culture.
Among the more famous products are xuan paper produced in Jingxian County, Anhui Province; Huizhou-style ink sticks in Shexian County, Anhui Province; writing brushes in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province; and ink slabs produced in Zhaoqing of Guangdong Province, Shexian County of Anhui Province, Wuyuan of Jiangxi Province.
Lacquer Ware
Raw lacquer is a native Chinese product which can be processed and mixed with gay colour pigments for the making of traditional Chinese lacquer ware with consummate craftsmanship. Famous products in this field include Beijing's carved lacquer ware, Fujian's bodiless lacquer ware, and lacquer ware from Sichuan and Jiangsu Province's Yangzhou.
Basketry and Matting
Bamboo, rattan, palm fiber, grass, corn husk and wheat straw make inexpensive, yet excellent raw materials for basketry and matting, so popular that they can be found virtually in every nook and corner of the country. Famous products in this category include woven bamboo ware from Nanjing, sleeping mats from Anhui, woven bamboo mats from Hunan, articles of woven straw and plaited corn husk from Shandong and Henan provinces, rattan products from Guangdong province, and woven straw and hemp products from Zhejiang Province.
Artistic Fans
Handy, artistically decorated, superbly crafted and incessantly upgraded, fans are favorites with visitors to China who regard them as brilliant flowers in the Chinese garden of arts and crafts. Chinese fans come in a rich variety, including folding fans from Hangzhou, sandalwood fans from Suzhou, feather fans from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, palmleaf fans from Guangdong Province, woven bamboo fans from Sichuan Province, and wheat-straw fans from Zhejiang Province.
Tea
Chinese tea is as famous as Chinese culture. Processed in different fashions, it falls into such categories as red tea, green tea, jasmine tea, and wulong tea. Among the better-known brands of Chinese tea are "Longjing" of Hangzhou, "Biluochun' of the Dongting Lake, "Tunlu" of Anhui, "Maojian" of Mount Huangshan, "Qihong" of Anhui, "Yihong" of Hubei, jasmine tea of Beijing, and "Tieguanyin" of Fujian. The Chinese take great delight in nursing a cup of tea while chatting with loved ones or friends.
Antiques
A long history has endowed the land of China with innumerous cultural artifacts. All sorts of antiques and curios, traditional Chinese paintings and works of calligraphy, old time-pieces, carpets and ancient books are available in antique and curio fairs and shops operating in different places with government authorization. Browsing through these markets and shops and bargaining for a good price prove a fascinating experience in China.

Q16: Shall we have time to buy some souvenirs? Where can I find the shops?
A: Most visitors want to bring home something for their relatives and friends. China is the right place for buying the souvenirs because china is famous for many products like silk, jade carving and cloisonne which are cherished by foreigners. As our itinerary is not very busy, normally there is some free time for you after sightseeing. If you agree, the guide will take you to the designated tourist shops to buy the souvenirs.
Beijing is famous for jade carving and cloisonne, Xian is famous for replica of Terra Cotta soldiers and rugs and antiques, and Shanghai is famous for silk carpet, Hangzhou and Suzhou for silk products, Guilin for scroll paintings and China Southern Sea Pearls.

Q17: Will the tour guide allow us to decide what kind of factories we can go?
A: Usually the local guides may provide option for you. You can always let your guide know your interests and needs. Discussion is always a good way with your guide.

Q18: What should be careful if I want to go shopping in free market?
A: Foreigners always find it very interesting to stroll in the free market in china, where they can see different kind of people selling all variety of products. Maybe everything in the market is a novelty to you. If you have interest, you can also buy some products. But please keep in your mind that the quality of the merchandise is usually lower than in large stores, so it is not advisable to buy the food here. Also extensive bargaining is expected here, so better learn from local guide how to bargain before you go. If you want to buy something, prepare some small bills in Chinese currency, because the peddlers here are reluctant to take USD or any other foreign currency. As the free market is very crowded, please take good care of your valuables in crowds.

Culture

Q19: What is the basic dining etiquette & customs like in China?
Q20: What is the tipping practice in China?
Q21: Do I have to dress up when I attend performance?

Q19: What is the basic dining etiquette & customs in China?
A: Dinning etiquette in China can be quite intricate and daunting at first. The following etiquette and customs may ease your nervousness and make you enjoy China's cuisine more. Dinning etiquette in China can be quite intricate and daunting at first. The following etiquette and customs may ease your nervousness and make you enjoy China's cuisine more.
In Chinese restaurants, knives should not be seen on the table. Chopsticks, bowls and soup spoons are the traditional table ware. Food is always cut into bite sized pieces, whole meats such as pig, fish and poultry are cooked till they are so tender that the meat can be removed right off the bones with chopsticks. When using chopsticks don't point them directly at people and never stick them standing upright in your rice bowl -- this is a reminder of the incense burned at funerals.
Use a clean spoon solely for taking food from communal plates for yourself or others, if you serve someone with your own chopsticks, use the blunt ends that don't go into your mouth. Though you may see that Chinese people take food directly with their own chopsticks sometimes, especially it will be like that when people have meals with their families, relatives and intimate friends. If you're invited to be a guest at a meal, don't be surprised that if your host orders more food than you can have, this is the way for Chinese people to "save face" and show their hospitality. And also, please don't be surprised if your host keeps serving you choice morsels of food even you don't ask for it, this is another way to show hospitality.
In Chinese customs, the inviter always pays for the meal, unless amongst friends or in an informal setting. It is polite to make an effort to pay, but expect strong resistance, that is why in many Chinese restaurants, it is a common sight to see two people arguing loudly after a meal-they're fighting for the right to pay. When you are not so sure what to do, simply ask your guides or do as local people do.


Q20: What is the tipping practice in China?
A: As the time flies to 21 century, tipping is no longer illegal in China since 1980s. Tipping for tour guides and drivers in recognition of their good service has become a common practice. Hotel bellboys and house keepers expect your tips as well. It is not customary to leave tips at hotel or local restaurants as the bill usually includes 10-15% service charge.
China Travel Depot does not include tipping in our quotation as tipping is a personal matter. If you don't know what the proper amount for tipping would be, the following standard is for your reference:
If you are traveling in a small party like 2 to 5 members, We suggest approximately US $8 to US $10 /per guest per day as tips for tour guide and US $4 to US $6 for the driver and about US $2 to US $3 for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service.
For example, if 2 of you are traveling together and will stay in Beijing for 3 nights, the tip from both of you may be from US$48 to US$60 for the tour guide, US$24 to US$36 for the driver.
But, for active tours like hiking, biking, rafting, we suggest you double the tipping.
If you are traveling in a party like 6 to 9 members, We suggest US $6 to US $8 /per guest per day as tips for the tour guide and US $3 to US $5 for the driver and about US $1 to US $2 for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service.
If you are traveling in a group with more than 10 people, We suggest US $3 to US $5 /per guest per day as tips for the tour guide and US $2 to US $3 for the driver and about US $3 to US $5 for hotel bellboys as a gratitude for their service.
The above is for your reference only, again tipping is a personal matter, you can always adjust the amount based on your satisfaction with the service you get from your tour guides, drivers, bellboys and so on.

Q21: Do I have to dress up when I attend performance?
A: Most people dress up when they participate in a concert or an opera (Nice pants and shirt. Coat and Tie is sometimes overkill). But for Kung Fu or Acrobatic shows, people dress casually (T-Shirt and jeans). You will find that, in general, China is much more informal than the West. In reality, you can go anyplace with a nice pants and a nice shirt.