China’s rich artistic heritage is reflected in its stunning range of characteristic works of art – from stylized landscape paintings and calligraphy to delicate ceramic bowls and exquisitely carved bamboo. With the recent burgeoning of travel, Chinese cities are alive with shops and markets selling trinkets and souvenirs. Some of the most unique souvenirs are those produced by China’s minorities, particularly their accomplished embroidery. The major cities have seen the emergence of department stores, which provide certificates of authenticity for items such as jewelry and semi-precious stones.
Shops in China are usually open from 8:30am until fairly late in the evening – around 8pm – while winter timings are generally 9am to 7pm. The opening and closing times of shops, however, may vary from place to place. For instance, in some areas they open as early as 8am, and stay open until well after 8pm. Some of the large shopping centers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong don’t close before 9pm. Local food shops and markets selling fresh produce remain open for business from early in the morning until late at night. Visitors should note that some shops remain closed on public holidays, the most important being the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), National Day (October 1), and New Year’s Day (January 1).
Chinese Currency is the yuan, also known as renminbi, or people’s money (shortened to RMB). One yuan is divided into 10 jiao or mao, each of which is divided even farther into 10 fen. Credit cards are only accepted in the larger travel hotels and in state-run shops. You are unlikely to be able to pay by debit card anywhere. A few ATMs in the larger cities accept foreign credit and debit cards – look around head branches of the major international banks and the Bank of China. It is recommended to carry traveler’s checks, as well as a supply of currency such as US dollars, Euros or pounds sterling as they are the easiest to convert. The Bank of China has exchange desks for foreign currency and traveler’s checks, and these are also found at airports, in larger hotels, and in certain stores. Keep your exchange receipts as you will need them to convert your spare renminbi into another currency before leaving the country.
Bargaining is a common practice in China, especially in street markets, night bazaars, and souvenir stands. It is even worth trying in the smarter, more expensive hotels, modern shops, department stores.