South African passport holders do require a visa for China.
Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong
Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing
Shanghai Pudong International Airport in Shanghai
There is an electricity supply of 220 volts throughout China. 240-volt appliances will work safely with this supply. The three-pin plug can be used in some of our hotels with an adaptor. The plugs in China are mainly two-pin (US) plug, or the Australian three-pin plug. You can buy adaptors, also known as conversion plugs, from hardware, department and duty free stores.
We recommend that you check the weather forecast prior to your departure so that you can pack accordingly.
Winter – January and February fall in the middle and end of winter in China. In northern and eastern China, the weather is cool and dry with occasional days at freezing temperatures. The Yangtze and southern regions have milder temperatures but as it is more humid here, cold days can feel quite damp. During the winter months you will need to bring layers of warm clothes, as well as Water/windproof clothing for the possible freezing conditions.
Spring in northern and eastern China is traditionally marked by cool, comfortable weather with lower rainfall, while the Yangtze and southern regions still experience mild temperatures with higher humidity.
Summer in northern and eastern China experiences warm weather and strong sun, while the Yangtze and southern regions will have higher humidity levels.
Autumn in northern and eastern China experiences warm weather but temperatures definitely get cooler towards the end of the year. By mid-October there are occasional days at freezing temperatures. The Yangtze and southern regions have milder temperatures for longer but can have damp, cool days.
During these months you will need to bring clothing suitable for sun exposure and mild temperatures, as well as water/ windproof clothing for the possible freezing conditions. Loose fitting, lightweight cotton materials are the most comfortable for humid and warm conditions.
Example packing list:
- Your travel documents and passport- including a photocopy of your passport in case it is lost or stolen while you are abroad. Keep one photocopy at home and take another photocopy on your trip with you
- Main luggage & luggage padlocks
- ‘Day bag’ – a smaller bag to carry with you during the day
- Money belt to carry passport, cash, credit cards, airline tickets, etc
- Trousers (or long skirts for women)
- Shirts or long-sleeved tops of light cotton material
- Walking shoes and socks – it is important to have sturdy and comfortable shoes for sightseeing every day
- Sun protection – hat, sunscreen and lip balm
- Personal medical kit including insect repellent
- Antibacterial wipes – wipes such as ‘Wet Ones Anti-bacterial’ to clean hands before eating
- Tracksuit/similar outfit of soft material is recommended for the overnight train journeys
- A water/windproof jacket
- Light jumpers or thermals are great for layering
- A ‘modesty shawl’ or sarong to wear in Muslim or conservative areas (for women)
- Torch, conversion plug and spare batteries – batteries available to buy in China tend to be unreliable
- Scarf or bandana – useful to protect your face against dusty winds at high altitude
- Spare glasses – it is difficult to get any prescription lenses repaired or replaced in China
- Small bath towel is useful for overnight train journeys
- Toilet paper – not all sightseeing public toilets will provide this
- Snacks – tea bags/coffee, milk powder or sachets, instant soups or noodles, or anything you can’t go without!
- Camera and spare film/memory card – film available in China tends to be bad quality or sun damaged
The local currency in China is known as the Renminbi. It is divided into the units yuan, jiao and fen (where 1yuan = 10jiao = 100fen). One hundred yuan can be written as 100RMB or ￥100. Money can be exchanged in South Africa prior to departure in many high street shops or at the airport. It is also possible to exchange money in some hotels where facilities exist, or at the Bank of China.
We recommend that you have access to more than one source of money – bringing a combination of cash and a credit/debit card will give the most security and flexibility while travelling.
Customs & Duty Free
Each person can bring two bottles of alcohol and a carton of cigarettes out of China. Good quality foreign alcohol is more expensive in China than in South Africa, while cigarettes are much cheaper. If you carry over 10,000 Euros in cash (or equivalent in another currency) you need to declare it on entry and/or exit. Cultural relics, handicrafts, gold and silver ornaments and any jewellery purchased in China must be declared at exit. All luggage is x-rayed and if any of the above is not declared, customs agents will seize them. You must also declare all food items on exit if carrying them in your luggage.
Keeping In Touch
International and domestic calls can be made from your hotel room. Calls may cost R180 per minute to South Africa, plus a 10% service charge, but will vary by location. To call South Africa the international access code is 00, followed by the country code 27, then the local area code (omitting the first 0), then the number. Emergency 24 hour telephone (out of office hours) is 00 27 71 688 0844. Phone cards bought in South Africa or in China can be used in most public pay phones, but if you plan to use these to call from your room – always check the costs and procedure with hotel reception beforehand. If the hotel does enforce a call charge, you will be unable to refute it after making your call.
Mobile phones are quite popular in China and you will find high quality coverage. China has active roaming agreements with all phone carriers; however SMS and call rates can be expensive. We recommend that you contact your mobile supplier if you intend to use international roaming during your holiday and ensure you investigate all associated costs before you leave South Africa.
Internet & Email
Internet cafes can be found in all major cities and even in some small towns. This is often the easiest and cheapest way to stay in touch. Most hotels have a business centre with internet access, but at a slightly higher rate. Some hotels may have wi-fi which usually comes at an additional cost and may only be available in hotel lobbies. Your Yangtze cruise ship may have wi-fi facilities at an extra cost.
In remote areas, you will rarely be able to access phone or internet facilities and mobile phones are not likely to have reception. We advise that you let friends and family at home know that you will be out of phone contact during these sections of your itinerary.
China is 6 hours ahead of South Africa. In Xinjiang Province (north west China), although the time zone officially remains the same as Beijing, people and businesses run on an unofficial time that is two hours behind. Shops and banks open from 10am to 7pm and you might find yourself eating dinner at the official time of 9pm.
A health certificate is not required for entry into China.
Visit a doctor before travelling
We strongly recommend that you see a doctor for the latest health advice at least six weeks before your holiday to allow time for any necessary vaccinations etc. Remember to take your itinerary with you to the appointment.
We strongly recommend you do not drink the tap water, and avoid ice in your drinks. There will usually be a kettle or flasks of boiled water in your hotel room and onboard trains.
Boiled water is suitable for drinking and cleaning teeth. Safe, bottled drinking water is readily available for sale everywhere – from small shops, supermarkets, restaurants and hotels. It is not customary for hotels to provide complimentary bottled drinking water. Always ensure that the seal is unbroken.
Toilet facilities are very basic throughout Asia and it is rare that you will find a ‘western’ style toilet (except in hotels). ‘Squat’ toilets are very common in public places and toilet paper is never supplied. We suggest that you carry toilet paper in your day backpack as well as not turn down the opportunity to use a ‘nice’ toilet when you see one!
Personal Medical Kit
Take all pharmaceutical products that you may require on your tour; do not rely on being able to purchase these during your holiday. You will see pharmacies all over China, but they stock local traditional medicine and many unregulated brands of western medicine. You are also very unlikely to find anyone who can speak English, nor any products with English writing. Consider taking a ‘personal medical kit’ containing any medication or medical equipment you may need during your time in China:
- All prescribed medication (with a cover note from your doctor)/ copy of repeat prescription
- Headache tablets
- Anti-diarrhoea tablets
- Cold and flu tablets
- Travel sickness tablets
- Insect repellent and bite/sting relief
- Antibacterial hand wipes and/or hand wash
- Spare pair of glasses/contact lenses