Preparing for your trip

Package: Best of China & Yangtze Cruise, 2018

Print this page and refer to it as you prepare for your trip!

Printed 9/19/2018. Please check back for the latest updates.

Checklist

Item Due
Complete your tour registration and send color copies of each travelers' passport photo/signature page. A link to this secure form will be included in your booking confirmation email. Within 24 hours of booking
Ensure you have a current passport valid for at least six months after your trip, and that the name on your booking matches your passport exactly. Immediately
Request any additions or changes you may still want to make to your trip. (Fees and/or additional charges may apply.) 75 days prior to travel
Make your final payment, if any balance is due.
75 days prior to travel
Book connecting flights to your departure city, if necessary. (Please confirm your international flight schedule first!) 60–85 days prior to travel
Make advance seat reservations for your international flight, if you have a preference. After receiving your e‑tickets
Obtain required travel visas and review any requirements for entry. See below
Print your itinerary and other final documents, which we will send you via email 14 days prior to travel. Prior to travel
Print your policy documents, if you purchased travel insurance, and carry with you. Prior to travel
Enroll in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) if you're a U.S. citizen or national, so the State Dept. can locate and assist you in case of an emergency. Prior to travel
Call the airline to confirm your flights and any special meal requests. 72 hours prior to travel
Arrive at the airport, ready for the trip of a lifetime! 3½ hours prior to departure

Important Notes

If you have chosen one of the extensions offered, your flights have to be confirmed separately by the airlines. Please note that it may take up to 5 business days to confirm your extension flights with the airline, and we will notify you immediately upon confirmation of the flights. In the unlikely event that we are unable to confirm your extension, you will have the option to take the tour without the extension, select another travel date where the extension is available or receive a full refund. The Hong Kong extension requires a minimum of 2 passengers to operate and the Tibet extension requires a minimum of 6 passengers.

Travel Documents

Passport, Visa & Entry Requirements for China

U.S. citizens must have a passport which is valid for at least eight months after your return date, though we recommend at least a year.

U.S. passport holders must have a visa to enter China, obtained prior to arrival. Applications must be submitted in person by the applicant at the China Embassies or Consulates in the United States or through a fee based visa service such as our preferred provider, Visa HQ. See the U.S. Dept. of State website for more information. 

We will send a visa support letter and instructions for U.S. passport holders to obtain your visa through VISA HQ after you have completed your registration form and made your final payment, approximately 60 days prior to departure. Please apply for your visa only after receiving this letter.

Passport, Visa & Entry Requirements for Tibet

In addition to the entry requirements for China, all visitors to Tibet must also obtain a Tibet Travel Permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB). Together with our local partners, we will obtain the Tibet Travel Permit for our travelers and deliver the permit to you while in destination. See the China National Tourist Office website for more information.

Passport, Visa & Entry Requirements for Hong Kong

U.S. citizens must have a passport which is valid for at least one month after your return date, though we strongly recommend it be valid for at least six months after your return date. U.S. passport holders do not need a visa to enter Hong Kong for stays up to 90 days. However, a visa is required for entry to all other areas of China. See the U.S. Dept. of State website for more information.

If you do not hold a U.S. passport, you are responsible for obtaining any necessary visas and meeting all entry requirements. If a visa is required, we recommend using a fee-based visa service, such as our preferred provider VisaHQ.

Passport Copies

For this package, we are required to obtain copies of your passport(s). Please scan the photo and signature pages of each travelers' valid passport and email them to documents@friendlyplanet.com. If you are unable to scan your passport(s), please make clear, legible color photocopies instead and mail to our office address. If you do not presently have a valid passport, send us a color copy of your most recent passport and let us know when your new one is expected. Then send us a copy of the new passport upon receipt.

General Requirements & Guidelines

  • It is the responsibility of each traveler to determine passport and visa requirements and comply with them and to secure the proper travel documents. To avoid disappointment and unnecessary expenses, please carefully review the requirements so that you can obtain all necessary documents well before your trip. Requirements are subject to change, often without notice, and we suggest you verify requirements with the relevant embassy or consulate. Airlines and cruises may deny boarding and your trip may be disrupted if your passport and visa are not in order. We will not be held responsible for any charges, trip interruptions, or cancellations due to incorrect or missing visas, nor will travel insurance cover your lost expenses.
  • Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately.
  • Minors (age 17 or younger) departing and/or returning to the U.S. without parents or with only one parent may be required by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to present a notarized parental consent letter and/or unabridged birth certificate (more information). Many other countries have similar entry requirements, especially for minors traveling with a parent/guardian with a different surname; check with the consulates of all countries you'll be visiting to learn more.

Final Documents

Your final travel documents will be sent to you via email by 14 days prior to departure. These will include your daily itinerary, hotel and emergency contact information, and other relevant information. Please print your documents and take them with you. If you're departing in less than a week and haven't received your documents, let us know immediately!

Travel Protection Plan

If you purchased travel insurance, please print your policy documents. If you purchased our travel protection plan by Travelex, you can find the full policy here, which varies slightly by state. Carry these documents with you when you travel, as they include contact information for emergency travel assistance and instructions on how to make a claim.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

We encourage all U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows you to receive important updates about safety and security issues in your destination, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy, as well as family & friends, to contact you in case of an emergency. To enroll or get more information, please visit the STEP website or any U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Flights, Transfers & Arrival

Flight schedule: please see your flight schedule below. Note that airlines may change flight schedules even after flights have been confirmed, and we are not responsible for such changes.

Need to arrange connecting flights? While you may want to book these as soon as possible, we strongly suggest waiting until 75 days prior to departure (and after you make your final payment) to ensure materialization. In addition, airlines do occasionally change their schedules, and your international flight times may change even after you're booked. When you purchase connecting flights, always confirm the schedule for your international flights first. Leave at least 3½ hours connecting time between flights, and if you're traveling within a few weeks of Daylight Savings Time changes (in March and November, when flight schedules may change even more dramatically), allow 5–5½ hours between flights. Nobody likes waiting around the airport, but missing your flight is far worse!

Questions about your flights before you depart? Contact our air specialists at 800-555-5765 ext. 208 or air@friendlyplanet.com.

Want to reserve specific seats?

That depends on the airline. You can usually request a window or aisle seat, and sometimes specific seat numbers (but not exit row and bulkhead seats) ahead of time. Many airlines now charge a fee for this, and such fees are not included in your package price. If you have a seat preference, let us know when you book, in the special requests section, or email us at air@friendlyplanet.com after you book. Then:

If your airline does not charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll happily pass along your seat request to the airline and confirm they received it (though we cannot guarantee it will be honored).

If your airline does charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll let you know. You'll need to contact the airline directly to request your seats after we have issued your flight tickets, and fees are payable directly to the airline.

If you do not request specific seats: The airline typically assigns them within 24 hours of departure. If you do not like your assigned seats, you may be able to change them, subject to availability, when you check in online or at the counter. Learn more about Advance Seat Reservations.

Want to request a special meal?

You can enter special meal requests when you book with an agent or complete your online registration, shortly after booking. We will relay your requests to the airlines and our representatives abroad, but we cannot guarantee they will be honored. Please double check meal requests with your airline 72 hours before departure, and with our representatives upon arrival.

Looking to earn frequent flyer miles?

You may be able to earn frequent flyer points for your flights on this package. Contact the airline directly once you receive your tickets to enter your frequent flyer number in your flight record, or enter it when you check in. As you travel, check your tickets or ask the check-in or gate agent prior to boarding each flight to ensure the number has been entered properly. And just to be safe, keep your boarding passes and passenger receipt as proof that you have actually flown the miles you want credited to your account.

Interested in upgrading to business class or premium economy?

Cabin upgrades may be available on this package—ask us about price and availability when you book online, in the special requests section, or contact our air department after you book. Please note that our special contracted airfare rates generally do not permit upgrading with frequent flyer points, and that upgrade requests may incur change fees if tickets have already been issued.

Airport Transfers

Scheduled group airport transfers at the destination are included with this package. When you exit customs, please look for our representative holding a Friendly Planet sign, who will cheerfully escort you to your transfer vehicle and assist with your luggage. In most cases, private transfers are also available for an additional fee—contact us for price and availability. Or you may instead arrange your own ground transportation to the package start and end points. (Note that there is no discount for any unused included transfers).

Arrival Complications

We make every effort to ensure our tours run smoothly and trouble-free. We don't expect any problems, and nor should you. But when things don't go as planned, here's what to do:

  • You miss your flights, or your flights are cancelled: Please call us immediately. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox, with a phone number at which to reach you, and we'll get right back to you.
  • Your flights are delayed and you're worried about missing your included transfers: Please contact us to let us know about the delay, and we will notify our partners in destination. They will be tracking your arrival and will plan accordingly.
  • Your package includes transfers, but you can't find our representative at your destination: Don't panic—they may have been unexpectedly delayed. Wait up to 30 minutes. Then contact our local partners in destination, listed on the emergency contact page of your final documents. If you can't reach them, call us. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox. If all else fails, make your own way to the starting hotel (or cruise port), and we'll refund you the cost of your transfer.

Flight Schedule

Questions about your flights before your trip? Contact our air specialists at 800-555-5765 ext. 208 or air@friendlyplanet.com.

Air China's (CA) toll-free number is 800-882-8122.

Sample Flight Schedule for May 14 - Oct 8, 2018 Departures

Los Angeles (LAX):

IMPORTANT! Your USA departure leaves at 1:40 AM. You must check-in no later than 10:00pm of the night before! If you have any questions about your departure date or time, please call us at 800-555-5765.

DEPARTURE
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 984 Los Angeles (LAX) Beijing (PEK) 1:40 am 5:20 am +1 12.40 hrs
CA 1835 PEK Shanghai (PVG) 8:00 am 10:15 am 2.15 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 987 PEK LAX 3:00 pm 12:00 pm 12 hrs

New York (JFK):

DEPARTURE
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 982 New York (JFK) Beijing (PEK) 4:50 pm 6:20 pm +1 13.30 hrs
CA 1589 PEK Shanghai (SHA) 8:30 pm 10:40 pm 2.15 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 981 PEK JFK 1:00 pm 2:20 pm 13.20 hrs

Sample Flight Schedule for November 5, 2018 Departures

Los Angeles (LAX):

IMPORTANT! Your USA departure leaves at 1:40 AM. You must check-in no later than 9:00pm of the night before! If you have any questions about your departure date or time, please call us at 800-555-5765.

DEPARTURE
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 984 Los Angeles (LAX) Beijing (PEK) 12:40 am 6:30 am +1 12.50 hrs
CA 1835 PEK Shanghai (PVG) 7:55 am 10:15 am 2.20 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 987 PEK LAX 3:00 pm 11:00 am 12 hrs

New York (JFK): 

DEPARTURE
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 982 New York (JFK) Beijing (PEK) 3:50 pm 6:40 pm +1 13.50 hrs
CA 1589 PEK Shanghai (SHA) 8:30 pm 10:40 pm 2.15 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 981 PEK JFK 1:00 pm 1:30 pm 13.20 hrs

Packing & Luggage

Baggage allowance: In general, our tours & packages allow per person: one checked bag, not to exceed 44 pounds; one personal item such as a purse or camera bag; and one carry-on bag, which should fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment. If your trip includes domestic flights within your destination and/or travel by motor coach, your carry-on should also fit should also fit under your seat or in the overhead bins on those flights or coaches.

Learn more about Baggage Allowances on your international flights. Note that our baggage allowances may be less than those for your international flights. If you exceed the baggage limits, you may be subject to excess baggage charges levied by the airlines and/or by Friendly Planet.

Regardless of the limits—we recommend a smaller size and weight for both your checked and carry-on bags than what airlines typically allow. It's so much easier and faster to get around when you have fewer, lighter bags! For your carry-on, consider a soft-sided bag such as a duffel rather than a hard clamshell-type case, which may not fit as easily into overhead compartments or under your seat.

Luggage tags: We will mail you Friendly Planet luggage tags with your invoice. Fill in the luggage tags with your name and contact information and attach to each bag, including carry-ons and camera cases, so that your luggage can be identified should it get misplaced during your trip. However, we are not responsible for lost or damaged luggage.

What to pack: Check out our blog post on our Top 10 Must-Haves for International Travel. Pack smart: put your travel documents, medications, one change of clothing, and other essentials in your carry-on, in case your checked baggage is misplaced. And pack light, for your own comfort and convenience. For clothing, we suggest packing a variety of separates with climate and comfort in mind.

What not to pack: U.S. law forbids you to carry hazardous materials aboard aircraft in your checked or carry-on baggage or on your person, including explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids & solids, loaded firearms, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials. Common examples include paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, mace/tear gas and oxygen bottles. Restricted materials may vary by airline and destination. Some items, in quantities of no more than 70 ounces total, may be carried within baggage, including medicinal or toilet articles such as hairspray, perfume and certain medicines that are necessary during your journey. Please check with the airline and/or visit the FAA website prior to travel if you have any questions.

While on Tour

What to Expect

Small groups guaranteed not to exceed 24 passengers. This moderately-paced, escorted tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness. The Yangtze cruise portion of the tour may have up to 268 cruise passengers.

Meals

The meals included with your package are listed in the itinerary. For all other meals, you're at liberty to dine where you like. Your hotels will have several dining choices, from coffee shops to specialty restaurants.

Please see above for special meal requests.

Special Needs & Requests

Please see above for special meal requests and seat requests. If you have any other special requests, including wheelchair or electric cart assistance, please mention your request when you book with an agent or in the special requests section when you book online. We will do our best to accommodate them!

Travel Tips

Fast Facts about China

Overview

Capital: Beijing
Population:  1.37 billion
Currency: Renminbi (RMB or CNY)
Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, a variety of local dialects
Drives on the: Right
Time zone: UTC +8

Health Precautions & Vaccinations

According to the Center for Disease Control, there are no requirements for travel to China, but immunization against polio, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis are recommended. Also ask your doctor about malaria suppressants if you will be visiting Hainan Island and areas close to the Laotian and Myanmar borders. Be sure to take insect repellent!

A note on blood and transfusions: RH negative and type O bloods are not commonly stored in China. There have also been problems with HIV contaminated blood supplies.

Center for Disease Control
World Health Organization

Weather

Northern China is best seen in September and October, and southern China is best seen in November and December. Winters range from extremely cold in the north to moderate in the south.

Tipping

A small gratuity to your guides and drivers in China will be greatly appreciated by them. It is customary to collect group tips and distribute them among the guides in each city by your China National Guide. The recommended amount for your China National guide is $6-$8 per person per day, $4-5 per person, per day for the local guide, and $2-3 per person per day for the driver. It is also customary to tip the hotel staff. Our recommended amount is $1 per person per day for housekeeping. The same amount is recommended for restaurant staff. As always, gratuities are an individual expression of thanks and should be based on the level of service provided.

Money

ATMs are not always hooked up to international banking networks. Machines accepting foreign ATM cards have CIRRUS or MAESTRO logos. It is preferable to take along cash, travelers checks or credit cards.

Always notify your bank prior to departure to avoid any problems using your credit or debit card abroad.

Shopping

The best shopping is often at public markets. Shop for carpets, chops (ink seals), stone and jade carvings, wood-block prints, cloisonne, patent medicines, embroidered linens, reproductions of old art, glass items, silk, hand-painted snuff bottles, musical instruments, and ethnic tribal crafts.

Electricity & Power Adapters

220 volts. Plugs A, I & G. You will need a voltage converter and plug adapter in order to use U.S. appliances. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit before your tour to China. View more information about electrical standards around the world.

Cell Phones & Internet

Want to take your cell phone, tablet or laptop, but not sure how to get cell service or wifi? See our blog posts on using your cell phone abroad and the top 5 ways to get Internet abroad.

Did you know?
  • Beijing time is a thing! No matter where you are at in China (and despite its massive size of more than 3.7 million square miles!) everyone is in the same time zone.
  • There are more than 40,000 characters in the Chinese written language. Each character (or series of characters together) express meanings or things and most people only know a few thousand characters.  
  • Visiting Buddhists (or those passionate about Buddhism) can visit famous shrines in the four sacred mountains: Emei Mountain (Sichuan), Wutai Mountain (Shanxi Province), Jiuhua Mountain (Anhui) and Putuo Mountain (Zhejiang).
  • The birthplace of kung fu is the Shaolin Temple in Zhengshou (south of Beijing). 

 

 

Fast Facts about Tibet

Overview

Capital: Lhasa
Population:  3.18 million
Currency: Renminbi (RMB or CNY)
Languages: Tibetan with numerous regional dialects which are generally not mutually intelligible
Drives on the: Right
Time zone: UTC +8

Health Precautions & Vaccinations

According to the Center for Disease Control, there are no requirements for travel to Tibet. Some travelers may need to manage altitude sickness with various medications. Pack sunscreen as Ultraviolet rays get much stronger with increased altitude.

Center for Disease Control
World Health Organization

Weather

Tibet is situated on a high altitude plateau surrounded by tall mountains. These mountains catch the rainfall before it reaches the plateau, making most of Tibet a desert steppe, tundra or permafrost. Tibet has large temperature differentials between the day and night and for six months out of the year, it experiences frost.

Tipping

It is not customary to tip taxi drivers and restaurant staff in Tibet, but tipping is expected for a variety of other services in Tibet and is a great way to give back to the community. Tour guides, drivers, hotel staff and porters expect to be tipped; this is especially true if they have worked very hard to provide tourists with the best service possible. Many Tibetans use their income to support not just their immediate family, but often their extended family as well. 

Money

ATMs are not widely available. Credit cards can only be used at some hotels in Tibet.

Always notify your bank prior to departure to avoid any problems using your credit or debit card abroad.

Shopping

The best shopping is often at public markets. Shop for Tibetan hats, jewelry (silver and gold), wooden items, clothing, quilts, fabrics, Tibetan rugs and carpets. 

Electricity & Power Adapters

220 volts. Plugs A, C & I. You will need a voltage converter and plug adapter in order to use U.S. appliances. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit before your tour to China. View more information about electrical standards around the world.

Cell Phones & Internet

Want to take your cell phone, tablet or laptop, but not sure how to get cell service or wifi? See our blog posts on using your cell phone abroad and the top 5 ways to get Internet abroad.

Fast Facts about Hong Kong

Overview

Population:  7.347 million
Currency: Hong Kong dollar (HKD)
Languages: Chinese and English
Drives on the: Left
Time zone: HKT (UTC +8)

Health Precautions & Vaccinations

According to the Center for Disease Control, there are no requirements for travel to Hong Kong, but immunization against polio, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis are recommended. Be sure to take insect repellent!

A note on blood and transfusions: RH negative and type O bloods are not commonly stored in China. There have also been problems with HIV contaminated blood supplies.

Center for Disease Control

Weather

Hong Kong’s subtropical climate makes it fairly hot and humid year-round. Summer (June - September) is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms. This is the time of year when typhoons are most likely to occur, causing flooding and landslides. The temperature remains significantly cooler from October through February. Clear, sunny days make October-November the best time to visit.

Tipping

In most restaurants, a 10% service charge is added to the bill. If the service has been excellent, feel free to tip a little more. Taxi drivers don't expect to be tipped but it is the norm to leave any small change.

Money

ATMs are located all throughout Hong Kong most commonly outside of banks and in shopping complexes and malls. Many major foreign bank cards and credit cards are acceptable, though many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM. This fee can be higher for international transactions.

Always notify your bank prior to departure to avoid any problems using your credit or debit card abroad.

Shopping

Hong Kong is a well-known shopper’s paradise. From glitzy malls and upscale department stores to one-of-a-kind boutiques and charming street markets, Hong Kong offers a dazzling variety of goods. Shop for designer clothing, electronics, watches, jewelry, traditional Chinese handicrafts, leather goods and more. Top quality cosmetics are also a popular item to purchase in Hong Kong as they are duty free. Note that prices can vary greatly from store to store, so be sure to shop around.

Electricity & Power Adapters

220 volts. Plugs A, I & G. You will need a voltage converter and plug adapter in order to use U.S. appliances. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit before your tour to Hong Kong. View more information about electrical standards around the world.

Cell Phones & Internet

Want to take your cell phone, tablet or laptop, but not sure how to get cell service or wifi? See our blog posts on using your cell phone abroad and the top 5 ways to get Internet abroad.

The Fine Print

Please check out the terms & conditions for this package.

Cancellations: In the unfortunate event that you need to cancel your trip, please let us know as soon as possible. All cancellations must be made in writing. Cancellation fees vary by package; please see the cancellation fees for this package.

Materialization: This package may require a minimum number of passengers to operate. In the unlikely event that your departure must be cancelled due to lack of participation, we will notify you prior to the final payment due date, and offer alternate dates of travel or a full refund. Please do not purchase any domestic connecting flights, or other services which are dependent upon the operation of your package, until this time.