Cash in China and guidebooks
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Jun 28, 2005 4:01 AM Last Post By: chrisj
Sep 7, 2004 11:01 AM
Cash in China and guidebooksJust wondering if someone could tell me how best to access money in China. According to the LP guide (2002), travellers cheques are the way to go, but I am not sure if this is still up to date. Can you change travellers cheques in any reasonable-sized city? (we plan to visit Beijing, Xian, Chongqing, Yichang, and possibly Shanghai, Guilin, Yangshuo, and/or HongKong).
Also wondering about ATMs. I heard that they are often out of order or don't accept foreign-issued cards. Is this still the case? (the reason I am not taking this as gospel is because in Russia, the ATMs have expanded dramatically in the last 3 years, so wondering if China is the same). Is it easy to find machines which take British-issued Cirrus/Maestro cards, or should we stick to travellers cheques and/or US dollars?
Guidebooks: would anyone personally recommend the LP or the Rough Guide? I prefer the LP layout but I am aware that the Rough Guide was published more recently (2003). Any recommendations? How about for a user-friendly Mandarin phrasebook?
Finally, what would people consider a reasonable budget per person per day for: 2 people travelling together, travelling probably hard sleeper on trains, eating street food or cheap cafe meals most of the time, staying in hostels where possible but otherwise cheap double rooms?
Thanks very much!
Sep 7, 2004 11:21 AM
Sep 7, 2004 12:59 PM
I've used Bank of China ATMs all the way in China - every town has at least one and they always work for me.
On the LP site I shouldn't say I prefer RG for having more background info than listings (that easily go out of date) so I won't. Note: all entrance prices even in the recent RG guide have gone up, sometimes drastically. Sightseeing in China is not Asia-cheap. Examples: Xian terracotta army 90Y, Pingyao museum pass 120Y, Potala 100Y. Sometime's it's not worth the fee they charge.
Phrasebook: I bought a local one, called 'The pocket interpreter' for only 16Y and it's quite good, with phrases in pinyin and characters, and a dictionary.
This is what I've experienced in the past 2 weeks of travelling China:
Cheap doubles: 80-200Y
Big sights: 50-90Y
Streetfood meal for two: 15-30Y
Bottle of water: 3Y
Nighttrain hard sleeper bed, 7 hour trip: 80-120Y
Commission for having a travel agent book the train ticket (often wise, sometimes unavoidable): 20-40Y
Sep 7, 2004 1:01 PM
3The big cities ie Xi'an, Beijing & Shangahai Bank of China take visas and I found some that took British issued Electron/Cirrus which was great. Mainly rely on cash though. A few people I was travelling with had travellers cheques but found them a bit of a mssion to exchange in the smaller towns. We managed on around 20 quid a day, the only thing that really set us back was train travel. Good luck! China is well worth it!
Sep 7, 2004 1:03 PM
Sep 8, 2004 5:20 AM
Sep 8, 2004 11:42 PM
6Everyone in China checks the authencity of 100 Yuan notes when you buy things. I saw other people having their bills refused because of suspicious notes.
I carried all cash ( with ATM and credit cards as backup ). I always changed at the Bank of China, and once at a big hotel, and never got fake notes.
Jeroen's prices are quite accurate.
Water and pop (soda) are inflated in touristy areas ( 5 yuan instead of 3 ).
A nice meal in an average "foreign style", but restaurant is about $40 yuan each.
Sep 12, 2004 2:51 PM
7I totally disagree that travellers cheques are the way to go, particularly if you are travelling for a longer period of time. Commision charges, ripped off on exchange, etc. Have some as a backup only, for peace of mind. ATM cards are small, light and easily carried. I've travelled for 9 months in China using Nationwides ATM card (because they don't charge for using the card). It has been consistently reliable.
Take more than one ATM card. Some banks have a limit on how much cash you can take out on an individual card, then you have to wait to be able to use the card again. It's not so much a problem when towns have more than one bank branch. I use internet banking to switch money between accounts when required.
The Bank of China is often the only option (except in places like Shanghai, where there are 24 hour Citybanks, etc). Not all towns have a Bank of China, so check in your guide book.
A recent problem I've hit in Wuhan was that all the Bank of China ATM's insisted on a six-digit pin number, where my card only has four. I couldn't change this, so I don't know if this means that they will not accept foreign cards. I also surprisingly had the same problem in Suzhou (which is very touristy), but I only tried one ATM there. Best give yourself a six-digit pin number before coming to China to give yourself more options.
Definately keep a stash of cash, say 2000RMB. If you need any of it, replace it at the first opportunity. This is more than enough to buy tickets to a more foreigner friendly location, if required.
I've also kept some travellers cheques, but haven't had to use them yet.
Lonely planets phrase book is good.
I prefer Rough Guide to China for more detailed maps, but it is more sketchy on how to travel to locations, whereas LP guidebook has very detailed directions. LP also has large chinese character place names.
Your budget depends on where you are travelling. West China is far cheaper than the East. It also depends on your bargaining skills. Always, always ask if cheaper options are available in hotels. The cheaper option is often exactly the same room at a discount of up to fifty percent, just for the asking. Don't accept a price over the phone, as it is nearly always more expensive than turning up at the hotel. If a taxi/pedicab driver appears very keen to help you into the hotel, it's because he will get a kickback and it will cost you more for the room. Decline the room and return later without an escort to get the real price.
Hope this helps. Enjoy your travels.
Jun 27, 2005 12:27 PM
8ATMs are the way to go, forget about TCs - outdated and a hassle. Never had a problem using ATMs in 3 months of China, including in Lhasa.
I found entry prices to be pretty high, and indeed often too high for what you get. The way the Chinese are asphalting the country and turning all sights into mass tourism destinations is shocking.
If you're only there for a limited amount of time, I'd suggest you skip Xian and the warriors altogether and choose smaller less massive things. I loved my visits to the Tiger Leaping Gorge (go there quick before thay asphalt that as well), Yangshou and the historic Unesco town of Pingyao between Xian and Beijing... and easy stopover of a day or two and with unmatched atmosphere.
Jun 28, 2005 4:01 AM
(4 star Hotel)
From US$155.60 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$22.12 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$168.31 per night