Fast becoming one of the world's must-visit destinations, China offers nothing short of an gallant adventure. Boasting over 30 World Heritage accredited sites from the colossal Great Wall to the imposing Terracotta Army, offering some of the best loved cuisine on the planet and home to the world's longest civilisation, China is truly mesmerising. From the glittering skyline of Shanghai to the historically rich capital of Beijing, from the tranquillity of Tibet to the push and shove of Shenzhen, China is a country of contradictions and one that can't fail to impress you.
As China is so vast the climate is extremely diverse. North China has four distinct seasons with hot summers and cold winters where as southern China tends to be milder and wetter.
There are five major annual holidays observed in China.
Late January-mid February - Chinese New Year
1st May - Labour Day
May/June (5th day of the 5th lunar month) - Dragon Boat Festival
October (15th day of the 8th lunar month) - Mid-Autumn Day
1st October - National Day.
A number of regional events and festivals are held throughout the year.
There are a number of domestic airlines connecting the major cities and tourist destinations, with over 1,000 routes criss crossing the country. Air travel is an efficient and often cheap way to get around China.
Some of the main airports are Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao and Shanghai Pudong.
Rail is the major mode of long distance transport in China for the Chinese themselves. The network of national trains is already extensive with routes to all parts of the country but is rapidly expanding all the time. There are a number of options available including high speed TGV style trains, soft sleepers and hard sleepers.
There is an abundance of city and long distance bus services in China, with buses reaching parts trains do not. Sleeper buses are widely available and are a good way to cover long distances.
Around 80% of the country is accessible by road with highways linking major cities. Distances are vast with Beijing being 1,461km (908 miles) from Shanghai and 1,139km (718 miles) from Nanjing.
Traffic drives on the right.
A Chinese driving licence is required to drive in China, it is not possible to drive with an international driving licence.
Speed restrictions are as follows:
30 km/h (19 mph) on city roads.
40 km/h (25 mph) on national highways.
100 km/h (62 mph) on city express roads.
120 km/h (75 mph) on expressways.
The official language of China is standard Mandarin. Many regions, particularly in the south and south east of the country have their own tonal dialect with Wu spoken around Shanghai, Cantonese spoken in the Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macau.
English is widely spoken in major cities and tourist areas however the following Mandarin expressions may be useful:
Hello - Ni hao
Goodbye - Zai jian
Thank you - Xie xie
Excuse me - Dui bu qi
Do you speak English? - Ni hui jiang yingyu ma?
The domestic currency of China is the Chinese Yuan (renminbi). One yuan divides into 10 jiao. One jiao divides into 10 fen.
The domestic electricity voltage is 220 volts 50Hz. Both two pin and three pins plugs are used generally.
In case of an emergency the following numbers should be dialled:
110 - Police
119 - Fire
120 - Ambulance.
999 can also be dialled in Beijing and Shanghai.
The country dialling code for China is +86.
A visa is required for all travellers bar citizens from Japan, Singapore and Brunei. Check with your local embassy before travelling.
Credit cards are not as widely accepted in China as they are in the west so traveller's cheques are recommended.
ATM's are available in most major cities.
Tipping is neither expected nor asked for in China. Some high-end eateries may include a service charge on the bill.