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Travel Tips & Resources
When traveling internationally, it is always best to have a flexible mindset and a sense of adventure as there can be unexpected twists and turns when diving into new cultures and customs.
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In case of emergency, it is always prudent to carry several copies of identification information with you when traveling internationally. Furthermore, when traveling in China as an adoptive family, it is important to carry documents that prove to any doubting officials or officers that you are a legal family unit and that your touring itinerary is confirmed.

Be sure to bring with you and keep in a secure folio:

  • Copies of each traveler’s passport photo page
  • Copies of each traveler’s visa page
  • Copies of your flight itinerary
  • Copies of your tour itinerary
  • Copies of your/your child’s Adoption Certificate
  • Any documents for your orphanage visit (if applicable). Even if you have given us the information about your child’s finding spot, foster parents, etc. please bring copies with you for your reference.

It is helpful to keep password-protected photos of each of these on your phone as well.

Language Resources

So that we can best serve your family, please let us know if you have any special requests/needs (i.e. dietary restrictions, specific diet regimens, allergies, or other health concerns) that our tour guides can help support while in-country. Contact us at if you would like us to send you a quick translation card to ease communication when navigating without a guide at restaurants, airports, etc.

Translated Cards

  • Transportationᅠ
  • Dietary Restrictions
  • Medical Conditions

Translation Apps

There are many great translation applications now available for both iOS and Android devices. We recommend downloading a couple to keep communication tools at arm’s reach whenever needed. Listed below are a few we’ve found especially helpful.

  • Pleco
    • Pleco is essentially a dictionary tool and is best for learning/translating Chinese characters. We like to use the writing feature most, which allows us to roughly draw a Chinese character and see what it means. For travelers motivated to learn characters, Pleco is the go-to.
    • Works offline. No wi-fi or roaming signal required.
  • Naver Papago (iOS, Android)
    • Naver Papago is a Korean app that we found easy to use and whose translations were more accurate than Google Translate. Papago provides text, voice-to-text,ᅠ simultaneous conversation, and image translation, as well as a study section for language practice!
    • Works offline, but user needs to download languages prior to being offline.
  • Google Translate
    • The Google Translate app is likely the most familiar interface to use and offers the most language options. Google Translate does a proficient job at text and voice-to-text translations and also allows image translations, although we’ve found that specific use case less accurate than we’d like.ᅠ
    • Works offline, but user needs to download languages prior to being offline.
  • WayGo (iOS)
    • WayGo is specifically an image translation app and we find it most helpful to use for those pesky restaurant menus that don’t have any pictures 😉 Simply point your camera at the menu and WayGo will translate the full scene.
    • Works offline. No wi-fi or roaming signal required.
Payment Methods

For tourists in China, using cash and AliPay are going to be the easiest way to pay for things. Credit cards are rarely accepted except for in major hotel chains. 


Plan on budgeting $35-$50USD/person/day with you to cover meals and personal spending. (Remember that cash is mostly used for bartering markets, street vendors, small payments, and tipping. Larger purchases should generally use AliPay.)

If you are nervous about carrying around so much cash, bring an ATM card so that you can withdraw cash from an ATM when you need to. Your tour guide can help find an ATM that will accept foreign transactions.

*Note: Tourists are not allowed to carry more than the equivalent of $5,000USD total into or out of China.

When bringing cash, we suggest to break this into $1 bills (for tips), and $20 and $100 bills (for exchange). You may exchange cash for RMB at most hotels on our tours.

  • Be sure to bring crisp, unmarked, newer bills as bills with rips, holes, writing, etc. will not be accepted.
  • The old version of US dollars (small head dollars) will not be accepted.
  • When exchanging money, make sure to keep your receipts.


In addition to cash, we highly recommend setting up an AliPay account (available on iOS and Android) with your main travel card (the app accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover, JCB, Diner’s Club Int’l, and UnionPay). 98% of China vendors and patrons prefer to use cashless apps like AliPay (or WeChatPay) to receive/spend and it is by far the most convenient payment option.

AliPay has recently changed their requirements and foreigners can now add their credit cards to their AliPay wallet without Chinese residency verification. The app is not fully translated, but downloading and inputting your payment information is relatively intuitive. Please contact us if you need help setting up your account.

*Bonus: AliPay is also widely accepted in Japan, South Korea, and much of SE Asia.


It’s always prudent to bring an ATM card as a backup option. ATM cards work great and make it less necessary to carry so much cash around. Plus, China’s ATMs usually have great exchange rates. Just make sure your guide helps you find a bank that accepts foreign cards (typically Bank of China, ICBC, or China Merchant’s Bank).

Credit Cards

Bring a credit card as a final backup payment option. Very few merchants accept physical credit cards, but larger businesses (airports, hotels, malls) should be able to, no problem. Keep in mind, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are the most commonly accepted cards, if at all. We have yet to find a bank or merchant that accepts American Express.


Families often ask, “What is appropriate when it comes to tipping our local guides in China?” The answer remains the same. Use your discretion and tip them according to the service you feel they have given your family.

Let’s get the awkward questions out of the way:

  • Your guides are paid wages similar to someone who works in the service industry here in the United States.
  • Their wages are based on the expectation that tips received from their tour groups will supplement their income.

Your guides are available to you and your family 24 hours a day. At the end of your time with your guide, you may feel like there is not enough money in the world to show them how much you appreciate their care. We recommend that you base your tips off of the following recommended ranges:

  • 3-6USD (20-45RMB) per person per day per tour guide
  • 1.50-3USD (10-20RMB) per person per day per driver

Within these ranges, you can confidently decide whatever amount feels best to you based on the service provided to your family.

How many guides and drivers will you be meeting throughout your tour?

  • You will have one National guide who will travel with you and the rest of your smaller travel group for the entirety of the main tour. Your National guide will provide information about your daily itinerary as well as participate in all scheduled activities during the main tour.
  • You will also have a local guide in each city (e.g. For Grand Tour: Xi’an, Chengdu, and Guilin/ Yangshuo for example)
  • You will have one tour bus driver per city (e.g. For Grand Tour: 4 different bus drivers)
  • If you are adding on an orphanage visit, you will have another local guide & driver.
Health & Wellness
General Tips
  • The tap water in China is not potable. Please do not ingest water without boiling/UV treating/filtering it first. All hotels provide water kettles in every room, specifically meant for boiling tap water.
  • Most hotels will provide complimentary bottles of water. Bottled water (and many soda brands) is also readily available for purchase at grocery stores and very affordable.
  • Please do not be over-cautious about food. Food in any three-star and above hotel is safe to eat. Always feel free to ask your guide about any foods you are concerned about.
    • We do advise being more cautious about eating raw vegetables as tap water is used to wash the vegetables and can sometimes lead to upset stomachs.
  • Strict special diets such as Keto and Vegan are quite difficult to accommodate for Chinese restaurants as most everything is cooked in the same pan. It is best to plan ahead with packed snacks and to let your tour guide know so that they may be able to help point you to some food options.
  • The air pollution is quite heavy in large cities. We like to carry a face mask with us in case the air is noticeably hazy.
  • It is best to bring over-the-counter medicine for cold, flu, diarrhea, cough and congestion.

The United States provides an extensive resource page regarding CDC travel health recommendations for every country. It is a helpful resource to refer to, in addition to your personal physician’s recommendations and a travel clinic’s recommendations. 

Currently, China has no specific immunization requirements for travelers entering the country. The United States has no immunization requirements for re-entry into the country after visiting China.

Medical Care
  • If you are in need of medical care during your trip, please contact your guide immediately so they may assist you.
  • We recommend purchasing travel medical insurance. Please note, hospitals in China require payment up front for medical procedures and care.
  • Nurse/doctor care, hospital sanitation, etc. in Chinese hospitals and medical facilities may not be comparable to western standards. Hospitals of western standard and quality are available in some major cities, but the cost of care is quite high
WiFi & Data Plans

There are many approaches to staying connected while in China. When considering your options, keep in mind:

  • Downloading a VPN is necessary if you need continued access to your  social media apps (Facebook, X, Instagram, Snapchat, BeReel, TikTok, etc.) as these are not accessible via WiFi without one. Note: You can access social media apps if you are using your own phone data
    • We currently do not have any consistently successful laptop VPN recommendations (as of 4.15.2024)
    • We have found consistent success with LetsVPN (iOS, Android) as a mobile VPN app (as of 4.15.2024)
  • Video-calling apps work without a VPN (Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc.)
  • WeChat is the best in-China app to use for communication and will be used by all of our tour guides and staff for centralized communication. We will walk you through setting up an account during your trip’s Travel Orientation Meeting.

International Data Plans

Depending on your service provider, purchasing an international data plan may be a great option. However, here are a couple alternative options that we have used and have had positive experiences with, in case your service provider does not provide a reasonable roaming plan:

  • eSIM applications like Airalo are often cheaper than service provider roaming rates and work great
    • Pros: An eSIM allows you to have unrestricted access to the internet, sans VPN, at unthrottled speeds
    • Cons: Most eSIMs are for data only, not phone calls
  • Purchase a Portable WiFi Hotspot
    • Battery-powered, travel-friendly wireless routers
    • Purchasing a WiFi Hotspot allows you to use pre-paid data that might be cheaper than your phone provider’s rates
    • This option is better for frequent travelers as most hotspot devices become the better bang-for-your-buck once you have used it for more than one international trip
    • We’ve had a good experience with KeepGo’s Lifetime World Hotspot devices
Miscellaneous Helpful Apps

Depending on which tour you’re traveling on, you may or may not have some down time to explore the local flavors and landmarks on your own. In these scenarios, there are a couple more apps we think are worth downloading as getting to know.


Put simply, Dianping is China's Yelp. For any nights on tour that allow dinners on your own, this is a great app to peruse for all the local favorites. The lack of English may make Dianping a bit intimidating, but it's a helpful tool for the adventurous touring foodie! If you know what you're craving, ask your tour guide to help type it into the app for you and you're on your way to an incredible meal.

Organic Maps (Android)

This is one of the better offline map apps for Android and it's 100% free as of right now. Organic Maps is a great tool and essential when navigating around China without a data plan. It allows users to download city maps from all over the world and internal GPS to track your location. It will show your position and even the direction you are pointing on the map. Organic Maps guides you turn-by-turn until you arrive at your destination. Whether you're just curious or anxious, this one is a good one to have.


This is one of the better offline map apps for iOS. Historically, this app was 100% free to use, but they recently started charging $4.99/month for "unlimited" version of the app. Nonetheless, MAPS.ME is still a great tool and essential when navigating around China without a data plan. It allows users to download city maps from all over the world and internal GPS to track your location. It will show your position and even the direction you are pointing on the map. MAPS.ME guides you turn-by-turn until you arrive at your destination. Whether you're just curious or anxious, this one is a good one to have.

IQ Air

The air quality in some cities may be poor on certain days during your tour. IQ Air provides information about the air quality from your nearest monitoring station. It's a helpful app when deciding whether or not you would like to wear a mask on hazy days.

Tour Resources

What to Pack

The right outfits take time

Visa Information

Everything you need to know about that pesky little piece of paper

Travel Tips

It's never too early to start becoming a pro