Our Raw tours are best suited for those with a sense of adventure, are willing to step outside their comfort zone and don’t mind being thrown in at the deep end. For independent travellers who want to travel with others. Just the ticket for those aged between 18-35 or anyone young at heart who has an open mind, an eye on the budget and a nose for adventure. Authentic experiences that expand the mind rather than hold the hand.
We ask that you read it carefully and that you take the document with you on your holiday. It contains information on visas, vaccinations, spending money, etc, as well as a detailed, day by day itinerary of your trip.
International flights, departure taxes, visas, insurance, meals unless indicated, drinks, optional additional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.
Please note that visa requirements can and do change. It is essential that you confirm requirements with the nearest relevant embassy or check with your travel agent before you travel. At the time of writing, most nationalities require a visa for China. Chinese visas can only by obtained at Chinese Consulates prior to your arrival in China.
Please note if you are travelling from China into Hong Kong (a Special Economic Region) or Kyrgyzstan then back again into China, you will need a double entry Chinese visa. Please be warned that on some occasions people transiting through mainland China on their way to Hong Kong have been made to go through Chinese immigration and had their single entry visa stamped, thus making it invalid. Do not allow your visa to be stamped if you are only going through transit. The Chinese authorities restrict visas for those working in media, government or the military - please contact us for further information.
Many governments publish up-to-date travel advice for countries around the world. Information is gleaned from both local and international sources as well as ‘friendly’ governments, and the notices are often on the cautious side. Sometimes there will be conflicting information. For example, the Australian, UK and Canadian governments may agree on the nature of the advice; however, frequently they do not. And sometimes the views expressed by a particular government can be coloured by political considerations. We will monitor these travel advisories closely and may alter itineraries or cancel trips as a result. However, it is also your responsibility to stay informed and form a balanced view. We recommend that you visit the websites or contact the departments listed below. Unless otherwise stated, it is not normally the intention of the relevant government travel advice to dissuade you from travelling. Rather, it is to inform you of where and when you should exercise caution to avoid problems. Please also note that, as a responsible tour operator, we maintain constant links with our ground operators and your safety - at all times - is our paramount concern. You can check your government's latest travel advice at one of the links below:
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
U.S. Department of State New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended
Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please consult your doctor or a travel health specialist. The choice of vaccinations can depend on a range of issues including the specific destination, the duration of the trip, your personal health and of course what vaccines you have had before.
Routine Background Vaccines: We strongly endorse current public health recommendations that all travellers should be up-to-date with their routine vaccines such as tetanus, diphtheria, measles/mumps/rubella, polio and influenza, and paediatric vaccinations for children.
Travel Vaccinations: While the food and water-borne diseases such as hepatitis A and typhoid will apply to most of our travellers, other travel vaccines such as hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis and cholera may apply to select travellers, especially long-term travel. Travel health experts can advise on what is required and also what is not required!
It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting – or any which may be required by your home country upon your return. To find out which, if any, vaccinations are mandatory or recommended for your destination contact your local doctor, immunisation centre or medical centre for up-to-date information. If you need to arrange vaccinations or a supply of preventative medicine (e.g. malaria tablets), you should contact your doctor at least two months before you depart. Some inoculations require more than one visit and can take several weeks to administer the full course.
For travellers from Australia and New Zealand, we recommend the Travel Doctor-TMVC clinics (see www.traveldoctor.com.au or phone 1300 658 844 for an appointment in Australia). Travellers from countries other than Australia and New Zealand should contact similar organisations or their travel doctor for advice. General health and vaccination information is available to all travellers at
www.traveldoctor.com.au/travelreport. Some vaccines require more than one dose, so arrange for your visit at least 4-6 weeks before you travel.
Carry Your Certificate; You should be issued with an International Certificate of Vaccination booklet that records each vaccination. Always carry this with you on your travels; it could provide essential information for doctors in the event that you fall ill whilst travelling.
We recommend that you photocopy the main pages of your passport, your airline ticket, itinerary, insurance policy, traveller’s cheques and credit card. Keep one set of photocopies with you, separate from the originals. Leave one set of copies at home with family or friends. It is also worth taking some extra passport photos with you in case of additional visas, permits or other unforeseen paperwork.
No particular level of fitness is required for this holiday. Please be aware there will however be some long days travelling on the train, where you will be sitting down for extended periods. Participants should be reasonably healthy; anyone with respiratory or cardiac problems, or over the age of 55, should fully consult their medical adviser prior to booking and we may require full medical clearance.
Remember - the lighter you travel the better! A soft-sided duffel or sausage bag is the ideal form of luggage. It is recommended that you keep your luggage weight around 15kg and certainly no more than 20kg. A small or medium-sized backpack (45-50 litres) is another good option, but preferably one without a frame.
When packing, consider cultural differences which may mean that some attire that we wear at home is not appropriate when travelling and may be offensive to the local people. When visiting sites of religious significance, modest clothing should be worn. Sandals, thongs, flip-flops or jandals are appropriate footwear in the tropics.
When you pack your clothing, consider the climate at the time of year you are travelling and any specific requirements for your trip as at certain times of the year some of the items suggested in the list that follow may not be necessary. Laundry facilities are available in some destinations.
Below is a list of equipment and documentation that we suggest you take with you. Please use this checklist as a guide when packing for your holiday.
It is a good idea to take a small medical kit with you, and you should consider packing the following items:
Antibiotics, Lip-balm, moisturiser, sunscreen, headache tablets, antiseptic (e.g. Betadine), anti-diarrhoea tablets (for changes in diet and water), laxatives, band-aids/moleskin/dressing strips for blisters, small scissors/tweezers. Note that moleskin is particularly good for blisters and can be obtained from any pharmacy.
It is also recommended to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any less common prescribed medications that you may be carrying.
Stomach upsets are not uncommon when travelling through new destinations (usually a 24 - 48
hour 'bug') and this may cause diarrhoea, leading to dehydration. Should you develop a stomach upset you should eat only in moderation and drink plenty of fluids. It is a good idea to carry a couple of sachets of rehydrants with you (such as Gastrolite). We also suggest that you carry one of the common anti-diarrhoea tablets such as Imodium.
It can be quite easy to get sun burnt when you are not accustomed to the sun in new climates. You should take sensible precautions such as wearing a hat and using a good UV sunscreen. Finally, drink plenty of fluids - preferably water.
In general, water is not safe to drink in the areas through which we travel. Bottled Water is widely available and most travellers prefer to drink this. Your guide can assist you in regards to the relative safety of tap water and the availability of bottled water on each tour. When walking, or in hot conditions, you must make a conscious effort to maintain your hydration, drinking as much water/tea as possible to offset fluid loss.
China’s currency is known as Renminbi although the units are known as ‘yuan’ (also known locally as 'kuai'), ‘jiao’ and ‘fen’. The Bank of China is the central financial institution and the sole source of currency issue. Banknotes come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100 yuan denominations, and coins are also available in denominations of one yuan, five jiao and one, two and five fen. There are many fake notes in circulation and for this reason it is best to break your big notes in larger stores, rather than on the street with local vendors.
Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
We suggest a combination of cash, plastic and traveller's Cheques, as what works well in one city may not work in the next. It is best to ensure that you have some cash on you, with US dollars being the easiest to exchange, however other currencies are sometimes accepted. Be aware that notes that are tattered or torn are sometimes not accepted and most insurance policies will not cover for loss or theft of cash. ATM machines are available in large cities such as Shanghai, Xian, Beijing and international airports. In some places, money can either be drawn on credit with Visa or MasterCard or directly from your savings account. Be aware that not all ATMs are internationally linked and in rural areas they are not common. Look for ATMs displaying the required trademarks: Cirrus, Maestro, Plus, Visa or MasterCard. Bring credit cards in case of emergency, but do not expect to be able to use them for day-to-day use. In capital cities occasionally banks, shops, hotels and restaurants will accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Be careful to ensure that if you are settling your bill in local currency, the transaction slip clearly states that currency. Traveller's cheques are the safest way to carry money, however in China they are not always the most convenient as not all banks and hotels will cash them, even though they may have signs saying that they do. You should carry traveller's cheques issued by large international groups such as American Express or Thomas Cook. Note that the bank on the Vietnam-China border (Hekou) does not accept traveller’s cheques, so it is necessary to exchange a small amount of US dollars in cash here, in order to have lunch. When changing money you should ensure that you only use banks, licensed money exchangers or hotels. Do not change money with street touts. This is normally illegal and is often unsafe. We also suggest you keep your receipts.
You will need to take money with you to cover sightseeing, entrance fees, meals and drinks. Other costs to consider are drinking water, tips, laundry, souvenirs, additional activities during free time and possible delays. It is much better to come with more than you would expect to spend and to end the trip with a surplus, rather than being caught short! It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies that could happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and be reimbursed later by your insurance company. This is the situation where having a credit card can be useful. How Much Money? In our trip notes we have suggested an appropriate allowance for additional meals. This does not include alcoholic drinks, e.g. beer. In addition to this you should carry sufficient funds for optional activities, additional sightseeing, shopping and tips. As a guideline we suggest that you allow $US15-20 per day (or maybe less!) in Asia would allow you to eat and drink reasonably well. Emergency Funds In the unlikely event of an emergency of a personal nature or unforseen changes to the Gecko's schedule, we recommend you have access to an additional US$300 to cover any costs that may arise as a result of these events.
We recommend you allow a figure of between US$100 and $150 for your DRINK and SNACK requirements. Use a higher figure particularly if you are travelling during the hot season when you will require more fluids.
In addition you should carry sufficient funds for extra sightseeing and optional activities. On average people spend approximately US$80. If you decide to take optional excursions using the services of a local guide and a private vehicle you will need to budget for more.
Shopping is a personal thing that, again, varies enormously. On average, people spend between US$100-125 on jewellery and other souvenirs.
All airport taxes in China and in Hong Kong should now be included in the price of your flight ticket and so there should be no need to purchase additional tax at the airport.
Although the culture of tipping may not be part of your own culture it is nonetheless part of the culture in this area of the world and it is often the way someone such as a waiter makes a living. Tipping has become an accepted part of tourism in China. On our trips your tour leader can advise you on this matter, however, as a guideline we would recommend a tip of 10% in restaurants and US$1 to US$2 per person, per day for a local guide. Taxi and rickshaw drivers do not expect a tip. If you are unhappy with a service, of course, you are under no obligation to leave a tip. However, if the service has been satisfactory, please consider our advice above.
Like many tourist-orientated regions in the world, most parts of Asia have developed a culture of tipping, especially in tourism. Tipping is a token of appreciation for a job well done. Certain nationalities still find it quite uncomfortable when confronted by this custom. To avoid embarrassment and to protect you from the sometimes seemingly endless soliciting of tips, your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then the tour leader pays the tips and keeps a record of all money spent (except restaurant tips). At the start of your holiday we collect for the tipping kitty and we ask that you contribute roughly US$2 per person per day (your tour leader will advise an exact amount at the Welcome Meeting). Your tour leader can then distribute tips along the way, as appropriate, to local guides and hotel porters, etc. This kitty is not designed to provide a tip for your tour leader.
Your tour leader works hard to ensure you have a great trip, so please don't hold back if you feel they have earned a tip for their efforts. If you would like to reward them for their services, you can choose to do so individually or make a group presentation at the end of the tour. An appropriate amount to tip the tour leader is about US$3 per person per day.
Please refer to your itinerary for the joining hotel name and address. If you have not pre-booked an arrival transfer you will find taxis available on arrival at Beijing airport. The taxis in Beijing have meters and you can expect to pay between US$20 and US$25, depending on the time you arrive. If you have booked an airport transfer with us, please meet your transfer guide in the arrivals area as you exit from the customs hall. If arriving in the old terminal please exit at Door 7 in the arrivals hall for your transfer. If arriving at the new terminal please depart Exit B and your transfer will be in front of the money exchange to the right of the exit . If unsure of which terminal you are arriving at please ask your airline staff. Your transfer guide will be holding a Gecko’s sign. There will be a pre-departure briefing with your tour leader late in the afternoon. Don’t forget to check the notice board in the foyer of the joining hotel for details of this meeting and for any messages from your leader. Please bring along your passport and travel insurance documents to the briefing.
Generally, your room will be available from around midday. Sometimes it may be available mid-morning but this is in no way guaranteed. If your flight is scheduled to arrive in the early morning you may have to wait until a room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's pre-tour accommodation; which will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12.00 noon unless you have made prior arrangements with the hotel Reception. If you want to keep your room for longer you may have to pay an additional charge.
Please ask first if you want to take someone's photograph. This is just a normal courtesy and if you are refused permission please abide by that person's wishes. At certain ancient sites, and in most museums, photography (video or still) may be forbidden, or may incur an extra charge for camera-use. Do not take photos of buildings, structures and personnel of potential military significance (including airports, bridges, and police stations).
Travelling with us can provide you with some really rewarding travel experiences. Our tours visit countries where travel modes and lifestyles are often not as sophisticated as our own. There is also a laid-back attitude amongst workers and there will often seem to be huge amounts of red tape and bureaucracy when doing the simplest things. You will enjoy your trip much more if you slip into the rhythm of local life and are prepared to take things as they come.
In most countries even the smallest quantity of an illegal substance is considered a very serious offence and can carry lengthy jail terms. Avoid any contact with illegal drugs. Don’t put yourself and others at risk and never carry bags or luggage for other people. Any person found to be carrying or using illegal drugs will be asked to leave the trip immediately without the right to any refund.
The gap between the rich and poor in China is enormous, resulting in a diverse range of living costs across the provinces, making it easy to choose your own budget. On average, you can live comfortably on a budget of about RMB 130 (Approx US$16 a day), excluding sightseeing. The cost of food and drink varies according to destination, type of meal and setting. Meal prices range from RMB 5 for a bowl of local noodles, to RMB 20 for a very local banquet and up to RMB 100 for a good quality meal in the larger cities. Beer and water range from RMB 2 (very local establishment) to RMB 40 (bars and classy restaurants). Generally the larger cities on the east coast are much more expensive than, the smaller rural places in the West and down South. Tea is the most common drink and in some places like Chengdu, you can get great bottomless cups of green tea for RMB 5, whereas in places like Beijing, you could easily get caught paying for a high quality tea for anything up to RMB 100.Taxis are the most convenient way to travel and vary in price for different cities, for example flag fall is RMB 7 in Xian as opposed to RMB 12 in Beijing. Most standard fares will range between RMB 10 – RMB 20. Internet can cost anything from RMB 3 in a local smoke filled internet café up to RMB 1 per 1 minute in a hotel business center. International Postage Stamps cost about RMB 5 International Phone Card cost about RMB 50 for about 8 -10 minutes.Foot or Body Massage are a great way to fill in time between the sights and range from a bargain RMB 30 up to Y180 per hour in a more up market place in Beijing or Shanghai. Note that dining out and night clubbing in Hong Kong is a lot more expensive than China, with meals ranging from HKD $30 for basic noodles to HKD $60 -$100 basic Chinese meal at market and from anywhere up from HKD $150 - $500 for other dining options. A beer at the market will cost about HKD $15 as opposed to about HKD $30 - $50 in a bar.
China is a developing country whose infrastructure, values, customs and standards differ from what you are used to at home. Please bear this in mind as you are travelling in this exciting country and respect the fact that you should not impose your standards and expectations on the culture there. The driving habits in China are something for which you ought to prepare yourself for!
Occasionally it may be necessary to amend this itinerary for reasons beyond our control, such as bad weather and poor road conditions. Changes to flight and train schedules can sometimes occur, which may also lead to changes to this itinerary.
When travelling during local holiday periods, be prepared for some inconveniences. This is especially so during the Spring Festival holiday period (Chinese New Year) and the National Day Golden Week.
The actual Chinese New Year day in 2013 is on Sunday 10th February, ushering in the Year of the Snake. All days from 9th to 15th February 2013 are designated as public holidays. In 2014, Chinese New Year will be on 31st January (Year of the Horse) and in 2015 it will be on 19th February (Year of the Sheep). The greeting in Mandarin for ‘Happy New Year’ is ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, whilst the greeting in Cantonese is ‘Gong Hey Fat Choy’. China’s National Day is on 1st October and this ushers in a 7-day national holiday known as Golden Week. During these holiday periods, most businesses will be closed as the local people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during these holiday periods, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required.
Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class, which are six bunk beds set out in an open cubicle compartment. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths. There are urns or thermos flasks for making hot beverages. It is quite possible that our group may be divided over a series of different compartments and we may also have to share our compartments with other passengers on the train. Train travel is an integral part of the China travel experience and offers some of the best chances of meeting and making friends with the locals.
By employing and training local tour guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour guide’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.
This is an ‘adventure’ trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of the local culture. Please be open-minded.
Please note that on your tour you may link up and travel with passengers booked on other tours within our China and South East Asia program.
China holds the record for the world's longest man-made structure (the Great Wall, obviously). It also holds the record for most needles inserted into the head and largest bottle of cooking oil.
Xian's great for markets and you can ride a bike along the ancient wall. Then see the Terracotta Warriors, discovered in 1974 by a bunch of farmers digging a well. Not a bad day’s work.
Live out your martial arts fantasies at Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of kung fu. Then check out the Longmen Grottoes - 2100 caves filled with more than 100,000 statues of Buddha.
Get your mum something nice in Suzhou, famous for its silk. Jump on a bike to explore backstreets, gardens and pagodas. See why Zhouzhuang is known as ‘The Venice of the Orient’ (hint: it’s something to do with water).
Shanghai’s got the world’s largest bus system. Why not hop on one and see if you can get to Nanjing Road for some last-minute shopping. Hit the French Concession area for great cafes and restaurants.
The trip ends this morning in Shanghai. You can depart at any time
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact us. We are here to help you!
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27 March 2013
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