This information provides 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.
If your question has not been addressed, please email us.
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 most regions in China. Please inquire regarding your specific itinerary if unsure.
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 common over-the-counter 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.
If you regularly use certain health products and/or medicines, or are using specific medication for a health issue, the safest and best course of action is to bring a sufficient supply with you.
Guests’ concerns about sanitary and hygiene conditions in China are often confounded by the conditions to which Imperial Tours introduces them, and they inevitably 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" item
On the other hand, Chinese food does incorporate the use of strong flavors provided by garlic, chili 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 or tap water. If you buy bottled water, make sure the seal has not been broken before you drink from it.
If you have any allergies or dietary requirements, please inform us ahead of time and we will accommodate accordingly.
Imperial Tours prioritizes the health & safety of every single guest. All China Hosts and Virtual Concierges possess a list of emergency medical service providers, assuring prompt attention should you require it. In the event of an emergency anywhere in mainland China, your China Host or Virtual Concierge will take immediate steps to arrange the care and attention you need using guidelines established in Imperial Tours’ Crisis Management Plan. Note that while Imperial Tours will facilitate your getting immediate medical attention, we do not provide travel medical insurance and we strongly recommend you possess health insurance coverage (including emergency evacuation) before departing.
While one does from time to time hear scare stories, the general level of safety on China's streets is surprisingly good. Beijing and Shanghai boast a measure of personal safety exceeding levels in cities such as London, New York, Paris or Los Angeles.
Most planes flown in China are products of either U.S. companies Boeing & McDonnell Douglas or of 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, China Southern and Hainan Airlines. All of these airlines are governed by strict safety standards enforced by CAAC, the government airline authority.
As a result of ongoing consolidation within the Chinese airline industry, 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 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.
Please do request a wheelchair if you think you might need it, and the earlier you do so the better your travel experience will be. Although many tourist sites in China have been modified for wheelchair access, advance notice is needed to put many of these provisions into effect. For example, a tourist site may have installed an elevator for wheelchair access, but without advance notice this may be unmanned and hence inoperational. Also note that sites with wheelchair access often still require wheelchair users to get up once or twice to cross various thresholds. Travelers who suspect they will need a wheelchair to get about should notify us at an early stage in the booking process so that proper arrangements can be made.
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. We strongly recommend you possess health insurance coverage (including emergency evacuation) before departing.
Imperial Tours’ prices do not include travel insurance and our company does not sell travel insurance products.
Guests customarily book their international flights themselves or through travel agents.
International airfare is not included in our price. Please note however that all domestic airfare within China is included in our prices.
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Almost all foreign nationals visiting China are required to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Mainland China. Generally speaking, a Chinese embassy or consulate is responsible for issuing China visas within its area of operation. If there is no embassy or consulate near you, contact the Chinese embassy in your national capital. The cost of and time taken in obtaining the visa is each traveler’s responsibility. Visitors from many countries do not require a visa for short visits to Macau or Hong Kong. Please check with your travel agent or visa service.
In addition to a Chinese visa, all foreign nationals traveling to the Tibet Autonomous Region are required to hold a special travel permit. We will arrange this for you prior to your arrival in China. The Tibet permit is also included in the tour cost. To obtain your Tibet travel permit in a timely fashion, please email us a scanned copy of your Chinese visa and passport, and your arrival and departure information into and out of China, no later than two weeks prior to your arrival to China. Please note:
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. A light raincoat is also useful, just in case. In winter, the weather especially in the north (e.g., Beijing, Xian, Dunhuang) 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 in mainland China 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. Hong Kong has strict dress regulations at certain dinner destinations. Please inquire with us if you need more details.
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. Western mosquito repellents are hard to find, so bring them if you do not wish to use local remedies.
Beijing (Peking), meaning Northern town, is 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 further south than Beijing but its weather pattern is broadly similar. Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuxi, Yangzhou, Nanjing and Suzhou are in eastern China. Rainfall is not severe, but tends to peak with the heat in July and August. In recent years, there has been a sporadic mild typhoon effect from late August and early September. 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 May and June, trails off from summer onwards. 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 traditionally windy month in Beijing. Extensive tree-planting around the the city's northern perimeters has done a great deal to break this up. Chinese ladies used to often be seen with a light scarf tied around their head, but this sight has become more rare. Guests should bear this in mind and come prepared however. 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 fifth largest desert, spring traditionally brings sandstorms. For this reason, we have generally avoided to organize tours there at this time of year. That said, in recent years, the sand storms have lessened markedly such that travel there during these months might be attempted now. (Please note that Dunhuang is bitingly cold after dusk from November to March. Adventurous guests have traveled here at this time, but please make sure you bring very warm clothing, such as a mountaineering jacket with you.)
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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 or your ATM card to draw cash from ATMs is becoming increasingly possible but should not be taken for granted and it is thus always good to have some cash.
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 16 American cents or 10 British pennies.
This is not the custom in China, though the influx of Western tourists has taught many Chinese hotel staff to expect tips. Should you wish to tip a bell boy, you might give 10 kuai per bag. Tipping is unnecessary in restaurants and taxis. Furthermore, on Ultimate China tours, the China Host takes care of tipping all local service staff including tour guides, drivers and bell boys. Guests are given guidelines as to the recommended tip for the China Host at the end of an Ultimate China tour, as well as recommended guide & driver tips for a China Escapades tour.
The Chinese electricity system runs on a 220V, 50 Hz alternating current. Plugs are usually two pronged, either flat pinned as in the US 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. Most hotels are equipped with hair dryers.
US appliances run on an 110V alternating current. For a US appliance to run in China, you will need a transformer to reduce the 220V current to a 110V current. Some hotel bathrooms have 110V outlets for electric shavers. Most laptop adaptors & mobile phone chargers function across the entire 110V to 240V range (check the label) and do not require transformers (though you may require an adapter plug as noted above).
Award-winning, Imperial Tours has been featured in many respected journals including Departures magazine, Robb Report, Vanity Fair, Elite Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Die Welt and the Travel Channel. We were recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as a China Specialist between 2008 and 2010. Travel+Leisure recognized us as an “A-List” China Specialist for 10 consecutive years from 2002, and subsequently in 2011 & 2012 we are honored to have been nominated to the select Super Agent "A-list" for our work in China. We are proud of our customer feedback, which shows us “exceeding expectations” for 95% of our guests, and will work hard to continue to merit this.
Ultimate China tours are accompanied by a China Host to provide the best possible service, while China Escapades tours feature greater independence at a more accessible price. There is no difference in quality between Ultimate China & China Escapade tours, only between their service structure, inclusions and offered destinations. A feature comparison is available on the Private Touring page.
Offered on Ultimate China (UC) tours, the China Host is a Westerner, fluent in Chinese, resident in China for several years, who travels with you as a concierge. She or he has been trained to anticipate the luxury Western traveler’s needs, ensuring you receive the utmost in quality and service at every turn while protecting you from tourist traps common with other tour companies (such as daily visits to commission-paying shops and tourist restaurants of dubious quality). A China Host will diffuse potentially stressful situations in hotels, airports and restaurants, and add immeasurably to your understanding of China.
Offered on China Escapades tours, our Western Shanghai and Beijing-based Itinerary Designers serve as Virtual Concierges. They assist you in real-time, and in most cases, having designed your itinerary, have the added benefit of being familiar with every detail of your tour.
A China Host is more than a butler – she/he is a cultural bridge, adding context and understanding to anything you are curious about or encounter during your trip. This intangible dimension is an unexpected benefit often appreciated by our guests and one that cannot be realized by a Virtual Concierge. Also, because the China Host is with you in person, she/he has the advantage of daily observation and can anticipate your preferences and make pro-active suggestions. Many changes take time to implement and require behind-the-scenes logistics. A Virtual Concierge is not as well-equipped to seamlessly handle on-the-fly changes as your China Host, who can instantly relay options and communicate subtleties as she/he is by your side.
While a China Escapades tour enables you to directly manage your guide & driver in each destination, the reality of turning plans into confirmed activities in China is often more complex than initially presumed. Not that the combination of your efforts together with the Virtual Concierge and guide/driver are inadequate, but you’re likely to be eating into precious vacation time on logistics when you ought to be enjoying yourself. One of the China Host’s main responsibilities is assisting with contemporaneous itinerary changes – and ensuring that your vacation is as structured or spontaneously free-flowing as you desire. You simply have to convey your wishes to the China Host and the business of arranging everything gets taken care of, including those you wouldn’t have thought of.
Your China Host can be as integrated with your party or as discreet as you wish. While she/he is available to share meals with you, you can easily request your China Host to dine separately. We find many customers truly enjoy the insights and context a China Host provides, a context derived not only from familiarity with China but also a Western cultural background – the combination of which delivers a more textured travel experience overall. Note that service will be better when a China Host is with you. Hence, if you do ask for the China Host not to join you for dinner and the service is not as expected, please bear this in mind.
A commission-paying shop/restaurant is one that pays local tour operators and ground handlers to bring tourist traffic to their business. The tourism business model in China has long depended on commissions paid by shops/restaurants to compensate for revenues lost through deep discount tour pricing. You need to be concerned about this since shops & restaurants which “pay for customers” typically pay correspondingly little attention to product/service quality – as captive customer revenue is guaranteed by virtue of the commission arrangement.
All Imperial Tours hosts and guides are strictly forbidden from bringing you to a commission-paying shop/restaurant. If you request to enter one, for example because a friend has recommended one to you, our hosts/guides must phone in to Imperial’s Beijing office as a matter of record before entering the establishment. This is a key point of distinction in the marketplace. When comparing with other companies, we urge you to inquire whether they use commission-paying shops or restaurants and how much of your vacation time will be wasted in them.