Practical information about China
China is an immense country, stretching over multiple climate zones. The division into areas presented below is very general, and should be viewed as indicative only.
From April until October, temperatures are typically between 10 and 35 °C, and most of the rainfall is in July and August. This means that the periods April–June and September–October are pleasant months to travel in. The winter months, from November through March, are cold, with temperatures typically between -5 and +10 °C. On the other hand, little rain falls in this period; just a few mm.
From March until October, temperatures range from 10 to 25 °C. Xian enjoys a relatively dry climate, with rain falling regularly in the summer months, although with a small ‘peak season’ in July, August and September. The winter months – November through February – are cold, with temperatures of between 0 and +5 °C. Very little rain falls in winter.
The Shanghai climate is warm and humid. From April until November, temperatures are typically between 15 and 30 °C and the rain falls regularly and heavily, primarily in the period May–August. From December through March, the daytime temperature is usually between 6 and 8 °C, and with 40–70 mm of rain per month.
Excursions and transfers are conducted in small, international groups led by English-speaking guides.
You can travel to China all year round, as long as you make sure to dress appropriately for the season – just like in Europe. From the perspective of tourism, April–May and July–August are the busiest months for international tourism, while September–October is the peak season for Chinese tourists. Generally speaking, you should be prepared to meet lots of people wherever you go, and most of the tourists you encounter will be Chinese.
It is best not to travel to China in connection with the Chinese New Year and the ‘Golden Week’ in October. The Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar so its date changes from year to year, just like Easter. During the Chinese New Year, EVERYTHING closes, and during the Golden Week, Chinese city dwellers return to their home regions to take a holiday and visit their families. As a result, many businesses close during this week as well.
Please read our booking terms and conditions carefully. These terms and conditions constitute the basis of your package purchased from Asiatours.co.uk. Click here to read our terms and conditions of travel.
All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
We are an ATOL protected agency giving you complete peace of mind. It is a condition of booking that the sole responsibility lies with the guest to ensure that they carry the correct comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover themselves, as well as any dependants/traveling companions for the duration of their tour.
In cooperation with our partner we can offer advantageous travel insurances. Learn more here.
China has a variety of recognised languages. The most common is Mandarin, which is spoken by around 70 per cent of the population. The written characters used are the same for all the recognised languages, so all Chinese people can read the same newspapers or notices, regardless of whether they live in Beijing, Lijiang or Suzhou.
We always advise that you contact a specialist, your GP or an authorized vaccination clinic. You can also read more about the rules for travel & vaccinations at the central NHS Fit for Travel website: here
Please be aware of the rules about yellow fever – especially if you are entering via another Asian country where yellow fever is present.
Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entry. So be sure to bring your vaccination certificate with you in these cases.
As a British citizen, you must be in possession of a valid British passport. Your passport must be valid for 6 months following your return home.
Please note that a passport which has been reported missing and which has been found again may cause problems and, in the worst case, you may be refused entry into China. We therefore recommend that you apply for a new passport before departure if this is the case.
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You can apply for a visa 3 months before departure at the earliest, and no later than 1 month before departure.
Before you proceed with the visa application itself, we recommend that you read the step-by-step application guide carefully. By clicking the following link, you will find the guide for London, Manchester and for Edinburgh/Belfast.
When you start your visa application, you should have the following to hand:
- Your passport
- A digital passport photo that meets the specific requirements. Read more here
- The invitation letter you receive from us together with your confirmation of the tour
The visa application for London should be completed online via the following link: China visa
The visa application for Manchester should be completed online via the following link: China visa
The visa application for Edinburgh/Belfast should be completed online via the following link: China visa
The application consists of 10 parts. You should upload a digital passport photo, fill in your personal details, educational and work-related information and previous travel activity, and provide our partner’s licence number and address of your accommodation as indicated in your invitation letter.
Once you have completed the application, you should book an appointment online to appear in person at the visa centre. By clicking the following link, you will find the online appointment application for London, Manchester and Edinburgh/Belfast.
- The address in London is: 12 Old Jewry, London, EC2R 8DU.
- The address in Manchester is: Ground Floor, 71 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3HR
- The address in Edinburgh is: 2nd Floor, Exchange Tower, 19 Canning Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8EG
- The address in Belfast is: 1 Stranmillis Embankment, Belfast, BT7 1GB
The centres are open on weekdays from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm. Please note that the visa centre is closed on British and Chinese public holidays. By clicking the following link, you can read more about the visa centre’s opening hours and Chinese public holidays for London, Manchester and Edinburgh/Belfast.
Remember to print out your visa application before visiting the visa centre. This must be brought to the visa centre together with the meeting confirmation, a copy of the data and photo page of your passport, a physical passport photo in colour and a copy of your invitation letter.
Before the meeting, you should also decide whether you will pick up your visa when it is ready or whether you would like it to be posted to you. If you choose to receive it by post, please remember to bring a stamped, addressed envelope showing the tracking number.
When you arrive at the visa centre, you should proceed to the check-in desk, where you will be given a queue number. When your number is called, you should proceed to the desk indicated. It is important that you inform the clerk immediately if you if you wish to have your visa posted to you and hand in the stamped, addressed envelope showing the tracking number. After submitting all your documents and answering any questions, your fingerprints will be taken if you are aged between 14 and 70 and have not applied for a Chinese visa within the past 5 years. You will then be given a queue number for the payment desk. Payment must be made on the same day that you submit your visa application. Payment can be made by cash or card. After payment, you will receive a receipt – a so-called pick-up form – which you should bring with you when you collect your visa if you have not chosen to have it posted to you.
You can keep track of how far your visa is in the process and when it is ready for pick-up or posting here.
If you are unable to pick up your visa yourself, a friend or family member can do it on your behalf. Be sure to write a power of Attorney letter of authorisation and also ensure that the person has a copy of the receipt to be used for pick-up. The person who picks up your visa must be able to provide photo ID.
When you receive your visa, please check that all information is correct.
You can also read more about the visa rules on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
You are, of course, always welcome to ask us if you have any questions.
The unit of currency in China is the yuan renminbi (CNY). 1 yuan (rmb) is composed of 10 jiao, which is equivalent to 100 fen. Visit www.xe.com/currencyconverter to see the current exchange rate in both US dollars and GBP. We recommend that you bring some US dollars or euros with you in cash, and then exchange these for local currency at an official bureau de change. US dollars are also widely accepted in shops and in many markets. Standard credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted, and there are cash machines (ATMs) in all cities. You can use credit cards at almost all hotels and in many restaurants and shops, but not in small local markets.
Tipping is common practice; it is actually expected to a certain extent. It is generally accepted that the tip you leave corresponds to the service you have received.
The following suggestions are indicative only:
- Bellboy: USD 1–2 per room
- Maid: USD 2 per day
- Guides: USD 5–10 per person, per day; depending on the service supplied
- Drivers: USD 2–5 per person, per day; depending on the service supplied
- Restaurants: tipping is not expected at small local restaurants and street kitchens, but in restaurants of international calibre, you can leave USD 1–5 on the table when you depart.
Our tipping guideline is in USD, but tips should be calculated in the local currency at the destination.
Despite its enormous size, China has only one time zone. The difference between Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the time in China varies, depending on UK summer and winter time.
Summer time: +5 hours. This means that when it is noon GMT, it is 17.00 in China.
Winter time: +6 hours. This means that when it is noon GMT, it is 18.00 in China.
Mains power is 220 V throughout China. Various types of plug are used in different regions, although the most common version features two round pins. The farther you travel from Beijing and Shanghai, however, the more ‘interesting’ the plug designs. Sockets that can accommodate plugs with three round pins (earthed computer plugs) are rare. Therefore, make sure to bring a travel adapter with you if you will need to recharge your laptop, for example.
The international dialling code for China is +86. It can be expensive to place calls to – or receive them from – Europe while you are in China. Ask your own mobile service provider about coverage and call charges. If you need to make lots of calls or to send a lot of text messages, it may be a good idea to buy a local SIM card. There are internet cafés in the big cities, and Wi-Fi connections in most hotels.
The internet in China is highly censored and blocks access to a number of Western media, including Google, Dropbox, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, HBO and Netflix. We recommend downloading a VPN connection in Appstore on your mobile if you want to be able to access your favourite media.
WeChat is used instead in China, which for the Chinese has become as natural a way to access the internet as Facebook, Google and Youtube are in Western countries. WeChat is used to communicate with friends and colleagues alike, and the concept of emails is slowly losing ground in China. Where WeChat differs from Facebook, for example, is that users also have their bank account linked to the app so they can pay using a barcode.
China is generally a safe country to travel in. The biggest problem is often finding your way around when you are on your own, because very few places feature signs written in western letters. Ordinary crime directed at tourists is typically limited to pick-pocketing and occasional cases of credit card fraud. This is usually simple to avoid through the application of common sense. Avoid showing off expensive jewellery and large sums of cash, and never let your credit card out of your sight at typical tourist locations. Always follow the advice and information provided by the guides and you can be sure of staying out of danger.
China has eight distinct cuisines: Shandong, Guangdong, Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Anhui. The food prepared according to the different styles varies greatly. The most notable cuisines are probably Anhui (wok), Sichuan (very spicy) and Guangdong (mild, finely balanced taste).
The Chinese people eat with chopsticks, and tourists are expected to do the same. However, you can always ask for western cutlery.
Only ever drink water from bottles. Bottled water is cheap and readily available everywhere. DO NOT drink water from the taps.
Working out the menus in China can be a real problem, as not all restaurants have menus in English. Today, thankfully, there are a lot of smart translation apps that can be a great help during your trip. We recommend Waygo, which can read Chinese menus and translate them directly into English using the camera on your mobile.
We will send you your flight reservation as soon as you book your trip. You can see times and routes on the itinerary. It is important to check your name for spelling mistakes. The name on the reservation must be exactly as in your passport. If you find any mistakes in the names, please contact us immediately.
Today, there are only electronic airline tickets (e-tickets), so you do not receive a physical ticket for use at the airport check-in. When you check in at the airport, you use your passport and a booking reference. The booking reference is on your itinerary.
Once you have purchased a tour through us, you will receive our service letter before your departure. The service letter contains important information about online check-in, what to do in the event of a delay, our agreed guidelines for tips, etc. In addition, you will find important telephone numbers for our local agents as well as our emergency telephone number.
So it is important that you print out the service letter and bring it with you.
We recommend that you make a seat reservation on the plane. Many airlines also offer to upgrade reserved tickets for seats with extra space and comfort, e.g. Economy Comfort at KLM and Premium Voyageur at Air France. You can do this through the airline’s website. Most airlines have a point in the menu called “manage my booking”. Please note that many airlines require payment for seat reservation, so you should have your credit/debit card to hand when you get started.
Unfortunately, rules differ as to when seat reservation is opened. We recommend that you try to make a seat reservation as early as possible and you will then know when you can make a seat reservation if it cannot be done right away. It is very common for seat reservation to be opened between 72 and 24 hours before departure.
We use many different airlines for our flights to China, so there may be variations in the amount of luggage you are allowed to bring with you as both checked luggage and hand luggage. Check the information about this on your airline ticket, and contact us if you have any questions. If your tour involves a domestic flight in Indonesia, you cannot bring more than 20 kg of luggage with you.
You should also make sure you carry all your important and indispensable things in your hand luggage. This applies to items such as passports, visas, airline tickets, insurance documents, credit cards, money and cameras, as well as information about your health and vital medicines.
You may find yourself sitting in a draught from the air conditioning in the plane, so make sure to pack a warm jumper or jacket in your hand luggage.
On arrival at the different airports in China, you will be met by our local representative who will be waiting for you in the arrival hall with a sign bearing your name. You will naturally also be driven to the airport on departure. You will be informed of your pick-up time when you arrive in China.
Experiencing differences in culture and etiquette is one of the delights of travelling, and it is essential to respect these differences. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ is good advice, and the section below contains a number of useful hints and tips intended to help you make the very most of your visit to China.
- Try not to show anger. Displaying frustration or anger by shouting or acting rudely is considered extremely impolite and disrespectful – and nothing good will come of it.
- Shaking hands is not common practice. It is usual to bow your head respectfully in greeting.
- Always use your right hand or both hands when passing something to – or receiving something from – other people. Never use your left hand alone.
Please note, our tours are generally not suitable for persons with reduced mobility. Please contact us for information about the possibilities according any specific needs.