As the political, historical and cultural heart of China, Beijing is a vibrant business megacity and home to some 21 million people and seven impressive UNESCO World Heritage sites.
China has a continental climate. Its latitudes span nearly 50 degrees, putting its southern parts in tropical and subtropical zones, and its northern parts near frigid zones. Beijing is located in Northern China. It will be spring when you visit in March. A wide variety of flowers and trees will be coming into bloom. Temperatures will climb from day to day. Night and day temperatures will differ vastly, reaching a mere 20°C (68°F) on the warmest afternoons. Dry and windy, there will be the occasional sandstorms sweeping in from the Gobi desert of Inner Mongolia. Light rains may occur, but they do not last.
There are five time zones in People’s Republic of China. Beijing Standard Time is recognised as the official time zone. It is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 16 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (15 hours ahead during daylight saving time). Residents in far western regions such as Tibet follow a later-work schedule in order to keep pace with the official centralised Beijing Standard Time. Check World Clock for current regional time.
China is a relatively safe country. Travellers should still beware of pick-pockets and bag-snatchers.
Despite being a vast country, the Chinese is a united race. They share the same Mandarin language amid different dialects, an almost homogenous cuisine, variations of the same philosophies, and also a common national cause against which all else is negated.
Mandarin is commonly used in modern China. It is one of the five working languages of the United Nations. As a written language, it has been in use for 6,000 years. Majority of the 55 ethnic groups in China have their own languages. Dialects are also very common in the country.
China’s history dates back over 5,000 years. This makes it one of the richest and most diverse heritages not just in the Orient but also in the world. The culture-rich nation is also a cultured one. Philosophical, academic, artistic, scientific, craftsmanship and political excellence characterise its cultural disciplines of Chinese Arts and Crafts (which includes the art of calligraphy), Architecture, Music and Dance, Fashion, Cuisine, Religion, Customs and Traditions, and Etiquette. It is from this nation that the world tasted the exotic flavours of Chinese cuisine, discovered rare and coveted Chinese ceramic wares, and witnessed the rise of philosophies like Confucianism and Taoism.
The Chinese enjoy drinking Chinese liquor, and drinking is a key activity during Chinese social events. Some Chinese consider liquor to be an essential like rice, salt and oil.
FAMOUS LIQUORS INCLUDE:
Maotai (from Guizhou Fen)
Zhuyeqing (from Shanxi)
Wuliangye (from Sichuan)
Jian Nan Chun (from Sichuan)
Luzhou Laojiao (from Sichuan)
Gujing Tribute (from Anhui)
Yanghe Daqu (from Jiangsu)
Dong (from Guizhou)
AVAILABLE FRUIT WINES INCLUDE:
Gold Medal brandy (from Yantai)
Weimeisi (from Yantai)
Red Grape wine (from Yantai)
China Red Grape wine (from Beijing)
Shacheng White Grape wineo (from Hebei)
Minquan White Grape wine (from Henan)
The Chinese are not big on credit cards. That is because they do not like to be in debt, even if it is short-term. While the use of credit cards is gaining popularity among young people, the adoption rate remains low compared to the West. Foreign plastic is therefore of limited use, so always carry enough cash.
Where accepted, credit cards useable in China include Visa, MasterCard, AmEx and JCB. They offer a slightly better exchange rate than banks. You should be able to use credit cards at upmarket hotels and restaurants, supermarkets and departmental stores. You cannot use credit card to buy train tickets, but the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) offices readily accept international Visa cards for air ticket purchase. Certain credit cards offer insurance and other benefits relevant to your travel.
Money can also be withdrawn at certain ATMs in large cities using credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Amex. Cash advances have become fairly common at head branches of the Bank of China, even in places as remote as Lhasa. A 4% commission charge applies, except on AmEx cards.
Chinese currency is called renminbi (RMB), which means “People’s Currency”. The popular unit of RMB is yuan. One yuan equals 10 jiao. There are parts of China where the yuan and jiao are also known respectively as kuai and mao. Chinese currency is issued in the following denominations: one, five, ten, twenty, fifty and a hundred yuan.
It is a common practice for visitors to tip hotel bellboys, tour guides and drivers in recognition of their good service. It is not customary to leave tips at hotels or local restaurant as the bills usually include a 10-15% service charge.
Electrical plugs and wall outlets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Electrical current in China is rated at 220V, 50 cycles AC. Bring along adapters and converters for any appliances purchased in North America. Alternatively, you can borrow them from your hotel housekeeping. Hair dryers and irons are also readily available from hotel housekeeping services.
Many free Wifi spots are available around Beijing.
Should you require assistance while in China, here are some useful numbers to take note of.
Heading to China National Convention Centre? Click on “View Map” and get directions to the destination.