China's geographic area is slightly larger than the U.S.A; it covers similar latitudes, with the lion's share located in the temperate zone. This provides endless year-round variety for visitors to the country, from ice festivals in the north to tropical beach resorts in the south. Keep in mind the vast distances between destinations when planning your trip. Traveling, along the popular Golden Route (Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Guilin) is the rough equivalent of visiting Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Miami, all in one trip. Weather wise, Shanghai and Guangzhou's climates resemble those of US southeastern coastal states, while Beijing's climate is more like Chicago's.
While China is a year-round destination, the months of May, September, and October are ideal months for travel anywhere in the country. In the north, the winters are cold, and summers are warm, with moist monsoon air streams making it hot (80% of China's rainfall occurs between late May and early October, mostly in the Southern regions). June through August is a good time to visit central and northern China. Spring and autumn are the best months for travel in Southern China. The months of March and April are the lower-priced shoulder season; while the lowest price, off-season travel, is from November through the winter months. This is when adventuresome travellers are rewarded with unbelievably low prices and far fewer fellow tourists.
Pack lightly, and bring casual clothes. A sturdy, comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must. A business suit and tie for men and one or two dresses or pant suits for women will suffice for most formal occasions. Bring a couple of shirts, sweaters, and a jacket (depending on the season) that can be worn in layers to accommodate China's range of climates. All hotels offer reliable laundry and dry cleaning services.
China's currency is the Renminbi (RMB), usually called the Yuan. Ten Jiao make up one Yuan. At present, the Yuan is worth about US $0.12, with slight daily fluctuations. The Bank of China has exchange desks for foreign currency and travelers checks with convenient hours at all hotels, airports, Friendship Stores, and other shopping areas.
Visa, Master Card, American Express, Diner's Club, Federal Card, Million Card, and JCB credit cards are accepted at most hotels and state run shops in the major cities. Travelers should be prepared to pay in Yuan when shopping in smaller shops, at restaurants, and in smaller hotels.
Mandarin is commonly used in modern China. It is one of the five working languages designated by the United Nations. The majority of the 55 other ethnic groups have their own languages. There are also many dialects around the country. As a written language, Chinese has been used for 6,000 years.
No special vaccinations are required, but those who have traveled from an infected area before coming to China should have vaccination records available for a Health Declaration form upon arrival. Note: Don't forget to ask the hotel whether the tap water is drinkable or not. Tourists are recommended to drink bottled water when they travel in China.
China is considered one of the safest countries in the world to travel. Crime is very low throughout China, and there are virtually no crimes committed against tourists visiting China. Even during the late evening hours travelers have little to be concerned about. The Chinese are friendly and hospitable, and Chinese law is quite strict.
Seasoned travelers recommend taking a few simple precautions to avoid potential problems. All Chinese hotels provide an in-room safe or locked security boxes at the front desk. Leave valuables at the hotel. Pickpockets and petty theft are usually the only problems to be on guard against. When in particularly crowded areas and while traveling through airports, train or bus stations, keep an eye on your baggage. If there is a problem report it immediately to a security guard or the police.
Useful Telephone Numbers: Dial 110 for Police, 119 for Fire, 120 for Emergency
Other Numbers: 113 for Long Distance Operator, 114 for Directory Inquiries and information,
115 for International Operator, 116 for Long Distance Inquiries, 117 for Time, 121 for Weather
During the last few years, China has modernized its domestic air, train, and highway systems to meet the influx and demands of foreign travelers. There has been a vast improvement in ease of travel throughout the country. Virtually all of China is linked by one of the new domestic airlines since the de-regulation of the national carrier system, and the creation of these new regional carriers has greatly improved domestic airline service. Modernization of the airlines and airport facilities is a boon for travelers, creating a more efficient and competitive airline system. New Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Airbus aircraft are used on almost all routes within the country.
Passengers flying from the US to China via Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern (or other international carriers) may book flights within China as part of their trans-Pacific ticket. If you need to make domestic flight reservations during your trip, they can be easily arranged through the hotel travel desk or at one of the many new travel agency services that have opened in China (a passport is required to make reservations). Some routes are heavily trafficked, so it is wise to book as far in advance as possible. All flights are nonsmoking.
Travel by rail is an enjoyable, relaxing, and inexpensive way to see China's countryside. New or modernized equipment has replaced the old train systems in most areas. Travelers who lack the time to cover vast distances by train can still get a delightful taste of rail travel by journeying on popular short distance routes from Shanghai to the nearby cities of Suzhou, Wuxi, Nanjing, or Hangzhou; or from Beijing to Tianjin. Amenities have been added to first-class train travel (known as "soft seat"), including comfortable waiting lounges at some train stations. Tardy travelers should note that the trains are consistently punctual.
New freeway systems have been built (and many more are under construction), making it easy to travel around and explore the metropolitan areas of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong quickly and inexpensively. Traffic is quite light on some highways. Metered taxis are readily available at all hotels and shopping districts, and are permitted to stop at your signal. Travelers may find it convenient to hire a taxi for a whole or half day, but be sure to agree on a price first. Some taxi drivers speak English, but most don't. Always take along written directions and a map to point to the location of your destination). Beijing and Shanghai have modern subways for fast travel around the cities. If you're in a hurry, this is the way to go. Signs and schedules are in English, and transfers between lines are free. If you prefer a slower pace, bicycles are available to rent everywhere in China. Bicycling is an excellent way to see the countryside and get the maximum smiles per mile.
A GUIDE TO APPLY A VISA TO CHINA
In accordance with "the Law of the People's Republic of China on Entry and Exit of Aliens" and other relevant regulations, the aliens who apply for the Chinese visa shall fulfill the following procedures and provide the pertinent documents.
A. Basic Requirements
a. One completed application Visa Form (requires Adobe Acrobat). (please go to Adobe to download the Acrobat Reader in order to view the visa form).
b. One recently taken 2 inch half-length, bareheaded, full-faced photo.
c. A valid passport with enough blank pages.
B. Pertinent Documents
The pertinent documents required for applications for visas of different types are as follow (except the applications on which the mutual agreement has been reached between China and foreign countries):
Tourist, Business, Residence, Employment, Study, Transit, Crew, Journalist or Diplomatic
C. Other Requirements
a. For the first visa application of the foreign-born children of Chinese descent, please provide their birth certificates and one of their parents' foreign passport or foreign permanent residence identity card (for example: the US green card) in addition to the relevant documents required for by the above regulations.
b. Applicants who were born in China, applying for the Chinese visa for the first time must aslo provide their Chinese passports or their previous foreign passports along with the above mentioned documents/materials.
D. Pick-Up Visa and Visa Fee
Normally visa may be picked up on the fourth working day since the date of the application. Only with the consent of the consul could it sometimes be expedited by paying rush service fee. The rush fees are: US$30 for the same-day pick-up (application must be submitted before 12 noon), US$20 for the next-day and the third-day pick-up. With your receipt, visa shall be picked up in person or by someone entrusted.
For visa fees, please check with the Chinese Embassy or Chinese Consulate-General in the United States of America
Please pay in cash or Money Order (made payable to Consulate General of P.R. China). Personal check is unacceptable.
Attention: the governing guidelines on the issuance of visa are the pertinent laws of the P.R.C., the international practices and bilateral agreements, etc. Upon receiving the visa, it is the responsibility of the applicant to study and learn the information on visa, thus making the travel plan accordingly. Should any adjustment be made to the visa information, please report to the consul immediately. This Consulate General is not responsible for any inconvience or loss arose from the negligence or the misunderstanding of the visa information.
E. Application for Visa / Entry Permit to Hong Kong / MACAO SAR of China
a. US citizens to visit Hong Kong SAR for short-time tour, business visit can stay in Hong Kong for 90 days without applying visas. But the following US citizens to visit Hong Kong are required to apply visas in advance: US citizens intend to stay in Hong Kong longer than 90 days; US citizens intend to enter Hong Kong for employment, investment, education, training or residence.
b. Currently there are 36 countries from which citizens can visit Macao free of visa; citizens from other countries can apply for the visa to enter Macao at the airport when they arrive at Macao.
In accordance with the relevant Law of the People's Republic of China and the international practices, the consul is entitled to request other documents from the applicant, and the consul is also entitled to reject the application.
China is characterized by a continental climate. The latitudes span nearly 50 degrees, its southern part is in the tropical and subtropical zones, and its northern part near the frigid zones. The northern part of Heilongjiang province has long winters but no summers; while Hainan Island has long summers but no winters. The Huaihe River valley is marked by distinctive seasonal changes, but it is spring all year round in the south of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. China's high tundra zone is situated in Qinghai-Tibet, where the temperature is low in all four seasons.