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What You Need to Know Before You Visit China

The most difficult thing, before preparing for a trip, is to come up with the right ideas of what you should actually do. Planning a trip to China is an exciting adventure in itself. There are a lot of different things to think about before you go, and some things that you have to do before you even set foot in the airport. Read the followings to uncover the helpful preparation tips.

  Passport & Visa   Climate
  Public Holidays   Money Matters
  Electricity   Useful Numbers

Passport & Visa

All foreign nationals traveling to the People 's Republic of China (PRC) must travel with a valid passport and a visa obtained prior to entering the country. US citizens are not required to have a visa when traveling to Hong Kong and Macau if your stay in these destinations is less than 90 days in duration.

Passport
Your passport must have a minimum six months remaining validity after your scheduled entry date into China. Your passport must have at least one entirely blank page for the affixed visa. Your passport should be signed to be valid, and must be physically submitted to China Consulate by yourself or your agent if you choose to handle your visa application on your own.

China Visa
You must obtain a visa prior to entering Mainland China (PRC). Your tourist visa (Type L) is good for up to 30 days after the entry date to China. The thirty-day visa is activated on the date you enter China, rather than on the date of issuance. You must enter China within three months (or six months as specified on the Visa) after the date of issuance otherwise the visa expires.

Type of Visa
If your trip includes Hong Kong, you need a double entry visa; otherwise, single entry visa is sufficient. However since China Consulates charge a flat fee for double/single entry visa, we usually apply for double entry visa regardless of tours.
G visa -- transit
L visa -- tourism
F visa -- business trips, internships, short study
Z visa -- working
X visa -- study more than six month
Q visa -- visit relatives

Climate

The climate in China is extremely diverse, which cross tropical regions in the south and subarctic in the north. It 's mainly dominated by dry seasons and wet monsoons, which leads to temperature differences in winter and summer. In winter, northern winds coming from high latitude areas are cold and dry; in summer, southern winds from sea areas at lower latitude are warm and moist. The climate differs from region to region because of the country 's extensive and complex topography.

Most parts of China have clear division between seasons. In northern China, such as Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, summer is dry and sweltering while winter is formidably cold. Sandstorms sometimes occur in April in this area, especially in the Inner Mongolia and Beijing area.

On the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (about 4,000 meters above sea level) in southwestern China, winter is long and extremely cold while summer is short and moderately warm. There is little precipitation in this area and the temperature fluctuation is great between day and night.

In central china (the valley area along the Yangtze River), summer is long, hot and humid while winter, short and cold. In the southern areas, temperature rarely falls below freezing. In the far south, areas around Guangzhou, the summer is long, humid and hot while the winter is short and comfortable, a paradise considered by many northerners. The rainy season runs from May through August and typhoons frequently occur in the southeast coast between July and September.

Public Holidays

There are seven national public holidays in China. They are New Year 's Day, Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), Ching Ming Festival, Labor Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, and National Day. 

Peak travel time in China almost always happens on these national public holidays. Among them, Spring Festival is probably the busiest, when people from different walks of life travel to home to spend time with their family members. Other busy travel days are National Day, May Labor Day and the New Year's Day. National Day is often called as the "Seven-day Golden Week" by Chinese people as many companies bundle the 3 days with weekends and other off-days together to have 7-day vacation. Try to stay away from those days when schedule traveling in China. Restaurants, hotels, plane and train, bus, ship are always very crowded, and tickets for them are always in great demand.

China Public Holiday Calendar 2013 / 2014

New Year 's Day: December 30, 2012 - January 1, 2013 (SUN-MON) / December 30, 2013 - January 1, 2014 (MON-WED)
New Year's Day is the first day of the year. In all countries including China using the Gregorian calendar, it is a public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the New Year starts.

Spring Festival (Chinese New Year): February 9-15, 2013 (SAT-FRI) / January 30 - February 5, 2014 (THU-WED)
For millions of Asians, Spring Festival is more than one special day. Families spend weeks preparing for the big event--cleaning house, painting doors and windows red, and cooking special foods. Celebrations for the Spring Festival last a full fifteen days. (Date of Chinese New Year Day: first day of the first Chinese lunar month).

Ching Ming Festival (Grave-Sweeping Day): April 4-6, 2013 (THU-SAT) / April 5-7, 2014 (SAT-MON)
The day is also known as the Spring Remembrance Day. Ching Ming literally means "clear and bright" and is the time of the year when Chinese families visit the graves of their ancestors to clean the graveside and pay their respects. It 's common for families to make offerings of rice, fruit and wine to ensure their loved ones have enough food and drink in the afterlife.

International Labor Day Holiday: May 1-3, 2013 (WED-FRI) / May 1-3, 2014 (THU-SAT)
Like most countries in the world, Labor Day is celebrated on May 1, and is a public holiday in China. In 2000, the Labor Day holiday was extended from 1 day to 3 days and was made one of the three Golden Weeks in China, allowing millions of Chinese people to travel during this period. Starting January 1, 2008, China reduced this holiday period down to 1 day, while simultaneously reviving three traditional Chinese holidays: Dragon Boat Festival, Grave-Sweeping Day, and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Dragon Boat Festival: June 10-12, 2013 (MON-WED) / May 31 - June 2, 2014 (SAT-MON)
There are few sites more spectacular than a fleet of painted dragon boats racing toward the finish line, with a drummer in each boat hammering out the rhythm for the rowers to follow. The Dragon Boat Festival is China 's oldest festival. Find out more about this exciting event and learn how to make Zongzi, the sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves that are an essential feature of any Dragon Boat Festival celebration. (Date: fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month).

Mid-Autumn Festival: September 19-21, 2013 (THU-SAT) / September 6-8, 2014 (SAT-MON)
When the autumn harvest moon is at its fullest, the Chinese celebrate by lighting colorful lanterns and enjoying delicious moon cakes. Learn more about the legends behind the festival and try some moon cake recipes. (Date: fifteenth day of the eighth Chinese lunar month). The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on October 3, which is during the National Day holiday of 2009.

National Day: September 30 - October 6, 2013 (MON-SUN) / October 1-7, 2014 (WED-TUE)
The new China was founded on October 1,1949 with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square, Beijing.The National Day Holiday is a golden week in China. When the anniversary is a multiple of five (e.g. the 50th, 55th, or 60th), large scale official celebrations may be held, including an inspection of troops on Tiananmen Square. The year of 2009 is the 60th anniversary.

Money Matters

The Chinese currency is called renminbi (people 's currency) and is often abbreviated to RMB. The basic unit is Yuan. Ten Jiao make one Yuan; ten Fen make one Jiao.

Traveler 's Cheques
Traveler 's cheques provide a fairly secure way of carrying your money. Always remember to keep the record of cheque numbers separate from the cheques for reference in the event of loss. For the convenience of tourists, the Bank of China can cash travelers ' cheques sold by international commercial banks and travelers ' cheque companies in the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Britain, France, Switzerland, Germany as well as many other countries. Also the Bank of China sells travelers ' cheques for other banking institutions such as American Express, Citibank, Tongjilong Travelers ' Cheque Co., the Sumitomo Bank of Japan, the Swiss Banking Corporation, to name a few.

Credit Card
At present, the following credit cards are accepted in China: Master Card, Federal Card, Visa, American Express, JCB, and Diners Card. Cardholders can withdraw cash from the Bank of China and pay for purchases at exchange centers of the Bank of China, appointed shops, hotels, and restaurants. However, this applies only in major cities and they are not always accepted in remote areas. Credit cards are not always accepted for the purchase of rail and air tickets.

ATMs
In larger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, there are many ATMs accepting foreign bank cards in major shopping centers and international hotels. These ATMs will have signage that states only foreign cards can be used. The ATM will have signage illustrating what cards are accepted. All ATMs will remit local currency. Remember that if you want to exchange your RMB back to your home currency on the way out (e.g. at the airport), you 'll need to keep the ATM or bank receipt or the exchange won 't be accepted.


Electricity

Electricity voltage varies between countries. Over 30 countries (including those in North America) use a voltage of 110V~130V, while another 120 countries (including most of Europe), use a voltage of 220V~230V. The electricity in China is generally 220V, 50HZ, AC (Hong Kong is 200V; Taiwan is 110V).

If you travel to China and wish to bring electric devices for use during your stay, a transformer, which can be bought in China for 100-200 Yuan, is necessary. Most of the hotels in China have both 110V and 220V electrical outlets in the bathrooms, though in the main portion of the guest room, only 220V sockets are available. As the shape of plugs also varies between countries, a portable plug converter may also be necessary. These can be purchased from travel stores or electronics stores in your local countries.

Useful Numbers

Emergency telephone numbers:
Police: 110
Fire alarm: 119
Medical care: 120
Traffic accident: 122
Directory enquiries: 114
Consumer Protection: 12315

Area code list of major cities:
Beijing 10
Shanghai 21
Suzhou 512
Hangzhou 571
Xian 29
Wuhan 27
Chengdu 28
Chongqing 23
Guilin 773
Nanjing 25
Lhasa 891
Guangzhou (Canton) 20
Hong Kong 852

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