Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
We have tried to cover the most frequently asked questions here, but if you don’t find the answer to your question, please use our contact us form by clicking here or e-mail us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org - your answer is just an e-mail away! You can also check out our Beijing & China information page by clicking here.
Why tour Beijing and China with Beijing Discovery Tours?
We are travelers too - we know what most people need and expect when traveling to an exotic destination such as China. Beijing Discovery Tours is a company that combines the best of both worlds – we are Western owned and managed with a Chinese partner (and a Beijing native) – giving us a thorough knowledge of the needs and expectations of Western travelers combined with an in-depth knowledge of Beijing as well as the entire country of China and its travel industry. We have worked hard to establish a good reputation, and exceeding our customers’ expectations is our overall goal. We are still a relatively small company, which means that you are dealing directly with the owners when you are booking your tour with us. Each and every tour is important to us, you are never “just another tourist” with Beijing Discovery Tours. You can see a list of some of the comments from our previous customers here: http://www.beijingdiscoverytours.com/html/guest_comments.html. We do our very best to make sure that travelers who tour China with us get the best value for their money – there are no hidden fees, no fake tourist sites and no forced shopping trips with Beijing Discovery Tours! We realize that the best advertising is positive word-of-mouth, so we do our best to make sure that everyone has a great time in China with us.
Why should we trust Beijing Discovery Tours with our China tour plans?
That is a good question that hopefully you will ask before booking a China tour with any company. We have been in business for more than two years, with plans to build our company into the best tour company in China. We are a registered company in the United States (you can check out our business registration as a subsidiary of Integrity Business Development Group LLC here: http://www.beijingdiscoverytours.com/html/certification.html), and we use only tour guides that are licensed by the Chinese government’s Ministry of Tourism office. Our drivers and their vehicles are also licensed and insured. We try to make everything as clear as possible and we encourage questions – the more that we know about what you are looking for in a tour, the better the service that we can provide you. We intend to be in business for a very long time, and building up our credibility and trustworthiness through exceeding our customers’ expectations is the very foundation of our long-term business plan.
How many people will there be with me on my Beijing or China tour?
All of our tours are private tours, which means that it will just be you, your chosen traveling companions, your tour guide and driver. We do not put our guests on overcrowded vans or buses or any of those “join-in” tours (unless of course, you ask for one); we only operate private tours with tour itineraries that are very clear for our guests – no surprise shopping stops and no fake tourist sites. Those “budget” tours from other companies are very cheap for a reason, expect dirty, crowded vans and buses packed with people, unscheduled shopping stops, and less time spent at your desired sightseeing spot, such as the Great Wall of China or the Ming Tombs, for example. There is certainly nothing wrong with taking one of those cheap tours, as long as you know what to expect.
How far is it from downtown Beijing to the Beijing airport?
It is about 17 miles / 27 kilometers from the city of Beijing to the Beijing airport, but that can vary considerably depending on where you are starting from in Beijing. Beijing is a huge city!
How long does it take to get to the Beijing airport?
On the weekends or when there is not heavy traffic, it should take about 45 minutes to get to the Beijing airport from downtown, but it depends on what part of Beijing you will be departing from. However, during rush hour traffic (roughly 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday), it can take up to an hour and half to get there from downtown Beijing, and even longer from western or southern Beijing (the airport is northeast of the city.)
How far is it from the Xingang Port at Tianjin to downtown Beijing?
From the Xingang Port to downtown Beijing, it is approximately 150 miles / 241 kilometers.
How long does it take to get from the Xingang Port to Beijing?
It takes approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours to get from the Xingang Port to Beijing, depending on how heavy the traffic is and the weather. There is usually less traffic on the weekends so the Xingang Port transfer to Beijing should take less time.
How far is it from the Xingang Port at Tianjin to the Beijing Capital Airport (PEK)?
It is approximately 167 miles / 269 kilometers from the Xingang Port to the Beijing Capital Airport. The transfer by private car or van should take around 3 hours, or up to 4 hours if there is heavy traffic.
Do I need a visa to come to China?
With very few exceptions, China requires that citizens from almost every country obtain a visa before visiting China. The best plan is to contact your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate in the country that you are currently living in to find out exactly how to apply for a visa to visit China. We have also experienced excellent service from PassportVisasExpress.com so we can recommend them for your China visa needs.
Can Beijing Discovery Tours help me obtain a visa to visit China?
If you book your hotels and/or domestic flights inside of China with us, we can provide you with documentation for your hotel and flight reservations if you need it for your China visa application.
Is it safe to travel in China?
It is very safe to travel in China, and violent crime against foreigners is almost unheard of. Pickpockets and petty theft can happen though, so as always when traveling, be very aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close at hand. It is helpful to have a tour guide with you because thieves and pickpockets will usually try to find easier targets rather than messing with a traveler that has someone with them that can easily call the police and identify them when they are caught. It is usually safe to leave your belongings in your hotels, especially at the international 4 and 5-star brand hotels, but it is best to always keep your money and valuables in the hotel safe if they provide it, and always carry your passport with you in a place that you will not accidentally lose it.
The Beijing Discovery Tours website says that there are no forced shopping stops, but can we still go shopping?
Absolutely! We can recommend a few places to go for great bargain shopping. What we mean by “no forced shopping stops” is that we do not herd you into a commission-based shopping stop like other companies do on their cheap “bargain” tours. Any stops on your tour itinerary with us will be completely up to you.
How do I reserve a Beijing or China tour with Beijing Discovery Tours?
Reserving your tour with us is very easy – simply email us with your desired tour plan, or ask us for a suggested tour plan for your desired travel dates. It is helpful to provide us with how many people will be traveling with you, what types of accommodations you would prefer (budget, 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star hotels, etc.), what cities you would like to see, and how many days you will spend in China. Please keep in mind that other than the international brand 4 and 5-star hotels, hotels in China can be very basic. For example, 3-star hotels may not have carpeting and may only have a shower with no bathtub. However, we will always select safe, clean and comfortable hotels for you no matter what level of accommodations you choose. We will work closely with you to create the perfect tour itinerary for you and your traveling companions, and provide you with our best price quotation (no need to bargain or haggle, we will give you the best price that we can.) Once the tour plan and price are set, you can reserve your tour for a 30% nonrefundable deposit, payable by credit card through Paypal, wire transfer, eCheck by Paypal, or other electronic funds transfer. You can then pay the balance for your tour when we meet you to begin your tour, or you can pay the full amount by credit card before you even leave home, whichever is most convenient for you.
What is the procedure for paying for my tour?
Just let us know which payment method is easiest for you, and we can send you the appropriate invoice through email. You can reserve your tour for a 30% fee, and then pay the balance in cash when we pick you up for your tour in China, or you can pay in full in advance, whichever is more convenient for you.
How can I pay for my Beijing or China tour? What payment methods can you accept?
We have established several payment methods to try to find the most convenient and efficient payment methods at the best value for our guests:
- Credit cards through Paypal
We can accept most major credit cards through Paypal, and you do not have to be a member of Paypal to pay this way. We can send you an invoice via email through Paypal, and that email will contain easy instructions on how to pay safely and securely online. You never even have to disclose your credit card information to us! There is usually a 3 – 4 % fee to pay by credit card through Paypal. Paypal also offers payment services through eChecks, but unfortunately those are only available for bank account holders in a few countries (please check with Paypal for the most current list). There is only a flat US$5 fee for eChecks through Paypal. The great thing about Paypal is that your credit information or bank account information is guaranteed by Payapl to be safe and secure with them - we will never even see your credit card or bank information. Unfortunately, at this time, we can only accept credit cards online and only through the Paypal payment service.
- Wire transfers
We can also accept international wire transfers to either our bank in the United States or in the People’s Republic of China, whichever would be most convenient for you. There is no fee for a wire transfer from a U.S. bank to our U.S. bank, and a US$40 fee for international wire transfers to the United States. There is no fee for an international wire transfer to our bank in Beijing.
- Electronic bank payments
Our bank in the U.S. can accept most bill payment services in U.S. dollars with no service charge.
What is the best way to change money in China?
Every person will probably have their own preferred way of changing money, but in our experience, it is best to avoid travelers’ checks for reasons that we will discuss below. Probably the best thing to do is to bring a sufficient amount of your home currency to change at the airport to get you through your first day or two in China, then find a bank as you need to change more money or find an ATM and withdraw money as needed. Most major ATM cards are accepted in China, and ATMs are easily found in most of the major cities (although it can be a challenge in some of the smaller cities in China.)
Will I be able to find an ATM during my China tour?
ATMs are everywhere in the major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc. and nearly all of them can accept most foreign bankcards. They can be harder to find in smaller cities and definitely hard if not impossible to find in the countryside. All ATMs dispense Chinese currency, so be sure to save your receipts so that you can change any leftover Chinese money back into your home currency before you leave.
What type of cards will ATMs accept in China?
Almost every ATM will accept most of the major branded credit and debit cards in China. Mastercard, Visa, and all Cirrus-branded cards are widely accepted. Just check for your card’s logos on the ATM to see whether it will accept your particular card. It would be a good idea to call your bankcard issuer to let them know that you will be traveling in China just to make sure that there aren’t any problems. Don’t forget to save your receipt to help you exchange any unused Chinese money back to your home currency before you leave China.
How much money can I withdraw each day with my ATM card in China?
UnionPay deals with all foreign bankcard transactions in China, and since 2008 they have limited foreign bankcard withdrawals at ATMs to 2500 CNY per transaction and 5000 CNY per day. ATM withdrawals in China are also limited by your own bank’s withdrawal limits. It is a good idea to check with your bank at home to see how much money you can withdraw each day, as well as what the transaction charge is for withdrawing foreign currency in another country.
Can I use my credit card in China?
Major credit cards are not nearly as widely accepted in China as they are in some parts of the world, but this is changing rapidly. Most of the international 4 and 5-star hotels will accept credit cards and some of the more expensive restaurants will also accept credit cards. Due to the relative newness of credit card acceptance in China, many if not most places that accept credit cards will also charge you a transaction fee, usually around 5% of the total amount. It is much easier to use a credit card in the major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and it can be nearly impossible to use a credit card in some of the smaller cities. One important reminder: be sure to call your credit card company before you leave home to let them know that you may be using your card in China; this helps to ensure that your credit card company will not flag your card for possible fraudulent use and thus render your credit card useless in China. It is best not to use your credit cards in ATMs though – you will get hit with not only the usual transaction fees, but also foreign currency exchange fees and whatever other fees the credit card companies decide to tack on for the “privilege” of using their credit cards internationally.
Can I use travelers’ checks in China?
Supposedly only the Bank of China can cash your travelers’ checks, but the fees are high and the entire process and waiting time can be trying for even the most patient people – you should allow a few hours for the bank to cash your travelers’ checks, which is precious time that could be better used for sightseeing. It is usually much more convenient and less expensive to use your ATM card to withdraw Chinese Yuan (CNY) (also known as renminbi or RMB) at most places in China.
What are the rules on tipping in China?
Tipping is not common in China in restaurants or taxis (in practice, if offered it will often be refused), but it is becoming more common in the upscale hotels for concierge and luggage handlers. Also, in the tourism industry, most tour guides receive no salary – they survive on their tips only, particularly in the smaller cities. Tips are thus customary for tour guides and drivers, based on a ratio of 2:1 in favor of the tour guides. Any tips should of course be based on the level of service provided – do not feel guilted into giving tips if the service was substandard! We do pay our tour guides at Beijing Discovery Tours, but a nice tip for good service is always appreciated, and the tour guides and drivers keep all tips for themselves.
Can vegetarians be accommodated with meals in China?
Most, if not all restaurants in China carry a variety of vegetarian-friendly dishes, and almost all food is cooked in vegetable oil. Your tour guide can assist you with selecting vegetarian dishes if you have your meals as part of your tour itinerary.
Can we get a kosher meal in China?
Unfortunately, due to the very small Jewish population in China, in cities other than Beijing you probably cannot get a kosher meal. There is at least one certified kosher restaurant in Beijing, but in other cities there do not seem to be any options for kosher meals. It is very easy, however, to follow most Jewish dietary requirements throughout China.
Can I drink water from the tap in China?
Unfortunately tap water is not drinkable directly from the tap yet in China, not even in the mostly modernized cities of Shanghai and Beijing. Bottled water is readily available, and some better hotels even offer small water bottle machines in each room. Almost every hotel in China will provide each room with a thermos of boiled water that is safe for drinking and making coffee or tea.
Is it safe to brush my teeth with tap water in China?
Usually people have no problems in brushing their teeth with the tap water, but hotel rooms are almost always supplied with a thermos of boiled water that can also be used for brushing the teeth and making tea or coffee.
What should I bring with me that I cannot buy in China?
Prescription medicines and deodorants are two things that are difficult if not impossible to find in China. Most of the prescription medicines are probably available, but that is something that is too important to leave up to the vagaries of pharmaceutical production and the language barriers of a foreign country. Deodorant is almost impossible to find – body odor in China is seen as a problem only for foreigners.
What should I know about hotel accommodations in China?
Probably the most common complaint about hotels in China is about the hardness of the hotel beds – hard beds are widely believed to be important for health by most Chinese people. Most of the higher-end international brand 4 and 5-star hotels have addressed this problem with softer beds for travelers, but in 3-star and local Chinese brand 4-star hotels, hard mattresses are the norm. Also, because the tap water is not safe to drink even in the mostly modernized cities of Beijing and Shanghai, each hotel room will be supplied with a thermos of boiled water for drinking or for using with instant coffee or tea. Usually it is fine to brush your teeth with tap water, but to be extra careful or for those very sensitive to such things, you could also brush your teeth with the boiled water that is supplied. Amenities such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and soap are also supplied, although the quality of the supplies varies, usually according to the cost of the hotel room, as one would expect. Also, the level of English spoken by the staff, as a general rule, gets better according to how expensive the hotel is - little to no English may be spoken in 3-star hotels while the 5-star international brand hotels will have many excellent English-speaking staff members.
Can we see the Terracotta Warriors (also known as the Terracotta Army or Terracotta Soldiers) and the Great Wall of China in one day?
Technically, it is possible, but practically it would not be worth it to rush around as you would have to in order to see both sites in one day. There are sections of the Great Wall of China a few hours north of Xi’an, but transportation to get there and back is difficult and there would not be enough time to do it all in one day. It would be possible to have a quick look at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall near Beijing and then catch a flight to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors late that afternoon, but your time would be very limited at each place. It would be much better to see the Great Wall near Beijing along with the Sacred Way and the Ming Tombs one day, then either fly to Xi’an that evening or the next morning. You can even see the Terracotta Warriors and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an on a day trip out of Beijing with our popular one-day Beijing Xi'an tours.
If you still have questions, please do not hesitate to let us know - we would be happy to hear from you! You can use our contact form, or you can e-mail us directly at email@example.com - we will get back to you ASAP. You can also check for more information on our Beijing & China information page by clicking here.