The police force in China is called the Public Security Bureau (gonganju), abbreviated to PSB. Foreign nationals are unlikely to encounter the PSB, unless extending their visa, applying for a permit to a restricted area, or reporting loss or theft. China is police state, so the PSB is riddled with corruption and overwhelming bureaucracy. Not all station (paichusuo) have English-speaking staff, so try to take along an interpreter if reporting a crime, although it is best to contact your embassy or consulate first for the guidance. Throughout mainland Chain, call 110 for the Police. Protect your valuables and important documents at all times, stay and eat in clean places, and drink only mineral water. For medical attention, it is better to opt for a private clinic rather than one of the many government hospitals.
Traveling in China is generally safe. Even though crime has burgeoned since the 1980s economic liberalization, with millions of unemployed migrants flocking to the cities, foreign visitors are unlikely to be the victims of crime, apart from petty theft. Tourists on buses and trains, particularly those in the hard-seat class (see p629) and on overnight journeys, are tempting targets for thieves. Guard your camera and valuables, wear a money belt at all times, and secure your luggage to the rack on overnight train journeys.
Hotels are, more or less, a lot more secure than dormitories, even though it is not unusual for thing to go missing from hotel rooms. You could use the safes or storage areas that most hotels offer, but do insist on a receipt. If staying in a dormitory, never leave your essentials and important documents lying around, and be cautious about giving too many details to fellow travelers.
When walking in crowded streets, avoid wearing anything expensive or eye-catching, and keep your wallet in the bottom of your bag, but never in a backpack. Be discreet when taking out your wallet; it is best to carry only as much cash as you need for the day. Keep an eye on your belongings while visiting public washrooms, as quite a few travelers have had very unpleasant experiences.
Keep cash, travel's checks, passport, and visa documents in a money belt-one that lie flat and are meant to be worn under clothing are best. Also, remember to make photocopies of the personal information and China visa pages of your passport and any other important documents and store them separately from the originals.
Ever since the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, security has been tightened throughout China, especially at airports and railway station. At certain sights, you will be asked to deposit your bag before making a visit. Always carry your passport with you for identification
China is usually regarded as a very safe destination for women. In general, Chinese men are respectful toward women, and it is unlikely for them to experience any serious form of sexual harassment. That said, never takes your safety for granted, and though independent travel is safer in China than in many other countries, traveling in a group is always wiser, as lone travelers are more likely to be mugged or assaulted. However, if you do travel alone, stay on your guard when visiting rural and far-flung areas, and avoid wandering about alone in quiet and deserted places, especially after dark.
As far as clothing goes, it is best to observe the clothing and behavior of local women, and adapt as closely as possible. It helps to dress modestly, especially in muslin regions and rural areas.
If possible, avoid hotel dormitories and opt for single rooms in hotels located near the center of town on well-lit streets. To avert an undesirable encounter, carry a whistle or learn a few basic selfdefense moves.
Gay and Lesbian Travelers
The gay Lesbian scenes in China's main cities, in particular Shanghai and Hong Kong, are growing. However, China is still a highly conventional society, and homosexuality is largely disapproved of and misunderstood. In 2001, the Chinese Psychiatric Society finally deleted homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Homosexuality is legal, but there no laws to protect gays, and police periodically crack down on meeting places. Even in cities, it is inadvisable for gays and lesbians to be open with their sexuality, despite the tactile relationship many Chinese have with friends of the same sex.
Hospitals and Medical facilities
It is important to take out comprehensive medical insurance before arriving in China. China' state hospitals vary considerably in quality; the better-equipped hospitals (yiyuan) can be found in the cities and large towns, but even at the best, communication can be problematic. Cities with large expatriate communities have private hospitals, where there are exclusive clinics with English-speaking staff to attend to non-Chinese visitors. Consider contacting your embassy for a list of approved hospitals may levy a certain amount of "foreigner surcharge"that could ensure better care. Whatever the type of institution, you will be expected to pay cash at the time of being admitted.
Pharmacies (yaodian), indentified by green crosses, are found all over China. Many of them stock both Western medicine (xi yao) and Chinese medicine (zhong yao), and can treat you minor injuries or ailments. Take adequate supplies of any prescription drugs you require, and also remember to take the chemical-not brand-name of all prescriptions, in case you need to restock. In large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, Prescriptions may not be required for a range of medicine, including antibiotics and sleeping pills. Some large hotels have in-house clinics to help guests with diagnosis, medical assistance, and prescriptions. Large modern hotels may also be able to provide a Chinese speaker to accompany you to the hospital.
Those interested in traditional Chinese medicine (see p232) for treating chronic ailments can visit the traditional institutes attached to local hospitals and medical colleges. Some hotels, too, offer traditional Chinese treatment.
Public bathrooms are typically of the squat variety and are squalid, filthy, and rarely cleaned, unless watched over by an attendant. There is little privacy-door less cubicles, separated by low walls, are the norm. Toilet paper should be put in the receptacle, if provided, rather than down the toilet, as septic systems are often unable to handle paper products. You will be expected to pay a few jiao for using the facilities. Use hotel and fast-food restaurant bathrooms whenever you get the opportunity.
The rigors of travel require a few extra hygiene considerations. Carry a small bar of hand soap or a tube of concentrated camping soap with you all the time. A packet of wet wipes always comes in handy.
Warts are easily picked up from poorly cleaned shower stalls. You will often find a pair of flipflops under your hotel bed. These are meant to be worn in the shower, but you might consider packing a pair of your own.
Heat, Humidity & Pollution
During summer, It is hot all across China. If you are traveling during this time drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, and increase you intake of salt to compensate its loss through sweating. Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing and sandals, remember to bring a sun and sunglasses, and use plenty of sunscreen. Most hotels, except the very cheapest, have rooms equipped with air conditioning, and virtually all restaurants are air conditioned as well. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause heat stroke, a serious condition with high body temperature, severe headaches, and disorientation. To avoid heat rashes and fungal infections caused by humidity, wear clean, loose clothes made of natural fibers, and open sandals.
Many of China's cities, including Beijing, experience chronic levels of atmospheric pollution. This aggravates chest infections, and asthmatic travelers should always carry their own medication.
Cold & Hypothermia
Winter can be severe through most of north China. High-altitude travel in particular can expose you to extreme cold, and travelers to Tibet and other mountainous regions must be prepared for sudden changes in temperature. A waterproof and windproof layer is vital in cold condition, as adequate warm clothing, including thick socks, boots, jacket, gloves, and, most importantly, a hat. The symptoms of hypothermia, which include shivering dizziness, exhaustion, and irrational behavior, are brought on by prolonged exposure to the cold. Be aware of fingers and toes going white or numb, the first indications of frost bite, and rub them vigorously if they do.
Organize a basic first-aid kit, which should include all personal medication, aspirin or painkillers for fevers and minor aches and pains, tablets for nausea and movement sickness, antiseptic cream for cuts and bites, anti-fungal ointment, Band-aids, gauze and tensor bandages, a pair of scissors insect repellent, and tweezers. Also carry antihistamines for allergies, anti-diarrhea tablets, water purification tablets, water purification tablets, disposable syringes, oral rehydration solution, and a thermometer. Taking a supply of antibiotics is a good idea. Most of these items are readily available at Chinese pharmacies.
Stomach upsets & Diarrhea
Usually caused by a change of diet, water, and climate, diarrhea is common among visitor. Chinese food, which can be quite oily and spicy, does require some getting used to for many people. If the change of diet is affecting you, stick to Western food and simple boiled food, such as plain rice, until the diarrhea subsides. Most importantly, drink lots of fluids, as diarrhea quickly leads to dehydration oral rehydration solution (ORS) is an effective remedy. If you do not have any ORS, stir half a teaspoon of salt and three teaspoons of honey or sugar into a mug of boiled water. To decrease your chances of stomach upset, avoid raw salads, cut fruit, cold cuts, road-side kabobs, fresh juice, and yogurt. It is important to avoid drinking tap water even in big cities, apart from Hong Kong. Drink boiled water or bottled mineral water after checking that the seal is intact, most international brands of carbonated drinks are widely available. Although street food can look tempting, it is safer to abstain unless it is hot and freshly cooked in front of you.
A good pharmacist can recommend standard diarrhea medication, such as Imodium, though if the attack is severe, it is best to consult a doctor. A popular and effective Chinese medicine for upset stomachs is huangliansu,
Sars &Bird Flu
In spring 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spread throughout China and then to Toronto, Canada. China managed to contain the disease with a strict identification and quarantine program. Since then, there have only been minor, localized out breads of the disease. A previously unknown virus SARS attacks the upper respiratory system and results in fever, followed by a dry cough and difficulty in breaking. Another SARS outbreak is unlikely, but should one occur, do not a new syringe in front of you. You may even want to bring your own disposable syringe for the doctor to use. Any procedure using needles, such as tattooing or ear piercing is best avoided.
Visitors must be on their guard against dysentery. Bacillary dysentery is accompanied by severe stomach pains, vomiting and fevers, whereas amoebic dysentery has similar symptoms but takes longer to manifest. Vaccination against Hepatitis A is advisable before leaving home, especially if you plan to visit rural areas. Other water-borne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, can also be prevented with vaccines. Schistosomiasis (bilharzias), a disease caused by a water-borne parasitic worm found in south and central China, can be avoided by not swimming in fresh water. Drinks bottled mineral water at all times, and avoid ice cubes.
The deadly rabies virus is spread via the bite of an infected animal. If you are bitten, clean the bite with an antiseptic solution, and seek medical help at once. Treatment involves a course of injections. A rabies vaccine is only necessary if you are visiting high-risk areas for a long period and likely to come into contact with animals. Do not have this vaccine, unless advised by your doctor.
Mosquitoes are rife during the summer in China. In the southern part of the country, mosquitoes can carry a number of diseases. If you are visiting an area with a high risk of malaria, take preventive anti-malarial drugs before, during, and after your trop. Contact MASTA (Medical Advisory Services for Travelers Abroad) and check the MD Travel health website (see p617) for information on malaria medication. Dengue fever and Japanese B encephalitis are also carried by mosquitoes. To guard against mosquitoes bites, apply mesquite repellent, and wear clothes that cover as much of your arms and legs as possible.
A lack of sufficient oxygen at altitudes higher than 8000 ft (2500m) can cause attacks of Acute Mountain Sick (AMS) severe headaches, dizziness, and loss of appetite. These symptoms subside within a day or two, but if they persist beyond 48 hours, you must descend to a lower altitude immediately and seek medical help. To avoid altitude sickness ascends slowly, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid alcohol and sedatives.