Travel Essentials

Here’s the ultimate travel essentials list for The Silk Road; everything from currency, tipping and clothing dress codes can be found below.

Currency

The local currency is called the Yuan (RMB) and for the latest exchange rates you can review this website www.xe.com

We recommend you take your spending money in either British Pounds, US dollars or Euros in cash and change a decent amount of money at the airport on arrival for your trip. Please ask for a receipt when you change the money, so you can change Yuan back into your own currency when leaving China. Traveller’s cheques can be changed at the Bank of China, but only during bank opening hours.  Please ensure the bank notes in cash that you travel with are in good condition and we recommend you take new (post 1998), good dollar bills in small denominations.

You can exchange money in most towns and your local guide can recommend where to change money. There are ATM machines in all the major towns and cities and credit cards can be used in well-established restaurants, and to pay for high value goods, such as carpets or expensive souvenirs.

Food and Drink

Meal costs are dependent on location, type of restaurant, number or courses chosen etc and can vary greatly. Local restaurants located off the traditional tourist route can often be much less expensive than those in major towns and cities that attract an upmarket clientele. Prices below are based on average prices is local / tourist style restaurants.

  • Lunch price: £5.00 – £6.00
  • Dinner price: £8.00 – £10.00
  • Beer price: £2.00
  • Water price: £1.50

Vaccinations

Ensure you visit your travel clinic before travel for general advice on travel risks, vaccinations and malaria. There are no compulsory vaccinations for China, but your travel clinic will probably recommend protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, polio and hepatitis. Travellers may wish to take immunisation against Japanese Encephalitis. For more information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.nhs and www.masta-travel-health.com. Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.

Language

Mandarin

Time Difference

China is 8 hours ahead of GMT.

Insurance

A valid travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical issues is a must. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities.

It is a good idea to photocopy all relevant documents – passport, travel, insurance policy etc., and leave one copy at home. Carry another copy with you separate from the originals.

Wi-Fi and Mobile Phone Coverage

Internet access is widely available in China. The easiest internet access is by logging on to Wi-Fi hotspots available at hotels, cafes, restaurants, or shopping centres. The quality of Wi-Fi varies greatly depending on your location and often does not reach all of the hotel bedrooms.

Chinas mobile phone network has thorough coverage, at least in the Urban areas.

Electricity

A flat three-pin plug is required to charge your phone, camera, video camera or electronic devices. The voltage in China run at 220 volts.

Clothing

The majority people in the Silk Road region are traditionally Muslim and therefore avoid wearing overtly revealing clothing such as short skirts and shorts, tight leggings and tops and short sleeve shirts and blouses or tops with spaghetti straps. Women should always keep a headscarf handy for visits to mosques and any sites of religious significance.

As with all countries in Central Area, light-weight natural fabrics work best especially those that can be layered for cooler evenings in the spring and autumn seasons. It is advisable to pack a fleece and wind / waterproof jacket for evenings in campsites or during the colder winter months. For sleeping in yurts and camps we would recommend warm sleep wear. Remember to pack a swimsuit for lake, river and hot spring dips as well as hotel pools.

Footwear

Good quality, comfortable walking shoes/trainers and sandals.

Equipment

Day sack, water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses, high factor sunscreen, head scarf, torch, ear plugs, insect repellent and travel first aid kit.

Customs and Culture

Respect and etiquette are a major part of Chinese culture. Some traditions that form part of daily life and rituals are more than 2,000 years old. China’s huge landmass, diverse climate and mix of nations and nationalities provides a  diverse and eclectic mix of traditions on show throughout the Silk Road.

China’s customs are also linked to its various religions.  For example, the western part of China is Muslim and therefore follows traditional Islamic rites and traditions. In addition there are also Confucians and Buddhists. Tibet, part of China follows Tibetan Buddhism, and is subtly different to Buddhism practiced in the rest of China. In Tibetan Buddhism the person only has to change their perspective on life rather than completely change their lifestyle.

Similar to Japan a Chinese welcome involves bowing the body with the hand firmly crossed on the chest. The deeper the bow the more respect was shown. Today it is often just a nod of the head but for special or formal occasions a deeper bow will be given.

Chinese superstitions are legendary and despite rapid modernisation many Chinese people are still deeply superstitious and therefore this forms a large part of their customs and traditions.

Tipping

China is one of the few countries where tipping isn’t compulsory and expected. We do however recommend that tipping is given for excellent service and where the person has provided professional ongoing service.  As with all of our trips we recommend you keep small denominations notes handy for tips. Below is recommend daily tipping amount should the service warrant.

  • Local full day city guide: 10 – 15 USD per day, from your group
  • Half day city guide: 5 – 10 USD per day, from your group
  • Local Driver: 5 – 8 USD per day, from your group
  • Restaurants, cafes and bars automatically apply 10% service charge

Safety

Access to accurate news on China is difficult to find as the Chinese government keeps a tight grip on media coverage. It is therefore hard to find current news on traveller information. Generally, China is considered a safe country to travel in as long as you stay alert and take advice from your guide and hotel staff.  Demonstrations are illegal in China and therefore should you stumble across one in your travels keep your distance and do not take any photos or video content.

Travel Safety Advice

We strongly recommend that you check your government’s travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Festivals and Holidays

As with all celebrations in Asia those in China are colourful, spectacular and somewhat theatrical. China celebrates many official, religious and traditional cultural holidays. Below are a list of the most celebrated.

Festivals & Public Holidays in China are:-

  • 1-3 Jan: New Year’s
  • 4 Feb: Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (Eve of first lunar month)
  • 5 Apr: Qingming Festival
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 7 Jun: Dragon Boat Festival
  • 30 Sept: National Day