China Travel FAQ
What health concerns should I have when planning a trip to China?
Travelers should be careful throughout the duration of their trip in regards to the food they eat.
- Bring any medications that you will need to cover the duration of your trip.
- Stick to bottled water.
- Don’t feel obligated to eat something; it’s not rude in China to say “no thank you”.
- Generally it's safe to eat street food. As always; If you have a hunch…… than don’t eat it.
- If you need to go to the hospital or see a doctor, medical treatment in China is very affordable by western standards. If your not in a major city be prepared for a communication barrier.
How can I use my cell phone in China?
We recommend bringing an unlocked phone and purchasing a China Unicom / China Mobile sim card upon arrival. A sim card will cost less than 100 yuan can be refilled as it runs out.
- Having an unlocked iPhone has benefits such as using Skype to call out of the country on wifi.
- China Unicom now sells 3g simcard plans designed for smartphone use. You can purchase from any of their corporate stores. They are very inexpensive and are ready to use with the iPhone. This process will require your passport. Your iPhone will need to be unlocked for international use.
- Usually Hostels will have computer / wifi access for you to use to send emails or make phone calls.
What items should I pack for my China trip?
There are a few special items that can be purchased before your departure that will come in handy when traveling in China – We discuss them in the following post:
Where can I find out about hostels and hotels in China? Where can I book them online?
There are several websites that we prefer when booking hotels in China
- YHA China - - If a hostel is an YHA (Youth Hostel International) approved hostel, you simply can’t go wrong. YHA hostels are held to certain standards by the YHA organization. To this day I have never seen a bad one.
- Hostel Bookers - Hostel bookers is one of the two major hostel booking websites on the internet. I personally prefer them to Hostelworld because they are slightly cheaper.
- Hostel World
Here is the link to several helpful blog posts on this subject:
Is China safe?
China is generally very safe. You can travel around to most places with little concern for safety. You wont have to worry about wandering into "the wrong part of town". Wander away!
- Exercise caution at all times because you are guaranteed to draw attention as a foreigner.
- This is very important! - See our article on China's most common tourist scams -
Most crime happens in the major cities and usually is related to pick pockets and scammers. Always keep an awareness anywhere you travel in the world! Do this and you will be just fine.
Do I need power converters? Can I use my chargers?
All electricity outlets in the country use 220 volt. MacBook chargers / iPhone chargers automatically adapt and require no converter. Any standard appliances made for 110 volt will fry instantly. Be warned! Outlets will accommodate all different plug types. Standard plugs from the USA / Europe will fit into most outlets.
Should I tip?
Tipping is not a custom in China. You should not tip anywhere including restaurants, bars, taxi cabs, delivery service, hotels, etc.
Whats the best way to keep my money safe while traveling?
Bank of America customers can access BOA accounts from Chinese Construction Bank ATMs using your BOA debit card. Contact your bank before you begin your travel plans and let them know your travel dates.
Keep a small cash reserve on you while traveling for emergencies. Its also a good idea to bring some small bills from your home country as this is a fairly common request to trade small bills from local Chinese you meet while traveling.
Does anyone understand English?
The main language is Mandarin Chinese. In the larger cities many hotels / hostels will have staff who speak English. Sometimes, hostels outside of the larger cities will have an employee who speaks English….if your lucky. The vast majority of people in China do not speak English.
- Each province in China has its own distinct dialect. Many cities in the same province speak different dialects. Dialects are almost completely different languages in China. In addition each one of China’s 52 cultural minorities speak independent languages. Most people can understand Mandarin Chinese, but many outside of the major cities are unable to respond in Mandarin Chinese.
Traveling in China if you do not speak Chinese is still very do-able.
How about visas?
You will need a valid visa to enter China. Most foreign tourists in China apply for L visas. An L visa is a short term travel visa. They are very easy to obtain and are available in 30, 60, and 90 day durations. If you have a shorter L visa you can have it extended into the max 90 day visa without leaving the country using a domestic visa agency.
If you need to travel for longer than 90 days in China you will have to leave the country and re-apply for another travel visa. This can easily be done in Hong Kong.
How is the currency exchange rate?
The currency in China is the RMB (renminbi). The RMB is also referred to as the Yuan. We suggest using a Bank of America account and using your debit card to withdraw money through Chinese Construction Bank.
The exchange rate is still very good between the US Dollar / Euro / Pound and the Yuan despite the fact that it has been dropping in favor of the RMB over the last few years. An inexpensive meal in Beijing will cost around 20 RMB (3 USD) or less per person. An inexpensive hostel might cost around 50 to 100 RMB ($7.50 to $15) a night depending on the location.
How do I mail stuff out of the country?
You can mail packages out of the country from any China Post mail station. They are in most cities in China. Make sure you write the country on the bottom nice and BIG to make sure it gets to the right spot.
Are there public holidays that I should avoid?
China has two major travel holidays. Spring festival and National day. Avoid traveling during these two peak vacation times if possible. If you have no other choice make sure you book your hotels in advance to make sure you have a place to sleep. No joke; entire towns become occupied forcing you to sleep on a park benches!
Make sure to check your dates against this calendar.