Practical Information in Beijing


To enter China, you must have a passport valid at least six months after your return date, a visa, an identity card and you need to fill in a form. Please note: the form can be downloaded from the embassy’s website. It often takes a long time to get the document.


Chinese (putonghua) is understood, spoken and written all over China. English is spoken in the big companies of the large cities and by most students.


The main religion is Buddhism (100 million), followed by Taoism (30 million), Islam (20 million), and Christianity (4 million). Almost the whole of China respects the “cult of the ancestors” prescribed by Confucius.


The Yuan or Kuai (CNY), also referred to as the Renminbi Yuan (RMB) (‘people’s currency’), consists of 10 Jiaos (commonly referred to as Maos) or 100 Fens. £1 Sterling = 10.26 yuan. Currency exchange is available in almost all large hotels (excluding commission, the official rate is the same everywhere). Small amounts of cash in US Dollars are also very useful. International bank cards are only accepted in large establishments, hotels and shops, but cash can be withdrawn at all branches of the Bank of China. Those in Shanghai and Beijing have ATM machines which can be used 24 hours a day. Banks open at 8.00am and close for lunch and then at around 4.00pm from Monday to Friday. Some also open on Saturdays from 8:00am to noon. Be careful not to exchange money on the black market, although this practice has virtually died out.


Inspection against SARS (a respiratory disease) and avian flu has been reinforced.
Furthermore, a vaccination against flu for people going to Asian countries who are affected by the avian flu has not yet been judged as useful or recommended, according to the Minister of Health Administration. It is recommended to travellers going to countries declared as infected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Epizootic Office to avoid all contact with fowls, that is to say not going to farms and fowl and bird markets, avoid all contact with any surfaces spattered with fowl droppings or animal dejections. Finally, it is categorically unadvised to bring back animals from those countries.Hygiene recommendations
Steps against microbial infections are recommended, especially avoiding eating raw or half-cooked food, in particular meat and eggs; wash your hands regularly.General recommendations
No vaccine is required but hepatitis A, typhoid and tetanus are strongly recommended. Ask for more information at a vaccination centre to be informed about eventual epidemic diseases and risks of infections when you get there.
Good to know: every winter, flu and colds ravage China, especially in cold regions. Bring broad-spectrum antibiotics and medicine to cure sore throats. Dust and pollution can cause conjunctivitis (bring an eyewash solution). Golden rule in the country: never drink tap water, never have ice cubes, ice creams or pealed fruits sold in the street. Drink tea or mineral water, sodas or beer (in bottles with the cap open in front of you). In restaurants where hygiene conditions seem dubious, avoid eating raw vegetables and always choose hot or well-cooked dishes. In case of an accident, get a taxi to the closest hospital. Health care is relatively reliable and inexpensive. Major hotels provide medical emergency services. In any case, it is preferable to get some sort of repatriation insurance.


Voltage is 220 V.There are 5 different types of electrical outlets! US adaptor and flat outlets are necessary.


In hotels, a government tax, going from 10 to 20% is added to the room rate. Do not forget to keep enough cash to pay the airport tax (CNY 100 for an international flight, CNY 50 for a domestic flight). It is not a custom to leave tips, but tour guides would happily accept them. A small amount of cash (or a small gift), handed beforehand, sometimes facilitates human relations.