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Top China Hotels


China Lauded for its progress since its establishment in 1949, courted for its economic potential, excoriated for its human rights record, China is Asia's sleeping giant - the world's most populous country (1.25 billion and counting) but still one which has a fair way to go before it takes its true place on the international stage. The prodigious leaps from feudalists to communist to capitalist have greatly enhanced the PRC, and for much of the past half century, China has been the world's fastest-growing economy. Yet it remains poor in many parts - there are sharps divisions between rural areas and the cities, the rich coast and the poor interior, and schisms within the political elite. But just as staging the Olympics in Seoul catapulted South Korea to prominence, so the 2008 Olympic Games should give Beijing the necessary fillip to show that it too can host the planet's most prestigious sporting event with requisite efficiency and panache. As might be expected from a country with 9,561,000 square kilometres at its disposal, there is an enormous amount to see and do in China (too much to mention here), whether showcasing thousands of years of culture or something that was only built last year. Beijing's attractions lie not merely in trophy sights like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, but also in its 'hutongs', the maze of residential streets just out of the centre that are gradually being swept away in the name of development. Tianjin, to the east of the capital, is a former treaty port and hosts one of the country's most intriguing antique markets. A former German concession, Qingdao was Mao Zedong's favourite seaside holiday spot, and Chinese still flock to its beaches - backed by statuesque and very Germanic mansions - every summer. Shanghai is widely touted as China's 'Next Big Thing', a hotchpotch of new energetic capitalism and construction, with an exotic and varied nightlife. Slightly inland, Hangzhou caught Marco Polo's eye when he passed through in the 13th century ('one of the most splendid cities in the world') and, despite the onslaught of tourism, its lakes and temples are still utterly picturesque. Shenzhen, on the border with Hong Kong, has gone from 99 percent paddy fields to 99 percent concrete in the space of 20 years, a Special Economic Zone that could be a metaphor for the new China. Inland, there are panoramic vistas in Guilin, the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, Tibetan highs in Lhasa and seemingly a different country altogether in the far western city of Umurqi. Gone are the days of staying in grubby, Soviet-style dormitories, an alarming prospect that greeted China's first foreign visitors when the country started to open up in the late 1970s. True, some of its lesser hotels are behind when its comes to basic requirements like hot water and clean sheets, but nowadays all the major cities host a crop of 5-star - or at least some very acceptable 4-star - properties. Boutique hotels are making their first appearance around Beijing, and properties like the Grand Hyatt Shanghai (the tallest hotel in the world) are setting a trend that other cities can only hope to emulate. Gone too are the days of foreign visitors being stared at as if they were on day release from some anthropological zoo. You are likely to attract some attention at tourist spots - if only to be included in a friendly souvenir photograph - and if you wander off the beaten track you can expect to be quizzed enthusiastically. Many young Chinese are keen to practice their English and other languages, and Beijing - in the run-up to the Olympics - is making a concerted attempt to drum some basic foreign words and phrases into its public officials. China's borders embrace sub-tropical islands and frozen desserts, so it is difficult to recommend precise times to visit. The best rule of thumb is to avoid the sticky summers and chilly winters if possible. Spring, from March to April, and autumn (September - October) are more climatically welcoming. Lunar New Year, which falls in late January or early February, sees much of the populace uprooting and returning home for family celebrations, so expect hotel beds and rail and air tickets to be in short supply. More...

Visas

All foreign nationals require a visa to enter China and this can be obtained prior to departure through your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate or from a local branch of CITS. Alternatively, if spending time in Hong Kong before visiting Mainland China, a visa can be arranged quickly and easily from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, CTS, CITS or from one of the many travel agents specialising in Chinese visas.

Different types of visa are available depending on length and purpose of stay and these are valid from the date of issue, therefore do not apply for the visa too far in advance. The visa takes up an entire page and will not be issued if one clean page is not available in your passport. Once in the country, an extension for a period of up to 30 days can be applied for at the Foreign Affairs section of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) - a branch of the police force that can be found in most towns.

Once in China, personal identification must be carried at all times.

Customs

Unlimited foreign currency may be imported but must be declared on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount that was imported and declared on arrival.

Visitors may take the following into China duty free:

  • Alcohol - 2 litres of alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco - 400 cigarettes

Prohibited items: Arms, ammunition, radio transmitters/receivers, exposed but undeveloped film, fruit and certain vegetables.

Penalties for carrying or trafficking illegal drugs are extremely severe, ranging from long prison sentences to the death penalty.

A form must be completed declaring valuables such as jewellery, electronic goods, cameras etc. on arrival to ensure that they can be taken out of the country when you leave. Receipts for items purchased in the country such as jewellery, handicrafts and paintings must be kept as you may be asked to show these on departure.

Time

The whole of China is in the same time zone: GMT + 8 hours

Currency

  • Renminbi (RMB), also known as Yuan (Y) or Kwai - Check current exchange rates
  • 10 jiao = 1RMB, 10 fen = 1 jiao
  • Notes issued: 500RMB, 100RMB, 50RMB, 10RMB, 5RMB, 2RMB, 1RMB 5 jiao, 2 jiao, 1 jiao
  • Coins issued: 1RMB, 1.5 jiao, 5 fen, 3 fen, 1 fen

Tipping

Tipping is not standard practice in China and is actually discouraged, although it is becoming more acceptable within international tourist hotels and restaurants. Tip porters and hotel staff 5-10RMB.

Banking Hours

Monday to Friday 9.00am to 12.00pm and 2.00pm to 5.00pm.

Language

The official language is Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua), however numerous dialects are also spoken throughout the mainland. Among these dialects, large groups speak Cantonese, Fukienese, Xiamenhua and Hakka. Cantonese is the main language of the Hong Kong and Macau SARs; whereas Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang (autonomous regions) have their own languages.

English is not widely spoken, therefore a phrase book would be extremely useful to point to key phrases written in Chinese characters. Another useful item would be a map with place names written in both English and Chinese.

Telephone

The international dialling code for China is 86.

When making international telephone calls from China first dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number.

Local Telephone Codes

Beijing 010
Dalian 0411
Guangzhou 020
Guilin 0773
Hangzhou 0571
Harbin 0451
Hefe 0551
Kunming 0871
Nanjing 025
Shanghai 021
Shenyang 024
Shenzhen 0755
Tianjin 022
Xian 029
Zhengzhou 0371

Electricity

  • 220/240 V AC, 50Hz
  • Either flat or square, two-pin and three-pin plugs are used. It is advisable to take a universal adapter, as these are difficult to find in China.

Water

Tap water is considered unsafe to drink so stick to boiled and bottled water. Most hotels provide distilled water or flasks of hot water in rooms on request.

Health

Make sure that you have adequate health insurance that covers evacuation, as although medical care is available, it is not always of the highest standard. Consider inoculations against typhoid, cholera, polio, hepatitis A, Japanese encephalitis and take advice regarding anti-malarials. It is always best to check the current situation and any vaccination requirements with your doctor when planning your trip.

In restaurants, avoid cracked crockery and rinse chopsticks, bowls and cups with hot tea before use, as they may have only been washed in cold water.

International Airports

  • Beijing - Capital International Central
  • Chengdu
  • Chongqing
  • Dalian - Zhoushuizi
  • Fuzhou - Yixu
  • Gaoqi - Xiamen
  • Guangzhou
  • Guilin
  • Haikou
  • Hangzhou
  • Harbin
  • Kunming
  • Nanjing
  • Nanning
  • Qingdao - Liuting
  • Shanghai - Hongqiao
  • Shenyang
  • Shenzhen
  • Tianjin - Zhangguizhuang
  • Urumqi
  • Wuhan
  • Xi'an
  • Zhanjiang
  • Zhengzhou

International Airport Departure Tax

RMB105

Domestic Airports

There are numerous domestic airports throughout China, which include those mentioned above.

Domestic Airport Departure Tax

RMB50

Etiquette/Dress Code

Casual clothes are acceptable everywhere, although smarter clothes can gain more respect. Revealing clothes should be avoided.

Problems that arise in China through cultural differences can often be put down to simple misunderstandings. In general, Chinese people are not forthcoming with information unless they are specifically asked for it, so be prepared to ask direct questions to get the information you need. Locals may not even speak honestly but will try to say what they think you want to hear. This is not done maliciously and an element of patience and understanding will ease the situation. Chinese people are courteous but reserved and politeness is appreciated at all times. Don't always be fooled by a smile as this can mean that the person is upset or embarrassed and try to avoid confrontational situations that may cause a loss of "face". Confrontation is not appreciated and will only worsen rather than resolve any situation.

Photography is not restricted around tourist areas but it is worth noting that taking photographs is not allowed in airports and permission should be gained before snapping away at any government or military bases.

Diplomatic Missions

Many countries have representative offices and consulates in China.

Useful Sources of Information

Further information on Chinese culture and tourist attractions:

  • Travel Guide - China
  • Tour in China

Weather

China's colossal landmass experiences a wide variety of climatic conditions.

Northern China exhibits diverse climatic changes; icy cold winters give way to blisteringly hot and humid summers with heavy rainfall.

Central China experiences a similar climate to the north, although temperatures are not as extreme.

Southern China is warmer, with slightly cooler temperatures along the coast. The summer months bring hot/humid weather and the possibility of typhoons in coastal areas between July and September. Winters can be cold but nowhere near the freezing temperatures found further north - a few warm layers of clothes are recommended.

Carry a lightweight jumper as it can be chillingly cold inside air-conditioned buildings during hot weather.

The North

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Spring (April - May) 10 - 24°C 26mm
Summer (June - August) 20 - 31°C 154mm
Autumn (September - November) 6 - 18°C 28mm
Winter (December - March) -7 - 5°C 5mm

Beijing, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Hebei

Spring pays a fleeting visit with dusty winds carrying the sands of the Gobi desert south across the area. These "yellow winds" can be unpleasant at times but as they dispel, the sky has a quality of light that is quite unique. Dusty winds still blow in summer and autumn, although not as frequently as during spring.

July and August become increasingly hot, humid and wet with temperatures soaring above average.

November sees the temperature start to plummet as winter begins in earnest. Winter in the north can be long and bitter with temperatures occasionally reaching a very chilly -10C.

Best time to visit: Spring and autumn are pleasantly warm with very little rain and low humidity - although temperatures can drop away at night.

Central

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Spring (April - May) 13 - 20°C 100mm
Summer (June - August) 24 - 32°C 152mm
Autumn (September - November) 13 - 23°C 83mm
Winter (December - March) 2 - 7°C 52mm

Shanghai, Jiangsu, Henan, Anhui, Hubei

Summer gets very wet, hot and humid. In fact, temperatures can remain quite high from April onwards. An umbrella is a must for those frequent rain showers, although it should be noted that downpours are not solely restricted to the summer months.

Winters tend to be cold but not as bleak as further north. Temperatures can fall drastically below average, so be prepared for bitterly cold weather.

Best time to visit: Spring and autumn, when temperatures are bearable and humidity is low.

The South

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Spring (April - May) 20 - 27°C 225mm
Summer (June - August) 24 - 32°C 263mm
Autumn (September - November) 20 - 28°C 42mm
Winter (December - March) 12 - 20°C 54mm

Guangdong, Hunan, Guanxi, Yunnan

Spring can be very similar to summer, however temperatures and humidity are slightly lower on average.

Summer experiences the most rainfall and typhoons are likely to hit the southeast coast between July and September. Humidity becomes really oppressive at this time.

Winter months can be cold but nowhere near the freezing temperatures of the north. Visitors should be prepared for temperatures to fall below the noted average.

Apart from winter (which is quite dry), rainfall can be frequent at any time of the year. Lightweight clothes are vital in the summer and a mix of warm and cold weather clothes are advisable during spring and autumn.

Due to higher elevation, temperatures in Sichuan and Yunnan can fall slightly below average. Usually, the climate in these areas is much milder with warm summers and cool winters. Extra layers are required throughout the year as evening temperatures can fall dramatically.

Best time to visit: Spring and autumn when temperatures are at their best, although rain is still commonplace.

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