Additional Information about Travel to China
TippingAt the conclusion of your tour, it is customary to offer your tour guide and driver a gratuity. Your WEST tour coordinator will collect the gratuity at any point during the tour (many travelers like to pay ahead of time to get it out of the way). Although it is not required, your driver and tour guides rely on these tips, and work hard to ensure you an unforgettable experience. We recommend tipping the equivalence of $3 USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6 USD/CAD to $9 USD/CAD per person per day for your tour guide. If applicable, we also recommend the equivalency of $2 USD/CAD per local guide, payable following the local tour. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.
In order to enter China, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of your return home and at least two blank pages. A visa is also required for U.S. and Canadian passport holders to enter China. You can obtain an individual visa through our recommended provider VisaCentral (www.visacentral.com/goaheadtours). If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.
Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Please contact your airline directly for more information on your airline’s baggage allowance. Bear in mind that your luggage will probably weigh more on your return trip due to souvenir shopping. We allow only one suitcase per person. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage. Please contact your airline or refer to its website for detailed information regarding your airline’s checked baggage policies. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 inches (length + width + height). There may be select times when you will have to handle your own bags, and you’ll find that lightweight luggage provides a distinct advantage. Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on luggage. Please note: On internal flights included on tour, you may be charged for any baggage over 20 kilograms (44 pounds).
There is some risk of the following diseases in China, mostly concentrated in rural areas: dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever. Travelers should make sure to wear protective clothing and insect repellent when outside, particularly in forested or rural areas. Sun protection is also highly advisable. No vaccinations are required for entry. However, it’s always advisable to check with your health-care provider at least eight weeks prior to departure for recommendations and the latest updates on requirements. For updated information on travel in this area, call the Centers for Disease Control and Protection at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877- 394-8747) or visit its website at www.cdc.gov/ travel and view the sections on East Asia.
In order for you to stay healthy throughout your tour, we recommend the following:
1. Drink bottled water. Refrain from drinking tap water, including when brushing teeth.
2. Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they are cooked or washed in clean water and peeled.
3. Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication and any prescription medications.
The diversity of Chinese cuisine reflects China’s long history. With each dynasty, new recipes and cooking styles emerged. The food on tour will introduce you to many of the country’s “Eight Cuisines”— Shangdong, Sichuan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan and Anhui. Sichuan cooking features three peppers (Chinese prickly ash, pepper and hot pepper), three aromas (shallot, ginger, and garlic), seven tastes (sweet, sour, tingling, spicy, bitter, piquant and salty) and eight flavors (fish-flavored, sour with spice, pepper-tingling, odd flavor, tingling with spice, red spicy oily, ginger sauce and home cooking). Hunan cuisine stresses the use of oil, dense color and techniques that produce crispness, softness and tenderness as well as savory flavors and spices. Popular dishes include stewed fins, fried fresh cabbage with chestnuts and Dong Anzi chicken. Along the Yangtze River, you may sample Ahhui cuisine. Some traditional Ahhui dishes include braised turtle with ham and Fuliji grilled chicken.
Please note that, depending upon the season, China’s climate can change drastically as you move from one destination to the next. Due to the varying climates on your trip, we advise that you pack in layers. Light, loose-fitting clothing that provides comfort when exploring the sights is essential for your tour. A sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers is also recommended for shore excursions and exploring the cities. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality—a lightweight sports jacket and rainwear are advised. Also, remember that it is preferable not to visit religious sites with bare legs and shoulders (and entrance may be denied on this basis).
The flights for tours beginning or ending in China will arrive or depart from Beijing and/or Shanghai. On-tour transportation is provided primarily by private motor coach, but may include planes, trains, boats, ferries, or other modes. When traveling by train there may be times when you will have to handle your own luggage, and you’ll find that lightweight luggage provides a distinct advantage. During free time, you may wish to explore the cities by public transportation, and your tour coordinator and tour guide will have suggestions.
Chinese money is called renminbi (RMB), which means “People’s Currency.”
The popular unit of RMB is yuan. Better rates of exchange are available
in China, because exchange rates are fixed throughout China. In Hong
Kong, the currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$). We advise that you
take a combination of bank/ATM cards and credit cards, as needed. We
suggest that you inform your bank and credit card company of your travel
plans, so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for