Pre-Trip Preparation

Passport and Visa

You must hold a valid passport in order to travel internationally. Please remember to sign your passport. If you need a new passport, please visit the U.S. State Department’s website for current passport services and information. As foreign tourists, you will need to apply for a tourist (L) visa with the Chinese Embassy or Consulate. Make sure that your passport has at least six months of validity remaining and at least one entire blank page for the visa. Please see the Visa Service section of our website for visa application requirements and procedures.

Health Issues

Check out the website of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for current advisories and complete, up-to-date information on health issues related to travel, including vaccinations, avian influenza, etc. Make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible to discuss about your trip. Your physician should be able to help you with health preparation, including vaccination. Be sure you and your children are up to date on all routine immunizations according to schedules approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP).

Vaccinations are not required for entering China unless you are traveling from or via an infection area. However, the following inoculations are normally recommended for traveling to East Asia: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, Malaria, Rabies, Typhoid, and, as needed, booster doses for Tetanus-diphtheria and measles. Also be sure to pack any prescription medicine you are currently taking and keep them in the original container. And, do not forget any supplements, allergy bills, motion sickness bills, etc. that may be pertaining your specific situation.

Check your health insurance policy. If it does not provide for overseas visits, consider requesting your insurer to extend the policy. It is also advisable to take out travel insurance to cover you in the event of accidental injury and illness. Travel policies also cover you for a variety of other risks, such as cancellation charges, loss of money, loss of baggage, and liability to third parties to name but a few. Take your doctor’s name, address, and phone number and a copy of your medical record in case it is needed.

Western-style medical facilities with international staffs are available in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and a few other large cities. Please visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for more information and advice on health and medical issues related to traveling in China, including a complete list of clinics that the Embassy recommends.

Weather

China has a continental monsoonal climate that various greatly from region to region. Most parts are in the northern temperate zone with clear division of four seasons while the southern areas are in the tropical or subtropical zone and northern areas in the frigid zone. In winter, northerly winds from high latitude areas keep the northern part cold and dry, while in summer, monsoons from southern coastal areas bring warm and moisture. In addition, the climate also varies with the extensive territory and various topography from region to region.

You can check the weather condition in the city you will be traveling to at the Weather Channel’s website.

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit) in Major Cities
City JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Beijing 28 32 40 60 75 78 80 76 68 55 40 36
Chengdu 45 50 55 64 73 78 84 88 77 65 55 50
Guangzhou 58 60 69 71 80 83 83 81 78 70 60 57
Guilin 47 48 56 65 74 79 83 82 78 69 59 50
Hong Kong 65 64 68 76 83 86 88 88 86 82 75 69
Kunming 50 52 58 65 68 68 70 67 65 62 55 50
Lhasa 29 34 41 46 54 60 61 60 57 48 39 32
Shanghai 40 42 50 65 72 80 82 80 75 62 50 42
Wuhan 37 41 50 61 70 80 84 83 75 64 52 42
Xi’An 32 38 50 56 72 80 78 76 60 52 40 30
Urumqi 5 10 32 50 66 74 78 74 64 47 28 10

Clothes

Our advice is that you dress casually and comfortably throughout your trip. Bring a pair of comfortable and reliable shoes. Clothing is quite inexpensive and one of the best buys in China. There is no need to bring too many from home. Theoretically you need only two sets of clothes, one to wear while the other set is being laundered. It is recommended that you take with you just a couple of shirts, sweaters, and a jacket (depending on the season).

These can be worn in layers to accommodate the climatic variations. For the spring and fall, suggested clothing may include jackets, sports coats, woolen jackets, long sleeve shirts and travel shoes. In the summer, pack T-shirts, short sleeve shirts, skirts, sandals, caps, and rain wear. In the winter, consider Overcoat, thick woolen sweaters, or lined coat. Cap, gloves and cotton-padded shoes are must items if you travel to North China during winter.

Money

Chinese currency is called Renminbi (meaning “people’s money”), often abbreviated as RMB. The unit of Renminbi is a Yuan and with smaller denominations called Jiao and fen. The conversion among the three is: 1 Yuan = 10 Jiao =100 Fen. RMB is issued both in notes and coins. The denominations of paper notes include 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 Yuan; 5, 2 and 1 Jiao; and 5, 2 and 1 fen.

The denominations of coins are 1 Yuan; 5, 2 and 1 Jiao; and 5, 2 and 1 fen. Note: in spoken Chinese, Yuan is often called as Kuai and the Jiao as Mao. A fairly secure way of carrying your money is to bring traveler’s check. Always remember to keep the record of check numbers separate from the checks for reference in the event of loss. You can exchange money at major banks, money exchange facilities at major airports, hotels and large department stores. Hotels may only exchange money for you if you are their guests.

Be sure to keep your currency exchange receipts. You will need to show them when you leave China and have extra RMB you want to change back to your currency. Major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc. are accepted in tourist hotels and stores in many cities.

Please use the online currency converter for current exchange rate and to estimate your travel costs. Please be advised that the actual exchange rate will vary in China.

Electricity

The electric voltage in China is 220V/50Hz. You will find a 110V wall socket in the guest room’s bathroom for razors and hair dryers. However, outside of the bathroom, only 220V sockets are provided. The plugs you will find in the hotel rooms are either two-pin ones or triangle three-pin ones as shown at http://kropla.com/china_power.htm. Most hotels have adaptors and converters for guests to borrow. But it is recommended you bring your own.

Camera and Film

If you use a digital camera and/or a camcorder, be sure to bring the chargers, backup batteries, extra memory cards, download cords, etc. If you haven’t gone digital, you should always bring more film than you think that you will need. You will find that there is a lot to photograph. Although most major brands of color film are readily available in China, slide or high/low ASA film may be difficult to find.

One hour film processing is available in larger cities, and the print quality is generally pretty good. All security X-ray machines at the airports are supposed to be film-safe. However, there have been occasional reports of damaged film. So, it doesn’t hurt to put your film in special pouches that will protect it from X-ray machines.

Baggage Allowances

US airline companies usually allow you to carry on one bag and one personal item. A carry-on bag must fit under your seat or in the overhead bin. Its dimensions should not be more than 9”X14”x22” (length + width + height). For international flights, the maximum free baggage allowance is usually two pieces per ticketed customer and each piece is not to exceed 50 pounds/23kg. Please contact your airlines for specific, up-to-date baggage policies and travel tips.

When traveling in China, any passenger holding an economy class adult ticket is entitled to carry on one bag (no more than 5kg in weight and 20cmX40cmX55cm in size) and to check in up to 20 kg of luggage free of charge. For luggage exceeding the allowed weight, an excess luggage fee may be charged by the airlines. The amount will vary depending on weight and the flying distance.

Given the enhanced security measures at the airports, we ask that you read the travel tips and regulations regarding permitted and prohibited items posted on the website of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

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