PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO WEST CHINA
When you don't know the country, planning a trip to China can look like an impossible mission. Lack of knowledge about the country, language barrier, administrative procedures... No need to be so pessimistic! It is nothing like this and this page is here to help you plan your trip in confidence.
First question to answer when you plan a trip to China: where exactly do you want to go? The question is relevant especially when we talk about a country that is larger than the US and 17 times the size of France. For decades, only a few airports had drect connections with Europe and the US (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou & Hong-Kong), But for the last ten years and the blooming of Chinese tourism, numerous flights linking smaller Chinese cities with Europe and North America opened. From some major European cities, it is now possible to fly directly to Kunming, Chengdu, Xi'An or even Wuhan.
A flight linking San Francisco to Kunming recently opened as well.
All our tours have for departure and arrival place a city with its own airport :
Kunming flights from Paris, San Francisco, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing...
Dali flights from Shanghai, Beijing
Lijiang flights from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing
Shangri-La flights from Kunming
Chengdu flights from Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing...
GANSU - QINGHAI - MONGOLIE INTERIEURE
Lanzhou flights from Shanghai, Beijing
Xining flights from Shanghai, Beijing
Passport & visa
For entering China territory, it is necessary to hold a valid passport with a visa. The visa application has to be transmitted to the embassy or a consulate. The process can take several weeks, so it is important to plan ahead.
Internet & communications
Once you are on China territory, you should know that it is possible to purchase a SIM card. Local phone calls are really cheap and it will also allow you to use chat apps such as WeChat (massively used in mainland China) to connect with people abroad.
Getting a SIM card might not be the easiest option if you don't speak the language, but if you wish to do so, go to a "China Mobile" or "China Unicom" store with your passport.
It is also important to remember that chinese citizens are facing an internet censorship. Social networks as well as all Google services are blocked. It will be impossible for you to perform a Google search, to look for an address on GoogleMaps or to use your Gmail box.
Here are some simple and easy to set up piece of advice so you don't feel so lost when you arrive in China:
use another search engine such as bing.com or yahoo.com
configure an automatic forward from your Gmail box to a non-blocked mailbox (hotmail, yahoo...)
You will soon realize that it is actually possible to live without Google!
Banks & currencies
The currency used in China is the Chinese Yuan (CNY) also called "currency of the people", Renminbi (RMB). The rate is currently about 1$ for 6.3 CNY.
The biggest national banks will allow you to withdraw cash with the credit card from your country, so it is not necessary to change money before your departure or to come with your pockets full of cash. Here are the three biggest banks that you find in pretty much all main and middle-size cities:
Bank of China (where it is also sometimes possible to change money)
China construction bank.