FAQs – this document is written for our two fall 2012 trips, however many principles still apply to active tours in China:
- Trekking in the Majesty of the Tibetan Plateau, A Qigong and Wilderness Adventure – 09/09/2012 – 09/22/2012
- Discovering the Lost Horizon, An Active Journey to the Heart of Yunnan – 10/28/2012-11/10/2012
Do I require any shots/vaccinations? We suggest following CDC’s recommendations. Visit: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/china.htm
What and how shall I pack? What shall I bring? See our recommended packing list for details. In general though, pack light, as both treks are mobile trips. If you forget something, most things you can easily find in China. (There are a few things that are hard to find in China and we’ll cover that below.)
For those of you coming on the September trip in Sichuan, bring a sleeping bag and pad and some eating ware. We’ll coordinate amongst the group for tents and group gear (including group cooking ware).
When and where do you recommend I buy my airplane tickets? Buy your tickets at least 2 months in advance. If you have miles, make your reservations early as well, as those seats can fill up fast.
There are some direct flights to Beijing from Seattle. You can either fly there for a few days to adjust to the time change, do some sightseeing and then fly to either Chengdu (for the September Sichuan trekking trip) or Kunming (for the October Yunnan hiking trip), OR you can buy your ticket to go straight through to Chengdu or Kunming.
Here are a couple of websites for buying tickets to China:
Here are a couple websites for buying domestic flights within China. They both have an English interface.
Should I get travel insurance? We STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you purchase travel insurance. This kind of insurance will cover all sorts of things, lost/stolen luggage, trip delays, medical evacuation…the works. Purchasing the insurance is very easy to do; you can do so over the phone or online very quickly. Attached is a list of government approved/recommended travel insurance companies. Two that have been recommended to me are Access America, and insuremytrip.com
Where will I meet you once I get to Chengdu or Kunming? Well first….Welcome to CHINA!! We will be so excited to have you here with us!! When you arrive, we’ll meet you at our hotel, which will be an easy taxi ride from the airport. We’ll give you the name, address and phone number of the hotel in both English and Chinese, which you can print out. Give this to your taxi driver (there will be a whole line of them outside of the airport baggage claim area) and s/he will take you right to us. We’ll also give you our China cell phone numbers.
How fit do I have to be to be on this trip? Good question ! We’ll break it down for each trip.
For the September trekking trip in Sichuan Province, you’ll need to be able to carry a daypack of up to 15-20 lbs and be comfortable hiking up to 8 miles/day. Most hikes will be closer to 5-6 miles. We will hire vehicles and horses to carry our heavier personal and group gear while trekking. Make sure you are comfortable camping. We will be staying in tents in the pristine wilderness for the trekking portion of the trip (unlike the Yunnan trip where will have overnight accommodations at every destination).
We will be at some high elevations but have designed the trip for ease in acclimation. For example, we’ll start in Chengdu (2,000 feet) and then take a bus to Kangding (8,400 feet) where we’ll be doing some day hikes. From Kangding, we’ll go to Litang (13,000 feet), which is the launching place for our more extended trekking. The trekking area is 13,000 – 15,000 feet. There may be some scrambling options that get as high as 16,000 feet.
For the October trip in Yunnan Province, you’ll also need to be able to carry a light day pack with snack foods, water, camera and extra clothes and be able to hike up to 8 miles a day. Most hikes will be closer to 5-6 miles. You’ll also need to be able to bike up to 30 miles in one day on relatively flat terrain. Elevation levels will be significantly less than the Sichuan trip as we’ll be between 2,000-8,000 feet throughout. We will not be camping on this trip and will have overnight accommodations in each location. Some places will be more rustic than others but we will not be staying in tents.
Will I have altitude sickness? While we will be at some high elevations, especially on the Sichuan trip in September, we will be slowly acclimating to reduce chances of altitude illnesses. Sometimes people lose their appetite at high elevations so it is important to keep well fed and drink lots of water. Early signs of altitude sickness are a mild headache, dizziness and/or nausea. Just keep us informed if you have any symptoms so we can monitor them and take appropriate actions for your wellbeing.
How is the water? Should I bring a water filter or iodine tablets? While tap water is treated in China, do NOT drink it straight from the tap. You can either use a water filter or boil tap water to make it safe to drink. You can also use iodine tablets or Aquamira – which are a chlorine-based water treatment. Bottled water is available, but we discourage drinking it as the quality isn’t guaranteed to be any better than the tap water…and it saves plastic . Make sure to also use treated water to brush your teeth.
What kind of accommodations will we have? They will vary depending on which trip you come on. During the September Sichuan trip, we will be camping part of the time and will coordinate how many tents to bring with those people who come on that trip. The other nights, and for the Yunnan trip, we’ll stay in “standard” rooms at local hotels in town (some of the towns being smaller and more remote than others ). These rooms usually have two twin-sized beds, so we will pair people up with another participant, or people can pair themselves. If you want a private room, there will be an added cost.
What will we eat? Will I like the food? Oh the food is soooo delicious and is one of the great treats of coming to China! We will be eating local foods at each destination. In Sichuan province we’ll be eating….yes, you guessed it…Sichuanese food . It is delicious and typically spicy but you can ask for dishes to mild.
Despite the local food varieties in each region, typically, Chinese food options have lots of stir-fried veggies, rice, noodles, tofu and some meat. Breakfasts are different than the “standard” American breakfast, and are quite yummy. Some common breakfast foods include: congi or “zhou” which is a rice or millet porridge, boiled eggs, sitr-fried veggies, fried dough, soymilk, egg wraps, steamed bread and steamed buns with sautéed veggies and/or meat.
For those on the Sichuan trip, the further in towards Tibet we go, the less veggies we’ll find. Instead we’ll find greater amounts of yak meat, bread, rice, cheese, and yak milk butter tea. Litang, however, the city where we’ll be launching onto our trekking portion of the trip, does have fruits and veggies and we can stock up some there.
In general, it’s best to eat freshly cooked foods, not salads. If you do eat fruits, we strongly recommend that you either peel them or wash them well with treated water.
While the food in China is amazing, it is different than our normal diet. We suggest you bring some stomach soothing medicines just in case you require them.
To our gluten-free eaters and vegetarians: I too am gluten-free and the options in China are infinite in terms of what savory and yum-yum foods to eat. Most of the time it is also super easy to be vegetarian or vegan in China. On the Sichuan trip, however, as mentioned above, there are less veggie and not much vegan options as we get close to Tibet. If you have questions about this, contact Szu-ting as she has detailed info on this region.
And finally, do bring some comfort food, and in moderation so that your load is not heavy. Peanut butter and chocolate are hard to get in China. Also, coffee drinkers may choose to bring their own along with a French press. Hot water is easy to find; coffee is not, plus it’s expensive.
What items shall I bring that I can’t get in China? Peanut butter, chocolate, coffee, dental floss, sunscreen and lotion . For those of you coming on the Yunnan trip, the beds tend to be hard. If you like soft mattresses, you may choose to bring a sleeping pad or compact air mattress as well.
How do I get a visa? Since multiple entry and single entry visas are the same price, we suggest getting a 1 year, multiple entry visa. Then, if you end up just loving China and desire to come back within a year, you don’t have to pay for another visa.
To get your visa, we recommend using www.visarite.com. They are fast, reliable and have great costumer service.
How much Chinese money shall I bring with me? We suggest bringing about $200 -$300 U.S. dollars converted in to Chinese RMB. Also bring a travel ATM card. You can set up a separate “traveling” checking account at your bank and put the funds you’d like to access during your trip in there. This way you can keep your regular ATM card safe at home.
Don’t use travelers’ checks in China. Cash is best.
How about using my electronics in China? Do I require bringing an adapter? The electrical current in China is 220V. Most electronic devices, such as computers will operate fine on this current. You can buy adapter plugs for your electronics that will fit into Chinese outlets (REI sells these). Current fluctuations in the smaller towns, however, are frequent and can damage electronics. Travel surge protectors are available to safeguard electrical equipment.
What kind of camera gear do you recommend bringing? Make sure to bring extra batteries as the quality in China varies. Alternatively, you can bring a small portable solar panel to easily charge your iPod/camera batteries at base camp or when attached to your pack while hiking.
Also, bring enough memory cards (they are relatively inexpensive), so you don’t have delete the “bad” photos on the cards to make space and thus could potentially delete the “good” images.
Shall I bring any gifts for local people and children I meet? If so, what do you suggest? Shiny U.S. coins are a great gift. The kids love them. They also like notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and any stationery items. These items you can buy locally and don’t have to bring with you from the States.
As for possible food gifts, do NOT bring candy or sweet snacks. Kids have little access to dental care and cavities have become a problem. Nuts and seeds, especially pistachios are always a welcomed gift.
If you stay with local families during any extended travels before or after our trekking, giving some money in a red envelope is appreciated. Also, if you see an obvious need a family has (such as a tea kettle, a new wok, etc), giving that as a gift is also quite appreciated.
What is the tipping etiquette in China? Do I tip at restaurants? No. Generally China is not a “tip culture”. Sometimes, if we’ve hired a driver or horseman, we’ll tell them to keep the change. But people do not expect to be tipped.