Business Hours In China, businesses and offices usually remain open from 8am to 5pm and generally close for lunch between noon and 1pm. Shops are open daily from 8 or 8:30am to 7:30 or 8pm (9am to 7pm in winter; 9am to 8:30pm in summer), and most Chinese supermarkets and department stores stay open on holidays, even extending their hours of operation later into the evening. Banks are open Monday through Friday 8am to 4pm. Tourist attractions welcome visitors daily from 8am to 5pm, though museums do close for the lunch hour, and many of them stay closed on Mondays. The Tianjin Tourism Bureau (18 Youyi Lu, in the Hexi District) is open daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
Electricity The electricity used in China is 220 volts, with alternating current (AC) of 50 cycles. Most devices from North America, therefore, cannot be used without an adapter (¥8/$1 to ¥16/$2 in department stores), though many hotel rooms are stocked with hair dryers, as well as outlets designed to be able to accept plugs from North America and Europe.
Emergencies Dial tel. 120 for general emergencies, tel. 119 for fire, and tel. 110 for police -- but keep in mind that it's rare to get an English speaker on the emergency line, so if you don't speak Mandarin, try to find an alternate means of assistance.
Internet Access Internet access is increasingly available throughout China, though download speeds can be very slow. More upscale hotels generally provide internet access, either in the business center or in guestrooms. Your best bet for finding an internet cafe is to look near major tourist areas. Along with several other major Chinese cities, Tianjin has taken steps toward setting up city-wide Wi-Fi as of February 2008, though the completion date of that project is anyone's guess. Currently, though, Tianjin Binhai Airport offers several Wi-Fi hotspots.
Liquor Laws In January 2006, China passed its first liquor law, prohibiting the sale of alcohol to those under age 18. Otherwise, alcohol can be bought in most convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, bars, hotels, and clubs, and may be drunk anywhere you feel like drinking it.
Mail Sending mail from China to international addresses is reliable -- although sending it to private addresses within China is not. If you can take your mail to post offices rather than use street post boxes, that is preferable. It helps if mail sent out of the country has its country of destination written in Chinese characters (hotel staff will often help with this), but this is not essential. Don't write addresses in red ink or your mail will occasionally be rejected, due to the extremely negative overtones the color carries. Some larger hotels offer postal services.
Costs are as follows: Overseas mail: postcards ¥4.20 (50¢), letters under 10g (.35 oz.) ¥5.40 (70¢), and letters under 20g (.70 oz.) ¥6.50 (80¢). EMS (express parcels under 500g/18 oz.): to the U.S. ¥180 to ¥240 ($23-$30); to Europe ¥220 to ¥280 ($28-$35); to Australia ¥160 to ¥210 ($20-$26). Normal parcels up to 1kg (2.2 lb.): to the U.S. by air ¥95 to ¥159 ($12-$20), by sea ¥20 to ¥84 ($2.50-$14); to the U.K. by air ¥77 to ¥162 ($10-$20), by sea ¥22 to ¥108 ($11-$13); to Australia by air ¥70 to ¥144 ($8.75-$18), by sea ¥15 to ¥89 ($1.90-$11). Letters and parcels can be registered for a small extra charge.
Newspapers & Magazines The English-language China Daily, available daily except Sundays, is readily available free of charge in most hotels, but when you read it, keep in mind that it's published by the government and that many Americans consider its content to be more propaganda than news. Major local newspapers include Tianjin Daily and Jin Wan Bao. Tomorrow, launched in January 2008, is the most recent addition to expatriate media in Tianjin. Gift shops at the more reputable hotels tend to offer a variety of English-language newspapers and magazines.
Pets Bringing a pet requires a vaccination certification and a health certificate; those should be issued within 30 days of departure, and from a veterinarian in your home country; obtain multiple copies. Animals must have been vaccinated within the last 6 months and at least 1 month before entry into China. When you arrive, you will have to declare your pet at Customs and pay a fee. Note that there is a mandatory 30-day quarantine period, though you can sometimes keep your pet with you during this period. Birds are prohibited from import into China. For a full listing of regulations and the latest updates regarding rules and regulations for bringing your pet to China, check with your country's Chinese embassy.
Police Dial tel. 110 for the police (jingcha). On the street, you can recognize them by their green uniforms and caps.
Safety Most crimes in Tianjin are theft-related, so make sure to securely lock cars and bikes, use your in-room safe (if you have one) or the locked security boxes at your hotel's front desk, and be particularly aware of pickpockets. Conceal passports and money, especially when in crowded places. Carry your own medical kit, although in case of a medical emergency, Tianjin hospitals can be of assistance. Do not consort with prostitutes, who often have HIV.
Smoking Nonsmoking tables in restaurants are almost unheard of, and nonsmoking signs are favorite places beneath which to sit and smoke. On trains, smokers are generally sent to the spaces between cars, but they won't bother to do so if no one protests. On air-conditioned buses, smokers will usually be told to put out their cigarette.
Taxes Occasionally, a tax will be added to hotel bills, but these are minor and usually included in the room rate -- though hotel service charges, which occasionally appear on bills, can be more significant; inquire to find out whether these are included in your quoted rate. Airport departure taxes are now included in the cost of your ticket.
To Make International Calls Dial 00, then the country code (1 for U.S. or Canada, 44 for the U.K., 353 for Ireland, 61 for Australia, and 64 for New Zealand). Then dial the area or city code, omitting any leading zero, and then dial the number. For example, if you want to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 00-1-202-588-7800.
You can call internationally for a fraction of the cost by using an IP (Internet Protocol) card (aipi ka), available wherever you see the letters "IP." You should bargain to pay less than the card's face value -- as little as ¥40 ($5) for a ¥100 ($12) card from street vendors. Instructions for use are on the back, but you simply dial the access number given, choose English from the menu, and follow the instructions to dial in the number behind a scratch-off panel. Depending on where you're calling, ¥50 ($6) can give you an hour of talking.
If using a public phone, you'll need an IC card to make the call. In emergencies, dial 108 to negotiate a collect call, but you'll need help from a Mandarin speaker.
If you're bringing a cell phone that will work in China (GSM 900, it's advisable to buy a prepaid SIM card from China Mobile.
Time Zone All of China is on Beijing time, which is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+8) and 13 hours ahead of New York. There's no daylight saving time, so subtract 1 hour's difference in summer.
Tipping Tipping is not customary in China. If you'd like to acknowledge a tour guide's services, a gift would be more appropriate than a tip. Until recently, tipping was expressly forbidden, and some hotels still carry signs requesting that you not tip. At restaurants, waitresses may run after you with your change, and taxi drivers can be fired for hinting for a tip.
Water Do not consume the tap water in Tianjin, even for brushing your teeth. Instead, use bottled water, which is widely available, and provided for free in the more upscale hotels. Before ordering a beverage in a restaurant or bar, ask whether the ice was made with bottled or boiled water. If it wasn't, request your drink with no ice.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.