China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

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.   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

 China as you will find is a country of wide contrasts.
Click on the photos for full screen viewing

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    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 through out 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

              Click on the Photo for a Full Screen View

Monday, April 27, 2015

English/Chinese Language Problems

A question often asked is about the language problem.  There are two parts of that problem.  One is that some Chinese do not speak any English.  The other is the Chinese who  speak English often have an accent that is sometimes difficult to understand.  The reverse is true for the Chinese understanding our English which also has different accents or is a 2nd language for some tourists.  Taxi drivers almost always do not speak English.  Workers in many hotels, stores, sights, also do not speak any English.  Chinese learn British English in school so some of the words are different like "truck" is a "lorie" in British English and others.  They learn about 6  to 8 thousand words in English while we speak on average of about 12,000  words.  I could only laugh to myself the time that I had to translate a Southern Louisiana accent to their English speaking guide who could not understand them.   I had the same difficulty a few years ago while visiting the southern island of New Zealand.  I often had to repeat my question several times even though they spoke English with a very strong local British account.  It is important to speak Slowly and to use more common words than you usually would do.  Also you would be very surprised at how much slang we use in American English which you should try not to use in order to be better understood.  Language along the large eastern costal cities of China like Beijing and Shanghai is not as difficult as English is a second language in China and more often understood in those areas.  The further inland to the west it becomes more difficult even among some educated.  Those who have some understanding of Chinese often forget there are hundreds of dialects and 57 different  nationalities with their own language.  I started learning Chinese in Beijing but quickly realized that not only was my English spin on Chinese but my accent was very difficult.  I gave up after 5 years  trying.  All my business partners in China speak English although with most I still must speak slowly and kind of learn what words I must use with each of them to be better understood. Also for Chinese people it is a loss of face to ask a foreigner to repeat a  question to them.  I often have to watch their eyes which tells me if they do not understand.  I then rephrase the question.  It is impolite and very difficult for Chinese to say "No" to any request of them.  You will often get an answer like   "We will see if that can be done"   or  "I will see if that is possible"   That often means "No" without losing face for either party.   For any questions on Language or anything else please feel free to contact me anytime.  My name is Dave and I like to share my 26 years of experience of working in China on just about any subject.  Contact me at

  Nothing more enjoyable than spending time learning about the Local People!

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   My name is Dave and I will not try to sell you a tour if you are only interested on more hotel information.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Bit More Humor!

People who read my blog seemed to like my last story on Humor in China so here is a bit more.  I was in the back country of rural China with my guide and driver.  We stopped at an outside cafĂ© for lunch.  No western dishes but had a Chicken Soup that sounded good.  We ordered it and when it came the driver spooned through it and then got up and was yelling at the cook.  I asked my guide what the problem was and he shyly said, "The Driver said the cook left the best parts out and was cheating us".  Knowing China well, I asked what the best parts were that they left out..  He said,
"the feet, head and guts".  The cook left those out because he knew I was a foreigner and would not like those parts in the soup.  You will never get such food on any tour so do not worry about that.  Chinese food in China is the best.  Another time in Western China in a  remote small town there was only one restaurant for foreigners.  I asked to go to a local restaurant just to see what one was like and what they served.  Again with a guide and driver they had one menu in English.  Camel's Paw was the first item on the menu and I knew I was in trouble.  I ordered egg soup which I like and told the guide to ask the driver what he would like not wanting to leave him out.  He wanted Donkey and Noodles!  One taste and I learned quickly that I didn't like Donkey!  :-)   I have a thousand stories that I could tell but thought readers would enjoy these two on food.  You will never get these things on a tour unless of course you ask for them! Below you see a normal lunch.  Second one is a photo of me who likes to eat well with two waitresses in the countryside.  Third is a photo of my wife and I having a deluxe dinner in Chongqing.  Last photo is of friends who are celebrating their birthdays just like us with a birthday cake.  The assortment of food in China is unlimited and extremely good.