Travel tips for travelers to China.

Traveling by bus in China

Along with increased number of highways in China increased the number of bus passengers. Long distance buses are sometimes better choice than trains because bus tickets are less expensive, easier to obtain and also you can see small towns that you otherwise would not be able to see if you traveled by train. Sometimes buses are faster than trains (for example if you want to visit Huángshān and your departing point is Shànghǎi, an express bus will take you there in 5-6 hours while it would take an overnight train ride to reach Huángshān City). Tickets can be purchased through agents but usually there is no need for that; one can go to the long distance bus station (which is almost always located next to the train station) and buy ticket.

The symbol for long distance bus station on the local maps looks like the hippy “peace” symbol (also it resembles bus steering wheel).

Bus services in China vary from luxury buses (those have on-board toilets, air-conditioning, free bottled water and free newspapers /in Chinese/) to hose battered minibuses in rural areas where you often share your seat with chicken and other livestock…

The best buses are called kōngtiáo (air-conditioned) gāosù (high-speed, usually it means the toll expressways are used) háohuá (luxury) buses. Most of those buses are privately owned and operated. There is no extra charge for the luggage, which is usually stored in the luggage compartment underneath the seat rows.

Smoking is not allowed on those buses (and usually passengers obey that rule). It is not difficult to get tickets for those buses at the bus station. I was traveling from Wǔhàn to Huángshān on one of those buses, over 10 hours on the bus with two breaks, one for lunch 30 min and another one just to go to the washroom (by the way, in 2007 there was no direct train connection or flight connection between Wǔhàn and Huángshān, bus was the only option, it departed at 9:00 AM, the price for the ticket was around Y200).

Express buses (kuài qìchē) will take you from point A to point B with no stops en route which is also good if you worry what may happen to your luggage in the belly of the bus.

Long distance bus rides can be very noisy (often the driver pops in a DVD with Chinese music videos or action movie, and since the traffic rules in China are often violated drivers don’t hesitate to use the horn any time someone or something appears in front of him (which sometimes translates into almost constant honking). Unless buses use using highways, estimated time of bus journeys can be calculated if you divide the distance by 25 km/h. If you travel in winter time prepare some warm clothes for events of (likely) breakdowns.

Night buses do exist but ask yourself first: are you brave enough to ride one of those buses?

Sleeper buses (wòpù qìchē) are less expensive than the luxury buses (but still double the price of regular bus services) and usually have three rows of two-tier berths which are very narrow and do not recline fully. Lower bunks can be a bit more expensive than the upper bunks. Some have reclining seats while others have two-tier bunks. Sleeper buses, hard seat trains and local city buses are favourite playground for thieves, so watch your belongings! Some travelers just love sleeper buses (I met a guy from Spain in Xian who was visiting China 3rd or 4th time and he said he was traveling almost exclusively by sleeper buses).

Ordinary buses (pǔtōng qìchē) have wooden or lightly padded seats, they are cheap, never heater or air-conditioned, with practically no legroom, luggage racks tiny, expect frequent stops, maximum speed of 50km/h, cigarette smoke, (spitting too)…

Minibuses (xiǎo chē) usually have up to 20 seats (but usually take more than 20 passengers), they may be slightly more expensive than regular buses, they are privately owned most of the time and they won’t leave the departure point until they are full (or almost full).

Privately owned minibuses are covering not only local short-distance routes (less than 100km or so) but also some medium length routs. It is always a good idea to ask for the ticket price before you get on the bus! Those buses often scoop up passengers along the way (the driver slows down and the conductor yells something through the open door) and sometimes are packed to the gills (minibus I took from Wudangshan to Shiyan had no more than 15 seats but at one point there was at least 30 passengers on-board, including mothers with sick children! No, don’t try to think what this would look like in case of an accident!).

You can also hail a passing bus outside of regular bus stops (destinations are always displayed in Chinese characters on the front of the bus). Then you will purchase a ticket on-board.

If your backpack is too big to be held in your lap try to get to the rear end of the bus because sometimes there is some room between the window and the last row of seats where you can put your luggage. Driver may even try to charge extra for your luggage if it’s too bulky.

Bus-station timetables are often inaccurate.

Getting around by plane within China

Traveling by train is inexpensive however sometimes not the fastest and most convenient way to travel. Overnight train ride has one big advantage: you won’t have to pay for accommodation for that night! Waiting in long line ups, language problems when dealing with busy train ticket officers, smoking in train compartments… all those may be some of the reasons to fly from point A to point B in a couple of hours and avoid that overnight train ride all together.

In 2003 Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC, Zhōnggúo Mínyòng) made an announcement allowing up to 40% discount on airline tickets. Every April and November CAAC publishes an updated version of their international and domestic timetable both in English and Chinese. The timetable can be bought at CAAC offices and some airports. Individual airlines also publish their timetables too. Flight schedule can be checked on-line, you should not worry about the timetables too much.

Much like hotel rates (and many other financial transactions in China) air ticket prices that you see posted on the wall at the travel agencies are up for bargaining. If you purchase your tickets ahead of time before you arrive in China chances are you will have to pay full price which is usually around 50% more than what you would pay if you purchase air tickets through CITS in China. You will have to show your passport when you make a reservation or purchase a ticket.

Children over 12 are charged full fare, children between 2 and 12 have to pay 50% of the ticket price, toddlers under the age of 2 pay 10% of the full fare. Most offices accept credit cards (in that case they will charge additional fee, that’s usually ok because credit card is much more convenient than carrying cash around), but don’t be surprised if they ask for cash (that’s what happened to me when I was purchasing air ticket at the CITS office in Guiyang for the flight to Kunming. I paid for the ticket first and had to come back after two hours to pick up the ticket). The airport tax is included in the ticket price so don’t pay any extra “taxes” when you get to the airport (that was one of the scams some travelers experienced – please see our “Scam Archive” section for more information).

For domestic flights be at the airport at least 45 minutes before the flight (no less than 30 min). Don’t check in your backpack (unless you have to) because in case it gets lost, which happens even to the most reputable air companies, it will be a big hassle to find it and deliver it to you because chances are you won’t have a fixed address for more than 4-5 days at a time (lost baggage compensation is Y40 per kg). Ask the flight attendants to take your backpack with you on-board. Usually they will allow you to do that (I never had any problem with that). Also read the previous section where I explained why it is a good idea to have a backpack which can be divided into two smaller knapsacks because it will be easier for you to convince them to take two pieces of carry-on luggage when each one is 4-5 kg rather than one bulky one which weighs 10kg.

On both domestic and international flights you are allowed (it’s free) to take baggage which weighs no more than 20kg in economy class (30 kg in 1st class), and no more than 5 kg of hand luggage (which you take on-board with you). For each additional kg in excess of allowed weight you will be charged 1% of the full fare for each kg. But the reality is that your hand luggage won’t be weighed unless it’s really bulky.

If you cancel your flight you can get some money back. How much it depends when you make your cancellation; on domestic flight you can get 90% back if you cancel 24-48 hours before departure, you will get 80% back if you cancel 2-24 hours before the flight, and if you cancel less than 2 hours before the departure you will lose 30% of the fare. If you don’t show up for your flight at all you are entitled to 50% refund. You can get refund only from the agent who sold you the tickets (the air company won’t give you the refund).

It is possible to book domestic flights from outside of China (but mostly with those airlines that have international routes, such as Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, however there are many more air companies in China which can offer you better deals) and this would be done through CITS offices only, or through on-line web sites.

There is no need to book domestic flights before you arrive in China (unless you want to arrange a connecting flight for the same day and would not have time to buy the ticket right after arriving in China).

You may be concerned about Chinese air companies’ safety record. I was. I have flown with Air China (based in Beijing), China Eastern Airlines (based in Shanghai) and China Southern airlines and my experience has been that flying with Air China and China Eastern was no different than flying with Air Canada, Lufthansa, British Airways… My flight from Guilin to Wuhan with China Southern Airlines was a bit scary though (losing altitude right after the take-off and very shaky landing)… (I just heard on TV that Air China has had 12 crashes during the past 38 years, 4 fatal accidents in the past 13 years. Now is August of 2007).

You can always get better deal from agents than from official air company offices, and also agent may not charge booking fee, depending on seasonal demand. Agents with an on-line access to the Chinese domestic aviation system won’t charge you a booking fee (unless you are trying to book your flight through the agency located at the five star hotel, but this web site is probably not of interest for those who plan on staying at five star hotels ;).

I prefer to buy train tickets and air tickets first thing when I arrive in a new city however there is no need to do that when it comes to buying air fare tickets; there is usually oversupply of seats (unless you fly during one of several national holidays such as May 01 or Spring Festival) and you can purchase your tickets right before your flight, there are ticket offices even at the airport!

Another difference between buying train ticket and air ticket is that you can buy air tickets from any two destinations in China at any CITS office (whereas usually you can buy train tickets only in the departing city. The reason for that is much higher demand for train tickets, I guess), however you will get much better price if you buy air ticket in the city from which you will be departing.

Each airport in China has shuttle bus service and often some regular bus lines connecting airports and the centre of the city. Taking one of those buses is the most inexpensive way to get to the city. Even if the bus doesn’t take you exactly where you want still take them because later when you reach the city area taking taxi will be much cheaper even when you add what you paid for the bus fare (usually around Y15 in 2007). Taking taxi is the next option, but one of those registered taxi cabs (make sure they use the taxi meter!), but be very cautions in dealing with some of those pushy “entrepreneurs” who will offer you a ride to the city for price which is 2-3 times the normal price.

At Frommer’s web site you can find chapters from their travel guide which cover topic how to get to/from airports and train/bus station. I find it very useful and it’s free.

So, to summarize: buy your air tickets in China, not before you arrive, deal with CITS and avoid scammers, ask for discount, try to use your credit card for ticket purchase, take a shuttle bus to the city.

Taxi service in China

Foreign visitors are not allowed to drive cars in China. Even if you rent a car (you will need an international driver’s license and a credit card to cover the deposit) the car will come with a driver (rates are around Y300/day plus gasoline).

Most Chinese cities have taxi cabs (chūzū qìchē), they are lined-up in front of train and bus stations and also they cruise the streets. In very touristy cities like Hangzhou (Hángzhōu) sometimes it’s very hard to get one because Chinese tourists often come to Hangzhou in huge numbers and most of them don’t want to use public transportation while on vacation.

Expect to pay around Y10 for a 15-20 min ride in less expensive cities or around Y20 for the same distance in more expensive cities (like Shanghai). There is no need to tip the cab driver (although they will accept tips). You may ask for the receipt (fāpiào) if you wish, it can be useful if you forget something in the cab.

You can hire a taxi for a single trip or s group of people can hire a taxi on a daily basis and split the cost (for example in Beijing around 60 000-70 000 taxis cruise the city every day and most of the time they are empty). Taxi drivers make around Y300-400 /2007/ in a 12 hour day so most of them would be glad if you hire them for a day and they get those Y300-400 for something more interesting than what they do every day. For 4 people Y100 per person is not that much. Flag down a random cab and try to arrange that one day ahead of time. Try not to deal with “pushy” taxi drivers or those recommended by the hostel staff. Be prepared to pay road tolls and also treat the driver with lunch. If you deal with the driver who is exceptionally helpful and nice you can ask him for his business card (míngpiàn) and hire him again later on.

The number of passengers a taxi can carry is usually limited to 4 (unless you hire a minibus taxi, miànbāochē). In many cities taxi is the best way to get to the train station or airport. For example in Chongqing (Chóngqìng) city you will pay around Y10 (2007) for a ride from downtown area to the train station (which is approx. $1). Think how much time would it take to figure out the bus route to the train station only because bus fare is Y1.

In China taxi drivers don’t pay too much attention to seat belts so if you don’t find one available at the rear seats don’t panic but be prepared for sudden stops, unless you take pleasure in hitting the security cage (behind the driver) with your forehead.

Here are some things you should know when it comes to hiring a taxi in China:

- When you arrive at the train station try to walk at least a couple of blocks from there and then flag down a taxi passing by, especially if the driver is not asking you where you go (try to avoid those which are “picky”, those who will ask you for your destination even before you open the car door). Sometimes they will refuse to serve you without any explanation (because it’s too much trouble for them for Y10 or so. That’s what happened to me in Chongqing at the train station, I had to hire one of those illegal (hēi chē, “black cabs”, “cabs” without taxi-meters) cabs and pay double to take me to the centre of the city. Needles to say that traffic in Chongqing (in 2007) was a complete mess.

- Similar thing happened in Wuhan; I arrived in Wuhan in the evening of May first, along with thousands of other passengers and not even one of the dozens of lined-up cabs would take me to the Pathfinder hostel. All of them asked me where I wanted to go, when I told them they replied by saying: that’s not far, just walk there! So I did. It took me around 40 minutes to get there. The weather was good but most likely I would get the same answer even if the weather was much worse.

- when you get in the cab and the driver asks you for the destination scan the dash-board to see if his work ID with his photo and name is clearly displayed. Also check the taxi-meter (dǎbiǎo), is it working? Is it reset? If something looks suspicious ask the driver how much it’s going to cost and write that down in the notepad or on a piece of paper (and show him the amount in writing to confirm, as if you were not sure what he said because of the language difficulties. Later you can use it as a small “contract” if Y8 turns into Y80).

- At the airport, try to use shuttle buses. If none is available then hire one of the legal, registered taxi cabs, at the taxi stand. Never follow one of those taxi drivers which will approach you right after you leave the arrival section of the airport. Those “hēi chē” taxi operators are everywhere, not only at the airports. When I was taking shuttle bus from Xian (next to the train station) one of those cab drivers was following me until I boarded the bus, even though I repeated several times that I wanted to take the bus (he was promising that he would not charge more than what I for the ride on the bus, Y15, but that was not true. They also operate around busy tourist sights and they will spot a foreigner from far away and offer their service before you make your way to regular taxis.

- Sometimes hostel staff (or somebody else) will try to arrange a taxi ride for you; there is no need for that. In most cities you can hail a taxi with no problem whereas if someone else does it for you you will never know what kind of “deal” they might have that you are not aware of. Take control whenever you can and you will avoid tons of trouble.

- Have a map in front of you and try to follow the route. Sometimes that’s not easy in a completely unknown city but sometimes it’s not difficult either because each city has a couple of wide avenues which can give you a sense if you are going in the right direction or not (street names are almost always written both in pīnyīn and Chinese characters). In Guiyang taxi driver was taking me away from the hotel I mentioned so I had to bring that to his attention, he immediately apologized and said he mixed up two hotels, one that is in the centre of the city and the one I was going to which was more towards the east. I think in that case that was an honest mistake.

- Keep in mind that there is a possibility that your taxi driver can not read Chinese writing (illiteracy does exist in China) so it is useful if you can actually say aloud (in Chinese) where you want to go.

Motorcycle taxis. When I was coming back from the Dazu stone-carvings site, a minibus took me down to the city of Dazu but not very close to the bus station. Close to the minibus last stop there were several motorcycle taxis waiting their customers. (JPG) It was easy to strike a deal with one of the drivers and for Y5 I was at the bus station in 15 min. He just put me on the seat behind him, I did not have to wear a helmet (he did not have one for me), he was driving fairly slowly so I did not have a sense of danger. At that time a was carrying just a small knapsack so it was easy to keep the balance, however the last day in Chongqing I had hard time finding a taxi cab (all of them were busy) and several motorcycle taxis offered their service however I had to turn them down because my backpack was very heavy (around 14kg) and the distance was significant (at least ½ hour ride), the traffic in Chongqing is just horrible so riding a motorcycle under those conditions would be unnecessary risk (finally one of the local people spoke with the taxi driver who took me to the train station. Chongqing people are the friendliest and most helpful people I have met in China!)

Motor-tricycles (sānlún mótuō chē). Is a more stable version of the motorcycle taxis described earlier. Basicaly it’s a enclosed three-wheeled vehicle powered by motorbike engine which can carry two people. You can find them outside of train/bus stations in most big cities, also they are just outside of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Much like motorcycle taxis you have to negotiate the prices beforehand.

Pedicabs (sānlúnchē). Now we have something similar to the motor-tricycle but there is no motor engine to power the vehicle – instead it’s a pedal-powered tricycle with one or two seats behind the driver. Those two seats are covered with a thin fabric. In Huangshan city you can hire one of pedicabs for Y5, they will take you from the train station to the centre of the city.

Pedicabs are not that popular any more. Again, negotiate the price before you take a seat, and writing the price on the paper and asking the driver to confirm the amount is often useful because Y10 sometimes turns into $10 through the convenience of language “magic”.

Just for your information, rickshaws (yángchē) or two wheeled passenger carts pulled by a man on foot don’t exist in China any more (ever since 1950s) because they were seen as a symbol of human exploitation (rightly so).

Bicycles. Except for Chongqing which is too hilly all other cities I have seen were full of bicycles, mixed with other vehicles on the streets or on the separate bicycle lanes. There are many places where you can rent a bike for around Y10 a day but you will need a deposit of around Y200 (up to Y500, ask for the receipt!) and sometimes some ID, but never use your passport as a deposit because your passport is worth far more than one bicycle. Also inspect the bicycle before you take off because you will be responsible for any damage while bike is in your care. Use a bicycle chain or lock to prevent theft or leave then in one of designated parking areas overseen by the attendant (you will have to pay a couple of Y for that service).

Hitching. In my opinion hitching is unnecessary risk and one should not resort to that unless there are no other options available. After some negotiating drivers will usually charge the going bus fare and sometimes the deal will have to be re-negotiated half way through because the driver may ask for more money when you reach a remote area where you would not want to spend a night. If you have to hitch don’t do it alone. Write your destination in Chinese characters, wave to drivers with your hand, palm down, at them. City exit roads are the best hitching grounds.

Walking. Probably there is not better way to enjoy a new city than to walk it’s streets for hours on end, witness the pulsation of life as it unfolds in front of your eyes… I just love walking through small neighborhoods, busy squares, market areas… Chinese maps and Chinese street names can be intimidating in the beginning but there is logic behind that chaos, believe it or not… You will find compass directions in most of street names: běi (north), nán (south), dōng (east), (west) and zhōng (middle) are part of many street names. Nanjing Dong Lu means Nanjing (name of a city in China) East Road.

Be careful when you cross the street, especially when you cross the street on green light because green light may give you a false sense of security. Keep in mind that traffic rules in China are created ad hoc and you better keep your eyes open.

Accommodations in China

This web site serves budget travelers so in this section I won’t be spending too much time speaking about hotel accommodations in their traditional sense, instead I will be focusing on inexpensive budget accommodations, mostly on hostels and guesthouses. Those of you who can afford to pay $100-$200 per night (or more) for a room probably don’t have to read what is to follow. At this time (2007) you will have no problem finding dorm beds or even single rooms in small towns for around $10 a night.

Let’s discuss the basic terms first:

Let’s discuss the basic terms first:
Bīnguǎn宾馆 –hotel, guesthouse, restaurant, usually older government run hotels,
Fàndiàn 饭店 – “restaurant”, this term covers wide range of establishments (hotels),
Zhāodàisuǒ 招待所 – guest house, hostel, inexpensive but often don’t accept foreigners,
Lǚguǎn 旅馆 – “inn”, usually found in rural areas but local people sometimes use that term to refer to youth hostels,
Sùshì宿室 – university dormitory (room),
Zhùsù 住宿 – stay, get accommodation or “accommodation” if used as a noun.

Biāozhǔn jiān or shuāngrénfáng means “standard room” usually means a room with twin beds, (or sometimes a double bed) plus a private bathroom.
Dānrén jiān or dānrénfáng – “single room” is a room with double beds, two people can stay there and the price is lower than that of a twin room.
Dūorén fáng – dormitories, is basically what International Youth Hostel Assoc. (IYH) offers, and in 2007 most major tourist destination in China have at least one of them (there is none in Choghqing, for example).
Jìcún chù or xínglǐ bǎoguān – left luggage room where you can safely deposit your luggage.

In older hotels genuine single rooms are available (they have one bed in the room) as well as triple rooms, quads or even dorm-like rooms with six beds where you share room with people you don’t know (one of such hotels is “Huixianlou Fandian” hotel in Chongqing where you can get a bed in a six-bed room for around Y50 in 2007. Probably the best deal in town.) An extra bed can be added to your room for a small extra charge. Receptionists usually speak (some) English. Breakfast is usually included in price.

Dropping in is ok except in the peak season when calling and trying to make reservation is a good idea. Leave your luggage at the train station if you don’t have a clear idea where you will be staying (that should not happen often, though, because you should do your homework and list at least three hotels/hostels where you can potentially get a room/bed. Walking around without a clear idea about available accommodations is very frustrating and huge waste of time and energy). Make arrangements so that you arrive in a new city in the morning or around noon, so that you have enough time to look for accommodation. Nighttime is not the best time for that activity.

In many places (usually at the train stations) you will be approached by touts (with hotel brochures) or even professional scammers (such as Larry from Yangshuo) who will try to take you to the hotels/hostels who hired them on commission to do that. In many cases they only want your business and there is nothing malicious behind their offer however in some cases the intent is not honest (good example, again, is Larry and his “Xi Jie House Inn” in Yangshuo which should be avoided as plague). Please see our “Scam Archives” section for more information.

Cheching in and out.Yǒu méiyǒu kōng fángjiān?” (lit. Have or don’t have an empty room? Do you have a room available?) That’s how your conversation may start if hotel staff doesn’t speak English. Their answer will be “Yǒu!” (lit. “Have”, Yes, we have!) or “Méiyǒu!” (lit. “Don’t have!”, “No, we don’t have!”). If you speak with someone on the phone ask the operator for the zǒng fúwú tái or zǒng tái which means “service desk”.

When you arrive you will have to show your passport and complete a registration form (sometimes the receptionist will do that for you, but she will ask you the questions and ask you to write down your passport number). Many hotels (and some hostels) accept credit cards but have cash ready just in case. Almost always you will be asked to pay around Y100 for deposit (yāyīn) which will be given back to you when you check out. Keep all your receipt because you will be asked to show them to floor the attendant (fúwúyuán) to get your key (you may be asked to pay additional Y10-Y20 for key deposit), and also you will have to show your receipts at the check-out time.

Check the room carefully before you pay because almost always payment in advance is required. If you get what you did not bargain for it will be more difficult to rectify it if you have already paid for the duration of your stay. You may wish to say that you will stay only one day and later extend it but in that case it will weaken your bargaining position because usually you can get a better rate if you stay longer. Keep in mind that rates posted in the hotel lobby are where you start bargaining; the actual rates are sometimes as much as 30% (off season) of the rack rates (Chinese word for “discount” is dǎzhékòu).

Bring a smoke alarm with you; it will cost you $10 but you will have a peace of mind because hotel/hostel fires are quite common in China and at the same time hotel smoke-alarms may not function properly and fire exits may be locked.

Terraced fields around Pingan village are very famous (Pingan is 2-3 hour bus ride from Guilin), however the whole village itself is built of pinewood and houses are built in such a way that their roofs practically lean against each other. Considering Chinese passion for smoking and apparent lack of fire extinguishers (I spent three days in Pingan and did not see even one fire extinguisher!) no smoke alarms, you may put yourself in a position that only sheer luck can save you in the case of fire (which can engulf the whole village in a matter of minutes).

The official hotel day starts at 6 AM and checkout time is 12 (noon). If you have to leave early in the morning you will be able to check out early get your deposit back. If you check out after 12 (noon) and before 6 PM you will be asked to pay 50% of the room price, after 6 PM you will have to pay another full night.

At this time (2007) you can find a single room for around Y100 at one of cheaper hotels (quality can vary) and they are usually located close to the train station (which is not the case in Beijing and Shanghai). In rare hotels which offer dorm beds the receptionist will make sure that the foreigners share the same room (sometimes called “foreign dormitory”) and the Chinese guests share rooms among themselves (which sometimes makes sense, for example in Chongqing at “Huixianlou Fandian” I passed by one of the dorm rooms which was packed with Chinese guests and the smoke in the room was so thick it could be cut with a knife).

In some provinces there are also some privately run guesthouses and hostels and you should be able to find a room in those establishments for less than Y100 (2007).

An interesting feature of some accommodations in northern China is a raised wooden or brick platform called kàng (炕) which is heated underneath by heat going through the duct which connects the oven and the chimney. During nighttime a mat is rolled out on it and it’s considered the most honored place to sleep because the platform is always on the west side of the room which is the side where the ancestors are worshiped.

For budget travelers the first option should be one of IYHA (International Youth Hostel Association) hostels which are easy to recognize because the official blue triangular sign which is usually displayed at a prominent place.

Bear in mind that some unscrupulous "business" owners can put up an IYH sign right in front of their front door when, in fact, they have nothing to do with the International Youth Hostel association!!! This is just another one of many scams that you should be prepared to deal with as you travel through China (see our "Scam Archives" section for more information). Always check IYH web site(s) before you choose one.

In our Link section you will find links to the official IYHA web sites, both in China and in the west. Those hostels have to have certain level of service and when you stay at one of them you know, for example, that you will have a locker of certain size available, which is not the case if you stay at one of the hostels which don’t belong to the IYHA network. The number of IYHA hostels in China is increasing every year and it is a good idea to check our bulletin board to see if other travelers have discovered some newly opened IYHA that are not yet listed on the official web site.

Dorm beds (in a 4-6 bed rooms) are around Y30 (2007) and the price may vary depending on the season and the city (for example Shanghai is more expensive than Guilin). Some hostels have on-line reservation forms (for example “Captain Hostel” in Shanghai, but you have to check in before 6:00 PM otherwise they won’t honor the reservation) and other can be called and reservation can be made over the phone. If you only show up chances are you will still find a bed.

IYHA hostels sometimes have shower/washroom in the room and sometimes there are communal showers on the floor (make sure you wear flip-flops!). Some hostels have laundry service (you would pay Y5-Y10 per load) but they don’t have dryers so your clothes will be hanging outside for several hours before it’s dry. Some have washing machines and you have to buy washing powder, operate the machine and dry the clothes yourself. I use a laundry soap and every day when I take a shower I also wash my socks and underwear while still under shower (I take them off, of course :), it doesn’t take long and I don’t mix them with other dirty clothes.

IYHA hostels have lockers and you will have to use your own padlock, your backpack is reasonably safe when locked, still take your camera and other items of value with you at all times and don’t leave valuables spread on the bed while you are away from the room. I have been in China two times and nothing was stolen from me, neither from the hostel room or elsewhere but id doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

University accommodations (“Foreigners’ Guesthouses” Wàibīng Zhāodàisuǒ 外宾 招待所 and “Foreign Experts' Building” wàigúo zhuānjiā lóu外国专家楼). Very often you will come across some university students who want to practice English with you, that’s a good opportunity to ask them if there are any rooms available in their university dorms (especially during summer break or during national holidays when many students leave their dorms and go home in other provinces) and in the building which is meant to be used as accommodation for foreign students or teachers.

Those buildings operate like regular hotels and the check-in procedure is the same like at regular hotels. This year (2007) before my trip to China I sent an e-mail to the Chongqing University and asked them if they had such a guesthouse and the lady (or gentleman) who answered (Liu Ying) my e-mail (within 24 hours) explained that they had it but the rates were pretty steep (Rooms in the International Student Dormitory can be rented for 160 Yuan (RMB) [short term] for one night) POPUP {There is an international student dorm in Chongqing University (CQU). CQU is within the main city area Shapingba District, detailed address is 174 Shazhenjie, Shapingba District, Chongqing 400044, China. If you come by yourself, you can take a taxi to Chongqing University International House (重庆大学留学生楼 松林坡)} and since the university campus was not very close to the centre of the city I decided to check “Huixianlou Fandian” first (which was less expensive). That’s another thing – university campuses are often located in the suburbs so if that’s what you like (tranquil academic atmosphere) then university accommodations could be a good choice for you.

Rental Accommodations. It is legal to rent a room from a landlord (in other words to live in Chinese housing or with a Chinese family) but the landlord is expected to register the tenant (a foreign tourist in this case) with the local PSB (police station). If he fails to do that you can be fined (the fine can be harsh, up to Y10000). In Beijing a small one-bedroom apartment would cost you around Y1500 per month (?). Families may charge Y1000 for a room. Foreigner-approved housing is very luxurious and very expensive (how about $10000 per month for a four-bedroom apartment in Beijing, yes, that’s dollars, not yuan!)

Homestay Accommodation. There is a couple of web sites offering students and travelers homestay accommodation with local Chinese families (what they claim on the web site is that their service is free of charge or you would pay from $20 to $50 per night which is reasonable price) however it’s always hard to say how good the deal is unless you try it. I will post two links here but keep in mind I don’t have any track-record for those two agencies. If you have experience with homestay in China please post your experience on the bulletin board.
If you stay in a private home keep in mind that you have to register with the local foreign affairs office; you risk to be fined or even detained if you fail to do that (and get caught).

Pilgrims’ inns. Some monasteries and lamaseries might have some rooms available for pilgrims and other travelers but I would not count on those too much. My impression is many more of them exist in Chinese fiction books than in reality. At Wudangshan I haven’t noticed any pilgrims’ inns but there were many regular hotels and inns.

YMCAs and YWCAs. Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) has their hotels in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xi’an and Xiamen. They have dorm beds but they are not as cheap as hostel dorm-beds but still good as a back up plan.
Useful contacts:
National Committee of YMCAs of China, 123Xizang Nan Lu, Shanghai 200021 (tel.86-21-6311-1765, fax.6320-3053;
World Alliance of YMCAs, 12 Clos Belmont, 1208 Geneva, Switzerland (tel.41-22-849-5100), search for YMVAs in China.
Y’s Ways International, 224 E.47th Street, New York, NY 10017, USA (tel.1-212-308-2899, fax.308-3161). For a small fee ($3-5) they can make reservation for the YMCAs in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan, Xiamen and Xi’an.

I will end this section with this link:

Safety in China

China is a very safe country. I traveled through China on two occasions; first time in 2005 and the second time in 2007, both times I stayed in China for approximately one month and both times I traveled from one place to another, usually staying at one place less than a week. During that time nothing got stolen from me, I was never in any sort of danger that I was fearing for my safety. The most unpleasant event during those two trips happened in Yangshuo when me and one more traveler from Canada were target (and victims) of a scam, orchestrated and executed by a person called Larry (JPG) who is the manager of the “Xi Jie House Inn” (see “Yangshuo Scam” on our Scam Archives page LINK) but even in this case the “damage” was Y200 which is only around $30.

When I was at Taishan mountain in 2005 I left my backpack on the bed in the dorm room (I just covered it with the blanket) and people were coming in and going out the whole day and no one took anything from it (the Inn where I was staying (Shenxiu Gong Guesthouse) did not have lockers and my backpack was too heavy so I had to leave it there. It would be much better if I left it at the train station in Taian).

But it doesn’t mean that there is no crime in China. Violent crime is quite rare but it does exist (a foreign tourist got killed in Yangshuo, close to the Moon Hill a couple of years ago, and having witnessed the mentality of many people in Yangshuo, (their desire to get your money) I’m not all that surprised. If you plan to visit Yangshuo you should pair up with another traveler if you go there alone, especially if you go hiking or bicycle riding in the countryside.

It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to figure out that the average western tourist has more money than the average Chinese citizen (in many areas the average income is no more than $200 per month (2007)), therefore property crime is more likely to happen than any sort of violent crimes. Sometimes con artist will try to part you with your wallet (check out our Scam Archives section for more information), sometimes petty thieves and pickpockets will employ their skill with chopsticks or razor-blade to get your money on a busy bus line.

Keep your passport, your credit card, bank card, traveler’s cheques and other important things in the money belt. Be wary on local buses (watch for pickpockets), trains (especially hard-seat trains) and sleeper buses. Secure your luggage with a chain and padlock. Chinese have great respect for education so they have much more sympathy for foreign students than for tourists; if you say you are a student it is less likely you will be ripped off by unscrupulous traders or taxi drivers.

If you become a victim of any kind of criminal activity try to remain calm. In an emergency call 110 (if you speak Chinese), for ambulance call 120, in case of fire call 119. Contact Chinese law enforcement agency called the Public Service Bureau (PBS) (gōng ān jú, 公安局) and their special division called the Special Affairs Office (waì shì chù, 外事处) which is responsible for all matters related to foreigners, will try to assist you. Don’t’ forget to file the “Loss Report”, you will need it if you have travel insurance policy.

If you become a victim of major theft or assault report immediately not only to the PBS but also to your embassy in China. Chinese who commit crime against foreigners are likely to receive harsher punishment than those criminals who committed the same crime and the victim had been a Chinese person.

Based on my own experience I can say that the Chinese people are trustworthy, honest, friendly, sincere, helpful and most of the time local people will watch out for the safety of travelers. However you will have to take precautions nevertheless; the rule of the thumb (at least for me) is that one should not do things that can get you in trouble in your own country (such as staying late at the night club full of drunk people, walking through the dark alleys in the middle of the night, showing (a lot of) cash or other valuable items in public, trusting complete strangers, walking alone through the countryside etc), these things can put you in a difficult position in China too. Most of those are common sense precautions.

If anyone tries to rob you – don’t resist, give them what they want and contact PBS as soon as possible. Resisting can lead to injury while your passport or money can be replaced.

Another general rule is: make things difficult for bad people. Put a small padlock on your backpack – yes, they can still cut a hole in the backpack but that’s more difficult than just unzip it. Wear pants with 6 pockets, they can still pickpocket you but it will be more difficult than if you have only four pockets and the wallet is sticking out from your rear-right pocket. Plan your day and activities yourself, rather than following other people plans, that will make things more difficult for those who have hidden agendas. Take control whenever you can.

It is very important to understand that all travelers in China are subject to Chinese laws (and their penalties too) which means if you break Chinese laws you will be prosecuted according to Chinese laws and tried in Chinese courts. You should familiarize yourself with the Chinese laws before you go to China because the fact that you did not know that the law existed will not exempt you from the consequences if you break it (unknowingly); one example can be demonstrations and gatherings. In many western countries laws regulating gatherings and political demonstrations are fairly lax so you can make a mistake and assume that’s the case in China too. And you may be wrong. The best policy for all travelers is to stay clear of any kind of mass public gatherings, regardless of their cause.

When speaking with local population try to avoid discussions about “Three Ts” (Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen Square); discussing politics and religion is not recommended; safe topics are sports, your own country, food, interesting places in China…

China has a growing drug problem (I was greatly surprised when a person approached me in the centre of Shanghai and offered me hashish in 2005!), if you get caught with drugs on you - you better have a good lawyer.

Prostitution in China is illegal but it does exist; the “hairdressers’’’ shops, saunas, massage parlours are often brothels in disguise. Male travelers staying at regular hotels will be bothered by the prostitutes phoning at any time during the night and offer “massage” (hostel dorms are not suitable for that kind of activity). Just unplug your telephone. Girls in China hate when someone addresses them with “Xiǎojie” which originally meant “Miss” but nowadays is another name for a prostitute. So when you want to call the waitress instead of saying: “Xiǎojie!” (which is not wrong) you may want to use “Fúwùyúan!” which means ‘service person’.

You can get in a fair bit of trouble if caught by the police, not to mention sexually transmitted diseases; just a few years ago China denied existence of AIDS in their county, so if the officials have that kind of attitude towards such a serious problem like HIV and AIDS what would you expect from the regular folks, especially those poor girls/women so impoverished that they had to turn to prostitution to make a living. Most ordinary people in China know very little about AIDS and how to protect from contracting HIV virus. It is estimated that there are over 50 000 persons infected with AIDS in Yunnan province alone (Xinjiang is a close second on the list). Macau, Zhūhǎi and Shēnzhèn are the cities which have made a name as prostitution centres.


Helloooo. In many parts of China (if not in most of them) foreigners are objects of intense curiosity; people will stare at you, at the restaurant they will check how you hold your chopsticks, form a circle around you on the street trying to get the best position to look at you… All that is very understandable because most Chinese did not have a chance to be face to face with people from other cultures, besides my impression is that most Chinese people are very spontaneous, they won’t pretend they are not curious when in fact they are. Another natural tendency or inclination is to make some sort of contact with those ETs… One easy way to do that is to greet the foreigners in their own language with one stretched “Hello!”. There is nothing unusual in that, however when you multiply that by 50 or 100 times a day then that basically innocent expression of curiosity makes many travelers feel uncomfortable. The way I deal with that “problem” is whenever they throw a “Hellooo” at me I return a smile and “Ní Hǎo!”. It has worked so far.

Laowai. Lǎo means “old” and Wài means “foreigner” (however “old” in Chinese language is the expression of respect, it doesn’t have negative connotation like in the west. Coworkers will address their colleague as Lǎo Zhōu or Xiǎo Zhōu without making any reference to their age). With exception of a few big cities people in other places in China may use that term when they speak about foreigners. That may be bothersome to some travelers even though the expression doesn’t have a negative meaning. More neutral terms for foreigners are wàiguórén (person from a foreign country) and wàibīn (foreign guest).

Spitting. Well, spitting is single most annoying thing in China as far as I am concerned. It is so loud, sometimes it seems some people are trying to dig the phlegm from their heels before they catapult it on the street, in restaurants, buses, hotel rooms, airplanes, temples… There is no single place exempt from spitting. Big cities like Shanghai and Beijing are not as bad but the farther from them you go the lauder the hawking, the thicker the gob. You will have to get used to it, I guess.

Lineups (queues). China is over-populated, everyone knows that. When you want or need something there will be another 500 or 5000 people who have the same need, so most of them will respect the fact that others have equal right to that something. So people will often form a queue. Then some other people will think they have no time for a long wait and they will step right in front of you without twitching. Even if you complain it won’t help, they won’t care. Jumping the queue is common in most cities in China. When I was at the Guiyang train station there were so many people jumping the queue that they had to form a queue themselves!

I was in Chongching in front of the elevator with 8-10 people in front of me. We waited at least 10-15 minutes for the elevator to come down to the main floor. Soon after the door opened people rushed in and 2-3 people and I got left behind, so we waited another 10 or so minutes for another elevator run. But in the meantime people kept coming and fighting their way to the elevator door, to get the better starting position. I thought I would not have to push and shove with them, there would be enough room for them and me in the elevator. But I was wrong. I had to wait for the third attempt to board the elevator (yes I could take the stairs instead but at that point I was also annoyed by that whole situation). However this time I was carefully fending my “territory” and I managed to board the elevator!

Privacy. Privacy in China has different definition than in the western dictionaries. It is common that people you just met ask you your age, how much money you make, if you are married, people may stare at you from a close range or take your camera to see what pictures you have taken… All those questions and actions would be considered inappropriate in many western countries but in China they are normal. Probably that’s again because Chinese people share their space with so many other people and they had to learn to share not only physical space but also their lives with people around them.

To illustrate that I will go back to the story about line-ups again; when waiting for a ticket you can not control how much space there is between you and the person behind you (because they can always move forward) but you can control how much space is between you and the person in front of you. What I noticed is that people tend to stand so close to each other even if there is no need for that. The notion of personal space is much different in China and in the west. That is (embarrassingly) obvious in some of the public toilets where you can find several squat toilets in a row but with very low or no dividers between them at all so you can chat with you neighbor while you part with Mr. Hankey.

Your desire to be let alone may often be interpreted as eccentric, arrogant or even sinister.

Pollution. Overall air pollution in China is a huge problem but some cities are worse than others (according to the World Bank report from a couple of years ago China had 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities). Among places I visited the worst air pollution was in Xi’an and Beijing. We were told that in Xi’an people could not see the blue sky all year round because the layer of air pollution is so thick if forms a persistent haze. If you suffer from respiratory or skin conditions, or have allergies then check the air pollution report for the places you plan to visit. Smoking in China is also widespread; the Chinese government is world’s largest cigarette manufacturer and although smoking is not allowed on trains and many buses smokers will often light up to probe if the rule is enforced or not. Smoking in restaurants and public places is common.

Noise pollution is another thing you will have to get used to. Car horns are used by virtually everyone who has them installed and they are mostly used to loudly announce the intention of the driver to do something that would be otherwise hard to comprehend (for example crossing the full line on the highway in order to get ahead of the truck in front of him). It seems that the Chinese people are much more tolerant of noise than most foreigners. If you are looking for a peaceful and serene environment you may want to go to Tibet or rural areas of China, you won’t find it in the big Chinese cities.

Toilets. There are many western-style toilets in China but it is safe to say that most Chinese toilets are squat toilets or in other words a hole in the ground with designated space for your feet (often made of porcelain and with running water). Some of the public toilet stalls have no partitions between them (as explained in the section about privacy), most don’t have doors and as a rule there is no toilet paper provided so carry a stack with you at all times. Some public toilets charge admission some don’t.

Touts. If you want to go to the Great Wall better start thinking about the strategy how to deal with all those pushy peddlers trying to sell you postcards, t-shirts, bottled water, books… No, they won’t take no for an answer. They will follow you for kilometers until you give in. You will find them mostly around busy tourist sites; I still remember the look on the face of a lady who tried to sell us some pomegranates just after we finished visiting the Terracotta Warrior’s site in Xi’an. She made it look as if it was a life and death situation; if we didn’t buy it the world would come to an end in the next instant.

There are two words that you have to learn when dealing with touts: bú yào! which means “don’t want”. Often touts will give up after you repeat bú yào! mantra 3 or 4 times but they will pick up on your slightest hesitation so it’s also important how you say it.


There are very few health hazards that are typical only for China. One of them is air pollution, we already discussed it earlier. In case of accident or illness during your trip take a taxi to the hospital right away. Travelers have access to Chinese health care system but you may be asked to pay a small surcharge (but even with the surcharge the medical services are very inexpensive from the westerner’s point of view). It would be useful if you have someone to interpret for you because the hospital staff may or may not speak English. Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai have decent medical facilities however clinics and hospitals may not be in a very good shape in Inner Mongolia, Tibet or Xinjiang, for example.

Some urban hospitals may have special foreigner wards (wàibīn bìngfáng 外宾 病房) or VIP ward (gāogàng bìngfáng高干病房) and usually they provide better quality service.

“Global Doctor” (Tel. 86-10-8456-9191, have clinics with latest technology in these cities; Beijing, Chengdu,, Shenyang, Changsha, Guangzhou and Chongqing. They also provide emergency evacuation.

Other useful links are: and IAMAT (The International Association for medical Assistance to Travelers) ph# un US 716-754-4883, Canada 519-836-01022,, they have free membership.

In China (like elsewhere in Asia) there is no Rh negative blood in hospital blood banks, so make sure you don’t need transfusions if you are Rh negative.

Before the trip speak with your doctor and get necessary vaccinations. Take a few basic medications with you if you think you may need them, but what is most important make sure you are healthy before you embark on the trip (fix your tooth cavities ahead of time, have that eyeglasses frame repaired, ask the doctor for a letter if you have to take some prescription medications on a regular basis).

Call 120 in mainland China and 999 in Hong Kong and Macau if you have a medical emergency. They will speak Mandarin.


Drink bottled water. It’s not expensive and it’s sold everywhere. Don’t order drinks with ice because ice cubes may be just frozen tap water. If bottled water is not available then next choice is boiled water. Chinese people always have some boiled water around. Tap water is chlorinated but it’s not considered safe to drink (except in Hong Kong). In many guide books it is recommended that you don’t brush your teeth using tap water which is common sense because brush can make some lesions on your gums and create an entry point for viruses or bacteria however you will eventually have to draw the line between being cautions and paranoid. If you don’t trust water then drink beer, it’s often less expensive than water and it may also improve your language and social skills ;)


Food can affect your health more than water. Here are some tips how to avoid food poisoning:
- eat at busy restaurants, chances are other (local) people know what they are doing (also those restaurant are more likely to use fresh(er) ingredients because they have many customers),
- don’t eat too much because your stomach acid can kill some germs but not tons of them,
- eat food which is deep-fried or steamed or boiled because heating kills germs (freezing doesn’t kill germs); food which is served lukewarm or cold, especially if it was sitting around for a while may not be safe,
- peel fruit and vegetables, avoid fruit juices because they may be diluted with unsafe water, avoid salads, milk and ice-creams (germs like proteins),
- avoid seafood if the restaurant is far from the sea; steaming doesn’t make shellfish safe for eating,
- bread and cakes are normally safe but avoid creamy stuff, because germs like cream even more than you,
- have a set of clean (disposable) chopsticks with you (10-20 of then may cost as little as Y1) just in case,
- hot and spicy food just tastes better, spices don’t kill (all) germs.

But in any event take with you some over-the-counter medication which will help in case you get a severe case of traveler’s diarrhea.

Altitude sickness.

Sometimes buses may take you someplace in Tibet, Qinghai or Xinjiang where altitudes are over 5000m above the sea level. It takes several weeks to acclimatize to such extreme elevations. Rapid ascent to altitudes above 2700m will result in a condition called “Acute Mountain Sickness” (AMS) with onset within 24 to 48 hours after the arrival (feels like a hangover). If you continue further up it is likely to worsen your condition and even develop into a potentially deadly form of the disease.

Common cold.

Due to chain-smoking, overcrowdings, air pollution, widespread habit of spitting, during winter months most of the Chinese population seem to be affected by common cold and bronchitis. You are more than likely to catch common cold too especially taking in consideration that stress (albeit a “good stress”) associated with traveling may suppress your immune system and make you more susceptible to all sorts of infections (adrenaline may help a bit but still you should take a good care of yourself). Resting and taking lots of fluids is the best treatment but if symptoms persist medical advice is to be sought.

Fungal infections.

When you use communal showers in hostels wear flip-flops although even they may not be enough to save you from getting fungal infection, especially in hot summer weather. Good idea is to take some antifungal cream or powder with you.



Local and long-distance calls (within China) calls can be made from public pay phones (gōngyòng diànhuà 公用电话)or newspaper stands (bàokāntíng), kiosks and other types of small stores (xiǎomàibù). Local call of 3-5 minutes should not cost more than Y2-Y3 (2007). Calls made between midnight and 7am are 40% cheaper. International long-distance calls can be made from post offices (you will have to leave deposit of approximately Y100).

For making international calls you should use prepaid phone cards (diànhuà kǎ 电话卡).

Phone cards. There are several kinds of phone cards in China. IC (Integrated Circuit) cards (IC kǎ) can be bought at China Telecom office, kiosks etc and they come in denominations of Y200, Y100, Y50, Y20 and they can be used in most public telephones (however some of them can be used only in the city where you purchased them!) If you want to use IC card to make international calls (dǎ guójì diànhuà) make sure that particular IC card can be used for that purpose. Also you may want to ask if your card can be used throughout China, not only in one province or region, you should ask for “quán guó kǎ 全国卡) When it comes to making international long-distance phone calls IP (Internet Phone) cards (IP kǎ) are far cheaper than IC cards (around Y2.5 per minute to the US or Canada, Y3.5 for other countries (2004)).

How do you use an IP card? You will find the directions on the back of the card. First dial a local number, then type in your account number, then your PIN number and finally the number you wish to call.

IP cards come in denominations of Y500, Y200, Y100, Y50 but you don’t have to pay Y100 for a Y100 card!!! You can bargain, so for a Y100 card you may pay Y70 or even Y60.

Much like IC cards, some of IP cards can be used only in the city where you purchase them, they also have expiry date. Most hostel staff will help you make telephone calls from the reception desk (zǒngtái) using your IP card.

Mobile phones.

You can buy a mobile phone (shǒujīdiàn) at Chine Mobile (zhōngguó yídòng tōngxìn 中国移动通信) or China Unicom (zhōngguó liántōng 中国联通) stores. The cheapest plans offer local calls at Y0.20 oer minute and international calls at Y1.5 per minute.
At second hand phone shops you should be able to get a decent set and Y100 credit for $100. Your own cell-phone may or may not have the right settings for Chinese mobile networks (China uses GSM system which runs on 900 MHz so you would need a GSM compatible phone and a local, Chinese SIM card. Most European phones should be ok but North American may not). SMS messages can be received by Chinese subscribers but you won’t be able to send SMS messages outside of China. Also keep in mind that some Chinese SIM cards can be recharged only in specific region or province! The most expensive SIM card (Shéntōng Xíng 神通行) should work throughout China and it is enabled for international calls.

Direct Dialing.

If you want to make a direct long-distance international call from China you must use the international access code first, the number is “00” (zero-zero), after that you would dial the country code, followed by local area code (omitting the 0 before the number) and finally the number you want to reach. For example if you want to call a local number in Vancouver in Canada and the local number is 604-1234-567 then you would dial 00-1-604-1234-567.

Collect Calls.

In order to place a collect call (reverse-charge call) you would have to dial the home country direct dial number (108) which will put you through to a local operator there and at that point you can make a reverse-charge call or a credit card call (your credit card must be valid in the destination country).

Here are few examples:

Country Direct dial Country direct
Canada 00-1 108-1
USA 00-1 108-1*
UK 00-44 108-44
Australia 00-61 108-61
Japan 00-81 108-81
*For the USA you can also dial these numbers:
(108-11 for AT&T, 108-12 for MCI, and 108-13 for Sprint)

Important Telephone Numbers in Mainland China
International Assistance: 115
Local Directory Assistance: 114
Long Distance Assistance: 113/173
Police: 110
Fire: 119
Ambulance: 120 Chinese on-line telephone directory.

Internet Access.

Internet cafes (wǎngbā 网吧) can be found in virtually all Chinese cities and towns, usually you pay no more than Y2-Y3 per hour (2007), don’t expect blazing speed but you will be able to check your e-mail and access this web site :)
China Telecom (Zhōngguó diánxìn 中国电信) is another place where you can find public internet access terminals.