Thursday, March 31, 2011

Costly Preparations for Travel to China

I’ve had to go through a number of steps in preparation for a trip to China. There are a number of costs and I was surprised at the total. Before I even get on a plane, I’ve spent $391 and counting.

By far the biggest cost is the vaccinations. I needed several. Fortunately, the polio and tetanus boosters are covered by my provincial plan, but I had to pay a total of $313 for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid. My shoulders are like pin cushions.

I needed a new set of power plug adapters that include a Chinese adapter. This cost me $28. The remaining $50 was for a Chinese visa. As far as I can tell, this is just a formality that exists to collect $50. But, who knows. Maybe some people do get rejected.

As far as I am aware, my only remaining expense before taking off is the exchange on buying some Chinese currency. I’m expecting to enjoy the trip, but these costs could easily be overlooked by someone preparing a travel budget.

8 comments:

  1. Buy your currency when you get there. The exchange is terrible here. Sell your currency before you leave. You will have few takers for RMB here. Enjoy the trip.

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  2. @Thicken: Thanks for the advice. This will be my first trip to China.

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  3. The currency tip Thicken mentioned works for Mexico too. I got some currency from my bank before we left and the exchange was so poor I thought they made a mistake. I returned it, and the clerk was quite annoyed with me. I don't think she was thinking "the customer is always right" at that moment.

    Enjoy your trip, Michael.

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  4. @Gene: I haven't had much luck dealing with banks for foreign currencies (other than US$). But there are businesses that specialize in buying and selling foreign cash. These businesses tend to offer smaller spreads. But the advice I'm getting today is (for China and Mexico) that I'll get better rates once I land.

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  5. I have some relations going to China soon too. They've been there before. I'll have to ask them how they are preparing and see if they have any tips to pass on.

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  6. Assuming that you have an ATM card, don't worry about currency exchange. Your best rate is going to be the one you get withdrawing your money from the ATM at the airport (actually, I think I read that the exchange rate is set by the government so it makes no difference where you exchange it if you are talking about banks). You can sometimes find a map of the airport online before you leave so you can plan where to go. The airports have prominent information counters if you need help finding one. The airport maps are also labeled in Chinese and English. Nevertheless, ATM's are available throughout China. Check the website of the network that your card is affiliated with. Since there is a fee associated with the transaction, withdraw as much as you feel you are comfortable traveling with. Notify your bank and credit card in advance of leaving so you don't get your accounts frozen for strange activity. I find out what my banks daily withdrawal limit is ahead of time and draw as close to that as I can manage. After withdrawing, I like to go directly to the nearest bathroom to tuck my money away in the pouch I wear under my shirt; you could also use a money belt for the same purpose.

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  7. The power plug adapters should be sufficient. I think you meant converter when you said Chinese adapter. The only reason why you would need a converter would be for something using a motor and I understand those are a bit "iffy". Most electronic devices like computers and camera chargers say 100-220 on them (The Chinese voltage is in the 200 range...can't remember if it's 210 or 220. ) ...Oh, you might want to throw in some tissue packets. Why? Chinese public toilets usually don't include tissue paper. Usually you will find them at your table in restaurants. Have a great trip! I love China...going back for the fifth time this summer, God willing.

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  8. @Larry: I'm always looking for good travel tips.

    @Bruce: Thanks very much for the extensive and detailed advice. It is very helpful.

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