U.S. citizens need a valid passport and visa to travel to China. To enter China, you need a visa as well as six months’ validity beyond the conclusion of your trip, remaining on your passport. If you do not have a valid passport and the appropriate Chinese visa, you will not be allowed to enter China, you will be fined, and you will be subject to immediate deportation. The Chinese Embassy and consulates general in the United States do not always issue maximum validity visas even if requested to do so. Make sure that you have enough empty pages for entry and exit stamps in your passport to ensure your entry and exit. Travelers should be careful not to stay beyond the date permitted in order to avoid difficulties when departing the country.
A multiple-entry visa is essential if you plan to re-enter China, especially if you plan to visit either Hong Kong or Macau and return to China. All travelers are strongly recommended to obtain the necessary visas well in advance to prevent unnecessary charges and to expedite the processing of visa applications. China has recently instituted new supporting document requirements for tourist (L) visas. Visit the website of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for the most current visa information: http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/visas/hrsq/
For more updated and other information please visit: US Department of State website at
Please note: Each traveler is fully responsible for bringing and acquiring travel documents (e-tickets, hotel and travel vouchers, etc.) necessary for his or her itinerary. If you are not a citizen of the United States, your entry requirements may vary—please contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the country or countries to be visited and obtain the specific requirements for entry.
Please refer to the instructions given in your itinerary confirmation. If in the event that you are unable to locate our representative, please call the local contact number as specified on your voucher or confirmation itinerary for immediate assistance.
Population: 1.35 billion
Location: East Asia
Largest Cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Shenzen
Religion: Buddhist 18.2%, Christian 5.1%, Muslim 1.8%, folk religion 21.9%, Hindu 0.1%, Jewish 0.1%, other 0.7% (includes Daoist (Taoist)), unaffiliated 52.2%
System of Government: People’s Republic of China, Communist
China operates on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 8 hours.
At 9:00 am anywhere in China, it is:
• 8:00 pm the previous day in New York – Eastern Standard Time (EST)
• 7:00 pm the previous day in Chicago and Houston – Central Standard Time (CST)
• 5:00 pm the previous day in Los Angeles and San Francisco – Pacific Standard Time (PST)
• 3:00 pm the previous day in Hawaii – Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HAST)
*Note: Add one hour to local time during Daylight Savings Time.
A good source of health information for travelers is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. Please be advised that high-standard medical care is not available in the more remote areas of China. Sightseeing may require, at minimum, the ability to walk at a moderate pace for a mile or two, and the balance and agility necessary to climb stairs, enter and exit buses and boats, and navigate uneven or cobble-stoned streets. Some sightseeing stops do not have elevators or wheelchair access. Bring medications in their original, clearly labeled containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. If carrying syringes or needles be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. Carry a simple travelers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be needed, including anti-diarrhea tablets. When on vacation, it is always wise to watch what you eat and drink, but please do not drink the tap water while travelling in China. Most hotels will provide complimentary bottled water and additional bottled waters can be purchased throughout your trip.
China’s unit of currency is the Renminbi (RMB or ¥) available in the following denominations: Banknotes: 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 ¥; Coins: 1 ¥. Foreign currency and traveler’s checks can be exchanged only at authorized agencies such as banks, exchange offices, and hotels. Most large airports, five-star hotels, and department stores have ATMs where you can withdraw cash in RMB. Major credit cards such as American Express, Master Card, Visa, Cirrus, JCB, etc. are accepted, but don’t expect to be able to use them everywhere, and always carry enough cash. You will usually have to pay in cash at most family owned restaurants and small shops. The exchange rate is constantly changing, but it can be found to be approximately 1 USD = 6 CNY. For the most updated exchange rate, please check http://www.xe.com.
Electrical service in China is supplied at 220 volts, 50 hertz. Bringing an adaptor is a good idea if you are planning on using electronics (i.e. cell phones, laptops, cameras, etc.) during your trip.
Chinese cuisine is extremely wide in variety and is rich in smell, color, and taste. Be aware that there are no widely enforced health regulations in restaurants. Even the smallest of restaurants generally serve hot foods freshly prepared when you order it. Most major cities have fast food chain restaurants where hygiene is usually up to standards. Use common sense when buying food from street vendors. This is especially true for meat or seafood products; they can be very unsafe, particularly during warm weather, as many vendors don’t have refrigeration. Always make sure your street food is cooked thoroughly while you are watching; also, visit stalls frequented by locals, and look for plastic-wrapped disposable chopsticks. Minor stomach discomfort may still be experienced from street food and restaurant food alike, but is said to pass as one becomes accustomed to the local food. Ginger is effective against nausea, though it does not kill bacteria.
Even in the cities, Chinese people do not drink water straight from the tap, and you should not either. All hotels and boats provide either a thermos of boiled water in your room or – more commonly – a kettle you can use to do it yourself. Generally, tap water is safe to drink after boiling. Purified drinking water in bottles is available everywhere, and is generally quite cheap. ¥1 is normal for a small bottle, but it will be more in some places. Check that the seal on the cap is not broken. Beer, wine, and soft drinks are also cheap and safe.
The official language in China is Chinese Mandarin. Mandarin has been the only language used in education on the mainland since the 1950s, so a vast majority of people speak the language. Even within Mandarin, pronunciation varies widely between regions and there is often a liberal dose of local slang or terminology to liven up the mix. In the big cities, outside major tourist attractions and establishments catering specifically to foreigners, it is rare to find locals conversant in English. Airline staff and those at large hotels – particularly international chains – usually speak some basic to conversational English, although in-depth skills are not common.
Due to its enormous geographical area, China’s climate is extremely diverse and varies greatly from one region to another. The northwest region of China experiences hot, dry summers and long, freezing cold winters. The north and central regions undergo frequent rainfall, along with hot summers and cold winters. Southern China has a sub-tropical climate where it rains evenly throughout the year, with hot summers and short, cold winters. In most areas of China, summers are almost always hot and humid.
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This will be contingent on your own personal preference and the time of year you are traveling. Generally, we suggest that travelers pack lightly and to bring comfortable, casual clothes in natural, “breathable” fabrics because of the humidity. Choose versatile styles that can be layered. China’s varied topography and high altitudes create weather conditions which can change radically in the course of the day, and between daytime and nighttime. A lightweight (preferably non-plastic) raincoat or poncho is a good idea, as well as a sweater or lightweight jacket for early morning/evenings and air-conditioned buildings, or if you are visiting any inland, mountainous areas where altitudes can exceed 1,000 feet. A sturdy, comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must, as sandals may not be comfortable for some sightseeing activities. Some hotels have pools, so you may want to pack your swimming suit. Do not forget to bring sun block, sunglasses, insect repellent, pocket packs of tissues, a sunhat, an umbrella (for both the sun and rain), and any medications you may need. Most hotels offer reliable laundry and dry cleaning services.
This ultimately depends on which parts of China you are traveling to, as activities differ from one area to another. In most areas, comfortable, casual clothes such as short sleeved shirts, polo shorts, jeans, etc., are great for sightseeing. The dress standard for many places in China can be described as “smart casual.”
Hotels may impose a hefty charge on international calls. Check your hotel’s policy before placing any calls. To avoid hotel markups you can use a calling card from your local long-distance carrier. A number of United States cell phones manufactured today have the ability to operate overseas on the GSM (Global System for Mobile) standard. We recommend that you contact your cell phone service provider to determine if your phone operates on the GSM and what, if any, activation may be required. In China, reception on any cell phone can be unreliable and unpredictable. In some locations, transmission is not possible at all. If access to e-mail is of critical importance during your trip, please check availability in advanced. Most hotels have business centers or in room WI-FI service, surcharges may apply.
The nationwide emergency phone numbers are:
Lonely Planet China (Travel Guide) by Lonely Planet
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.) by by Peter Hessler.
The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence.
Family by Pa Chin.
Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present by Peter Hessler.