Money and Shopping Tips for China Travel
by Louie Yi, President of Lotus Travel
- Money: bring enough US cash bills so you can exchange money to local currency at the hotel's cashier instead of a bank. It could take ½ day to cash $50 in the bank because of the bank system inefficiencies in China. Traveler’s checks are not familiar in Chinese banking system and you may encounter difficulty in cashing these, so, don’t bring them.
- ATM or Bank Cards: ATM machines are a popular and easy way to secure cash while in country. It is recommended to use an RFID protected wallet case to eliminate unauthorized use of your card. Many banks allow customers to set up a specific account or subaccount with a debit card issued from it. This allows easy access to your money while traveling and limits potential liability if that card is compromised.
- Shopping: you will find it is different to shop in China compared to the US due to the different culture and traditions. The following shopping information could be helpful for you while you travel in China.
- Unlike the return policies in N. America, China does not honor any returns after purchase. Consider all sales as final.
- Take a small calculator with you and remember the exchange rate. Ask for a receipt and mark the cost in US dollars for your information. This will be very helpful if you have to claim items to the US customs on return.
- Bargain in the right places otherwise you could be embarrassed. Never bargain in the following places: super market, department store, pharmacy, or a book store. You should always bargain in the food market, free market, night market, electrical appliance shop, handicraft article shop, souvenir shop and tourist stores.
- The prices are highly variable, so shop around by all means. Don't compare the prices after the payment because it might put a bit of a damper on the trip. Just enjoy the experience and your new purchases.
- Keep your wallet in your handbag or "fanny pack". Don't show store clerks how much cash or how many cards you have; otherwise, it will be hard for you to bargain for a lower price.
- Don't let store clerks know how much you like an item if you find something you really like. It is best to act uninterested and to ask the vender prices at random.
- Start bargaining for 50% off an item at the first store. If it doesn't work, walk to the next shop. The vender may ask you coming back before you leave the shop; however, you must insist 50% off if that happens. If they still decline, go to the next shop and ask for 40% or 30% off until the deal is closed. Most venders carry similar, if not the same, products. Do not fear that it is "one-of-a-kind", although the clerk may insist that it is.
- Don't purchase valuables in free market, small shops, or night market. Go to the Government's Antique Shop if you want to ensure you are purchasing an authentic piece.
- Have some small bills with you, especially for shopping in the free market, small shop, or night market. This will help prevent getting false money from changing bills.
- Please ask for the receipt and contact information if you are going to have stuff shipped back home. A company name, phone number and possible email address will make the process easier.
Remember to “go with the flow” and if there is something particularly compelling you wish to purchase, it can be a good idea to go ahead, as it is likely not found again in another city. Above else, have no regrets, but realize, you may have to purchase an additional suitcase to get everything home that you like!