Frequently Asked Questions

China Tours and Travel: Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides detailed answers to questions that our clients, and people traveling to China in general, tend to ask. It includes information on topics such as applying for a visa to China, airline baggage regulations, vaccinations, payment information, and travel insurance policies, along with links to useful sources of more comprehensive information.

  • How do I contact China International Travel CA?

See our website’s Contact page.

  • What are my payment options?

For your deposit and your air tickets, we accept Visa, MasterCard, cash, or checks. For your tour balance we accept only cash or checks.

  • When do I need to pay?

We ask that you pay a deposit of $300 when you first book your tour. Please pay in full for your tour no later than 45 days before departure or as soon as possible after booking (if you book your tour within 45 days of departure).

  • Are there any hidden fees or costs?

No. The itinerary for each tour contains a specific, complete list of what is and is not covered by the cost of that particular tour. Typically, the tour fare covers everything except indeterminate costs such as personal expenses (personal purchases, laundry service, other hotel incidentals, phone calls, etc.).

  • What tips will I need to pay on the tour?

We recommend a total tip of $8-10 per person per day for your tour guides and drivers, which they will divide between themselves.

For many services in China such as taxi rides (if you decide to go out on your own), dining, etc., tips are generally not given, though you may of course do so at your discretion. Tipping in hotels is more common, and hotels may sometimes charge a 15% gratuity (if you decide to purchase “extra” services like having coffee or a snack in a hotel cafe, for example).

  • What language are your tours conducted in?

For our standard tours (CIT001 – CIT012), we use only experienced, nationally accredited bilingual (Chinese/English) guides. Depending on the makeup of the group, the tour can be conducted in English, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), or some combination of these languages.

To help enable us to offer our discount tours at lower prices, our specials and discount tours are usually conducted in Chinese. Arrangements for English-speaking tour guides can be made in some cases, but the tour fare may be increased to compensate for the higher cost of bilingual guides.

The language for tours to other places such as Southeast Asia and Taiwan is determined on a tour-by-tour basis.

  • What tour guides do you use?

All of our tour guides are accredited by China’s National Tourism Administration, and they all have a minimum of three years of experience before they are put in charge of our tour groups.

Small tour groups will have a local tour guide in each destination who will meet you at the airport (or at your hotel for cities traveled to by land instead of air). Larger tour groups will also include a tour escort who will meet you at your first stop and remain with the group throughout the tour.

  • What hotels do you use, and how are they chosen?

Specific information about the hotels we use in each destination is available on your tour itinerary. Our hotels are carefully chosen, based on our research, our experience, and feedback from clients, to provide the best combination of high-quality accommodations, affordability, and convenient location.

We may substitute another hotel of comparable quality for the one listed on the itinerary when our preferred hotel is unavailable. It is very rarely necessary for us to do so, however.

  • How are the hotel ratings listed on your itineraries and website determined?

The hotel ratings listed on our itineraries are their official ratings as determined by China’s National Tourism Administration; this is the standard rating system used in the China travel industry. However, please be aware that the ratings system in China does sometimes differ from international ratings systems. The quality of a five-star hotel in a remote place like Xianggelila, for example, is not going to be up to the standards of a five-star hotel in New York City, but that five-star rating does mean that it is one of the top hotels in the area and that it has met very specific criteria to qualify for the rating.

The bottom line is that we do our best to find the highest-quality hotels available for the reasonable prices our clients pay, and our tour fares are based on the prices we pay to book those specific hotels. We provide you with specific information about the hotels we book in advance so that you can see for yourself exactly what you’ll be getting. If you have any questions or concerns about the hotels we’ve chosen, please feel free to let us know.

  • Is there anything on the itinerary other than what is listed?

When there is extra time, our tour guides will sometimes take tour groups (at their option) to additional attractions, such as Qinghefang Ancient Street in Hangzhou.

Further, in some cities our tour groups will visit shops or markets that sell local goods. By contracting with these local stores, we are able to offer our tours at a lower price than we would otherwise be able to. This is a universal practice in the China travel industry, and we must do this as well to keep our prices competitive. However, unlike many other China travel agencies, we ensure that the number and duration of such stops are strictly limited, that you have a chance to buy good products that you are likely to be interested in, and that you will not face any pressure from your tour guides to buy anything you don’t want to buy. On our standard tours (CIT001 – CIT012), there may be one or two such stops in each city, depending on the length of time spent in that city.

Please note that if you are taking a custom tour or private tour, you can request that these shopping stops be left off the itinerary, though we will probably have to raise the tour fare as a result.

  • What is CIT’s policy on shopping stops?

See the answer to the question above.

  • How do I apply for a visa to China?

Whether or not you are a member of a CIT tour group, we can help you apply for a visa if you live within the area served by the San Francisco consulate (Northern California, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, or Washington—see this map). If you do not live in one of these areas but still want us to handle your visa application for you, please contact us to discuss your situation. Our visa service fee is $30; currently, the consulate charges a $140 visa processing fee for U.S. citizens.

Here is a checklist of the things we need from you to help you apply for a tourist visa (“L visa”):

  1. A check for $170 made out to China International Travel CA ($140 consulate fee + $30 service fee)
  2. Your passport (with at least six months of validity remaining and at least one blank visa page)
  3. One photo: 2-inch x 2-inch passport-style color photo
  4. A completed tourist visa application form (direct link to downloadable PDF with both English and Chinese—new form for September 2013 and after); for other visa types, visit the appropriate consulate link below
  5. If you are not booking your travel through us, include proof of your travel arrangements in China, such as your round-trip air ticket itinerary and hotel voucher(s) or a letter of invitation.
  6. Depending on the type of visa being applied for and other factors, some applicants may need to provide additional documents. We will help you determine whether anything else is required.

For additional information, please refer to our China Visa Application Information page; for the most detailed, up-to-date information, refer to the following consulate webpages:

  • What vaccinations should I get before going to China?

We recommend that as a starting point, your routine vaccinations should be current (measles/mumps/rubella vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus vaccine, poliovirus vaccine), and you should also make sure that you are vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. For more detailed recommendations, refer to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) webpage on travel to China at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/china.htm#vaccines.

  • What are the baggage restrictions for air travel to and within China?

Keep in mind that even though international flights between the U.S. and China typically allow you to check two bags, domestic air travelers in China are usually limited to one checked item with a maximum weight of 44 pounds (see below for further details). Checking in more than one item requires an additional fee.

Note: Air China, the airline CIT books most frequently, does make a two-checked-bag allowance for domestic Air China passengers who are also taking international Air China flights as part of the same itinerary. (When possible, we will try to book your international flights and domestic flights within China on the same airline.) However, if you take any domestic flights within China that are not on Air China, you will still need to pay an additional fee to check more than one bag per person on those flights.

International Flights: Note that the allowances below are for economy-class passengers and that they generally do not apply to infants.

Allowance for checked items: 2 pieces, with a maximum weight of 50 pounds (23 kg) each and maximum dimensions of 62 inches (158 cm) added together (e.g. 32 × 20 × 10 = 62 inches total). The combined dimensions of the two items should not exceed 107 inches (273 cm).

Allowance for carry-on items: 1 piece, with a maximum weight of 11 pounds (5 kg) and maximum dimensions of 7.9 × 15.7 × 21.7 inches (20 × 40 × 55 cm), or a maximum combined length not exceeding 45 inches (115 cm). In addition to that one piece of “official” carry-on baggage, a small personal item such as a purse is also allowed. All unchecked baggage must fit under the seat in front of the passenger or in the overhead compartment. Baggage exceeding the weight, piece, and dimension allowances will be checked in.

For further details on Air China’s baggage policies, please refer to their baggage FAQ at http://www.airchina.us/en/customerservice/FAQ/baggage.html.

Domestic Flights Within China: Note that the allowances below are for economy-class passengers and that they may not apply to infants. Check your airline’s website for further details.

Allowance for checked items: 1 piece, not exceeding 44 pounds, with maximum dimensions of 39 inches (100 cm) in length, 24 inches (60 cm) in width, and 16 inches (40 cm) in height.

Allowance for carry-on items: 1 piece, not exceeding 11 pounds (5 kg), with maximum dimensions of 7.9 × 15.7 × 21.7 inches (20 × 40 × 55 cm), or a maximum combined length not exceeding 45 inches (115 cm). Typically, you are also allowed a small personal item such as a purse.

  • What insurance policies do you provide, and what additional insurance policies do you recommend?

For all tour participants in Mainland China, we provide a basic accident insurance policy, the terms of which are listed on our Booking page.

As it is important for your self-interest and protection to make certain you have adequate insurance protection against all eventualities throughout your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase additional insurance. SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip are highly rated websites that allow you to compare different plans to find the most appropriate one for you.

  • What happens if an emergency occurs, and I am unable to take the planned tour?

Because of the nature of payments for various travel services (air tickets, tour guides, hotels, etc.) that we as agents have to make, as well as the time and resources we have to put into making tour arrangements, we cannot guarantee refunds for travelers who cancel within the last few days before departure. (This policy, a standard policy in the travel industry, is clearly stated on our website, in our brochure, and on our tour reservation form.) For this reason, we encourage clients to purchase an inexpensive insurance policy that guarantees reimbursement in case of an emergency. See the websites referred to above (SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip) to find an appropriate policy.

  • What happens if a problem occurs during the trip when I am not accompanied by a tour guide, such as a last-minute flight delay or cancellation?

Before you leave for China, we will ensure that you have whatever contact information you might need, such as phone numbers for your tour guides, for your hotels, and for our China-based tour managers, who are always available to help you resolve any problem that might arise.

  • What items will CIT provide for me as a tour participant?

Before your departure, we will send you a “final package” that includes a printed copy of your tour itinerary, along with additional details and helpful information such as contact info for your tour guides, your individual flight itinerary, and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the hotels you will be staying in.

Most of the tickets we issue are e-tickets, so in most cases you will not have or need a physical copy of your ticket. Of course, we will provide you with confirmation of your ticket purchase.

We will also give you complimentary luggage tags and name badges that we believe you will find quite useful. Some tour packages also include complimentary travel bags and/or neck wallets.

  • What kind of clothing should I take on the tour?

Depending on the particular tour you’re taking, we recommend that you consider packing a variety of clothing items and wearing layered clothing to allow you to adjust to specific conditions. A spring or summer itinerary that visits mostly hot places may also include surprisingly cool places, such as mountain destinations at high elevations. Be aware that many of the popular tourist destinations in China have a humid climate, and most of these places tend to be quite hot in the summer. However, some of these same places, such as Shanghai, also have cold winters and quite variable conditions within a given season.

Information about the weather in specific destinations is available on our place pages.

China - universal power outlets - Sam Ose and Olai Skjaervoy - 150 x 150
Universal power outlet,
now common in China

(photo by Sam Ose)
  • Do I need to take a converter or adapter for my appliances and electronic devices?

A lot of newer “universal” electrical outlets in China are fully compatible with American electronic devices (they’re designed to accept both the standard Chinese-style 3-prong plug and U.S.-style 2- and 3-prong plugs), partly because newer devices usually don’t need a voltage converter—most are compatible with 100-240 V and 50-60 Hz. It’s a good idea to take an inexpensive adapter like this one or this one with you just in case, but your tour guide or your hotel staff can help you solve any problems you encounter. Check the voltage information on the devices you’re planning to take, though (usually listed on the plug itself), to make sure that you won’t need a converter. Appliances like hair dryers typically do require a voltage converter (i.e., not just an adapter) in Mainland China, but your hotels should have hair dryers available for you to use. This webpage has detailed information on power outlets in China, though it apparently hasn’t been updated to reflect the current prevalence of universal outlets.

Taiwan uses the same voltage standard as North America, though you may encounter some outlets that only accept 2-prong, non-grounded plugs (plugs with both blades of the same size). This webpage has detailed information on power outlets in Taiwan.

  • What customs are there in China that I should be aware of?
  • Smoking is quite common everywhere in China. Although some cities are beginning to institute smoking restrictions, such restrictions are often not enforced. We book nonsmoking rooms for our clients, and our tour guides will try to help you avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, but there may be some situations in which such exposure is difficult to avoid.
  • You may witness public behavior that might be considered impolite in many places in the U.S., such as spitting on the ground or cutting in line.
  • Traffic conditions in Chinese cities, as in many densely populated cities around the world, can be quite chaotic. Though you may find the habits of many drivers in China disconcerting at first, know that our professional drivers are used to these conditions and are highly skilled at keeping their passengers safe.

If you want detailed information about Chinese customs, here are a few suggestions:

However, most travelers don’t really need that much information, so you might consider just getting a good travel guide and reading the relevant sections. China (Eyewitness Travel Guides) is a very highly rated guidebook.

  • Do you have any suggestions about learning the Chinese language?

Indeed we do. Please refer to our Chinese Language Resources page for detailed information.

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