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China info

China is situated in eastern Asia on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean. As a travel destination China offers an endless diversity of historical and architectural masterpieces and impressive natural landscape. It is home to one of the world's longest continuous civilizations, with a rich heritage of art, architecture and language.


Travel Tips & Advice

China is one of the safest travel destinations around the world and petty crime is relatively low. However in crowded places beware of pickpockets and avoid carrying large sums of money in your hand - common sense prevails. Beware of unknown people striking up a conversation and insisting on taking you to some special place - it could be a scam (You could be paying an obscene amount of money for a simple tea-tasting, a drink, or fake antique). Ask your professional guide for any assistance. It is also advisable that you make copies of all documents and pack them seperately from the originals.

Casual is perhaps the best when traveling in China. Wear clothes that are comfortable but not too revealing and remember to pack for the right season. Please note that when South Africa is experiencing a hot summer, Beijing is down to 10oC or lower. Comfortable walking shoes are also recommended.

Try to use the bathroom before leaving your hotel. All restaurants, hotels and large malls offer public toilets (some charge up to 1RMB for use). Bring a pack of your own tissues (or toilet paper) as many public toilets do not provide them. Some establishments will not have western style toilets and many ladies have been shocked and dismayed to find she doesn・t know how to use squat-toilets. Make sure you go when you see a western style toilet.

Currency & Credit cards
The Chinese currency is known as the Renminbi (RMB - the People's Money). The basic unit of Renminbi is the Yuan and the smaller units are the Jiao and Fen. One Yuan can be divided into 10 Jiao and one Jiao can be divided into 10 Fen. Cash can be drawn in Renminbi with your credit card from an ATM machine in the airport and in some hotels. You can also use your credit card in large department stores, restaurants and big souvenir shops. For flea markets and smaller establishments, credit card facilities are not available. You can convert your dollars into RMB at all banks, bank branches or hotels according to the exchange rate on that day. For your convenience, exchange money at the front desk of the hotel. In China the exchange rate difference in hotels compared to the bank is minimal. Keep your receipt to have the surplus amount changed back to foreign currency at the end of your trip.

Shopping and Bargaining
China is well known for being the factory of the world. You can purchase "value for money" goods of everything and anything you can think of in all major cities. In most department stores and super markets, the prices are fixed and bargaining is not allowed. There are many small vendors and flea markets in every city and it・s interesting to see people selling a variety of products. Perhaps everything in the market is fascinating and a novelty to you, but remember: if you want to buy something, a little bargaining is very useful. You can never pay too much for something you like, but if you can get it a little cheaper - that's even better.

How to bargain? First of all, it's important to relax and enjoy the experience, the vendors expect you to bargain. Before purchasing, get a general idea of the price in different shops or stalls. Offer 30% - 40% of the asking price and work from there. Be stubborn and persistent when bargaining, but keep smiling. Walk away if you find the price unacceptable. This will trigger them to give you their best price. Don・t abuse your bargaining power, once the vendor accepts your price; do not try to ask for further price reduction. This is unfair and considered rude, after all, he/she has agreed to the price you proposed.

Tipping in China is not compulsory, but gestures of gratuity are always appreciated. After the tour ends in one city, it is a common practice to offer tips to local guides and drivers as a gratitude for their service. You are advised to put the tips in an envelope and give it to the local guide and driver at the airport before you say goodbye to them. It is not necessary for you to offer the tips before the tour begins. Please feel free to tip or not to tip accordingly. If you are not satisfied with the guide service, do not hesitate to let us know, we will change the guide without any hesitation.

For your reference, it is normally US$ 3/per day per guest for the local guide in each city, US$ 2/per day per guest for the driver, depending on what you think of their services. If you need the services of the porter to bring your heavy luggage to your room, 1 US$ will be appreciated. more on tipping - click here.

Food & Drinks

Most of the hotels we choose provide a full buffet style Western breakfast. During the day, you will have the opportunity to taste some mouth-watering local cuisines whilst mastering your chopsticks. There is a large variety of delightful and yummy Chinese food. In our tour programmes, a few meals have been specifically left out to cater for those who are either more adventurous or those who simply crave a cheese burger. In the information of the different cities, you will find special food specific to that region. Enjoy!

Chinese cuisine
Cantonese cuisine: this is the style of cooking that most visitors are already familiar with. The emphasis is on freshly cooked ingredients and seafood. A specialty is Dim Sum (served brunch) - different small snacks and hot food served in small portions taken off trolleys going around the tables.

Sichuan cuisine: famously hot and spicy, with liberal use of chillies and the indigenous Sichuan pepper that is widely available outside Sichuan. Some famous dishes are Sichuan hot pot, Kung Pao Chicken and Twice Cooked Pork and Ma Po Tofu.

Hunan (Xiang cuisine) & Guizhou Cuisine: Similar to Sichuan cuisine with its spicy peppery and sour flavour.

Northern cuisine: noodles and baozi (bread buns), peking duck, cabbage dishes and great pickles. Unlike southern regions where rice is the staple food, northern regions of China have wheat as their staple food.

Zhejiang cuisine: A delicately seasoned, light-tasting mix of seafood or meat with vegetables. Zhejiang cuisine is often lightly sweetened or sometimes sweet and sour.

Fujian cuisine: takes most of its ingredients from coastal and estuarial waterways. One particularly famous dish is "Buddha Jumps over a Wall". The story is that this seafood dish smelled so good a monk forgot his vegetarian vows and leapt over the wall to have some.

Nearly all restaurants in China have vegetarian dishes. Some restaurants even cater purely for vegetarians and claim that their pots and cooking utensils have never been in contact with any meat. Ask our local Englishspeaking guide to assist you with the latest vegetarian restaurant in each city.

Other cuisines
Larger cities in China provides an ideal opportunity to sample food from all over the country. Some of the best restaurants serve food from Sichuan, Hunan, Canton, Tibet, Yunnan, Xinjiang and more. International cuisines from curry to sushi are all available. All luxury hotels have at least one restaurant, which can be of any cuisine they believe their guests will enjoy. You will find French, Italian, American, and Chinese restaurants in most hotels. For fast foods, McDonald・s has over 100 restaurants in Beijing or Shanghai, followed closely by KFC. As a rule of thumb,whenever there is a McDonalds, a KFC is no further than 100m away. There are also a fair number of Pizza Huts.

The tap water in China is not safe to drink, locals boil the water before drinking. This is true even at hotels unless stated otherwise. A free bottle of mineral water is usually provided by the hotel.

Stock up on water during the day at convenient stores at RMB 1-3 per bottle. Bottled water at the hotel can be quite expensive.

The most common drink in China is Chinese tea. There are so many different types of tea in China and are categorized into green tea, red tea, white tea, black tea, Oolong tea, Puerh tea, Jasmine tea and more. Tea is served at every meal or you can experience different ceremonies of tea at tea houses. These can range in price but some tea houses are really tourist traps, so be careful. You can get a free tea demonstration at most Tenrenfu tea houses which are located throughout the city
and at some malls. Ask our local Englishspeaking guide for more info.
Warning: be aware of the teahouse scam, in which young Chinese people posing as English students try to lure foreigners into a tea-house for tea demonstration, leaving the foreigner with a bill running to hundreds of US dollars. Be sure to ask for prices for the tea and facilities up front before agreeing to any kind of tea ceremony.

In the past, good coffee is hard to find in most parts of China. However, several chains of coffee shops have opened branches in major cities, including Starbucks, Zang Dau Kafei, Ming Tien Coffee and SPR Coffee. Most of them are situated around shopping malls and in commercial districts of the city. For coffee just to stave off withdrawal symptoms, go to a KFC, McDonald・s for some RMB 6 coffee or get packets of Nescafe pre-mixed with whitener and sugar and make your own coffee in the hotel.

Chinese beer
There are many beer brands in China but the most preferred beer in China is Tsing Tao which are available from certain Chinese restaurants in South Africa!
Yanjing beer is the main beer brand of Beijing. It comes in very large bottles and has 4% alcohol content. Both Yanjing and Qingdao now come in "standard" and "draught" varieties.

Chinese red wine
Great Wall is the most popular local brand of red wine though some wine connoisseurs will probably consider it a R50 bottle in South Africa. Most people in China are not accustomed to wine etiquette or appreciation. This is probably due to the fact that they produce and enjoy hard liquor made from rice or sorghum. Foreign red wines are usually of a much better quality, such as those from the US, Germany, Italy, Australia, South Africa, France and Chile, and you will find them at upscale restaurants.

Chinese hard liquor
Some call it "fire water", the most common hard liquor is made from distilled rice wine. Large varieties of this liquor is commonly available at low prices but should be avoided if you want to have a clear mind for your travels on the next day. The most famous local liquor in Beijing is called "Er Guotou" (Distilled Twice), which has
54% alcohol content. Mao Tai is one of the more famous brands, and costs about as much as an imported bottle of whiskey. A large selection of imported liquor can be found at all bars ranging from tequila to whiskey.

Alcohol is not permitted onboard any domestic or outbound international flights in China (If you would like to bring a bottle of Chinese wine home, you can only have it in your luggage, not your carry-on hand-luggage).

Chinese Money

For General information, travel tips, chinese food, and Chinese Money.
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9.6 million square kilometers - roughly eight times the size of South Africa.
1.34 billion (almost thirty times that of South Africa) Stringent population controls have been in place for several decades - one child policy.
Mandarin (official language), Cantonese (used mainly in Guangdong province and Hong Kong).
over 14,500 kilometers - Almost 6 times that of South Africa.
Great rivers:
the Changjiang (Yangtze River) and the Huanghe (Yellow River).
Highest peak:
Mount Everest, also the highest in the world is 8,848 meters above sea level.
Beijing Standard Time (8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT + 8), and 6 hours ahead of South Africa.
Ethinic Groups:
56 ethnic groups. The Han group, being the largest ethnic group, forms 93.3% of the population.
Major Public Holidays:

New Year's Day        
1st of January
Chinese New Year
14th of February 2010 (Year of Tiger) 6 days holiday
International Labour Day
1st of May (3 Days holidays following)
National Day
1st of October (with 6 days holidays following)
The Renminbi (RMB)
RenminbiV the People・s Money. The basic unit of Renminbi is the Yuan and the smaller units are the Jiao and Fen. One Yuan can be divided into 10 Jiao and one Jiao can be divided into 10 Fen. Cash can be drawn in Renminbi with your credit card from an ATM machine in the airport and in some hotels. You can convert your dollars and Euros into RMB at all banks, bank branches or hotels according to the exchange rate on that day (Note: South African Rand are not accepted.)

For your convenience, exchange money at the front desk of the hotel. In China the exchange rate difference in hotels compared to the bank is minimal. Keep your receipt to have the surplus amount changed back to foreign currency at the end of your trip.