While You're in China
by Mark Heng
The official currency of China is the renminbi ("People's Money"), abbreviated RMB. The base unit of this currency is the yuan. However, in colloquial Mandarin, people often say kuai instead of yuan, and mao instead of jiao (10 jiao to 1 yuan), where the trailing units of numbers are often dropped. The value of the yuan is currently fluctuating at around 1 SGD for 5.20 RMB.
Electricity is provided at 240 volts/50 hz. Two-pin North American (NEMA 1-15 USA 2 pin) and three-pin Australian style plugs (AS-3112) are generally supported; CEE 7/16 Europlug or CEE 7/17 Euro 2 pin may fit as well.
China is a huge country, so domestic flights should definitely be considered for getting from one area to another - many domestic flights connect major cities and tourist destinations. Even before considering discounts available through hotels or agents, travelling by air is not expensive. However, flight cancellations are not uncommon, and flight delays are still common in China.
Train travel is the major mode of long-distance transportation for the Chinese themselves, with an extensive, and rapidly expanding, network of routes covering the entire country. A network of high-speed rail trains, similar to bullet trains, are already in service on several routes, and can be the best way to get around. Subways are a convenient means of transportation for travelling within major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Tianjin. Public city buses (gōnggòngqìchē) or long distance buses (chángtúqìchē) are inexpensive and ideal for in-city and short distance transportation, while bicycles can be a cheap, convenient means of transport.
The official language of China is Standard Mandarin, which is known as Putonghua (common speech) and based on the Beijing dialect. As the only language used in education on the mainland since the 1950s, most people speak it. Many regions, especially in the south-east and south, have their own "dialect.", but most Chinese are bilingual in their local vernacular and Mandarin.
Embassy of Singapore (No. 1 Xiu Shui Bei Jie, Jian Guo Men Wai, Chao Yang District, Beijing 100600. 001-86-(10)6532-1115; emergencies: 001-86-1391 0755 251. firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Consulate-General of Singapore in Shanghai (89 Wanshan Road, Shanghai 200336. 001-86-(21) 6278-5566; emergencies: 001-86-1380-194-9439. email@example.com.)
Consulate-General of Singapore in Chengdu (31-D First City Plaza No 308, Shuncheng Street, Chengdu, Sichuan 610017. 001-86-(28) 8652 7222; emergencies: 001-86-1390 807 3562.)
Consulate-General of Singapore in Guangzhou (Unit 2418, CITIC Plaza Office Tower 233 Tianhe North Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510613. 001-86-20-389-12345; emergencies: 001-86-139 2229 6253. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Consulate-General of Singapore in Xiamen (No. 189, Xiahe Road Units 05-07/08, The Bank Centre Xiamen, 361003, Fujian. 001-86-(592) 268-4691; emergencies: 001-86-1390 602 9002. email@example.com)
Emergency telephone numbers work in all areas of China; calling them from a cell phone is free:
patrol police: 110, fire department: 119, government-owned ambulance or emergency medical services: 120, privately-owned ambulance in some areas: 999, traffic police: 122.
Health and Safety
China is a huge country where crime rates differ greatly within and between regions, but generally there exists no more risk than most western countries. Generally speaking, crime rates are higher in larger cities than in the countryside. Nevertheless, they are no more dangerous than the likes of Western cities such as London or New York, so if you avoid seedy areas and use your common sense, you will be fine. However, be vigilant against scams and petty crimes such as pickpocketing and theft. Be cautious on the roads as traffic rules are practised half-heartedly and rarely enforced.
The quality of bathrooms in China, beyond established stores, hotels and major tourist attractions, vary from unpleasant to repulsive; carry your own tissue paper as it is rarely provided. There are no widely enforced food regulations, but restaurants generally prepare hot food when you order and rarely cause health problems. Be cautious when buying food from street vendors; ensure that the food is thoroughly cooked while you are watching. Do not drink water straight from the tap, even in cities - generally, tap water is safe to drink after boiling. Purified drinking water in bottles is available everywhere, usually for a small price. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also cheap and safe.