Background | Demographics | Facts for Travelers | Money | Cost of Living
For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under MAO Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor DENG Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight. (The CIA World Factbook)
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China is a country of great contrasts, with picturesque rural landscapes and congested cityscapes, and natural beauty that ranges from the untamed to the idyllic - from the windswept plains of the Gobi Desert and Mt Everest's notorious northern face to Yangshuo's gorgeous karst scenery. China is huge and wild enough to satisfy your explorer instinct, and is a great rollercoaster ride for anyone with a little time and an instinct for travel.
National Capital: Peking or Beijing
Population: 1,298,847,624 (July 2004 est.)
Languages Spoken: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, other minority languages
Government Structure: Communist state
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Facts for Travelers
Visas: Visas are required by most foreigners visiting Mainland China. However, Westerners visiting
Hong Kong or Macau are not required to apply for a visa. Visa can be applied for at your local Chinese Embassy or Consulate.
When to Go: The best time to visit China is during the Spring (March-May) and the Fall (end-August-October) seasons.
Major public holidays, like Chinese New Year, is a very busy time to travel for travelers and Chinese alike.
Events: Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) starts on the first day of the lunar calendar, which usually falls in February. Although it officially lasts only three days, many people take a week off. Ear plugs are handy at this time to dull the firecracker assaults, and prices of hotel rooms tend to go through the roof. The Lantern Festival isn't a public holiday, but it's big and it's colourful. It falls on the 15th day of the 1st moon (around mid-February to mid-March) and marks the end of the New Year celebrations. The famous lion dances occur throughout this period. Tomb Sweeping Day is in April, and sees Chinese families spend the day tending the graves of departed loved ones. Hong Kong hosts one of the liveliest annual Chinese celebrations - the Dragon Boat Festival. Usually held in June, the festival honors the poet Qu Yuan and features races between teams in long ornate canoes. Many Westerners take part in the races, but plenty of practice is needed to get all the paddles working as one. (Lonely Planet)
1 Jan - New Year's Day
Feb - Chinese New Year/Spring Festival
8 Mar - International Women's Day
1 May - International Labor Day
4 May - Youth Day
1 Jun - International Children's Day
1 Jul - Birthday of the Chinese Communist Party
1 Aug - Anniversary of the founding of the PLA
1 Oct - National Day
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Currency: yuan (CNY) or Renminbi (RMB)
Exchange Rate (per $1USD): ¥8.2765RMB (April 2, 2005)
All four- and five-star hotels and some top-end restaurants add a tax or 'service charge' of 10% or 15%, which extends to the room and food; all other consumer taxes are included in the price tag.
Generally, eastern China is much more expensive than the western part of the country. Visitors to eastern China could get by on around USD50.00 a day, but it would be a challenge. Budget travellers in western China should be able to keep costs down to USD25.00 per day. The main drain on savings tends to be long train journeys. Food is cheap throughout China, and if you're careful you won't have to spend much more than USD7.00 a day on meals. However, the bottom line is that you'll be charged the 'tourist price' a lot of the time - it's a practice encouraged by the government.
Tipping is not really expected in mainland China. (Lonely Planet)
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Cost of Living
The cost of living in China is almost one-tenth that of the United States. Below are some
examples of typical items and their prices found in China:
* Budget: US$1-2
* Mid-range: US$5-10
* High: US$10-25
* Deluxe: US$25+
* Budget: US$25-35
* Mid-range: US$35-100
* High: US$100-300
* Deluxe: US$300+
Quart of milk: ¥6.79 or $0.82
Liter of orange juice:¥12 or $1.45
"Big Mac" with fries and Coke: ¥15.98 or $1.93
A movie: ¥14.48 or $1.81
A bag of fruit: ¥8 or $0.96
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