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  Travel Tips
   

Many people have a lot of misconceptions about China in general, and specifically Beijing,Westerners, especially Americans tend to think of China as a sort of unstable, militaristic police state. Actually, Beijing is a pretty safeplace, and you can enjoy a pleasant and secure time here. Indeed,as a foreigner,you will often be given special consideration and a certain amount of leniency. Of course, you have to abide by the law and respect the culture and customs, but in general you don't need to be afraid of this city. It is a friendly place and Beijing people are cosmopolitan and well aware of the world outside. Sometimes you will get stared at, but this is usually out of curiosity. Hostility toward foreigners is very rare. Most people are friendly and willing to help out if possible.

Visas

If you are coming to China for travel,you should obtain a touristvisa from the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in your home country. It is more convenient for tourists booked through Chinese travel agencies to get group visas for their visit to China. Tourist visas are usually good for two months, but can be extended for an extra month at the Foreigners Section of the public Security Bureau. If you want to continue traveling in China for more than three months, you will have to leave the country,get a new visa,and cone back. It is not too much trouble to go to Hong Kong and apply for a new visa. You can get a new one is two or three days.(Even though Hong Kong is now officially part of China, going there still counts as leaving the country.) for a little more money you can get a six-month visa from the China Travel Sdervice in Hong Kong. More adventurous souls can go to Mongolia, but you have to get another visa to go there. Whatever you do, don't stay in the country longer than your visa allows. The fine for overstaying your welcome is 500 yuan (US$55) perday!

It is wise to carr your passport with you at all times, as you need it to register in hotels, buy plane tickets and change money. Also, sometimes there are random checkpoints at night for passengers riding in taxis, of you can't produce identity proving who you are, you could be fined a whopping 5 yuan. However they usually don't bother with foreigners. if you lose your passport, you should report immediately to your embassy, as well as tell the public Security Bureau.

Foreigners Section of the Public Security Bureau
Add:2, Ankingmen Dajie
Visa inquires:84015292

Taiwan compatriots can obtain visas from the Hong Kong Consulate of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Those who come back to the mainland via the United States, Japan and otyer countries can obtain travel visas from Chinese embassies and consulates.

Hong Kong and Macao residents should hold Re-en-try cards of Hong Kong and Macao compatriots for travel of family visits to the mainland.

Overseas Chinese can enter China without visas. They can enter and leave China with valid passports or other ID cards issued by relevant departments of the Chinese govemment.

Accommodations

When you check into your hotel,you will need to show your passport and fill out a temporary residence form. Officially, foreigners can only stay in hotels that are three-star and above. If you have Chinese friends or relatives living here, an you want to stay with them, that is OK too. But you should register at the local public Security Bureau and let them know you are there, you can also register with the local Housing Committee Ju Wei Hui (there is one in every residential area.) it may sound a little troublesome, having to register wit the police or te Housing Committee, but it is better to let them know than for them to find out themselves. If you don't register it could present problems for you or the people you are staying with.

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Customs

Incoming passengers are allowed to bring with them, under remporary admission, one of each of the items listed below:

Camera,portable tape-recorder, portable cinecamera, portable video-camera, and portable com-puter.

Passengers carrying personal items over this limit should declare accurately to the Customs and fullill all necessary customs formalities.

* Gold, silver and ornaments made thereof

Passengers should declare to the Customs if the amount of gold, silver and other ornaments made thereof they ary carrying exceeds 50 grams.

Any consignment for export of gold. Silver and ornaments made thereof (including handicrafts of inlaid goldware and silverware ) purchased in the territory shall only be allowed with special invoices issued by the People's Bank of China.

* Foreign exchange

On entering, no restrictions are imposed on the amount of foreign currency, travelers checks, credit cards. However , non-residents carrying more than 5,000 US dollars in cash should declare to the Customs the Customs shall permit foreign exchange to be carried out based on the declarations or on relevant regulations issude by the National Administration of Exchange Control.

* Cultural relics (including works by late modem famous painters and calligrahpers)

Cultural relics intended for export shall be sent in advance to the cultural administrative departments for verification. The Customs shall release them on the basis of authentic marks affixed on the works by the cultural administrative departments and invoeces for permitting cultural relics out of the territory, or export license.

* Chinese herbs and Chinese patent medicines

The maximum limits per person on the value of Chinese herbs and Chinese patent medicines to be carried out to foreign countries shall be 300 Renminbi per person, and 150 Renminbi for traveling to Hong Kong or Macao.

The maximum limits on the value of medicine sent by post shall be 200 Renminbi abroad, and 100 Renminbi to Hong Kong and Macao.

Export of musk and any otyer Chinese herbs and medicines in excess of the prescribed limit mentioned above is prohibited.

* Prohibited imports:

1. Arms, imitation arms, ammunition and explosives of all kinds;

2. Counterfeit currency and counterfeit negotiable securities;

3. Printed matter, films, photos, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and video-tapes,compact discs (video&audio), storage media for computers and other articles which are detrimental to the political, economic, cultural and moral intersts of China;

4. Deadly poisons of all kinds;

5. Opium, morphine, heroin, marihuana and other addiction inducing or hallucinatory drugs;

6. Animals,plants and products made thereof infected with or carrying diseases, insect pests and other harmful organisms;

7. Foodstuffs, medicines and other artcles coming from epidemic-stricken areas and harmful to humans and livestock, or those capable of spreading diseases.

* Prohibited exports;

1. all articles enumerated as articles prohibited from import;

2. manuscripts, printed matter, films, photos, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and video-tapes, compact discs (video&audio),storage media for computers and other articles which involve state secrets;

3. valuable cultural relics and other relics prohibited from export;

4. endangered and rare animals, plants (including their specimens)and their seeds or reproducing materials.

Climate and Clothing

Beijing's climate is defined as "continental monsoon." The four seasons are distinctly recognizable. Autumn is the best time to be in Beijing;the temperature is mild and the sun is out a lot. The temperature in spring is nice, too, but it is very dry and winds whip sand around the ciyt. Tummer can be unbearably hot, and winter is equally freezing cold, assisted by winds blowing down directly from siberia. Beijign nice clothes for going out at night, but for touring during the day wear casual clothes and comfortable sturdy shoes. In autumn, jeans and a sweater are usually enough. In the warmer months, T-shirts and light pants or shorts are the best bet. In the colder months, it is wise to dress in layers; long underwear and jeans, shirt, sweater and down jacket.it you want to go local, you can buy a cool army coat (jun da yi )for less than 100 yuan.

Communicating

Spoken communication has been a problem in China for fhundreds, if not thousands of years. Different people from defferent regions separated by rivers and mountains tend to spead differently from each other. There are hundreds of different dialects in China , and many of them are like totally different languages, though they are all lumped together into the category "Chinese." The official language of China is Mandarin Chinese ,actually a northern dealect, and this is what the people of Beijing speak. Often when Chinese people from the countryside or farflung regions of the country come to Beijing, they have a hard time communicating. So if you are having difficulty making yourself understood, you are not alone! Most hotel staff can speak English, so this is ont a big problem, But on the street it may be defficult to communiate. If you are going to take a taxi, get someone to write down the address of your destination in Chinese. Street signs have characters as well as pinyin (Chinese Romanization), so if you have a map, it is easier to figure out where you are, Also,nowadays most young people are studying English, so for simple directions and help,you can most likely get assistance from a younger person. If they can't help you, they will most likely do their best to find someone who can .

When addressing somebody, remember that in China, the surname comes before the given name, there are hundreds of surnames, the most common being zhang, Li, Wang, Zhao and Liu, so if a woman's name is Wu Runmei ,you should call her Ms.Wu. names are usually composed of two or three characters and ocasionally four. If a person has four character name, the first two are the surname and the second two are their given name. Women keep their own surname after marriage, so if somebody's husband's surname is Wang,it doesn't mean that she is Mrs.Wang. she is still Mrs. Whatever.

Business Hours

Offices in Beijing generally open from 08:30-17:00,with a lunch break of about an hour . Government stipulated work days are from Monday to Friday. Shops generally open at 09:00and close between 19:00 and 21:00 and are open on Sundays. Offices are usually closed on public holidays including New Year's Day, Spring Festival(the Chines Lunar New Year), when most Chinese take four days off, Labor Day on May I and National Day on October 1.

Money

The official currency in China is the Renminbi (RBM)or "people's currency."the basic unit is the yuan (also known as "kuai"),which equals 10 jiao (or "mao"), which is then divided into 10 fen. Paper currency comes in 1.2,5,10,50 and 100 yuan notes. Paper jiao come in denominations of 1,2, and 5. There are also 1 and 2 fen notes, but these are rarely used as their purchasing power is exactly zero. As for coins, there are 1 youan ,1 and 5 jiao,and 1,2, and 5 fen(ahain, the fen are basically useless).

Changing money

You can exchange traveler's chechs or cash at most banks, and hotels always have a money exchange counter.you can also get a cash advance on your American Express card, but for this you need to go to the Bank of China headquarters at Fuchengmen or the one at the Asia-Pacific Building (Ya Tai Da Sha)on Yabao Lu. To change money, you have to have your passport at hand. If you want to change money in a hotel, you usually have to be a guest there. Sometimes if you are not a guest in a hotel but need to change money there, you can just say a random room number, but this doesn't always work.

At present ,the RMBis not exchangeable on the internaitional market, so it is only usable within the country. So when you are changing money, don't change too much, because it is difficult to change back into other currencies. To change RMB back into your home currency, you must retain the exchange slips that are given to you at the bank or money exchange counter. Then when you want to go home, you have to bring the slips with you to prove that you are merely changing back money you haven't spent instead of taking out needed foreign exchange.if you lose the slips, you can change on the black market (locations vary , ask a Chinese friend for details),but the exchange rate is not so good.and of course it is illegal.

Credit cards

Major credit cards such as Master Card , Visa, JCB and American Express can be used to purchase goods in large department stores. Credit cards cannot be used in small restaurants or small convenience stores. They are mostly useful for paying for really ecpensive things. They can be used to pay for hotel rooms and for meals in some of the fancier restaurants. You can also buy plane tickets with them. As mentioned above. AmEx can be used to get a cash advanec in the main offices of the Bank of China. It is also possible to cash a check against the AmEx card ,but again , only in the main offices.

Wiring money

You can wire money , or have it wired to you , using a service called Money Transfer, which is a joint project between the China Courier Service Corporation and Western Union, this service allows instant money wiring to and from 100 countries. Places that have this service are:

Asian Games Village Post Office Jianguomendaijie Post Office China Courier Service Co.,7 Qianmen Dongdajie

Hotline:6318-4313

Counterfeit Money

The government is cracking down on it. Still you need to be aware of this. Unless you have been here for this . unless you have been here for a while, it is not easy to spot. The ways to identify phony money are by the color, the watermark, the paper, and the braille dots. The ways to identify phony money are by the color, the watermark, the paper, and the braille dots. The color of RMB notes is hard to imitate, and counterfeit bills are usually too fuzzy, that is, the images and colors are not so sharp. The watermark on counterfeit money is also not clear. On real bills the outline of the model worker or the Great Helmsman (on the 100)is fairly distinct. The way to test the paper is to look at it under a black light. Originally,the way to tell real from fake was to see if the words "YIBAI"or "WUSHI"(depending on the denomination) appeared in fluorescent letters under the light.But the pros have found a way to imitate this. Now the true test is to see the color of the paper itself under te black light. If the paper appears bright, then it is fake. If it appears to absorb the black light. Then it is real. The final test is the dots. On each denomination of the yuan notes (nobody bothers mading fake jiao, not to mention fen), there is a corresponding number in braille in the lower left hand corner of the front side. It is hard to feel, but the dots are slightly raised on the surface of the paper. If they are not, then it is also a fake.

Radio and TV

Beijing's larger hotels have satellite dishes that can receive kozens of channels from all over the world. America's CNN, NHK from Japan and Srar TV from Hong Kong are staples. Then there are many Chinese channels, the main ones being China Central TV and Beijing TV. For a Chinese perspective, CCTV2 and 4, as well as BTV1 all have English news programs in the evening at 23:00 in Chinese residential homes, channels from provinces and regions all over China are piped in through cable TV , but foreign channels are usually not available, with the occasional exception of star TV.

China Radio International broadcasts to the world around the clock in 39 languages and four Chinese dialects. 91.5 Easy FM features 12 hours of English broadcasting and Western music. This station also has news updates every hour on the hour for five minutes. Another English language and music radio program is 91.5 joy FM from 21:00-23:00.

Publications

The English-language China Daily (published seven days a week) and Beijing Weekend (published every Friday)is available in all leading hotels. Most bookstores sell the magazines Beijing Review, China Pictorial, and China Today (published in various languages),as well as the English-language Women in China.

An informative English monthly is Beijing This Month, distributed free at the beginning of every month at most star-rated hotels, the Capital International Air-port and major universities. Business Beijing , the sister magaine of Beijing This Month, is also published around the 1th of each month. To subscribe to the two magazines, just call 67152379,67152380 or fax 67152381 , for information.

Hotel shops also stock a wide variety of newspapers, magazines and books from Hong Kong, Japan, Europe and the United States.

International calls

International calls can be made directly from hotel rooms with IDD phones. Just dial the international prefix 00, plus country code, area code and number. Some large post offices also provide this service. Otherwise, look for roadside kiosks with the IDD sign. IDD calls have a three-minute minimum charge, additional time thereafter is calculated by the minute. Operator-assisted international calls have a minimum three-minute charge. Four-star and five-star hotels charge a variable service charge from 10 to 20 percent. For a collect international call, just dial the number listed in the section of Beijing Directory. The AT&T operator number in China is 10811.

Domestic Long-distance Calls

Direct long-distance calls (DDD) can be made from most hotels to some 2,000 localities throughout China. Visitors should dial the domestic prefix 0, plus area code and the number. Hotel service charges are the same as for international calls. Most post offices also provide this service. Alternatively look for roadside kiosks with the IDD and DDD sign. If your call isn't urgent, phone between 21:00 and 07:00-not only is it easier to get through but calls are half the daytime price.

Phone cards

Magnetic phone cards and IC phone cards for IDD and DDD are available in major telecommunications offices and large hotels. China phone cards are specially issued to offer DDD and IDD services in any direct-dial phone around the city. Charges for calls within Beijing are 0.5 yuan per three minutes, and there is no half price for long-distance calls. Users may buy the cards at the Beijing Long-Distance Phone Service at Fuxingmen. Be careful, phone cards issued by Beijing Telecom can only be used in phones in Beijing. Phone cards issued by the Post Office telephones. Cards issued by China Telecom can be used anywhere apart from the post office.

Medical services

Most hotels have access to a doctor. They can also help guests buy medicine or, if necessary, go to the hospital. Below is a list of a few local hospitals and clinics catering to foreigners.

Express mail services

DHL,UPS,EMS,TNT and FedExprovide express mail services for urgent documents, parcels and other items to more than 10,000 cities in 170 countries and regions.EMS is the only official one in China that can handle private letters and has particular advantage handling mail within China. The Beijing shuang Chen Express Co. Handles fast delivery of gifts and flwoers within the city on request. Many express delivery services have offices in major hotels and office buildings. Check the building directory in the lobby for their locations.

Some 45 post offices and express mail counters at hotel business centers can also hotel business centers can also handle urgent letters.

Post & Teleommuniations Office

Besides regular postal services, this office handles remittances,money orders, telegraphic money transfers, international and domestic telephone and telegraph services. In the same building there is a Customs office for those who need customs clearance for postal items.

Electricity

Most luxury hotels have builtin converters in bathrooms for shavers, hair dryers, etc. Otherwise, come equipped, because an amazing variety of plug types are in use. The voltage is 220 volts.

Water

Potable water is available only at a few of the best hotels, so tour-ists should always ask to make sure. Flasks of hot and cold boiled water in rooms are telltale signs of nonpotable tap water. Bottled mineral water is widely available in all stores and street kiosks and sometimes provided free by the hotel. Madein-China mineral water is usually sold at around 3 yuan per bottle.

Laundry

The Chinese Laundries so popular in the U.S.are harder to find here. There are also no coin-op launduomats. However,laundry services are available at most hotels, usually via the floor attendants. One-day dry cleaning and ironing services are offered at better hotels. Quality of service and price vary. Try a few easily replaceable articles first.

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