Note: We have updated this FAQ based on our 2016 trips
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 (sent to participants) 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.)
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 May Sichuan trekking trip) or Lijiang (for the November Yunnan hiking trip), OR you can buy your ticket to go straight through to Chengdu or Lijiang.
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.
Note that in China for domestic flights, people usually buy tickets one-way. It’s not like here where you can often get cheaper airfare by buying round-trip tickets.
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… Purchasing the insurance is very easy to do; you can do so over the phone or online very quickly. Two that have been recommended to us are Access America, and insuremytrip.com
Where will I meet you once I get to Chengdu or Lijiang?
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. In Chengdu, this is 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.
In Lijiang, we will arrange a driver to come meet you at the airport. More details will be in the welcome letter that you’ll receive after registration.
How fit do I have to be to be on this trip?
Good question! Here are some guidelines…
For both trips, 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. Elevation levels will be less on the Yunnan trip than the Sichuan trip. On the Sichuan trip, we’ll start in Chengdu (2,000 feet) and then will be staying in a Tibetan family-owned inn in the small village of Rilong (~10,000 feet) as our base camp. From there, we’ll be hiking no higher than 14,000 feet. On the Yunnan trip, we’ll be between 5,000-8,000 feet throughout and will have overnight accommodations in each location. Some places will be a bit more rustic than others.
Will I have altitude sickness?
While we will be at some high elevations, especially on the Sichuan trip, 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 J. Make sure to also use treated water to brush your teeth.
What kind of accommodations will we have?
For both trips, 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, stir-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. Rilong, however, the village we’ll be using as our “base camp”, does have many locally grown veggies and fresh wild mushrooms.
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 (Karen) 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 a few less veggies 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. 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.
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?
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.
How often does Little Po run these Qigong & Wilderness trekking trips?
So far we’ve been leading them every other year. We also offer personal tailored trips to groups of 6-8 people. Feel free to contact us for a customized trip.