China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Language Problems?

Yes, there is a bit of a language problem depending on what you are doing and where you go as well as how you go.  If you are on a tour your guide will speak English while on the tour.  The drivers seldom if ever speak English.  Taxi cab drivers almost never speak English.  At the train station few if any speak English.  The airport of course there are many connected with the airlines and airport that speak excellent English.  In most hotels, front desk people as well as some others speak English in the major hotels.  I myself after 26 years of travel in China found it much too difficult to learn Chinese with so many dialects.  Each area has its own dialect besides Mandarin which is spoken in most areas of the country with different accents.  I gave up years ago.  Shanghai people have a special dialect which most other Chinese do not understand as well as Sichuan people as examples.  They all try to speak Mandarin to communicate but again with different accents or some are unable to speak other than their own local language.  There are also 57 different minority peoples with sub cultures also with their own individual languages outside the large cities.  One tip I tell my clients is to have a map in your pocket if you get lost.  Take it out as if to study it and usually someone steps out of the crowd who speaks English and will help you.  If you wish to take a taxi some place, write out in English where you want to go and have someone in the hotel write it in Chinese so you can give it to the Taxi Driver.  Be sure to take a hotel card with you too so you will be able to get back to your hotel.  For more tips on language you are welcome to contact me with your questions at   interlak@eskimo.com   You won't be put on any mailing list or pushed to book a tour with us. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Customs & Security Checks in China

First of all there is rarely a Customs check entering or leaving China unless you have something to declare.  You fill out a form on your international flight before you arrive so that you just give it to Security along with your passport check.  For internal flights it is similar to the U.S.  There is a security check to go through and the usual items that you do not pack in your carry-on or suitcase anything that is considered dangerous or not allowed.  You will see the list of things posted that are not allowed.  For some reason they will take away the hand sanitizers if you have them in your carry on luggage.  Better to put these items in your checked luggage.  Rules are enforced or sometimes not depending on the airport.  They limit the carry on luggage by size which is about the size of a thick brief case.  Not always enforced as you will see.  The weight limit for checked luggage per bag is 44 lbs.  If you are overweight you have a choice to pay a Fee which can be very high or remove something from your luggage to make weight.  If you choose to pay the Fee, you must go to a special desk or window to pay the fee and return to the check-in.  Best is to be below 44 lbs. rather than have to go through all that.   Leaving China again you will fill out a departure form and these days they do not seem to care how much you take out of the  country unless it is obvious.  For more information on Customs and Security feel free to contact me with your questions without any pressure to book a tour with me or receive any spam mail.  My friends call me ChinaDave   Contact me either by email or telephone.  Email:   interlak@eskimo.com   Tel. 206-368-9074   You will find me very helpful with any information on China or Tibet.  After 26 years I must have learned something!!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Subject of Money

You should be aware of the money exchange situation in China before you go.  The exchange rate lately is  $1.00 = 6.21 Yuan in China.  There is a high service charge by the banks outside       of China if you want to exchange money before arriving in China.   Credit cards are not widely used except for hotels, factory and main department stores.  Many restaurants do not take credit cards either.  There are ATMs available in most larger cities but not in the rural areas.  Hotels in the cities will usually exchange dollars for yuan but not in the rural areas. The hotel exchange is a service to the guests and there is a very minor charge.  Banks also exchange dollars for yuan in most larger cities but not in the rural areas.  Some banks also do not deal in exchange at all.   Cash is King as they say.  You will see most Chinese dealing in cash and often have large amounts of money with them when they go shopping.  I myself have my credit cards and debit cards along with taking a fair amount of cash.  If you have a Stock Broker, check with them if they offer a Debit card for your account.  Mine does and there are no charges for its use domestically or internationally.  Hotels have safes in the room in which you set the combination and can keep your valuables during the day when you are out sightseeing.  While many things you will find are inexpensive you will also find many things on a par with the U.S. or HIGHER.   My Chinese friend from Chengdu recently spent a year in the U.S.  When she went home she could not believe how prices had increased so much since she had been gone.  For more information on MONEY, feel free to email me with your questions.  You will not be pressured to book a  tour with us nor will you be put on an email list for spam.   My name is Dave and can be reached at    interlak@eskimo.com

 China as you will find is a country of wide contrasts.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Best Times to Tour China

A question I am often asked is what is the best time to travel in China.   Weather of course is important for most people.  Spring months of late March and April are good times to tour for most of the country although expect more rain especially in southern China.  May can be good but can also be warm and humid in the south.   Summer months of June, July and August are generally warm and a bit humid however there are good places to tour in the mountains such as Sichuan and other provinces.  Otherwise expect temperatures above 85 with high humidity in most areas.   Fall months over all are the best months.  September and October are the most comfortable but also most popular.   The Silk Road in the far northwest is best in April and then again in mid August through early October.  Summers can be extremely hot and winters very cold.   Perhaps the times to avoid travel in China is during National  holidays of May 1st and Oct. 1st when people have a whole week off.  Transportation is quite full and hotels and restaurant prices are at their highest unless you book much in advance.  Spring Festival which is the Chinese New Year changes each year and can be from late January to late February period.  People have a full week off here too and it is the custom to return to your parents home for that period.  Transportation can be very difficult unless booked months in advance through a tour operator or travel agent.  I have avoided that time myself as everything is very crowded.  For my clients I try to plan their tours to avoid these periods during the year for their comfort and cost.  Winter is a good time to tour IF you do not mind the cold weather.  Snow is rare and sights are all but empty of tourists.   For more information on times to travel in China please feel free to contact me at    interlak@eskimo.com    My name is Dave and you will not have any sales pitch or follow up with spam mail. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Parks of China

For people interested in nature and parks there are many throughout China each with their own attraction.   Juizhaigou  National Park in Sichuan province remains my favorite as it has been kept very pristine and only allows 5,000 people per day into the park.  The park nestled into the remote mountains is shaped like a wishbone so that you go up one side in the mourning and the other side in the afternoon.  What I especially like about it is that it gives you so many options.  Throughout the park are wooden walkways in order to keep the park pristine and natural.  There are many stations in the park short distances apart with natural gas green buses running very often that leave no exhaust.  You may get on and off as you please or can walk or hike as far as you want between stations. Very clean toilets that are self cleaning are also available everywhere.  The park was started back in the 1970's and was started with keeping it pristine and natural from the start.  The pools of water are natural with their color from minerals in the ground.   There are many flights from Chengdu to Juizhaigou and several good hotels to choose from.  However you should contact a tour operator in advance to make sure you have tickets to get into the park.  The Park is extremely busy during the fall  months of September and October when the leaves are turning.  Oct. 1st is a National Holiday and Chinese have one week off so the park is booked full much in advance.  Prices are the highest at that time also.  For more information on Juizhaigou check the internet or also contact me for more specific information.  My name is Dave and you can contact me at  interlak@eskimo.com

              Click on the Photo for a Full Screen View

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hotels in China

When it comes to booking hotels in China I highly recommend that  you choose an agency or tour operator that KNOWS China well.  Actually the best is to have a Tour Operator like myself  :-)  who knows China very well and inspects hotels on a regular basis for the past 26 years.  Nothing worse than trying to plan your own tour and booking hotels and then being greatly disappointed in your hotel.  Fake reviews and claims are common on the internet.  Location is one of the things you  should consider most.  Being located out in the suburbs or poor locations to save a few $$ is not wise.  You will spend much of your time and money (taxis) going to the sights.  Your tour operator who knows China well, knows these areas and best value hotels.  For instance:  Wangfujing area in Beijing is the best.  Good hotels there but some to avoid too.  In Shanghai you need to be close to the Nanjing Road Mall.  Some well known hotels are across the river in Pudong and you will be taking a taxi every time you want to go some place and back.  Boutique hotels are becoming more common but also high prices especially for best locations.  Traditional style hotels are in demand and many are available with modern conveniences however prices are usually a bit higher also.  Hotels in China usually come with a large buffet breakfast included in the hotel cost.  If not listed as "included" the cost can often be $15 to $25 per person extra.  There is also a service charge of normally 15% added or included too as there are no tips in the hotels other than perhaps a bell boy.  The city tax is also included.  If none of these costs are listed as included, the quoted low cost on the internet can often be a surprise when you check out.  One former client wanted a hotel in Xian and he said it could be booked for $85 a night.  I knew the hotel well and had consulted with them.  That $85 room located in an older building on the first floor facing the inside is indeed $85 for a single.  No breakfast, service charge, tax etc. was quoted.  The room on check out then is $137. per night.  One should know there is usually 5 level of prices in each hotel depending on the room size and amendments.
For more information on hotels, please feel free to email me at   interlak@eskimo.com   My name is Dave and I will not try to sell you a tour if you are only interested on more hotel information.