Health & Safety Information
Currently, no vaccinations are required by Chinese law to enter the country. Vaccinations usually recommended for a trip to China include those against Tetanus, Hepatitis, Diphtheria, Cholera and Typhoid. Malaria tablets are generally unnecessary for most regions in China. We advise you to check with your doctor or clinic for the most up-to-date medical information.
For health products and services, most major cities have international medical centers, which cater to the needs of both expatriate residents and foreign tourists. Pharmacies, supermarkets and luxury hotel shops in the major cities are stocked with many of the Western medicines and sanitary products you might require.
Clearly, if you regularly use certain health products and/or medicines, and are worried that these might be unavailable in China, the safest course of action is to bring a sufficient supply with you.
Dining & Food Safety
Travelers’ concerns about sanitary and hygiene conditions in China are generally confounded by the conditions to which Imperial Tours introduces them. Eating at restaurants recommended by Conde Nast Traveler and residing in the top luxury hotels, guests will find themselves reassured by the Western standards they encounter. Furthermore, since Imperial Tours’ menus are designed for the Western palate, there are no challenging "exotic" items served to guests, unless requested.
On the other hand, Chinese food does incorporate the use of strong flavors provided by garlic, chili and ginger. Travelers with sensitive stomachs, unused to these flavors, might take precautionary measures by bringing along medicines for common stomach upsets. Because Chinese cuisine is so diverse, it is not difficult for us to accommodate most dietary requirements.
Unboiled tap water is not safe to drink. Clean bottled water is readily available throughout China, but make sure that the seal has not been broken before opening.
Although many tourist sites in China have been modified for wheelchair access, advance notice is needed to put many of these provisions into effect. Also note that some sites that have wheelchair access often nonetheless still require wheelchair users to get up once or twice to cross various thresholds. Travelers who suspect they will need the help of a wheelchair should notify the China Expert so that proper arrangements can be made in advance.
The general level of safety for international tourists is quite high, and erratic traffic behavior provides the greatest safety risk in most urban areas. Additionally Beijing and Shanghai boast a measure of personal security exceeding that expected in Western cities such as London, New York, Paris or Los Angeles.
Weather & Appropriate Attire
As one of the largest countries of the world, it comes as no surprise that China has extremely diverse climates.
In summer, the weather can be hot so light clothing, i.e. cotton and linen, is recommended with perhaps a light sweater as interiors are often cooled by air-conditioning.
Spring and autumn weather is generally very pleasant, but you should bring light sweaters for chillier mornings and evenings. Light, comfortable footwear is appropriate, i.e. sneakers, sandals.
In winter, the weather especially in the north can be cold with strong winds, thus necessitating a heavy coat, sweaters, scarf, gloves and a hat. However, as hotels and buses are always heated, it is advisable that you wear layers of clothing to accommodate temperature differences.
Since restaurant dress codes are generally relaxed, there is no need to bring much more than comfortable and convenient clothing. In Beijing and Shanghai you may well wish to wear something smart in the evenings. Although a jacket and tie are not required, certain restaurants do have restrictions on sneakers, shorts, and other casual attire. For details, contact the China Travel Expert.
The sun can be quite strong in southern areas of China so bring sun creams, sun glasses and a hat (and for tropical Sanya, your swimsuit!). Since certain destinations have seasonal rainstorms, we advise that you bring a waterproof jacket. All top luxury hotels in China provide sturdy umbrellas.
It is recommended that you buy comprehensive travel insurance as well as trip cancellation insurance. If you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition, it is sensible to ensure that your travel policy covers this. Please note that many travel insurance policies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions.
The government of the People’s Republic of China requires an entry visa prior to arrival. Under most circumstances, visas can only be obtained at Chinese consulates or embassies. For a tourist visa, the application procedure is straightforward and typically requires five business days. Express service is generally available to obtain a visa in 1-2 working days, but please note there are sometimes restrictions on this service. For more information, contact your nearest Chinese embassy.
The Chinese peoples’ national currency or "Renminbi" (RMB) consists of "fen", "jiao" and "yuan". There are 10 fen in one jiao, and 10 jiao in one yuan. The basic currency unit is the yuan, known colloquially as a kuai. The yuan is denominated in notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. One yuan or kuai is worth about 13 American cents or 8 British pennies. 100 kuai is approximately worth about 14 American Dollars or 10 British Pounds.
The interbank buy and sell rates usually however around 6.8 Renminbi to the US dollar. All licensed money change locations, whether at high street banks or hotel desks, must change at a centrally fixed rate.
Traveler’s checks and all the major foreign currencies can be changed into Renminbi at hotels, banks and some department stores. These establishments are obliged by law to change at an official rate established by the People’s Bank of China.
Major international credit cards are usually accepted at large department stores and gift shops. Using international credit cards to draw cash from ATM or automatic-teller machines has become generally possible but should not be taken for granted.
The Chinese electricity system runs at 220 volts, 50 cycles per second AC. Electrical plugs are usually two pronged, either flat pinned as in the States or round as in Europe. There are also three-pronged, angled, pinned plugs in the Australian style. International travel adapter plugs are readily available at most travel stores in the West and China’s major metropolises, but may be more difficult in the less developed regions. Electrical current converters however, a difficult to locate in China and it is suggested you bring one for any appliances that do not run on 220V. All hotels are equipped with hair dryers and many also include 110V sockets.
Chinese Cultural Customs
Many etiquette rules in China are related to a very ubiquitous aspect of the culture: face. In its simplest form, face is a person’s honor and prestige within a community. It can be gained, sullied, and lost during social interaction; therefore, Chinese people often put heavy emphasis on following correct etiquette. For the traveler in China, make sure to observe these rules:
- Body or eye contact is not always expected upon a first meeting: if you shake hands, use an appropriate pressure.
- Give and receive (gifts, business cards, and other important items) with two hands: a representation of a person’s identity or reputation should not be dealt casually, nor cast into your pocket!
- Keep your cool in negotiations or during sensitive conversations: to lose a temper is to lose face.
- Provide abundantly: at the dinner table, hosts will continually refill guests’ plates with dishes they are most tempted by (woe be to a “polite” Western guest who finishes all the food on his plate and the Chinese host scrambles to serve him more. Someone eventually must give in!).
- Give suggestions and opinions indirectly: a frank critique is often considered rude.
Tipping is not a custom in China, though the influx of Western tourists is teaching many Chinese hotel staff to expect tips. Should you wish to tip a bell boy, you might give about 10 to 20 yuan. In restaurants and taxis, it is still uncustomary to tip.