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    Tips for Credit Cards & Bargaining

Credit cards are still gaining ground in China with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club being the most common. Credit cards can be used in most mid- to top-range hotels, Friendship Stores and department stores. In Guangzhou I can pay for airline tickets using my U.S. credit card.

Bargaining is definitely OK. You can bargain in shops and street stalls but usually not in large stores or restaurants (unless they offer you a discount, then you know to bargain). If you do bargain, start at about 50% of the original price, and you''ll be shocked at how many times you''ll get it for that.

If you are from the U.S., most prices will be quite acceptable. Try bargaining for fun, but don''t take it too seriously, especially if you are at a street vendor.

Important note: If you go to a street vendor, the prices are geared more towards the local Chinese consumer (unless you are on Sha Mian Island) and not the foreigner who makes 10 times the average Chinese customer. Besides, you are bound to see the same exact item 10 or more times during your trip! Patience goes a long way here in China.

About Changing Money and Credit Cards - There is counterfeit money everywhere, so no matter what anyone tells you always change money at a bank. You should always carry small change with you, especially if you are taking a taxi. Before you leave your hotel, get 200 or 300rmb in small notes (5s, 10s, 20s and 50s) to pay for the taxis and small purchases on the streets. The driver will not have to give you back change larger than a 5rmb note. Many counterfeit bills will be 10s, 20s and 50s. If you happen to give the driver a 100rmb note, watch him like a hawk, as he will find a way to return a fake bill because they get them all the time. Of course not everyone is like this, and it varies from place to place, but you must always keep this in mind. One day you will give the cashier a 100rmb note to buy some cookies at 7-11 and you will be told that your bill is counterfeit, and you''ll wonder for hours how you got a fake note! Now you know. And if you try to check its authenticity at a Bank of China branch, it will be confiscated and will not be replaced.

If you are in Hong Kong, never change money in a hotel, as there are many exchange booths outside with great rates. In China, though, banks are the safest and have the best rates.

If you do change money in China then a quick conversion example would be: $1 = 6.2 RMB. For example, if you give $100 U.S. dollars to exchange, you will receive 620 RMB. Conversion rates change so check with banks for current rates of exchange.


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