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F.A.Q. (Answered by Dr. Ray)

  1. Do I need a passport?
  2. Do I need a visa?
  3. Do I need an International Student Card or additional Health Insurance?
  4. Are there any Study Abroad Fees?
  5. Do I need travel insurance?
  6. How much extra money should I bring?
  7. Do I need to be physically fit to go on this trip?
  8. How much luggage can I bring?
  9. Should I get vaccinations?
  10. What should I wear?
  11. What will the weather be like?
  12. Will my mobile phone work in China?
  13. Should I bring a laptop?
  14. What is the food like?
  15. What about the holidays?
  16. Will we be sleeping on the trains?
  17. What are the hotel sleeping arrangements?
  18. Are we going to Sichuan Province or Yunnan Province?

1. Do I need a passport?
Yes! A U.S. passport that is good for at least 6-months past your departure date is required. A U.S. passport costs $75.00.

2. Do I need a visa?
Yes! We will apply for tourist visas from the Chinese Embassy. I will give you the forms to fill out. Your visa photo will be taken by Carl Leet from YSU Media and Academic Computing. Call (330) 941-3350 to schedule a photo shoot. The cost of the visa is $130.00..

3. Do I need an International Student Card or additional Health Insurance?
Yes! The YSU Center for International Studies and Programs highly recommends all YSU students participating in Study Abroad programs to carry an International Student Card. The cost for the card is $25.00. Study Abroad insurance is mandatory. It will either be provided through the program or you’ll have to purchase it at Youngstown State University. Details will be emailed to enrolled participants.

4. Are there any Study Abroad Fees?
All YSU students participating in Study Abroad programs are assessed a mandatory Study Abroad Fee of $45 which will be applied to your student account.

5. Do I need travel insurance?
Normally I would say that travel insurance is optional but given the uncertainties related to swine flu, I am requiring all participants on this trip to purchase travel insurance. Suppose someone is sick on our international flight and the Chinese government decides to quarantine the entire flight for a few days. This would result in us missing some or all of our travel connections. Travel insurance will reimburse us for any costs incurred in rescheduling our travel plans.

6. How much extra money should I bring?
Your payment of $2,600 for China includes all lodging, meals (except for lunch in Shanghai), transfers, domestic transportation, admission charges, and tips for guides and drivers. It does not include any optional activities such as getting a foot massage, going to a nightclub in Xi'an, riding on a Yak in Lijiang, attending the Impressions Show in Yangshuo or posing to get your photo taken with a monkey in Guilin. You will also need money for gifts, souvenirs and any personal food you want to buy (gum, candy, refreshment stand food at tourist stops). I would suggest a minimum of $100 per week to cover incidentals plus extra money for gifts. The hotels we will be staying in offer the best rate for exchanging US dollars to Chinese Yuan. You should bring newer US currency in $20, $50 or $100 denominations.

7. Do I need to be physically fit to go on this trip?
You will be walking with your suitcase in train stations and airports and hiking along trails in the mountains. The longest hike will be approximately six miles - taking stops to look at the geology and rest. You should be able to walk at least a mile at a comfortable pace without stopping or complaining. If you are not sure, try walking north on Fifth Avenue from YSU to Gypsy Lane. If you can do that without feeling wiped out you should be fine. The air will be thinner in the high elevations of Yunnan province. Oxygen can be purchased if you think you need it. Most people in "normal" health do not need to purchase oxygen, except for the novelty of buying a can of air.

8. How much luggage can I bring?
The limiting factor for luggage is the restrictions on our flight from Chengdu to Lijiang, which is one suitcase per person with a maximum weight of 20 kilograms (44 lbs). You will also need to carry your suitcase up and down stairs in train stations. I suggest a suitcase on wheels plus a day-pack for your personal effects.

9. Should I get vaccinations?
Although everyone calls me Dr. Ray, I am only qualified to give medical recommendations to rocks. I suggest you visit the website for The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I personally follow the CDC's Adult Immunization Schedule.

10. What should I wear?
We will be in a variety of winter climates, from cold in Beijing to mild in Guilin and Hong Kong. It will probably rain (or snow) on us a few times. In Yunnan province we will be in the rain shadow of the Himalayas so expect sunny days and cold nights. The biggest clothing issue is that you will not be able to carry three-weeks worth of clean clothes in your suitcase. You will need to clean your clothing during the trip. You'll have the choice of using the hotel's laundy service (which can get expensive) or cleaning your clothes by hand, in your hotel room. Our local guides can also assist us in getting laundry done at a local cleaner, when we are staying for a few days in one spot.

Cotton t-shirts, underwear, socks and jeans are problematic in that they will not dry overnight hanging over the bathtub in your hotel room. I wear back-packers underwear and socks made from quick-drying synthetic materials that can be purchased at most sporting goods/outdoor recreation stores. There is some method in my madness as my Hawaiian shirts are also quick drying. I wear travel pants with extra pockets and can zip-off into shorts. For the cold I bring Polypropylene Thermal Underwear and sock insets. I bring a dozen clothes pins to use when I wash my socks and underwear each night.

Adequate footwear is also a concern. We will be hiking on most days with the longest scheduled individual hike being around 10 km (6 miles). I recommend a adequate pair of hiking boots but if you are comfortable walking that distance in sneakers you are welcome to do so. If possible, spray your boots so that they are water resistant.

11. What will the weather be like?
The winter weather in Beijing can be as cold as in Ohio. Fortunately we will get the cold weather out of the way first and it will get progressively warmer as we travel. The sun at the highest elevations in Yunnan province will be strong, even in winter. The best bet is to wear layers. I bring non-cotton thermal shirts and long underwear, along with a thermal jacket and a windbreaker. A hat and gloves are advisable too.

12. Will my mobile phone work in China?
Check with your provider. I purchased a multi-band phone that works in China but I first needed to "Unlock" the phone so that it would work with a Chinese SIM card. I purchase a Chinese SIM card and mostly use the phone to send text messages. If I used my US SIM card I would be charged $3.00 every time someone tried to call my number, even if I rejected the call. There are pay phones that allow you to call the US for a reasonable rate. Our national and local guides can help you to do this. You can also use Skype on your laptop in your hotel room.

13. Should I bring a laptop?
Most of the hotels offer internet for an additional fee so you can use your laptop to communicate with home. Check to make sure you have the proper plug adapters for China for your power supply. Internet is available in the business center in most hotels and at internet cafes.

14. What is the food like?
Most of the hotels provide a breakfast buffet that includes western and Chinese food. Lunches and dinners will be at local restaurants. We will eat family style at two round tables (8 to 10 people per table.) Whenever possible we will sample local dishes. You will be expected to use chopsticks. If you plan on not using chopsticks you will need to bring your own utensils.

15. What about the holidays?
We will be spending Christmas Eve along West Street in Yangshuo - a great place to spread some Christmas Cheer, Penguin Style. West Street is a popular tourist destination and you will be able to celebrate with local Chinese as well as travelers from around the world. We'll plan a special Christmas Eve banquet to get the celebration started.

16. Will we be sleeping on the trains?
Most of our train rides will be overnight and we will each have a bed on the train. Whenever possible we will reserve "soft sleeper" cars with four-beds (two bunk beds) and a lockable door. In some cases we may need to ride in a "hard sleeper" which has two sets of triple bunks and no door. I use extra shoelaces to drape one of my Hawaiian shirts across the doorway to provide a small amount of privacy.

17. What will be the sleeping arrangements at the hotel(s)?
We will be staying two people to a room. There are two beds in each room, unless a couple requests a single king-bed. Generally, the students self select who they will room with. If you want your own private room, there will be a single room surcharge.

18. Are we going to Sichuan Province or Yunnan Province?
The class alternates between Sichuan and Yunnan Province each year. The high-altitude comments about Yunnan province in this FAQ section may not apply to you. Please check the current schedule to see where the upcoming trip is going. The trip goes to Beijing, The Great Wall, Xi'an, Guilin and Shanghai each year. Other destinations vary from year to year.