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Climate and Clothing
China lies mainly in the temperate and subtropical zones. Generally, its southern part (East China, South China and Southwest china) is warm, humid, and rainy; its northern part (North China, Northeast China, and northwest China) is dry and windy. In spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) you will need a lined jacket or woolen sweater over light clothes. In summer (June to August) cool cotton garments are recommended. In winter (December to February) a light cotton-patted coat will keep you warm enough in the south; but in the north a heavy woolen coat or down parka is a must. Later spring and late summer are often rainy especially in the southern part of China, so you would be wise to bring some rainwear with you. And of course good walking shoes are essential at any time of year.
Shopping for Souvenirs
Shopping in China is getting more convenient. For those who are staying in the country for more than just a few days, they may need their choice brands of daily necessities which can be found in most of the large department stores and shopping malls which are springing up in the country. Western retail companies have established outlets in major cities in China which carry both domestic and imported goods. For those who want to shop for souvenirs to take home, they can look around, apart from large department stores and shopping malls, in some of the open markets such as the Xiushui Street and Panjiayuan Antique Market in Beijing. Unlike large department stores where the prices are fixed, these places are where you can and you must bargain. Your local tour guides or hosts are the best help when you go to these places. They will prove essential in finding the real stuff and bringing the prices down!
Of course, the main difference on the Chinese dinner table is chopsticks instead of knife and fork, but that’s only superficial. Besides, in decent restaurants, you can always ask for a pair of knife and fork, if you find the chopsticks not helpful enough. The real difference is that in the West, you have your own plate of food, while in China the dishes are placed on the table and everyone shares. If you are being treated to a formal dinner and particularly if the host thinks you’re in the country for the first time, he will do the best to give you a taste of many different types of dishes. Perhaps one of the things that surprise a Western visitor most is that some of the Chinese hosts like to put food into the plates of their guests. In formal dinners, there are always “public” chopsticks and spoons for this purpose, but some hosts may use their own chopsticks. This is a sign of genuine friendship and politeness. It is always polite to eat the food. If you do not eat it, just leave the food in the plate. People in China tend to over-order food, for they will find it embarrassing if all the food is consumed. When you have had enough, just say so. Or you will always overeat!
The Chinese Currency
Renminbi, the Chinese currency, is issued by the state bank, the People’s Bank of China. The standard unit of the Renminbi is yuan, with jiao and fen as the subsidiary units. Thus one yuan equals ten jiao and one jiao equals ten fen. Yuan, jiao and fen are issued both in bills of exchange and coins. Renminbi features the following denominations: one, two, five, ten, fifty and a hundred yuan; one, two, and five jiao; and one, two and five fen. The abbreviation for Renminbi is RMB.
Credit cards are gaining more acceptance in China for use by foreign visitors in major tourist cities. Useful cards include Visa, Master Card, American Express, JCB and Diners Club. They can be used in most mid-range to top-end hotels (three star and up), Friendship Stores and some department stores. Note that it is still impossible to use credit cards to finance your transportation costs; even flights have to be paid for in cash. Credit card cash advances have become fairly routine at head branches of the Bank of China, even in places as remote as Lhasa. Bear in mind, however a 4% commission is generally deducted.
In accordance with the details for the Implementation of Regulations of the People’s Republic of China Concerning Frontier Sanitation and Quarantine, people coming to China from certain countries must produce valid documents showing they have been inoculated against smallpox, cholera, or yellow fever. People from countries newly declared as infected areas must show corresponding vaccination documentation. (Inquiry may be made for details at Chinese embassies abroad or at Chinese public health departments.)
Time is the same throughout China but China does follow the daylight saving time system from mid-April to mid-September. When it is 12 Noon in Beijing (standard time), the Australia East Standard Time is 14:00pm (or 15:00pm in sun-light saving time)
China uses 220-volt power supply for standard domestic and business purposes. Hotels generally provide wall sockets in every bathroom for razors and hair dryers, accommodating both “straight two-pin plugs,” and “triangular 3-pins plugs.”
In China, tap water is considered quite hard and needs to be boiled before drinking. Therefore, Tap water at all hotels in China is not drinkable. Inquire with hotel staff members when you check in. If you are unsure it is recommended you drink bottled water only or cool boiled water offered by hotels.
While travelling, the baggage limit is 20 kg on both air planes and trains. Some foreign tourists believe that China lacks many daily products and food items, or think that available articles are of poor quality and therefore bring many batteries, rolls of film, foods and other articles as part of their luggage. However, in reality many high quality daily articles and food items are available in most large malls, department stores and hotels in China’s major cities. A lot of imported goods from foreign countries are also available. As such, it is not necessary to overload your baggage and bring with you common daily articles and food items.