Vaccinations and Health
When you travel to China there are no compulsory vaccinations, but you should consider vaccinations against typhoid, Hepatitis A, tetanus and polio, and consult your GP for further advice. Take any vaccination certificate with you.
If you normally take prescription drugs you should carry a note from your doctor stating the treatment, drug name and dosage in case you need to get hold of a replacement supply.
Asthma sufferers should be prepared for very bad pollution, especially in the summer, that may affect their breathing. If you are travelling during the summer you should bring mosquito repellant.
Do not drink tap water. Your hotel may provide bottles of water in your room – if it is in the bathroom it is free, if it is elsewhere, you will be charged for it. When buying water always make sure the seal around the cap is unbroken.
On arrival in China you will be given 3 forms to complete, a Health Declaration Form, an Entry Card and a Customs Declaration Form.
Sterling cash can be exchanged for RMB throughout China except in very rural areas where US dollars may be more popular – if you have some already bring them just in case. Make sure that when you take foreign currency into China that the notes are clean, unmarked and untorn, or they may not be accepted. Scottish banknotes are not accepted. Travellers cheques are accepted in China, sometimes for a slightly better rate of exchange than cash.
You can buy RMB before you arrive in China, from the airport on arrival, and probably also from your hotel reception as well as banks and exchange bureaux in all towns and cities. The exchange rate is regulated so rates are virtually the same everywhere. Ask for notes in small denominations as large notes for 50 or 100 RMB may be awkward for people to give change from.
Keep your receipts when you change money so that if you do have any RMB left over when you depart China, you can convert up to half of what is shown on your receipts back into sterling.
American Express, Diners Club, Master Card and Visa are widely accepted in the major cities and tourist centres, and there are cash machines to withdraw RMB using your PIN as at home. Cash however is the preferred method of payment.
In Hong Kong the currency is the Hong Kong dollar, and the rate is similar to RMB. Hong Kong dollars cannot be used in mainland China.
In Hong Kong however, tips are expected. Restaurants there will usually add a 10% service charge, hotel bellboys should be tipped HK$5-$10 per piece of luggage, and taxi drivers will round the fare up to the nearest dollar as their tip.
When is the best time to travel to China? Generally speaking, spring and autumn are quite mild and so April, May, September and October are good times to travel to China. However, it is a good idea to avoid ravelling on the 1st May or 1st October as these are National Holidays, and also Chinese New Year – you may find hotels and planes full, the streets and attractions crowded as the Chinese are all on holiday. Beijing and the north – hot summers with rain in June and July, temperatures can reach 38 degrees C or 100 F. Winters are bitterly cold, rarely above feezing, and windy but often dry and sunny nevertheless. Spring and autumn are good times to travel, with temperatures around 20-30 degrees C or 68-86 F during the day, cooler at night.
Shanghai and central China – hot, humid, rainy summers, cold winters below freezing and often wet.
Guilin, Hong Kong and the south – hot, humid, rainy summers, with typhoons along the coast. Cool winters
Harbin and the north east – very very cold winters of -40 degrees – this is the home of snow and ice festivals! Mild summers.
If you want to bring home some interesting momentoes from your China travels, there are great-value and good quality objects produced all over the country. Beijing is noted for cloisonne enamel and fresh water pearls; Shanghai is renowned for jade; Xian is celebrated for antiques and rugs, while Guilin is famous for scroll paintings and bijouterie. Particularly, Suzhou and Hangzhou are well known for silk and tea.
Bargaining is common except in large stores and government-run shops, but make sure you and the seller understand the price correctly, and that you compare
prices for similar goods on other stalls first. Be careful if buying jewellery or antiques unless you thoroughly understand the quality of what you are buying.
Buying clothes in China can be great fun especially from the markets where you can often find ‘designer’ labels at a fraction of the usual price – but of course these may be of inferior quality. Also be aware that clothes are often cut very small, and so you should consider buying a much larger size than you would do at home.
China has the same time zone throughout the entire country, GMT + 8 hours
No alcohol may be carried in hand luggage on any domestic flight, and will be confiscated immediately if found. You should therefore transport alcoholonly in your checked-in suitcases.
Larger hotels have business centres where you can use the internet for a small fee. Larger cities also have internet cafes. Mobile phones with the major UK networks also operate in China.