PWD Register

The currency of the People's Republic of China has the generic name of Rénmínbì (人民币), which means ''people's money'' and is abbreviated as RMB. The basic currency unit is the yuán (元), often referred to by the informal term kuài (块), which means “piece [of money]”. One yuán can be split into 10 jiǎo (角) or máo [informal] (毛). The jiǎo can be further divided into 10 fēn (100 fēn = one yuán).

Notes and coinage are a confusing mess. Coins come in denominations of 1 máo, 2 máo, 5 máo, and 1 yuán. Additionally, you may find your change cluttered up with almost valueless fēn coins of various denominations. Coin sizes and designs vary a lot, and coin-operated machines are a rarity. To make matters worse, there is overlap between coins and notes: there are paper notes for 1, 2 and 5 máo and 1 yuán. Higher-value notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 yuán.

Exchange and Rates 
For many years the RMB exchange rate held steady at approximately RMB 8.2 to the US dollar. However, in recent years the rate has been adjusted due to China's strengthening economy and the falling value of the dollar.

Changing money in China is not a routine matter in the style of major Western economies. Visitors can exchange foreign currency for RMB at some international airports, branches of the Bank of China and major international hotels (guests only). All outlets exchange at the same rate and for a fixed commission, so don't bother shopping for a rate.

As always, it makes good sense to minimize exchanges, so try to convert only the money that you intend to spend for the duration of the visit. Make sure you keep your exchange receipts. Regulations make it difficult to exchange RMB for foreign currency, which can pose problems at the end of your trip if you have Chinese money to convert. If you can show that your cash originated with an earlier foreign currency exchange it makes things much simpler.

Avoid the currency black market. Not only is it illegal, but you also run the risk of receiving counterfeit notes.

Credit Cards
International credit cards are making slow progress in China. Do not rely on using them for anything other than settling bills at major international hotels and top-drawer restaurants. Chinese citizens use a lot of local cards (mostly debit), but try flashing your foreign plastic at the local supermarket or a provincial hotel and you're in for frustration. If you are planning to travel outside of Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, you should ensure that you have access to an alternative source of funds.

Traveler's Checks
Traveler's checks can be cashed at Bank of China branches as well as in international hotels without fuss. If you are traveling to provincial areas, don't rely on them too heavily: supplement them with cash up before you set out.

Personal Checks
Checks against accounts in international banks are generally not accepted in China.
ATMs (zìdòng qǔkuǎnjī自动取款机)
China's bigger cities have plenty of ATMs that accept international bank and credit cards (they display the Visa, MasterCard or Cirrus symbol). However, visitors might run into problems in smaller cities: international ATMs are not as common and are frequently out of service. When traveling outside the major cities, make sure you have enough cash and traveler's checks to see you through.

Those planning on staying in China on a long-term basis, or are frequent visitors to the country, should consider opening an account at a Chinese bank. With better international service, the Bank of China is the best option.

You'll simply need to bring your passport, fill out a couple of forms, and choose a password for your account book and your bank card. You will be issued with the card and book on the spot.

Tipping is not a part of Chinese culture. Ritzy establishments will add a service charge of between 10 and 20 percent to your bill. None of this extra money is likely to end up in the pocket of your waiter, but neither is extra cash that is left on the table. Hotel services for which gratuities are expected in America are provided free of charge in China. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, although if you have put the driver to a lot of unremunerated trouble, he will cheerfully accept a small addition to the fare.

Bargaining for goods and services is a common and accepted practice throughout China, though the

inexperienced often find it daunting. It takes place in outdoor markets and street stalls, and even in hotels (for room rates) and some department stores. Still, determining how, when, and where it is appropriate to enter into negotiation over prices can be confusing.

Haggling is usually inappropriate in restaurants and bars, four- and five-star hotels, upscale merchandise stores, state-run institutions (banks, post offices, etc.), foreign-run and international chain establishments, most supermarkets, and gyms or ticket- and membership-based clubs.

The price of almost everything else is negotiable, and the presence of a price tag does not necessarily mean that bargaining is not allowed. If you're still unsure, field a quick offer and gauge the reaction. If the answer is no, it means no.

Here are some tips for the art of bargaining:

  • In outdoor markets and big clothing emporiums with unmarked prices, the seller's opening offer is usually four times the rock-bottom price. However, he will be hoping for a 50% deal (the usual foreigner's bargain), and getting below that number takes tremendous persistence. You may well feel that 50% is worth it for a quiet life.
  • Insist that the seller make the first offer.  This gives you a rough idea of where to start.
  • Never buy from the first vendor you talk to, especially if you're unsure of what the price should be.  Have a look around, and come back if you can't get a better deal.
  • Keep your cool. Cracking jokes, debating animatedly, or pretending to be shocked at ''high'' prices are all part of the game, but anger and frustration will get you nowhere.
  • Walk away. Many times, turning around and walking away will prompt the seller to run after you and accept your offer.

Counterfeit Currency
Counterfeit money is a considerable problem in China. Don't be offended when your banknote is scrutinized – it happens to everyone. Here are some tips to avoid being handed fake currency:

  •  Beware of situations where you are receiving large notes from a stranger; try to pay for things in exact change
  •  Do not exchange currency anywhere other than at authorized locations: black market money swaps are perfect for moving fake bills.
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