People's Republic of China
♦Currency: Yuan ¥ (CNY)
♦Zone: +8 GMT
♦Phone Code: +86
♦Best time to visit: Sept-Nov
♦Must eat: Peking duck
♦Must drink: Tsingtao (beer)
♦Don't miss: The Great wall of China!
♦Number of times visited: 2
Getting there and transportation: China's size is the first thing to look out when you are travelling as hoping from one city to another can take several hours by plane, not along by road! The obvious way to arrive in the country is by plane with many airlines providing frequent links to China. Now the nation has one of the biggest growth rates in the world, meaning that businesses and people are travelling away from home and this has meant an increase in the air services provided. Air China is the lead international airline of the Republic, but other airlines are becoming major players, since the liberation of the air space making for more competition. Other airlines to look out for are China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines and Xiamenair.
As for other carriers, every major European or American airline has a presence in China, specially if flying to Beijing or Shanghai.
Not to forget about Hong Kong, since it's part of China but still enjoy's special travel freedom between the rest of the world even it has a separate border. Flying there is also simple, the host airline is Cathay Paficic. Also many European, Asian and American operators fly to the one and only hub, Hong Kong.
Attention!: When flying to mainland China (not Hong Kong or Macau) you will need a Visa before travelling, as China is very strict on entry to their country. A single entry visa can cost €60 and two entry €100 aprox. Refer to the Embassy in your country for more info on fees. However if you have a confirmed return/outward ticket it's possible to obtain a Free Transit visa in Beijing and other major cities within 72 hours only and departing the same airport.
When in China, travelling around is possible by a multitude of options. High speed trains, commuter rail, inter-city busses, metro, trams, local busses etc. The transport infrastructure is rapidly growing and developing every year as new routes are launched.
Tip: When travelling in China it's a good idea to stick to metro in the cities and high speed rail when visiting other cities as they are more user friendly and have English writing to help you navigate your way around. However the whole English language knowledge is quite limited and it can be frustrating trying to communicate your queries in the transport network so try to keep it simple, do some research online and give time when travelling as it can be confusing as where to go, specially at big stations.
Weather and temperature: Depending where you visit in China it can vary from one extreme to the other. It's continental weather in northern China, including Beijing, but as you head south it gets warm and humid year round, like Hong Kong. Obtain information of the precise city you want to visit and prepare accordingly. Generally it's good to visit China, and many of it's cities during September to November, where it's Autumn in the north and the cooler season in the south.
Food and drink: First things first, if you’re expecting the kind of food served in your average European or American Chinese restaurants, think again! The national cuisine is extraordinarily broad, complex and flavourful, with the use of very different ingredients used back at home. It might surprise you what can people eat in China and some of the food shops and stalls might not look very appetising at first but if you are brave enough to go for it and try them, there will be sure some really tasty dishes and foods you wish your local takeaway restaurant would prepare!
However it's common to find dishes with rice and noodles. While dairy products are very rare. In the better restaurants, real importance is given to how dishes look when presented. Also street food is very common in China.
Out of the most traditional dishes we can highlight: Peking duck, roasted and eaten in a thin pancake with cucumber and a sweet plum sauce. Mongolian hot pot, a Chinese version of fondue, usually eaten communally. It consists of simmering soup in a large round pot, into which is dipped a variety of uncooked meats and vegetables. Jiaozi, steamed dumplings, typically filled with pork or other meat, and chopped vegetables. Kung po chicken, a classic Sichuan dish, marinated with chillies. Dim sum, small portions of food served in steamer baskets, usually involving dumplings and rice noodle rolls. Stinky tofu, fermented tofu, often sold as a snack.Shanghai hairy crab, considered a delicacy in eastern China. Oyster omelette, speciality of the Fujian region. Hainanese chicken rice, a Hainan dish also popular in Southeast Asia.
As for drinks, Baijiu is a strong alcoholic spirit, also known as sorghum wine. Tsingtao, the most common of China’s beers, similar to German lager.