4/16/2014 - This thread from 2005 is about Guangzhou and Guangdong, NOT the consulate, and is still useful. - RW
Area 69,502 Sq miles
Population 74.7 million (permanent residents)
Language Cantonese (Guangdonghua), Mandarin (Putonghua)
Currency Renminbi (RMB, or ?, also known as Yuan, or Kuai
$1 = RMB 8 (approx.)
Area 2,868 Sq miles
Population 9.9 million
While Guangzhou is a relatively safe city, as with any large city, it is worthwhile being prudent and taking some simple precautions. As many places are very crowded pick-pockets are common. Particular care should be taken on public transport, especially on the buses and around the train stations. Valuables should be put into a front, rather than back pocket or in a bag out of sight, to avoid giving temptation to thieves. You can generally get taxis late at night but the hotels are often in the middle of tourist zones and the same caution in taking taxis alone late at night should be exercised as in any other major city.
Hotels almost always have a clinic and doctor on call. You should buy medical insurance before your departure. Any preferred remedies or prescriptions should be brought with you, since they are unlikely to be available.
There are Western medical facilities available in Guangzhou (see emergency contact list below). However, fees are quite expensive with an average brief consultation costing approximately RMB100-150. You may want to purchase a medical insurance plan prior to your departure.
There are of course traditional Chinese medicine alternatives that you might wish to try. This might be difficult unless you have knowledge of the language or assistance from a local resident.
Medical Emergency numbers in GUANGZHOU
Local First-aid Emergency Call (24hours) 120
The first two medical centres speak English:
Guangzhou Can Am Intl Medical Centre
Tel: 8386 6988
Add: 5/F, Garden Tower, Garden Hotel No.368, Huanshi Dong Lu.
Time: 9:00-18:00 Mon.-Fri.
Guangdong Concord Medical Centre
Tel: 8387 4283
Add: 9/F, Fok Heart Centre
No.96, Dongchuan Rd
Time: AM 8:00-12:00 PM 2:30-6:00
GD Province Hospital of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
Tel: 8735 1238
Add: No.261, Datong Rd.
West of Ersha Island
Time: 24 hours
TRAVELLING IN GUANGZHOU
Transportation around Guangzhou: Taxis are the easiest way to get around. Taxis fare should be paid according to the amount shown on the taximeter and the fare starts at RMB7.00 (for the first 2.3 km). You can pick them up outside hotels and in the street at almost any time day or night. It is only when its cold or raining that they are difficult to get. Taxis in Guangzhou are substantially cheaper than one typically finds in U.S. It is rare that any journey across the city will be more than RMB35 (less than $5).
Many of the drivers will greet you with the phrase Qu na li??(literally Go where??. Bluffing knowledge of Chinese and the city might avoid protracted detours, but also might invite further questions in Chinese like which route you prefer, or which bridge to take to cross the river.
It will be very helpful to have your destination written down in Chinese. Your hotel should be able to give you a card. Avoid taxis without metres and check that the driver uses the metre. It is also a good idea to have small change on hand to pay the fare as some drivers might refuse a RMB100 note, and sometimes even a 50. You are not expected to tip the driver, but it will never be refused. You can bargain with the driver over a price if the distance is quite far, or it is late at night. Again you will need some knowledge of the language or assistance to do this.
Travelling by bus is cheap (RMB1 or 2 flat rate for the journey) but can be difficult without knowledge of the language and routes. If you do take the bus you must take the right money as you will not get change. There is no English on buses and visitors may not know the routes so this is not really a recommended option.
Guangzhou also has a small underground metro system, currently with two lines. Platform signs are in Chinese and Pinyin (Chinese written with the Roman alphabet) and stations are normally announced in English and Chinese over a loudspeaker system on the train.
It is useful to know the end direction of the line you want to travel on. Line 1 runs from Guangzhou Dong Zhan (East Railway Station, which has the KCR to Hong Kong) in the North East to Xi Lang, in the South West of the city. Line 2 runs from San Yuan Li in the North to Pazhou (which is the location of the new Trade Fair Exhibition Centre) in the South. There is only one place to change lines currently, and that is Gong Yuan Qian station (near the middle of both lines, and close to Beijing Lu shopping street).
There is a flat fare of RMB2-6 (depending on the distance). There are machines from which you can purchase tokens which take RMB1 coins (which can also be obtained from the attended booth) and also RMB5, 10 and 20 notes (although all change will be in RMB1 coins!). If you plan to use the metro a lot, or are staying for longer you can get a pass card (Yang Cheng Tong) which will hold any amount of credit you place on it and can also be used on the buses, which can save you a lot of time and trouble.
Below are the first and last trains:
Station of Origin First Train Departs Last Train Departs Last Entry
GZ East Station 6:17 22:29 22:24
Xi Lang 6:17 22:41 22:36
San Yuan Li 6:17 22:41 22:36
Pazhou 6:29 23:18 23:13
An alternative way to see the city is by boat on the Pearl River. This is especially worthwhile at night when the city lights radiate across the river.
TRAVELLING TO AND FROM GUANGZHOU
There are two train stations. Guangzhou East Station (Guangzhou Dong Zhan) is the one which is used to get to and from Hong Kong, Shenzhen etc. The old train station, more often used for travelling northwards is on the northern end of Line 2 (named: Guangzhou Huo Che Zhan).
If you come to Guangzhou on the direct through-train from Hong Kong your passport and visa will be checked at the Hong Kong end, and vice versa when you travel to Hong Kong from Guangzhou. Alternatively there is a bus you can take from the large hotels which is cheaper although it takes longer, and you must get off the bus go through the border crossings and have your documents checked.
The new Baiyun International Airport is now in operation and takes about 50 minutes to reach from the city centre by taxi. Depending on where you go from, a taxi will probably cost around RMB100. Some of the major hotels might provide an airport service so it is worth enquiring with them.
Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China (called Putonghua by the Chinese) and even in Guangdong, where Cantonese (Guangdonghua) is widely spoken, most people know some Mandarin. Chinese characters are used for writing, though many signs on roads and in shops now also appear in "pinyin", which is the Romanised version of written Chinese. English is spoken in most hotels, but it may be useful to have a phrase book to hand if you want to venture further. Mandarin, however, is a tonal language (4 tones), so that the same word pronounced in different tones will have completely different meanings. For this reason some Chinese may find it difficult to understand what you are saying in Chinese unless the tone is correct. On the whole, however, people are very patient and a bit of English on their part and some sign language normally gets the message across.
Ni hao (nee how) = Hello
Xie xie (shi shia) = Thank you
Zai jian (dsai jen) = Goodbye (although Bye bye?is probably more common)
Wo shi?(wor sher) = I am?(a simple way to introduce yourself)
Mai dan (my dan) = Pay the bill (a short phrase used to ask for the bill, literally Buy bill? and understandable in Mandarin and Cantonese)
Time: China runs 8 hours ahead of GMT.
Business hours: office hours are generally a standard 9am to 5pm or 6pm (with some individual differences and depending on the industry. Some more local places close for lunch). Shops tend to open from 9 or 10am to about 10pm, and bars and clubs up till about 2am.
Post: Airmail letters/parcels to and from US take 4-10 days. Parcels must be sealed at the post office after inspection. International postage rates are expensive but the service is generally reliable.
Mobile Phones: There is a very good network in Guangzhou so it is worthwhile activating international roaming with your service provider before you arrive. Another option is to purchase a pay as you go?SIM card when you arrive. This is very cheap at just RMB100 for the SIM card, which will contain around RMB50 credit.
Guangzhou is very famous in China and around the world for its cuisine. You can find different styles of cuisine, such as Chinese (from various regions and provinces), Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Italian amongst others. Some restaurants have English versions of their menu. Prices vary between restaurants, usually from RMB20-100 per person, depending on your choice. Fast food chains such as McDonalds and KFC are open from 7:00am to 11:00pm.
Of course, apart from western restaurants, most restaurants only provide chopsticks with knives and forks sometimes available on request.
It is common practice for almost all restaurants to serve you with Chinese tea throughout your meal, with frequent refills of the pot. This will not be charged by the cup or pot as often is in other countries, so feel free to linger. Also in many local restaurants you will see people washing their cup, bowl and chopsticks in hot tea. This is for hygiene reasons, and will not be offensive to the restaurant staff.
It is also very common to take a packet of tissues with you to a restaurant (especially local ones) as napkins are often not provided, or should be purchased. The tissues will also be useful if you use the toilet as paper is not always supplied.
Most Chinese restaurants will have a very different atmosphere to those in the West. They are often crowded and noisy, which is the way local people like them. There are also very few etiquette rules. It is common to see bones spat onto the table or the floor, people talking with their mouth full of food etc. This should not been seen as bad manners, it is just a very different dining culture.
Tips are not expected in restaurants, although some of the more Western style establishments, and certainly the hotels over 3 stars, have a service charge included (often around 15%).
For those with time and a good guide there are interesting bargains to be found in Guangzhou- everything from jade to the electronics and clothes that are manufactured in the Pearl River Delta. A great location for a massive array of handicrafts, artwork and novelties is the market beside Hai Zhu Guang Chang (on line 2 of the metro). Expect to bargain for the best prices. For those with less time:
Friendship Store (Youyi Shangdian)
Situated next to the Baiyun Hotel, opposite to the Garden Hotel. It sells a wide range of products, from clothing to food. Prices are more expensive and bargaining is not possible.
Team Plaza (Tianhe Cheng)
This is Guangzhou's first shopping mall. You can buy a wide range of products. Prices compare well with those elsewhere and bargaining is possible in some shops.
Beijing Road Pedestrian Street
Mainly clothing, luggage and shoes, though there are some pearl shops. At the more local shops you will be able to bargain, although its not possible with the international brands.
Shangxia Jiu Pedestrian Street
Also known as a shopping street with houses in traditional style (they are called Xi Guan Feng Qing?. Sells cheap clothing, shoes and other goods. Expect to bargain.
WEATHER & CLOTHING
The climate of Guangzhou is sub-tropical. The average year-round temperature is 22C. August is the hottest month, with an average temperature of 28C, but with a high of up to 38C in the day and 28C at night. January is the coldest month, with an average of 13C, although it can drop to around 0C. The weather is generally quite humid (often around 80-90% or more) so the heat can feel more oppressive, and the cold more pervasive. The rainy season falls between April and August. Average annual rainfall is 1,720 mm, and an umbrella is a must.
By the month of May it is already hot and humid in Guangzhou, with frequent, and often very heavy, rainstorms. Bring light clothing, but include layers ?light jackets, cardigans etc ?since the air-conditioning in hotels and restaurants can be fierce. It's worth bringing something to shield against the sun which can also be severe at times. Local people often favour using an umbrella for this, but sunglasses and sunscreen will also be fine.
Chinese often dress fairly informally. A simple suit or day dress is appropriate for all official visits, meetings and dinners, and in hot weather a short sleeved shirt with no jacket is perfectly acceptable business wear. Trousers are also perfectly acceptable for women. There aren't generally any rules about leisure wear, with almost anything being acceptable. However, for foreigners the more extravagant your outfit the more attention you might attract. Low cut and sleeveless tops, while not objectionable, might prove to be a point of fascination.
The Chinese currency is known as "Renminbi" (or the People's currency?, and is the equivalent term for USD. The term equivalent to dollars is the Yuan? also known colloquially as Kuai?(pronounced "kwai"). At the current exchange rate, 1 USD is approximately equal to 8 Renminbi (RMB), or yuan.
Foreign money and travellers?cheques can be changed at international airports, main centres of the Bank of China, the large tourist hotels, the Friendship Stores and some big department stores. The official rate is given everywhere, so there is no need to shop around.
Credit cards are accepted in major hotels, restaurants and some supermarkets, although certainly not very widely. You can use international debit and credit cards to withdraw cash in the local currency. These include Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro. This service isn't available at all local cash machines, but is most common at Bank of China machines, and HSBC (although there are only two branches of HSBC so far; one at Garden Hotel, the other in Dong Feng Lu).
Forgeries of bank notes, as in many countries, are in circulation.
Electricity supply is usually 220 volts. The local plugs usually have 3 flat pins, the lower pair angled, but other types are also in use. International hotels will have shaver sockets but these may not be available elsewhere.
EXPOSURE AND ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS
In contrast to Beijing and Shanghai the expatriate community in Guangzhou is relatively small and often centred around the major centres of commerce. If you do venture to more traditional places don't be surprised that some people take an interest, as exposure to foreigners is not very common. You should not take staring and people talking about you as rude, it really is more surprise and interest. It is also not uncommon to have people say Hello?to you in the streets.
LOCAL UNIQUENESS AND DAILY LIFE
As you experience life in Guangzhou you are sure to see differences from the West and even from other cities in China. Many of the traditions and practices are unique to Guangzhou which makes this city a very interesting place to visit or live for any foreigner.
In the public parks and open spaces it's common to see people practising Tai Chi and doing exercises, especially early in the morning. Another common morning activity is going for Yum Cha?(literally Drink tea? where people gather to breakfast on local delicacies (known as Dim Sum) and read the newspaper. This is available in many local restaurants and some of the major hotels and is well worth experiencing. There are also afternoon and night tea sessions, and all are very reasonably priced.
Hope you find the above helpful.
Edited by Randy W, 15 February 2016 - 04:11 AM.