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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

China Money-Saving Tips

Stick with a Hotel Brand You Trust

Chinese owned and operated hotels (even 4- and 5-star ones) charge the same as the foreign chains, but offer inferior service and less amenities. The staff are inexperienced and simply do not have the training for international tourism.

Hail a Cab

Driving is not advisable for foreigners. Visitors can rent a vehicle, but it comes with its own driver. It’s often significantly cheaper to hail a cab in the streets (not the ones queuing outside the hotel) to take you to your destination.

Portion Size

Chinese food is designed to be eaten in pairs or larger groups, so if you’re dining solo, ask for small portions (xiao pan). Assume you’ll be charged for tea, and don’t expect a fortune cookie. Tipping is appreciated but not expected.


Obtain a China entry visa before flying. If entering via a mainland city but subsequently visiting Hong Kong or Macau, you will need a multiple entry visa.


Visiting China, Hong Kong, and Macau means encountering three currencies. Many stores in Hong Kong and Macau accept China’s notes, but the others aren’t accepted in mainland China. Hotels and banks change U.S. dollars and ATMs are ubiquitous in major cities.

Chinese Characters

Few Beijing taxi drivers speak English, so have your concierge write your day's destinations (and your hotel address) down in Chinese characters.

Barter Hard

Beijingers love to barter, so be prepared to haggle in markets. Always offer 20 percent of the first quoted price (i.e. if quoted RMB100, suggest RMB20); if the stall-holder refuses to budge, walk away - you'll be surprised how effective this can be as a bargaining tool.

Art Fraud

Be wary of English-speaking 'art students' offering to escort you to their art exhibition. This is a time-worn trap that results in high-pressure sales tactics once you enter the 'gallery.'

Check Your Temper

Even in the most trying circumstances, remain calm and courteous, as losing your temper and shouting at the person you are dealing with is viewed as improper, and may make the situation worse.

Call for Help

If you get lost or need advice, consult the English-speaking Shanghai Call Center (962288) for addresses, simple translations, and ticket information.

Don't Buy Bootlegged DVDs

True, they’re cheap, but quality is uneven (Harry Potter in Portuguese, anyone?) and U.S. Customs agents are increasingly targeting copyright infringement.

Use the Metro

Shanghai and Beijing’s metros are much faster than a taxi during peak traffic or on rainy days. Shanghai: (Chinese only) / Beijing:

Carry Cash

Although nearly all high-end hotels and restaurants honor international credit cards, most other businesses accept only Chinese currency or domestic cards.

Beware So-called “Beverage Agents”

These well-mannered young women will invite you to share a few high-priced drinks, then stick you for the inflated bill.

Tibetan Tours

Book a tour from abroad before entering the region. Otherwise, you may find yourself forced by authorities into joining a Chinese-run tour which can be shabby and disappointing. Shangrila Tours; 011-86-891-6330823;

Political Situation

Tibet has a tumultuous history with Communist China, which has ruled the region with an iron-fist since 1950 and uprisings occasionally occur – be sure to check travel advisories with the U.S. state department before venturing into the region.

Tipping in Shanghai

Outside of the pricier tourist establishments, which often levy a 15 percent service charge, tipping is appreciated but not expected. At some smaller restaurants, waitstaff might chase you down the block with your change.

Compare Rates to China

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