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China Group Tour

China: Packing List & Trip Preparation

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Navigating China is much easier when we travel light. We’ll be moving around throughout the adventure frequently and taking a combination of flights, trains, and vehicles from destination to destination. Unfortunately, Chinese bullet trains and train stations do not cater to travelers with lots of luggage. Furthermore, many boutique hotels do not have elevators and require walking up stairs with your luggage (only some of them have porters). What do we define as “a lot of luggage”? Anything more than a medium rolling suitcase (MAX 24”, see below) PLUS a backpack AND another small carry on for your photo gear.

Train Restrictions

Chinese train stations themselves are often crowded, and to make matters worse they often don’t have as many elevators or escalators as you might wish, particularly in rural areas.
• Each passenger is allowed to take a certain amount of carry-on baggage:
• Adult passengers: 44 pounds (20 kg)
• The total length of each item cannot exceed 63 inches (160 cm).
• Rod-shaped baggage should not exceed 79 inches (200 cm) in length and 44 pounds (20 kg) in weight.

There are two luggage racks over seats at either side of the coach. The rack is only 15.7–19.6 inches (40–50 cm) wide and 19.6–23.6 inches (50–60 cm) high. Therefore, the carry on bags and suitcases should not exceed 24 inches long.. An international standard 27″ suitcase with the linear dimensions within 62.2 inches (158 cm) is too large for the rack.

Note: Carry the valuable items with you if you are far from your luggage; keep an eye on it, especially when passengers get on and off at a station

We’ll only be on one train ride in China and you can learn more about travel tips here: China Train Baggage Allowance and Transportation



Each passenger is allowed to carry one piece of luggage and will receive at the check-in a baggage tag that must be shown at the final destination

Maximum Weight: 20 kg (44lbs)

YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE LUGGING AROUND HEAVY LUGGAGE ON AND OFF TRAINS, PLANES, & AUTOMOBILES! Please do your best to keep your luggage to 1 medium sized suitcase & 1 smaller carry-on size MAX. An additional backpack/camera bag is also OK.

Weather in May

Beijing: In North China, spring is at its best. Blue skies may be seen in cities such as Beijing that rarely have blue sky the rest of the year. May is also one of the best times to visit the Great Wall. When trees and plants turn green, the wall wanders among lush vegetation. The summer crowds have not yet arrived, so you may have time to have the wall to yourself in mid May. Comfortable, casual and light clothes such as long-sleeved T-shirts or shirts plus thin jackets would be enough on the cooler days and shorts/T-shirts on the warmer days. Quick Dry clothes are the best!

Average high: 75-80 ºF
Average low: 55-60 ºF

Southern China (majority of the trip): There is warm and pleasant temperatures in the cities, and it is one of the better months for touring since there is relatively low rainfall. Heavy summer rains begin in June. Chengdu is often foggy and drizzly. Summer clothes such as T-shirts may be comfortable some days, but also bring a light coat, rain jacket, and a sweater for cool weather. Comfortable, casual and light clothes such as long-sleeved T-shirts or shirts plus thin jackets would be enough on the cooler days and shorts/T-shirts on the warmer days. Quick Dry clothes are the best!

Average high: 78-85 ºF
Average low: 68-72 ºF

*Exception: The one exception here is Shanghai which will likely be more humid than anywhere else we visit.

Plug Adapters

Plug Type: Universal plug adapter is needed. DO NOT NEED power converter unless you bring your own hair dryer. See link below for images and more details:

China uses THREE types of plugs to make it confusing for us so make sure you bring a UNIVERSAL ADAPTER w/ AUSTRALIA PLUG TYPE, US/JAPAN PLUG TYPE, BRITISH PLUG TYPE (See link above)


Chinese Yuan (CNY) ( 1 USD = 6.87 CNY

People get regularly confused about what to call Chinese money. In English you can refer to the Chinese dollar. In Chinese it has 3 common names and 2 symbols in use:
Renminbi 人民币 means People’s Currency and is abbreviated RMB (Renminbi). Yuan 元 means Dollar and is abbreviated CNY (Chinese Yuan). You will commonly hear people say “kuai”, pronounced kwai, which is a more local word for Yuan and still means dollar. You can write CNY 1000 or RMB 1000 and both refer to 1000 Chinese dollars, there is no difference. To further confuse you there are two names for 1/10th of a Chinese dollar. It can be called one “mao” or “jiao”. Both refer to the same thing. 1/10 of a dollar.

How much $$$ to bring: Generally there is no need to buy Chinese yuan in the USA before your trip, as you will most likely pay a higher commission (about 3%) and a worse exchange rate than you would get at the airports, banks, or ATMs while in China.

First China is considerably cheaper than the U.S. in general with Shanghai being the most expensive city. Second, cash rules in China. Where most places in the U.S. would take credit cards, in China you will need to pay cash more often. More about Credit Cards below.

Food: US$7 – $10 per person you will eat well, with US $15 per meal you will eat very well, except in Shanghai (and some of the larger cities)

Transportation: Taxis are inexpensive, metro and buses even more so. A single ride in the Shanghai Metro for example is only a few cents (Rmb 5-11) and in terms of infrastructure, this is one area that keeps improving by leaps and bounds with new metro lines and high-speed train lines being built every year. China now has faster and more modern high speed railways than Japan!

The easiest answer to how much money to bring is, there are ATM’s everywhere!, especially at airports and train stations, so there is no need to bring too much cash HOWEVER you will often get a better exchange rate if trading USD to CNY instead of using an ATM.


Tipping is a lively issue among seasoned travelers to China. Generally, few people tip anyone in China, with one large exception. Group tour guides catering to foreigners frequently depend on tip income. The dichotomy is that the Chinese natives will not tip anyone inside their own country, while Chinese tour operators (in any language, including Mandarin and Cantonese) often tell the guides and drivers to depend on tips for their income. These workers serving foreigners are often feel forced to solicit (some say beg) for tips. Our main guide and drivers will not be soliciting for tips.

Consider it a required “service fee” and please remember, like waiters in the USA, these guides are working for a very low salary and depend on tips.

Recommended 5.00-10.00 USD per day for guide, 3.00-5.00 USD per day for driver

There will be some 1 day guides leading us on specific tours only, and we recommend tipping these guides 3-5.00 USD total per person. Tipping for luggage porters (1.00 USD per bag) and maid service (2-3.00 USD per day). We will be collecting tip money in an envelope and handing it to the guides for the group at the end of the trip. If you wish to tip our drivers and guides directly be sure to bring envelopes with you.

Optional Pre-Tipping!

For this trip we are testing out a new PhotoFly Service: Optional Pre-tipping. For those of you who have traveled with us or any group before, you’re aware of the importance and industry expectation of taking care of our local guide(s) & driver(s) by tipping at the end of the trip. Sometimes, we have individual guides only for a day that require us to take out small bills and tip on multiple days as well.
For many, this can be an inconvenience (making sure you have small bills all the time, bringing enough cash, etc etc).

If you would like to PRE-PAY your tips, we have determined the recommended amount below PER PERSON which can be paid now so you don’t have to worry about any tipping while on the trip!

* The below amount covers ALL Drivers, Guides, & Hotel Porters only.

Pre-Tipping Cost: 150.00 USD per person

*Of course you can always choose to tip at your discretion while on the trip instead and our tour director will help facilitate this. Recommended 5.00-10.00 USD per day for guide, 3.00-5.00 USD per day for driver

Payment: Can be made via credit card (3% processing fee applies) OR by sending a check to Local Planet Travel:

Local Planet Travel
620 Halton Rd, Suite #2107
Greenville, SC 29607

* Tipping for everything else is NOT necessary. It is not expected in China and the Chinese never do it.

Applying for Chinese Visa

Below are some helpful links with instructions on applying for your Chinese Visa.

1. Applicant’ passport with at least 6 months remaining validity and available blank pages.
2. One truly completed Visa Application Form. Please fill in every column of the application form, using “N/A” if not applicable. If the application form is not filled out truly, completely and legibly, this can cause a delay in processing or refusal of the application.
3. A recent passport-size color photo with white background stuck on the application form.
4. Proof of legal stay or residence status (applicable to those not applying in their country of citizenship)
5. Documents showing the itinerary including round trip air ticket booking record and proof of hotel reservation, etc.
How to Apply: You can go to the Chinese Embassies, Consulates and other Chinese diplomatic offices to submit application in person; if you can’t come personally/are too far from the nearest consulate, you can entrust someone else, a travel agency or a visa agency to act on your behalf. No appointment is required. Applications by mailing are not acceptable and will be refused at most of Chinese embassies or consulates.

Processing Time: It regularly takes 4 working days for processing. For express service, additional fees of US$ 20 will be charged for second or third working day releasing. For rush service, additional fees of US$30 will be charged for the same working day releasing.

Visa Fees: Range from 140.00 USD to 270.00 USD (depending on applying yourself or through an agency)

Helpful Links:

Visa Application Procedure:

Embassy Offices throughout USA:

Visa Application Form:

Online Chinese Visa Processing Agencies (for those not near a physical embassy location):

China Visa Requirements for U.S. Citizens

Recommended Packing List


• T shirts (quick dry preferred)
• Shorts (quick dry preferred)
• Long sleeve shirts/sweatshirts
• light weight jacket
• Rain jacket w/ hood
• Quick dry pants/jeans/1 dress (optional)
• Swimsuit
• 1 pair very comfortable sneakers/hiking shoes for walking
• Sandals/Flip Flops/ Shoes that slip on and off easily
• Hat/Umbrella
• Layered clothing 

Documents (and backup photocopies):

• VISA (taped into your passport)
• Travel Insurance cards/confirmation (if you purchased)


• Daypack/small backpack
• Money belt
• Cash (small denominations)
• Large & small ziplock bags to protect cameras and other technology in rain
• Camera, lenses, extra batteries, extra memory cards and related gear (tripod 
• Empty re-useable water bottle/ bladder
• Alarm clock/ cell phone alarm clock
• Earplugs- Especially if sharing room!!
• Your medicine (labeled)
• Sunscreen and sunglasses
• Power converter/Plug Adapter: China (plug adapter only. Only need power converter if bringing your own hair dryer) *Not needed for most electronics
• Personal Contacts Address list (e-mail & emergency contact info)
• After bite
• Anti-bacterial hand lotion
• Bonine/Motion Sickness Wrist Bands (for car sickness during long drives)
• Sandals/Flip Flops/ Shoes that slip on and off easily
• Headlamp/flashlight
• Toiletries (Toothbrush/paste, Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, etc)

First aid kit including:
• Prescription medicines
• Anti-diarrheal
• Mosquito repellent
• Antibiotic cream
• Ace bandage
• Pain reliever
• Lip balm
• Band-aids

• *Go Girl. Check it out at Magellans. This is a device for women to allow you to tinkle standing up. I know it sounds a little crazy BUT very helpful if there are not western toilets or bathrooms nearby when the time comes…and many times will come..

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