The Middle Kingdom is dressed in contrasts to offer travellers a multitude of possibilities: temples, rice fields, skyscrapers, forests, metropolises… The pleasure of discovering is endless. From ancient traditions to futuristic innovation, China is making the big difference for an unparalleled change of scenery. Here is how to prepare your stay in China with practical advice on entry formalities, budget, insurance and transport.
When to leave?
The best time to travel to China is between spring and autumn, in April and October. During these seasons, you will avoid the summer heat wave (tourist peak) and the rigours of winter (low season). Beware of holiday periods and official holidays that increase hotel prices and saturate tourist sites!
- Labour Day: May 1-3
- Official holidays: from 1st to 7th October
- Chinese New Year’s Eve. In 2018: from 15 to 21 February
To enter the People’s Republic of China, French, Belgian, Swiss and Canadian nationals must obtain a visa and ensure that their passport is up to date (and valid 6 months after departure). It can be requested three months in advance and is valid for 30 days from the date of entry into the country. The administrative formalities for entry are very cumbersome: make sure you know all the documents you need to collect in order to prepare your file in advance. If you request a visa in express time, the price doubles.
To know: Hong Kong and Taiwan are not in China, to get there you will need a dual entry visa.
Please note: if you are in transit (China is a stopover to a third country), you are exempt from visa requirements for a maximum period of six days. Whether you arrive by air, sea or land, six entry points allow you to benefit from this system: Tianjin Binhai International Airport, Tianjin International Cruise Home Port, Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing West Railway Station, Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport, Qinhuangdao Port.
New regulations for the administration of entry and exit of the People’s Republic of China: foreign nationals entering China will now be able to be fingerprinted upon arrival.
Before you leave, update your vaccines: Hepatitis A and B, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Poliomyelitis (DTPolio), Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) and Varicella. For stays of more than a week and in remote places, it is preferable to get vaccinated against Typhoid and Rabies. As for health, if you need to go to a hospital, take a taxi directly.
The average daily budget for a trip to China is lower than that for France. Count about 34 € per day (compared to 58 € for France). Be careful, in large cities like Beijing or Shanghai, we find the same amounts as in Paris. It will also depend on your travel style (backpack, comfort, luxury…), your desires and of course the length of your stay.
China’s national currency is the renminbi (RMB) or “people’s money”. The basic unit is the yuan but its common denomination is the kuai (kuaille). In general, the price will be noted in yuan, but it will be communicated to you in kuai. Don’t worry, it’s the same thing. It is recommended to make your change on the spot, in China, to benefit from a more attractive rate. Whether in airports, hotels or banks, the official rate is applied everywhere and the commission is standardized.
To get around town, subways are very efficient but often crowded. Taxis are a good alternative. Make sure that the meter is running or you risk being ripped off. If you agree on a price with the driver, make sure that the amount is global: for all passengers, not the price to be paid per head.
Remember to take maps but also to note in Mandarin the place of your destination to show it to the driver. This will avoid misunderstandings.
Driving in the city is dangerous. China is the country with the highest number of road deaths. That’s why the international permit doesn’t work!
For long-distance buses, don’t be surprised if the driver yells at you. He just wants you to take off your shoes. For the shortest trips, don’t be in a hurry: buses only leave when they are full.
The Chinese have developed their own social networks accessible only to them (unless you speak the language). There is Youku for Youtube, RenRen for Facebook and Wechat (available in French) for WhatsApp/Viber or other instant messaging you use. So you will only have access to the Chinese versions, ours being prohibited there.