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Traveler's Guide to China

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06:14 PM 09.28 Wednesday Beijing, China

Top 10 things you need to know

Money

The official currency is renminbi (you will see the abbreviation RMB), whose basic unit is known as the Chinese yuan. Money exchange is typically always done at a bank branch in China, and can be a lengthy process, so it is a good idea to exchange for yuan before you enter the country. You will find that you get better rates outside of China for the exchange as well. Credit cards are rarely accepted outside of hotels or high end restaurants or shops, so you should be prepared with cash.

Public Transportation & In country Travel

Because China is so large, if you are traveling from one city to another, it is often fastest to fly. However, the country has one of the most extensive train networks in the world and if going short distances, it would be a better option. Most major cities also have public bus and subway systems, as well as taxi service. It is illegal to drive in China without a Chinese driver’s license.

Language

The official language is Mandarin, which includes some regional dialects. On mainland China, almost everyone will speak Mandarin. English is taught in schools, but most only excel in the written language. You will find that in the major cities it may be easier to find residents who can converse in English.

Best time to travel

It is best to avoid travel during Chinese New Year (usually in January or February) as modes of transportation are very busy and many things close for at least a weeks time. The next major holiday is October 1st, National Day, and many places also close for a week at that time as well.

Hospitality

Tipping is not expected in China, and can even be seen as an insult. There is a wide range of hotel accommodations, but be aware that in some areas, foreigners can only stay at approved hotels. Upon hotel check in, it is normal for the hotel to request to see your original passport and visa.

Safety

Major crimes are extremely uncommon in China, but there is some petty theft and scam-related issues. There are no strict regulations for food safety and personal hygiene and public restrooms are sub par to Western standards.

Food and Drink

Rice is the staple in Southern China, and noodles in the North. The most popular meat is pork, but you will find beef, chicken, and seafood on menus as well. It is best to avoid meat and seafood from street vendors in the warm weather, as they can lead to foodborne illness. Most meals are served family style, and it is expected that you know how to use chopsticks. Most drinks are served room temperature, and it is very uncommon to find that a restaurant even has ice.

Diversity

Because the country is so large, it is very diverse. There are over fifty different ethnic groups and about half of the country resides in rural areas. The two most common religions are Daoism and Buddhism.

Accessibility

The internet is widely available; however any Google search or service is banned, as well as all social media and any web site that may contain material to that is determined to be Anti-Chinese. International phone service is very unreliable.

Cultural customs

It is not uncommon to see swastikas in Buddhist temples, but in China it is not considered to be a sign of Nazism. Their societal expectations are based on Confucianism and the Chinese are expected to put the group before their individual needs. The most common greeting is a handshake, and you are expected to greet the oldest person first.

Things not to do

  1. Never place your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. It is seen as a sign that you are wishing death on those around you.
  2. Do not bring any anti- Chinese material or publications depicting Chinese politics.
  3. Never point at statues of Buddha or other deities.
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