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China on a Budget

Accommodations, more expensive in the east than in the west, range from modern to rustic. The more rustic, the less likely you'll find staff who speak English, but also the more likely you can partake in a national pastime: bargaining. Unless you're in a supermarket or department store, bargain, barter, negotiate -- don't show your enthusiasm for an item and don't get angry. It's a game. Learn a few phrases and be willing to walk away if you don't like the deal. Taxi drivers, hotel and restaurant staff are generally not allowed to accept tips, so there's one place you'll save money. One place not to economize: bottled water. The local tap water could make you sick.

Best Time to Go to China

China's climate is as wide-ranging as the country is vast. Overall, fall is best for an extended visit. Spring can be nice, but also damp, and may even be disrupted by a dust storm. Summer is swelteringly hot and rainy, and winter is cold to the north. September is the only time of year when weather conditions allow certain ancient paintings to be displayed at Beijing Palace Museum. There's really no avoiding crowds in China, and the first week of both May and October, the months of June through September, as well as January and February will be especially busy with fierce competition for hotel rooms or space on planes and trains.


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