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). No visa is required to enter Hong Kong on the tour extension, unless you are planning extend your stay over 90 days. 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).
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. Waterproof shoes or sandals, a swimsuit, sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended for outdoor activities. A small bottle of hand sanitizer may be helpful when other facilities are not readily available while on the road. 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 renminbi (the people’s currency) is the official currency in China. The yuan is the basic unit of the renmibi and the two names are often used interchangeably. (You will use the Hong Kong dollar on the tour extension.) Better rates of exchange are usually available overseas, although it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive. We strongly advise that you take debit/bank cards and credit cards, which can be used to withdraw cash at local banks as needed. You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs on the international networks Cirrus and Plus, but make sure to check with your home bank about withdrawal fees. Inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges. International banks and businesses primarily accept debit and credit cards that work with the EMV chip system. If you do not already have at least one debit or credit card with a chip in it, we strongly recommend requesting one from your bank prior to your tour.
Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, though some charges may apply. There is no Wi-Fi on any of the motor coaches. Please contact your mobile service provider for information on roaming charges.
The diversity of Chinese cuisine reflects China’s long history. With each dynasty, new recipes and cooking styles emerged. The food on your tour will introduce you to many of the country’s Eight Cuisines— Shangdong, Sichuan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan and Anhui. Popular ingredients throughout include noodles, tofu, bok choy, bitter melon, Chinese broccoli and meats like chicken, duck and shrimp. Most meals are served with rice, and are often seasoned with ginger, garlic and white pepper. Along the Yangtze River, you may sample Ahhui cuisine. Some traditional Ahhui dishes include braised turtle with ham.
At least 60 days prior to departure, check with your doctor or healthcare provider for the latest updates and entry requirements, or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov. Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications may be banned in one or all of the countries on this tour. Importing these drugs can carry severe consequences, including imprisonment. Please consult your healthcare provider prior to departure to ensure that any drugs you may want to bring with you are legal in all countries you will visit.
In order for you to stay healthy throughout your tour, we recommend the following:
- Drink bottled water. Refrain from drinking tap water, including when brushing your teeth.
- Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or washed in clean water and peeled.
- Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication and any prescription medications
- If you have medication that you take daily, be sure you have enough for each day of the tour and any possible delays encountered.
- If you have dietary restrictions and/or food allergies please notify us at least 30 days prior to your departure.
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.
Electricity and Air-Conditioning
Mainland China operates at 220 volts and uses Type A, C and I plugs with two flat pins, two rounded pins or three flat pins set at an angle, respectively. We recommend packing a universal adapter, as well as a voltage converter if you plan on using your own hairdryer or other device without a built-in converter. The strength of the air conditioning in Asian hotels is often not as strong or as cool as what one might be used to in the U.S. or Canada. When air conditioning is available, it is usually regulated seasonally and controlled centrally by the hotel. Your hotels may provide hairdryers, irons and other small appliances. However, these amenities cannot be guaranteed.
China is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. and despite its size, has just one time zone (Beijing Standard Time). It is 15 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST), so when it’s noon in California, it’s 3 am everywhere in China.