Dos & Don’ts for the Beijing Travelers

04/09/2010
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First time in Beijing? Let us give you some tips to help avoid the classic China-Rookie mistakes.

DO bring a Convertor.

The electronic output in China is 220V; Americans need to be aware of this since it differs from the United States. A converter will be necessary when using electronics and appliances such as hair dryers in China. Most new electronics, such as laptops and digital cameras have build in convertors; check your product to be sure. If you are not taking a convertor, ask your hotel for one, most hotels can supply them. If your appliance has a build in convertor system you will not need a plug adapter, most Chinese outlets work with many different plug types, including American and European.

DON’T Drink the Tap Water.

The tap water is not potable in China. Therefore, only bottled water should be consumed. Bottled water and mineral water are widely available in most convenience stores, and the quality of this kind of water is excellent. Most mineral water costs roughly 2RMB/ $0.25.

Note: You do not need to be concerned about using tap water to wash your face or bathe; it is only harmful if ingested. Most hotels (4 star and higher) provide two bottles of water in their rooms for free daily use.

DO know local Emergency Phone Numbers.

Emergency numbers are 110 (police) & 120 (medical). These are important to know should a dangerous situation occur. The city 24-hour tourist hotline is 65130828 or simply call Beijing impression at 64000-300(service in Chinese, English).

DON’T Buy anything in a market at the First Offered Price.

When buying items in markets or from street stalls, it is expected that you will haggle to get a good price. Vendors will often first suggest a price that is outrageously expensive in the hopes that you will pay without question, do not feel obligated to pay the stated price. Bartering is a cultural custom and is necessary to negotiate a price that is fair for both parties. 
Note: In department stores, retail malls or grocery stores, prices are marked and bargaining is not permitted. Price negotiation only applied in markets such as the silk market, Pearl market or Yashow market.

DO Try Chopsticks.

If eating Chinese food it is almost certain you will be served your meal with a pair of chopsticks. While not customary in Western countries, with a bit of practice, they can be easy to use. Yet, if the task seems too daunting, most restaurants have forks available upon request.

There are many different genres of food available all over Beijing. Varying from Sichuan, Shandong, Guangdong, Hunan, and Jiangsu flavors to Italian, German and English, so there is bound to be something to satisfy your taste buds. If you have specific diet restrictions, such as being a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free, it is wise to learn how to say your restrictions in Chinese to be sure you will not have health issues.

DON’T Tip.

Tipping is not a custom in Beijing culture, but is a western standard. Tipping in cabs or Chinese restaurants is not expected. Yet, in up-market or western style hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants, a tip may be expected. Also, when taking tours with tour guides and drivers, a tip is necessary.

Here is some information for your reference:

If you travel alone or in a group of less than 5 people:
$20-$10/per person/per day to your tour guide. $10-$5/per person/per day to the driver.
If you travel in a group of between 5-10 people:
$10-$5 to per person/per day your guide. $5/per person/per day to the driver.
If you travel in a group of more than 10:
$5//per person/per day to your guide. $3/per person/per day to the driver

DO Be Aware of Street Vendors and Beggars.

Like other big tourist cities, in Beijing there are many street vendors surrounding major tour attractions, namely Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Summer Palace. Most vendors are respectful but some can be aggressive. If you are not interested in their products, it is best to ignore them and continue walking. Beggars are not often seen on the streets in Beijing, but some flock to the places they know tourists will be.

DON’T Count on using your Credit Cards.

Most local restaurants and shops do not accept foreign credit cards. Larger stores and western or high-end restaurants are more likely to process cards, though a service fee is often applied. However, it is always a good idea to ask about payment options before any services are exchanged.

DO be aware of shopping traps.

Nothing brands you as a tourist more than wandering outside the most famous sights of Beijing. Locals know this and some may chose to take advantage of it. Occasionally a scenario similar to this may occur: a younger Chinese person will approach a small group of tourists claiming to be an “art student.” They may say they want to practice their English with you and begin chatting. Soon they may enlist your help, saying they are a part of an art exhibition and using it to help pay for school. They may ask that you accompany them to another location to see their work. Following them maybe a risk. Many times they will bring you into a gallery and sell you overprices goods. They may seem over-eager and plead with you to make a purchase. Beijing is not a dangerous place at all, but it is wise to be cautious and alert of your surroundings at all times

DON’T Exchange your money anywhere except a bank.

Recently, counterfeit money has become a growing problem in China. If money is exchanged in legitimate banks or at your hotel reception then counterfeit bills should not be an issue. People often hang around outside banks and in tourist centers offering to exchange currency.  If you chose this method, it is almost guaranteed that you will be ripped off in one way or another, whether it is  being given fake notes, a poor exchange rate, or no money at all.

DO Bring your own toilet paper.

Restroom facilities in China are very different from those in the west. Public toilets are usually squat style and most Westerners are surprised to find that there is often no toilet paper supplied. Because of this it is a good idea for ladies to carry their own stock of tissue. Often, if there is a handicap stall, it will have a sitting toilet similar to the western style. Also, China’s public restrooms are not known for their cleanliness so if you can, use the facilities in a hotel or restaurant before you venture out.

DON’T Assume cars will stop for you on Crosswalks.

Be sure to look both ways before crossing any street. Traffic in Beijing almost never yields to pedestrians, even if they have the right-of-way. Driving is a new phenomenon and there is a serious lack of experience. In addition, be sure to be aware of bicycles in the city. Check for bikes before crossing streets or getting out of taxis.