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Prepare yourself for China
Prior to Your Trip to China ~ be prepared!
Our children are teaching in China ~ This afternoon I was wandering around Chapters looking for the 2012 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition (Writer’s Market Online) unsuccessfully I might add, when I noticed a couple looking through books on China and Thailand. “Are you going to China?” Snoopy me asked.
When these really nice people admitted they were going to China, of course I had to brag that I had just returned from visiting my son who lives there. One thing led to another and they said they were visiting their daughter who was teaching in Dalian. It is a small world. Their daughter is teaching at a school that my son taught at last year.
They had a few questions that I hopefully answered to their satisfaction and of course I had a few suggestions for them I hope will be helpful. Once I left Chapters I gave some thought as to what some of those questions were and questions I needed answering when I initially was planning my trip. Do you need a Visa?
Applying for Visa’s to China (Canadians)
Make it easy on yourself and arrange for your visa through a travel agent. The Chinese Consulate in Vancouver will not accept visa applications through the mail. I arranged my visa through a travel agency and paid them $50 to look after the visa application. They used International Visa Passport Service Corp. Which then cost me approximately $145 plus courier expenses of approximately $45. Their website is www.ivpsc.com and you can work with them directly if you like.
My time was limited and I didn’t want to have any errors so used the travel agents services even though my trip was booked previously online through Expedia Book your Adventure Travel on Expedia.com: Explore, discover and escape!. If I lived in a major city I would have contacted the Chinese Embassy directly and taken care of it myself but since I live a couple hundred miles away it was easier but not cheaper to work with a travel agent.
Be prepared ~ you will need:
Your passport with at least one pair of blank facing pages and at least 3 months validity beyond the duration of the visa yo
u are applying for and in any case a minimum of 6 months. If you don’t have this you will need to get a new passport first.
A passport photo – if you buy one from a recognised passport photo retailer you will ensure that you get photos of the correct dimension and background colour. I used the passport photo department at Wal-Mart and was completely satisfied with the result.
The application fee
The address and phone number of where you are staying. Although I was going to be traveling throughout China I listed my son’s address as my destination.
Determine the purpose of your trip
They wish to know whether you have medical insurance covering you during your visit and if so will want to know the name of the insurance company and policy number.
They will want to know if you have visited other countries in the last 12 months. For Canadians who do some cross border shopping this will apply to you – you will need to say when you last were in the US and the purpose.
Have you ever been refused entry into China or refused a visa?
Have you ever overstayed your visa or residence permit in China?
10. Do you have any criminal record in China or any other country?
11. Are you affiliated with a serious mental disorder, infectious pulmonary tuberculosis or other infectious disease of public health hazards?
12. Did you visit countries or territories infected by infectious diseases in the last 30 days?
And that’s it. It really isn’t all that difficult but take the time to fill out the forms completely and accurately before submitting them.
China is mostly a cash society. It is possible to use credit cards in the major cities but for the most part I relied on having enough cash with me to pay for my expenses. There are ATM machines in most banks all over the country that will convert your currency into Yuen at that day’s rate.
I never encountered any real problems except it is not uncommon to for a machine to run out of money. No problem – just move on to the next one. Look for a machine that has ATM across the top and you shouldn’t have any problems. I did not carry traveler’s cheques and I think they would have been more of a pain than anything. When I was there the Canadian dollar was work approximately six times what the Yuen was, so my money went much further than at home. It is very inexpensive to travel in China, especially airfare within the country. We flew from Shanghai – Xian – Beijing – Shanghai all for about $250. CDN each.
Each region of China has different types of foods and for the most part it is all delicious. However, nothing is wasted in China and don’t be surprised to find chicken bones in your chicken dish, because they are not removed when cooking. It is possible to have western type food or most international type food in the major cities but you will probably pay the same rate as at home. Don’t be afraid to try the food – it is excellent and by experimenting and eating local dishes you will find your meals are really inexpensive. Street food can be a nice surprise with pork or other types of meat cooked over hot coats on a stick. Watch for where the locals eat and if they are lined up, it is probably a safe bet that the food will be delicious and safe.
Don’t be shocked by what you may find at some of the food markets – scorpions, beetles, snake, and everything else you can imagine and some things you can’t, cooking alongside a vendor selling bowls of fresh fruit you can’t resist.
Get yourself a good travel guide book and study it before you leave home. Lonely Planet China (Country Travel Guide) and Fodor’s China, 6th Edition (Travel Guide) are both excellent choices and my son and I had one of each with us during our trip to Xian, Beijing and Shanghai and we noticed that if one book didn’t have something we were looking for, the other one did.
Don’t bother. Before you drive in China you must have a Chinese licence, but taxis, buses, and subways are so cheap that you won’t miss not driving. Be careful though ~ pedestrians do NOT have the right away.
I actually think they are targets more than anything. Be prepared to jump out of the way when a car is heading right for you, even though you are in a crosswalk – it won’t matter. Scooters and bicycles are very popular with the locals, but traffic rules do not apply to them either. They seem to have their own way of doing things.
China is 15 hours ahead of where I live in British Columbia so to help reduce the jet lag I changed my watch to Shanghai time as soon as I got on the plane and told myself it was the middle of the night instead of daytime and forced myself into going to sleep. I didn’t avoid jet lag but I believe I reduced it somewhat. Drink lots of water and try and get up and stretch periodically since the flight will be long. My flight was 12 hours going over and 11 coming back but there were good movies playing and the seats were comfortable so had absolutely no problems at all.
China is all about the history and there is so much to see and do that you will probably have to make some choices as to what you will see. If you get into Shanghai pay the money and go to the Pearl Tower, where you will look over the city and finally understand how large it really is. The high rise buildings that you were walking around before will seem like miniatures from the height of the Tower. Take the extra time to visit the museum inside the tower – it is very unique and interactive and will give you an excellent perspective on the development of this extremely interesting country.