CHINA - GENERAL INFORMATION

Passports/Identification

If you or any member of your party is not a British Citizen or holds a non-British passport, you must check passport and visa requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to or through which you are intending to travel.

Please note it is a requirement in China to carry your passport at all times, and this must be produced immediately if requested by the police or judicial authorities. You should be prepared to be accompanied by the police to collect your passport if this is not in your possession. Your passport is the only officially recognised form of identification in China. We also advise you to keep a photocopy of the data page of your passport in a safe place as this will be required to apply for a replacement passport if you lose your original.

Currency Information

The currency in China is the Yuan and money can be exchanged in China in most hotels and some larger stores.

When you exchange your money you’ll need to produce a copy of your passport so it’s important to bring a photocopy of your passport with you. Once your money has been exchanged you’ll receive a receipt. Keep this with you in case you need to change money back before you leave China.

We do not advise you take Travellers Cheques as these are proving difficult to exchange.

There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency and foreign exchange that can be brought into China by passengers, but if the amount is over $5,000 (£2000) this must be declared to customs.

Most banks and post offices are able to order Yuan for you. Many Foreign Exchanges now hold currency and is available over the counter.

Money exchange facilities for currency are available at major airports, hotels, and department stores. Exchange rates fluctuate in line with international financial market conditions.

Currency rather than credit cards is essential in remote areas, and you should ensure that you carry sufficient Yuan to cover your requirements.

Banks will only accept notes in perfect condition. The smallest tear or defacement will result in your cash being refused. UK visitors should note that Scottish or Northern Ireland bank notes are NOT accepted.

Means of Payment

When travelling outside of the UK, you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card). Make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are normally accepted at the larger hotels and shops. It is recommended that you contact your bank prior to departing the UK to inform them that you may be using your credit or debit card whilst you are away. Sometimes your credit/debit card may be declined as you are using it in a different country and your bank has not been notified. This will enable you to use your card without any problems.

Tipping

Tipping has not been part of the British way of life but it is a common practice in most holiday destinations. It is a way of saying thank you to someone who has given good service or for a job well done. It is also an important source of income for people working in the tourism industry, whether it is the driver, local guide or hotel staff. Your Tour Manager will be able to advise you of what an appropriate amount is and when to give it.

Tips or gratuities are not included in the holiday cost and are totally at your discretion.

Internet and Email

Please note that Google and therefore Gmail accounts are blocked in China. If you have a Gmail account and need to use email while you are on tour, you will need to set up an alternative account for use during your stay in China.

Duty-free allowance

You are allowed to take into China a maximum of 400 cigarettes and 2 litres of alcohol. When travelling through Chinese airports no alcohol is allowed onboard as hand luggage all alcohol must therefore be packed in your main luggage for domestic flights.

If your journey involves a subsequent transit or onward flight and you intend to buy liquid duty free please speak to check-in staff to enquire if your baggage will be checked straight through to your final destination. If you cannot transfer your duty free into your baggage or check it in again, then it will be confiscated when going through security. It is worth knowing that duty free staff generally will not advise you of this

Please check these allowances prior to travel as they are subject to change.

Home shipment

If you purchase larger items in China such as furniture, carpets, pottery and ornaments it can become costly when they are delivered back to the UK. It generally takes around 10-12 weeks to arrive back into the UK and the necessary taxes and fees can sometimes exceed the actual amount you have paid for the item. We recommend that if you do wish to make such a purchase it should be from a reputable store and always ensure your documentation and payment method is clear before leaving the shop. Please note you may be required to pay VAT/import duty charges upon receipt of your purchase in the UK. All Leisure Holidays cannot accept responsibility for delivery of purchases.

Climate & Clothing

Casual dress is the most appropriate clothing throughout this holiday; we recommend layers of clothing as it can be chilly in the early mornings and late at night. We recommend checking the weather forecast a few days before you travel.

All our China tours require you to be fairly fit as you walk a fair distance due to the amount of sightseeing included. We suggest you take a comfortable pair of walking shoes/boots, sun cream, sunglasses and a hat. We would also suggest you take a small rucksack to carry drinks etc.

Winter months - October to mid March

Travelling to China during the winter months is ideal as you will avoid the usual crowds.

In northern and eastern China, the weather is cool and dry with occasional days at freezing temperatures. The Yangtze and southern regions have milder temperatures but as it is more humid there, cold days can feel quite damp. However, please remember that you will need to wrap up warm by wearing several layers of clothing to combat the cold, as much of your time will be spent outside, sightseeing. You will need to take with you a winter coat, hat, gloves and warm comfortable footwear.

Spring months - mid March to mid May

The climate in China during the spring months is pleasant and sunny with daytime temperatures averaging 50-60ºF while the Yangtze and southern regions still experience mild temperatures with higher humidity. You will need to take a lightweight waterproof jacket in case of the odd rain shower and also a warm sweater/ jacket to wear in the evenings.

Summer months - mid May to September

The climate in in northern and eastern China experiences warm weather and strong sun with daytime temperatures reaching the upper 80’s, while the Yangtze and southern regions experience milder temperatures with higher humidity. We recommend that you take with you lightweight clothing.

Autumn in northern and eastern China experiences warm weather but temperatures definitely get cooler towards the end of the year. By mid-October there are occasionally days at freezing temperatures. The Yangtze and southern regions have milder temperatures for longer but can have damp, cool days. During these months you will need to bring clothing suitable for sun exposure and mild temperatures, as well as water/windproof clothing for the possible freezing conditions. Loose fitting, lightweight cotton materials are the most comfortable for humid and warm conditions.

If you are travelling to the Sichuan Province: Much of the southern regions have a sub-tropical climate, while the mountains of Sichuan experience cooler temperatures and higher rainfall.

If you are travelling to Tibet: The Tibetan plateau experiences a greater range of temperatures than the other regions of China. No matter what time of year, or how warm the average temperature is, sudden and unpredictable drops in temperature, snow or storms can hit the mountain passes. The sun is also much stronger at high altitude so you will get sunburnt quicker.

Food & Drink

Traditional Chinese cuisine is divided into two basic areas with lots of regional variations. North of the Yangtze River the staple diet tends to be wheat, maize and millet, which takes the form of dumplings, noodles and pancakes.

South of the Yangtze, rice is the staple diet but because of a larger variety of crops grown the cuisine is much more varied. The northern dishes tend to be cooked slowly with more stews as well as stuffed steamed dumplings.

The most famous dish of Beijing is of course the Peking Duck; the duck is roasted until the skin is crispy it is then eaten in slices wrapped in pancakes with spring onions, cucumber and a sweet sauce.

Traditionally in China the meal is served at “lazy Susan” type turntable, the starters are usually cold with lightly pickled vegetables, slices of chicken and peanuts. This is then followed with a series of pork, chicken, duck, fish and green vegetables. The meal is generally finished with rice or noodles - there’s no formal dessert but sometimes apples, oranges or water melons are served.

Using chopsticks is the traditional way of eating your food in China and these will be provided at each meal. A few restaurants will have cutlery available however if you prefer not to use chopsticks you may wish to ask for a fork.

Electricity Voltage

The electrical supply in China is 220 volts, and we recommend you pack a universal electrical adaptor.

Please note that travel electrical equipment such as kettles or irons should not be used in your hotel room as they can be a fire hazard. In most Chinese hotels, rooms have hair driers.

British standard - The British-standard socket can be found in Hong Kong, China.

Chinese standard - Such a socket is common in China, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries.

For your safety

Most people find that China is a very friendly and hospitable country, however as with anywhere you are not familiar with, it is recommended that you exercise more caution at night and generally take taxis rather than walk. Negotiate a price beforehand.

If you’re exploring on your own we recommend you carry a card or brochure from the hotel with its name in Chinese which you can then give to a taxi driver in case you become lost.

Please make a note of our local agent's telephone number in-case you encounter any difficulties during your stay and your representative/Tour Manager is not contactable:

Problems of pick-pocketing of handbags and passports can be common in China especially in the major cities, as in any major tourist destination. We would warn you always to be careful of your personal belongings and not to carry cash/credit cards etc. unless necessary. This should be left in a hotel safe where possible.

You should be particularly careful of handbags and wallets - where you need to carry money and documents it is advisable to use a money belt under your clothes rather than an exposed one.

Excursions and activities

We recommend you do not purchase excursions from hotels or street vendors as these may not have been safety checked, may not meet required local standards or have adequate insurance cover.

If you choose to partake in an activity you should ensure your travel insurance covers you for that specific activity.

We recommend you heed any additional advice specific to your destination, given to you by your Tour Manager or Local guide.

Immunisations

There are currently no compulsory vaccinations for travel to China however we strongly recommend that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse who will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines. This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.

Mosquito Advice

As you are travelling to a region where mosquitoes are present, we strongly recommend you are adequately prepared before you start your holiday. While the risk of you becoming infected by a mosquito is extremely small, we would not want your holiday spoiled by a nasty bite or illness that is easily preventable with some simple pre-cautionary steps.

We therefore advise (subject to consultation with a qualified pharmacist or your doctor) you purchase high performance mosquito repellent before your trip and apply this regularly during your holiday, including when you go to bed. We would also suggest that you take with you a ‘plug-in’ mosquito repellent device for your hotel room as an extra measure. These, along with DEET based repellents, are available from most pharmacies.

The National Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention recommends using DEET based repellents with a concentration of over 20% as these give a longer duration of protection than other types currently available. Repellents with a concentration of 50% DEET have the longest duration of protection and require fewer applications per day. It is extremely important to re-apply throughout the day, particularly in hot or humid conditions or after swimming. When both sunscreen and DEET are required, DEET should be applied afterwards.

Mosquitoes are active close to any open water, but their biting habits vary between species, so it’s best to assume you are at risk of being bitten at any time throughout the day or night. Remember to adequately cover your arms and legs – long trousers and sleeves are definitely a good idea. You can also spray your clothing with DEET products, but their effectiveness is shorter on clothing than on skin.

If you are bitten by a mosquito and develop a high fever for two consecutive days, you should seek urgent medical assistance.

Planning for your trip

We don’t recommend you rely on pharmacies in China having specific, prescribed medicines so please make sure to pack more than enough for the duration of your holiday.

Prescription medicines are normally required to be declared at check-in and your Tour Manager or Local Guide can help you with this if needed.

Hand Sanitizers and Toilet Facilities

It’s essential to carry a hand sanitizer, especially after handling money and using public bathrooms. Non-alcohol hand sanitizer or wipes are best; please note Chinese airport security will occasionally confiscate alcohol-based sanitizers.

Also it is a good idea to carry a supply of tissues with you, as public toilet facilities may only be a basic standard and not always provide toilet tissue.Tissues can also be found in local markets for only about 1-2 Yuan.

Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea can be caused by many different organisms including bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, parasites such as Giardia, and viruses such as norovirus. All these organisms are spread through the faecal/oral route (eating/drinking contaminated food/water or contact between the mouth and dirty hands, cups, plates, money etc).

Remember loose motions can also result from a change in diet including, for example, spicy or oily foods.

Prevention - This depends upon taking effective food and water precautions. Personal hygiene when eating and drinking is very important including hand washing prior to eating and using clean plates, cups and utensils. It is also advisable to wash your hands after handling money.

Treatment

Rehydration - The priority in treatment is preventing dehydration especially in young children and more mature adults.

Clear fluids such as diluted fruit juices or ideally specially prepared oral rehydrating solutions such as Dioralyte® (which can be purchased at a pharmacy in the UK before travel) should be drunk liberally. All rehydrating drinks must be prepared with safe water e.g. bottled.

Antidiarrhoeal Agents - For mild/moderate diarrhoea only.

Loperamide (Imodium®) or diphenoxylate plus atropine (Lomotil®) can help, particularly with associated colicky pains.

If symptoms persist without improvement after 72 hours medical help should be sought.

Additional Preventive Measures - Most cases of travellers’ diarrhoea are mild and will settle after a few days with simple measures such as rehydration. In certain situations additional measures may be considered to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea developing. This is not a substitute to practicing good food and water hygiene.

Recommended before Travel - Bimuno® TRAVELAID can help support digestive health while abroad. This unique patented formulation has been specially developed for travellers by international experts in digestive health.

Scientific studies indicate that the unique second generation prebiotic Galacto-oligosaccharide formulation of Bimuno TRAVELAID, helps encourage and sustain a healthy level of your gut’s ‘good’ bacteria (Bifidobacteria) while reducing less preferred types of bacteria. If the gut flora is healthy and the good bacteria abundant it forms a natural barrier against troublesome bacteria.

By maintaining a favourable balance of ‘good’ versus bad you can help to support your digestive health while abroad. Since the benefits of TRAVELAID build over time it is recommended that you take the product for 7 days before your departure and each day whilst you are abroad.

Because of its effectiveness TRAVELAID is recommended by many travel clinicians and Bimuno is an approved Travel industry partner of ABTA. However, please check with your Doctor before taking if you are on any other medication.

Accommodation & Bathrooms

You will find that in some hotels in China there is not always uniformity of rooms, so size and shape may vary a great deal. We cannot therefore guarantee that all rooms for our customers will be the same in each property.

In some hotels you may find there is no shower curtain or screen, in which case please be careful in case of slippery floors. Bathmats are not always provided.

Tea/coffee making facilities

Please note that it is customary in China to have Jasmine tea available, you are unlikely to have English tea/coffee making facilities in your hotel room.

Tap water

Tap water everywhere contains some bacteria and different minerals. You are used to the tap water back home but when you travel, the water is different and it may upset you. For this reason it is safer to drink the bottled water. It is safe to clean your teeth with tap water, but it is advisable to ask for drinks without ice.

Air Conditioning/Heating

In Chinese hotels which are equipped with air conditioning, times of day and season when it is operational are at the discretion of the government. The provision of central heating is also at the discretion of the government, this is normally the period from Nov-March.

Time zones

GMT + 8 hours

Coaches

Some coaches used on our tours may be equipped with toilets and washbasin however this cannot be guaranteed. In all cases, regular comfort stops will be made to ensure a relaxing journey.

Please note that smoking is not permitted on any of our coaches.

Extra charges

Please note that payment for any extras such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls extras luggage and meals other than those included in your tour price, must be made directly to your hotel prior to departure

Lost property

We will endeavour to trace any lost property and provide you with contact details in order that you may recover your property.

Shopping

Many of our tours take in local shops and markets and some will visit factory shops or outlets, selling a range of goods. However we cannot accept responsibility for the quality of the goods you have purchased or for any costs you may incur in having them delivered to your home address.

Please ensure you have a clear understanding of the price you have agreed with the vendor and the conversion rate of local currency to sterling pounds, before signing for the sale either in cash or using your credit card. Please exercise care when using your PIN number abroad making sure it is not visible to others.

Photographs of Buddha’s

You should avoid posing for photographs in front of a statue of Buddha. The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence and tourists have been convicted for posing for such photos.

Example packing list:

  • Your travel documents and passport – including a photocopy of your passport in case it is lost or stolen while you are abroad. Keep one photocopy at home and take another photocopy on your trip with you.
  • Main luggage & luggage padlocks.
  • ‘Day Bag’ – a smaller bag to carry with you during the day may be of use.
  • Money belt to carry passport, cash, credit cards, etc.
  • Trousers (or long skirts for women).
  • Shirts or long-sleeved tops of light cotton material.
  • Walking shoes and socks – it is important to have sturdy and comfortable shoes for the planned sightseeing every day.
  • Sun protection – hat, sunscreen and lip balm.
  • Personal medical kit including insect repellent.
  • Antibacterial wipes to clean hands before eating.
  • A water/windproof jacket.
  • Light jumpers or thermals are great for layering.
  • A ‘modesty shawl’ or sarong to wear in Muslim or conservative areas (for women).
  • Torch, conversion plug and spare batteries – batteries available to buy in China tend to be unreliable.
  • Scarf or bandana – useful to protect your face against dusty winds at high altitude.
  • Spare glasses – it is difficult to get any prescription lenses repaired or replaced in China.
  • Toilet paper – not all sightseeing public toilets will provide this.
  • Snacks – tea bags/coffee, milk powder or sachets, instant soups, noodles or anything you need to support dietary requirements.
  • Camera and spare film/memory card – film available in China tends to be bad quality or sun damaged.