All tours to China have been suspended for 2020 as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Updated Feb 2020
China – the name alone evokes so many images. The Great Wall, dancing dragons, Beijing skyscrapers, rice terraces and terracotta warriors amongst a few! China is a vast country, both in size and population. It is the third largest in size, and most populous, home to around 1.428 billion people, and counting…. Consequently, it is inevitable that it has some fascinating tales to tell through its rich and varied history. Discover stories of emperors and forbidden cities, of battles against foreign enemies, of socialist republic and world power. The country provides a fascinating mix of the historic with the ultra-modern. In Beijing, futuristic towers lie a stone’s throw from ancient palaces. The villages and countryside of the interior are a long way from the high-tech global cities. The great size of the country also leads to some intriguing regional variations to discover – in food, language and culture. China is a fascinating country to discover, these tours will just lift the lid on what there is to see!
Your passport should be valid for at least six months upon entry into China, preferably beyond your return date. You will also require 2 blank pages for the visa. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport. Foreign nationals over 16 years must carry their passport with them at all times - failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention.
U.S., Canadian, Australian and European citizens will require a visa to enter China. Visas must be applied for in advance of travel and are usually valid for 3 months from date of issue for a stay in China of up to 30 days for tourist purposes without a visa within the validity of the visa dates. Longer stays are granted at the discretion of the embassy officials. All other nationalities are advised to check the visa entry requirements specific to their country before your departure. Strict rules apply on Chinese dual nationals.
All passengers will need a letter of invitation in order to apply for your visas which will be provided to you by The Big Journey Company Ltd, as well as details for the hotels where we will be staying, which will be communicated to you accordingly close to travel. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket.
US Travellers - Information on how US passport holders can obtain a Chinese Visa can be obtained via http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/visas/
UK Travellers - Visas for UK passengers can be obtained from the China Visa Application Service Centre (CVASC), Morley House, 26 Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2AT, either in person by making an online appointment via the website (www.visaforchina.org), or by postal service. There is also an office in Manchester, First Floor, 75 Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3HR.
• Chinese Custom Regulations
When arriving in China, tourists must fill out two copies of a baggage declaration form, handing it in to customs officials. The carbon copy must be retained to show upon exit. Personal belongings will be admitted duty free, including food, two bottles of liquor and two cartons of cigarettes. Wristwatches, radios, tape recorders, cameras, movie cameras, and similar items may be brought in for personal use but cannot be sold or transferred to others and must be brought out of China. Visitors can bring in an unlimited amount of foreign currency, and Chinese yuan (RMB) traveller’s checks, and the unspent portion can be taken out. However, bringing the following articles to China is prohibited:
- Arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds
- Radio transmitters-receivers and principal parts
- Over 20,000-yuan RMB in cash
- Manuscripts, printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and videotapes, etc. which are detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture, and ethnics,
- Poisonous drugs, habit-forming drugs, opium, morphine, heroin, etc,
- Animals, plants and products thereof infected with or carrying germs and insects,
- Unsanitary foodstuffs and germ-carrying foodstuffs from infected areas, Other articles the import of which is prohibited by state regulations.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Beijing, including those for the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Given the vast size of the country and population, there are also a number of international embassies located in major cities around China, including Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Wuhan. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
Air pollution is a big problem in the cities of China. You should discuss with your doctor how this may affect any existing medical complaints you may have.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
Walking the Great Wall Tour - This tour will contain several days of walking between 4-6 hours over uneven and steep terrain. You must be adequately fit and healthy to participate in this tour.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Splendours of China Tour is an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport, whereas our Walking The Great Wall of China Tour is Activity Level 3 and will require a high level of physical activity over an extended period, in terrain that may often be uneven, slippery and steep. This tour is not suitable if you have limited mobility.
Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. There are many pharmacies across China, though rarer in rural areas, but if you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. Important:
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs. Please take note of the information below:
Yellow Fever Certificate. Though there is no risk of Yellow Fever in China, depending on the areas you have previously travelled to, you may need a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate to show you have received said vaccination prior to travel. Check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis, Tuberculosis, Rabies and Malaria may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/countries
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
Splendours of China Tour - Light casual clothing is recommended such as t-shirts, shirts, linen type trousers/short/skirts along with fleeces/cardigans in case of cooler weather and evenings. Also, remember to pack your swimwear. Ensure to bring some comfortable footwear for walking. It is also a good idea to pack a light waterproof jacket, should there be any rain. For the Yangtze River cruise, casual attire is recommended on board as well as ashore. For the Captain’s Cocktail Party and Farewell Banquet, a shirt and tie for gentlemen and dress or dress pants for ladies is suggested. Sunscreen and a sunhat are recommended. Don’t forget to pack your Cameras, Video Cameras and Chargers.
Walking the Great Wall Tour – See specific walking tour information below.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Luggage handling is not included in our Splendours of China tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge. Walking the Great Wall Tour - Transport of 1 main large bag from one hotel to the next is included in the package.
Laundry services are available in some hotels on the tours.
Given the size of the country, it is no surprise that China has 297 spoken languages! Mandarin is the most widely understood as China’s official language, but many regional variations exist. Nowadays, many Chinese people can speak basic English, especially younger generations.
Despite the size of the country, China has just one time zone, GMT+8, 8 hours ahead of London GMT.
The weather in China is as varied as the landscapes the vast country covers. Stretching from the Pacific to the Himalayas, from the Mongolian plains to the tropical south of the country. It is difficult to generalise about weather in such a vast country, but September, October and early November are generally considered the best times to visit as they are the most temperate. Winters are cold, particularly in the north, northwest and northeast. Summers are hot, and often wet and humid, in central and south China. Winters in the subtropical south of the country are generally milder, but the climate here divides between a wet season in summer and a dry season in winter. October in Beijing is cool and dry, with big temperature differences between day and night. It may still feel like summer in the afternoon during a sunny day but may cool down to 3-4 °C (37-39°F) overnight.
In China, the standard voltage is 220V and the frequency is 50Hz. They use three types of plugs in Tibet – Type A, the North American style plug, Type C, the European style plug and Type I, used in Oceania and Argentina. You will need an adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
China has an expanding communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. However, please check data roaming charges for China with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive! Public telephones, where the proprietor makes the call and you pay accordingly often work out cheaper for international calls. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free WIFI.
The currency of China is the Renminbi, the standard unit called the Yuan ¥ (RMB). Only limited amounts of Chinese currency can be bought in advance, so you will have to change money once in China. This can be done at hotels or branches of the Bank of China. Travellers’ cheques have a slightly better exchange rate than cash. You should not have many problems changing cash from US Dollars or GBP (though not Scottish or Northern Irish notes) or travellers’ cheques in major tourist cities, but this may be more difficult in more remote areas. Here, US Dollars are more likely to be recognised and changeable.
Credit cards are also accepted in large hotels, department stores and shops. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. Some ATM cash machines in big cities can also give cash advances on credit cards, but please watch out for counterfeit notes which is an increasingly common problem. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip.
China is still relatively affordable to visitors, prices in the cities more expensive than in the countryside. The majority of meals are included in tours, but please remember to bring money with you for those meals not included, as well as snacks, drinks and of course souvenirs.
• Bank Opening
Banks in China are usually open 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday, closing for lunch from midday-2pm. However, Chinese banks are very busy, so you might find yourself waiting a very long time to exchange currency or cash a traveller's check. Sometimes you will have to wait for a teller who understands English
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
Chinese food is famous around the world and needs little introduction. Nevertheless, with the size of the country and varied landscapes it covers, it is of no surprise that there are many, variations of what is classed as ‘Chinese food’. You will find rice and noodles all over, but different regions take their own twist on spices, flavours and cooking methods. Millet, corn, buckwheat, potato, sweet potato and many kinds of legumes are also common. Apart from rice, wheaten food like steamed bread, noodles, deep-fried twisted dough sticks, steamed stuffed buns, as well as various gruels, cakes and snacks with special local flavours always make the dining table a rich and colourful experience.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in China is not safe to drink. Drink only bottled water and use bottled water to clean your teeth. Refuse ice if you do not know whether it has been made from bottled water. Bottled water and mineral water are widely available and can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
China offers lots for visitors to buy. It is the factory for most of the goods purchased around the world, so you’ll be able to find almost anything you want! However, whilst in china, you will find lots of local handicraft, silks, artwork and calligraphy and pottery.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 9am – 9.30pm Monday–Saturday, though may vary locally. Most shops are closed on Sundays, with the exception of certain grocery shops and souvenir shops.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in China offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Crime levels against foreigners in China are generally low. However, as always, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. Avoid wandering round unaccompanied at night-time and avoid unlicensed taxis. Scams against foreigners are common too – if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is! When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities. Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings. The Chinese authorities enforce public order strictly and you may face arrest, detention and/or deportation.
Certain behaviours may be deemed sensitive and attract greater scrutiny from the authorities, including photography near sensitive sites, engaging with political groups or charities, and making statements deemed to be politically sensitive. Chinese authorities maintain controls on internet access. Some services, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are permanently blocked and others may be blocked from time to time.
There are extremely severe penalties for drugs offences in China, up to and including the death penalty. Chinese authorities undertake random drug testing on foreign nationals, including on entry to the country and with a positive test can prosecute you regardless of where or when you consumed drugs. Police raids on homes also occur, with penalties can be extremely severe.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places. There are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke, but enforcement of the law is patchy, especially outside of the major cities.
The Chinese state officially supports atheism, and around 3 in 4 Chinese declare themselves atheists. However, China is the home of a number of religions including Taoism and many religions exist, including Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, especially close the borders where these religions are more prevalent
China offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card!
SPECIFIC INFORMATION FOR WALKING THE GREAT WALL TOUR
The Walking the Great Wall tour will include several days of walking between 4-6 hours over uneven and steep terrain. You must be adequately fit and healthy to participate in this tour and ensure you have the correct footwear and clothing for hiking in mixed weather over an extended period.
A training programme of walking, cycling and running/jogging is the best way to improve your fitness to prepare yourself for the trek. There will be some steep climbs and uneven ground. In the months leading up to your departure, it is a good idea to do a few multi-day walks/treks lasting 3-4rs per walk/trek.
This trek is fully supported. A fully qualified English-speaking leader will accompany all groups. The leader will work alongside a team of local guides, assistant guides, porters and cooks who work hard to make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible. Our lunch and safety equipment will be carried by porters during the day. You will only need to carry a daypack. A 35l rucksack is a useful size to comfortably fit in essential items such as water bottle, camera, wet-weather gear and extra layers etc. Your 1x large suitcase will be transported separately to you to the next hotel on the itinerary.
What to Pack?
Please take a look at our "What's in my bag?" video for advice on what to take with you on the Walking the Great Wall Tour: https://youtu.be/cMmQK3Qn1tA
• Sport shoes or cross training shoes for travel/sightseeing; Lightweight, comfortable, broken-in hiking boots; hiking sticks (optional)
• Waterproof and breathable rain jacket and pants; midweight fleece
• Sun hat with broad brim; Sunblock Factor 50+; Lip balm with SPF
• Personal first-aid kit; Toiletry kit; Hand sanitizer gel; Insect repellent; Motion sickness remedies (if required)
• Favourite energy snacks and drink mixes
• Duffel bag (wheels and retractable handle are fine), sturdy and large enough to hold clothing and gear; Daypack or fanny pack to hold extra water, jacket, camera, etc.; passport security pouch or belt; luggage tags and luggage locks; daypack cover or garbage bag to line your day pack in event of rain; Ziploc bags to separate wet items
• Camera and spare batteries; reading and writing materials; watch with alarm or travel alarm
In case your main luggage goes missing en route, it is a good idea to wear your hiking boots on the plane. Most other things can be replaced but comfortable, well worn-in boots cannot.
Bringing a few of your favourite snacks, energy bars and drinks from home is a good idea in order to add variety to between-meal food options. Bottled water, green tea, sodas, juices and snacks are available for purchase everywhere we travel.
This tour contains a mix of accommodation standards, from a 5* city central hotel to a local family run inn or a character hotel with traditional central Chinese bamboo gardens. Relatively few Western travellers have visited many of the locations on the itinerary. The minor inconveniences we may encounter are far outweighed by the opportunities this tour offers to see and experience the real China.
Participation Statement - The Big Journey Company and its partners recognise that hill walking and mountaineering are activities that require a certain level of fitness and with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.
Accuracy of Itinerary - Although it is our intention to operate this itinerary as printed, it may be necessary to make some changes as a result of flight schedules, climatic conditions, limitations of infrastructure or other operational factors. As a consequence, the order or location of overnight stops and the duration of the day may vary from those outlined. You should be aware that some events are subject to change.
ARRIVAL IN CHINA
Foreign nationals are required to register their place of residence within 24hrs of arrival with the local Public Security Bureau and authorities enforce these requirements with regular spot checks. However, most hostels do this for you as part of the check-in process.
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure. Please note, hotels in China do not have many double rooms, most are twin rooms. Double rooms are subject to availability. In the unlikely event of any amendments to your accommodation, our Chinese Ground Agents reserve the right to change the hotels at any time prior to departure but will always ensure that it is of the same quality and standard.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in Tibet, or other Asian countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated December 2019