Best time to go: March – May and September – November
Best for: Buddhist Monuments, Great Wall of China, pagodas, UNESCO World Heritage Sites
With the world`s largest population and the country fast becoming the major global player, China is a must-visit destination. China has some incredible scenery and much of it is best seen on foot. Everest Base Camp is Tibet`s most popular trekking destination. There`s also great hiking in other areas of the mountainous Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yunnan`s threatened Tiger Leaping Gorge and along the Great Wall.
Head underground to Zhangjiajie`s Yellow Dragon Cave, Asia`s largest, or more popular caverns including Guilin`s Reed Flute and Crown caves and Yangshuo`s Silver Cave – their stalactites and stalagmites lit by garish multi-coloured neon.
China also has some gorgeous tropical beaches. Sanya, on the southern coast of China`s most southerly province, Hainan Island, is one of the country`s most popular holiday areas and has international resort hotels, fine sand beaches, golf courses, coconut palms and water sports.
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Official Name: The People’s Republic of China
Capital: Beijing (BJS)
Currency: Renminbi Yuan (CNY)
Language: Mandarin Chinese. Local dialects are spoken including Cantonese, Shanghaiese (also known as Shanghainese), Fuzhou, Hokkien-Taiwanese, Xiang, Gan and Hakka. English is spoken by guides and in many hotels, but not by taxi drivers.
Dialling code from SA: +86
Time Zone: UTC / GMT +8 (6 hours ahead of South Africa)
Side of the Road: Right
Plugs: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-pin and three-pin sockets are generally in use. However, most 4- to 5-star hotels are also wired for 110-volt appliances
Drinking Water: All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Bottled water is available.
Health: There are adequate and well-equipped medical facilities, however visitors are required to pay for these services. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended. Doctors will require cash payment regardless of whether you have health insurance. Doctors may not speak English.
Customs: The family name is mentioned first when introducing yourself. The Chinese are generally reserved and prefer courtesy over familiarity. Public displays of anger should be avoided. If using chopsticks do not position them upright in the bowl. Clothing should be conservative and not too revealing. Avoid discussing politics and religion.
Local Offences / Laws: Identification should be carried at all times, as spot checks may be carried out and failure to have identification could result in detention.
Travel Tips / Warnings: Outside of the major cities, credit cards may not be frequently accepted and ATM’s may not accept international cards. Always seek permission before photographing military personnel and buildings, airports and government buildings. In some parts of China, the sunrise may be as late as 10am as their 5 time zones have been combined into 1. Some social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked in the country. The word `censorship` is banned.
Duty Free: The following items may be imported into China without incurring customs duty: • 400 cigarettes and 100 cigars and 500g of tobacco.
• 1.5L of alcoholic beverages with 12% or more alcoholic content.
• Personal articles up to a value of ¥5,000 for Chinese residents.
• Personal articles which will be left in China up to a value of ¥2,000 for non-residents.
Prohibited Imports: Arms and ammunition, imitation arms, narcotics, fruit, animals and animal products, and any publication (print, audio or video) directed against the public order and the morality of China.
Customs officials may seize audio and videotapes, books, records and CDs to check for pornographic, political or religious material. You must complete baggage declaration forms upon arrival noting all valuables (such as cameras, watches and jewellery); this may be checked on departure. You should keep receipts for items such as jewellery, jade, handicrafts, paintings, calligraphy or other similar items in order to obtain an export certificate from the authorities on leaving. Without this documentation, you cannot take such items out of the country.
Prohibited Exports: All articles banned from import as well as publications or media containing state secrets, valuable cultural artefacts, and endangered/rare animals and plants (and their seeds).