Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plug types vary
but the two-pin flat blade and oblique three-pin flat blade plugs
are common. Adapters are generally required.
The official language is Mandarin Chinese, but there are
hundreds of local dialects.
Tipping is not officially recognised, although the practice is
becoming more common among travel guides, top-end restaurants, tour
bus drivers and hotel staff. If wanting to tip leave a gratuity of
10%. Large hotels and restaurants often include a service charge in
their bills, usually of about 10%.
China is generally safe, and there has been no evidence of a
threat from global terrorism. Serious crime against foreigners is
rare but does occur, particularly in isolated or sparsely populated
areas. There has been an increase in the number of muggings and
robberies at Beijing International Airport and the Jianguomenwai
area of Beijing, as well as in Shenzen, bordering Hong Kong. If
trekking alone, including following parts of the Great Wall, it is
advisable to leave an itinerary and expected time of return with a
third party. Travellers should take extra care in street markets
and at tourist sites, which attract thieves and pickpockets, and
around the popular expat bar areas at night where lone foreigners
have recently been attacked. Travellers should be cautious about
using pedicabs in Beijing, as tourists have been mugged and demands
for money made by pedicab drivers; women in particular have been
targeted. Seasonal heavy rains and typhoons cause hundreds of
deaths in China each year, particularly those areas bordering the
Yangtze River in central, southern and western China.
Demonstrations took place in Lhasa, Tibet, as well as in some
Chinese provinces in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet;
although the situation seems to have stabilised, visitors are
advised to stay up to date on the latest situation before
The Chinese have three names, the first of which is their
surname, or family name. As a result visitors should be prepared
for hotels mistakenly reserving rooms under their first names. For
clarity surnames may be underlined. When addressing Chinese people
the surname should come first and official titles should be used.
Chinese handshakes last longer than those in western countries, and
in conversation it is customary to stand close together. Politeness
in Western terms is foreign to them, and they rarely bother with
pleasantries. All foreigners should carry ID at all times as spot
checks are common and failure to show evidence in ID will result in
a fine or detention.
The Chinese are strict timekeepers and being late for a meeting
is considered rude. When meeting people for the first time it is
normal to shake hands and say 'ni hao', which means 'how are you'.
Business cards are exchanged at the start of meetings in China and
it is customary to have one side printed in Chinese and one in
English. When giving or receiving business cards, or a gift, it is
customary to hold it with both hands. Chinese consider gifts as an
important show of courtesy. During a meal or reception your host is
likely to offer a toast; you may be expected to offer him one in
return. Business hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday. A
five-day week is more normal in larger cities. Workers take their
lunch break between 12pm and 2pm and it is not unusual to find
offices empty during this time.
The international access code for China is +86. The outgoing
code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the
United Kingdom). The city code for Beijing is (0)10. International
Direct Dialling is available in most cities. Phone cards are widely
available and calls can be made from post offices and hotels; phone
booths on the streets are usually for local calls only. In hotels,
local calls are generally free or will be charged only a nominal
fee. Mobile phone networks are very advanced. Operators u