Always carry a color copy of your passport with you along with other identification such as a state driver’s license. Even though your passport is the best form of identification, you may want to keep it locked in your hotel room safe as you are out sightseeing each day.
Keep your passport safe. Losing it will result in you unable to leave China until you get a new one issued.
Make two copies of the data page of your passport (1 copy for someone at home and 1 copy for you). Keep this copy separate from your original passport.
Create a list with contact numbers for your credit card companies, banks and doctors in case of an emergency.
Casual attire is fine for the entire trip. Jeans or slacks are appropriate, even for the business meetings.
Dress in layers: Like peeling an onion, you should take clothes in layers to adapt to climatic variations – sweat-releasing under clothes, a warm-preserving middle level and a rainproof and windproof outer garment.
The clothes should be easy to put on or take off.
Choose light clothes with functions such as hidden pockets.
Choose comfortable footwear with thick-soles and soft-uppers, cotton socks or stockings.
Overnight laundry, mending and pressing services are available at most hotels.
A small box of laundry detergent would be useful if you need to hand wash a few items in your hotel room. This will save some expense from the hotel laundry service.
Have an extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses and enough medication to last a few days in your carry-on luggage.
Never pack prescription drugs, valuables or undeveloped film in your checked luggage.
It is good to have a small waist pack, small bag or vest with inside pockets, to keep money, passport, wallet, etc. close to you when in large crowds. Don’t keep all your money in one pocket.
Be sure to pack your carry on bag with whatever you will need to go to bed on the day of arrival. Your luggage may be delivered after you arrive at the hotel.
A TSA approved lock for your luggage is a must . You may be asked to place your luggage outside your hotel room door for the attendants to pick up and transfer to our next location.
If possible, pack an empty bag in your luggage for all your purchases. You will have an opportunity to purchase fairly nice luggage in Shanghai. Ask your tour guide for assistance.
Laptops and Computer Access
Computer access with Internet service will be available at the hotels in the business centers and usually costs 1 RBM per minute, but may be more. Dial-Up Internet service is available in most hotel rooms. Although, WWW in China means wait, wait, wait! Service can be very slow.
Unless bringing your own laptop computer is an absolute must it is recommended you not bring one.
For your laptop and all other electrical devices you will need a 220 converter for your power cords.
Your cellular telephone may work, but you need to contact your cellular provider and ask if your telephone has a SIM card. This card will enable you to use your cellular telephone.
If your cellular telephone does not have a SIM card, you can ask if they rent telephones with the card.
You can also purchase a SIM card in China for your cellular telephone. This card will allow you to make both local and overseas calls.
Remember in China there is a 12 – 15 hour time difference depending on time zones. You may want to make your telephone calls from your hotel room at night when it is during the day back in the United States.
Cameras and Photography
The Chinese love cameras and will be glad to take your picture; some may even want to be in them. However, you should always ask before taking pictures of people. Remember at some religious sites photography is not allowed.
Don’t pack film or equipment in checked baggage, where it is much more susceptible to damage. X-ray machines are very powerful and may ruin your film.
Camera batteries, film and memory cards are easily found. However, you may want to bring extra with you to insure quality.
There is no sales tax in China.
Exchange rate fluctuates. Please refer to the Currency Exchange tab.
Exchange some money prior to your arrival in China, either at your bank or at the Los Angeles Airport, so that you have some RMB when you arrive. The exchange rate is regulated in China, not so in the United States.
At each of the hotels we stay at, you can exchange monies. You will need to show your passport when exchanging monies.
American dollar is okay, but you want to have different denominations ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100). Our hotels will provide exchange into RMB.
Traveler’s checks are also accepted; again it is good to have multiple denominations.
Credit cards accepted in China include Master Card, Visa Card, American Express Card, JCB and Diners Card. You can use the card to withdraw RMB at branches of the Bank of China and some appointed shops in most Chinese cities. However, in some remote areas, credit cards are not always accepted.
ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are available in most of the major cities in China. Foreign travelers can directly draw RMB from those machines marked with any printed symbol of the credit cards mentioned above. Although the number of the ATMs which accept foreign credit cards is not great, it is increasing very quickly. Meanwhile, do not rely on finding an ATM when you are in remote areas of China.
If you plan on using your ATM or credit cards, call your bank and/or credit card companies to let them know you will be traveling out of the country. Most credit card companies and banks will freeze your account after one transaction unless you let them know ahead of time.
We will be flying on China Eastern Airlines or Air China Airlines. Your trans-Pacific flight will be aboard a wide cabin jetliner with a large galley and room to walk around.
The flight is 13 hours 45 minutes – nonstop from LAX to Shanghai, Pu Dong, China. After a layover in Shanghai we transfer planes for a second flight to Beijing. There will be plenty of time to meet some of the other people on the trip.
Our return flight from Shanghai, Pu Dong, China to LAX will be 11 hours 35 minutes.
We will receive forms to be filled out before our arrival in Beijing. You will receive a health questionnaire, an Entry Card and a China Customs Card.
We will be served two meals and snacks while in flight. The first meal will be served at the beginning of the flight, the second towards the end. If you have specific meal needs, please contact the airlines to request your meal preference.
Several in flight movies will be shown both ways. This trans-Pacific flight gives you an excellent opportunity to get caught up on your reading.
Get up and walk around as much as possible — at least once an hour, if possible.
Stand up and stretch your arms and legs.
Do in-seat calf exercises and heel/toe lifts frequently to keep the blood circulating. Also massage the feet, ankles, calf muscles, and lower legs.
Try to sit comfortably and avoid crossing your legs.
Stay hydrated, drink plenty of fluids, but avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, as they promote dehydration.
Wear loose clothing. Avoid tight clothing that restricts blood flow (e.g. tight waistbands, socks or stockings).
Hotels and Buses
Our hotels will all be four or five star rated.
Hotels will supply us with hair dryers, combs, razors, slippers, robes, scales, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shower caps, hand lotion, shampoo and conditioner.
Hair dryers are not always in the most obvious places, so you will need to look everywhere in the room if you do not see it.
All hotels have western toilets and you can flush the toilet paper.
Hotel keys go in a little slot next to the entry door, just inside the room. This operates all the electricity. Lights will not work without the key in the slot!
The buses are secure, feel free to leave purchases, extra clothing and water bottles on the bus. Either the bus driver will stay with the bus or will lock it up while you are on a tour.
Always keep your identification with you at all times.
Extra money, airline tickets, purchased jewelry, etc. you may want to keep in the hotel safe while you are sightseeing or out for the evening.
All Chinese understand WC (water closet) for the restrooms. This is the best way to ask where they are.
Restroom facilities are VERY different in China. They are clean and often have an attendant cleaning after each use. Toilet paper isn’t always included in the restrooms, so be sure to pack tissues with you. Toilet paper is sometimes on the restroom wall, outside the stall area. Always check before entering the stall. Toilet paper is not flushed down the toilet; there are waste baskets in each stall to use.
The western style toilet will be available but most public restrooms have multiple “squats” and one western toilet. Squats are basically a hole in the ground with a stall built around it. This is where the differences are really noticeable. Be prepared to wait for the Western style toilet.
There will not be soap in the WC, so it is a very good idea to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. This will come in handy many times.
Tampons are not found in China. Be sure to be prepared because what is available is very different.
Air and Water
Air quality can be very poor. If you have any kind of breathing issues, be sure to bring medication or breathing aids with you. You may also want to bring breathing masks, available from your doctor or your local drug store.
Water is not drinkable, unless it has been boiled first. Water is always available from your Chinese bus driver, two bottles for $1. Do not buy bottled water from any street vendor, it may not be safe to drink, only buy from your bus driver.
Each day the hotels will give each room a bottle of water per person, this water is safe to drink. Use this water to brush your teeth and take medications.
Chinese food, due to the sheer size of China and its population, has many regional varieties. The most commonly-found cuisines are Cantonese, Szechuan and Hunan.
Cantonese cuisine tends to be mild, with less of an emphasis on chilies and more on the natural flavors of fresh ingredients including fresh seafood. Most Americanized Chinese food is based on classic Cantonese cooking. Classic Cantonese dishes include:
Dhar siu, also known as barbecued or red-cooked meat.
Shark Fin Soup
Simple Stir-fried Vegetables
Szechuan food is spicier, using an array of chilies – most famous tongue-numbing Szechuan peppers and spicy chili bean paste. There is an emphasis on preservation techniques like tea-smoking, salting and pickling. Although pork and chicken are the most commonly eaten meats in China, beef plays a greater role in Szechuan food due to the widespread presence of oxen for farming. Szechuan staples include:
Kung Pao Chicken
Dan Dan Noodle
Hunan cooking is similar to Szechuan, though generally even spicier, and with a taste for flavor combinations like sweet and sour or hot and sour. Drying, smoking and pickling are popular, as are long-cooked, elaborate dishes. There is a much-greater variety of ingredients available due to the nature of Hunan’s land versus Szechuan’s. Hunan cuisine does not use Szechuan peppercorns, preferring instead to get spice from various chilies.
Breakfast is a combination of Chinese and American style food. You will find a great selection of food; this is a good time to fuel up for our busy days.
Lunch and dinner is all Chinese food. Comparable to what you would find at most Chinese restaurants.
Steamed rice is not always served on the table, but you can request some from your server.
Our meals will be served “Family Style.”
Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are hard to come by, but coffee and tea is widely available.
Our trips during the day can be very tiring. You may want to take snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, or power bars to have on the bus for a quick energy boost.
You may want to consider packing a few food items to keep in your hotel room such as vacuumed packed tuna, Vienna sausage, crackers, beef jerky, etc. Just in case you get hungry or if some of the local cuisine does not appeal to you. However when it doubt “Try it you might like it.”
For those who crave good ‘ol American fast food you can usually find a KFC or a McDonald’s. In Beijing there is also a Papa John’s Pizza and a 24 hour McDonald’s across from the train station.
You may also want to take packets of Tobasco or sauces to add a taste from home.
Shopping and Bartering
There are lots of brand name knock-offs widely available, so Buyer Beware.
Bartering is necessary when making purchases.
Know exactly what you want and go to several stores or vendor stands to note the prices for the item you want to buy.
If you are not satisfied with the price given by the vendor, walk away. The vendor will probably call you back and sell his things to you at a lower price.
It is good to shop with a friend or friends who offer to buy the same thing you want. Offering to buy more than one item gives you bargaining power and can bring down the final price.
When bargaining, do not pull out all your money or wallet, keep a few small bills and change in a front, more convenient pocket.
Keep all receipts for purchases!
You are allowed to bring home $800.00 worth of foreign goods duty free. This exemption may include one liter of alcohol (for travelers 21 and older), 200 cigarettes, and 100 non-Cuban cigars. Family members from the same household may pool their $800.00 personal exemptions.
You may also send packages home duty free, with a limit of one parcel per addressee per day (except alcohol, tobacco products, or perfume worth more than $5.00).