For Consultants

Travel is a fact of life for most consultants. Many spend 45 weeks on the road every year, and some say they wouldn’t want it any other way.

We know one married couple where both are traveling consultants. They often joke that they should write a book called “Marriage on Three Days a Week” because they only see each other from Thursday night to Sunday night most weeks. Of course, they take great vacations with all the frequent flier miles and hotel points, and neither one is left at home to manage the household while the other dines in restaurants every night and comes home expecting all the chores to be done.

Like many others, they have learned how to be comfortable on the road so that their travel schedules are a source of new experiences and great stories instead of a hardship. If you learn how to be comfortable in your environment, you’ll do better work and last longer in this demanding field.

There are two types of consulting roles, from a travel schedule perspective. One type of consultant is the real Road Warrior who is in a different city each week, often visiting two or three different clients and staying only a couple of days each place. The other type travels to the same destination every week to work on a long-term engagement over several months. Which type of travel schedule you end up with depends as much on your personality as on your skill set.

No matter which type of travel schedule you have, there are some seemingly small things you can do to make yourself significantly more comfortable on the road.

Enroll in every frequent flier and hotel points program you can. The biggest perks in business travel come when you get a free family vacation later. All those trips to Pittsburgh might buy you a trip to Honolulu or Prague or wherever your heart leads you.

Whenever possible, use the same airline and hotel chain for every city. This helps you rack up the points faster, and it also establishes a level of comfort and familiarity for you from the moment you arrive in the city. Not every Marriott is exactly like every other Marriott, but there are enough similarities between them that you will begin to feel at home quickly.

Packing for Travel

Develop a routine for packing. Make a checklist that includes everything that you know you’ll need for any trip, including items like toothbrush and cell-phone charger. Go over the checklist every single time you pack a suitcase.

If you don’t follow this advice, you will eventually end up spending $200 on a “charge everything” device and using a hotel toothbrush that will rip your gums out.

  1. Always assume you will have to carry your luggage yourself. If you aren’t sure you will need it, don’t take it. You can always buy one there. (Don’t accept engagements in locations that don’t have stores.)
  2. Pack something comfortable to wear in your hotel room and clothes you can wear to work out.
  3. Plan to sleep in something you don’t mind being seen wearing in public. In the event of a fire, hotels will evacuate two floors above and two floors below, even if it’s just a small fire in a trash basket. That’s what that loudspeaker above the bed is for.
  4. All luggage looks alike. Make your bag easy to spot on the carousel and less likely to be stolen with a few strategically placed strips of duct tape or a big pink bow.
  5. The military knows that rolled clothing does not wrinkle. Don’t fold it, roll it. Turn jackets inside out, fold the collar up and press one shoulder inside the other.
  6. Think about what you pack from the perspective of Customs and Airport Security. For example, many airlines will not allow you to carry steel-tipped darts in your carry-on luggage. (Yes, one of us learned this the hard way. Not the one you think.) Carry all medication in the original packages, particularly prescription medication.
  7. Purchase two of everything you use daily, like cosmetics, razors, toothbrush, etc. Leave one set at home. Pack toiletries once and leave them packed. This way, you don’t have to worry that you forgot something essential and will not notice until the middle of the night in a strange hotel room. When you run out of something on the road, replace it. (This is easier if you use common brands that are sold nationally.)

After only a few weeks of travel, you’ll know exactly what you need to pack and what you don’t.

Hotel Living

If you are traveling to the same city every week, pick a hotel that you are comfortable in and make friends with the people at the front desk and in Housekeeping. If you can commit to a certain number of weeks, they might even give you a break on the room rate, which is also good for your customer.

Once you’ve tried two or three different rooms in different parts of the hotel, you’ll begin to identify specific things you like or dislike. Within a few weeks, you’ll probably have a favorite room. Don’t be afraid to ask for it every week. Staying in the same room every week can increase your sense of comfort and it’s easier to remember what room you are in. Every one of us has been frustrated at least once by trying to open a hotel room door, only to realize that the key doesn’t work because this is the room we were in last week, and we have no idea what room we have been assigned this week.

If you followed our instructions for packing and bought duplicates of all your toiletries and travel needs, you can check a suitcase with the bellman over the weekend instead of carrying it home with you. Leave your laundry with a dry cleaner over the weekend and come back on Monday to a fresh wardrobe without carrying a bag with you to the airport. That’s freedom!

Make friends with the people who have control of the food. If you are eating all your meals off the Room Service menu, you will soon get bored with the choices. Encourage the person who answers the Room Service line to give you suggestions.

When Christine was working in one city where it wasn’t considered safe to leave the hotel and wander around at night, she called the Room Service number one night and said, in the most pitiful voice she could muster, “I’m hungry and nothing on the menu looks good tonight. Help me!”

The Room Service voice laughed and said, “Miss Lambden, don’t you worry. After all these months, I know what you like. Let me surprise you.”

In addition to the best steak and the freshest salad ever served by Room Service, the waiter brought a glass of red wine and said, “The chef said to tell you that he knows you don’t like red wine, but this is special. Try it with the steak. Alternate one bite of steak with one sip of wine.”

She still talks about that steak. After that night, she never had to look at the Room Service menu again. When she called, she would say, “Maybe a fish tonight?” or “I’m in the mood for something chocolate.”

Remember, if you are tired of the hotel menu, just imagine how the chef feels.

Since you can’t eat all the time, here are some other ways to fill an evening in a hotel room:

  1. Call your mother.
  2. Read.
  3. Go to a movie.
  4. College libraries are often open late. Learn something.
  5. Work out. Remember the Freshman Fifteen in college? The life of a consultant includes too many meals in restaurants and too few long walks in the park.

If you exercise at home, try to exercise the same way when you are traveling. Find out if it’s safe to walk/run outside near the hotel. This is also a great way to find the neighborhood restaurants and pubs that the travel books don’t know about.

If you exercise in a gym at home, stay in a hotel with a gym and use it. If there is no gym available in the hotel, remember that many national chains have memberships that allow you to work out in any city. Like national hotel and restaurant chains, gyms are a great way to find familiar surroundings in an unfamiliar place.

Exploring new cities is a great way to get exercise and enjoy your time on the road. See the sights. Shop. Ask the people at the hotel and at work what you should be sure to see while you are in town.

We know one consultant who managed, in one year, to see Niagara Falls (working in Buffalo), the Arch in St. Louis, the Napa Valley wine country, six shows on Broadway, and Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break.

Did you know that Kansas City is the City of Fountains? In the winter, the city slowly freezes some of the fountains so you see frozen ice where water flows in the summer. Just beautiful.

Did you know that you can visit the Budweiser Clydesdales at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis? If you think they are fun to watch on Super Bowl commercials, just imagine how magnificent they are up close.

These opportunities may not present themselves again. Don’t spend every evening in your hotel room.

Every city has something unique to offer and the people who live there will be happy to help you discover what is wonderful about their hometown.

Single Life on the Road

The constant-travel lifestyle is often more appealing to single people who do not have a family at home waiting for them each week. For these consultants, the only challenge is finding a way to maintain a home when you aren’t there during the week.

Here are some tips:

  1. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail once or twice during the week.
  2. Install automatic light timers in your house. Install motion sensor lights outside. This makes it look like someone is home and protects your stuff. (It also makes bats and possums find another yard to live in, but that might just be an Austin thing.)
  3. Hide valuables. Burglars know all about looking in the freezer for your jewelry, but would they think to look in that bag of potting soil in the garage? Hint: Tell someone you trust where you hid them…you’ll remember all the great spots you considered, and you’ll forget the one you picked.
  4. Splurge a little with all that money you are making as a consultant and hire a maid service to come in and clean your house while you are gone. If you have a lawn, hire a yard service, too. The last thing you are going to feel like doing when you finally get home is housework, and you’ll be happier in this job if you don’t feel that you are neglecting chores.
  5. If possible, have a trusted house-sitter stay in your house. Then you won’t have to worry at all.

In addition to maintaining your house, a single person on the road has to maintain a social life. When you are out of town all week, it’s easy to find yourself excluded from your friends’ conversations about plans for the weekend. You have to work harder to maintain those friendships at home, especially if you are also forming new friendships in the city where you are working.

It’s not totally unheard of for consultants assigned to the same client week after week to form friendships, or even romantic attachments, in the city where they work. Having bonds with people all over the country can be a huge advantage professionally because your network is expanded to include all of their colleagues, as well.

Don’t date someone in the client company. This can get messy. (Yeah, we know. Your situation is different. You’ll handle it like grownups. We’d like to believe this, but in our experience it rarely works out that way. Even so, this is still good advice for everyone else.)

Married With Children

Life on the road is harder for those who have a family at home. You miss them and you feel guilty about leaving them behind, and even more guilty when you’re having fun without them.

The same tourist attractions that enliven a single person’s travel can make you miss your family even more. You find yourself thinking, “The kids would love this,” or “Niagara Falls by myself? I don’t think so!”

Here are some tips for making travel easier when you miss your family:

  1. Write long letters saying all the stuff you would have said if you were at home. Buy a fax machine for the house so you can send them before you go to bed and the family can read them with breakfast. (We know. Email works just as well. Except it doesn’t. Handwritten letters mean more. They just do.)
  2. Give the hotel’s fax number to your family or set up a personal e-fax number. Encourage letters from home. Also drawings and report cards and anything else that will make you feel closer. Almost all children could benefit from the occasional writing exercise, and most of them already know how to operate a computer.
  3. Buy a small digital camera or use your cell phone to take pictures and make a “Day in the Life” slide show for the kids. Take pictures of your day from the time you wake up to the time you prepare for bed – pictures of your hotel room, your breakfast plate, your cubicle and co-workers, the bookstore you stop at after work, the restaurants you like – everything! (Trust us, they’ll love it.)

Driving in Strange (translation: “New To You”) Places

Weather conditions and driver courtesy rules vary from city to city. In some cities, driving is a brutal competition, and it’s considered rude or suicidal to slow down for a yellow light. Someone will honk at you or run into you. In others, you’ll get dirty looks if you don’t yield and let a waiting car merge in front of you. On most country roads, failure to wave at passing drivers marks you as an outsider.

No matter where you are, these tips will help lessen the impact of driving during your travels:

  1. Get a map when you arrive. If you know where you are going, you are much less likely to end up in the wrong place.
  2. If you rear-end a car on the freeway, your first move should be to hang up the phone. Better yet, go hands-free when you are driving. Best of all, hang up and drive.
  3. Rent your car from the same agency every week and be extra nice. Usually, the same agents are on duty every Monday morning, so eventually they’ll know you and may offer you the cool convertible or the Jag for a week at no extra charge.
  4. Not every state or city has a “right on red” law. Check with the car rental agency or look for a “No right on red” sign before you assume it’s legal in any intersection where you are.
  5. If you are stopped for speeding, running a red light, driving the wrong way, or, worst of all, hitting something, be very polite to everyone involved. Of course, this is true when you aren’t traveling, too, but you have a better chance of making your meeting or flight if you deal with the situation nicely.

In New York or Boston (or London or Beijing), take a cab or public transportation. Some warnings say “Don’t try this at home.” With regard to driving in these places, the rule is “Don’t try this on the road.” In other words, ask someone at your destination or consult a travel guide to find out whether it’s advisable to drive yourself around.

If you are facing your first winter in a snowy climate, ask someone to teach you how to drive in icy conditions before the first blizzard. You may feel foolish, and they will definitely laugh at you, but the first time you feel your car start to slide, you’ll be glad you did.

For us, just saying “I’m from Texas” is often enough to have our clients offer free driving lessons, icy conditions or not.

Air

Since 9/11, keeping track of the rules for air travel and getting through Security checkpoints has become more of a challenge, but the airlines have made a sincere effort to help.

Every airline and airport website has information about security requirements and how much time will be required to get to your gate. Experienced travelers quickly learn to avoid the busiest times of the day and week. In fact, we don’t know a single traveling consulting who would consider flying on the day before Thanksgiving under any circumstances.

Airport websites will also give you information about other amenities that are available in the terminals. For instance, did you know that the Hong Kong airport has showers and rooms where you can take a nap? After a long flight across the Pacific ocean, a shower is a wonderful way to spend your three-hour layover between connecting flights.

The airport in Portland, Oregon, has a great mall. You can get all your Christmas shopping done between flights and have the items you bought shipped home. Oh, and did we mention that Oregon doesn’t have sales tax?

The San Francisco airport has twenty different museum galleries that rotate art, culture and science exhibitions on a regular schedule. At SFO, you can’t avoid being entertained and educated while you travel.

Here are some other tips for making air travel easier:

  1. When you make your reservations, ask for a seat near the front of the plane. Airlines assign seats back-to-front and families traveling with children tend to plan further ahead than business travelers, so the shrieking three year-olds are usually in the back of the plane.
  2. Always request the Exit Row. Children aren’t permitted, and you get more legroom.
  3. Wear earplugs or invest in some good noise-canceling headphones if you plan to sleep. People talk louder on airplanes.
  4. Planes have only 3% humidity, so you get dehydrated quickly. Carry a bottle of water on board. (This will also keep your feet from swelling.) To keep costs and carryon weight low, carry an empty bottle and ask the flight attendant to fill it for you. On international flights, there is usually a water fountain available for passengers to serve themselves.
  5. When they say, “Limit two carry-on bags,” assume they really mean it and be prepared to check everything but your purse, briefcase and laptop. A good alternative if you are in a hurry is to “gate check” your bags. Especially with smaller commuter flights, this means you get your bags immediately when you get off the plane with no stop at baggage claim.
  6. Pay attention to the safety speech every once in a while. Like washing your car to make it rain, it’s just good karma. We’ve asked, and yes, most flight attendants feel just as silly giving the speech as you do listening to it, but the fact that no one is listening just makes their job harder.
  7. To prevent a stiff neck from sleeping on a plane, ask the flight attendant for a blanket, roll it up and wrap it around your neck before you fall asleep. Your head won’t roll from side-to-side, you won’t snore and you won’t look nearly as ridiculous as those people drooling on their neighbor’s shoulder. They make C-shaped pillows that do this, but that’s just one more thing to carry with you. We prefer to travel light.

While you are traveling, do everything you can to make your life easier. When you are enjoying yourself, you are better prepared to perform at work, and you’ll be more successful.

Cubicles and conference rooms are the same everywhere. The work won’t change, but taking the time to make friends with the people around you, at work and at the hotel, will make all the difference in the world to how well you do it.

For the Average Traveler Who Needs Money Saving

Many families are finding it hard to come up with the money to take a vacation, with the rise in prices for almost everything in the last few years. But taking a vacation does not have to be expensive. There are many money saving to be found to save the average traveler a lot of money.

Regardless of age or income, everyone can benefit from money saving . Whether aiming for a four-star, week-long vacation or a weekend getaway, there are that can save you money to be found with a little searching. These tips can save you money on everything from hotels, to airfare, to food.

Money Saving For Lodging

One of the best money saving for saving money on lodging is compare prices. Prices for hotel rooms can vary greatly, even if the hotels are located close to each other. If booking a hotel room online, check several different sites for the same hotel rooms. Chances are the price on one site will be lower than the prices on other sites. Another way to save is with a Travel Membership.

Another tip for saving on lodging is” try to be flexible”. For example, in Hilton Head, a hotel room with an ocean view is more than twice as much per night than the hotel room with all of the same amenities but without an ocean view directly across the street. If you are intending to spend your vacation days on the beach, an ocean view may not be necessary and that extra money could be spent towards something else. With a little research, money saving can save you quite a bit of money over the length of your vacation.

Money Saving For Dining

One of the biggest expenses of any vacation is food. With some money saving and a little prior planning, you can minimize the amount that you will pay for dining. The first tip is to research restaurants in the area before leaving on vacation. This way you know what types of restaurants are in the area and the price ranges for these restaurants. Many people on vacation walk into a restaurant that they have never been in before and pay a much higher price than they intended to spend for the meal. By choosing which restaurants you will eat in before you leave for the trip, you will eliminate the possibility of sticker shock when you see the menu.

One of the most overlooked money saving for dining is to request from the city you are planning to travel to, a guide to the local restaurants. Many of these guides include money saving coupons to restaurants in the area to entice you into eating there. Whether the coupon is for 10% off or 50% off, they are still saving you money you would have had to spend anyway. By doing a little research and learning some money saving , a vacation does not have to be as expensive as expected.

You can also get lodging that comes with a fully equipped kitchen, so you can cook some of your own meals. Most places you vacation have a local grocery store or deli near by. This is a great way to save. On a romantic get away you can do breakfast in bed and be spoiled by your love. If you have the family with you, having a kitchen will save you a ton of money on food. Just make sure Mom gets a break from the kitchen. Remember, this is her vacation too.

And Advice – Travelling With A Disability

A disability should not stop you from travelling, but a chance to try different travel options. The three key challenges to travel with a disability are – transport, toilets and accommodation. We will provide you with Trusty and advice that will assist you on your next travel adventure.

Don’t get hung up on how accessible a place is, focus on all the activities you can do!

Planning Your Adventure

When you are travelling with a disability or travelling with someone with a disability, the most important thing for a smooth vacation is correct planning. Don’t go overboard and plan your holiday down to the last minute, but all your accommodation and transport should be booked before you leave home.

You should research the accessibility of your transport and accommodation options, and also for the activities you are planning. Ask questions about access to buildings, the number of steps, how wide are the doorways and lifts and is there easy access from the car park. And for your accommodation, off course ask whether there are disabled toilets and showers, and if there is enough space in your room for a wheelchair.

When contacting places, you need to be specific about your own limitations, so that different options can be put in place to cater for you. The best place to get information is from other travellers who have done it before. Otherwise you should try local tourist information centres.

Make sure you pack all essential and necessary medications, and bring with you any necessary prescriptions. Also make sure you pack extras of any medical or personal equipment that you might require.

Choosing The Right Transport

One of the biggest difficulties when travelling with a limitation is choosing the right transport and especially getting on and off public transport. Once you have planned your itinerary, you need to research your options between locations or cities. The best way to find accessible transport is to talk to “customer relations” or the person in charge of ‘specific needs customers’. They will be able to provide exact information on the transport options.

Catching a plane can be a daunting experience! When you book your ticket, let the airline know your limitations and specific consideration should be provided. Be sure to check with your airline to make sure it has accessible toilets before booking a long haul flight.

Many people with a disability will forget figuring out the best transport all together, and will take a cruise holiday – either a river cruise or a large cruise liner. This way all of your luggage will stay in the one place, you don’t need to find an accessible restaurant or toilet, and many of the activities are brought to you.

Other good options are:

  • Hiring a camper van that is wheelchair accessible
  • Take a train holiday in Western Europe – most trains are ideal with easy access and accessible toilets.

Finding An Accessible Toilet

Research is essential to finding accessible toilets. Many toilets say that they are accessible, when they are clearly are not. Don’t find out the hard way! Asking at the tourist information centres for up to date information.

Places to look for an accessible toilet is at museums or art galleries, fast food restaurants or at modern train stations. Some travellers will plan what activities they do or attractions they see each day by where they can find an accessible toilet.

What is The Best Accommodation

It will be hard to find the perfect accommodation when you’re travelling, except if you are willing to pay for it. Research is essential before you go to find a place that is accessible.

A good hotel will have accessible car parks that have easy access to the hotel. They will normally have a lift and even a porter service. Most will have a restaurant or food service on-site for easy access. Make sure you tell your accommodation when you are booking about your limitations, what equipment you might have and what assistance you may require.

A good idea is to stay in accommodation in a central location. It will be easier to visit local attractions and these attractions will be close-by. You might even be able to do day trips away from the city. This way you avoid the need to move all your luggage again.

Other Great Tips And Advice

  • If you are in a wheelchair and have someone to push you, take a manual chair. It will take up less space then an electric chair and it doesn’t require recharging.
  • Allow your family or carers to have a holiday too. Let them do activities that they choose. This way they will want to travel with you again and it might give everyone some needed time apart.
  • Have your wheelchair cleaned and serviced before you leave. Make sure you have checked the batteries and all moving parts are in working order. Also research who you could contact if you have a major breakdown on the road.
  • If you have an electric wheelchair, take spare travel adapters so that you don’t get caught out.

The most important tips and advice is for you and your family / carer to enjoy your holiday. Enjoy each day and its new adventures, new sights, new culture and the new things to be learnt.

China

Survival China and Tricks

These China , Survival Techniques, will help you get around and make your trip to China easier, so you will be able to experience the real China with a little less stress.

China is an odd beast that needs to be respected; the major cities, Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian, all have their own personalities.

Some complex situations that you think would be an organizational disaster turn out to be great and you wonder afterward what all the fuss and worry was about. Then the simplest of tasks can turn out to be a major calamity.

This is when you have what we call here a “China day”.

These days come and go and are part of the experience of everyday travel in China. One needs to have an open mind when travelling China. It is a place with thousands of years of history and culture that is trying overnight to adapt to Western ways of living.

You need to have a very open mind when you Travel in China.
I have listed below a few China that will make life that wee bit more bearable on your Travel China experience.

China – Be Toilet Wise

o Never expect a clean toilet 100% of the time.

o Be prepared; Carry some tissue.

o You may have to use a squat toilet, again if you know this before hand it is not a shock. If you don’t know how to use a squat toilet, try the following experiment at home.

While holding onto something for support with both hands, lower your body down into a low squat position, so that the cheeks of your bottom is almost touching your heels or the back of your calf. Now, let go with your hands. See if you stay in this position for at least 1 minute. If you fall backwards or you cannot get up, then a squat toilet could be a problem for you! Practice, you will be happy you did.

o If you see a clean toilet, Go… it may not come again for a while.

o There are many public toilets around the cities, usually the ones you pay for are OK, (RMB .5), the others best to stay away from if you can. You will soon notice them as you walk around the cities.

o Be warned that public areas like bus and train stations are usually what I class as “tough toilets”, however if gotta go you gotta go.

o Outside of the major cities, the toilet systems are old or have very narrow plumbing /pipes and get blocked easily. In these cases a small basket is usually beside the toilet, this is for your used toilet paper.

One of the best China Travel toilet Tips I can give you, is use hotel lobby toilets; these are everywhere and are always clean. Still they may not always have toilet paper. It depends on the class of hotel that you are using.

I do not wish to scare you. However, of all the China in all the other web sites I have read, this is a topic not often mentioned, but it is very important to us all.

So outside of the major cities conditions can be tough. But most of the time everything will be fine, especially if you book a tour; everything will have been checked out before hand. However even the best laid plans can go wrong, so be prepared, the toilets in the smaller cities, towns and villages can be scary.

China – The Food

o The food is great and the variety is overwhelming. Most of the time you get to choose what you eat, or you can recognize what you’re eating, however sometimes you do not get a choice. Carry a chocolate bar or something; this will keep you going until some food that you can recognize turns up. Drink bottled or boiled water, as the tap water is NOT safe to drink, this is for the whole of China. Even boiled water, while sterilised can contain a lot of minerals and iron deposits that you probably do not want in your system. The safest bet is to drink bottle water. Tap water in most big cities is OK for brushing teeth.

o Eating habits – Most Chinese people have a great habit of being very noisy when they eat and lunch and dinner times can be a wonderfully noisy celebration, food tends to go in all directions, its just part of being in China.

o People also smoke at the table while everyone is eating, so some restaurants get very loud and smoky.

o If you get stuck what to order as most of the menu’s are in Chinese just look at the table next to you and point to the dish you fancy and ask how much it is, this system works really well and know seems to mind.

o I have a basic menu that will help you order safe food, (no Cats or Dog) this will enable you to visit a larger selection of restaurants, not just the tourist ones with high prices. You can carry it with you and use it in the local restaurants where most will be able to serve what is on it. This way you will know what you are eating.

These local places are very cheap and the food it great. Contact me if you would like me to send it to you.

China – Taxis

o China – Taxis – Taxis are an experience that can have you griping the seat and gasping for breath; however you soon get used to it, after the first few rides, you’re an old hand.

o The taxis in Shanghai are, overall, quite good. Try to get the Blue, Blue’ish Turquoise, Gold and White taxis, these are the best… these are the four major taxi companies and are generally recognised by their single colour paintwork. The others are OK, just older and a rougher ride (the others also may have faulty metres). No drivers will speak English.

o Carry your hotel or accommodation business card with you, written in Chinese, this helps if you get lost walking around town.

o In all the taxis around the country you will see the drivers name and taxi registration number in plain sight. If you have any problem, or if you think you have been over charged etc, just take this number down, make a big fuss about it, and the driver then should wake up and fix whatever problem you have. Even better is to take the receipt. This has all the trip details on it and you can ring the taxi company if you want to take things further or if you’ve left something in the taxi.

o The government takes rip-off drivers in all cities, Beijing and Xian especially, very seriously and if you complain they will lose their license. This is their livelihood. So far I have had not one driver in 3 years that has not backed down and we have then agreed a price for the trip or solved our problem.

o In Shanghai, it is common practice for taxi fare increases after 11pm. However, one can usually bargain for a 20% discount, which will get the fare back to the pre-11pm rate.
Be strong with the taxi drivers, never-the-less, keep your cool, smile and negotiate.

China – Shopping

o China – Shopping – China is a shopper’s paradise, Markets, Bargains; Top labels… anything and everything if you have the time. With clothes, the larger (Western) sizes can be quite hard to find, however in the major cities where you get a lot of tourist traffic, you can find them.

o Electrical gear, DVD’s, Cameras, stuff like this is not worth buying in China, Hong Kong is still the best place for this.

o Store hours in the major cities are from 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

o Visa card is still the best card to carry, with ATM’s in good supply all with PLUS access etc.
There is usually a surcharge for use of VISA, MasterCard or other forms of credit card.

o Wait on purchasing if you can, look around to get a feel for the prices. The Chinese are VERY experienced at selling and know that we halve the opening price when bargaining.
In the markets go for 25% of what they first ask; go so low that they let you walk away. This will give you an idea of the bottom price. The resulting end-price will probably be around 40% to 50% of where they started.

Whatever the market people say, they are used to pushing and haggling for best prices. Do not worry about being too hard, they are used to it and will not sell you an item unless they make a profit. Don’t be concerned with the apparently hurt body language when you go low – it is all part of the game. As soon as they have wrapped up your first purchase, they will try to sell you something more. Remember to keep smiling and having fun while bargaining.

China – Medical Treatment and Records

o Most hotels will have a doctor that you can see. In the major hotels English will be spoken.

o Always take a small first aid kit, cold remedy, headache tablets at the very least. WATSONS is a very large chain chemist. Most of the remedies, tablets etc, that you may require should be in these shops. These shops are all over China.

o There is a great network of pharmacy type shops; these are indicated by a Green Cross. There will always be a 24 hr Green Cross pharmacy in the city you are in. It is handy to carry a Phase book, as no one will speak English, however you will end up with something that will help.

o INPORTANT POINT – for most of the mass produced packet type medicines, the packaging will be written in Chinese on one side, English on the other. However in the shops you only see the Chinese side. Have a good look, turn the packs over, it gives you a lot more confidence knowing you can read the package.

o If you have a specific medical issue, take records, most of the Doctors will have OK written / reading English, even though their oral English will be poor.

China – Telephone

o Using the phone is as easy as at home. However the person picking it up will not speak English or have very broken English… the Major 4- or 5-Star Hotels will all be OK.

o What is worth doing is buying a Chinese Telecom SIM card, they are about RMB100 and with this you get RMB50 in calls, the other 50 is for the price of the SIM card; this SIM card will go into all major brand phones and work OK.

By doing this, people can reach you within and out of China if there is an emergency. If you have a couple of phones, you can short (txt) message each other (SMS). Also you are able to call your tourist guide, hotel etc if you have any major problems. It is a cheap way to keep in touch.

NB.Before you buy a Chinese SIM card, check that it will work in your Cell / Mobile phone. There are plenty of China Telecom shops that can help.

China on when NOT to move around China.

o Spring Festival, this would be the Chinese New Year time, around the end of January / Early February

o Early May; Labour day Holidays

o Early October; National Day Holidays

Of all the China National Day is the biggest one. Millions of Chinese travel at these holiday times of the year. Most are travelling back to home towns or visiting family. Hotels, trains, planes, cars, buses, and roads are all crowded to the maximum. Major congestion, everywhere.

Also travel fares are at their full price. No discounts are offered!
Stay in one place and enjoy where you are. It’s best and causes fewer hassles.

China – TV

o If you want to watch TV, most of the major hotels will have cable and if you are in the smaller places, the national channel, CCTV9 is in English. Over the last couple of years it has got a lot better, with some great China programs, news and views on people and places around China.

China – Airport Tax

o There is a “construction fee” at almost all airports.

Domestic flights RMB 50
International flights RMB 90 – which is to be paid in local currency.

Just recently, tickets are being tissued with the Construction Tax included; however make sure you have the Tax money with you just to make sure.

I hope some of these China will come in handy and will make your trip to China that little bit easier.

If you have been to China and wish to share your China , please feel free to contact me anytime.

John Mckenna

http://www.Travel-the-Real-China.com