|Below is a selection of highlights from our tours, click on an image to direct you to all trips in that region.|
Monument to Mother Russia, Volgograd
|Khiva, Uzbekistan; Registan Square, Samarkand ; Silk Road ancient temples; ||
|Central Asian Information|
This tour visits the following countries. Please select one to view its details.
| Kazakhstan | Russia | Uzbekistan |
|To see our current selection of tours in click here.|
China has a great diversity of climates. The northeast experiences hot and dry summers and bitterly cold winters. The north and central region has almost continual rainfall, hot summers and cold winters. The southeast region has substantial rainfall, with semi-tropical summers and cool winters. Central, southern and western China are also susceptible to flooding, China is also periodically subject to seismic activity.
North - heavyweight clothing with boots for the harsh northern winters. Lightweight clothing for summer. South - mediumweight clothing for winter and lightweight for summer.
9,596,960 sq km (3,705,407 sq miles).
140.6 per sq km.
People's Republic. China comprises 23 provinces (China considers Taiwan its 23rd province), five autonomous regions, two special administrative regions and four municipalities directly under central government.
China is bordered to the north by Russia and Mongolia; to the east by Korea (Dem Rep), the Yellow Sea and the South China Sea; to the south by Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bhutan and Nepal; and to the west by India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. China has a varied terrain ranging from high plateaux in the west to flatlands in the east; mountains take up almost one-third of the land.
The most notable high mountain ranges are the Himalayas, the Altai Mountains, the Tian Shan Mountains and the Kunlun Mountains. On the border with Nepal is the 8,848m (29,198ft) Mount Qomolangma (Mount Everest). In the west is the Qinghai/Tibet Plateau, with an average elevation of 4,000m (13,200ft), known as 'the Roof of the World'. At the base of the Tian Shan Mountains is the Turpan Depression or Basin, China's lowest area, 154m (508ft) below sea level at the lowest point. China has many great river systems, notably the Yellow (Huang He) and Yangtze River (Chang Jiang, also Yangtze Kiang). Only 10% of all China is suitable for agriculture.
The official language is Mandarin Chinese. Among the enormous number of local dialects, large groups speak Cantonese, Shanghaiese (also known as Shanghainese), Fuzhou, Hokkien-Taiwanese, Xiang, Gan and Hakka dialects in the south. Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang, which are autonomous regions, have their own languages. Translation and interpreter services are good. English is spoken by many guides and in hotels. Many taxi drivers do not speak English, even in big cities.
China is officially atheist, but the stated religions and philosophies are Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism. There are 100 million Buddhists and approximately 60 million Muslims, 5 million Protestants (including large numbers of Evangelicals) and 4 million Roman Catholics, largely independent of Vatican control.
GMT + 8. Despite the vast size of the country, Beijing time is standard throughout China.
Cultural differences may create misunderstandings between local people and visitors. The Chinese do not usually volunteer information and the visitor is advised to ask questions. Hotels, train dining cars and restaurants often ask for criticisms and suggestions, which are considered seriously. Do not be offended if you are followed by a crowd; this is merely an open interest in visitors who are rare in the remoter provinces. The Chinese are generally reserved in manner, courtesy rather than familiarity being preferred.
The full title of the country is 'The People's Republic of China', and this should be used in all formal communications. 'China' can be used informally, but there should never be any implication that another China exists. Although handshaking may be sufficient, a visitor will frequently be greeted by applause as a sign of welcome. The customary response is to applaud back. Anger, if felt, is expected to be concealed and arguments in public may attract hostile attention.
In China, the family name is always mentioned first. It is customary to arrive a little early if invited out socially. When dining, guests should wait until their seat is allocated and not begin eating until indicated to do so. If using chopsticks, do not position them upright in your rice bowl as the gesture symbolises death. Toasting at a meal is very common, as is the custom of taking a treat when visiting someone's home, such as fruit, confectionery or a souvenir from a home country. If it is the home of friends or relatives, money may be left for the children.
If visiting a school or a factory, a gift from the visitor's home country, particularly something which would be unavailable in China (a text book if visiting a school, for example), would be much appreciated. Stamps are also very popular as gifts, as stamp-collecting is a popular hobby in China. A good gift for an official guide is a Western reference book on China.
Conservative casual wear is generally acceptable everywhere and revealing clothes should be avoided since they may cause offence. Visitors should avoid expressing political or religious opinions. Photography: Places of historic and scenic interest may be photographed, but permission should be sought before photographing military installations, government buildings or other possibly sensitive subjects.
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 the use of 110 volt appliances.
Head of Government
Premier Li Keqiang since 2013.
Head of State
President Xi Jinping since 2013.
China is governed by the National People's Congress (NPC), the nation's president and premier of the People's Republic, and the heads of individual ministries. The NPC is held every five years and attended by some 3,000 delegates drawn from provincial administrations, the military and various state organs. While China's political infrastructure remains solid, its social and economic foundations are shifting rapidly. Having opened up to the world in the 1990s, and joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, China's economy has benefited from significant inflows of foreign investment, so much so that China is now the largest holder of US government debt and owns the largest foreign exchange reserves of any nation in history. Socially, China is now searching for a new identity. Having hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and with the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai and the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou on the horizon, China's urban population is more globalised than at any point in history, and is seeking to combine a penchant for global brands into several millennia of Chinese history and culture. It is also more confident and nationalistic than ever, with events like 2008's first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut and the development of the world's fastest train (Shanghai Maglev) and longest cross-sea bridge (Hangzhou Bay Bridge) evoking enormous national pride - and setting expectations that the Middle Kingdom is destined to become the world's next superpower.
1 Renminbi Yuan (CNY; symbol ¥) = 10 jiao/mao or 100 fen. Notes are in denominations of ¥100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1, 5 jiao and 1 jiao. Coins are in denominations of ¥1, 5 jiao and 1 jiao. Counterfeit ¥50 and ¥100 notes are commonplace. The Yuan is often referred to as the 'guai' in street slang.
It is possible to exchange CNY outside China, albeit mainly in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Foreign banknotes and traveller's cheques can be exchanged at branches of The Bank of China. In hotels for tourists, imported luxury items such as spirits may be bought with Western currency. Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes cannot be exchanged.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in major provincial cities in designated establishments. Credit cards are often unlikely to be accepted away from the major cities.
To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.
Imports and exports of local currency are limited to ¥20,000. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited, but amounts exceeding the equivalent of US$5,000 must be declared.
Mon-Fri 0900-1600/1700. Some banks close for lunch from 1200-1300. Select branches in major cities offer extended hours in the evenings and on weekends.
Exchange Rate Indicators
1.00 GBP = 9.94 CNY 1.00 USD = 6.07 CNY 1.00 EUR = 8.37 CNY 1.00 CAD = 5.73 CNY Currency conversion rates as of 12 December 2013
Colossal, dizzying and fiercely, endlessly foreign, China is a destination not easily compared to anywhere else on the planet. Home to approximately one-fifth of the human race, China variously dazzles, befuddles, frustrates and thrills. The key visitor attractions are renowned around the globe – think the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Terracotta Warriors – but on the ground it’s the sheer scale and off-kilter energy of the place that leave the most lasting impression.
The rampant economic drive of the last decade means many of China’s cities are as shaped by modernity as anywhere you care to mention, but it’s also somewhere underpinned by dearly held traditions and an almost unfathomable amount of diversity. China's landscapes unfurl dramatically across the map, its customs are as fascinating as they are numerous, and its sights, sounds and infinite oddities altogether amount to one of the world’s truly great travel experiences
The pace of modernisation in its key cities – Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou and increasingly others – have thrown up skylines to rival any global city in the world. The skyscrapers of these cities are emblematic of the ‘new’ China – a modern powerhouse both economically and politically, and the eager to make the rest of the world sit up and take notice. China’s cities hum with an energy and pace so quick that even the metropolis-hardened of visitors will feel it. The flipside to this – levels of smog and pollution so severe you’ll feel like you’re walking through a cloud, and the indiscriminate pulling down of ancient architecture to make way for shiny new buildings, seem to be the unfortunate consequences of progress.
Shift away from the urban sprawl and out into China’s rural areas and countryside however, and the visitor is confronted with a very different reality. The sheer size of the country – where the landscape veers from the lush green terraced rice fields to the harsh mountain geography of the Himalayas, and the awe-inducing beauty of UNESCO-protected Yangtze river as it winds its way through the Yunnan province. In many of the rural heartlands, that tableau of life in China fifty years ago can still be found, with village life seemingly unchanged, on the surface. Still, for visitors to China the greatest reward will be scratching beneath it, to engage with a country that will contradicts and captivates in equal measure.
From www.worldtravelguide.net copyright Columbus Travel Publishing Ltd, December 2013.