Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

If your question has not been answered or addressed please contact us.

What vaccinations are required for a visit to China?
Currently, no vaccinations are required by law. We advise you to check with your doctor or clinic for the most up-to-date medical information. Those vaccinations usually recommended for a trip to China include those against Tetanus, Hepatitis, Diphtheria, Cholera and Typhoid. Malaria tablets are unnecessary for most regions in China. Please inquire regarding your specific itinerary if unsure.
How available are common Western health products and medicines in China?
Most major cities have international medical centers, which cater to the needs of both expatriate residents and tourists. Pharmacies, supermarkets and luxury hotel shops in the major cities are stocked with many common over-the-counter Western medicines and sanitary products you might require. One thing that is sometimes hard to find, which can be useful in Guilin, is mosquito repellent. If you regularly use certain health products and/or medicines, or are using specific medication for a health issue, the safest and best course of action is to bring a sufficient supply with you.
Am I likely to get sick?
Guests’ concerns about sanitary and hygiene conditions in China are often confounded by the conditions to which Imperial Tours introduces them, and they inevitably find themselves reassured by the Western standards they encounter. Furthermore, since Imperial Tours’ menus are designed for the Western palate, there are no challenging ‘exotic’ items. On the other hand, Chinese food does incorporate the use of strong flavors provided by garlic, chilli and ginger. Travelers with sensitive stomachs, unused to these flavors, might take precautionary measures by bringing along medicines for common stomach upsets. A note of caution: while in China, please do not drink any unboiled tap water. If you buy bottled water, make sure the seal has not been broken before you drink from it. If you have any allergies or dietary requirements, please inform us ahead of time and we will accommodate accordingly.
What kinds of emergency procedures are in place?
Imperial Tours prioritizes the health and safety of every single guest. All China Hosts and Virtual Concierges possess a list of emergency medical service providers, assuring prompt attention should you require it. In the event of an emergency anywhere in mainland China, your China Host or Virtual Concierge will take immediate steps to arrange the care and attention you need using guidelines established in Imperial Tours’ Crisis Management Plan. Note that while Imperial Tours will facilitate your getting immediate medical attention, we do not provide travel medical insurance and we strongly recommend you purchase health insurance coverage (including emergency evacuation) before departing.
Are China’s streets safe?
While one does from time to time hear scary stories, the general level of safety on China’s streets is surprisingly good. Beijing and Shanghai boast a measure of personal safety exceeding levels in cities such as London, New York, Paris or Los Angeles.
Is flying in China safe?
Most planes flown in China are manufactured by Boeing or Airbus. For information about the relative safety of Chinese airlines, an independent evaluation is available at the Aviation Safety Network. Imperial Tours prioritizes its itineraries with the main national airlines operating within China, namely Air China, China Eastern, China Southern and Hainan Airlines. All Chinese airlines are governed by strict safety standards enforced by CAAC, the government's airline authority. As a result of ongoing consolidation within the Chinese airline industry, and because of last-minute changes in schedules beyond Imperial Tours’ control, it occasionally is the case that Imperial Tours is forced to use a regional airline, such as Sichuan Airlines or Xiamen Airlines. To the extent foreseeable, Imperial Tours will inform guests in advance if they are scheduled to travel on a plane that is not manufactured by Airbus or Boeing.
My walking is not so good. Can I request a wheelchair?
Please do request a wheelchair if you think you might need it, and the earlier you do so the better your travel experience will be. Although many tourist sites in China have been modified for wheelchair access, advance notice is needed to put many of these provisions into effect. For example, a tourist site may have installed an elevator for wheelchair access, but without advance notice this may be unmanned and hence nonoperational. Also note that sites with wheelchair access often still require wheelchair users to get up once or twice to cross various thresholds. Travelers who suspect they will need a wheelchair to get about should notify us at an early stage in the booking process so that proper arrangements can be made.
Should I buy travel insurance?
Imperial Tours strongly recommends you buy travel insurance as well as trip cancellation insurance. If you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition, we recommend your travel insurance policy covers this. Please note that the majority of travel insurance policies do not do so. We strongly recommend you obtain adequate health insurance coverage (including emergency evacuation) before departing. Imperial Tours does not provide or sell travel insurance products.
Is the international airfare included in the price?
No. International airfare is not included in the price. However, all domestic airfares within China are included.
How should I go about booking my international flights?
Guests customarily book their international flights themselves or through a travel agent.
Can I buy your tours through a travel agent?
Yes. To find an Imperial Tours China Expert travel agent near you, please visit our Find a Travel Agent page.
Do I need a visa to visit China?
Almost all foreign nationals visiting China are required to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Mainland China. Generally speaking, a Chinese embassy or consulate is responsible for issuing China visas within its area of operation. If there is no embassy or consulate near you, contact the Chinese embassy in your national capital. The cost of and time taken in obtaining the visa is each traveler’s responsibility. Visitors from many countries do not require a visa for short visits to Macau or Hong Kong. Please check with your travel agent or visa service.

Recently, China has implemented 144-hour Visa-Free transit in two areas: firstly, in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang and secondly in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, for travelers from 53 countries. Travelers can spend up to 144 hours in each of these two areas if they arrive in them with onward travel to a third international destination within 144 hours of arrival. However, there can be specific restrictions when traveling with this visa, so please check with your travel agent or visa service for more information.
Do I need a separate permit to visit Tibet, in addition to the China visa?
In addition to a China visa, all foreign nationals traveling to the Tibet Autonomous Region are required to hold a special travel permit. We will arrange this for you prior to your arrival in China. The Tibet permit is also included in the tour cost. To obtain your Tibet travel permit in a timely fashion, please email us a scanned copy of your passport, and your arrival and departure information into and out of China, no later than four weeks prior to your arrival in China. Please note:
  • Any changes to your arrival and departure dates or flights into Tibet following the granting of the Tibet permit may invalidate that permit, in which case we would have to re-apply on your behalf.
  • The situation for foreign-owned private jets landing in Tibet changes continually. Please ask for current details.
What clothes should I bring?
In summer, the weather can be hot so light clothing, i.e. cotton and linen, is recommended with perhaps a light sweater as interiors are often cooled by air-conditioning.

Spring and autumn weather is generally very pleasant, but you should bring light sweaters for chillier mornings and evenings. Light, comfortable footwear is appropriate, i.e. sneakers, sandals. A light raincoat is also useful, just in case. In winter, the weather especially in the north (e.g., Beijing, Xi’an, Dunhuang) can be cold with strong winds, thus necessitating a heavy coat, sweaters, scarf, gloves and a hat. However, as hotels and buses are always heated, it is advisable that you wear layers of clothing.

Since restaurant dress codes in mainland China are generally relaxed, there is no need to bring much more than comfortable and convenient clothing. In Beijing and Shanghai you may well wish to wear something smart in the evenings. Although a jacket and tie are not required, certain restaurants do have restrictions on sneakers, shorts, etc. Hong Kong has strict dress regulations at certain dinner destinations. Please inquire with us if you need more details.

The sun can be quite strong so bring sun creams, sunglasses and a hat. You might find it useful to have a small backpack in which to carry drinks. Western mosquito repellents are hard to find, so bring them if you do not wish to use local remedies.
What is the weather usually like? And when should I travel?
Beijing, meaning Northern Capital, is the most northern city you will likely visit on your tour with us. The air in Beijing is dry – traditionally it rains rarely except in July and August when heavy downpours can occur. The best times to visit Beijing are in spring and autumn between March and June and September and November. During these periods day-time temperatures vary between 20ºC to 30ºC (68ºF to 86ºF). From December to February you should assume that the daytime temperatures could be as cold as -3ºC (19ºF), though it can be as warm as 14ºC (57ºF). Xi’an, meaning Western Peace, is further south than Beijing but its weather pattern is broadly similar. Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou are in eastern China. Rainfall here is not severe, but tends to peak with the heat in July and August. In recent years, there has been a sporadic mild typhoon effect from late August to early September. It is possible to visit these destinations year round, though autumn and spring are the best periods. During these times the daytime temperatures vary between 18ºC to 28ºC (64ºC to 82ºF). In winter the average temperature is about 9ºC (48ºF) rising in the summer months to 32ºC (89ºF). Guilin is further south, and can be humid. When traveling to Guilin, you will likely encounter some rain at any time of year. Precipitation, most severe during late spring, trails off from summer onwards. The year round daytime temperature in Guilin varies between 21ºC to 32ºC (70ºF to 89ºF). Tibet, because of its altitude, receives dramatic temperature fluctuations between night and day. During the winter months, November to April, the night temperatures can be uncomfortably cold, however, daytime temperatures range between 6ºC and 14ºC (45ºF and 60ºF). The advantage of traveling to Lhasa during the winter, particularly during the Tibetan New Year, is the reduced number of other travelers. Although many charts will indicate a level of increased rainfall in Lhasa during August, it is a relatively low amount and shouldn’t dissuade visitors. Spring usually brings fluctuating weather patterns across China. April is traditionally a windy month in Beijing however extensive tree planting around the city’s northern perimeters has done a great deal to break this up. Late spring also brings increased rainfall in the southern parts of China, for this reason, Imperial is reluctant to arrange tours to Huangshan before July in any given year. Guilin can also be subject to high rainfall in April and May, but this varies. There are typically sandstorms in Dunhuang coming from the Gobi desert, however the frequency and severity of these storms has decreased over the past years.
What kind of souvenirs will I be able to buy?
For information on shopping please visit our shopping page.
Should I bring cash, travelers’ checks or can I rely on my credit card?
Travelers’ checks are rarely used these days, but major foreign currencies can be exchanged for Chinese Renminbi (RMB) at hotels, banks and some department stores. These establishments are obliged by law to change at an official rate established by the People’s Bank of China.

Credit cards such as Mastercard, Visa and American Express are often accepted at the larger department stores and gift shops. Using international credit cards or your ATM card to draw cash from ATMs is usually possible, particularly near your hotel, but should not necessarily be taken for granted.
What is the local currency?
The Chinese peoples’ national currency or Renminbi (RMB) consists of fen, jiao and yuan. There are ten fen in a jiao, and ten jiao in a yuan. The basic currency unit is the yuan, known colloquially as a kuai. The yuan is denominated in notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Ten yuan or kuai is worth about US$1.60 or £1.
How much should I tip?
Tipping is not customary in China, though the influx of Western tourists has taught many Chinese hotel staff to expect tips. Should you wish to tip a bellboy, you might give 10RMB per bag. Tipping is unnecessary in restaurants and taxis. On all Ultimate China tours, the China Host takes care of tipping all local service staff including tour guides, drivers and bellboys. Guests are given guidelines as to the recommended tip for the China Host at the end of an Ultimate China tour, as well as recommended guide and driver tips for a China Escapades tour.
Can I use my electric appliances in China?
The Chinese electricity system runs on a 220V, 50Hz alternating current. Plugs are usually two pronged, either flat pinned as in the US or round as in Europe. There are also three-pronged, angled, pinned plugs in the Australian style. International travel adapter plugs are readily available at most travel stores in the West, but not in China. Most hotels are equipped with hair dryers. US appliances run on 110V alternating current. For a US appliance to run in China, you will need a transformer to reduce the 220V current to 110V. Some hotel bathrooms have 110V outlets for electric shavers. Most laptop adapters and mobile phone chargers function across the entire 110V to 240V range (check the label) and do not require transformers (though you may require an adapter plug as noted above).
Is Imperial Tours a reputable company?
Award winning, Imperial Tours has been featured in many respected journals including Departures magazine, Robb Report, Vanity Fair, Elite Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Die Welt, Town & Country Travel and Travel Channel. We have been recognized by Condé Nast as a China Specialist, and we have been recognized by Travel + Leisure’s A-List as an A List agent since 2002. Imperial Tours is also a member of three major consortia, namely Virtuoso, Signature and American Express. In addition, we are proud of our customer feedback, which has been consistently “exceeding expectations” from 95% of our guests. We work very hard to merit and maintain this standard.
What is a China Host?
Offered on all Ultimate China (UC) tours, the China Host is a Westerner, who is fluent in Chinese, has been a resident in China for several years, and who travels with you as a concierge. She or he has been trained to anticipate the luxury Western traveler’s needs, ensuring you receive the highest quality service at every turn while protecting you from tourist traps common with other tour companies (such as daily visits to commission paying shops and lower quality tourist restaurants). A China Host will also diffuse potentially stressful situations that can happen in hotels, airports and restaurants, all while immeasurably adding to your understanding of China. For more information please visit Our Guides.
What is a Virtual Concierge?
Offered on all China Escapades tours, our Western Itinerary Designers serve as Virtual Concierges. They assist you in real-time, and in most cases, having designed your itinerary, have the added benefit of being familiar with every detail of your tour.
What is the added benefit of a China Host beyond a Virtual Concierge?
A China Host can add a level of quality to your trip that you might not have expected. She or he serves as a cultural bridge, adding context and understanding to anything you are curious about or encounter during your trip. This intangible dimension is an unexpected benefit often appreciated by our guests and one that cannot be realized by a Virtual Concierge. Also, because the China Host is with you in person, they have the advantage of daily observation and can anticipate your preferences and make pro-active suggestions, such as food preferences. Many changes take time to implement and require behind-the-scenes logistics. A Virtual Concierge is not as well equipped to seamlessly handle on-the-fly changes as your China Host, who can instantly relay options and communicate subtleties wherever you are.
Why would we consider having a China Host if we enjoy less structure and more freedom?
While a China Escapades tour enables you to directly manage your guide and driver in each destination, the reality of turning plans into confirmed activities in China can be more complex than initially presumed. While your efforts combined with a Virtual Concierge and driver/guide will be adequate, you will likely be eating into precious vacation time sorting out logistics when you should be enjoying yourself. One of the China Host’s main responsibilities is assisting with contemporaneous itinerary changes – and ensuring that your vacation is as structured or spontaneously free-flowing as your desire. All you need to do is convey your wishes to the China Host and then the business of arranging everything gets taken care of, including introducing you to experiences you mightn’t have thought of.
Does a China Host end up shadowing us everywhere?
Your China Host can be as integrated with your party or as discreet as you wish. While she/he is available to share meals with you, you can easily request your China Host dine separately. We find many customers truly enjoy the insights and context a China Host provides, a context derived not only from familiarity with China but also a Western cultural background – the combination of which delivers a more textured travel experience overall. Note that service will be better when a China Host is with you. Please bear this in mind if you do request that the China Host not to join you for dinner and the service is not as expected.
What is a commission-paying shop or restaurant and why should I be concerned about this?
A commission-paying shop/restaurant is one that pays local tour operators and ground handlers to bring tourist traffic to their business. The tourism business model in China has long depended on commissions paid by shops/restaurants to compensate for revenues lost through deep discount tour pricing. You need to be concerned about this since shops and restaurants which ‘pay for customers’ typically pay correspondingly little attention to product/service quality – as captive customer revenue is guaranteed by virtue of the commission arrangement.
What is the difference between your Ultimate China & China Escapades private tours?
Our Ultimate China (UC) tours are accompanied by a China Host to provide the best possible service, while our China Escapades tours have greater independence at a lower price. There is no difference in quality between Ultimate China & China Escapade tours, only between their service structure, inclusions and offered destinations. Please see Our Philosophy for more information.
Is there anything that will help me on my trip?
China is a very technological-savvy place, however the language barrier and getting around can sometimes cause frustration. We recommend downloading a few apps before you arrive to make your stay in China a more culturally immersive experience.