We have organized a few pointers that might help you on your trip:
- How to meet your tour guide
- Medication in China
- Meals in Southwest Trekking Trips
- Internet in China
- Foreign bank card in China
- How do I make phone call from China
- Laundry Service in China
- Visa Extension
- Chinese holiday
- Currency Exchange and Withdraw
- Shopping stop
- Drinking water
- Food in China
- Restroom in China
- Traffic condition
- What vehicle in the trip
How to meet your tour guide
The guide will stand in the place where she/he can be easily seen as you come through the arrival gate.He/she will hold Lark Greeting Sign. indicating the name of your group. This is usually the name of the person who contacted with us and organized the tour.
In some cases the guide will need to meet you at the hotel where you are staying. The guide will call you the night before to arrange the time and place to meet in the lobby. Or he will meet you directly at the lobby or hotel entrance.
We provide the guide’s photo in the itinerary information, and for you to recognize your guide easily.
Medication in China
If you have medication situations, be sure to have full documents with you which can state your medical situations. In big cities, like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chongqing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen etc. the 3A public hospitals have English speaking doctors, Emergency service, and comprehensive disease can be taken good care of. In city of Nanjing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing, Guangzhou, there are Global Doctor clinic, which use general practitioner who can take care of common disease, and speak English, French, Germany, Spanish or Portuguese. In remote areas, there is always clinic for local, and can only take care of common disease.
Meals in Southwest Trekking Trips
Most of the meals in a southwest trekking tour are included in the tour fee, to allow our guides the chance to introduce you to local cuisine. Our guides will usually choose small eateries with good hygiene standards, although you will occasionally eat in larger-scale restaurants in major towns/cities.
Breakfast will usually be noodles with eggs and vegetables, dumplings or steamed buns with various fillings. In larger cities and backpacker towns, western breakfasts are also available. Lunches and dinners are eaten in typical Chinese fashion where a variety of dishes are ordered and shared between group members, including yummy fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and poultry, served with rice.
On trekking tours, the majority of meals are eaten in local people’s houses. You need to be prepared for simple meals using whatever the family has available at the time. Don’t be surprised if you find some “unusual” animals (or parts of animals) served up at meals. Pigs’ trotters, dog, yak, intestines etc. are all commonplace in some areas. There will always be a range of dishes to choose from, so it’s up to you if you want to try these novelties. We ask that you let us know prior to the tour of any dietary restrictions/food allergies you have so our guides are adequately informed.
With regards to eating utensils we advise using the throw-away variety chopsticks in small eateries or restaurants. In people’s homes, the guide will ensure the chopsticks used are thoroughly boiled before use. You are also welcome to bring your own if this makes you feel more comfortable. We also advise bringing along your own fork and spoon if you are unable to get the hang of chopsticks.
Snacks such as chocolate, biscuits, cakes and dried fruits are generally available, but taste quite different from the West, since milk and butter are scarce. We suggest you bring some muesli (granola) bars or other high energy snacks from home in case you have difficulty adjusting to the local food. If buying snacks on your tour, it’s best to buy them in the larger towns, as processed foods sold in small shops in the villages are often of low quality and may be past their used-by date.
You cannot drink the tap water in China. We also suggest that you do not take ice in your drinks.
Bottled water is readily available throughout China in cities, towns and in many villages. Guesthouses and hotels generally provide purified water and/or a thermos of boiling water for tea and coffee. This water can also be used for brushing your teeth.
Our treks cover some areas where bottled water is not available. In these areas, it is best to bring along your own thermos and some water purifying tablets. The guide will make sure that boiled water is provided at every meal stop for thermoses to be refilled.
More specific information about water availability can be found in the tour notes provided.
4 or 5 star hotel rooms are covered with WIFI. Internet cafes are everywhere in China. In backpacker towns you will be able to sit in quaint cafes while surfing the internet, but in smaller towns, they are often dinghy, smoke-filled rooms with hordes of teenagers playing net games and leaning over your shoulder to read your email! Increasingly guesthouses (even in village areas) are providing free Internet service, although the speed of this varies.
If you are just needing to keep up with emails, then mobile internet is another way to go. Mobile signal is available at least part of the way on all of our trekking tours and almost everywhere on our sightseeing tours.
Do be aware that some foreign sites such as Facebook, You Tube, Twitter etc. are regularly blocked by Chinese censors. Hotmail is also unreliable in China. Rather than deal with the frustration of irregular access to your email, you may prefer to set up an alternate email account for your time away.
Foreign Bank Card in China
Foreign credit card can be accepted in 4 or 5 star hotels. Foreign credit card can withdraw money in RMB from Bank of China or Industrial and Commercial Bank of China ATM. Please notice that even though a lot of merchants in China receive bank card (mostly China UnionPay cards), still a lot of small business only accept cash. Therefore, we suggest that you withdraw cash from ATM in city for the tour expense in advance of tour commencement.
How do I make phone call from China
Mobile phone coverage is good in most of China, even in remote areas. However do be prepared for days where you cannot access a mobile signal if you are taking one of our extending trekking tours through mountainous areas.
If you are coming from overseas, it’s a good to check with your mobile phone provider if they have a global roaming agreement with China. If not, provided your mobile is “unlocked”, you can buy a local SIM card once you arrive. You can perchase a Mobile SIM card designed for visitor using your passport at big airports. Otherwise, Mobile SIM cards are available at Tele-communication stores in city, and local ID is required for purchasing. Do be aware that mobile phones in China are linked to the purchase location. Once you leave that location, you will pay higher charges to receive calls as well as make them.
If you are traveling in big cities, we suggest to use skype where there is WIFI coverage to make international calls.
Another way to phone overseas is to use a phone kiosk. These can be found in most towns (large and small) and allow you to make international calls at very reasonable rates. Your guide will be able to assist you in locating one.
Laundry Service in China
Most hotels offer laundry service for a small fee, laundry machines and washing powder are provide at served residence, or can recommend a service in the vicinity. However be aware that many places do not have clothes dryers. Therefore, it is best to only do laundry in places where you are staying for more than one night, or where the weather is warm enough to dry things quickly. There are likely to be times on all our trips where you would like to wash some clothes quickly yourself, therefore we suggest bringing a small bar of laundry soap with you.
Foreigners who want to stay in China beyond the duration of their visa need to apply for an extension.
The visa extension application should be a form submitted to the Local Public Security Bureau 7 days before the expiration date of the visa.
Visitors who want their visa to be extended should provide the following evidential materials:
1. Valid passport and visa
2. A completed application form for visa extension
3. Reason for the extension.
The length of the extension depends on the type of visa and Multiple entry visas can not be extended
You are advised not to overstay the duration of your visa or fail to apply for an extension before your visa expires as you risk being heavily fined and have your travel plans disrupted.
Jan 1 – 3 New Year’s Day
Feb 7 – 13 Spring Festival/Chinese New Year
Apr 2 – 4 Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival
Apr 30 – May 2 Labour Day
Jun 9 – 11 Dragon Boat Festival
Sep 15 – 17 Mid-Autumn Festival
Oct 1-7 National Day
Please note these dates are for 2016. Further holidays may be celebrated in regional parts of China. Refrain from visiting China during Oct 1-7.
Currency Exchange and Withdraw
Changing currency upon arrival is quite easy. Normally, money exchanges can be done in international airports like Beijing and Shanghai, large banks, and five or four star hotels. Bank of China widely accepts different kinds of major foreign currencies,but some other banks,eg.Industrial and Commercial Bank of China,China Construction Bank,Bank of Communications,China Merchants Bank only accept US Dollars,and you must show your Passport when changing money.Do not exchange currency with people on the street,as you may get fake bills.In rural areas, it might be more difficult to find a place to change money.
Now ATMs are virtually everywhere. They provide instructions in English and accept international cards ,such as Cirrus, Plus, Visa, MasterCard,JCB,AmericanExpress,etc. The maximum withdraw is partly dictated by your own bank and is generally about 2500RMB. If one ATM does not work with your card, just try another bank.
It is more common to use cash for purchasing in China,and Credit cards are only accepted in hotels, fancier restaurants and larger department stores.
It is better to use the ATM when you need money rather than changing too much currency at the start of the trip.
Although tipping is not part of the local culture, we do suggest tips for our guides and drivers. We suggest at least 8 USD per day per person for the guide,4USD to a driver and 2USD for the bellboy, given separately to each person is preferable.
In some situations, gift giving is appropriate. For example, for homestays, we suggest guests prepare some small gift to the host family and bring along small items, such as pencils and erasers, for the children in the family or for other village children.
We ensure that there is no shopping stop during our private tours, and we do not receive commision from any merchants.
For English group tours, there are shopping free tours and non free ones. The shopping free tours are more expensive due to cost. Please tell us in advance, if you want to choose shopping free tours, when you join a group tour.
We suggest not to drink directly from tap water in China. It is suggested to boil the water before drinking, or use bottled water from supermaket or grocery.
Food in China
China is a large country with exciting culinary arts. During your trip, Lark will organize a few group meals, and for most of time, the guides will give you enough information to encourage you to try local food, e.g.Peking Duck, Chongqing Hotpot, Cantonese Dim Sum, etc. The lunch is usually brief, with vegetable, beef or pork, noodle, dumpline or plain rice. We ensure no animal organ is served during the our meal.
Lark provides vegetarian options at every meal. We request guests with severe allergies to consult their physicians prior to traveling and to bring all necessary medicines with them. Guests are highly encouraged to inform Lark ahead of time of specific allergies, such as to peanuts, wheat flour, seafood, etc.
Restroom in China
Restrooms in China are not up to Western standards, although they are rapidly improving. In major cities and hotels, Western toilets are common, but in public restrooms, train stations, and some airports, only squat toilets are available. It may be convenient to bring along a small amount of toilet paper, as it is not common for the toilet to provide.
Comparing to other developing countries, China has relatively low road to car ratio. In city, during peak hours 7:30 am – 9:30 am 17:00 pm – 19:00 pm, the road can be crowd or even jamed. Saturday and Sunday, traffic is better. In recent years, China has developed good highway system, it is smooth to travel on highways, however there can be traffic at the entrance. Chinese drivers tend to drive more aggressively, they are more often to cut in, or change lane without light. In China, some pedestrian may not obey the rule to cross at crosswalk or at green light. We highly suggest travellers to cross road at crosswalk with green light for your safety.
What vehicle in the trip
For 2-3 pax group, we use 5 seat air-conditioned vehicle with music system.
For 4-5 pax group, we use 7-8 seat air-conditioned van with music system.
For 6-9 pax group, we use 13-15 air-conditioned van with music system.
For 10-13 pax group, we use 15 seat air-conditioned van with music system.
For up to 15 pax group, we use 20 seat air-conditioned van with music system.
5 seat vehicles are private, vans are all covered by travel insurance. All vehicles are within 2 year old with excellent condition and proper mantenance.