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Know Before You Go

Good preparation can make a China Tour more enjoyable and care free. The following information will help clarify what to expect on your China travel vacations.

 
 

Do before you go
Make sure that you have 1) your valid passport ready, and 2) obtain the right China visa. 3) Check your name spellings on your airline tickets to make sure it matches EXACTLY on your passport. 4) Check the weather in the places you are going to visit in China and pack your baggage light and smart. 5) Call the airline related to get your seat pre-assigned and your special dietary request placed as soon as you receive your airline tickets.

Make two copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Carry the other one along with a passport size photo with you in a separate place from your passport. Leave a copy of your China Tour itinerary and contact information with family or friends at home so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Flights to China
Contact the airline concerned to confirm the flight number and any possible schedule changes prior to leaving for the airport. Connecting passengers should verify, at the time of check-in, that luggage can be checked through to your China destination. For transpacific flights, you must check in at least three hours prior to the scheduled departure time. Please check the detailed Air China Flight Schedule for your China Tours.

If you choose to arrange your own add-on flights to the designated gateway city, you must take the following facts into consideration before booking any flights. China Spree is not responsible for any missed connections and penalties/loss as a result. For a peace of mind, please buy trip interruption insurance. Note:

  • For transpacific flight, you must check-in at least three (3) hours ahead of departure time.
  • It takes at least one (1) hour to clear customs and claim your checked baggage.
  • For domestic flight, you must check in at least two (2) hours prior to departure time.

Most airline tickets are issued using a special fare which cannot be changed or canceled without incurring additional cost. Should you lose or misplace your tickets while traveling, you should immediately notify the airline. In most cases the airline will have you complete a Lost Ticket Indemnity Form, and for a fee, issue replacement tickets.

For Air China flight schedule of your China trip and all other issues regarding your air travel to China, please read more details at Air China Flight Schedule and All About Flights.

Additional airline fees
Additional airline fees may apply at check-in. Fees may be charged by airlines for services such as preferred seat selection and baggage handling. Please note that fees are determined by the airline you check in with and may change at any time. Additional overweight baggage fees are charged and vary by airline. Please check with your airline for weight restrictions. The airline fees are not part of China Spree tour fare. It is our customer’s responsibility to check with the related airline for up-to-date information. Check Airline Fee Chart.

Air China mileage accumulation policy
Air China changes its mileage accumulation policy on January 1, 2012.

Passengers booked on discounted group airfare with booking class of E and T will earn 50% mileage provided you are a member of Air China member club PhoenixMiles. Most China Spree group airfares fall under this category. Please note that only Air China PhoenixMiles members can earn the mileage for E and T booking class. Though Air China is a member of Star Alliance, United Airlines and other Star Alliance members do not earn Air China mileage points for bookings in E and T class. This practice is dictated by the current contract governing the mileage policy between Star Alliance members and may change at any time. It may be possible that mileage points you earn with Air China PhoenixMiles can be transferred to your Star Alliance membership in the future, but this cannot be guaranteed.

We recommend that you apply for Air China PhoenixMiles membership online in advance. Alternatively, you may join the membership when you check in at Air China counter in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York JFK, or Vancouver, Canada.

To apply online, click the following link:

http://ffp.airchina.com.cn/en/index.html, then click Phoenixmiles card application.

To earn your Air China mileage points, you should contact Air China directly by the following two ways:

1) Call Air China at 866-882-8122 upon receipt of your E-Ticket number. At the same time, you may
request the seating, and place dietary request.

2) Present your PhoenixMiles card number to Air China check-in counter at San Francisco, Los Angeles,
New York JFK, or Vancouver, Canada.

Passengers booked on all other Air China booking class will earn 50% - 100% mileage points, and you are allowed to accumulate those points to your UA or other Star Alliance mileage programs directly at airport check-in.

Note the booking class mentioned above has nothing to do with where you sit on the airplane and the class of your seat. Mileage points are calculated using the airline booking code and pricing system. Frequent traveler programs are administered by the airlines, and are beyond the control of China Spree. If you have questions or concerns regarding your frequent traveler mileage points, earn, or redeem the points, you must contact the airline directly when you receive your E-Ticket from China Spree. The Air China Call Center can be reached at: 800-882-8122. In order to claim your frequent traveler mileage, you may be required to provide the original ticket receipt and boarding pass, so be sure to save these papers.

For further information about your air travel to China, visit Air China Flight Schedule and All About Air Travel.

Air China & Star Alliance
Air China, Air Canada and United are code-sharing partners of Star Alliance. However, Air China does not allow upgrade to business class using other Star Alliance mileage points (i.e. United or Air Canada mileage). Neither can you get a free Air China ticket by redeeming your Star Alliance mileage through Air China or China Spree.

United and Air Canada mileage points can be used to purchase Air China flights, and can only be done directly with United Airlines or Air Canada.

Passport & China Visa
All foreign nationals traveling to the People's Republic of China must travel on a valid passport with at least six(6) months remaining validity after the entry date into China. A tourist visa must be obtained prior to entering the PRC. Please read complete details about Passport & Visa for your China Travel Vacations.

Arrival Procedures
A China Spree representative will greet you once you have cleared the Customs area at your China arrival airport. Please wear your name badge for easy identification, and look for a China Spree sign. We provide an illustrated China arrival procedure at our member area. If you take care of the flight to China on your own and book our 'Land only' package, your airport/hotel transfers on arrival/departure days are excluded. The metered taxicab from Beijing Airport to your Beijing hotel costs about $15 per ride depending on the traffic. Optional private transfer is available upon request. The hotel address in both English and Chinese is available at the "Contact Information" page in the travel documents sent to you two weeks prior to departure of your China trip.

Baggage
Always remember, "He who would travel happily must travel light". We strongly recommend you travel with one piece of checked luggage, one carry-on bag, and one personal item per person.

Baggage Allowance for China flights
Baggage allowance differs for the Trans-Pacific and the China domestic sections of your China trip. Baggage allowance for the Trans-Pacific flight is two pieces of checked baggage per person on economy class. Total dimensions (Length + Width + Height) shall not exceed 62 inches(158cm) per piece. Maximum weight per piece is 50 lbs(23kg). Baggage allowance for the Trans-Pacific flight is two pieces of checked baggage per person on business or first class. Total dimensions(Length + Width + Height) shall not exceed 62 inches(158cm). Maximum weight per piece is 70 lbs(32kg). Each passenger may carry one piece of carry-on luggage, the combined dimensions of which shall not exceed 45 inches (115cm).

China domestic flights are more restrictive than Trans-Pacific flights. You are allowed only one piece of checked baggage, and that must not exceed 44 lbs per person. In addition, you are allowed one carry-on bag not to exceed 11 lbs, and one personal item such as a purse or camera bag. The carry-on must fit in the overhead bin or under the seat. The airport authorities seldom weigh your carry-on baggage, but the size of it does matter, particularly when the flight is full. This is the rule. Sometimes it is enforced strictly and sometimes it is not - depending on the local airport and how full the flight is. The checked-baggage rule, allowing only one piece and its weight allowance are usually enforced, particularly in the inland cities.

Overweight luggage in excess of allowances will incur excess baggage charges payable on site by the passenger. For domestic China flights, you may be asked by the airline to pay fees of approximately $2 to $4 per pound in excess of the weight limit.

For U.S. & Canada domestic flight to Air China gateways (SFO, LAX, JFK, YVR), fees may be charged by airlines for services such as preferred seat selection and baggage handling. Please note that fees are determined by the airline you check in with and may change at any time. Additional overweight baggage fees are charged and vary by airline. Please check with the airline directly for the updated information on checked & carry-on baggage, weight restrictions, and seat selection. Check Airline Fee Chart for further details.

Baggage Lock & Liquids
Per Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you should leave your baggage unlocked for flights to and from a U.S. airport. Or, if you wish to lock your baggage, you MUST use a TSA recognized lock, which allows TSA screeners to open and re-lock your bags for security screening. Ordinary locks will be cut if physical inspection is required.

However, China aviation and transportation authorities have a different rule on this issue and your checked baggage must be locked during the transportation in China. You only need to lock the main compartment of your baggage. This is a Chinese regulation. If your bag is found unlocked during transit, the airline or the train station will lock it for you and you will be billed for the locks. So prepare locks for the main compartment of each bag and any lock will do.

Liquids & gels over 100 ml must be packed in checked luggage at all airports in both U.S. and China.

Baggage Precautions
Make sure that you attach a China Spree luggage tag for each checked suitcase. A copy of your itinerary and contact information should also go in an outside pocket of your luggage to aid the airline personnel to locate you in case you and your luggage become separated. Never check luggage containing prohibited items (i.e. lighters), valuables (i.e. cash, jewelry, and cameras), fragile items (i.e. undeveloped film, bottles, eyeglasses) or critical items (i.e. medicines, travel vouchers). You should read more information about TSA Permitted and Prohibited Items.

Baggage Damage/Lost
China Spree will not be responsible for loss or damage to your luggage and/or personal belongings. You must report any loss or damage immediately at the time of the incident and obtain a written report from the local authority for submission to your travel insurance provider. Travel Insurance covering lost and damaged baggage is strongly recommended. If your luggage is lost or damaged by the airlines, a baggage claim form must be filled with the carrier before leaving the airport.

Baggage Lock
Your checked baggage must be locked during transportation while in China. This is a Chinese regulation. No specification on type of locks as long as there is one.

For more information about your air travel to China, please visit All About Flights.

Inoculation
Inoculation is not mandatory for your China travel. However, we remind you that traveling in China does require certain precautions. Most seasoned travelers get immunized for Hepatitis A&B and Tetanus. Note we are not in the position to tell you that you should or should not take certain inoculation. We, therefore, highly recommend that you consult your family doctor to verify your particular needs, or contact your local Travel Clinic for their professional advice. You can locate a Travel Clinic in your area by a Google search using keyword “Travel Clinic” or look at your local Yellow Pages. Some shots need to be taken well in advance. For the latest overseas travel health information, please contact the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by visiting www.cdc.gov/travel or by calling toll-free 1-800-232-4636.

Medication
If you take prescription medication, be sure to bring enough to last the entire trip. Keep these medications with you and do not pack them in checked baggage.

Long-term travel overseas might cause tourists to develop stomach upset; a change in water, food, sleep habits and/or climate may all cause discomfort. Bring anti-diarrhea medications such as Imodium and Lomotil just in case.

If your China tour includes Tibet (elevation of 12,000 feet), you are strongly recommended to visit your doctor or a travel clinic for their professional advice about traveling at high altitudes. People may experience Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) with symptoms like light-headedness, shortness of breath and may tire a little more easily at that high elevation. Medication to reduce mountain sickness may be advised by your physician. Oxygen bags are available at your Tibet hotel; you may borrow or lease from the hotel housekeeping. While you are in Tibet, you must move in a very slow pace.

Pollution
You have undoubtedly read about the occasionally-serious pollution problems in China, especially Beijing. This heavy smog came to public attention in November, 2012 and has happened a few times since. Though the smog is more likely to occur in the winter months, China Spree recommends that all travelers to China in whatever season pack a mask. China Spree cannot predict the pollution level in advance and we have a strict cancellation policy. Therefore, we also recommend that you buy the kind of travel insurance that allows you to “cancel for any reason,” most especially if you have any respiratory or cardiac problems or if you might be bothered by smog.

Internet
Internet access is available at almost all hotels on your China Spree travel itinerary. You can use the computers in the business center at your hotel for a fee. Internet access is usually charged by minute and may be expensive. Many hotels offer free internet access at your hotel room, so you may want to bring your own laptop, but some hotels do charge for that and it could be expensive (up to $15-18 per day). Wi-Fi is not commonly available in China hotels. Most hotels in China either do not have WiFi at all or only have WiFi in a public area. Usually you will not have access to WiFi from your hotel room. In order to use iPad or iPhone in your hotel room, you may buy an AirPort Express from Apple to convert the internet access from the cable modem to wireless. Your iPhone can roam to China but data roaming could be expensive. As a matter of fact, you will be very busy on your China Spree tour and you may not have much time to browse the internet.

China Tour Guides
Please rest assured you are in good hands when you join China Spree's inclusive China package travel. Our travel guiding system in China is comprised of a centralized office on a national level, local offices and partners in each destination city, and an extensive network of tour guides.

For a tour group with 10 travelers or more, a professional China Spree National Guide (a Chinese national) will be assigned to accompany the group throughout mainland China, supervising the work performed by local agencies and smoothing over any possible difficulties along the trip.

Your National Guide is a licensed professional who gives you personal care and is accessible 24 hours a day throughout your trip in mainland China (For tours in Hong Kong you only have a Hong Kong local guide). For your convenience, your National guide will give his/her cell phone number to you at the beginning of your China tour.

In addition to your national guide, a local guide is assigned along the trip in each destination to provide in-depth tour services to you and offer assistance on local tour arrangements. Sometimes, your National Guide may also act as your local guide in the city where he/she is from, provided he/she has a local tour guide license and is eligible to do so.

If the group size is under 10, the tour will be locally guided, from arrival to departure, with a local guide in each destination area or city. Your local guide will offer professional services of local tour arrangements and will be at your service while you are in his/her city, taking care of your accommodation, sightseeing tours, meals, transportation and transfers. Your local guide will assist you with airport check-in at the conclusion of your local tour, and see you safely take off before he/she can go home. You will be flying on your own from city to city. Most airports in China are newly built, equipped with modern facilities with instructions in both Chinese and English including the airline boarding notice. You should have no confusion or difficulty during transit from city to city without an accompanying tour guide.

From time to time, our staff in the North American office may contact our customers while they are in China to ensure their China tour is progressing smoothly and satisfactorily.

China Spree tour guides are hand-picked, well trained and service oriented. They are constantly evaluated based on the performance and our customer evaluation of each individual China Spree tour group. We strive to hire only the best. We know the success of your China trip largely depends on the quality of your tour guides.

China Tour Group Size
Please click here for information about China Spree tour group size.

Money Matters
China is very much a cash-based society – bring a money belt or clothing with secure pockets because you’ll need to carry around a fair amount of local cash. Major credit cards are only acceptable at hotels, tourist stores and upscale shops. Tipping can be made with either U.S. dollars or the equivalent Chinese RMB. Pay in smaller bills when shopping with street vendors.

  • Chinese Currency
    The Chinese currency is known as Renminbi (RMB), literally "People's Money". The basic unit of RMB is Yuan (dollar), which is divided into 10 Jiao (dimes), which is divided again into 10 Fen (cents). Bank of China issues RMB bills in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Yuan and 1, 2, 5 Jiao. Bronze and nickel coin equivalents exist for the smaller units.

    As of end of 2013, USD$1=RMB 6.1, Exchange rate fluctuates daily. Check here for the current rate.

    China’s currency is the Chinese RMB. It is now internationally exchangeable at some US banks, but the exchange rate tends to be better in China. You can wait until you arrive in China to change your money and spend it all or exchange it back to U.S. dollars before you leave the country. Hong Kong's currency is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). It is internationally exchangeable and worth slightly less than RMB. Note, Hong Kong dollars cannot be used in mainland China and you must convert all your HKD back to USD or CAD before leaving Hong Kong.

  • Exchanging money
    You can change money at hotels, China arrival and departure airports, and at Bank of China branches. The official exchange rate is used in most places so it’s unnecessary to shop around for a better deal. For the sake of convenience and safety we suggest that you change money in your hotel. Almost all hotels in your China trip offer foreign currency exchange service supervised by Bank of China. Retain the exchange receipts because you will need the receipt to convert RMB to your home currency at the end of the trip. Those traveling to Hong Kong can change RMB to Hong Kong Dollars there, but make sure you convert all Hong Kong dollars to RMB or your home currency before departing Hong Kong. You must exchange all Chinese RMB before the last day of your tour because you won’t have time to convert it back to your home currency at the airport.

  • Traveler's Checks
    The fact is that Traveler’s Checks become more inconvenient to use in China, particularly in the smaller cities and in local Chinese hotels. So don’t rely on Traveler’s Checks.

    If you are lucky to cash your Traveler’s checks, you will find the advantage of it is obvious: you can always void them if they are lost. Keep your exchange slip; you will need it when buying back your home currency. We recommend you use only Traveler’s Checks issued by major financial organizations such as American Express and Visa. But note, cash, particularly in the form of U.S. dollars is easier to use than Traveler's Checks.

  • U.S. Currency (or Canadian dollar)
    Your busy tour schedule may not be convenient for you to find ATMs for cash advancement, you need to bring some cash with you. Please note: foreign coins are not acceptable in China. All paper bills should be complete, not badly worn and free from graffiti. Partial, badly worn or defaced bills will not be accepted by local vendors.

  • Credit Cards
    Major credit cards are only acceptable at hotels, tourist stores and upscale shops. We recommend you use a credit card for any big purchases at tourist stores and purchase insurance for the shipped items. Please call your credit card company to let them know you are traveling in China so they won’t decline your transactions made during your trip.

  • Personal Checks
    Personal checks are NOT acceptable in China.

  • ATMs (Automated Teller Machine)
    ATMs become more popular in the big cities of China (i.e. Beijing and Shanghai), expect high service fees for credit card and bank card cash advances. Don’t count on ATMs in the smaller cities or remote areas like Yunnan and Tibet. ATMs are commonly used in Hong Kong. Most ATMs in China can only be used for withdrawing RMB. The exchange rate on ATM withdrawals is similar to credit cards but there is a maximum daily withdrawal amount.

  • Carrying Money
    You may feel more comfortable using a money belt for large sums of cash and credit cards. Care and good judgment is a must in all travel.

Time Difference
Although P. R. China covers five time zones, only Beijing Standard Time is adopted for the entire country. It is 8 hours ahead of GMT, 16 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (15 hours ahead of PST in daylight saving time). People in China's far western regions like Tibet follow a later work schedule to keep pace with the official centralized Beijing Time. Please check World Clock for current regional time.

When it's 8 am in Beijing, the time in the following U.S. cities at Daylight Saving Time is:

San Francisco Denver Chicago New York
5 pm (previous day) 6 pm (previous day) 7 pm (previous day) 8 pm (previous day)

The following is the easiest way to convert U.S. time to Beijing time during Daylight Saving Period:

Pacific Time + 3 hours, then switch AM and PM. For instance, it is 5 pm in San Francisco, Beijing time is 8 am, the next morning.

Eastern Time only change AM and PM. For instance, it is 8 pm in New York, Beijing time is 8 am, the next morning.

Electricity
China's electrical current is 220V, 50 cycles AC. Plugs and Outlets come in a variety of shapes and are different from that in North America. Adapters and converters are readily available at all hotels but may be limited to a small number. So if you have to use them in urgency you are advised to bring along your own adapters and converters for your North American appliances. As soon as you check-in, you should contact Housekeeping to borrow adaptors and converters. Hair dryers and irons are readily available also.

Water
Tap water is not considered safe to drink in China despite the fact that water in China is commonly chlorinated and processed. Drink only bottled water or boiled water. Bottled purified water and soft drinks can be easily obtained at reasonable prices. All your hotels offer boiled water to your room daily, with which you can safely make tea.

Meals
Most meals are included as specified in your China Tour itinerary. Breakfasts included on your China Tour are usually American buffet breakfasts to give you a good start for the day. Lunches and dinners are usually served in local Chinese restaurants with a set menu and in a family style. China Spree strives to improve the meal arrangements for foreign group travelers to China. China Spree prides ourselves for the achievements we made and will continue to improve the meal quality and variety to focus on China’s many famous regional specialties, meanwhile using as many good local restaurants as we possibly can and eliminating junk tourist restaurants at all costs. This is one of the MAJOR differences that set China Spree apart from ALL OTHERS.

A regular lunch/dinner is composed of 6-12 dishes shared by 6-10 people sitting at a round table (which symbolizes union and perfection-harmony). One beverage of your choice (beer, mineral water and soda) is included per person per meal at no additional charge; Chinese tea is always complimentary. Special meals such as an authentic Peking Duck dinner, Dumping Banquet, Tea Lunch, Hot Pot dinner, and Dim Sum that reflects China’s many famous regional cuisines, are arranged for China Spree travelers to provide opportunities to further enhance your culinary experience. Starting from September 2010, Mongolian BBQ buffet lunch in Shanghai is removed from our meal list due to the poor quality and sanitation concern.

Climate
China is a huge country with varied climates. In general, the north is cold and dry in winter. In the south, summer is hot and humid. The rainy season is in July and August. The best season to travel in China is April, May, late September, October and the first two weeks of November. The climate in Hong Kong is sub-tropical, similar to that of Hawaii. Read more on average temperatures in China's major tourist cities and their current weather conditions.

Dress & Laundry
China is a country with few dress taboos. Dress for comfort. Sandals, shorts, and jeans are widely accepted. Coordinate your outfits for multi-tasking. Dress in layers to suit various weather/temperature changes. No formal dress is required.

China hotels offer laundry service. It is convenient but may appear expensive for someone. The least expensive places to do laundry are in smaller cities like Xian and Guilin. Please check pricing at your Hotel Laundry List from the hotel information page of each tour.

Mail
Your China Tour hotels have postal service allowing you to send postcards and letters overseas. It usually takes more than 10 days for a postcard to reach North-America. The postage is charged in Chinese RMB equivalents to about 50 cents U.S. for a postcard, and 80 cents U.S. for a letter up to 20 grams.

Media
China publishes various newspapers and magazines in English. Among them, China Daily is a popular English newspaper, complimentary at most hotels. Imported publications like Time, Newsweek, and The Economist can be found at certain hotels. BBC, CNN or even HBO are becoming commonly available in most tourist hotels.

Cell phones
Blackberry and iPhone can roam to China, but data roaming could be expensive. Check with your phone carrier for their special internal roaming plan. You may also buy a SIM card in China to use on your cell phone if your phone is unlocked. You may also get an unlocked tri-band (multi-band) mobile phone from the States (Canada), and buy a local SIM card as soon as you arrive in China. The cards are prepaid -- e.g. RMB100 will get you quite a bit of talk time and at lower cost than the hotel IDD service.

For your convenience, you may rent a cell phone. Please visit Pandaphone.com for details.

Telephone
Both international and domestic calls can be made from your hotel room. Domestic long-distance rates in the PRC vary according to distance and are usually inexpensive. Local calls are either at a very low rate or free of charge depending on the hotel. International Direct Dial (IDD) calls made from a hotel room could be expensive when the hotel adds a surcharge on top of China's already high IDD rates. Some hotels may request that you pay a deposit before you can access the international line from your hotel room. Use a phone card for international calls; it is becoming more widely available and the rate is reasonable. Simply consult your Tour Director regarding this matter, he or she will be happy to assist you.

  • Calling North America from Mainland China
    Dial 00 (international access code) + 1 (North America country code) + local number

  • Calling China from North America
    Dial 011 (international access code) + 86 (China country code, or 852 for Hong Kong regional code) + China area code (minus initial zero) + local number


  • Essential Numbers in China
    There are several telephone numbers that are the same throughout China. However, only
    International Assistance and Local Weather Forecast are likely to have an English-speaking operator.


    International Assistance:
    115
    Local Directory Enquiries:
    114
    Long Distance Enquiries:
    113 or 173
    Local Weather Forecast:
    121
    Police Hotline:
    110
    Fire Hotline:
    119

    Area Code list

    CITY
    CODE
    CITY
    CODE
    Beijing
    10
    Guilin
    773
    Shanghai
    21
    Wuhan
    27
    Suzhou
    512
    Chongqing
    23
    Xian
    29
    Hangzhou
    571
    Nanjing
    25
    Wuxi
    510
    Lhasa
    891
    Canton
    20
    Chengdu
    28
    Hong Kong
    852

Camera, Memory Card & Film
Your camera bag is considered a personal item and can be carried onboard in addition to your carry-on baggage. Make sure to bring many camera memory cards with you for your China travel vacations. A memory card is easy to obtain but may not compatible with your camera.

If you still use conventional camera and film you should be aware that when flying U.S. domestic and transpacific flights, you should pack all undeveloped film in carry-on baggage. Repeat screening on checked baggage will damage undeveloped film. Most X-ray machines in China's airports and railway stations are marked "film safe". However, films with a higher ASA rating could be fogged by repeat exposures to X-rays. You should carry such film by hand.

Toiletry
It is wise to bring hand wipes to use before dinner and after toilet. Also bring a handkerchief or bandanas; this can substitute for a hand towel. Often after washing your hands, there will be no way to dry them. Generally speaking, public toilets in China could be dirty. Be prepared for that. We understand your concern and China Spree tour guides know where to find “clean” restrooms and will assist you with that regard. Always bring your own toilet paper as it is not usually available in public toilets.

Packing for a China Tour
Pack light and you'll soon find you are better off with less!

The best packing question a traveler can ask is "do people where I am headed live without this item"? Don't pack the stuff which is readily available in the hotels where you will be staying. Don't cram your suitcase with unnecessary items, and you'll have room for the "treasures" you collect along the way. Remember that you will have access to:

  • Convenient, same day laundry service in all your hotels, if you send clothes in the morning you should have them back in the evening. The price is reasonable. For any destination city where you stay two or more nights you can do laundry.
  • A hair dryer and iron are readily available at most hotels for your use; simply contact Housekeeping.
  • Bath accessories in your private bathroom include disposable tooth brush and toothpaste, comb, soap, shampoo, body lotion, sewing kit, sanitary bag, shower cap etc.
  • You can easily purchase a shoulder bag or small piece of luggage to carry your purchases back home.
  • Virtually anything you require can be secured along the way. It is part of the adventure. Travel in China involves a lot of walking. Comfortable walking shoes are essential. Make sure to check current weather conditions before you decide what clothes to pack. Consult our Essentials to Pack list.

Gratuities
Tipping can be confusing for group travelers to China. Tips, as a prime motivator for tour guides, are their main source of income, and therefore are expected in China's booming foreign inbound travel segment.

China Spree considers gratuities from our patrons to our service staff as a rewarding system. It means if you are not completely satisfied with the services you received, DON'T TIP. Furthermore, please report any services and behaviors that you think do not live up to China Spree's standard to our office immediately so we can make correction promptly. It is crucial for us to maintain a high level of quality services.

We recommend USD$10 per traveler per day to cover all tour guides, bus drivers, and porters. Detailed information about gratuities will be available to you in the final travel documents. This gratuity guideline is introduced solely for the convenience of our travelers so you can include it in your total travel budget. Of course, whether you tip, and how much, is always at your own discretion.

Shopping
China is the world's factory and bargain shoppers' paradise. We are aware of the fact that shopping is an integral part of international travel, particularly to countries like China. However, your valuable travel time in China is limited and therefore China Spree tours features the minimum arranged shopping stops compared to all other tours.

For tours under "Super Value", "First Class Travel" and "Affordable Luxury", we allow only one arranged shopping opportunity in each major city (no arranged shopping in Tibet, Hong Kong or on the Yangtze Cruise), and that shopping stop must be related to a learning experience. The shopping time must be strictly limited to 40 minutes.

For Winter Special tours, we allow 2 shopping stops (visits to workshops of Jade and fresh water pearl) in Beijing, one in Xian for China’s Golden Triangle tour (visit the factory making replica terra-cotta warriors), and one to Suzhou’s silk spinning mill (8-day China’s Two Great Cities tour). All these shopping stops are strictly limited to one hour.

Forced shopping is prohibited with China Spree tours. We appreciate your input and feedback on this matter.

Tea House Scam (and possibly also the Art Gallery Scam)
China Spree urges our travelers to use caution when dealing with unidentified strangers in your free time in Beijing or Shanghai.

Generally more than one young woman and man (or combination) may come up to you in a park, near a museum or other public place and ask if you are American/Canadian. They start up a conversation saying that they would like to practice their English and start asking you all sorts of questions as they engage you in conversation (where are you from, what do you do, what kind of car do you drive, what sights have you seen in Shanghai). They explain that they are students from another town in China touring Shanghai and possibly other cities. Just as they are getting ready to leave, they mention that they are on their way to see a performance at a tea house or they may say they are going to see a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and do you want to come along? If you accept, you risk the chance of being (over) charged a lot of money for "service and tea" and not realizing what the amount will be.

Travel Insurance
We strongly recommend you buy travel insurance to protect yourself and your travel investment against the unexpected. Please read more details about Travel Insurance.

Jet Lag Precautions
Jet lag happens when your body's inner clock falls out of sync with daily cycles of light, rest and meals as you cross time zones to reach your destination. Its symptoms are fatigue, irritability and vague disorientation. You cannot totally avoid jet lag, but you can minimize its effects. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Get several good nights of sleep before your trip departure.
  2. Set your watch to your destination time when you board the plane, and adjust sleep and meals accordingly.
  3. Try to sleep on the plane.
  4. Walk around the plane occasionally, do isometric exercises at your seat.
  5. Drink plenty of water and fruit juice while flying.
  6. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks during and after the flight.
  7. On arrival, throw yourself into your new schedule, avoid naps, and try to stay awake until your normal sleeping time at home.

U.S. Duty-free Exemption
When shopping in China, keep receipts of all purchases. Upon reentering the U.S, be ready to show customs officials what you've bought. Effective November 4, 2002, the standard personal duty-free exemption is $800 if you are a returning U.S. resident and the items you acquired abroad accompany you.

Duty on items you mail home to yourself will be waived if the value is $200 or less. Antiques that are at least 100 years old, and fine art may enter duty-free, but folk art and handicrafts are generally dutiable.

Only 1 liter of alcohol and 200 cigarettes or 100 cigars may be included in this exemption. Items purchased in "Duty Free" shops are subject to duty if the value of your total purchases exceeds $800.

Family members who live in the same household and are returning together to the United States may combine their standard personal exemptions. Children and infants are allowed the same exemption as adults, except for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

Read more information on Duty-free exemptions available on the U. S. Customs Service Web site.

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