Saturday, August 11, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Money matters

          In every country in the world there bound to be bad apples around and China is no exception. China is a very big country and the most populous one. Due to the sheer numbers of people there, one had to be very careful and never let the guard down. For this article I am putting down here some of the trivial lesson learnt on money matters throughout my travels in China. Hope its help someone, sometime, somewhere in China.

1. Bring more cash. Even though credit cards are widely accepted in China, be warned that most smaller establishments only accept 'local' credit card and not 'international' credit card. Local credit cards are those issued by China's local bank (Bank of China, Agriculture Bank of China, China Communication Bank, China Development Bank, ICBC,  etc) where the merchants were charged lower commission compared to international issued Visa/Mastercard/Amex/JCB card. Some big hotels and restaurants do accept 'international' credit cards; and if they don't they will tell you, or your card transaction would not go through. The cash is to tide you through such embarrassment of not being able to pay through card.

2. Change your cash into Renminbi in your home country rather than in China. This is due to risk of getting fake currency and lesser than favorable exchange rate that you will get in China. It it very hard to spot fake currency. If you are not able to change to RMB cash prior to arriving in China, do not be tempted by touts promising high exchange rate. Change them only with reputable banks or with your hotel even though the rates will not be as good as you may get in your home country. 

3. When you change your cash to Renminbi in your home country typically you will get large notes (like RMB100s only). Fret not. After you checked in hotel, you may change 1 or 2 of the RMB100 notes to smaller denomination with the hotel cashier, asking for RMB5s, RMB10s or RMB20s. This small notes are useful for tips, taxi's fare or to buy from street vendors or shops.

All China paper currencies has portrait 
of Mao Tse Tung. It is hard to detect 
fake currency for the untrained eyes.
4. When paying for taxi's fare or goods from street vendor or shop, try to pay by the exact amount or close to it if possible. Example, if the taxi fare or apples bought from the street is RMB15.00, give them exact, or RMB20, and not with a RMB100 note. This is to avoid sleight of hand that the taxi/vendor will change your big note to fake ones and ask you for another piece. Some of the taxi and vendors earn meager income daily, so if the opportunity arises, they will capitalize on it. Some of them are so good at it that you do not realized you are being duped until they are long gone.

5. Once a deal is completed with money had changed hand and you had walked out of the taxi or shops, never entertained the driver or shopkeeper that will come running back after you, claiming the money you gave is fake. Told them the money had changed hand and out of sight, and if they are not happy, then they can call the police.

6. Do not be greedy, no matter how good a deal is. If a deal is too good to be true, it is, especially when bystander whisper to you how good it is. Its time to get away fast.

Be street smart and learn from some of my mistakes in China.

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