Climate/ Weather  Top

Follow the link to our China weather page for details about the climate in China and the best time to visit this fabulous country, including a detailed six-day Beijing weather forecast.

Communication  Top

The country code to dial in Mainland China is 86; Hong Kong is 852; and Taiwan in 886. To dial out of China dial 00, followed by the relevant country code and phone number.

Telephone services in China are readily available, obviously better in the cities rather than regional areas; however you will find that making international phone calls from China is sometimes easier than making calls internally. Usually, there is a 3 minute minimum charge for international calls. Domestic calls are usually cheaper to make between 9pm & 7am and will often find that the connections are also better during this time.

You will find that most major cities and urban areas have mobile phone coverage, but coverage in other parts of the country is often sporadic.

Emergency numbers in China are:

Police: 110
Fire: 119
Emergency: 120

Internet is a resource that is available in many areas of China and is growing fast. Most major cities are home to numerous internet cafes and coverage can be found in many areas of China. The Chinese government routinely blocks access of its citizens to certain sites and subjects, such as the human rights group Falun Gong, as well as some foreign news agencies.

If you are looking to send items via post overseas, regular services to Europe can take anywhere from a couple of days to 1 week. Most larger tourist hotels usually have their own post offices. Post offices are usually open between 8am & 7pm.

Currency/ Money  Top

Chinese Money is called Renminbi (RMB - which means People's Currency). The popular unit of RMB is Yuan. Chinese currency is issued in the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and a 100 Yuan; 1, 2 and 5 Jiao; and 1, 2 and 5 Fen. There are parts of China the Yuan is also known as Kuai and Jiao is known as Mao.

To view the current Chinese exchange rate, this can be seen by visiting OANDA.com.

Local Costs in China

Internet cafe/hour - Y2
Meal in a food court - Y16
American Handburger - Y12
Cigarettes (pack of 20) - Y3
Bottle of water - Y2
Bottle of beer (from corner store) - Y2
Pint of local beer (from a bar) - Y10
City bus ticket - Y1
DVD (pirated) - Y8
Petrol/litre - Y3
Souvenir T-shirt - Y25

Average room rates

- Low      US$25-35
- Mid       US$35-100
- High     US$100-300
- Deluxe US$300+

Average meal rates

- Low      US$1-5
- Mid       US$5-10
- High     US$10-25
- Deluxe US$25+

Electricity  Top

The electrical system in China runs off a 220 volts/ 50Hz system, however you will find that many good hotels also have facilities for 110 volt appliances.

Embassy Information Top

For a list of Chinese embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within China, check http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/.

General Information  Top

Population: 1.313 billion people (the most populous nation with one-fifth of the world's people).
Total Area: 9,596,960 million square kilometres.
Capital: Beijing (formerly known as Peking) with 13.82 million people, lying in the north-east of the country.
Time Zone: Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +8 hours.

To view the current time in Beijing, click on this link to TimeAndDate.com.

Language  Top

The official language of China is Chinese (Mandarin) and is also one of the five working languages designated by the United Nations. Over 915 million speak Mandarin, making it the most spoken language in the world. Most of the 55 ethnic minorities have their own written and spoken languages. Other languages spoken in China include Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, as well as various other minority languages.

Some common Mandarin phrases handy for travellers include (spellings are for pronunciation only and doesn't represent the actual Mandarin characters):

Yes - sher as in sherpa
No - boo
Hello - knee how
Good-bye - dzai jyen
How much? - dwo shahw
Please -cheeng
Thank you -shyeh-shyeh
That one - nay guh
Sorry - dway boo chee
English - ing wen
Where's the toilet? - tsuh swo dzai nah lee?
Help - cho dju
0 - líng
1 - yī
2 - èr
3 - sān
4 - sì
5 - wǔ
6 - liù
7 - qī
8 - bā
9 - jiǔ
10 - shí

Public Holidays  Top

Follow the link to view a current list of public holidays in China.

As well as the above national holidays, there are also other days observed as public holidays throughout the country, being official in some parts. These include:

8th March - International Women's Day.
4th May - National Youth Day.
23rd May - Tibet Liberation Day.
1st June - International Children's Day.
1st August - Army Day.

Religion Top

China is officially an atheist country, but 8% of the population have some kind of official religious belief. These include (in order of popularity) Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics & Protestants. Freedom of religious belief is a government policy, and the constitution protects all normal religious activities.

Visas/ Passport Information  Top

Foreigners travelling to China first need to apply for a visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate in their home country. Depending on the status of your passport and the purpose of your visit to China, Chinese authorities will issue the specific visa. Diplomatic visas, tourist visas, transit visas, business visit visas, student visas and work visas are issued depending on the category the visitor falls in. A separate journalist visa is also issued to journalists.

China has also signed agreements with 64 countries on Mutual Visa Exemption. Normally the mutually visa-free agreements allow a stay of less than 30 days. The basic documents necessary for a Chinese visa are a valid passport, completed visa application form along with a recent 2-inch (4cm x 6cm) full-face photograph and visa processing fee.

To visit Tibet, you will need consent from the Tibet Tourism Administration before you are issued a valid visa. To visit China’s five special economic zones – which include Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong Province, Xiamen in east China's, Fujian Province and southern China's Hainan Province.

If you are entering China in your own vehicle (be it a cycle, motorcycle, car or aircraft), prior approval is mandatory. If a visitor wants to extend his/her stay beyond the approved term, then permission from the local security organization is required for the extension.

US citizens who do not wish to go through the trouble of dealing with the red tape themselves can count on the professional services of Travel Visa Pro to speed things up: Apply for China Visa Online (service starts from $39). If you need to renew, add pages, change name, or just get a new US passport, you can Apply for a New US Passport here.

Geography Top

The fourth largest country in the world after Russia, Canada, and the United States, China has 9.6 million square kilometres of land which has diverse landscapes ranging from vast deserts, high mountains and stretches of fertile alluvial plains.  A very long sea coast of more than 18,000 kilometres length borders the eastern side of the country. The western half of the country has plateaus and the highest tableland on Earth. To the south of China lies the Tibetan plateau. Just north of the Tibetan plateau is the vast Gobi desert which extends towards Mongolia.

The mighty Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world and along its course it is fed by thousands of lakes. The Yellow River, known as the cradle of human civilization, is the sixth largest river in the world and empties into the Bohai Sea. The mainland of China in East Asia covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres and is bordered on the east by a seacoast more than 18,000 kilometres in length. Taiwan and Hainan are the largest of the 5,000-plus islands on the country's vast territorial seas.

China's landmass consists of a wide array of of escarpments, which descend eastward towards the seas. Its rivers, including the world-renowned Yangtze and Yellow rivers, have a total length of 220,000 kilometres. Its picturesque landscape is glorified by towering mountain ranges, vast plateaus and plains, and a myriad of basins and hills. Mountains and highlands make up 65 percent of the mainland, which is studded with 2,000-odd natural lakes of varying sizes. Mount Qomolangma, soaring to an unbelievable height of 8,848 metres, is the world's highest mountain, whereas the Turpan Basin sinks 154 metres below sea level.

Location Top

China lies in eastern Asia and borders an unbelievable 15 different countries, which include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan & Vietnam. It also borders the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea & South China Sea.

To view a map of China, click on this link for WorldAtlas.com WorldAtlas.com.

People  Top

Besides the Han Chinese who make up the majority, there are 55 other ethnic Chinese people. The other major minority ethnic groups are the Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uyghur, Tujia, Yi, Mongol, Tibetan, Buyei, Dong, Yao, Korean, Bai, Hani, Kazakh, Li, and Dai.

Resources  Top

China has a vast territory which is rich in natural resources. Its fauna and flora resources are immense and it has the distinction of having the largest number of wild animals in the world. The Giant Panda, which is regarded as a ‘living fossil’ because of its endangered status, is endemic to China. Other animals which are unique to China are the snub-nosed golden monkey and the Yangtze alligator. Several ancient surviving plants such as Metasequoia, Cathaya argyrophylla and Ginkgo are also unique to China.

China also has an abundance of mineral resources. These include petroleum, uranium, natural gas, and coal, which are necessary for a country’s development.

Television Top

While the major language used for broadcast on Chinese TV is Chinese, English and Japanese programmes are also available in some select hotels. The Chinese Television Station (CCTV), which was launched in the year 2000 is the window to the world for the Chinese. It provides 24-hour news broadcasts and has 45 million subscribers outside China.