From Halal Food & Travel
China, officially the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国), is a vast country in East Asia. With 1.4 billion inhabitants, it is home to nearly a fifth of the world's population and is the most populous country in the world. It has a land area of 9.6 million km2.
As one of the world's oldest civilizations, China has a long and rich history. Since the introduction of economic reforms in the late 1970s, China's rapid economic development has been paralleled by an ascendancy onto the international stage that has led many experts to speculate that it may eventually become the dominant world superpower.
eHalal Travel Guide only covers mainland China. Please see the separate eHalal Travel Guides for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
- 1 An Introduction to the Region of China
- 2 Other Muslim friendly Cities in China
- 3 Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in China
- 4 China Halal Explorer
- 5 How to travel to China
- 5.1 What is the best way to fly to China
- 5.2 Travel by train to China
- 5.3 By road
- 5.3.1 India
- 5.3.2 Myanmar (Burma)
- 5.3.3 Vietnam
- 5.3.4 Laos
- 5.3.5 Pakistan
- 5.3.6 Nepal
- 5.3.7 Mongolia
- 5.3.8 Kazakhstan
- 5.3.9 Kyrgyztan
- 5.3.10 Tajikistan
- 5.3.11 Russia
- 5.3.12 North Korea
- 5.3.13 Hong Kong
- 5.3.14 Macau
- 5.3.15 Others
- 5.3.16 Hong Kong and Macau
- 5.3.17 Japan
- 5.3.18 South Korea
- 5.3.19 Taiwan
- 5.3.20 Thailand
- 5.3.21 Cruise ship
- 6 How to get around In China
- 7 Study as a Muslim in China
- 8 Local Customs in China
- 9 Cope in China
- 10 Telecommunications in China
An Introduction to the Region of China
For a complete list of provinces and an explanation of China's political geography, see: List of Chinese provinces and regions.
|Northeast China (Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang)|
Ethnic homeland of the Manchus (historically known as "Manchuria"). Now known as Dōngběi, it contains "rust belt" cities, vast forests, Russian, Korean, and Japanese influence, and long, snowy winters
|North China (Shandong, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Henan, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin)|
Yellow River Basin area, cradle of Chinese civilization and its historic heartland
|Northwest China (Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang)|
Xi'an, China's capital for 1,000 years; the Silk Road stretching westward across deserts, mountains and grasslands; nomads and Muslims have put a strong imprint on this region
|Southwest China (Tibet, Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Guizhou)|
Minority peoples, spectacular scenery, and backpacker havens
|South-central China (Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi)|
Yangtze River Basin area, farms, mountains, river gorges, temperate and sub-tropical forests
|South China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan)|
Traditional trading centre, manufacturing powerhouse, and ancestral homeland of many overseas Chinese
|East China (Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Fujian)|
The "land of fish and rice" (China's equivalent of the "land of milk and honey"), traditional water towns, and China's new cosmopolitan economic centre
Politically, Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions, part of China but with capitalist economies and distinct political systems. The slogan is "One country, two systems". This system is expected to remain in place at least until 2047.
Other Muslim friendly Cities in China
China has many large and famous cities. Below is a list of the nine most important to travellers in mainland China. Other cities are listed under their specific regional section. See the Dynasties and capitals section for a detailed list of China's many previous capitals.
Beijing (北京) — the capital, cultural centre, and host of the 2008 Olympics Guangzhou (广州) — one of the most prosperous and liberal cities in the south, near Hong Kong Guilin (桂林) — popular destination for both Chinese and foreign tourists with sensational mountain and river scenery Hangzhou (杭州) — famously beautiful for its West Lake and the Grand Canal, capital of Zhejiang. Kunming (昆明) — capital of Yunnan and gateway to a rainbow of ethnic minority areas Nanjing (南京) — a renowned historical and cultural city with many historic sites Shanghai (上海) — famous for its riverside cityscape, a major commercial centre with many shopping opportunities Suzhou (苏州) — "Venice of the East," an ancient city famous for canals and gardens just west of Shanghai Xi'an (西安) — the oldest city and ancient capital of China, capital of 13 dynasties including the Han and the Tang, terminus of the ancient Silk Road, and home of the terracotta warriors
You can travel to many of these cities using the new fast trains. In particular, the Hangzhou - Shanghai - Suzhou - Nanjing line is a convenient way to see these historic areas.
Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in China
Some of the most famous tourism attractions in China are:
- Great Wall of China (万里长城) — longer than 8,000 km, this ancient wall is the most iconic landmark of China
- Hainan (海南) — a tropical paradise island undergoing heavy tourism-oriented development
- Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve (九寨沟) — known for its many multi-level waterfalls, colourful lakes and as the home of the giant pandas
- Leshan — most famous for its huge riverside cliff-carving of Buddha and nearby Mount Emei
- Mount Everest — straddling the border between Nepal and Tibet, this is the world's highest mountain
- Mount Tai (泰山 Tài Shān) — one of the five sacred Daoist mountains in China, and because of its history the most climbed mountain in China
- Tibet (西藏) — with a majority of Tibetan Buddhists and traditional Tibetan culture, it feels like an entirely different world
- Turpan (吐鲁番)— in the Islamic area of Xinjiang, this area is known for its grapes, harsh climate and Uighur culture
- Yungang Grottoes (云冈石窟) — these mountain-side caves and recesses number more than 50 in all and are filled with 51,000 Buddhist statues
China has over 40 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
China Halal Explorer
China built its first civilisations at around the same time as the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, and for many centuries stood out as a leading civilisation with technologies that the West was not able to match until much later. Paper and gunpowder are examples of ancient Chinese inventions that are still widely used today. As the dominant power in the region for much of its history, China exported much of its culture to neighboring Vietnam, Korea and Japan, and Chinese influences can still be seen in the cultures of these countries to this day.
Chinese civilisation has endured through millennia of tumultuous upheaval and revolutions, golden ages and periods of anarchy alike. Through the economic boom initiated by the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, China is once again one of the leading nations in the world, buoyed by its large, industrious population and abundant natural resources. The depth and complexity of the Chinese civilisation, with its rich heritage, has fascinated Westerners such as Marco Polo and Gottfried Leibniz in centuries past, and will continue to excite - and bewilder - the traveller today.
In Chinese, China is zhōng guó, literally "central state" (it originally referred only to the central part of the country) but often translated more poetically as "Middle Kingdom". People from everywhere else are wài guó rén, "outside country people", or colloquially lǎo wài, "old outsider" with "old" in the sense of venerable or respected (in practice, these terms mostly refer to white people or Westerners, and almost never to any foreigner of Chinese descent).
Public Holidays in China
China observes two week-long holidays during the year, called Golden Weeks. During these weeks, around Chinese New Year and National Day, hundreds of millions of migrant workers return home and millions of other Chinese travel within the country. Travellers may want to seriously consider scheduling to avoid being on the road, on the rails, or in the air during the major holidays. At the very least, travel should be planned well well in advance. Every mode of transportation is extremely crowded; tickets of any kind are hard to come by, and will cost you a lot more, so it may be necessary to book well in advance (especially for those travelling from remote western China to the east coast or in the opposite direction). Train and bus tickets are usually quite easy to buy in China, (during the non-holiday season), but difficulties arising from crowded conditions at these times cannot be overstated. Travellers who are stranded at these times, unable to buy tickets, can sometimes manage to get air tickets, which tend to sell out more slowly because of the higher but still affordable (by GCC standards) prices. The spring festival (Chinese New Year) is the largest annual migration of people on Earth.
China has six major annual holidays:
- Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (春节 chūnjié) - Falls between late January to the middle of February
- Qingming Festival or tomb sweeping day — Usually 4th to the 6th of April. Cemeteries are crowded with people who go to sweep the tombs of their ancestors and offer sacrifices. Traffic on the way to cemeteries can be very heavy.
- Labor Day or May Day (劳动节 láodòngjié) - May 1st
- Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duānwǔjié) - 5th day of the 5th lunar month, usually in the period of May to June. Boat races and eating zòngzi (粽子, steamed pouches of sticky rice) are a traditional part of the celebration.
- Mid-Autumn Day (中秋节 zhōngqiūjié）- 15th day of the 8th lunar month, in September or October.Also called the "Mooncake Festival" after its signature treat, mooncakes (月饼 yuèbǐng). People meet outside, put food on the tables and look up at the full harvest moon.
- National Day (国庆节 guóqìngjié) - 1 October
The Chinese New Year and National Day are not one-day holidays; nearly all workers get at least a week for Chinese New Year and some of them get two or three. For many working Chinese, these are the only times of the year they get to travel. Students get four to six weeks of holiday.
The Chinese New Year is especially busy. Not only is it the longest holiday, it's also a traditional time to visit family, and the entire country pretty well shuts down during this period. Most migrant workers in the cities will return to their farms and villages, which is often the only chance they have. Around the Chinese New Year, many stores and other businesses will close from a few days to a week or even longer. With this in mind, it is not ideal to visit during this period unless you have close friends or relatives in China.
In early July, around 20 million university students will return home and then in late August they will return to school, which makes roads, railways and planes very busy at these times.
A complete list of Chinese festivals would be very long since many areas or ethnic groups have their own local ones. See listings for individual towns for details. Here is a list of some of the nationally important festivals not mentioned above:
- Lantern Festival (元宵节 yuánxiāojié or 上元节 shàngyuánjié) - 15th day of the 1st lunar month, just after Chinese New Year, usually in February or March. In some cities, such as Quanzhou, this is a big festival with elaborate lanterns all over town.
- Double Seventh Festival (七夕 qīxī) - 7th day of the 7th lunar month, usually August, is a festival of romance, sort of a Chinese Valentine's Day.
- Double Ninth Festival or Chongyang Festival (重阳节 chóngyángjié) - 9th day of the 9th lunar month, usually in October.
- Winter Solstice Festival (冬至 dōngzhì) - 22nd or the 23rd December.
Despite geographically spanning five time zones, the entirety of China has officially followed Beijing Time (GMT +8) since the communist revolution in 1949. However, in the restive province of Xinjiang, ethnic Uyghurs use the GMT +6 time zone as a sign of defiance against Beijing, while ethnic Han use Beijing Time as a symbol of solidarity with Beijing.
How to travel to China
What is the best way to fly to China
The main international gateways to mainland China are Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Until recently, most other sizable cities, if they even had an international airport, were limited to East Asian and sometimes Southeast Asian destinations. However, the explosive growth of commercial aviation in China has meant that there is a wide choice of alternative gateways to the country. In particular, Chengdu is emerging as the next major Chinese hub, with flights to quite a few destinations in North America and Europe.
Airline tickets are expensive or hard to come by around Chinese New Year, the Chinese 'golden weeks' and university holidays.
If you live in a city with a sizeable overseas Chinese community (such as Toronto, San Francisco, Sydney or London), check for affordable flights with someone in that community or visit travel agencies operated by Chinese. Sometimes flights advertised only in Chinese newspapers or travel agencies cost significantly less than posted fares in English. However if you go and ask, you can get the same discount price.
China's carriers are growing rapidly. The three largest, and state-owned airlines are flag carrier Air China (中国国际航空), as well as China Eastern Airlines (中国东方航空) and China Southern Airlines (中国南方航空), based in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou respectively. Other airlines include Xiamen Airlines (厦门航空), Hainan Airlines (海南航空) and Shenzhen Airlines (深圳航空).
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific can connect from many international destinations to all the major mainland cities. Other Asian carriers with good connections into China include Singapore Airlines, Japan-based Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, South Korea-based Korean Air and Asian Airlines, and Taiwan-based China Airlines and EVA Air.
Most major carriers based outside Asia fly to at least one of China's main hubs — Beijing, Shanghai Pudong, Guangzhou and Hong Kong — and many go to several of those. Some, such as KLM, also have flights to other less prominent Chinese cities. Check the individual city articles for details.
Hong Kong -based Cathay Pacific can connect from many international destinations to all the major mainland cities. Other Asian carriers with good connections into China include Singapore Airlines, Japan-based Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, South Korea-based Korean Air and Asian Airlines, and Taiwan-based China Airlines and EVA Air.
Most major carriers based outside Asia fly to at least one of China's main hubs — Beijing, Shanghai Pudong, Guangzhou and Hong Kong — and many go to several of those. Some, such as KLM, also have flights to other less prominent Chinese cities. Check the individual city articles for details.
Travel by train to China
China can be reached by train from many of its neighbouring countries and even all the way from Europe.
- Russia & Europe - two lines of the Trans-Siberian Railway (Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian) run between Moscow and Beijing, stopping in various other Russian cities, and for the Trans-Mongolian, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
- Kazakhstan & Central Asia - from Almaty, Kazakhstan, you can travel by rail to Urumqi in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. There are long waits at the Alashankou border crossing for customs, as well as for changing the wheelbase for the next country's track. Another, shorter, trans-border route has no direct train service; rather, you take an overnight Kazakh train from Almaty to Altynkol, cross the border to Khorgos, and then take an overnight Chinese train from Khorgos (or the nearby Yining) to Urumqi. In 2017, direct train service between Ürümqi and Astana (via Khorgos) was introduced as well. (Details, in Chinese)
- Hong Kong - regular services link mainland China with Hong Kong. A high speed rail link was completed on 23rd September 2018.
- Vietnam - from Nanning in Guangxi province into Vietnam via the Friendship Pass. Direct service between Kunming to Haboi was terminated in 2002; but one can take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, walk or take a taxi across the border to Hekou, and take a train from Hekou North to Kunming.
- North Korea - four weekly connections between the North Korean capital Pyongyang and Beijing.
China has land borders with 14 different countries; a number matched only by its northern neighbour, Russia. Mainland China also has land borders with the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, which are for all practical purposes treated as international borders. Most of the border crossings in western China are in remote mountain passes, which while difficult to reach and traverse, often reward travellers willing to make the effort with breathtaking scenic views.
The Nathu La Pass between Sikkim in India and Southern Tibet is not open to tourists, and special permits are required to visit from both sides. The pass has reopened for cross-border trade so the tourist restriction may change in the future.
Entering China from Myanmar is possible at the Ruili (China)-Lashio (Myanmar) border crossing, but permits need to be obtained from the Burmese authorities in advance. Generally, this would require you to join a guided tour.
For most travellers Hanoi is the origin for any overland journey to China. There are three international crossings:
Dong Dang (V) - Pingxiang (C:凭祥) : You can catch a local bus from Hanoi's eastern bus station (Ben Xe Street, Gia Lam District, ☎ +86 4 827 1529 to Lang Son, where you have to switch transport to minibus or motorbike to reach the border at Dong Dang. Alternatively there are many offers from open-tour providers; for those in a hurry, they might be a good option if they offer a direct hotel to border crossing transfer. You can change money with freelance money changers, but check the rate carefully beforehand. Border formalities take about 30 minutes. On the Chinese side, walk up past the "Friendship-gate" and catch a taxi (about ¥20, bargain hard!) to Pingxiang, Guangxi. A seat in a minibus is ¥7. There is a Bank of China branch right across the street from the main bus station; the ATM accepts Maestro cards. You can travel by bus or train to Nanning.
Lao Cai (V) - Hekou (C:河口) : You can take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai for about 420,000 VND (as of 11/2011) for a soft sleeper. The trip takes about 8 hr. From there, it's a long walk (or a 5 minute ride) to the Lao Cai/Hekou border. Crossing the border is simple, fill out a customs card and wait in line. They will search your belongings (in particular your books/written material). Outside the Hekou border crossing is a variety of shops, and the bus terminal is about a 10 minute ride from the border. A bus ticket to Kunming from Hekou costs about ¥240; the ride is about 7 hr. From Hekou North Train stations (a few km away from the border crossing; local bus service available), train service to Kunming is available as well.
Mong Cai (V) - Dongxing (C:东兴) : At Dongxing, you can take a bus to Nanning, a sleeper bus to Guangzhou (approximately ¥280), or a sleeper bus to Shenzhen (approximately ¥230, 12 hr) (March 2006). A much shorter bus ride takes you to Fangchenggang, the closest city with a train service.
From Luang Namtha you can get a bus leaving at around 08:00, going to Boten (Chinese border) and Mengla. You need to have a Chinese visa beforehand as there is no way to get one on arrival. The border is close (about 1 hr). Customs procedures will eat up another good hour. The trip costs about 45,000 Kip.
Also, there is a direct Chinese sleeper bus connection from Luang Prabang to Kunming (about 32 hr). You can jump in this bus at the border, when the minibus from Luang Namtha and the sleeper meet. Don't pay more than ¥200, though.
The Karakoram Highway from northern Pakistan into Western China is one of the most spectacular roads in the world. It's closed for tourists for a few months in winter. Crossing the border is relatively quick because of few overland travellers, and friendly relations between the two countries. A bus runs between Kashgar (China) and Sust (Pakistan) across the Kunerjab pass.
The road from Nepal to Tibet passes near Mount Everest, and through amazing mountain scenery. Entering Tibet from Nepal is only possible for tourists on package tours, but it is possible to travel into Nepal from Tibet
There are two border crossings between Mongolia and China. They are the Erenhot(Inner Mongolia)/Zamiin Uud border crossing, and the Takashiken(Xinjiang)/Bulgan border crossings.
From Zamiin Uud. Take a local train from Ulaanbaatar to Zamiin Uud. Then Bus or Jeep to Erlian in China. There are local trains leaving in the evening most days and arriving in the morning. The border opens around 08:30. From Erlian there are buses and trains to other locations in China.
To/from Mongolia, Hovd Province.
Takeshiken (塔克什肯镇) – Bulgan border crossing
This border crossing links the western Mongolian province of Hovd with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (新疆维吾尔族自治区) in the far west of China. This crossing is less frequented by all kinds of travelers, although it’s gaining more popularity owing to its geographical and cultural location.
It traverses the ever impressive Altai Mountains, a cordillera that gives name to the (rather disputed) ethno-linguistic group, the Altaic people. It is a broad term that frames together the Mongolian, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Turks.
From China (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region):
Buses leave daily from Urumqi to Qinghe county （青河县） a small town 150 km from Takeshiken and it takes 8 hours during the day, at night 11 hours – ¥260 (Takeshiken is administratively a part of Aletai Prefecture （阿勒泰市）, Qinghe County). Then it’s 15 km more to reach the border, should be a quick ¥25 cab. After the border, a ride to Bulgan shoud be easy to find.
Start from the aimag (province) capital of Hovd. Go to the bazaar or market and see whose van is taking people to the town of Bulgan. Price is 25,000 togrog per person and journey time is around 5 hours. Much less then what it’s mentioned in other online sources, due to a new paved road that has been built (by the Chinese). It is still another few kilometers to get to the actual border crossing so ask the same driver that took you here or somebody else in town take you there. It’s another 5000 togrog to get there.
There is a town half way to the border, called Jargalant. Beware if you get stuck here, there are a million mosquitoes waiting to suck your blood and it’s quite an unpleasant experience. Prepare repellants.
Other crossing (bilateral only) are:
Zhuen Gadabuqi or Zuun Khatavch (xilingol, Inner Mongolia) – Bichigt (Mongolia)
Sheveekhuren - Sekhee
The border crossing closest to Almaty is at Khorgos. Buses run almost daily from Almaty to Urumqi and Yining. No visa-on-arrival is available so ensure that both your Chinese and Kazakh visas are in order before attempting this. Another major crossing is at Alashankou (Dostyk on the Kazakh side).
It is possible to cross the Torugart pass to/from Kyrgyztan, but the road is very rough and the pass is only open during the summer months (June–September) every year. It is possible to arrange crossings all the way from Kashgar, but ensure that all your visas are in order.
Alternatively, while less scenic, a smoother crossing is at Irkeshtam to the south of Torugart.
There is a single border crossing between China and Tajikistan at Kulma, which is open on weekdays from May–November. A bus operates across the border between Kashgar in Xinjiang and Khorog in Tajikistan. Ensure both your Chinese and Tajik visas are in order before attempting this crossing.
The most popular border crossing at Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia. Buses run from Manzhouli to Zabaikalsk in Russia. There are also ferries across the Amur from Heihe to Blagoveshchensk, and from Fuyuan to Khabarovsk. Farther east, there are land border crossings at Suifenhe, Dongning, and Hunchun. Ensure both your Russian and Chinese visas are in order before attempting.
Crossing overland into North Korea is possible at the Dandong/Sinuiju border crossing, but must be pre-arranged on a guided tour from Beijing, and is mostly available only to Chinese citizens. In the reverse direction, the crossing is fairly straightforward if you have arranged it as part of your North Korean tour. Several other border crossings also exist along the Yalu and Tumen rivers, though these crossings may not be open to tourists. Your tour company must ensure that both your Chinese and North Korean visas are in order before attempting this.
There are four road border crossings into China from Hong Kong at Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang, Sha Tau Kok/Shatoujiao, Man Kam To/Wenjindu and the Shenzhen Bay Bridge. A visa on arrival is available for some nationalities at Huanggang, but visas must be arranged in advance for all other crossings.
The two border crossings are at the Portas do Cerco/Gongbei and the Lotus Bridge. A visa-on-arrival can be obtained by certain nationalities at the Portas do Cerco. At Gongbei, Zhuhai train station is adjacent to the border crossing, with frequent train service to Guangzhou.
Travellers cannot cross the borders with Afghanistan and Bhutan.
Hong Kong and Macau
There is regular ferry and hovercraft service between Hong Kong and Macau to the rest of the Pearl River Delta, such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai. Ferry service from Hong Kong International Airport allow arriving passengers to proceed directly to China without having to clear Hong Kong immigration and customs.
There is a 2-day ferry service from Shanghai and Tianjin to Osaka, Japan. Service is once or twice weekly, depending on season.
There is a ferry service from Shanghai and Tianjin to Incheon, a port city very close to Seoul. Another line is from Qingdao or Weihai to Incheon or Dalian to Incheon.
Hourly ferries (18 departures per day) run between Kinmen and Xiamen, with the journey time either 30 minutes or 1 hr depending on port. There is also a regular ferry between Kinmen and Quanzhou with 3 departures per day. A twice-daily ferry links Matsu with Fuzhou, with journey time about 2 hr. From the Taiwanese main island, there are weekly departures from Taichung and Keelung aboard the Cosco Star to Xiamen.
Golden Peacock Shipping company runs a speedboat three times a week on the Mekong river between Jinghong in Yunnan and Chiang Saen (Thailand). Passengers are not required to have visas for Laos or Myanmar, although the greater part of the trip is on the river bordering these countries. the ticket costs ¥650
In the fall, several cruise lines move their ships from Alaska to Asia and good connections can generally be found leaving from Anchorage, Vancouver, or Seattle. Star Cruises operates between Keelung in Taiwan and Xiamen in mainland China, stopping at one of the Japanese islands on the way.
How to get around In China
Foreign apps such as Google Maps and Apple Maps do not work in China, and tend to have patchy coverage and data quality even if you access them via VPN. Moreover, China uses its own coordinate system, which sometimes causes problems when using foreign map apps. The most common direction-finding app used by the Chinese themselves is Baidu Maps, though it is only available in Chinese. Alternative methods include other map apps based on OpenStreetMap data or renting a local GBSNAV. More information at GPS navigation.
What is the best way to fly to China
China is a huge country so, unless you're not planning on venturing outside the eastern seaboard, definitely consider domestic flights if you don't want to spend a couple of days on the train or on the road getting from one area to another. China has many domestic flights connecting all the major cities and tourist destinations. Airlines include the three state-owned international carriers: Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern, as well as regional ones including Hainan Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Shanghai Airlines.
Flights between Hong Kong or Macau and mainland Chinese cities are considered to be international flights and so can be quite expensive. Hence if arriving in, or departing from, Hong Kong or Macau, it is usually much cheaper to fly to or from Shenzhen or Zhuhai, just across the border, or Guangzhou, which is a little further afield but offers flights to more destinations. As an example, the distance from Fuzhou to Hong Kong, Shenzhen or Guangzhou is about the same, but as of mid-2005 flying to Hong Kong cost ¥2,400 while list price for the other cities was ¥880 and for Shenzhen discounts to ¥750 were available. Overnight bus to any of these destinations was about ¥250.
Prices for domestic flights are set at standard rates, but discounts are common, especially on the busier routes. Most good hotels, and many hostels, will have a travel ticket service and may be able to save you 15%-70% off the price of tickets. Travel agencies and booking offices are plentiful in all Chinese cities and offer similar discounts. Even before considering discounts, travelling by aircraft in China is not expensive.
For travel within China, it is usually best to buy tickets in China, or on Chinese websites (these often have English versions). A useful app/website is CTrip, which is the only way you can use an international credit/debit card on the fly to buy train/plane tickets. If you buy your ticket from a Chinese vendor they will contact you to let you know about changes to your flight. If you purchased your ticket overseas, be certain to check on the flight status a day or two before you plan to fly. Booking too far in advance on Chinese websites is not advisable as prices tend to remain high until 2 months before the flight date, at which point large discounts are usually seen unless a particular flight has been heavily booked far in advance.
Matches and lighters are not permitted on flights in China, even in carry-on luggage. Pocketknives must be placed in checked luggage.
Be prepared for unexplained flight delays as these are common despite pressure from both the government and consumers. For short distances, consider other, seemingly slower options. Flight cancellations are also not uncommon. If you buy your ticket from a Chinese vendor they will likely try to contact you (if you left contact information) to let you know about the change in flight plan. If you purchased your ticket overseas, be certain to check on the flight status a day or two before you plan to fly.
Also be sure not to lose your bag tags for your check-in baggage, as these will be checked before you are allowed to leave the baggage claim hall.
Study as a Muslim in China
Traditional Chinese culture places a strong emphasis on education, so unsurprisingly, there is no lack of options for those who wish to receive quality education in China.
China's universities offer many different types of courses, and some of them are regularly ranked among the top universities in the world. China's most prestigious general universities are Peking University (北京大学) in Beijing and Fudan University (复旦大学) in Shanghai, while Tsinghua University (清华大学) in Beijing and Shanghai Jiaotong University (上海交通大学) in Shanghai are the top schools for technical subjects. Of course there are many others, and some of those are excellent as well.
Language trainees Universities accept students who have achieved the minimum of a high school education for courses in the Chinese language. These courses usually last 1 or 2 years. Students are given certificates after they complete their course. Students who do not speak Chinese and want to study further in China are usually required to complete a language training course.
Undergraduates Undergraduate degrees usually require 4 to 5 years of study. International students will have classes together with native Chinese students. Taking each student's past education into account, some classes can be added or removed accordingly. Students will receive a Bachelor's degree after passing the necessary exams and completing a thesis.
Postgraduates Master's degrees are granted after 2 to 3 years of study. Oral examinations are also taken as well as written exams and a postgraduate thesis.
Doctoral students Usually 4 to 5 years of study are needed to obtain a PhD.
Research scholars Research is usually conducted independently by the student under the supervision of an assigned tutor. Any surveys, experiments, interviews, or visits that a research scholar has to make need to be arranged beforehand and authorised.
Short-term training courses Short-term courses are now offered in many areas such as Chinese literature, calligraphy, economics, architecture, Chinese law, traditional Chinese medicine, art, and sports. Courses are offered during the holidays as well as term time.
Foreign students can continue their studies and obtain Master's or doctoral degrees in China's universities. Some universities offer courses taught in foreign languages, but most courses will be in Chinese. You will need to demonstrate sufficient proficiency in Chinese before you can enroll on such a course. You do this by passing the HSK test (汉语水平考试 hànyǔ shuǐpíng kǎoshì), the official way to certify your skills on a Basic, Intermediate or Advanced level. The test involves reading, writing and listening, but no oral. See the HSK homepage for dates and locations.
In order to promote its culture and language, the Chinese government offers scholarships to Foreign Muslims who want to study in China. Partial scholarships will cover tuition fees only. Full scholarships cover pretty much everything, including books, rent, some medical coverage, and a monthly allowance for food and expenses. Although studying pins you down to a specific city and limits the time you can spend travelling, a scholarship is a great way to help you cut through some red tape, get a Residence Permit and, if you're lucky, live in China practically for free.
To enquire about scholarships, directly contact the embassy in your area, or ask around at universities and language schools that have China-related courses. Scholarships are distributed by quota to each country therefore you will be competing against your fellow citizens, not against the entire world. The procedure varies from country to country, but normally requires the following paperwork:
- authorised copies of your highest (preferably university) degree, including exam scores;
- two letters of recommendation
- proof of a full health check-up (blood-test, ECG, X-Ray, etc)
- your reason for study
- plenty of passport-sized photos
All of this is shipped by the embassy to Beijing, which then decides who is accepted, where, and under what conditions. Applications are usually decided by the end of March, but the answer may not come until as late as August, with classes starting in September.
If all goes well, this will get you a letter of acceptance by the university of your choice, plus a visa that lets you stay in China for about two months. Once in China, you will have to do the medical tests all over again, and upgrade the visa to a residence permit. This is where being part of a university comes in handy, as they should be able to handle all of the paperwork, going so far as to bring a medical team on campus to check you up — more preferable to running from police station to hospital to consulate, especially if you don't speak Chinese!
When all is said and done, you will have a residence permit that lets you stay one year in China, lets you leave and enter the country as you want, and a fair ability to travel during weekends, holidays, and the occasional class-skipping stint.
Local Customs in China
A few basic guidelines and tips can help you avoid faux pas in China.
- Business cards: When presenting or receiving a business card or handing over an important paper, always use both hands and do it with a slight bow of your head, and do not place in your pocket afterwards in sight of the presenter.
- Visitation: A small gift taken to a host's home is always welcome. Wine, fruit, or some trinket from your native country are common. If the hosts are wearing slippers at home, and especially if there is carpet on the floor, remove your road shoes and ask for a pair of slippers before you enter your host's home, even if the host asks you not to.
- Dining: When dining in a business setting, do not pick up your chopsticks until the most senior person has started eating.
- Tobacco: If you smoke, it is always considered polite to offer a cigarette to those you meet. This rule applies almost exclusively to men. If someone offers you a cigarette and you don't smoke, you can turn it down by politely and gently waving your hand.
Cope in China
Electricity is 220 volts/50 Hz. Two-pin European and North American, as well as three-pin Australian style plugs are generally supported. However, be careful to read the voltage information on your devices to ensure they accept 220 V (twice the 110 V used in many countries) before plugging them in — you may cause burnout and permanent damage to some devices such as hairdryers and razors. Universal extension cords that can handle a wide variety of plug shapes (including British) are widely used.
Names of long streets are often given with a middle word indicating the part of the street. For example, White Horse Street or Báimǎ Lù (白马路) may be split up into Báimǎ Běilù (白马北路) for the northern (北 běi) end, Báimǎ Nánlù (白马南路) for the southern (南 nán) end and Báimǎ Zhōnglù (白马中路) for the central (中 zhōng) part. For another street, dōng (东 "east") and xī (西 "west") might be used.
In some cities, however, these names do not indicate parts of one street. In Xiamen, Hubin Bei Lu and Hubin Nan Lu (Lakeside Road North and Lakeside Road South) are parallel, running East-West on the North and South sides of the lake. In Nanjing, Zhongshan Lu, Zhongshan Bei Lu and Zhongshan Dong Lu are three separate major roads.
Smoking is banned in public buildings and public transport except for restaurants (including KTVs) - many of which are outright smoke dens, although many multinational restaurant chains do ban smoking. These bans are enforced across the country. Generally, smoking laws are most strict in Shanghai and Beijing, whilst they are more lightly enforced elsewhere. Many places (particularly train stations, hospitals, office buildings and airports) will have smoking rooms, and some long-distance trains may have smoking areas at the end of each car. Facilities for non-smokers are often poor; most restaurants, bars and hotels will not have non-smoking areas apart from top-end establishments although many modern buildings have a smoke extraction systems which suck cigarette smoke out of the room through a ceiling vent - meaning that the smoke doesn't hang in the air. The Chinese phrase for 'May I smoke?' is 'kěyǐ chōuyān ma?' and 'No Smoking!' is 'bù kěyǐ chōuyān!'.
Telecommunications in China
Emergency numbers in China
The following emergency phone numbers work in all areas of China; calling them from a cell phone is free.
- Patrol Police: 110
- Fire Department: 119
- (Government-owned) Ambulance/EMS: 120
- (some areas private-owned) Ambulance: 999
- Traffic Police: 122
- Directory inquiries: 114
- Consumer Protection: 12315
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