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China Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT +8.

Electricity

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.

Language

The official language is Mandarin Chinese, but there are hundreds of local dialects.

Travel Health

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 B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies. Polio has resurfaced in areas of China, so travellers should be up to date on immunisations. A variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, an intestinal virus, has also been prevalent in certain rural areas, such as Jiangxi province, with children being at particular risk. There is no vaccination for the disease, but careful personal hygiene should keep visitors unaffected. Outside city centres, visitors should only drink bottled water. There is generally a high standard of health care in major Chinese cities, but it is not provided free of charge; travellers are advised to have comprehensive travel insurance.

Tipping

Tipping is not officially recognised, though the practice is has become increasingly common among travel guides, top-end restaurants, tour bus drivers and hotel staff. Travellers wanting to tip should leave a gratuity of 10%. Large hotels and restaurants often include a service charge in their bills, usually of around 10%, so travellers should make sure that they aren't doubling up.

Safety Information

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 around the Jianguomenwai area of Beijing, as well as in Shenzen, bordering Hong Kong. If travelling 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 occasionally been attacked. Travellers should be cautious about using pedicabs in Beijing, as tourists have reportedly been mugged by the 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 have taken place in Lhasa, Tibet, as well as in some Chinese provinces in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. Even though the situation seems to have stabilised, visitors are advised to stay up to date on the situation before travelling to the region.

Local Customs

Chinese people usually 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 it is customary to stand close together when in conversation. Politeness in Western terms is foreign to them, and they rarely bother with pleasantries. All foreigners should carry their ID on them at all times, as spot checks are common. Failure to show evidence of ID when requested by an official may result in a fine or detention.

Business

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; 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 an important show of courtesy. During a meal or reception, your host is likely to offer a toast; foreigners may be expected to offer them one in return. Business hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday. A five-day week is more common in larger cities. Workers take their lunch break between 12pm and 2pm and it is not unusual to find offices empty during this time.

Communications

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 street 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 highly 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.

Duty Free

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 (no 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, 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 and export of antiquities, banned publications, and religious literature. All valuables must be declared on the forms provided.

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