Preparing for your trip

Package: Best of China & Yangtze River Cruise, 2019

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

Printed Jun 29, 2022. Please visit https://www.friendlyplanet.com/before-you-go/?tourId=1362 for the latest updates.

Checklist

Item Due
Ensure you have a current passport valid for at least six months after your return date. ASAP
Complete your registration. You'll receive a link to the registration form after you complete your booking. Within 5 days of booking
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. See your invoice
Book connecting flights to your departure city, if necessary. (Please confirm your international flight schedule first!) After receiving your e‑tickets
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 by 14 days prior to travel. Prior to travel
Print your policy documents, if you purchased travel insurance, and carry them 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
Confirm your flight times and any special meal requests with the airline, and print and carry a copy of your e-ticket. 72 hours prior to travel
Check in for your flights online and download/print your boarding passes (if available). 24 hours prior to travel
Arrive at the airport, ready for the trip of a lifetime! 3½ hours prior to departure

Documents & Entry Requirements

Entry requirements are provided for your convenience. However, unless otherwise stated, it is your responsibility to determine the requirements that apply to you and your trip and to comply with them, including obtaining any necessary visas or other travel documents by the required deadlines and carrying them with you. Especially with COVID-19, requirements are subject to change, so check back for the latest before you depart.

U.S. citizens must have a visa for entry into China. China visas must be obtained prior to departure. 

ChinaChina Entry Requirements

Advice from Friendly Planet

U.S. passport holders must have a visa to enter China, obtained prior to arrival. Applications must be submitted through a fee based visa service such as our preferred provider, Visa HQ, or in person at the China Embassies or Consulates in the United States. 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.

Advice from our partner Sherpa

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Hong KongHong Kong Entry Requirements

Advice from our partner Sherpa

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General Requirements & Guidelines

  • In general, you must have a passport to travel abroad, which should be valid for at least six months after your return date. Passports expiring before then should be renewed as soon as possible. Passports contain at least 2 blank pages for each country visited. If your passport does not have this many pages, obtain a new passport as soon as possible.
  • if your passport and visa are not in order, airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding, countries may deny entry, and your trip may be disrupted. Travel insurance may not cover such losses.
  • Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately. Airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding if the name on your passport does not match your tickets.
  • 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 Insurance Documents

If you purchased travel insurance, please print and carry your policy documents, including contact information for emergency travel assistance and instructions on how to make a claim. If you purchased the travel protection plan we offer, we recommend you print the full policy.

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

Questions about your flights before you depart? Read the information below first. If you still have questions, contact our air specialists at 800-555-5765 ext. 2 or air@friendlyplanet.com.

Flights & Tickets

For this package, we generally book your flights and issue tickets after your final payment due date.

Once we have issued your tickets, we'll send you an "e-ticket receipt" which contains all of your flight information, including times, carriers, an airline booking reference number, and an e-ticket number. If you have not received this, or have questions about the flights we booked for you, please contact our air department. You will not receive paper tickets. We recommend you print and carry a copy of your flight details, including the airline booking reference number and e-ticket number, as some airports require this to enter the terminal. You do not need to reconfirm your flights with the airline prior to your departure, as we will handle this for you.

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. 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 your flights. 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.

Flight Schedule

You may review the sample flight schedule(s) below. This information is for general planning puposes. You will receive your actual flight schedule by email once we issue your tickets.

Airlines may change schedules at any time, even after flights have been confirmed, and we are not responsible for such changes. Please check for updates to your flight schedule prior to booking any connecting flights and again 72 hours prior to departure.

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

Main Tour Sample Flight Schedule 

Los Angeles (LAX):

IMPORTANT! Your USA departure leaves at 2:20pm. You must check-in no later than 11:20am. 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 988 Los Angeles (LAX) Beijing (PEK) 2:20 pm 6:10 pm (next day) 12.50 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 1438 Chongqing (CKG) PEK 3:55 pm 6:35 pm 2.40 hrs
CA 983 PEK LAX 9:00 pm 6:00 pm (same day) 12 hrs

Main Tour with Hong Kong Extension Sample Flight Schedule 

Los Angeles (LAX):

IMPORTANT! Your USA departure leaves at 2:20pm. You must check-in no later than 11:20am. 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 988 Los Angeles (LAX) Beijing (PEK) 2:20 pm 6:10 pm (next day) 12.50 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 108 Hong Kong (HKG) PEK 10:30 am 1:55 pm 3.25 hrs
CA 987 PEK LAX 3:00 pm 12:00 pm (same day) 12 hrs

Main Tour with Tibet Extension Sample Flight Schedule 

Los Angeles (LAX):

IMPORTANT! Your USA departure leaves at 2:20pm. You must check-in no later than 11:20am. 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 988 Los Angeles (LAX) Beijing (PEK) 2:20 pm 6:10 pm (next day) 12.50 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
CA 4402 Lhasa (LXA) Chengdu (CTU) 11:00 am 12:50 pm 1.50 hrs
CA 4103 CTU PEK 2:00 pm 4:35 pm 2.35 hrs
CA 983 PEK LAX 9:00 pm 6:00 pm (same day) 12 hrs

Connecting Flights

If you plan to purchase connecting flights to your departure city, we strongly suggest waiting until after your final payment due date and after you receive the e-tickets for your international flights, to reduce the chances that that your departure might be cancelled or rescheduled or that your international flight times might change. Before purchasing connecting flights, verify the times for your international flights. 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!

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.

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. It's so much easier and faster for you 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, especially on buses. For your protection, we suggest your checked luggage have a TSA-approved lock.

Luggage tags: For your safety, we are no longer mailing Friendly Planet luggage tags to you. We encourage you to use your own. 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.

What to pack: Check out our list of top 10 must-haves for international travel, as well as what not to pack. 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 and requires an average level of physical fitness. The Yangtze cruise portion of the tour may have up to 268 cruise passengers.

Remember that you're a guest in someone else's homeland, and that you're traveling to experience their country and culture. Be sensitive to local customs and manners, as many things may be done differently than what you're used to. And while we have made every effort to secure modern and comfortable accommodations and transportation, please note that the standards in other countries may be different from those you are accustomed to at home. Overall, you will find a polite, positive, patient, and open-minded approach generally yields the best travel experience!

Please keep in mind that you'll be traveling with a group. Sharing your explorations with like-minded folks can often be a source of joy, and some of our travelers become lifelong friends. But traveling with strangers can also sometimes be challenging, especially in a foreign country. We ask that you be patient and respectful with your fellow travelers, including their needs and preferences. Also remember that you have responsibilities to the group—please be prompt for group activities so you don't keep everyone else waiting. Lastly, please defer to your tour leader, guide or manager. They are there for your safety and wellbeing, and to ensure the journey goes smoothly for everyone. If you have a problem with one of our tour guides or managers, please let us know, either while you're on tour or after you return, and we'll make sure your concerns are addressed.

Eating & Drinking

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!

Country FAQs

ChinaChina Fast Facts

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

China has 4 seasons, similar to that of the northeast United States. During the winter months, December – February, most parts of China would be in a cold spell, especially more so in the northern part, with average temperature at about 20°F and 50°F. For travel during spring or summer, temperatures average between 60°F and 90°F.

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.

What to wear

Your clothing should be casual and designed for comfort, without being too revealing. Take light cotton clothes that are easily washed and not too delicate. For travel during the rainy season, from May to August, a raincoat is necessary. However, since weather can be unpredictable anywhere in the world, to be sure you are comfortable during your trip and prepared for all types of weather possibilities, we suggest that you carry a small folding umbrella and take with you a warm jacket or all-weather coat with zip out lining. Be sure you bring gloves, warm socks and a hat, all of which will help you stay warm if the weather is cold. If you have two pairs of comfortable (broken in, not brand new) walking shoes, by all means, take both pairs. Packing to dress in layers is another way to prepare for a variety of weather conditions. Finally, remember that China is a casual country, and comfort should dictate your wardrobe for the tour.

Tipping

The currency of China is the yuan. Hotels and some stores accept major credit cards. However, for “street shopping” you will need local currency or U.S. dollars. Your hotel will be able to exchange your cash for local currency. We highly recommend that you bring crisp, new bills in small denominations. Old, torn, crumpled bills are not accepted. Travelers’ checks are no longer widely accepted. If you intend to use traveler’s checks, please be sure to verify that they are still accepted in the places visited on this tour.

Money & Credit Cards

The currency of China is the yuan. Hotels and some stores accept major credit cards. However, for “street shopping” you will need local currency or U.S. dollars. Your hotel will be able to exchange your cash for local currency. We highly recommend that you bring crisp, new bills in small denominations. Old, torn, crumpled bills are not accepted. Travelers’ checks are no longer widely accepted. If you intend to use traveler’s checks, please be sure to verify that they are still accepted in the places visited on this tour.

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

You will certainly have time for shopping, and China offers a great variety of goods to satisfy different tastes and price ranges. Normally, you will find the best quality in the government-owned Friendship Stores; however, prices may be higher. It is always a good idea to comparison-shop, and exercise the “buyer-beware” rule, just as you do at home. And remember, stores in China will NOT allow you to return or exchange purchased items.

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.

Learn more 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? Read up on using your cell phone abroad and the 5 ways to get Internet abroad.

Photography

Cameras and video recorders are permitted, and photography is generally permitted everywhere except at airports and military installations. Memory cards for digital cameras will be available in major cities.

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). 

 

 

Hong KongHong Kong Fast Facts

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 & Credit Cards

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.

Learn more 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? Read up on using your cell phone abroad and the 5 ways to get Internet abroad.

Notes & Fine Print

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.

Terms & Conditions: Please review our terms & conditions for this package.

Cancellations: If something comes up and 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.

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