Covering a total area of about 9.6 million square kilometers, which accounts for some 6.5% of the world total land area, China is the third largest country in the world after Russia (about 17,075 million square kilometers) and Canada (about 9,971 million square kilometers). As the most populous county, China's total population of over 1,3 billions makes up about 23% of the total population in the world. After the founding of PRC in 1949, 56 ethnic groups have been identified by the Chinese central government, with the Han Nationality accounting for about 90% of the total Chinese population. However, the ethnic minority groups in China enjoy more preferential policies made by the central government.
China is vast and conditions can be extreme. Depending on the season and region, there are many pleasant times to travel. Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, in the north and northeast can be reach temperature of -30℃ during winter, but have moderate rainfall and highs in the 20 ℃ in summer. Shanghai, which is on China's central eastern seaboard, has long humid summers, a short winter and a moderate, but chilly springs and autumns. The south has hot humid summers, up to high 30℃s that lasts from April to September. Later summers also experience a rainy season, so beware of typhoons. Spring and autumns are pleasant with temperature in the low 20℃s but evenings can be damp and chilly. Tibet is bitterly cold and windy during the winters. The summers can be very hot, high 30℃'s, but summer nights can pratically trun into winter until the sun rises again, The northwest has hot, but dry summers. Xinjiang, in the far northwest, is just as cold as the rest of northern China during the winters.
★ English At Your Service
Higher-end hotels have staff with English abilities and Western food establishments, large shopping centers and a few small vendors will be able to execute transactions in English. Most bars and high-end Chinese restaurants near hotels have English-language menus and a staff with basic English knowledge. Taxi drivers are begining to learn English though most know very little beyond "hello" and "good bye". Try to exercise patience when encountering someone who doesn't speak English and hope they'll do the same if you do not speak Chinese.
There are restrictions on the type of things you can bring into and take from China. These limits include the amount of cigarettes(400)and wine or spirits(4 bottles)that can be imported. Cash amounts that exceed USD 5000 must be declared at customs upon entering China. Perishable goods are prohibited to import. Jewelry, cultural relics, gold and silver items and handicrafts bought in China are required to be shown to customs when departing. Customs reserves the right to confiscate articles deemed" cultural treasures," which are items dated earlier than 1795.
★ Currency & Exchange
Most major currencies can be exchanged into Chinese money which is called renminbi(RMB 人民币).The basic unit is called yuan or colloquially known as the Kuai. One yuan us divided into 10 jiao, which is also called a mao. One Jiao is further divided into 10 fen. Foreign currency can be exchanged at airports, border crossings, tourist hotels, some large shopping centers and major branches of Bank of China. Exchange rates can subject to change so it's best to check your local bank or the many webistes that offer conversion information.
★ Tips, Service Changes & Tax
Tips are not expected for most services. Many mid-range and high-end restaurants and hotels include a service fee in the bill, so tipping is not expected and may even be refused if you try,exceptions to this rule include hotel porters and tour guides who gladly appreciate them. Taxes are included in the stated prices.
★ Mobile Phones
Having a mobile phone during your stay in China can be extremely practical,especially if you are traveling on business. China has both GSM and CDMA networks, though the former is far more popular. You can bring your tri-band phone from home and it'll work with the Chinese networks, though any calls you make will be considered long-distance. A cheaper option, and one that is especially attractive to people who visit frequently, is to acquire a local telephone number. To do so, simply buy a SIM card, which is a telephone number, at any mobile phone store and insert it into your phone-do not forget to replace it with your original card when you go home.(Incidentally, cell phone numbers which contain lucky digits like "8",which sounds like" wealth"in Chinese, are more expensive than those with unlucky ones,like“4”which sounds like “death”)Once you have a local number,purchase a prepaid calling card, they come in denominations of RMB 50，100，300 and 500- add it to your SIM and start dialing. Prepaid cards are sold in cell phone shops, convenience stores and newsstands. Replace as needed.
★ Time Differences
Time in all of China is officially set to Beijing time, which is eight hours ahead of GMT. However, since China takes up a large piece of longitude,people in the western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet adjust their schedules a couple hours earlier according to the sun. The following are some examples of time differences with other major cities in the world.
Noon in Beijing means it's:
2pm in Sydney
1pm in Tokyo
7am in Moscow
6am in Johannesburg
5am in Berlin
4am in London
11pm in New York(previous day)
★ Water & Food
Only drink water that has been boiled,purified or bottled. Be careful not to consume food that has been sitting out for long period of time. Hot, streaming food is most likely safe - heat kills germs. Most popular or well-established restaurants should be sanitary.
Street market vendors and smaller shopping centers expect price bargaining.They will attempt to overcharge foreigners, but a skilled bargainer can drop a price to near the Chinese one. Hotels,restaurants and large shopping centers with clearly marked prices usually will not bargain.Exchanges are possible if you hold on to receipts. Be cautions when buy expensive things unless you are knowledgeable about them.Genuine antiques have a red seal at the bottom indicating they're authentic and can be exported from China, though be weary of fake seals. Antiques dates before 1795 can not leave the country.Finally, keep your receipts, since you may have to show them when departing China.
Squatting toilets are abundant in China.If you are out and about and nature calls,look for a "WC"sign - these are public toilets.Pubilc toilets can be found in commercial areas and are usually well-marked.A useful word to know is cesuo,which is Chinese for toilet.Some public toilets require a small fee,others are free.Most public toilets do not supply toilet paper, but they can be bought at public toilets.It's advised to always carry some tissues paper with you at all times.If you cannot seem to find a washroom, try heading into a McDonalds or KFC outlet,most fast-food places will have a relatively clean washroom.