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Facts

Population

1,347,500,000

Capital City

Beijing

Language

Mandarin

Plug types

Voltage: 220V, Frequency: 50Hz

Religion

Buddhist, Taoist

Currency

Yuan (CNY) exchange rates

Timezone

UTC +8 hours

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  • What to expect

    The first thing that strikes visitors to China is its vastness in terms of both geography and population. It is a country with an incredible history of dynastic rule, which was eventually replaced by communist domination and closed to the outside world for many years. However, modern day China has advanced far from the image of uniformly clothed peasant workers on bicycles. The country now has a growing middle class determined to practise their capitalist principles in what is still a communist political system.

    In larger cities you may experience the shove of railway station crowds, the noise of construction work and the sight of young entrepreneurs holding mobile phones and eating ‘fast food’. But venture away from the large cities and you will be rewarded with an experience that stays with you for years after you leave. From the deserts of Xinjiang, to the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, from the beauty of the Li River near Guilin to the mystery of the ‘Silk Road’, from the relaxing getaway towns of Yangshuo, Lijiang and Dali to Tibet’s magnificent mountains and monasteries - China’s diversity is more evident than perhaps in any other country in the world.

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Flight times

From London

approximately 10 hours

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Events

Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed here. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our the UK-based Asia specialists for details.

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  • January/February (first day of the first Lunar month for 7 days) is a public holiday across the country to celebrate Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival.

    Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed. Expect possible disruptions to travel plans, and significant crowds at popular tourist sites.

  • 1-3 May is a three day public holiday marking May Day, or International Labour Day.

    Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed. Expect possible disruptions to travel plans, and significant crowds at popular tourist sites.

  • Mid-April sees the Formula 1/ Grand Prix held in Shanghai

    , with an increased number of visitors to the city, significant crowds at tourist sites and limited hotel availability. Expect possible disruptions to travel plans.

  • 1-7 October is a public holiday across the country to celebrate Chinese National Day.

    Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed. Expect possible disruptions to travel plans, and significant crowds at popular tourist sites.

  • Health & Fitness

    Travellers to Indochina should take precautions as they would elsewhere in China. In remote areas medical facilities can be particularly basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in Indochina include malaria, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/ AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks.

    We are a travel company and we are not qualified to provide detailed medical information appropriate to your individual needs; it is recommended you consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for current health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip at least one month prior to departure.

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  • Visa Information

    All persons entering China require a visa. Travellers need a tourist visa which must be obtained from a Chinese embassy or consulate abroad before arrival and is valid for all international points of entry into China.

    No prior ‘letter of visa approval’ is necessary. Previously, it was helpful if you had a copy of an airline ticket or itinerary confirming that they are booked on an organised tour. This formality is changing as the country opens its doors to independent travellers.

    Chinese visa regulations are subject to change. We strongly advise that you check with the Chinese embassy or consulate closest to you prior to travel. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa.

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  • Safety and security

    China is generally a safe country, however petty street crime is on the rise as tourist numbers increase. In larger cities we recommend you wear as little jewellery as possible and make sure your spending money is kept in a secure place close to your body. We also recommended you take taxis rather than walk at night. Taxis are mostly metered and inexpensive, but make sure the driver activates the meter and is clear on your destination - carry a hotel card so your taxi driver knows where to take you as many drivers cannot read or speak English.

    Only take essentials out with you on the streets. Leave valuables (passport, credit cards, excess cash and jewellery) in hotel safety deposit boxes where available. It would also be advisable to make photocopies of your passport, credit card numbers, and airline tickets, and keep a detailed record of your traveller’s cheques. These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals. When travelling on trains, you may wish to take extra precautions with your money and other valuables by using a money belt.

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Reading

 

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  • Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

    is a memoir of a privileged upbringing in northern China during a period of great upheaval in the country, and the emotional abuse the author endured from her stepmother. It is a powerful and ultimately triumphant account of a girl's journey to adulthood in twentieth century China.

  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Chang

    is an autobiography published in 1987. It is a graphic account of the author's six-year imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution.

  • Wild Swans by Jung Chang

    is an account of a family history spanning three generations of women in China, with much focus on the Cultural Revolution and the impact it had on the family's lives.

  • China Wakes by Nicholas D Kristof & Sheryl Wudunn

    is an analysis of daily life in China, and reveals its transformative journey to becoming an economic and political superpower.

  • Red China Blues by Jan Wong

    is a political-focussed book written by a Chinese-Canadian journalist. It delves into the country's political climate in the 1970s and 80s, including the author's eyewitness account of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

  • Heartlands: Travels in the Tibetan Land by Michael Buckley

    is a darkly humourous account of a Lonely Planet writer's travels in the remote regions of Ladakh, Bhutan, Mongolia and Tibet.

Useful words & phrases

  • Hello (or hi)

    Ni Hao

  • How are you?

    Ni Hao Ma

  • I'm fine

    Wo Hen Hao

  • Thank you

    Xie Xie

  • What is your name?

    Ni Jiao Shenme Mingzi

  • My name is…

    Wo De Mingzi Sh.i..

  • How old are you?

    Ni Duo Da Le

  • I am …years old

    Wo Jinnian...Sui

  • How much is ...?

    Duo Shao Qian

  • It's too expensive!

    Tai Gui La

  • No

    Bu

  • Yes

    Dui

  • Excuse me /I'm sony

    Dui Bu Qi

  • Goodbye

    Zai Jian

  • Thank you, but I don’t need a plastic bag

    Xie Xie, Dan Wo Bu Xuyao Suo Liao Dai

  • Getting around

    Arrival and departure transfers

    Arrival transfer: If you have booked an arrival transfer for your holiday in China, you will find your driver waiting for you at the airport. He or she will be wearing an Insider Journeys t-shirt and carrying an Insider Journeys signboard with your name on it.

    Road: On the road we generally use latest model air-conditioned buses with either 26 or 30 seats for our Small Group Journeys - depending on the size of the group.

    Air: Your itinerary will probably involve at least one domestic flight in China. Planes are generally modern Boeing or Airbus models. Schedules can sometimes change at short notice and could affect your travel plans.

    Boat: If your China holiday includes a Yangtze River boat journey, you will be accommodated in private twin-share cabin on a deluxe cruise ship.

    Train: Many tours involve train journeys either by high-speed day train or overnight sleeper train.

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  • Internet

    Internet: Internet services are widely available in main urban centres, and rates are usually minimal. Most of the larger cities and towns' restaurants, cafes, hotels and bars have complimentary Wi-Fi.

    Phone: It is possible to use your mobile phone in China, although you may need to organize roaming with your service provider prior to travel.

    Mail: International mail sent from China takes around ten to fourteen days to reach its destination. Prices are a little less than those in western countries.

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  • Food & drink

    Chinese food incorporates a number of styles and each region specialises in its own cuisine. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually buffet style. For meals in local restaurants, you should budget for around 11-12 USD for a 2-course meal in a local restaurant or cafe and approximately 20-22 USD for a 3-course meal in a comfortable mid-range Chinese restaurant.

    Beverages in local restaurants and cafes will cost around 1-2 USD for tea/coffee and soft drinks and approximately 3–4 USD for alcoholic drinks such as beer. Food and drinks in high-end and Western restaurants will cost considerably more. Meals are generally cheaper in small rural towns or more remote regions such as along the Silk Road in Northwest China. Vegetarian meals are available but can be harder to find outside of the bigger cities. Please ensure your tour leader or local guide is aware of special dietary requirements in advance so they can assist you with ordering suitable food. Drinking local tap water is not recommended. Bottled water is cheap and readily available throughout China.

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  • Tipping

    If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides, drivers and your tour leader, a tip is appropriate and appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Asia. You are free to tip as much or as little as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.

    Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your Local guide, driver or Tour leader, please let us know.

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  • Swimming

    Swimming is not the first activity that springs to mind when considering travel to China, however there are several opportunities to swim. In larger cities, many high-end hotels feature swimming pools, usually indoors.

    There may be some opportunity for swimming at the beach in Hong Kong if travelling during warmer months. The usual safety precautions apply around swimming pools, particularly if travelling with children. Safety standards may not be the same as in Western countries, and beaches may not be patrolled by lifeguards.

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  • Responsible travel

    Insider Journeys practices a thorough, realistic responsible travel policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of China’s beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in China. We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we largely work in a developing part of the world.

    Read more information on our approach to responsible travel in Asia.

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