Frequently asked questions (FAQ) are arranged in these categories:

Health Concerns
General Concerns About Travel in China (e.g. safety)
Travel & Visa Arrangements
Preparatory Information (clothing, weather, guidebooks)
Clarifying Price and Departure information
Destinations
Special Tours & Independent Travel

NB This information provides potential travelers to China with general guidance on common concerns. It makes no guarantee with regard to actual conditions encountered. We strongly recommend that all our information should be confirmed with experienced professionals, for example all medical matters should be double-checked with doctors and travel arrangments with travel agents, etc.

If your question has not been addressed, please email it to us.

 

Health Concerns

What vaccinations are required for a visit to China?
What common health products are unavailable in China?
Am I likely to get sick?

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General Concerns About Travel in China (eg safety)

Are China's streets safe?
What are Chinese planes like? Are they safe?

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Travel & Visa Arrangements

Should I buy travel insurance?
How should I go about booking my flights?
Which airlines fly to China?
How do I go about getting a visa to China?

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Preparatory Information (clothing, weather, guidebooks)

What clothing should I bring?
What is the weather usually like?
Which guidebooks do you recommend?
What advanced reading should I do?
What kind of souvenirs will I be able to buy?
What is the local currency?
Should I bring cash, travelers checks or can I rely on my credit card?
How much should I tip?
How many hours ahead is China?
Can I use my electric appliance in China?
What is the exchange rate?

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Clarifiying Price and Departure information.

Is your group tour suitable for elderly travelers?
Is your group tour suitable for handicapped travelers?
Is international airfare included in your price?
According to the Imperial Tour's itinerary, we fly into Beijing and out of Shanghai - is that correct?
Can I buy your tours through a travel agent?

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Destinations

Why don't you include Hong Kong in your Imperial Tour?
Can you provide an extension to Hong Kong?
Why do you put a disclaimer on Lhasa as a destination?

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Special Tours & Independent Travel

Can you organize a private tour for me?

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Health Concerns

What vaccinations are required for a visit to China?

Currently, no vaccinations are required by law. We advise you to check with your doctor or clinic for the most up-to-date medical information. Those vaccinations usually recommended for a trip to China include those against Tetanus, Hepatitis, Diphtheria, Cholera and Typhoid. Malaria tablets are unnecessary for the regions we will be visiting on our listed tours. (This may not be true for privately arranged tours.)

Further travel health information for China is available at the US Centers for Disease Control , the US State department's medical information sheet and at the University of Iowa's Virtual Hospital .

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What common health products are unavailable in China?

Most major cities have international medical centers, which cater to the needs of both expatriate residents and tourists. Pharmacies, supermarkets and luxury hotel shops in the major cities are stocked with many of the Western medicines and sanitary products you might require. One thing that is sometimes hard to find, which will be useful in Guilin, is mosquito repellent.

Clearly, if you regularly use certain health products and/or medicines, and are worried that these might be unavailable in China, the safest course of action is to bring a sufficient supply with you.

Further travel health information for China is available at the US Centers for Disease Control , the US State department's medical information sheet and at the University of Iowa's Virtual Hospital .

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Am I likely to get sick?

Travelers' concerns about sanitary and hygiene conditions in China are generally confounded by the conditions to which Imperial Tours introduces them. Eating at restaurants recommended by Conde Nast Traveler and residing in the best five star hotels, guests will find themselves reassured by the Western standards they encounter. Furthermore, since Imperial Tours' menus are designed for the Western palate, there are no challenging "exotic" items served to guests.

On the other hand, Chinese food does incorporate the use of strong flavors provided by garlic, chilli and ginger. Travelers with sensitive stomachs, unused to these flavors, might take precautionary measures by bringing along medicines for common stomach upsets.

A note of caution: while in China, please do not drink any unboiled water. If you buy some bottled water, make sure that the seal has not been broken before you drink from it.

Lastly, if you have a dietary requirement, please inform us and we will order accordingly.

Further travel health information for China is available at the US Centers for Disease Control , from the US State department's China travel site and at the University of Iowa's Virtual Hospital .

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Concerns About Travel in China (i.e. safety)

Are China's streets safe?

While one does from time to time hear scare stories, the general level of safety on China's streets is surprisingly good. For foreigners Beijing and Shanghai boast a measure of personal security exceeding that expected in Western cities such as London, New York, Paris or Los Angeles.

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Are Chinese planes safe?

The first thing to say is that most planes flown in China are not Chinese-manufactured. They are products of either U.S. companies Boeing & McDonnell Douglas or by European manufacturer Airbus.

For information about the relative safety of Chinese airlines, an independent evaluation is available at the Aviation Safety Network .

Imperial Tours customizes its itineraries to use the main national airlines operating within China, namely Air China, China Eastern and China Southern. All of these airlines are governed by strict safety standards enforced by CAAC, the government airline authority.

As a result of the on-going consolidation within the Chinese airline industry, where twenty or so national and regional airlines are being reorganized into three national companies, and because of last-minute changes in schedules beyond Imperial Tours' control, it does rarely occur that Imperial Tours is forced to use a regional airline, such as Sichuan Airlines or Xiamen Airlines. To the extent that it is forseeable, Imperial Tours will inform guests in advance if they are scheduled to travel on a plane that is not manufactured by Airbus, Boeing or McDonnell Douglas.

NB Customers should note that "China Airlines" is NOT an airline under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China. This airline is headquartered in Taipei and is under the jurisdiction of the administration of Taiwan.

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Travel & Visa Arrangements

Should I buy travel insurance?

Imperial Tours recommends that you buy comprehensive travel insurance as well as trip cancellation insurance. If you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition, it is sensible to ensure that your travel policy covers this. Please note that the majority of travel policies do not do so.

Imperial Tours does not sell travel insurance products.

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How should I go about booking my international flights?

Customarily, guests book their international flights themselves or through travel agents. For the contact details of a travel agency near you, please click here .

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Which airlines fly to China?

For information about airlines serving China, please click here .

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How do I go about getting a visa to China?

For visa information, please click here .

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Other Preparatory Information (clothing, weather, guidebooks)

What clothes should I bring?

In summer, the weather can be hot so light clothing, i.e. cotton and linen, is recommended with perhaps a light sweater as interiors are often cooled by air-conditioning.

Spring and autumn weather is generally very pleasant, but you should bring light sweaters for chillier mornings and evenings. Light, comfortable footwear is appropriate, i.e. sneakers, sandals.

In winter, the weather especially in the north can be cold with strong winds, thus necessitating a heavy coat, sweaters, scarf, gloves and a hat. However, as hotels and buses are always heated, it is advisable that you wear layers of clothing.

Since restaurant dress codes are generally relaxed, there is no need to bring much more than comfortable and convenient clothing. In Beijing and Shanghai you may well wish to wear something smart in the evenings. Although a jacket and tie are not required, certain restaurants do have restrictions on sneakers, shorts, etc.

The sun can be quite strong so bring sun creams, sun glasses and a hat. You might find it useful to have a small backpack in which to carry drinks. As in places like Guilin rain can be expected throughout the year, we advise that you bring a waterproof jacket as well as an umbrella. Western mosquito repellents are hard to find, so bring them if you do not wish to use local remedies.

For details of current and historical weather at China's major tourism destinations, please click here.

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What is the weather usually like?

For weather data for key tourist destinations, please click here .

Beijing (Peking), meaning Northern town, is significantly further north than the other towns we are visiting. The air is dry - traditinally it rains rarely though climate change and forced precipitation seem to be changing this. The best times to visit Beijing are in spring and autumn between March and June and September and November. During these periods day-time temperatures vary between 20ºC to 30ºC (68ºF to 86ºF). From December to February you should assume that the daytime temperature can be as cold as -3ºC (19ºF), though it can be as warm as 14ºC (57ºF).

Xi'an, meaning Western Peace, is on a broadly similar latitude to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuxi, Yangzhou, Nanjing and Suzhou. Rainfall is not severe, but tends to peak with the heat in July and August. It is possible to visit these destinations year around, though autumn and spring are the best periods. During these times the daytime temperatures vary between 18ºC to 28ºC (64ºF to 82ºF). In winter the average temperature is about 9ºC (48ºF) rising in the summer months to 32ºC (89ºF). Guilin is the town furthest south; it's the most humid town. We are quite likely to encounter some rain here whatever time of year we come. Precipitation, most severe during the summer months, trails off in autumn. The daytime temperature, year round, varies between 21ºC to 32ºC (70ºF to 89ºF).

Of Tibet it has been said that the four seasons are compressed into a single day because of its dramatic temperature fluctuations between night and day. During the winter months, between November and April, the night temperatures can be uncomfortably cold, but day temperatures during this period are do-able at 6ºC to 14ºC (45ºF to 60ºF). The advantage of traveling to Lhasa during the winter, particularly during the Tibetan New Year, is the reduced number of other travelers. Charts indicate the increased rainfall in Lhasa during August. However, this is from a very low level and visitors should not be dissuaded by this.

The spring solstice introduces various fluctuations to weather across China. April is a windy month in Beijing. Extensive tree-planting around the the city's northern perimeters has done a lot to break this up, but guests should come prepared. Chinese ladies typically tie a light scarf around their heads until the winds pass. Late spring also brings increased rainfall to southern parts of China. For this reason, Imperial Tours is reluctant to arrange tours to Huangshan before July in any given year. Guilin can also be subject to high rainfall in April and May, but this varies. In Dunhuang, an oasis town within the world's second largest desert, spring brings sandstorms, and we will generally not organize tours there at this time of year. (Please note that Dunhuang can be bitingly cold after dusk from November to March. Adventurous guests have traveled here at this time, but please make sure you bring a warm coat such as a mountaineering jacket with you.)

 

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Which guidebooks do you recommend?

The "Blue Guides" to China and Tibet are the most instructive with regard to the cultural and historical background of the countries. "Fodor's" China guide is quite thorough though the section on Huangshan could be more extensive. Look out for "Frommers" upcoming China guide, which essentially will be its first as its current China guide is little more than a good collection of impressionistic stories.

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What advanced reading should I do?

For an introductory reading list, please click here .

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What kind of souvenirs will I be able to buy?

For information on shopping in China, please click here .

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What is the local currency?

The Chinese peoples' national currency or "Renminbi" consists of "fen", "jiao" and "yuan". There are ten fen in a jiao, and ten jiao in a yuan. The basic currency unit is the yuan, known colloquially as a kuai. The yuan is denominated in notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. One yuan or kuai is worth about 13 American cents or 8 British pennies. 100 kuai is worth about 12 American dollars or 8 British pounds.

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Should I bring cash, travelers checks or can I rely on my credit card?

Travelers checks and all the major foreign currencies can be changed into Renminbi at hotels, banks and some department stores. These establishments are obliged by law to change at an official rate established by the People's Bank of China.

Major credit cards are usually accepted at the larger department stores and gift shops. Using international credit cards to draw cash from ATM or automatic-teller machines is becoming increasingly possible but should not be taken for granted.

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How much should I tip?

This is not the custom in China, though the influx of Western tourists is teaching many Chinese hotel staff to expect tips. Should you wish to tip a bell boy, you might give about 5 or 10 yuan or kuai. In restaurants and taxis, you still do not tip. We ask you not to tip the drivers and tour guides as we will be taking care of this ourselves.

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How many hours ahead is China?

China is 13 hours ahead of EST, except during summer time when it is only 12 hours ahead. During the summer months this means that if it is 1pm in Beijing, it is 6 am in London, 1 am in New York and 10pm the previous day in Los Angeles.

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Can I use my electric appliances in China?

US appliances run on a 110 volt current. If you plug these into a socket in China they will blow and break. The exception is electric shavers - some hotels have special 110 volt outlets for these. For a US appliance to run in China, you will need to buy a converter to reduce the 220 volt current to a 110 volt current. For low-wattage applicances these are available at many hardware stores in the US.

The Chinese electricity system runs at 220 volts, 50 cycles per second AC. Plugs are usually two pronged, either flat pinned as in the States or round as in Europe. There are also three-pronged, angled,pinned plugs in the Australian style. International travel adapter plugs are readily available at most travel stores in the West, but not in China. All hotels are equipped with hair dryers.

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What is the exchange rate in China?

The interbank buy and sell rates usually hover between 8.26 and 8.28 Renminbi to the US dollar. This has been the case now for many years. All licensed money change locations, whether they be high street banks or hotel desks, must change at a centrally fixed rate. Usually the consumer will buy Renminbi at the rate of 8.19 Renminbi to the dollar.

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Clarifiying Imperial Tours' Price and Departure information.

Is your group tour suitable for elderly travelers?

The majority of our guests are aged between 40 and 70.

While our listed group tours are not physically demanding, guests should nonetheless bear in mind that in inspecting the Forbidden City they will need to stroll around for about two hours and cover a distance of over 2 miles. If as a result of his or her inability to keep up, a guest disrupts fellow tourists' enjoyment of their tour, then Imperial Tours reserves the right to interrupt their tour.

Arrangments can be made for guests with particular needs on a private tour.

On a related matter - senior adults and guests with pre-existing medical conditions should check their travel insurance policies to ensure that they are as encompassing as they would like. Often travel insurance policies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions. Please consult an insurance specialist to get appropriate travel insurance.

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Is your group tour suitable for handicapped travelers?

As a developing country, China has a great deal of work still left to do in terms of increasing accessibility for handicapped travelers. Through the efforts of such leaders as Deng Pu Feng (the son of Deng Xiao Ping, the second premier of New China) steps are being taken in this direction, but progress is slow and achievments are limited.

Handicapped travelers should inquire about our private tour services.

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Is international airfare included in your price?

International airfare is not included in our price. Our land only price does not include international airfare, travel insurance nor the costs involved in getting a tourist visa.

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According to the Imperial Tour's itinerary, we fly into Beijing and out of Shanghai - is that correct?

Yes. Most airlines fly into and out of both cities so there shouldn't be any a problem. Also, please note that the beginning date on the itineraries is the day on which you depart from the US. Most flights to China will arrive on the day following departure. For example, if a tour begins on March 7, this means that you would leave the US on March 7 and arrive in Beijing on March 8.

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Can I buy your tours through a travel agent?

Yes. To find the travel agency nearest you, please click here .

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Imperial Tours' Destinations

Why don't you include Hong Kong in your Imperial Tour?

Most people have two to three weeks to spend in China. By comparison with mainland China's cultural, historical and geographical range, Hong Kong's history, local culture and geographic is correspondingly limited.

That said, travelers who wish to add a Hong Kong extension to their group tour or include Hong Kong as a stop on their private tour are invited to do so.

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Can you provide an extension to Hong Kong?

Yes. As Hong Kong is fairly easy to navigate and many people there speak English, the services of a China Host are not necessary in Hong Kong. We will provide this service if you request it.

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Why do you put a disclaimer on Lhasa as a destination?

Imperial Tours defeats Westerners' expectations with regard to China. Luxury and style are within the perimeter of Chinese life. However the accommodation and restaurants at Lhasa do not offer the level of luxury that characterises other facets of Imperial Tours' service. Though the incredible wealth of Lhasa's culture more than compensates for this, it behoves Imperial Tours to warn its guests of possible shortfalls in terms of their luxury experience on tour. (Imperial Tours can organize for its Executive Chef to accompany tours to Lhasa.)

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Imperial Tours' Special Tours & Independent Travel

Can you organize a private tour for me?

We can customize tours for any number of people. Please send your request by EMAIL remembering to give as much information as possible. Mention the proposed length of your journey, the places to be visited, the number of people traveling (children / adults), any special visits / arrangments you would like made, dates and any additional interests you may have.

 

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Imperial Tours, 511 W Orange Grove Ave., Sierra Madre, CA 91024 United States, Tel: +1 626 836 7270, EMAIL