VISAS AND PERMITS
All British, EU, US and citizens of other countries need a visa to enter China. Visas for UK passengers can be obtained from the China Visa Application Service Centre (CVASC), Morley House, 26 Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2AT, either in person by making an online appointment via the website, or by postal service. There is also an office in Manchester, First Floor, 75 Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3HR. Visas are valid for entry within 3 months of the date of issue, so the ideal time to apply is about a month or two before you go. The postal service takes about 7 to 10 days. Visas are generally issued for a stay of up to 30 days. Longer stays are granted at the discretion of the embassy officials. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months before their expiry.
Information on how US passport holders can obtain a Chinese Visa can be obtained here.
All passengers will need a letter of invitation in order to apply for your Visas which will be provided to you by The Big Journey Company Ltd.
GROUP AND LEADERS
A fully qualified English speaking leader will accompany all groups. The leader will work alongside a team of local guides, assistant guides, porters and cooks who work very hard to make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible.
October in Beijing is cool and dry, with big temperature differences between day and night. It may still feel like summer in the afternoon during a sunny day, but may cool down to 3-4 C (37-39 F) overnight.
WHAT TO CARRY
This trek is fully supported – our lunch and safety equipment will be carried by the porter during the day. You will only need to carry a daypack. A 35l rucksack is a useful size to comfortably fit in essential items such as water bottle, camera, wet-weather gear and extra layers etc. Your 1x large suitcase will be transported separately to you to the next hotel on the itinerary.
For your own comfort it is advised that you travel light. Normally airlines restrict baggage to 20kg (you will be wearing your walking boots). Remember the basics: A pair of comfortable walking shoes are a must; camera and attachments; a good pair of lightweight binoculars; adaptor plugs; toiletries including insect repellent, sunhat and sunblock; medications and prescriptions; extra reading glasses; a Swiss army knife or some such - whilst not essential can be useful (remember to pack it in your main luggage); sunhat; and notebook or journal. A good day pack should be big enough to hold your valuables, camera, and things you need while you hike on the walls. Lightweight waterproofs, a warm jumper, hand sanitiser and perhaps a few of your favourite snacks from home are also recommended.
Please let The Big Journey Company know prior to travelling if you have any medical needs or take any medication that we need to be made aware of to ensure that you have a safe and pleasant tour. This includes the use of sleep apnea machines, and medication that you may need to be stored in a particular way whilst away e.g. refrigerated insulin.
A small first aid kit is advisable - including supplies of plasters, blister prevention pads, Paracetamol etc. and any medication you are taking (Bring along your regular prescriptions in their original container which should identify them as legally prescribed drugs.)
Contact your GP/doctor before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, http://www.nathnac.org/travel/ and useful information about healthcare abroad.
Personal medication: There are pharmacies throughout China but it is better to bring what you need from home. If you have a specific medical condition, it’s wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Wearing high factor sunscreen, drinking bottled or treated water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
You may be able to use your mobile phone in China, but it may be extremely expensive, particularly for data roaming. Do check with your own mobile phone provider before travel. Most hotels now provide free broadband or WiFi service. Internet cafes exist in many regions of the country, although they are now less popular and in decline.
PUBLIC TELEPHONES Keep a look out for a phone or phones sitting on the counter. You can often make local or international calls on these phones. You normally hand the proprietor the phone number. He dials for you and then hands you the phone. There is a gadget fixed to the phone which times your call. You pay accordingly. The cost of the calls from these phones can be very reasonable.
LANGUAGE AND TIME
Main Language: China has 297 spoken languages . Mandarin is the most widely understood as China’s official language. Nowadays, many Chinese people can speak basic English.
Time: Beijing is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GTM) When it is 12am in Beijing it is 4pm on the previous day in London 10 hours ahead of New York and 13 hours ahead of Los Angeles.
Chinese currency, called Renminbi, is issued by the People’s Bank of China. The standard unit is the Yuan. There are also jiao (one tenth of a Yuan) and fen (one tenth of a Jiao). Renminbi comes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 100 Yuan; 1, 2, 5 Jiao; and 1, 2 and 5 fen (although you are unlikely to see any fen). Only limited amounts of Chinese currency can be bought in advance, so you will have to change money once in China. This can be done at hotels or branches of the Bank of China. You should have few problems changing sterling cash or US dollars or travellers’ cheques in major tourist cities, but this may be more difficult in more remote areas. Here US dollars are more likely to be recognised and changeable.
BANK OPENING HOURS
Generally Mon- Fri 8am to 6pm, closed 12-2pm for lunch.
Chinese banks are very busy, so you might find yourself waiting a very long time to exchange currency or cash a traveller's check. Sometimes you will have to wait for a teller who understands English. Many upscale hotels now have ATMs right in the lobby, and in China there is no service fee for using an ATM. Your home bank, of course, may charge you according to its terms, including a foreign transaction fee and per-withdrawal fee. Inquire before you leave home.
TREK STAFF BONUSES
Staff Bonuses or ‘Tips’ for the porters and support staff are an accepted and expected as part of life in China. Our teams generally pay these bonuses to our trek staff as a whole. Tipping in hotels and at meals is normal practice in China. Feedback from previous tours with Diamond members has led us to suggest an overall tips package for your journey where we would take care of tipping throughout which would include tips at restaurants where the meal is included, your driver, your trek staff as well as hotel and support staff. If you would prefer to manage your own tips please speak to your tour escort. We would recommend $150 per guest.
CHINESE CUSTOM REGULATIONS
When arriving in China, tourists must fill out a baggage declaration form (in two copies) and hand it in to customs, retaining the carbon to show upon exit. Personal belongings will be admitted duty free, including food, two bottles of liquor and two cartons of cigarettes. Wristwatches, radios, tape recorders, cameras, movie cameras, and similar items may be brought in for personal use but cannot be sold or transferred to others and must be brought out of China.
Visitors can bring in an unlimited amount of foreign currency and Chinese yuan (RMB) traveler’s checks, and the unspent portion can be taken out.
Bringing the following articles to China is prohibited:
Arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds, Radio transmitters-receivers and principal parts, Over 20,000 yuan RMB in cash, Manuscripts, printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and videotapes, etc. which are detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture, and ethnics, Poisonous drugs, habit-forming drugs, opium, morphine, heroin, etc, Animals, plants and products thereof infected with or carrying germs and insects, Unsanitary foodstuffs and germ-carrying foodstuffs from infected areas, Other articles the import of which is prohibited by state regulations.
We have included all meals where it would be difficult for you to cater for yourself. We have left the meals out where there is plenty of choice of restaurant and food types in the local area. China is a huge and diverse country, and this diversity is reflected in the food available. Chinese cuisine has a very high reputation worldwide and represents the magnificent culture of the nation's almost five-thousand-year old glorious history. The staple food in China is usually rice and wheat. Millet, corn, buckwheat, potato, sweet potato and many kinds of legumes are also common. Apart from rice, wheaten food like steamed bread, noodles, deep-fried twisted dough sticks, steamed stuffed buns, as well as various gruels, cakes and snacks with special local flavours always make the dining table a rich and colourful experience.
It is best only to drink bottled water in China and avoid ice in drinks unless you can entirely trust that this too has been made with bottled water.
There are three types of plugs used in China– three-pronged angled pins, two flat pins or two narrow round pins. Electricity is 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. It may be best to bring a multi-adaptor.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Use common sense and take basic safety precautions. Keep valuables locked away and don’t wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. Keep car doors and windows locked at all times. If in doubt, ask a guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines.
We have a mixture of accommodation for you from a local family run inn, character hotels with traditional central Chinese bamboo gardens to 5* centrally located hotel. As we are going ‘off the beaten track’ – the 5* hotels can’t always make it there! Be assured of: a warm welcome, a clean room with private bathroom and with a western toilet and hot shower.
You must ensure you are covered by adequate insurance for the complete duration of the trip. Your insurance should include but not be limited: cancellation, medical expenses, injury, death, cost of repatriation. If in the event of an emergency, medical rescue or evacuation from the trip - either by foot, helicopter or otherwise, the responsibility for the payment will lie with the client. Any subsequent costs for expenses such as hotels, food, transport etc. will also be at your cost and so it is imperative that the you ensure adequate insurance is in place before departure.
LOCAL COSTS / SPENDING MONEY
All accommodation and most meals are included; please see the itinerary page for full details. Additional costs would include any drinks or snacks outside of mealtimes, tips and personal spending.
Please send through your flight number and date and time of arrival and you will be met on arrival and transferred to the hotel. Please also supply your departure flight details so that we can arrange your transfers back to the airport at the end of the trip.
HEALTH AND FITNESS
This tour will contain several days where you are walking between 4 & 6 hours over un even and steep terrain. You must be adequately fit & healthy to participate in this tour and ensure you have the correct footwear and clothing for hiking in mixed weather over an extended period. A full suggested packing list can be found below.
A programme of walking, cycling and running/jogging is the best way to prepare yourself for the trek to improve your fitness. We will need to make some steep climbs and expect uneven ground. It is a good idea to do a few multi day walks/treks, lasting 3 -4 hours per walk/trek, in the months leading up to your departure date.
The Big Journey Company and its partners recognise that hill walking and mountaineering are activities that require a certain level of fitness and with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.
Accuracy of Itinerary
Although it is our intention to operate this itinerary as printed, it may be necessary to make some changes as a result of flight schedules, climatic conditions, limitations of infrastructure or other operational factors. As a consequence, the order or location of overnight stops and the duration of the day may vary from those outlined. You should be aware that some events are
Sport shoes (or cross training shoes for travel/sightseeing)
Hiking boots, lightweight, comfortable, broken-in
Hiking sticks (optional)
Rain jacket and pants, waterproof and breathable
Sun hat with broad brim
Sunblock and lip balm
Personal first-aid kit
Hand sanitizer gel
Favorite energy snacks and drink mixes
Ziploc bags to separate wet items
Duffel bag (wheels and retractable handle are fine), sturdy and large enough to hold clothing and gear
Daypack or fanny pack to hold extra water, jacket, camera, etc.
Passport security pouch or belt
Luggage tags and luggage locks
Camera and spare batteries
Reading and writing materials
Watch with alarm or travel alarm
Daypack cover or garbage bag to line your day pack in event of rain
Motion sickness remedies
Things to Consider
Please remember to always pack essential items such as your passport, money, eyewear, a change of clothing and medications in your carry-on baggage, in case your luggage is delayed. Pack important items in strong plastic bags. Cameras should also be packed in your carry-on bag.
Just in case your main luggage goes missing en-route, it is a good idea to wear your boots on the plane. Most other things can be replaced but comfortable, well worn-in boots cannot.
Showers are available each evening, with warm to hot water. Laundry facilities are available several times throughout the trip. If you bring lightweight clothes that dry quickly, you can hand-wash them in your hotel room.
Remember, relatively few Western travelers have visited many of the locations on our itinerary. The minor inconveniences we may encounter are far out-weighed by the opportunity to see and experience the real China.
Bringing a few of your favorite snacks, energy bars and drinks from home is a good idea in order to add variety to between-meal food options. Bottled water, green tea, sodas, juices and snacks are available for purchase everywhere we travel.