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34 important things to know before going to china

after 3 years living and working in china, i’ve compiled some top tips for going to china i wish i’d had before i got there.

hopefully, these will help you discover what a wonderfully challenging and beautiful country this is.

1. cash is preferred

although more and more businesses (particularly large hotel chains and upscale restaurants) now accept visa and mastercard, the most widely accepted card scheme is unionpay.

however, for the most part, when you are traveling in china you’ll need to pay with cash!

2. china recognizes only one currency – its own.

the official currency of china is the yuan, otherwise known as rmb or colloquially as ‘quai’.

notes are available for 1rmb, 10rmb, 20rmb, 50rmb, and 100rmb. there are also 1rmb coins available, as well as smaller fractions of known as ‘mao’ for the chinese leader who adorns them.

chinese businesses do not accept any other currency, including the us dollar or hong kong dollar.

3. exchange currency at atms in china

while many chinese banks do not accept foreign cards, larger chains such as hsbc can be used to withdraw local currency from foreign bank accounts. this usually offers a far better exchange rate than services such as travelex.

international atms are available in all major cities but may be harder to find in less tourist friendly areas.

4. don’t forget to tell your bank you’re visiting china

before you go to china, make sure your bank knows you’re going to be using your credit or debit card over there. you don’t want your card being canceled mid-trip for unusual transactions.

6. bring a translator

if you need to do your banking face to face, you may need to bring a local to help translate. very few bank employees will have sufficient english to help you, although in larger cities such as beijing or shanghai they should have an english speaker on staff.

7. don’t tip in china

the chinese do not tip, and you aren’t expected to either.

8. use your haggling skills

outside of chain stores and boutiques, it’s totally possible to practice your haggling skills. never accept the marked price or first price offered.

with shrewd negotiation, it’s possible to get souvenirs and such for a fraction of the quoted price.

9. visas for china

one of the most important things to know when traveling to china is that they do not offer visas on arrival. so before you travel to china you’ll need to arrange your visa well in advance!

when applying for a tourist visa, you’ll need to provide either a letter of invitation from a chinese friend or relative, or provide a detailed itineraryof your intended trip. this includes return flights and confirmed reservations for your hotel bookings.

visas can be applied for in person at the chinese consulate or can be ordered via post.

10. booking hotels in china

if you want some flexibility with your itinerary, make use of sites that do not require an upfront payment to make bookings.

 has over 50,000 properties in china including hotels, apartments, and hostels. you get free cancellation on most rooms. and their book now, pay later at check-in system allows you to lock in that rate with some flexibility.

chinese sites such as  require no deposit to book accommodation, and you can cancel without penalty once your visa is approved.

11. travel insurance for china

while china is a very safe country with relatively low crime, it pays to be prepared. so one of my top china travel tips is don’t leave home without travel insurance!

if something unexpected does happen and you are not insured, you can be up for a lot of money and inconvenience. for a small price to pay you get peace of mind – if you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

for american’s, consider a big brand like alliance travel insurance who are a world leader in the industry and trusted by millions (y travelblog are ambassadors).

world nomads also cover travelers from all over the world, and be sure to insure your valuable items such as cameras, laptops etc.

12. drinking water in china

one of the things not to do in china is drink the water.

for the most part, tap water in china is not drinkable. bottled water can be purchased very cheaply at most restaurants and stores.

13. pharmacies in china

chinese pharmacies offer both western and eastern medicine at very reasonable prices. prescription medication can usually be purchased without a prescription (within reason) by simply providing the pharmacist with your identification.

14. finding a doctor in china

chinese hospitals can be crowded and daunting, but most major cities also have specialized hospitals catering to foreigners living and working in the country.

even in the crowded public hospitals, many doctors will speak english.

15. coping with air pollution in china

larger cities in china have serious problems with air pollution, particularly in beijing. many locals swear by masks on days with hazardous air pollution, but it is safer to avoid exertion on days with particularly bad pollution.

16. bring toilet paper

one of the unusual things to know before going to china is that most chinese toilets do not provide toilet paper. hotels and nicer restaurants will have it available, but it’s always a good idea to carry a roll of toilet paper or a box of tissues!

17. bring hand soap or hand sanitizer

like toilet paper, hand soap is not standard in many chinese bathrooms. carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you just to be sure.

18. get to the airport early

it is advisable to get to the airport three hours early for international flights to china and two hours early for domestic. chinese airports can often be chaotic and overcrowded, so you’ll be grateful for that extra time.

19. expect delays

in my two and a half years in china, i can count on one hand the number of flights that left on time. be prepared to wait in the airport (or even on the plane) when flying from a chinese airport.

20 catching buses and trains in china

china is serviced by a fantastic network of buses and trains, including the high-speed g-trains that can whisk you across the country in a matter of hours. rates are extremely affordable by western standards.

21. bring your passport when making a booking

you’ll need your passport when making a booking, and you can only book one ticket per passport.

22. make use of local booking sites

chinese booking sites such as and  often offer better rates than western booking sites. be sure to check both when planning your trip.

23. driving in china

if this is your first trip to china, you’ll soon see that chinese roads can be rather chaotic, so self-driving is really only recommended for the particularly brave!

24. catching taxis in china

taxis in china are cheap and plentiful. most drivers will not speak english, so it’s a good idea to get your destination address written in chinese by somebody at your hotel.

25. eating street food in china

chinese street food is delicious and it is everywhere! when choosing which vendor to purchase from, check to see where the locals are dining. if you see a queue, it’s likely to be a safer bet.

26. spitting in china

the chinese do not use handkerchiefs and tissues to clear their noses, and instead spit. while this can be a bit confronting when you first visit china, they’re similarly affronted when they see us blowing our noses and keeping it.

27. personal space

china is a crowded place, and the locals have become accustomed to a much smaller personal space than we are accustomed to in the west. don’t be surprised if you’re jostled or shoved when queuing – it’s just part of chinese culture.

28. taking photos in china

the chinese love to take photographs, and don’t be surprised if a local tries to snap a sneaky photo of you or even comes up to ask for a picture with you.

like in most other countries, it always pays to ask permission before photographing a person or a government building.

29. mailing things home from china

with cheap prices and a huge variety of products, it can be easy to go over your luggage limit while shopping in china. thankfully, it is very affordable to post things home using china post’s surface (sea) mail.

this can take one to two months but is a very affordable way to get your belongings home.

30. beware of chinese knock-offs

shopping streets such as nanjing road in shanghai are a great place to find a bargain, but be aware that knockoffs of prominent brands can be seized at the airport upon your return home.

31. don’t be shy in restaurants

chinese waiters and waitresses aren’t as proactive as you may be used to, so don’t be afraid to throw your hands up and call for the fuyian if you want service.

also be aware that conventional western service is hard to come by. don’t be surprised if your starter, main, and dessert all arrive at once while your friend still waits for their first dish.

32. get a local sim card in china

china’s major carriers include china telecom and china unicom. sim cards can be purchased at the airport or at most corner stores, and credit is quite affordable.

most chinese sims are locked to the province in which they are purchased, so you’ll pay roaming charges when texting, calling, or using data outside of this province.

even then, the rate is far cheaper than international roaming.

33. get a vpn for china

when you visit china keep in mind that their ‘great firewall’ blocks sites such as facebook, twitter, youtube, instagram, and most of the google selection. if you want to access these while you’re visiting china, you’ll need to purchase a vpn.

when shopping for vpns, check that they cover china – as many free options do not.

34. download weixin (or wechat)

china’s premier messaging app is weixin (wechat in english) and everybody you meet – expats and locals alike – will have it.

download the free app and set it up, as it’s a great way to keep in touch with locals who may not have social media.

most importantly, don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track. while beijing, shanghai, and xi’an are worthy of their international fame, there is so much more to china than these cities and their cultural sites.

this is a massive country with a rich history, over thirty distinct cultural groups, and a huge variety of landscapes to explore – don’t limit yourself to the same few sites everybody else visits.

i hope my local insights and traveling to china tips help you have a memorable time.

get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

starting from november 1, a series of new rules and policies will take affect across china. let’s see how your everyday life in china will be changed.


no ban on visa agencies in china!

get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image | 国家移民管理局

since november 10, 2018, the entry and exit administration departments of public security organs will stop accepting applications for private entry and exit intermediaries (excluding overseas employment) and will stop issuing business licenses for private entry and exit agencies (hereinafter referred to as “business licenses”). the business license issued at the same time will automatically become invalid.

more details get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!



export rebate rate of certain products will be increased 

ministry of finance and state administration of taxation jointly announce that, in order to simplify taxation system and improve the export rebate policy, adjustment of the value-added tax rebate on exports will be placed on some products from 1 november, 2018. 


get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image | google


the export rebate of some products such as films, plastics, bamboo flooring, wild vetch knitting, tempered safety glasses and lamps and lanterns will be increased to 16%.


import tariff of certain products will be reduced 

committee from ministry of finance of the people’s republic of china announces that from 1 november, 2018, the most-favoured-nation rate of duty of some products will be reduced. 

get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image | google


there are 1,585 tax reduced items in total with a 19% of china tax items, an average tax rate from 10.5% to 7.8% and an average decreasing amplitude of 26%.


“licenses separation” reform is to be implemented nationwide


from 10 november, 2018, in terms of 106 administration approved matters, the “licenses separation” reform is to be implemented initially in china by canceling approvals, changing approval into record, carrying out notification and commitment and optimizing access service.


get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image | baidu


in the initial 106 administration approved matters belong to “licenses separation” reform,

  • there are 2 terms about canceling the approval, including agencies’ qualification in exit and entry administration for private purposes; market entities can start relevant businesses after managing business licenses.

  • there is 1 term for changing approval into record, initial import cosmetics for non special purposes; market entities can start relevant businesses after sending record documents; there are 19 terms for notification and commitment, including approval of establishing movie projection units.

  • there are 80 terms for optimizing access service, including business licenses of tourism business investment by foreign merchants.


individuals under 14 are banned to register weibo


get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image | google


from 1 november, 2018, the updated client-side weibo will not provide juveniles under 14 with registration service. meanwhile, weibo is developing the special version for juveniles, offering appropriate contents and activities for juveniles and enhancing the protest for them.


public security organizations are able to detect network security hole by remote detection


get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image | google


from 1 november, regulations of public security organizations network security detection stipulates that public security organizations own the right to supervise and inspect places of business, machine rooms and workplaces, and start remote detection to inspect the network security for network service suppliers and users.


only electric bicycles are registered and with plate can travel on the roads in beijing


beijing non-motor vehicle management regulations, which precisely stipulates that only electric bicycles are registered and with plate can travel on the roads, is to take effect from 1 november. according to the regulations, the application for registration of electric bicycles should be made in traffic management department within 15 from the day of purchase. for those purchased before 1 november, 2018, registration can be made before 30 april, 2019.


get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image | google


temporary identify is available for electric bicycles that are not in the product catalogue of beijing administration for industry and commerce and are purchased before 1 november. the transitional period is 3 years, starting from 1 november to 31 october, 2019, and electric bicycles are not allowed to travel on the roads when transitional period expires.


free ticket for scenic areas of 3a and above in tibet


get ready? all these new rules are implemented today!

© image |

according to tibet government, from 1 november, 2018 to 15 march, 2019, travelling in scenic areas of national 3a and above in tibet is free, and the ticket price of scenic areas of under national 3a and national a will be halved based on the price of slack season.

china’s yuan drops to a decade-low! what happened?

the chinese currency – the yuan – is flirting with the 7 mark against the us dollar, a level it hasn’t seen since the 2008 global financial crisis. the movements in the yuan are closely monitored, not least because the currency is a flashpoint in the us and china’s trade war.

china's yuan drops to a decade-low! what happened?

© image | livetradingnews

the trump administration says china unfairly keeps its currency low to help boost its exports. beijing says that’s not true, and that what it is trying to do is keep the yuan stable.

so who’s right?

firstly, it’s important to remember the chinese currency doesn’t work like other currencies. it’s not freely traded. the chinese central bank sets a guiding point for it every day, and that sends a signal to the market of where it expects the yuan to go.

these days it is edging closer to the 7 mark. take a look at the chart below. it shows how much of the chinese currency one us dollar buys.

china's yuan drops to a decade-low! what happened?

© image | bloomberg

the yuan’s fall in 2017 was due to president trump. he lashed out at china during the election campaign for “manipulating” its exchange rate to boost chinese exports, and for the us trade deficit with china.

the last time a dollar bought 7 yuan was 10 years ago, during the global financial crisis.

and we are approaching that mark again now – so the more you can get for a dollar, the weaker the yuan.

china's yuan drops to a decade-low! what happened?

© image | google

there’s no magic about the number 7 – it’s just a psychological point for traders.

but it is a good indication of the trajectory that the yuan is taking: and that is downwards.

and according to a number of analysts, including julian evans-pritchard of capital economics, the chinese currency will “be under pressure in the months ahead” and is likely to touch the 7 mark.

here are some reasons why.

china slows, us grows

the yuan’s weakness is down to a number of things. partly it’s due to the strength of the dollar, which has benefited from confidence in the us economy and the fact that the us federal reserve has been raising interest rates gradually.

china's yuan drops to a decade-low! what happened?

© image | xinhua

but it’s also because the chinese economy is slowing down. it grew by 6.5% in the third quarter of this year – the slowest growth since 2009.

according to capital economics, this difference in the two countries’ economic fortunes will lead to a “divergence in monetary policy” – and that often leads to movements in china’s managed exchange rate

trade war

worries about the us-china trade war affecting china’s economy is also pushing the currency lower. in fact, the currency declined sharply after president trump ramped up pressure on china earlier this year.

china's yuan drops to a decade-low! what happened?

© image | yahoofinance

combine that with comments from us officials on how china’s exchange rate is an issue that needs to be addressed as part of the trade war, and you can see why the yuan is under pressure.

but here’s the irony. a weaker yuan can help boost growth by making china’s exports more attractive to the rest of the world.

beijing’s dilemma

so beijing is caught in a bit of a bind. if it allows the yuan to continue to weaken, it risks the ire of president trump, and escalating the trade war.

he and president xi are expected to meet in november to try to resolve the trade war, but any further weakness in the yuan could derail those talks – and make things much worse for china.

china's yuan drops to a decade-low! what happened?

© image | foreignbrief

still, analysts say authorities in beijing may have no choice but to let the yuan weaken further, especially if president trump makes good on his promise of slapping tariffs on all of china’s exports.

and if that happens, growth in china could slow even further, threatening the country’s political and economic stability. and that’s something china’s government wants to avoid at all costs.

must see! 6 halloween costumes to avoid tonight

halloween again, here are 6 halloween costumes to avoid so you aren’t dressed like everyone else. 

1. harry potter 

rather than wearing traditional robes, try putting a unique spin on your “harry potter” costume.

must see! 6 halloween costumes to avoid tonight

with the 20th anniversary of “harry potter” upon us and a new “fantastic beasts” movie set for release in november, everyone will want to dress as a character from the wizarding world this halloween.

 2. black panther

this is the first halloween since the release of “black panther,” so catsuits will be everywhere.

must see! 6 halloween costumes to avoid tonight

superheros outfits are usually a solid choice for halloween, but the popularity of the recent “black panther” movie is sure to increase the number of wakanda-related costumes.

 3. the incredibles

the incredibles are going to be a common costume for families this year.


must see! 6 halloween costumes to avoid tonight

people loved “incredibles 2,” so there’s a good chance that tons of families will dress up as the dynamic super group this halloween.

 4. avengers

just about every marvel character came together for “avengers: infinity war,” so they’re all going to be common costumes.

must see! 6 halloween costumes to avoid tonight

people are still pretty upset over the ending of “avengers: infinity war,” so it’s probably best to avoid dressing up as characters from the marvel universe altogether. besides, superhero costumes are a bit tired in general.

 5. game of thrones

“game of thrones” costumes will be popular as ever.


must see! 6 halloween costumes to avoid tonight

fans are gearing up for the eighth and final season of “game of thrones,” so you can expect to see multiple versions of daenerys targaryen at any halloween party you attend.

6. cat costumes

overly simple cat costumes shouldn’t be worn.

must see! 6 halloween costumes to avoid tonight

wearing an all black outfit and pair of cat ears on halloween is more of an easy way out than a classic halloween costume.

source: insider