A First-Time Traveler's Guide: Preparing for Travel to China



Hello = N ho
How are you? = N ho ma?

China is such an exotic, mesmerizing country to visit, full of mystery and mystique. It's such an awesome adventure for the tourist wishing for a journey which is absolutely unique. China is like no other country on earth, as you certainly will see once you arrive. The landscape is absolutely spectacular, so too are the beautiful temples. There is indeed a wealth of things to do and see, your only problem will be selecting what to do first. Your visit will certainly entail a cultural experience which is simply awesome!

The language is indeed extremely different, yet not really difficult to learn. Many words do sound similar, so you do need to have a good ear. Yet simple words of greeting will soon be sliding from your lips will little effort, if you apply yourself to learning. DVD's are available from many music stores; these are basically "listen, watch and speak" tutorials. These often, also incorporate a small lesson in cultural differences as well. Learn either Cantonese, Hoi San, Hokkien, Mandarin, or Taiwanese]

Now speaking of what to do first, we had better take care of pre -journey details. First and foremost, ensure that your health is good; see your general practitioner for a thorough health check and all inoculation that will be needed. If you take any form of medication make sure you will have an ample supply and that these are permitted in China. Some countries will not allow some specified medications past their customs department.

You will need a passport as well as a visa, along with your application you will need to send your photo ID such as your license, etc. Yet it will depend on what type of travel you are doing, as to which type of visa will be required, such as business, tourist, business and so forth. There is a fee required for visas and passports and an extra fee if you are wishing for a speedy response.

You will need to specify where you intend to stay (giving the name of hotels or friends, and the addresses. Your intended length of stay will need to be added as well as dates of travel. These application forms and any information you require, can be obtained from any Chinese embassy or consulate. Take note that if you wish to travel from the mainland to either Macaw or Hong Kong, ensure that your visa permits you to re -enter. Often many travelers find that their application for visa has only received a one-way consent.

The criterion for visa application is as follows:

Your passport needs to have at least six months validity remaining with blanks pages for your visa.
One completed visa application form which you can obtain from the Chinese consulate or embassy in person. You will need to send a stamped return address envelope. Or you can obtain this from the following website which is China Visa.
You will also require a recent passport size color picture of yourself, with a white background, these needs to be stuck to your visa application form.

Relevant documentation required for application for varied visa application.

Such as:

Business "F" visa, which will involve an official letter of invitation from the authorized Chinese government departments, institutions or companies you wish to attend.

Tourist / family visa. This will not cover travel to Tibet. No extra documents will be required for "L" visa applications. The consulate general or Chinese embassy does not issue individual visas for tourist travel to Tibet. All travelers who wish to travel here need to contact their travel agent to gain confirmation for a group visa which covers more than 5 people.

More information can be obtained through either:
China National tourist office in Toronto.
Contact Tel: 416-979-8993 or Fax: 416-979-8200
China National Tourist Office in New York
Tel: 212-867-0271 / Fax: 212-599-2892
The Tourist Bureau of Tibet China Fax them at
011-86-891-34632

A foreign student visa "X" application "JW201" or "JW202" is issued by the Ministry of education of the People's Republic of China. You will require and enrollment letter from the educational facilities in China.

For employment you will need a "Z" visa.

Transit you will need a "G" visa

Journalist will require "J-1" or "J-2" visa. You will need to contact the press offices of the Chinese Embassy for this in either Ottawa or the Chinese Consulates General in Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver. All information will be found at the above mentioned on-line website.

In Canada the Golden Mile 2000 Travel Consultant
203-1390 Prince of Wales Dr. Ottawa, ON. Canada K2C 3K6 will indeed be very informative and assist you with any queries.
Tel: 613-224-6863 / Fax: 613-224-7863

Now back to your visit

Taking a Chinese language/cultural class a few months prior to your journey, will be most fun as well educational. What you learn will certainly be put to good use once you are within the country. Learning a little about their culture will be an experience in itself.
Knowing a little of the language will assist you when bargaining in the market places or simply mingling with the extremely friendly locals. Apart from that, knowing what you are really ordering in the many restaurants will be a blessing. (A dear friend once asked for a stuffed whale!) She's still yet to live that comical experience down. The staff at the restaurant almost fell over each other laughing, and the response was "Missy very hungry?"

China is the land of many wonders, beauty, serenity, as well as spiritual calm. China is extremely rich in culture and religious beliefs, temples, courtesy, faith and integrity, yet very poor in financial standing in many areas. Such a land of diversity it is, and with that said, you will experience so much.

The language is certainly fast, furious and indeed different, as is the major difference in cultural terms.
The food is so varied with spices tantalizing the senses, which will indeed lure you to taste foods that you never ever contemplated before. This indeed is the land to visit if you wish for a trip that certainly entails an adventure far beyond your dreams.

The temples are stunning, the street parades exciting, the festivals exhilarating, the markets bustling, the people friendly and the scenic views like none you have ever seen before. You will surely feel as if you have stepped into heaven when you view the mountains, streams and natural beauty of China.

Visit the many shopping districts in Shanghai, or the numerous markets which sell silk at such a bargain price. Haggle for a bargain in the crowded market places. It's so exciting!(Take note that due to political reasons, a few places are "off limits" for the tourist such as Tibet.)

The Weather

North: The winters can be extremely cold from mid December to March. Beijing experiences temperatures of -20c at night; it is dry with no sun. A little further north you will find that temperatures of -40 are not rare, and that a very strange sight of snow covered sand dunes, will be seen.
Within the summer from early May to August the temperatures in Beijing will often reach 38c (100F) this coincides with the rainy season. If you wish to visit the north spring and autumn are the best times to go. Daytime temperatures actually range from 20C to 30C which is (68F-86F) dropping greatly at night time.

Central: Within the Yangtze River Valley you will experience a long and extremely humid summer, high temperatures begin in April and last through to October. Deemed as China's three famous furnaces on the Yangtze, are the cities of: Wuhan, Nanjing and Chongqing Yet winter brings forth freezing temperatures.

South: The summer brings with it a season of typhoons between July and September. (Near Guangzhou) so be prepared. Temperatures can increase to 38C.The winters are short being between January and March. Certainly not as cold as in the North area but bring warm coats. I found Fall and Spring to be the best time to visit. Day temperatures are usually between the 20C-25C range. It can at times, indeed be quite wet with rain and drizzle.

North-West: Dry, sunny and extremely hot in many areas. The desert areas are at times simply scorching! Turpin in particular which sits in a depression of 150m below sea level, brings forth temperatures of up to 47C. This is referred to as the hottest place in China. In winter the opposite occurs and it becomes severely cold. Yet this part of China experiences very little rain indeed, thus it the air becomes extremely stuffy and stifling.

The Chinese Currency is very simple to understand.

The Renminbi (RMB) or (CNY) is what the Chinese deem as "the people's currency."
Unit. Jiao (at times called "Mao" or Yuan as well as Fen.
1 yuan=10 jiao
1 jiao=1 fen

Exchange rate: The current exchange rate with the US dollar $100 USD = approximately 620 Yuan RMB (as at April 2013). Most money dealing is done incorporating whole units.
1 USD = 6.2021 CNY
1 CNY = 0.1612 USD

For the current exchange rate, please visit here.

Now in the matter of your health, realize that the sanitation (toiletry) of the Chinese will certainly differ to what you are used to. Most modern hotels and guest's travel accommodation will incorporate the western commodities, yet elsewhere you will surely be appalled. Unfortunately most toilets are basically holes in the ground or the floor. Often you will simply need to squat or sit on a board to do your business. Thus there is no septic tank flushing and indeed the odor can be upsetting.

I found that even in bustling, busy travel terminals, that there was nothing but squat holes located in cubicles. Take note that toilet paper is a luxury, so this is not supplied either! Pack plenty and bring along sanitary wipes which you can purchase from your local pharmaceutical store or supermarket. Don't fail to bring these or you will be embarrassed, uncomfortable, and rather irate!

Chinese religion varies as too does their beliefs, which they incorporate within their lives. These are indeed numerous, and eclectic, thus incorporating numerous religious traditions, rituals and ceremonies. Many practice Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

Their religion is indeed dualistic, this empathizes the two opposed principals of the universe, thus the practice of Yin and Yang. These are the cosmic principals they often live by. They believe in the afterlife, attention to the body and soul, as well as Chi, Buddhist deities, Spirits and ghosts, as well as folk deities. Take yourself to one of the many spiritual festivals you will be glad you did!

Do not attempt take any fruits or vegetable into the country, or out of it. This is illegal. Be cautious of what you purchase in market places and shops, as many items will be vetoed for departure. Many store owner vow to get consent papers for you, when you purchase artifacts, art, valuable ornaments, and so forth, but it rarely happens. Read up on exactly what you can take out of the country.

Have a wonderful time and don't fail to visit when at least you can partake of one of these wonderful celebrations!
Autumn moon festival
Chinese New Year
Chinese Buddhist festival
Ghost Festival
Or the Qing Ming Jie (tomb weeping day)


Read more in FAQ - Visa and Passport