Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to travel?

If you travel with a tour group, most of your costs will be covered as part of the package, with the exception of gifts and personal expenses. China offers good values in hotel accommodations, meals, and entertainment. Air and train transportation in the country are good values. Jewelry, silk, carpets, cloisonnÈ, jade, and other popular items can be purchased at much lower prices than in the United States. Plan to travel light and carry an extra bag for the gifts and souvenirs you buy.

What should I pack?
Pack lightly, and bring casual clothes. A sturdy, comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must. A business suit and tie for men and one or two dresses or pant suits for women will suffice for most formal occasions. Bring several shirts, sweaters, and a jacket (depending on the season) that can be worn in layers to accommodate Chinaís range of climates. All hotels offer reliable laundry and dry cleaning services.

Is there any travel insurance needed?
You should consider the benefits of travel insurance as part of your travel planning. These plans may include valuable medical expense coverage, trip interruption, medical emergency assistance, and treatment services. Some provide a 24-hour assistance line, and others act as a travel guide, should your plans change.

Where can I purchase train tickets in China?
Online Travel Agency: rail tickets are not easy to buy during peak seasons like the Golden Week (October 1 ñ 7) and Spring Festival. It is advisable for tourists to use a reliable travel agency like Travel China Guide.

Online Booking with China Railway Customer Service Center: Passengers can book online with China Railway Customer Service Center. While booking, foreigners must present a passport, however the website only has a Chinese version and offers online reservation service to its registered users. Payment online can be made with a bank card from the Bank of China, China Merchants Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China UnionPay.

Railway Station: At the booking offices passengers can purchase tickets a few days in advance. In popular cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Xian, booking offices are opened 24 hours.

Designated Booking Office: Generally, passengers can purchase rail tickets 3 to 10 days (20 days for Z and D trains) ahead of travel time at the booking offices in most cities. Expect an additional service charge of CNY5 per ticket.

Travel Agency: It is more convenient to obtain your tickets through a reliable travel agency or at your hotelís Reception Desk. While this is convenient and can save time, service charges are common and might include an additional cost for delivery.

Tips:
1. The pre-sale period may be adjusted temporarily during the Chinese holidays or festivals, such as Chinese New Year, National Holiday, and summer vacation. Book through an agency as early as possible.
2. Scalpers, Huangniu or Piaofanzi in Chinese, buy tickets repeatedly and resell them at higher prices. This practice is illegal and some scalpers sell fake tickets
3. Children between 15 and 17 months only cost half price, while those under 14 months are free. Children must be accompanied by an adult on the train.

Can I rent a car in China?
If you will be in China during national holidays, the following guidelines will help.

* Reserve in Advance
The National Day in China is peak for car renting. It is impossible to rent one three or four days before the holiday. A reservation one or two weeks in advance is recommended.

* Choosing the Right Company
In order to attract more customers, many companies provide discounts or special services. Choose a large company, and avoid those that offer highly suspect specials.

* Carís Status Checking
Around the holidays, some companies try to get as many vehicles as possible. This could result in renting a car that is in bad shape. Ask to see the car before committing to a rental agreement.

* Handling Car Damage
Consider purchasing the insurance, and remember that up to 20 percent of the cost of damages could be your responsibility.

* Return the Car on Time
Return your car on time, and make arrangements if you are dropping off during the holidays. Remember to read every part of your contract.

What about dining, and meeting, etiquette?
Greetings
Address a person using his or her family name only, such as Mr. Chen or Ms. Hsu. The Chinese family name comes first and is usually one syllable. A one or a two-syllable given name follows a family name. For example, in the case of Teng Peinian, Teng is the family name and Peinian is the given name.

For business purposes, it is acceptable to call a Chinese person by the surname, together with a title, such as ìDirector Wangî or ìChairman Li.î Avoid using someoneís given name unless you have known him or her for a long period of time.

Do not try to become too friendly too soon, and do not insist that your Chinese counterparts address you by your given name. While the Western tradition of informality is not wrong, it should be avoided.

The Chinese way of greeting is a nod or slight bow. However, when interacting with Westerners, Chinese usually shake hands. Remember that a soft handshake and lack of eye contact do not necessarily indicate shyness. It implies that the person is not accustomed to the firm handshakes commonly used in the West.

Business Meetings
In China, it is assumed that the first person that enters a room is the head of the group. Westerners should observe this tradition to avoid confusing their Chinese hosts. Important guests are usually escorted to their seats. If the meeting room has a large central table, the principal guest is likely to be seated directly opposite the principal host.

When exchanging business cards, hold out your card using both hands with the writing facing the recipient. Cards should always be exchanged individually. Never toss your business card across the table, this is considered extremely rude. Take a business card with both hands and scan it immediately for vital information. Then lay the card in front of you on the table. It is demeaning to put someone’s card directly into your pocket without looking at it first.

Meetings begin with small talk. Resist the temptation to get down to business right away. Also, avoid telling Western-style jokes, because sometimes they do not translate across cultures and can cause confusion or hurt feelings.

Social Events
At a formal banquet, be prepared to give a short, friendly speech in response to the hostís speech. When inviting Taiwanese to a party, serve a ìrealî meal rather than snacks and drinks. When invited for dinner, it is polite to sample every dish served. Your host may serve some food to you, and it is nice to reciprocate if you feel comfortable. Always leave something on your plate at the end of the meal or your host might think you are still hungry.

Gift Giving
It is appropriate to bring a gift, particularly something representative of your town or region, to a business meeting or social event. Gifts indicate that you are interested in building a relationship. A gift should always be wrapped, but avoid plain black or white paper because these are the colors of mourning. Present the gift with both hands as a sign of courtesy and always mention that this is only a small token of appreciation. Do not expect your gift to be opened in your presence. This indicates that it is the thought that counts more than the cost of the gift.

Never give a clock, handkerchief, umbrella or white flowers, specifically chrysanthemums, as a gift, as they signify tears and/or death. Never give sharp objects such as knives or scissors as they would signify the cutting of a relationship. Lucky numbers are 6 and 8 (especially in a series, such as 66 or 888). An unlucky number is 4.

Survival Tips
* Bring a large supply of business cards.
* Keep in mind that in China, and virtually all other countries, that 3/6/00 means June 3, 2000.
* As a health precaution, it is advisable for international visitors to drink bottled water, even in hotels and restaurants.
* Bring basic cold and anti-diarrhea medicines and your own prescription drugs.
* Avoid talking politics or religion. Good topics: Chinese food, sports or places one should visit.
* If a Chinese person gives you a compliment, it is polite to deny it graciously. Modesty is highly valued in China.
* The Chinese point at objects with an open hand instead of the index finger. Beckoning to someone is done with a palm facing down. Avoid beckoning with your index finger facing up.
* Do not try too hard to ìgo Chinese.î Chinese do not expect you to know all of their etiquette, and they make allowances for foreigners. Be yourself.
* Learn a few words of Chinese. This shows an interest in your hostís language and culture. It also a very good icebreaker.

How do I get a taxi in China?
In most cities in China, there are quite a lot taxis available, which are painted red, yellow, or green. Taxi fares may vary from city to city, but they are supposed to be marked on the taxi window, and the drivers are supposed to use a taximeter. Most taxi drivers do not speak English, have your destinations written down in Chinese.

What are the gift-giving etiquette and the related taboos?
Generally speaking, presents are given at Chinese festivals, birthdays, weddings, banquets, and housewarmings.
* Present gifts with two hands.
* Do not open the gifts when received.
* Do not present the following gifts to Chinese, as they are associated with death: clocks, straw sandals, a stork or crane.
* Do not send pears and umbrella as gifts to lovers or couples, because the pronunciation of these words sound like ìseparationî in Chinese.
* Do not give scissors, knives and other cutting utensils to Chinese friends since they have the implication of cutting off relationship.

Will everything be closed over Chinese New Year?
Restaurants, tourist spots, hotels, airports, etc., will be open. Some restaurants might have limited hours over the holiday period, but tourist-related places are not closed over the New Year.

What businesses close over Chinese New Year?
Places that are closed: offices, some shops, factories and the like. If you are planning to have anything custom-made (suits/clothing, furniture, bed linens) while in China, the factory will be shut over the holiday. Unless you pay to have the item ready before the New Year, you will have to wait several weeks after the holiday for your item.

Postal Service?
China Post is the official postal service of the Peopleís Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau. Post offices bear a striking green logo, and are easily found everywhere in the cities. The operating time is 8:00 am – 6:00 pm seven days a week, but in some remote areas, the post office may be closed on weekends.

Local rates are inexpensive and international rates are reasonable. Tourist hotels usually have their own post offices and shipping services, but hotel front desks provide the most convenient places for travelers to drop mail. All major international courier services have offices in major Chinese cities, and travelers can arrange with their hotel for pickup.

Are foreign credit cards accepted in China?
Yes, and they are:
* Master Card
* Visa
* American Express
* JCB
* Discover

Where should I direct a complaint?
Tourism Quality Supervision Management Institute of China National Tourism Administration
* Office hours: 8:30-12:00 2:30-5:00
* Post code: 100740
* Address: No.9 Jianguomennei Dajie, Beijing
* Telephone: (010) 65275315 or (010) 65122096

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