Know Before You Go: China Travel Tips

The Essential Things to Know Before You Visit China

Know Before You Go China Travel Tips

 

Nearly 130 million overseas visitors came in China in 2008, according to the China National Tourism Administration, despite a small decline from 2007 attributed to security measures related to the Olympics.

China’s popularity is hardly surprising, because it offers world class tourist attractions such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, archaeological treasures such as the Terracotta Warriors, and some of the planet’s most varied and spectacular landscapes.

Visas

Because China does not issue visas on arrival, arrange to get yours in advance. A visa can be obtained at any Chinese embassy or consulate. If there is none in your area, many travel agencies offer mail-in visa services.

While Hong Kong offers 90-day arrival visas to nationals of almost every Western nation, getting into Hong Kong won’t get you into the rest of China – you will need a separate visa. An alternative to applying for a Chinese visa in your home country is to fly into Hong Kong and apply for a visa with the China International Travel Service.

Tourist visas are issued for 30 days and may be extended twice within China. The fee for Americans is $130 (USD) for the initial visa as well as each extension, while the fee for nationals of most other Western nations is $30 (as of 2010).

China Travel Tips

 

Currency

  • The Chinese RMB is still a “soft” currency, meaning that it is difficult to change it into major world currencies such as the US dollar except in Hong Kong.
  • If you change money from your home currency into RMB, make sure to keep the bank receipt so that you can change any leftover RMB back into your home currency when you leave China.
  • If you are leaving China through Hong Kong, however, you will be able to change RMB into your home currency at any local bank without producing a receipt.
China Travel Tips Wild Great Wall

 

Domestic Travel

Since China is approximately the size of the United States, the most convenient way to get from Point A to Point B is by air. Although China has an extensive, efficient and economical array of local airlines, if you travel by air you will miss the beauty of the Chinese countryside.

China also boasts an extensive rail network that is cheap and reasonably comfortable, although far from luxurious. Be sure to book soft sleeper beds for overnight journeys.

Book well in advance if you intend to travel during Chinese holidays such as Spring Festival (a week-long public holiday that is celebrated during the first week of the lunar calendar, sometime between late January and mid-February).

China Travel Tips Beijing

 

Dangers and Inconveniences

Except in Hong Kong, most Chinese speak little or no English, although major tourist venues take pains to accommodate visitors with English signs and English-speaking staff.

If you find yourself unable to communicate verbally, try writing it down, because most Chinese can read more English than they can speak. Major cities tend to be congested and polluted, and traffic is dangerous and chaotic everywhere.

Although violent crimes against foreigners are rare in China, petty theft is extremely common, especially in and around railway stations.

Conclusion

China is a land that has consistently captured the imagination of travelers from across the world, and a visit can be an exhilarating and worthwhile experience for the adventurous soul. In order for this to happen, however, it is important to anticipate possible problems and prepare for them in advance.

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Beijing Budget Travel Guide: Top Ten Tips

Top Ten Tips to Save Money in Beijing

skyline and great wall

 

A trip to Beijing doesn’t have to be full of expensive activities. In fact, there’s plenty to do that doesn’t involve too much money at all. The following tips are aimed at those who wish to experience the delights of Chinese culture, without spending a fortune doing so.

1, Hire a Personal Driver to the Great Wall

When visiting the Great Wall of China, get a private car, and avoid the crowded people and traffic. If you are travelling with 3 or 4 friends, this way is much more cost-efficient.

The scenery provides a fascinating contrast between urban and rural China. Be aware most cab drivers in Beijing speak very little English. Or alternatively, you can pre-book private car tour to Mutianyu through travel agents or specialist tour operators.

2, Eat in the Street

If your priority is simply to fill your belly at dinnertime, then dumplings and skewered kebabs are a very cheap option.  The quality ranges from adequate to superb, and you can afford to experiment.

Another delicious and economical treat is rou jia mou a mixture of chicken, onions and lettuce available in most supermarkets.

3,  Take the Underground/Subway

The quality of restaurants is not always reflected in the price. If money is more of an issue than time, take the Underground/Subway out to the suburbs.

The trains are so inexpensive that it is worth the fare. Outside the city center, restaurants are noticeably cheaper and of a similar standard.

Beijing Budget Travel Guide Top Ten Tips Beijing

 

4, Be Wary of Market Stalls

Unless you can speak at least some Chinese,  be wary of market stalls. Many traders will overcharge, whilst others refuse to sell produce in small quantities i.e. two bananas. It seems a shame to favour large companies over independent retailers, but the supermarkets are more convenient and affordable. In large shops the prices are clearly marked.

5, Under No Circumstances Join a Gym.

There are hundreds of outdoor exercise areas in Beijing providing citizens with the opportunity to exercise free of charge. They are also a great way to connect with the locals. Perhaps the finest example is in Beibinhe Park, north of Tianmen Square.

6, Avoid the Large Indoor Markets

Avoid the large tourist oriented indoor markets such as the Silk Market and Yashow. Haggling in China can be a very unrewarding experience, especially for those unfamiliar with the language. Most of the goods sold are also counterfeit, so if you do buy, make sure you get a low price.

7, Get Cheap Drinks in Beijing

Beijing certainly caters for those fond of a tipple. The bars have no set closing time, which means the evenings don’t get under way until midnight. The most cost-effective approach is to have a few drinks before you go out. Or why not walk with a beer in-hand to your destination, rather than getting a taxi?

Beer is much cheaper than in Europe or North America. However, in western-style venues the mark up can be astronomical. Finding a modestly-priced bar will not only save you money, but probably win you friends. If you’re the only foreigner in a pub, you’ll be treated as the most valued customer.

Beijing Budget Travel Guide Top Ten Tips in Beijing

 

8, Avoid Foreign Food Shops For Eating

Beijing has a number of foreign food shops, the most famous chains being April Gourmets and Jenny Lou’s. If you’re short of cash, it is advisable to stay well away from these. However, if you spend some time in China you may well begin to crave western cuisine. In such circumstances set yourself a strict budget, and don’t get carried away with impromptu buys.

9, Never Get a Taxi.

In rush hour it really is quicker walking, and you won’t be contributing to the high levels of pollution. Remember Beijing is an extremely safe city. Random attacks on foreigners are exceptionally rare, and single women can walk at night in perfect safety.

10, Rent a Bicycle

Even if you’re only in Beijing for a couple of weeks, consider renting a bicycle. Cycling around Beijing is a joy. So take advantage of the myriad cycle-paths that traverse a very flat city. There are plenty of interesting districts to view for free, like the Russian Quarter of Yabao Lu.

Beijing Budget Travel Guide Top Ten Tips China

 

Conclusion:

Beijing is an enthralling place to visit, and whether you seek history, culture, or nightlife it can all be found in here. You’ll also find it easy to make new acquaintances, since many locals are keen to meet foreigners, and practice their English. With Chinese friends to advise you, even greater savings can be made!

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Awesome and Cheap Items to Take on Your Next Backpacking Adventure

Best Backpacking Essentials & Items For Your Next Trip

Backpacking Adventure

 

When packing for your next grand tour of Europe, Asia, or wherever else you scored a cheap ticket, you have a few main goals for packing. First, you want to be comfortable, healthy, and practical. Second, you want to save money. Third, you want to keep your pack weight down.

What you pack will depend greatly on your destination, planned activities, and personal preferences. That being said, the following items are cost-effective, light-weight, and will vastly improve your backpacking experience.

Water Purifying Tablets

Unless you’re bushwhacking in the backcountry, you probably don’t need a bulky and expensive water filtration system. But let’s face it: many backpacking destinations lack potable tap water. While many backpackers purchase bottled water in such regions, it’s worth adding an extra layer of resiliency to your gear. After all, many situations may arise that leave you unable to purchase water. You don’t want to choose between dehydration and diarrhea.

Tablets are cheap to pick up and take up as much spaces as a few credits cards. If you find yourself in a pinch, water purifying tablets can be a lifesaver–literally.

Water Purifying Tablets

 

Backpack Rain Cover

When living out of a backpack, having that backpack get soaking wet is a real bummer, not to mention expensive if your electronics and passport get water-damaged. Many backpacks already come equipped with a rain cover. If not, spend a few bucks to pick one up. Much like a sarong, rain covers pack up tiny. For a small financial investment and little space in your bag, you can protect your belongings and stay dry and comfortable on the road.

Bandana

For sunny days, you need some kind of head cover to avoid sunburn and heatstroke. Fortunately, you don’t need to shell out for a fancy hat that will take up space in your back. Opt instead for a bandana. Bandanas pack up small and work just as well to keep the sun off your head.

Sarong

Don’t bring a regular towel. And don’t shell out money for a fancy travel towel, either. Instead, spend a few bucks on a classic beach sarong. Sarongs serve double duty as a swimming cover-up and a towel. Yes, it’s true: sarongs work just as well as a fancy travel towel to dry off after a shower or a swim.

Made of thin fabric, sarongs are easy to wash in a sink and will dry out quickly. Sarongs are lightweight and pack down to fist size. This will save you space and weight in your pack.

Sarong

 

Earplugs and an Eye Mask

Earplugs are a must when backpacking. You probably won’t always score the quietest of sleeping environments, and earplugs can be a real lifesaver if your neighbors or hostel-mates want to stay up all night. Earplugs cost next to nothing and are the size of a thimble, yet give you a lot more comfort and flexibility when it comes to where you sleep.

Both small and affordable, eye masks are just as critical as earplugs for improving your sleep environment. Packing an eye mask can vastly improve the quality of your sleep, especially if you’re particularly sensitive to light.

Whether in a tent on the beach, a hostel dormitory, or an Airbnb above a busy, well-lit street, the power duo of earplugs and eye masks will improve the odds of good sleep, making your days of exploration far more enjoyable.

Clothes-Drying Cord

You can wash clothes pretty much anywhere when traveling. Even if you don’t have access to a laundry machine, you can wash your clothes in the sink. However, you need somewhere to dry them afterward. Packing a stretchy cord will allow you to dry clothes overnight in any lodging situation. This will keep you clean and comfortable on the road.

Clothes-Drying Cord

 

All-Purpose Soap

Don’t bother packing body wash, shampoo, face wash, hand soap, and detergent. Pick up one bottle of soap that can do it all. This is one of the best moves to save on weight, as well as costs. Keep in mind, you may sometimes have access to shampoo and laundry detergent, depending on where you stay. For the times you don’t, an all-purpose soap will have you covered from every angle.

Closing Thoughts

Packing for a backpacking adventure can be a fun puzzle. Between weight, cost, and comfort, there’s a lot to balance. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective solutions that will help you maintain a light pack and high-level of comfort as you tour around the world.

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Currency Exchange in Beijing: Get The Best Terms in Safety

Tips for Exchanging Money When Travelling in Beijing

Currency Exchange In Beijing Get The Best Terms In Safety

 

Exchanging currency in a new city can present challenges. You don’t want to waste time, but you don’t want to be ripped off either. Beijing is no different, and the Chinese capital does offer some convenient options when it comes to exchanging your currency. The question becomes: which option is best?

Airport Area: Convenient, But at What Price?

Anyone who has done a lot of traveling knows that a major international airport almost always has an option or area where you can exchange money for local currency. This is often viewed as the best choice if convenience is your main priority. While you may not love the idea of standing in line to exchange currency after a long flight into the city, this is a safe and secure place where you have access to reliable (read: legal) money exchange options.

The Downside?

You’re virtually guaranteed to pay the steepest exchange rate allowed by the Chinese government here. The convenience will simply cost you a little bit more. Often times the area near the airport will include additional fees that make the overall transactions more expensive, as well.

money exchange Beijing airport

 

Look For a Chinese Bank

While this might not be an exciting or “sexy” answer, the truth is that banks will almost certainly have a better exchange rate than your other option. Independent money brokers who don’t operate with banks are actually illegal in China – and people posing themselves as.

In theory, the rates should all be roughly the same as the exchange rate is regulated strongly by the Chinese government however there are many cases of personal instances where experienced travelers reported that this isn’t the case. This might not be due to illegal activities. Often the set rate is more of a “corridor” or closely knit range that lenders are allowed to work within.

This means the rate from one bank could be a bit higher, or a bit lower, than a competing bank, as long as both are within that exchange rate.

The Bank of China is generally your best option, but will only be open during normal banking hours from Monday through Friday making them a limited option.

Bank of China money exchange

 

Remember to Bring Your Documents

You absolutely will need to bring your identification, your passport, and any other relevant documents when heading into a bank. Rules are strictly followed and you need to make sure that you are properly prepared.

Otherwise there’s no way you’re going to get your money exchanged. As a side note, never trust someone claiming to be a money exchanger who does’t require documents. This is just asking for a counterfeit scam!

Try the ATMs

ATM machines are another great option for turning United States Dollars into Chinese Yuan. These machines are open 24/7 and provide an exceptional option for all those hours when the banks aren’t going to be open. These machines generally don’t have the best exchange rates and will include ATM fees in addition to being on the higher side rate wise.

On the plus side, reliable ATMs can almost always be found right outside banks in addition to hotels and many of the higher end tourist or commercial areas. This means that finding an ATM shouldn’t be too hard and this can be a good quick way to get things done, but once again you need to plan ahead to go from one ATM area to another.

Beijing ATM money exchange

 

Be Safe & Enjoy Beijing!

While articles like this can often come across as scary, or induce anxiety, this isn’t our main purpose. Most places in modern nations are safe, but you need to make sure you always take the proper precautions! You would while at home, so why not on the road?

Follow the information in this article, remember to look for the best local options, and with a little planning you will have no problem making sure you consistently get the best rate with the least amount of hassle so you can enjoy everything the amazing city of Beijing has to offer.

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Visiting the Great Wall of China – Clothing and Footwear

Select the Right Clothing and Footwear For a Safe, Enjoyable Great Wall Trip

trail running woman runner tying shoelace before at great wall on the top of mountain

 

What you wear can make all the difference in every single aspect of your Great Wall of China trip.  The first question most travelers have is whether the Great Wall has a dress code. There is no religious or cultural dress code, per se, but you do want to dress according to the weather and location. We are here to help you choose the right clothing and footwear when visiting the Great Wall.

Clothing For Visiting the Great Wall

In Spring and Summer, as the weather warms up and hits the hottest month in July, with temperatures in the 80s, dress to let your body breathe. However, choose tees over tanks to protect your shoulders since you are closer to the sun. Also, athletic shorts or workout pants are recommended.

These garments can help you maintain your mobility whereas jeans or a skirt could prohibit your movement, such as if you were to slip. A tip is to carry along a thin scarf to use as a lightweight covering for your head or shoulders if the sun’s rays get too strong for you.

In the autumn, the temperatures begin to fall and reach freezing by winter. The Great Wall is less populated thanks to the off-season, and you can take advantage of fewer crowds. Throughout autumn and winter, dress warmly by wearing layers, such as a wool base layer, fleece jacket, puffy jacket, scarf, and gloves.

You can always take off layers if you get overheated, but it’s difficult to get warm without the right clothing on hand. Perhaps the most important item you can bring is a wool hat to keep your body heat from leaving through your head.

two successful women hikers enjoy the view on the top of great wall

 

Footwear for the Great Wall of China

Choose closed toe footwear all year long for your Great Wall of China adventure. After all, this is a hike and you are traversing across centuries’ old stonework. Protect your toes, but also choose shoes that are comfortable. Recommendations include low-top hiking shoes or running shoes.

In the winter months, consider wearing hiking boots that feature ice grip soles or attachments. The Great Wall stonework can freeze during the winter, creating a serious hazard.

At the same time, whether you visit this Chinese landmark in the spring of winter season, you want to look good. You will be taking plenty of photos and videos, and you’ll want your footwear to look perfect with your outfit.

young woman trail runner running at great wall on the top of mountain

 

Preparation is Key

This is where preparation is your best traveling tool. By planning your entire outfit including your footwear ahead of time, you do more than preparing your suitcase for your trip. You also give yourself plenty of time to process what you are taking.

For example, do you really need three options for base layer shirts? Could you get by with a single pair of wool socks, which, by the way, are an excellent addition for hiking the Great Wall? Now that you know what kind of clothing is best suited for each season, you can choose the best outfits to wear for your particular trip to Beijing, China.

trail running woman runner tying shoelace before at great wall on the top of mountain

 

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