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General Tour Information

Here is some information you might want to read carefully. It should give you a quite clear picture of how our tours operate. More information about traveling in China in general can be found in our About China page. You might also want to visit our FAQ page for answers to commonly asked questions. Our Pre-Departure Packet will take you step by step in helping you prepare for your individual trip.


Every traveler must have a valid passport and visa to enter the mainland. The passport must be valid for a period of six (6) months after the date of visa expiration. If your passport is anywhere near this limitation, get it renewed before you depart. Visas must be obtained before entering. Most visas are issued so you have ninety (90) days from the date of issuance to actually enter the country. For example, you would have until June 1st to enter China for a visa issued on March 1st.

For the purposes of Red Monkey Travel tours, you will need a single-entry, 30-day, "L" visa, the basic tourist visa. These must be obtained in person (or by a representative) at your facing Chinese embassy or consulate. A list of these locations for United States citizens can be located at this web address:http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn. Fees vary country by country according to reciprocity tables set by the Chinese government.

A separator visa is required to enter Hong Kong. For American citizens, this may be obtained at the airport or other border crossing. There is no charge for this visa for American citizens however other nationalities should check with your facing Chinese embassy for more details and additional requirements.

Visas may be denied without explanation so it is a very good idea to list an occupation other than journalist, reporter, CIA agent, etc.

Trip Size

We believe traveling in a small group is more fun, less hassle, and most importantly, gives you more flexibility on your holiday. That is why all of trips will comprise no more than eight (8) travelers plus your tour leader. Our trips will commence even with a minimum of two (2) people. We have and will set up a trip for a single traveler. However, this would considered a custom tour and you should drop us an email for more information.


We try to combine as many modes of transportation as practical. Traveling like the locals do is one of the best ways to experience the country at the ground level. We will use domestic flights, day trains, night (sleeper) trains, private buses, public buses, taxis, river boats, catamarans, subways, pedicabs, bicycles, and even horses.

For overnight train travel, we utilize a class called "soft sleeper". It is four bunk-style beds in an enclosed compartment complete with pillows, sheets, blankets, hot water (for tea or coffee), and even the occasional plastic flower. However, as this service is not always available, occasionally we travel "hard sleeper". Don't worry, it is actually quite comfortable, the only major difference being six beds in an open compartment. On shorter day routes, we travel "soft seat" which is basically assigned coach seating, similar to "business class" seating on airlines. All Chinese rail cars are no smoking cars, although smoking is allowed in the area between cars.

China's airline industry has improved immeasurably from the days when it had one of the worst safety records in the world. We will use flights in all our itineraries to cover the huge distances more efficiently.

We also use a combination of public and private buses. Most of the public buses will be Mercedes and new Korean-built buses that are quite comfortable and on a par with western-style tour buses. Our private buses will more like mini vans that can accommodate six to eight people and luggage. These will be utilized when public bus schedules are too time-consuming or crowded to get around comfortably.

Intercity travel will be a combination of subways (Beijing and Hong Kong), buses, and taxis. While we could write a small book about traveling in taxis in China, we will take most of the adventure out of getting around by taxi. There is no shortage of taxis in any city in the country (as most people can't afford their own cars yet) and almost all are metered.


The criteria we use for selecting our hotels are cleanliness, character, and value for your travel dollar. In that order. All rooms have private bathrooms with shower and sometimes a bath. They feature Western-style toilets (we know you were wondering about this), air-conditioning, television, telephone, and 24-hour hot water. In most cases, the rooms will have two twin beds in leiu of a double bed.

We also select hotels that offer a little character, and that are not just the square concrete, Soviet-style boxes that litter every Chinese city. This may be an old house that has been converted, with only twelve rooms, or with a family in a wooden house perched on a hillside in Guangxi. The Silk Road Adventure features a night’s stay in a traditional Kazakh yurt.

Of course, for the traveler who wants the best, we now offer a 5-Star Upgrade on all our trips. This upgrade is to international five-star hotels, not to China-only hotels that somehow found an extra star or two for the brass plaque in the lobby. Pricing can be found on the appropriate Trip Detail page. For more discussion about Chinese hotels in general, see our hotel section on the About China page.

What to Pack

There are only three things to remember about packing for a two or three-week trip. First, pack light . Second, don't pack a lot. Third, if in doubt, leave it out. Bring the minimum. You can buy anything you need in China and often at one-third the price you would pay at home. Don't bring expensive jewelry.

Pack to dress in layers, so if the weather changes dramatically, you can add or delete very easily. Don't pack heavy items, as you will be toting your own bag.

As a rule of thumb, you can pack all you need for two weeks in China in a bag small enough to be carried on a plane. It is a good idea (and we strongly recommend) to bring a day bag that can hold a camera, water, maps, etc. Your Pre Departure Packet will detail suggested packing lists for your specific trip and for the time of year you are traveling.


Different tours have different levels of organized meals. In our Magic of Beijing tour, we dine as a group each night to introduce you to the various regional cuisines. On other trips, we plan meals in each destination that feature local dishes which really shouldn't be missed. In many of our hotels, simple Chinese/Western breakfasts are included with the room.

On those days where planned meals are not indicated, we do not throw you to the wolves so to say. Those meals are just are not included in the trip price and offer you some flexibility. Your tour leader will be there to assist and we also provide a handy pocket-sized menu guide. Some of our most daring clients have used the point-at-other-diners'-plates ordering method. It's hilarious and makes for an unforgettable meal.


The major activity for all our trips is walking, watching, and listening. If you live a sedentary lifestyle at home, you need to get into shape. This is no joke. It doesn't sound like much, but in a day of sightseeing, you could easily walk five miles. And if the majority of the walking you do at home is out the front door to the car, it will be a shock to your system. But other than this, any person in reasonably good health should have no problems with any sightseeing, hiking (on the Great Wall for example) or cycling on our tours.

Tour Leaders

All of our trips employ full-time, bilingual tour leaders. Your tour leader will be with you from Day 1 until the end of your trip We also will use local guides in most destinations. They are the "experts" and we use them.

Our tour leaders are responsible for making sure your trip proceeds as smoothly as possible. They will coordinate chores, advise you on optional activities, and keep you informed throughout the trip. Please let them know immediately of any concerns. They are backed up by our team in Beijing.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is required by all participants. It just makes good sense. Unexpected things can happen and you need protection and a worry-free trip. Travel insurance is relatively inexpensive and it usually based on your age and the length of time you will be out of the country. Different coverage elements can include medical and dental treatment, trip cancellation, trip delay, emergency evacuation, lost luggage, etc. All Red Monkey tours require the participant to have a basic level of travel insurance—at a minimum, medical coverage. Here are two excellent websites that can help you: (www.insuremytrip.com) and (www.completetravelinsurance.com). You can also consult your local travel agent and your health insurance provider at home.

See China for yourself!

(rev 8/2007)