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Need to know – China

Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an.
Image courtesy: China National Tourist Office, New Delhi

In this extract from Lonely Planet India’s China travel guide, we look at some of the important information you will need while planning a trip to the country.

Languages: Mandarin and Cantonese.

Time: 2 ½ hours ahead of IST.

Currency: The yuan (Y); Hong Kong dollar (HK$). Yuan is also commonly known as the Renminbi or RMB.

Phones: Pay-as-you-go SIM cards can be bought locally for most mobile phones.

Internet Access: In most towns; many 24 hours; Y2 to Y4 per hour.

Tourist Information:

Beijing Tourist Information Centre Hotline ph 65130828; Gongrentiyuchang Bei Lu, Chaoyang ph 0086 10 6417 6627 (and many more centres, including at airport).

Shanghai Information Centre For International Visitors No 2, Alley 123, Xingye Road ph 0086 21 6384 9366; Shanghai Call Centre (24 hr, English hotline, toll free) ph 962288.

Hong Kong Tourism Hotline ph 25081234 (9am–6pm); Visitor Information and Service Centres at Peak Piazza, Hong Kong Island; Star Ferry Concourse, Kowloon; and Hong Kong Airport;

When to Go

China is a vast country with varying weather conditions. Beijing has extremes of climate with winter seeing temperatures plunge to –15°C and summers where the mercury can touch 40°C. Shanghai winters are milder but the lack of indoor heating means that it can feel colder than Beijing. Summers are warm and humid. Thus, spring and autumn are good seasons for both cities. Hong Kong is much more temperate and an all-year destination.

May–Aug: High Season. Be ready for crowds, and for summer downpours in July–Aug. Accommodation prices peak during the May holiday period (first week of the month).

Feb–Apr and Sep–Oct: Expect warmer days in spring, cooler days in autumn. Sep–Oct is the optimum season for north China. Accommodation prices peak during the October holiday period (first week of the month).

Nov–Feb: Little domestic tourism, but busy and expensive at Chinese New Year. It’s bitterly cold in the north; only warm in the far south. Expect to find far fewer tourist crowds at the top destinations.

Beijing: go Sep–Oct • Shanghai: go Sep–Oct

Chengdu: go Mar–May • Hong Kong: go Nov–Feb

What to pack

• Comfortable sandals and shoes, warm clothes if not travelling in summer.

• Waterproof holder for passport and money; camera, batteries.

• Mandarin phrasebook.

Getting Around

Train: An extensive, modern network covers China, and high-speed trains connect many cities.

Bus: Also extensive network; cheaper but slower than the trains, just like in India.

Air: There are numerous internal flights which connect the cities efficiently.

Taxis: Reasonably cheap and plentiful in cities and big towns.

Metro: Beijing and Shanghai have a fast, reliable metro service with announcements in English. Hong Kong has a super-efficient Mass Transit Railway (MTR) network.