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What should tourists pay attention to throughout domestic tours?
(02.20.2008)

1. Transportation

Before arriving at your starting point, you must be clear about the price and the number of runs of different transportation means, in order to book tickets in advance. Besides having some idea about the transportation information of the starting point, you also need to be clear about the transportation means, the number of runs and the price at each stop during the tour. Once at a stop, you should firstly settle the transportation formalities for the next stop, in order to avoid the situation of ticket unavailability before setting out on the next part of your journey. The peak travel periods, such as Spring Festival and the summer holidays, require special attention.

Among the various means of domestic transportation, the train is relatively punctual, thus easier for tourists to manage their time. The majority of people choose to travel by train. The price of a new air-conditioned hard seat is equal to that of a sleeping carriage with a hard berth in an ordinary train. If you are healthy and the journey is not from the far east to the far west or from the far south to the far north of China, you might like to choose a sleeping carriage with a hard berth. If you are young and robust, by choosing the hard seat, the money saved can be spent on another several days of traveling. You should also carefully choose the correct train option, especially focusing on the arrival time and not only the departure time. Sometimes you might suffer by taking a slow train, however, you might sometimes prefer a slow train as a night on the train can save one night’s hotel costs.

Within each city, town or country town, the bus is the cheapest but also the most crowded transportation option. After getting to your destination, you will probably have to transfer to a bus or a ship. There are good principles in taking a bus, so try not to take a taxi or rent a car if possible, since nowadays the public transportation system is very developed and in most cases it can take you to your destination; by not taking a taxi, you can save at least RMB 10.00 each time. However, this does not mean absolutely refraining from taking taxis at all, as sometimes spending RMB 10.00 not only saves precious time, but also gives you a chance to rest and recuperate. When taking a long distance bus, you should choose one that starts off from a regular bus station, and clarify which bus to take when you purchase your ticket at the ticket window. If it is a bus that you hail down, make sure you clarify the price and whether you need to transfer to another bus. In many places, transferring between buses is common; that is, you get on the first bus, and at mid-way you transfer to another bus. For the bus drivers, it increases efficiency, but for you, it possibly means an inconvenience or a challenge. In some places, you can take an open-air bus, but pay attention to safety.

When taking a ship, don’t buy your ticket through agent, as they sometimes charge you tens of RMBs as the agency fee.

There is also a discount on airline tickets if you choose to travel during the off-peak seasons. You can save a great deal on the ticket and the price is even lower through online reservation.

When you travel, besides paying attention to the route and the stops along the way, you should take care of your money and belongings and watch out for thieves. At every stop, you should buy a local map. With the booming development of the tourism industry, you should be able to buy a map in a bus station or an airport; remember to buy the latest map as older ones may be outdated and incorrect.

2. Food and drinks

Most hotels have affiliated restaurants in China. However, having your meal in the hotel’s restaurant certainly costs more than eating on the street. Therefore, you can try eating in street restaurants. On the one hand, the price is cheaper, there are more flavors, and more politeness and warm hospitality can be experienced, but on the other hand, you need to be careful about hygiene. What’s more, some restaurants on the street are "gangster inns" that bring disgrace to similar restaurants; since their food price is not listed, they will ask for exorbitant prices when you go to pay the bill. Before dining out, you should investigate thoroughly whether there are such“gangster inns”at your travel destination to avoid losses or difficulties. Additionally, check to see whether the prices are displayed before you enter and sit down. Although there are various restaurants in most cities and towns within China, you should still take some food rations with you on your journey, in case of sudden need, and a kettle is an indispensable and very useful article.

3. Medicine

As well as the necessary foodstuffs/rations, you should remember to take some rarely used but necessary medicine. Antipyretics (fever reducing medicine), laryngitis pills, cold relief tablets, antidotes, larynx sugar lozenges, gastric tablets, cough syrup, etc. are on the list of recommended items. You should definitely carry these medicines with you as emergency precautions.

5. Lodgings

With respect to lodgings, currently there are hotels, inns, guesthouses, youth hotels of different scales in each large or small city or town, and whether to seek accommodation in a State-owned or privately-owned lodging is at your disposal. In the peak season (Spring Festival, summer vacation), all relatively well-known domestic hotels are fully occupied. Unless you have reserved a room beforehand, you may risk spending at least one night in a guest hall, or lodging temporarily in a relatively inferior inn. If you arrive at a hotel in a city but there are no rooms available, you can ask the wait staff to call other hotels to make an inquiry on your behalf, which can free you from the nuisance of rushing around.

Tourists should go through all checkout formalities before 12:00pm. After 12:00pm, the rate fee of another half-day will be counted. After 6:00 pm, the rate fee of one more day will be counted.

5. Climate

Regardless of which destination you choose to visit, you need to know in advance about the local climate in general, such as the changes of the four seasons, the rainy and sunny seasons, etc., in order to prepare the type and number of clothes you will take on the trip. If mountain areas are part of your tour, it is necessary to bring more cold-resistant clothes and a raincoat. Because of drastic weather changes in mountain areas, it is safer to bring more clothes, rather than not enough.

6. Communications

Even when traveling in remote areas, you should try to choose hotels with relatively developed communication equipment to ensure the normal functioning capability of your mobile phone. Furthermore, it is a useful and safe idea to commit the following telephone numbers to memory:

- Local telephone number enquiry: 114

- Long distance telephone number enquiry: 113, 173

- International telephone number enquiry: 115

- Police department telephone number: 110

- Fire department telephone number: 119

7. Expenses

Currently, traveler's checks are not yet popular in China; most self-service tourists carry cash whilst traveling. In order to avoid carrying not enough money for the tour or too much money and compromising safety, before setting out, you should make a rough budget about the total expenses of your tour. Your budget should include:

(i) The economic orientation of the tour. You can choose from an economic type of tour (accommodation at ordinary inns and guesthouses; eating economical fast food, etc. for your three meals; mainly moving around by bus, on foot, bicycle-rental, etc.); an ordinary type of tour (seeking lodging at medium-grade hotels; having three meals in the hotel or other medium- and smaller-sized restaurants; besides taking public buses, also taking tour buses, etc.); or a luxurious type of tour (accommodation in grand hotels; generally enjoying three meals in the hotel or at other high-grade, special dining halls; using taxis or car-rental as the main means of transportation);

(ii) the articles you intend to buy, and how much they will cost;

(iii) the means and approximate expense of the return transportation you will take, and

(iv) whether you will visit relatives and friends during the tour, and the expenses for gifts or gift money.

After you have calculated your budget for the above items, add an extra 30-40% of the total budget on top as reserve money.

8. Traveling seasons

In recent years, tourism has begun to boom; especially in summer when tourism popularity reaches its peak, one can find it very troublesome to find a lodging place whilst traveling. Although winter is not the peak period and the hotels offer discounts, it is very cold. Therefore, spring and autumn are the best seasons for traveling.