- Packing, Luggage and Customs
- Travel and Safety Information
- Currency and Credit Cards
- Culture Information and Resources
- Phones and Internet
- Additional Travel Information
When packing, be sure to consider the necessity of each item, as well as space and weight restrictions on luggage. You are responsible for transporting your own luggage, as well as for paying fees for oversized or overweight baggage. China is a modern, vibrant country. Most everyday products are widely available. However, you may not find the specific product brands or sizes you have access to in the United States. Be sure to pack whatever you consider essential.
1. Bring a change of clothes and other essential belongings in your carry-on luggage, in case of delayed or lost luggage.
2. Leave enough empty space in your baggage for the souvenirs, teaching materials, and other items you wish to bring back.
3. Pack an assortment of clothing. You need:
Business attire for welcoming ceremonies and meetings. There will be a planned receptions as well as formal Chinese dinners. In China, appropriate business attire is suits and ties for men, and business suits or dresses with dress shoes for women.
Business casual attire is suitable for school visits.
Comfortable, casual clothes are recommended for travel and sightseeing.
4. Additional items
- Passport holder (waist-pack or neck-strap) for carrying key documents securely
- Sufficient number of English-language business cards
- Medicinal products: aspirin or Tylenol, Imodium or Pepto-Bismol, lozenges, decongestants, band-aids, and any special medications
- Foldable umbrella
- Hand-wipes and tissues for use in public restaurants or restrooms; you may wish to bring hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand cleaner
- Personal hygiene products: toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap, razor, shaving cream
- Journal for keeping notes and observations
- Camera (consider bringing extra memory cards and a battery charger if you have a digital camera)
If you take prescription medicine, bring a copy of each prescription or a letter from your health-care provider on office stationery, explaining that the medication has been prescribed for you. Always carry medications in their original containers in your carry-on luggage.
Important Reminder: When packing your carry-on bag, please remember that all liquids, gels and aerosols must be in three-ounce or smaller containers. When going thorough airport security, all liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Read a list of permitted and prohibited items on the Transportation Security Administration web site.
Gifts are frequently exchanged in Chinese culture, especially in situations of hosting and visiting. Chinese hosts are traditionally very cordial and attentive to their guests; in most situations, they prepare small presents to give away.
Many delegates have been asking what type of gifts they should prepare to bring along on the Delegation. College Board will prepare symbolic gifts for us to present to provincial and school leaders on behalf of our regional group. We do not recommend that you bring gifts for the school and provincial officials, due to the size of the group. You will, however, have opportunities to interact one-on-one with teachers, students, and volunteers. If you’d like, you may bring a few small souvenirs as a token of friendship for these people, though it is entirely optional. The best way to show your appreciation is to be respectful and to thank Chinese hosts for their generosity and efforts in receiving us.
Typically, there are more severe limitations on domestic flights within China. For information on prohibited items for air travel, please visit the Transportation Security Administration.
Baggage restrictions, requirements and checked baggage fee policies vary for each airline, so please check the website of the airline you are flying with. In most cases, the economy class baggage allowance on international flights is 2 checked bags, each not exceeding 50 lb (23 kg).
Domestic flights within China
When traveling by air within China, you are restricted to 1 carry-on bag and 1 checked bag. The checked bag must weigh less than 44 lbs. Overweight luggage in China is penalized heavily and delays your travel.
Going Through Customs
On the flight to China, you will receive a customs declaration form, health form, and entry form. Fill them out before you leave the plane and enter customs.
Travel and Safety Information
Important travel and safety information is available on the U.S. Department of State website.
Important Reminder: When traveling, always carry a photocopy of your passport photo page and visa page separately from your original documents and leave a copy with family or friends at home. If your passport is lost or stolen, the photocopies will greatly facilitate and expedite the process of applying for a replacement.
Health is an extremely personal matter and individuals need to make their own informed choices.
Vaccinations and Immunizations
Please discuss your travel plans and health with your own medical doctor and/or consult the Centers for Disease Control for information on recommended preparations.
All delegates are required to have medical coverage while onsite in China. Check your medical insurance policy for coverage overseas. Selected participants have the option to purchase travel medical insurance through Echo Travel when filling out their online registration form. If you are interested in alternatives, please check on the Internet or ask your medical provider for references; possible options include SOS International, Global Underwriters, Travel Guard or Medex.
Food and Water
China has a wide variety of foods and drinks available, many of which are familiar. Some visitors find that they need time to adjust to another country's cuisine and water, so following the suggestions below may prove helpful.
- The tap water in China is not drinkable. Drink only bottled or boiled water, and avoid ice. Also use bottled or boiled water for brushing teeth. The water provided in restaurants is boiled.
- Drink plenty of water, especially while touring and sightseeing.
- Do not buy food on the streets. Exceptions are food that you see being cooked and served hot on clean or disposable plates, as well as commercially packaged foods.
- Do not eat unwashed raw or unpeeled vegetables or fruits.
- If you have dietary allergies, carry medications with you and make sure to ask before you try anything unfamiliar. Err on the side of caution. Do not put your health or life at risk.
You can use cash, credit cards, and travelers checks in China. Although they function similarly as in the United States, there are some differences of which you should be aware.
Chinese Currency and Currency Exchange
The basic unit of Chinese currency, renminbi (RMB), is the yuan (or kuai, as it is sometimes called informally), with denominations of the yuan, jiao, and fen. These bear a relationship to each other somewhat like the U.S. dollar, dime, and penny. RMB is not traded on international markets and can be officially purchased or exchanged only in China. The most current exchange rate is available online or in newspapers. You can change money at airports, hotels, banks, and major department stores; usually the hotel exchange rate is better than the airport exchange rate. A passport is required for all currency exchanges. Save your currency exchange receipts; they are required to exchange RMB back into U.S. currency, upon departure. View examples of Chinese currency.
Using Your Credit Card in China
Major credit cards (with the exception of the Discover Card) are accepted at most hotels, tourist stores, and factory outlets in large cities. Be sure to record your account numbers and customer service telephone numbers in case you lose your credit cards. It is a good idea to make major purchases by credit card. You get a good exchange rate, the protection of the card's charge-back provisions, and, often, an extra guarantee on your purchase. Before using your credit cards abroad, you should notify your card provider of your dates of travel. Otherwise, credit authorization may be declined.
Be sure to contact all of your credit card companies immediately, if you discover that your wallet has been lost or stolen. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call. The following are the phone numbers in China:
- Visa (North China): 10-800-711-2911
- Visa (South China): 10-800-110-2911
- American Express (Global Assist): (010) 715-343-7977 (collect)
- MasterCard (Asia/Pacific): 10-800-110-7309,10-800-711-7309
Using Traveler's Checks in China
All traveler's checks drawn on American banks are accepted in China. Traveler's checks usually command a better exchange rate than cash or credit cards. For convenience, carry some traveler's checks in $20 denominations. Be sure to make a list of your check numbers and keep the purchase invoice of your traveler's checks in a safe place, separate from your wallet and passport. Make sure the name on your traveler's checks matches the name on your passport.
ATMs in China
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in large cities, although they are not as readily available as in the United States. ATMs are available in Beijing, but some in local banks may not accept international ATM cards. Withdrawals usually are limited to ¥2,000 yuan per day.
It may help to familiarize yourself with some of the customs in China before your arrival.
Information about Chinese culture, language, and education is available online. Consider buying a Chinese travel guidebook. Guidebooks are a great source of general information on a variety of topics (sights, history, geography, population, government, and health) and usually contain a phrase book or a simple dictionary.
Eating and Drinking
It is customary for Chinese hosts to say that there is not enough food or that it is not well-prepared. They are being humble; it is always nice to respond with appreciation and thanks. Dishes are generally served family-style, in the middle of the table for everyone to share. Serve yourself from main dishes using the spoon provided and then eat with chopsticks. Do not leave chopsticks sticking up out of your bowl. Your cup of tea will constantly be topped up-when you don't want any more, leave it full. If you are offered a dish that you really do not want, you can politely refuse or accept a small amount and just take a taste. In general, try to keep an open mind and be respectful of the food offered to you.
Many toasts are made during group dinners and banquets. Chinese hosts may toast each and every person, and they may offer you a very strong local hard liquor called bai jiu. If you empty the glass for every toast, they will immediately refill it, and you may quickly find yourself more under the influence than expected!
Tipping is welcomed in some situations in China, though it is not a tradition to tip in restaurants. In hotels, it is customary to give small tips (5-10 yuan, approximately 50 cents to $1-2) to porters, cleaning staff, or others assisting you. It is also appropriate to tip tour guides.
Computer and Internet Access
Most hotels either have Ethernet Internet connections for laptops in guest rooms, or have business centers where you can use a computer, for a small fee. Wi-Fi may be available in some hotel lobbies, but it is not possible to confirm Internet access at every hotel. You are welcome to bring portable devices if you wish, however, please consider the weight and space they require in your luggage.
Making Telephone Calls from and to China
The international country code for mainland China is 86.
To call China from the United States:
- Dial the international access code 011.
- Dial the country code 86 for China.
- Dial the city code, omitting the leading zero, and then dial the number. To reach Beijing, you would dial 011-86-10-XXXX-XXXX.
- You can find very good deals for international phone cards online. The rate could be as low as 1 cent per minute for international calls to and/or from China.
To call the U.S. from China:
- Dial 001 plus the area code and phone number you are trying to reach.
- If you call from a hotel, be sure to consult their instructions regarding fees and local access numbers.
To make calls within China:
- To call locally, dial the eight-digit number.
- To call from one city to another, dial zero, the city code (10 for Beijing), and then the local number.
U.S. Cell Phones in China
Check with your service provider to be sure that your cell phone and service works in China. Verify the rate you will be charged; using your phone in China may be very expensive. If you have a three-band GSM-type phone, you may be able to purchase a SIM-card in the Beijing airport to begin using it. It is necessary to unlock the phone beforehand, so please contact your service provider for details. This option may not be available if your phone uses another technology, such as CDMA (used by Verizon).
Consider purchasing calling cards in China. These are available at hotels, newsstands, and convenience stores and they offer relatively good rates on long-distance calling. Make sure to ask how to use the card as some may only work in the city where they are purchased, or incur higher fees if used elsewhere.
This information may also prove useful for your trip.
- China uses 220V instead of 110V. If you bring American appliances, you need a converter. Converters are available in major department stores, supermarkets, and electronics stores. Make sure the converter is from 220V to 110V, not the other way around. If you use a converter you probably also need plug adapters.
- If you are bringing a laptop, check the directions on the power supply since many of the newer laptops can run on both 220V and 110V.
- China uses more than one type of plug. To use appliances or electronics, purchase a universal plug adapter set. You need plug adapters even for dual-voltage appliances.
During Daylight Savings (March–November), there is a 12-hour time difference between China and Eastern Daylight Time (i.e., Beijing is 12 hours ahead of New York). During the rest of the year, the time difference between China and Eastern Standard Time is 13 hours.
Climate and Weather
China has a continental and seasonal climate. The climate varies depending on the region.
- For emergency assistance by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, call 010-8531-4000 (within China)
In the event of an emergency, no matter where you are in China, dial:
- Local Police: 110
- Operator: 114
- Fire Department: 119
- Medical Emergencies: 120
- Traffic Emergencies: 122