Beijing Travel Information
Local time is GMT +8.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plug types vary but the two-pin flat blade and oblique three-pin flat blade plugs are common. Adapters are generally required.
The official language is Mandarin Chinese, but there are hundreds of local dialects.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers coming into China from infected areas. There is a risk of malaria throughout the low-lying areas of the country, and it is recommended that travellers to China seek medical advice about malaria before departure. There is also a risk of dengue fever (also transmitted by mosquito) so travellers must take precautions against insect bites. Vaccinations are recommended against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies. Polio has resurfaced in areas of China so be sure to be up to date on immunisations. A variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, an intestinal virus, has also been prevalent in rural areas since 2008, with children being at particular risk. There is no vaccination for the disease but if careful personal hygiene in maintained it should not be a problem. Outside city centres, visitors should only drink bottled water. There is a generally high standard of health care in major Chinese cities but it is not provided free of charge so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance.
Tipping is not officially recognised, although the practice is becoming more common among travel guides, top-end restaurants, tour bus drivers and hotel staff. If wanting to tip leave a gratuity of 10%. Large hotels and restaurants often include a service charge in their bills, usually of about 10%, so make sure you aren't doubling up.
China is generally safe, and there has been no evidence of a threat from global terrorism. Serious crime against foreigners is rare but does occur, particularly in isolated or sparsely populated areas. There has been an increase in the number of muggings and robberies at Beijing International Airport and the Jianguomenwai area of Beijing, as well as in Shenzen, bordering Hong Kong. If trekking alone, including following parts of the Great Wall, it is advisable to leave an itinerary and expected time of return with a third party. Travellers should take extra care in street markets and at tourist sites, which attract thieves and pickpockets, and around the popular expat bar areas at night where lone foreigners have recently been attacked. Travellers should be cautious about using pedicabs in Beijing, as tourists have been mugged and demands for money made by pedicab drivers; women in particular have been targeted. Seasonal heavy rains and typhoons cause hundreds of deaths in China each year, particularly those areas bordering the Yangtze River in central, southern and western China. Demonstrations took place in Lhasa, Tibet, as well as in some Chinese provinces in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet; although the situation seems to have stabilised, visitors are advised to stay up to date on the latest situation before travel.
The Chinese have three names, the first of which is their surname, or family name. As a result visitors should be prepared for hotels mistakenly reserving rooms under their first names. For clarity, surnames may be underlined. When addressing Chinese people the surname should come first and official titles should be used. Chinese handshakes last longer than those in western countries, and in conversation it is customary to stand close together. Politeness in Western terms is foreign to them, and they rarely bother with pleasantries. All foreigners should carry ID at all times as spot checks are common and failure to show evidence of ID will result in a fine or detention.
The Chinese are strict timekeepers and being late for a meeting is considered rude. When meeting people for the first time it is normal to shake hands and say 'ni hao', which means 'how are you'. Business cards are exchanged at the start of meetings in China and it is customary to have one side printed in Chinese and one in English. When giving or receiving business cards, or a gift, it is customary to hold it with both hands. Chinese consider gifts as an important show of courtesy. During a meal or reception your host is likely to offer a toast; you may be expected to offer him one in return. Business hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday. A five-day week is more normal in larger cities. Workers take their lunch break between 12pm and 2pm and it is not unusual to find offices empty during this time.
The international access code for China is +86. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The city code for Beijing is (0)10. International Direct Dialling is available in most cities. Phone cards are widely available and calls can be made from post offices and hotels; phone booths on the streets are usually for local calls only. In hotels, local calls are generally free or will be charged only a nominal fee. Mobile phone networks are very advanced. Operators use GSM 900 networks and have roaming agreements with most non-North American international operators. Internet cafes are available in most main towns.
Travellers to China do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes (600 cigarettes if stay exceeds six months), two bottles of alcoholic beverages (not more than 0,75 litres per bottle), or four bottles if staying longer than six months. Perfume for personal use is allowed. Prohibited goods include arms and ammunition or printed material that conflicts with the public order or moral standards of the country. Also prohibited are radio transmitters and receivers, exposed but undeveloped film and fresh produce. Strict regulations apply to the import or export of antiquities, banned publications, and religious literature. All valuables must be declared on the forms provided.
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