China is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT). China operates in one time zone, so clocks are set according to Beijing time, meaning, given the size of the country, sunset and sunrise can occur at peculiar times!
Standard voltage is 220 volts, 50 Hz AC. Chinese plugs come in at least 4 designs: 3-pronged angle pins as used in Australia; 3-pronged round pins as used in Hong Kong; 2-pronged flat pins as used in the USA; or 2 round narrow pins as used in Europe. To cover all bases, pack a travel adaptor! You will need a voltage converter, and plug adaptor in order to use U.S. appliances.
The currency of China is the Chinese Yuan.
Pound Sterling, US Dollars, Euro and other major currencies can be exchanged in China. Exchange facilities are available at various bureau de changes and banks in major towns have ATMs or it is possible to get some before you leave home. It's advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from large notes and smaller notes are handy for smaller purchases and gratuities.
Traveller's Cheques are not recommended as they're often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to China from your local health practitioner and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide it is recommended that you be vaccinated for Tetanus and Polio, if you haven't had a booster in the last ten years. Food and waterborne diseases are more common, so we recommend vaccinations for Typhoid (valid 3 years) and Hepatitis A (validity varies). There is a malarial risk in remote southern areas of China, so do check the current situation before travelling.
As tap water is not safe to drink in China, only drink bottled mineral water which is readily available from hotels, shops and restaurants.
Chinese cuisine falls into four major regional categories: Cantonese (Guandong), Shandong, Szechuan (Sichuan) and Huaiyang. To these four, can be added four more: Hunan, Fujian, Anhui and Zhejiang. Sometimes, Beijing and Shanghai cuisine are also counted. The variety and style of cooking in China is amazing, as are the ingredients.
It's important to understand that Chinese cooking in China is different from Chinese food served in the West - and in most cases is far superior. Fish is usually cooked whole after removing the guts and entrails. The head remains on, and if anything, takes on a decorative appearance to the dish. The cheek of the fish is considered a delicacy that meal participants will vie for. It's not uncommon to find the pigeon's head, feet and sundry vitals floating in the soup tureen. Bones are often cut up into the food rather than removed. In many restaurants, dishes of food are placed onto a glass rotating 'lazy Susan' for the table of diners to share. Steamed rice, if ordered is usually served near the end of the meal, whilst fried rice is considered a main course.
The Chinese excel at noodle-based dishes. They appear in soups, boiled, crispy, short, long, fat or thin. Shaanxi Province is famous for its noodles and on most visits to Xi'an you'll get a chance to see the preparation of noodles by trained chefs and actually try them in delicious soups. Every conceivable type and cut of meat is used including offal, and seafood is highly recommended. Vegetables feature in all dishes and fruit usually forms the very last course of a banquet. Indeed, vegetarians are for the most part, well catered for.
China is a virtual Aladdin's Cave. Government-run Friendship Stores in almost all cities that attract foreigners stock a range of fixed-price souvenirs and handicrafts and can offer a reasonable idea of what is acceptable in terms of quality and price. After a visit to the Friendship Store, visit private or provincial stores, craft shops and local department stores. However, the best shopping is often at public markets. If you see something you want, buy it when you see it - prices don't vary greatly, but selection can vary from location to location.
Top buys include silk products, embroidery, Chinese calligraphy and paintings, ceramics, jade and stone carvings, lacquer ware, Chinese tea, Cloisonne, Chinese medicine, Mao reproduction propaganda souvenirs such as the famous 'Red Book', caps and buttons, personalised ink seals and clothing of every kind. Markets in Beijing and Shanghai commonly sell top quality ski jackets and leisure attire by big name brands. Additionally, copied goods such as handbags, jewellery and shoes are available in plentiful supply in these markets. Ethnic crafts are a speciality in some regions including Xi'an and Kunming. If wishing to buy antiques, proceed with caution. It's highly likely that the antique will be a skilful reproduction. However, if it is the real deal, you'll need paperwork the Chinese Administrative Department of Cultural Relics which must then accompany the article being exported.
Vast and efficient, China's first rail lines were laid in the 19th century, and today, the government continues to invest heavily in this crucial mode of transport which connects many parts of the country. When travelling during the day, 'soft' seats, that is to say upholstered seats are provided. For overnight travel on our group tours, clients are accommodated in 'soft class' sleeper cabins. Aboard each wagon are 9 compartments that comprise 4 bunks per compartment. Four people of mixed sex share one compartment. On occasion, dependent upon group size, you may get the opportunity to share with local people on the overnight journey, though sometimes dependent upon how the Chinese Railways Booking Office configure the bookings, the cabin may be filled with four of our clients.
A dining wagon serves reasonably priced Chinese food of the noodles and rice variety along with snacks and drinks. On the Beijing - Xi'an service, there is man with a trolley serving drinks and snacks including alcohol. Each wagon offers a WC and handbasin facility. At one end, is a Chinese squat-style WC, whilst at the other end is a Western-style WC. Bed linen is provided on the train.
Porterage: In China most often porterage is not available at railway stations and you will be required to carry your own luggage. we recommend you pack as light as possible as there can be several flights of stairs and a lengthy walk to our awaiting transportation.
On our group tours, we welcome young adults 15 years or older, accompanied by a parent/guardian if under the age of 18. We also offer our Warriors & Dragons family tour where we welcome all travellers above 5 years of age and our China with Teens tour allowing travellers 12 years or older accompanied by a parent/guardian. Our private journeys and tailor-made holidays cater for all travellers of any age.