Currency to Take on Your China Tour
Chinese Yuan, also known as “Renminbi” (RMB) and “Kwai”, is king in China and used for almost all transactions in what is still very much a cash orientated society.
The largest denomination is 100 which is approximately £ / €10 or US$15 so you’ll get used to carrying far more cash around on you than you do at home. Other denominations are 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. You rarely come across coins which we think is a good idea!
Obtaining Chinese Yuan Before Your Trip
A few years back you would have needed to make a visit to China town and “asked around” to get Chinese Yuan! Now it is quite easy to obtain Chinese yuan in the UK and other Western countries. In the UK foreign currency desks in high street chains such as Thomas Cook now offer yuan (you may need to give them a few days warning) as do some Post Offices. Failing that Yuan can be obtained at all major airports.
Although not strictly necessary to get in advance it can be of comfort to arrive in China with at least some local cash in hand. We would suggest taking about £100 worth.
Generally the rates in the UK will be slightly worse than those you will get in China but not different enough to be off putting. You also have the advantage of being able to sell back any excess yuan if buying from Thomas Cook or the Post Office.
Obtaining Chinese Yuan During Your Trip
In all major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai ATMs that accept the usual international card signs (plus, Cirrus etc..) are widespread. Smaller places can be more tricky and even if you see the Visa sign it may only be that locally issued visa cards are accepted (the usual reason if your card is rejected).
Most hotel receptions will change cash or traveller cheques denominated in US$ and Euros but not always £ Sterling. Banks should do this as well but seem to make a bit of a drama out of the whole process and, even when agreeing to exchange, will require passport, Chinese visa and proof of purchase of the Traveler’s Cheques. Airports are OK to change money at but train stations rarely have such a facility.
Cards or Cash in China?
We would suggest a mixture of credit / debit cards and a small amount of cash is best to take to China with cash being a back up to exchange in case you can’t find and ATM or lose your card.
How Much Will I Spend?
Always a tricky question with a figure for personal expenditure outside of services booked with us being anything from UK £ 20 per day per person upwards. There is no shortage of temptation in China, especially for keen shoppers. Prices tend to be much lower than the West for locally produced items but higher than the West for imports.
What About Tipping?
In recent years tipping guides and drivers has become the norm in China and is certainly appreciated by guides if (and only if) the service they have provided warrants it. Our policy is that at no time should a guide be pressuring for a tip – please do let us know if that happens.
If you feel the service warrants a tip a rough guide as to how much to give comes down to RMB 100 to the guide and RMB 50 the driver per day in total for up to 4 people in your travel group (not per person). For more than 4 people the amount can be higher.
We stress that this is discretionary and should not be given for unsatisfactory service or if a guide has taken you on any unwanted “shopping trips” to Jade, Pearl Silk factories etc… We specifically tell all guides that our trips should not include these “Shopportunities” which are so common in China and for which the guides tend to receive commissions from the shop owners.