What is special or unique about Beijing?
The urban landscape is changing dramatically, as roads are widened or added. Five-star hotels, state-of –the-art business centers and public transport are also among Beijing’s improvements. The cultural scene is broadening too, with international galleries setting up and a wider range of entertainment becoming increasingly available.
The Imperial past that continues to attract visitors is fast becoming a rare site, as China’s capital is cell-by-cell metamorphosing into a modern metropolis. Beijing is a city of stark, and often surreal, contrasts. It is simultaneously smartly cosmopolitan and charmingly provincial, cutting-edge and gently timeless.
What are a newcomer’s first impressions of Beijing?
Beijing is a big city with a lot of ongoing development. It is also a food-lover’s paradise, offering the finest cuisines of East and West. Beijing also has a thriving live music scene and is turning into a shopper’s paradise.
What is the general etiquette and dress code?
Casual clothes are acceptable everywhere, although smarter clothes can gain more respect. Revealing clothes should be avoided.
Problems that arise in China through cultural differences can often be put down to simple misunderstandings. In general, Chinese people are not forthcoming with information unless they are specifically asked for it, so be prepared to ask direct questions to get the information you need. Locals may not even speak honestly but will try to say what they think you want to hear. This is not done maliciously and an element of patience and understanding will ease the situation. Chinese people are courteous but reserved and politeness is appreciated at all times. Don't always be fooled by a smile as this can mean that the person is upset or embarrassed and try to avoid confrontational situations that may cause a loss of "face". Confrontation is not appreciated and will only worsen rather than resolve any situation.
Photography is not restricted around tourist areas but it is worth noting that taking photographs is not allowed in airports and permission should be gained before snapping away at any government or military bases.
What is the local language?
The official language is Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua), however numerous dialects are also spoken throughout the mainland. Among these dialects, large groups speak Cantonese, Fukienese, Xiamenhua and Hakka. Cantonese is the main language of the Hong Kong and Macau SARs; whereas Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang (autonomous regions) have their own languages.
How easily could I get around in this city without knowing this language?
English is not widely spoken; therefore a phrase book would be extremely useful to point to key phrases written in Chinese characters. Another useful item would be a map with place names written in both English and Chinese.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the locals?
Avoid saying the number ‘two hundred and fifty’ (250) in Mandarin to the local residents. It is taken as an offensive phrase.
How might the local weather affect me?
You will experience four seasons in Beijing. Winter can be pretty cold, with temperatures hitting a low of 15 degrees Celsius, sometimes dipping below zero. Summers can be hot, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celsius.
Spring and autumn are usually the most pleasant seasons of the year.
April - May
10 - 24oC
June - August
20 - 31oC
September - November
6 - 18oC
December - March
-7 - 5oC
Which time zone is Beijing in?
The whole of China is in the same time zone: GMT + 8 hours.
What about electrical voltages?
220/240 V AC, 50Hz
Either flat or square, two-pin and three-pin plugs are used. It is advisable to take a universal adapter, as these are difficult to find in China.
What is the international dialling code for China?
The international dialling code for China is 86.
When making international telephone calls from China first dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number
Local Telephone Codes
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Representative offices and consulates - http://consulate.travel.com.hk/
Travel Guide China – http://www.travel-guide.com
Tours in China – http://www.chinavista.com
Map of China with city links – http://www.asiahotels.com/maps/china.asp
Visas and Permits What kinds of visas are available?
- “F” visa – business
- “L” visa – tourist
- “Z” visa – work (spouses normally follow the principal visa applicant)
What is required to obtain these visas?
- “F” visa – you will need to get an invitation letter from the company inviting you over to China then apply for the visa at you local Chinese embassy
- “L” visa – apply for it at your local Chinese embassy with your passport
- “Z” visa – you will need the following documents: copy of your CV, highest educational certificates, letter of offer from the company, 10 two-inch size photos and a recent medical report (which can be done in Beijing)
What items should I avoid bringing in the country?
Do not bring agricultural products or electrical appliances
Is there anything else I should know about entering and remaining in the country legally?
You should remember to renew your visa and resident permit before they expire, as there is a heavy fine after expiry.
Visitors may take the following into China duty free:
- Alcohol – 2 litres of alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco – 400 cigarettes
Prohibited items: Arms, ammunition, radio transmitters/receivers, exposed but undeveloped film, fruit and certain vegetables.
Penalties for carrying or trafficking illegal drugs are extremely severe, ranging from long prison sentences to the death penalty.
A form must be completed declaring valuables such as jewellery, electronic goods, cameras, etc. on arrival to ensure that they can be taken out of the country when you leave. Receipts for items purchased in the country such as jewellery, handicrafts and paintings must be kept as you may be asked to show these on departure.
What is the local currency?
What denominations does it come in?
1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100
What is the best way to exchange currency?
Go to the large branches of major banks.
What are commonly used forms of payment for everyday purchases (such as groceries)?
Will I be able to use my credit card around town? If not, list when I’ll need cash.
In most major hotels and hotel restaurants, you should be able to use your credit card for payment. However, you will need cash everywhere else.
Will foreigners be able to find banking services in their native languages?
Foreign retail banks in Beijing provide service in English and bank tellers are generally friendlier. However, the luxury comes with hefty fees when compared to local banks. All banks vary, but you can expect to pay around US$20 for wire transfers. There are also hefty surcharges for deposits, withdrawals, and buying/cashing traveler’s checks.
What are typical banking hours?
Most banks are open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Are automatic teller machines (ATMs) available around the clock?
Are there any other money information that might help me?
Do not bring large sums of foreign currency into Beijing, as it is difficult to transfer foreign currency out of Beijing due to currency controls.
Unlimited foreign currency may be imported but must be declared on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount that was imported and declared on arrival.
Which hotels does your company have a corporate account with?
We have corporate account rates with the following hotels:
- 3 star – The Comfort Inn & Suies
- 4 star – Jianguo Hotel Beijing
- 5 star – The Kerry Centre Hotel, Beijing (a Shangri-La Hotel)
What are the most popular neighborhoods in Beijing for expats?
- Shunyi District – A survey showed that 70% of expats living in the area have families. This is duein large part to the fact that there are two international schools located in the area. The housing is comprised mainly of stand-alone houses, detached and semi-detached houses and some apartments.
- CBD/1st Diplomatic Area – This area is popular with expat singles and couples who like city living and wish to live close to the office and avoid daily traffic congestions.
- 2nd Diplomatic Area – This area is popular with younger, mainly single expats who like to live close to the Sanlitun area (a popular expat hangout).
- 3rd Diplomatic Area – This area is popular with expats who want to live halfway between the CBD and the airport. Currently, new embassies are being built in the vicinity.
Jianguo Hotel Beijing – http://www.hoteljianguo.com
The Kerry Centre Hotel, Beijing – http://www.shangri-la.com/beijing/kerrycentre/en/index.aspx
Home-2-Nest – The Beijing Property Experts – http://www.home2nest.com/
Before I get sick, what should I know about seeking medical care in Beijing?
Check to learn whether you have a medical insurance scheme in China. You could also check with a local medical clinic before visiting to confirm whether your medical insurance scheme is accepted.
What is the word for “doctor” in the local language?
Do foreigners tend to leave the city to seek medical care? If so, why and where do they go?
While some expats do leave Beijing for more serious medical treatments, most are content seeking local medical care for minor illnesses.
What are the numbers to call to summon help in an emergency?
Ambulance – 120 (Chinese speaking)
Fire – 119 (Chinese speaking)
Police – 110 (Chinese speaking)
Emergency assistance in English – 8401 5292
What do I do if there’s an emergency in the middle of the night?
Beijing has a number of clinics that are open 24 hours
How will I recognize a pharmacy? What is it called in the local language?
Is the water safe to drink?
No. Drink bottled water.
International Medical Center – www.imcclinics.com
Chinacare – www.gochinacare.com
International SOS – www.internationalsos.com
United Family Hospital – www.beijingunited.com
Beijing Healthcare – www.bjhealthcare.com
Hong Kong International Medical Clinic (Beijing) – www.hkclinic.com
Airport and Transportation
What is the name of the international airport in Beijing?
Beijing - Capital International Central
How much is the Departure Tax at the airport?
International Airport Departure Tax - RMB105
How far is the airport to the city centre?
What side of the road does people drive on?
Describe typical public transportation a foreigner might used to get around the city.
The subway and taxis are the best options.
Could you use public transportation to get out of the city – to surrounding towns or suburbs?
Yes, you can also use taxis or the subway to get outside of the city.
In regards to transportation, are there any safety issues I should be aware of?
Look out for pedestrians and cyclists, as they are most of the time very careless.
Where do I buy tickets for the major public transportation?
Subway tickets are available at the station entrances.