Practical Information in China

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Note that credit cards are still not commonly used, outside the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Outside the international chain hotels and major brand-name shops, cash is king. While many local establishments may claim to accept credit cards, they may only accept locally-issued ones!

There are three "golden week" holidays in China, where offices close for a week. They are the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), Labour Day and National Day. Since everyone is on holiday in China, many locals take this opportunity to travel home, or go on vacation. This makes travelling within the country more difficult, and accomodation can sometimes be scarce.

Chinese Money
The official currency in China is the Renminbi (RMB or CNY) or in Chinese "Ren-min-bi". The basic unit is the yuan (also known as "kuai"), which equals 10 jiao (or "mao"), which is then divided into 10 fen. Paper currency comes in 1,2,5,10,50 and 100 yuan notes. Paper jiao come in denominations of 1, 2, and 5. There are also 1 and 2 fen notes, but these are rarely used as they have no purchasing power. There are 1 yuan, 1, 2, 5 jiao and 1, 2, 5 fen coins in the market. 1 yuan coins are more widely used compared with others.

Changing money
It is possible to exchange traveler's checks or cash at most banks, and hotels always have a money exchange counter. Cash advances are available on most common credit/debit cards e.g. American Express/Visa/MasterCard, but this facility is available only from the main branch of the Bank of China in most Chinese cities. A fee of 3%-4% will apply. The Bank of China has an ATM network that will allow cash advances from major credit / debit cards and ATM cards. Check you credit card provider for this information before leaving your home country. You are required to present your passport to change money/travelers checks etc. Hotels will usually only allow you to change money if you are guest at the hotel. The RMB is not easily convertible on the international market so it is only usable in China. It is advisable to change only the money that you need for you trip as it may be difficult to change back to you preferred currency. RMB is now readily convertible in Hong Kong. You can convert unused RMB to another currency in China by producing the receipts for your original purchase of RMB in China. This exchange is done at the airport as you leave China. There is a foreign exchange black market but it is illegal.

Credit cards
Major credit cards such as Master Card, Visa, JCB and American Express are accepted in major hotels and department stores. Check on the acceptance of your credit card before you purchase. Credit cards cannot be used in most restaurants or small convenience stores. Credit cards can be used to get a cash advance in the main offices of the Bank of China.

Money Wire Transfer
Wire Transfer using a service called Money Transfer is available and is a joint venture between the China Courier Service Corporation and Western Union. This service allows instant money wiring to and from 100 countries.

Counterfeit Money
It seems that counterfeit money is not the only problem of US dollar. Since early 1990’s, China has seen fake money in the market. Government has been trying to eliminate this phenomenon; there are still some problems. In China it is very common practice for those who are receiving money to check its authenticity. So when you are making a deal with a local Chinese, do not be offended by this behavior. It is not a reflection on your character.

Currency Fluctuation
Although the Chinese currency is no longer pegged to the US dollar, the Chinese central bank keeps a close eye on the exchange rate, and makes sure that there are no extreme fluctuations.

December 04, 2006 change by giorgio
June 04, 2008 change by out of the grey


The local currency is the Chinese Yuan (CNY)

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