China

Mail

mail
Do not seal outgoing packages

Before taking them to the post office; they will not send them without inspecting the contents. generally it is best to buy the packing materials at the post office, and almost all post offices will pack your materials for you, at a reasonable price.

mail
 

Most Post Offices and courier services will refuse to send CDs or DVDs, this can be circumvented by placing them in CD wallets along with lots of other things and finally packing the space in with clothes, giving the appearance of sending your stuff home, also easier to send by sea as they care less.

cope

Electricity is 220 volts/50 hz. Two-pin European and North American, as well as three-pin Australian style plugs are generally supported. However, be careful to read the voltage information on your devices to ensure they accept 220V twice the 110V used in many countries before plugging them in — you may cause burnout and permanent damage to some devices such as hairdryers and razors. Universal extension cords that can handle a wide variety of plug shapes including British are widely used.

Names of long streets are often given with a middle word indicating the part of the street. For example, White Horse Street or Baima Lu 白马路 may be split up into Baima Beilu 白马北路 for the northern 北 běi end, Baima Nanlu 白马南路 for the southern 南 nán end and Baima Zhonglu 白马中路 for the central 中 zhōng part. For another street, dōng 东 "east" and xī 西 "west" might be used.

In some cities, however, these names do not indicate parts of one street. In Xiamen, Hubin Bei Lu and Hubin Nan Lu Lakeside Road North and Lakeside Road South are parallel, running East-West on the North and South sides of the lake. In Nanjing, Zhongshan Lu, Zhongshan Bei Lu and Zhongshan Dong Lu are three separate major roads.

Laundry services may be expensive or hard to locate. In upper end hotels it will cost ¥10-30 to wash each article of clothing. Cheap hotels in some areas do not have laundry services, though in other areas such as along the Yunnan tourist trail the service is common and often free. In most areas, with the exception of the downtown areas in big cities, you can find small shops that do laundry. The sign to look for on the front door is 洗衣 xǐyī, or spot the clothes hanging from the ceiling. The cost is roughly ¥2-5/item. In even the smallest of cities dry cleaning (干洗 gānxǐ)outlets are widely distributed and may be able to wash clothes. But in some areas you're going to be stuck washing clothes by hand, which is time consuming and tiresome. It may take days for a pair of jeans to dry, which is especially difficult if you're in a dorm room with no hangers, so fast drying fabrics, such as polyester or silk, are a good idea. If you do find a hotel that does laundry, usually they will put all your clothes into the wash together or even with other items from the hotel, so lighter colours are best washed by hand.

Smoking is banned in public buildings and public transport except for restaurants and bars including KTVs - many of which are outright smoke dens, although many multinational restaurant chains do ban smoking. These bans are enforced across the country. Generally, smoking laws are most strict in Shanghai and Beijing, whilst they are more lightly enforced elsewhere. Many places particularly train stations, hospitals, office buildings and airports will have smoking rooms, and some long-distance trains may have smoking areas at the end of each car. Facilities for non-smokers are often poor; most restaurants, bars and hotels will not have non-smoking areas apart from top-end establishments although many modern buildings have a smoke extraction systems which suck cigarette smoke out of the room through a ceiling vent - meaning that the smoke doesn't hang in the air. The Chinese phrase for 'May I smoke?' is 'kěyǐ chōuyān ma?' and 'No Smoking!' is 'bù kěyǐ chōuyān!'.

Most travelers will need a visa 签证 qiānzhèng to visit mainland China. In most cases, this should be obtained from a Chinese embassy or consulate before departure. Visas for Hong Kong and Macau can be obtained through a Chinese embassy or consulate, but must be applied for separately from the mainland Chinese visa. However, citizens from most Western countries do not need visas to visit Hong Kong and Macau.

The most notable exception to this rule is transit through certain airports. Most airports allow a 12-hour stay without a visa so long as you do not leave the airport, but Shanghai Pu Dong International and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airports permit a forty-eight hour stay without a visa.

Nationals of Brunei, Japan and Singapore do not need a visa to visit mainland China for a stay of up to 15 days, regardless of the reason of visit. Nationals of San Marino do not need a visa to visit mainland China for a stay of up to 90 days, regardless of the reason of visit.

To visit mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau residents of Chinese nationality need to apply at the China Travel Service, the sole authorized issuing agent, to obtain a Home Return Permit 回乡证, a credit card sized ID allowing multiple entries and unlimited stay for 10 years with no restrictions including on employment. Taiwan residents may obtain an entry permit valid for 3 months at airports in Dalian, Fuhzou, Haikou, Qingdao, Sanya, Shanghai, Wuhan, Xiamen and China Travel Services in Hong Kong and Macau. Visitors must hold a Republic of China passport, Taiwanese Identity Card and Taiwan Compatriot Pass 台胞证 táibāozhèng. The Compatriot Pass may be obtained for single use at airports in Fuzhou, Haikou, Qingdao, Sanya, Wuhan and Xiamen. The entry permit fee is ¥100 plus ¥50 for issuing a single use Taiwan Compatriot Pass. Travellers should check the most up-to-date information before traveling.

Visa overview

G visa
transit
L visa
tourism, family visits
F visa
business trips, internships, short study
Z visa
working, multi-entry
X visa
study more than 6 months

Getting a tourist visa is fairly easy for most passports as you don't need an invitation, which is required for business or working visas. The usual tourist single-entry visa is valid for a visit of 30 days and must be used within three months of the date of issue. A double-entry tourist visa must be used within six months of the date of issue. It is possible to secure a tourist visa for up to 90 days for citizens of some countries.

Tourist visa extensions can be applied for at the local Entry & Exit Bureaus against handing in the following documents: valid passport, visa extension application form incl. one 2-inch-sized picture, a copy of the Registration Form of Temporary Residence which you receive from the local police station at registration. In Shanghai, the Entry & Exit Bureau is located at 1500 Mingsheng Road, Pudong District. Processing time is five working days. (http://gaj.sh.gov.cn/shga...)

Some travellers will need a dual entry or multiple entry visa. For example, if you enter China on a single entry visa, then go to Hong Kong or Macau, you need a new visa to re-enter mainland China. In Hong Kong, multiple entry visas are officially available only to HKID holders, but the authorities are willing to bend the rules somewhat and may approve three-month multiple entry visas for short-term Hong Kong qualified residents, including exchange students. It is recommended to apply directly with the Chinese government in this case, as some agents will be unwilling to submit such an application on your behalf.

Obtaining a Visa on Arrival is possible usually only for the Shenzhen or Zhuhai Special Economic Zones, and such visas are limited to those areas. When crossing from Hong Kong to Shenzhen at Lo Wu railway station, and notably not at Lok Ma Chau, a five day Shenzhen-only visa can be obtained during extended office hours on the spot for ¥160 Oct 2007 price for passport holders of many nationalities, for example Irish or New Zealand or Canadian. Americans are not eligible, while British nationals have to pay ¥450. The office now accepts only Chinese yuan as payment, so be sure to bring sufficient cash.

There may be restrictions on visas for political reasons and these vary over time. For example:

The visa fee for American nationals was increased to US$140 or US$110 as part of a group tour in reciprocation for increased fees for Chinese nationals visiting America. (http://www.china-embassy....)

Visas issued in Hong Kong are generally limited to 30 days, same day service is difficult to get. Multiple-entry visas have also become much harder or impossible to get.

Indian nationals are limited to 10 or 15 day tourist visas, and have to show US $100 per day of visa validity in the form of traveller's checks US $1000 and US $1500, respectively, likely owing to the contested border and migration fears.

A few years ago, the Z working visa was a long-term visa. Now a Z visa only gets you into the country for 30 days; once you are there, the employer gets you a residence permit. This is effectively a multiple-entry visa; you can leave China and return using it. Some local visa offices will refuse to issue a residence permit if you entered China on a tourist L visa. In those cases, you have to enter on a Z visa. These are only issued outside China, so getting one may require a trip to Hong Kong or Korea. Note that in Korea, tourists not holding an alien registration card must now travel to Busan, as the Chinese consulate in Seoul does not issue visas to non-residents in Korea. They also usually require an invitation letter from the employer. In other cases it is possible to convert an L visa to a residence permit; it depends upon which office you are dealing with and perhaps on your employer's connections.

One option for foreigners married to Chinese citizens see Marriage in China is to obtain a six to twelve month visting relatives 探亲 tànqīn visa. A visting relatives visa is actually a tourist L visa that permits individuals to remain in China continuously for the duration of their visa and does not require the visa holder to exit and reenter the country to maintain the validity of the visa. Individuals seeking to apply for a visting relatives visa should first enter the country on a different visa and then apply for a visting relatives visa at the local Public Security bureau in the city that your marriage was registered in, which is usually your Chinese spouse's hometown. Make sure to bring your marriage certificate and spouse's identification card 身份证 shēnfènzhèng.

It is possible for most foreigners to get a visa in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Here is the consular website . . At this time December, 2010, reservations for travel and hotel are acceptable. During busy periods, they may refuse entry after 11:00 am. There can be long lines so come early. Also be aware of major Chinese holidays, the Consular Section may be closed for several days.

learning chinese

See also: Learn

In the West, Chinese has an undeserved reputation for its difficulty. While it is very different from Western languages, a traveler may be surprised to learn that the basic grammar is pretty simple. Verbs are static regardless of subject and whether they are referring to the past, present or future. Genders of nouns do not exist, and there is no separate form of nouns for plurals. The main difficulties are the existence of several consonants not present in European languages and using tones.

Mandarin, like Vietnamese and Thai, is a tonal language that uses a pitch in sounds to inflict different meanings. "Ma" could mean mother, horse, numb, or blame, depending on the tone. Homophones are also common; the same sound at the same pitch usually has dozens of meanings. "Zhong1" "Zhong" at the 1st tone can mean China, loyalty, clock, chime, finish, a bowl, etc. All of them come with different Chinese characters, just the same sound at the same pitch. While homophones are unlikely a problem in most everyday conversations, it is very common for Chinese to ask how to write someone's name by identifying the characters one by one. "My name is Wang Fei 王菲. Wang is the "wang" with three strokes, Fei is the "fei" in "shifei"gossip, with a grass on top."

Written Chinese looks like a mysterious secret code to some, but if you can recognize so many commercial logos -- usually not logically related, you will be impressed with your capacity to memorize so many characters - most of them are logically related and formed based on certain rules.

There are, in theory, more than 50000 Chinese characters. The good news is that more than 85% have become obsolete, or are rarely used. Like native speakers of many languages, most Chinese couldn't tell you how many characters are required to read a book and never bother to count how many characters they know. One may argue that junior students are supposed to learn at least 2000 characters and graduates in university 5000 characters.

To bridge the gap between recognizing and reading out loud, pinyin was developed, which uses Latin script as an aid to teaching Chinese. Pronouncing pinyin is not intuitive as certain letters and consonant clusters are used to represent sounds not present in European languages and are thus not pronounced as a westerner would expect. Nonetheless, learning pinyin at even a basic level has enormous practical value for the traveler. Written pinyin is less useful as most Chinese will not recognize place names or addresses in pinyin; it is always better to use characters for written information.

gay and lesbian travelers

Homosexuality was de-criminalised in 1997 and taken off the state list of mental disorders in 2001. Chinese people tend to have mixed opinions when it comes to sexuality. Though there are no laws against homosexuality in China, films, websites, and television shows involving themes of homosexuality tend to be censored or banned. There is no obvious gay scene or community in China, and most Chinese are reluctant to discuss their sexuality in public, as it is generally considered to be a personal matter. In addition, homosexual marriages and unions are not recognised anywhere in the country. Nevertheless, while openly displaying your sexual orientation in public is still likely to draw stares and whispers, gay and lesbian visitors should generally not run into any major problems, and unprovoked violence against homosexual couples is almost unheard of.

talk

The official language of China is Standard Mandarin, which is mostly based on the Beijing dialect, known in Chinese as Putonghua 普通话, "common speech". Mandarin has been the only language used in education on the mainland since the 1950s, so most people speak it. Unless otherwise noted, all terms, spellings and pronunciations in this guide are in standard Mandarin. As Mandarin is tonal, getting the four tones correct is necessary to be understood.

Many regions, especially in the southeast and south of the country, also have their own "dialect." These are really different languages, as different as French and Italian, although referring to Chinese dialects as separate languages is a touchy political issue. Like standard Mandarin, the "dialects" are all tonal languages. Even within Mandarin the large brown language area on the map, pronunciation varies widely between regions and there is often a liberal dose of local slang or terminology to liven up the mix. After Mandarin, the largest groups are Wu, spoken in the region around Shanghai, Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu, followed by Cantonese, spoken in most of Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau, and the Min Fujian group which includes Minnan Hokkien spoken in the region around Xiamen and in Taiwan, a variant of Minnan known as Teochew spoken around Shantou and Chaozhou, as well as Mindong Hokchiu spoken around Fuzhou. Most Chinese are bilingual in their local vernacular and Mandarin. Some who are older, less educated or from the countryside may speak only the local dialect, but this is unlikely to affect tourists. It often helps to have a guide who can speak the local language as it marks that person as an insider and you as a friend of the insider. While you can easily get by in most parts of China speaking Standard Mandarin, locals always appreciate any attempt to say a few words or phrases in the local dialect, so learning a few simple greetings will help you get acquainted with the locals much more easily. In general, an understanding of or appreciation for the local speech can be useful when traveling to more remote areas. But in those areas a phrase book that includes Chinese characters will still be a big help as written Chinese is more or less the same everywhere.

Formal written Chinese is for all intents and purposes the same regardless of the local dialect. Even Japanese and Korean use many of the same characters with the same or similar meaning. There is a complication in this, however. Mainland China uses "simplified characters", adopted to facilitate literacy during the mid-1950s. Traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and by many overseas Chinese, but also on the mainland in advertising and commercial signs. As a result you will just as often see 银行 yínháng as 銀行 for "bank". The simplification was however fairly systematic, which means that all hope is not lost for the traveler trying to pick up some sign-reading skills. On the other hand, native speakers usually do not encounter problems reading either script so learning how to write either one would usually suffice.

Note that in calligraphy, the number of scripts is much more varied as different painters use different unique styles, though these have been grouped into five different styles. They are zhuanshu篆书/篆書, lishu隶书/隸書, kaishu 楷书/楷書, xingshu 行书/行書 and caoshu 草书/草書, of which kaishu is the official script used in China today. When calligraphy is written in kaishu, it is usually traditional Chinese characters that are used due to their superior aesthetic value. The casual traveler can easily get by without learning the other four styles though learning them would certainly help those with a deep interest in traditional Chinese art.

In the far western reaches of the country, Turkic languages such as Uighur, Kirghiz, and Kazakh as well as other languages such as Tibetan are spoken by some of the non-Han ethnic minorities. In the north and northeast other minority languages including Manchu, Mongolian and Korean are also spoken in areas populated by the respective ethnic minorities. Yunnan, Guizhou, Hainan and Guangxi in the south are also home to many other ethnic minorities such as the Miao, Dong, Zhuang, Bai and the Naxi who speak their own languages. However, with the possible exception of the elderly, Mandarin is generally usable in these areas too, and most younger people are bilingual in their minority language and Mandarin. Sadly some of the minority languages such as Manchu are dying out.

See also: Chinese phrasebook, Cantonese phrasebook, Minnan phrasebook

respect

A few basic guidelines and tips can help you avoid faux pas in China.

Tipping
is not necessary or advised. No tip is needed for taxi drivers and most restaurants. Leaving a few coins in most restaurants, you will likely be chased by staff to give you back the money you 'forgot' to take. In some cases, a fee regarded as tipping in America is actually a fixed fee, such as a fee for a doorman allowing you into a building at a late hour.
Business Cards
When presenting or receiving a business card or handing over an important paper, always use both hands, and never put it in pant pockets.
Visitation
A small gift taken to a host's home is always welcome. Wine, fruit, or some trinket from your native country are common. If the hosts are wearing slippers at home, and especially if there is carpet on the floor, remove your road shoes and ask for a pair of slippers before you enter your host's home, even if the host asks you not to.
Hosting meals
Hosts tend to order more food than you can eat because it is considered shameful if they can't stuff their guests. If you attempt to finish all food, it means that you're still hungry and may prompt your hosts to order more food i.e. never totally clean your plate.
Dining
Table manner varies from different places among different people in different scenarios. Sometimes you can see Chinese spit on a restaurant floor, pick their tooth in front of you and yell whilst dining but it is not always welcome. Follow what other people do. It very much depends on what kind of party you are involved in.
Drinking
When offered a drink, you are expected to take it or your friends will keep pushing you. Excuses like "I'm allergic to alcohol" is usually better than "I don't feel like drinking". Sometimes you can pretend that you are drunk. Don't panic as usually foreigners are tolerated much on these customs.
Tobacco
If you smoke, it is always considered polite to offer a cigarette to those you meet, as long as they are of adult age. This rule applies almost exclusively to men, but under certain circumstances, such as a club, it is okay to apply the rule toward women. If someone offers you a cigarette and you don't smoke, you can turn it down by politely and gently waving your hand.
Staring
As a traveler, you may find that your language, color of hair and skin, behavior, and manner of dress will draw long and sustained stares, especially outside the major cities.
Saving Face
The Chinese tend to be very concerned about "saving face". Pointing out mistakes directly may cause embarrassment. If you have to, call the person to one side and tell him/her in private, and try to do it in a polished manner.
Pointing
Never point to statues of Buddhas or other deities with your index finger, as it is considered to be very rude. Instead, point at them with your thumb.
Religion
Swastikas have been widely used in Buddhist temples since the 5th century to represent Dharma, universal harmony, and the balance of opposites. Simillar to India, it does not represent Nazism. It is also worth noting that the local Jews have historically lived peacefully with their non-Jewish neighbours, and save for the Cultural Revolution, during which people of all religions and not just the Jews were persecuted, China does not have a history of significant anti-Semitism unlike the Inquisition in Europe.
telephone

Telephone service is more of a mixed bag. Calling outside the country is often difficult, and usually impossible without a calling card, which can often only be bought locally. The good news is these cards are fairly cheap, and the connection is surprisingly clear, uninterrupted and delay-free. Look for IP Telephone Cards, which typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper.

If your line allows for international direct dialling IDD, the prefix for international calls in China is 00. So if you wish to make an overseas call, you would dial 00-country code-area code-tel number. Note that calls from the mainland to Hong Kong and Macau require international dialling. IDDs could be very expensive. Ask the rate before calling.

fax

International fax 传真 Chuánzhēn services are available in most large hotels for a fee of a dozen renminbi or more. Inexpensive faxes within China can be made in the ubiquitous photocopy outlets that have the Chinese characters for fax written on the front door.

getting news

Please fix it!

China Daily, the nationally distributed English newspaper, sometimes publishes constructive criticism of China from frustrated tourists. If you think something about China for travelers needs to be fixed, you should send a letter to letters@chinadaily.com.cn and it could possibly be published.

China has some local English language news media. CCTV 9 is an English channel available 24/7 in most cities; CCTV 4 has a short newcast in English every day.

China Daily is an English language newspaper available in hotels, supermarkets, and Beijing newstands.

There are also a few English magazines such as China Today and 21st Century.

There is no longer any problem getting most foreign news in China.

Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail and other web-based email providers are readily accessible from any PC though GMail will be intermittently blocked. Their news pages are almost all available too. Since April 2008, YouTube is unavailable. If there is some item you cannot access, ask a friend to email it to you directly.

The better hotels often have satellite TV in the rooms.

More and more business hotels have Internet links for your laptop in each room: 7 Day Inn and Home Inn are two nationwide chains of impeccable cleanliness with such links and cost ¥150-200 per night. Other locally-owned hotels offer the same standard for ¥60/night.

Top hotels also sell major newspapers from around the world and business-oriented publications like The Economist, albeit at very high prices. Some provide international newspapers free for reading in their coffee shops.

begging

Chinese people traditionally hold strong negative views against begging, so unsurprisingly, begging is not a major issue in most places. It's however never off the scene in a big city and particularly common just outside the main tourist attractions and in major transportation hubs.

Be aware of child beggars who could be victims of child trafficking. While it is becoming less common, you should avoid giving them any money. There have been several reports in local media about begging con artists who abduct children and pretend to be their mother to beg for money.

In China, local people usually only give money to those who have obviously lost the ability to earn money. Professional beggars have very clear deformities. If you feel like giving them some, bear in mind that many Chinese make only ï¿¥30-70 a day doing hard labor jobs.

See begging for more detailed discussion.

traffic

While it's true that China claims more lives in car accidents than any country in the world due to its huge population, its mortality rate per head remains lower than that of many Western countries. That said, in general, the driving in China can range from nerve-rattling to outright reckless.

Traffic rules are practiced half-halfheartedly and rarely if ever enforced. Zebra crossings are for display, cars are allowed to turn right on a red light and rarely stop for pedestrians. Biker tend to do as they like. Don't be fooled by following any signs and pedestrian paths; it is very common to see a motorcycle driving in a pedestrian lane. On occasion even cars will take to bike lanes and motor bikes to the sidewalk. Equally, pedestrians often walk in the roadways, especially at night, as they are better lit. Look in all directions when crossing! Expect or assume that anything will come at or behind you from any direction at any time.

See also driving in China.

health care

Drugs are generally available from a pharmacist without prescriptions. You can usually ask to see the instructions that came with the box. Western medicine is called xīyào 西药.

Common symptoms

Caught a cold: 感冒 gǎnmào

Fever: 发烧 fāshāo

Headache: 头痛 tóutòng

Stomach ache: 肚子痛 dùzǐtòng

Sore throat: 喉咙痛 hóulóngtòng

Cough: 咳嗽 késòu

Diarrhoea: 拉肚子 lādùzǐ

See Chinese phrasebook for more.

Most Chinese doctors and nurses speak no English, even in larger cities. However, medical staff are in plentiful supply and hospital wait times are generally short - usually less than 10 minutes at general clinics 门诊室 ménzhěnshì, and virtually no wait time at emergency rooms 急诊室 jízhěnshì.

Ensure that needles used for injections or any other procedure that requires breaking the skin are new and unused - insist on seeing the packet being broken open. In some parts of China it is acceptable to re-use needles, albeit after sterilization.

For acupuncture, although the disposable needles are quite common in mainland China, you can provide your own needles if you prefer. The disposable type, called Wujun zhenjiu zhen 无菌針灸針, Sterilized acupuncture needles, usually cost ¥10-20 per 100 needles and are available in many pharmacy. Note that there should be minimal to no bleeding when the needle is inserted and removed if the acupuncturist is sufficiently skilled.

While Traditional Chinese Medicine is widespread in China, regulation tends to be lax and it is not unheard of for Chinese physicians to prescribe herbs which are actually detrimental to one's health. Do some research and ensure you have some trusted local friends to help you out if you wish to see a Chinese physician. Alternatively, head to Hong Kong or Taiwan instead, as the practice is better regulated there.

If making more than a short trip to China, it may be a good idea to get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid as they can be spread via contaminated food.

Parts of southern China have mosquitoes which transmit malaria, dengue fever, etc.

China has only officially recognised the threat of an AIDS/HIV epidemic since 2001. According to the United Nations "China is currently experiencing one of the most rapidly expanding HIV epidemics in the world. Since 1998, the number of reported cases has increased by about 30% yearly. By 2010, China could have as many as 10 million infections and 260,000 orphans if without intervention"; Chinese President Hu Jintao has recently pledged to fight the spread of AIDS/HIV within China. Sex workers, clients of sex workers and injecting drug users are the most infected groups.

New diseases are sometimes a threat in China, particularly in its more densely populated parts. In 2003 China experienced a serious SARS outbreak; this is no longer considered a major threat. More recently, there have been cases of bird flu; avoid undercooked poultry or eggs. Partly as a result of the SARS experience, China's government has taken the global threat of Swine Flu very seriously. If you are running a fever or otherwise obviously ill, as of Summer 2009, it is possible you will face several days in quarantine upon entry into China. If you speak the local tongue or Standard Mandarin, DO NOT mention you are a foreigner.

food & drink

There are no widely enforced health regulations in restaurants. Restaurants generally prepare hot food when you order. Even in the smallest of restaurants, hot dishes are usually freshly prepared, instead of reheated, and rarely cause health problems. Most of the major cities have chain fast food places, and the hygiene in them tends to be good. Use common sense when buying food from street vendors. This is especially true for meat or seafood products; they can be very unsafe, particularly during warm weather, as many vendors don't have refrigeration.

A rule of thumb regarding street food is to make certain it is cooked thoroughly while you are watching; also, visit stalls frequented by locals, and look for plastic-wrapped disposable chopsticks. Minor stomach discomfort may still be experienced from street food and restaurant food alike, but is said to pass as one becomes accustomed to the local food. Ginger is effective against nausea, though it does not kill bacteria.

Even in the cities, Chinese people do not drink water straight from the tap, and you should not either. All hotels even boats! provide either a thermos flask of boiled water in your room refillable by your floor attendant or - more commonly - a kettle you can use to do it yourself. Generally, tap water is safe to drink after boiling. Purified drinking water in bottles is available everywhere, and is generally quite cheap. ¥1 is normal for a small bottle, but it will be more in some places. Check that the seal on the cap is not broken. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also cheap and safe.

personal hygiene

Outside major cities, public washrooms vary from mildly unpleasant to utterly repulsive. In cities, it varies from place to place. High quality bathrooms can be found inside major tourist attractions e.g., the Forbidden City, at international hotels, office buildings, and upper-class department stores. Washrooms in McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, or any of the coffee chains listed in the drink section are usually more or less clean. While those in common restaurants and hotels are barely acceptable, those in hotel rooms are generally very clean. Some public facilities are free, others cost from a few mao up to one or two kuai ¥1-2. Separate facilities are always provided for men 男 nán and women 女 nǚ, but sometimes there are no doors on the front of the stalls.

The sit-down toilet familiar to Westerners is rare in China in public areas. Hotels will generally have them in rooms, but in places where Westerners are scarce, expect to find squat toilets more often than not. Many private homes in urban areas now have sit down toilets, and one major benefit from having a local host is that they have clean bathrooms. As a rule of thumb, a western establishment such as McDonald's will have a western toilet.

Carry your own tissue paper 卫生纸 wèishēngzhǐ, or 面纸 miànzhǐ as it is rarely provided. You can sometimes buy it from the money-taker at a public toilet; you can also buy it in bars, restaurants and Internet cafes for ¥2. Put used paper in the bucket next to the toilet; do not flush it away as it may block the often poor plumbing systems.

The Chinese tend to distrust the cleanliness of bathtubs. In hotels with fixed bathtubs, disposable plastic bathtub liners may be provided.

Wash your hands often with soap, or better carry some disposable disinfectant tissues found in almost any department or cosmetics store, especially after having used public computers; the main cause for getting a cold or flu is through touching your face, especially the nose, with infected hands.