Chengdu holiday highlights
• To many visitors, the lure of the giant panda proves irresistible and the trail to the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre is a popular one.
• Sichuan is the historical centre of China’s tea drinking culture, said to date back over 3,000 years. While their role as the centre of local society is long gone, tea houses remain popular places to gather with friends and colleagues. Slowly make your way through a dazzling array of different flavours from the menu and if chance permits, the intricate process of brewing, straining and serving the tea is an enjoyably educating sight and experience not to be missed.
GMT +8 hours
• UK and Irish passport holders need a visa to travel to China.
• You can get your visa from Kuoni’s Visa Travel Service – make sure you apply for it at least six weeks before you’re travelling - or direct from the Chinese Embassy (call 0891 880 808).
Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity
Tipping is officially discouraged – even frowned upon. However, it’s becoming more readily accepted in top hotels and restaurants, and is even expected by Chinese guides and bus drivers on tours.
• Browse department stores and small shops selling souvenirs and clothes.
• Friendship shops sell goods including silk fabric, handicrafts, clothing and electrical goods.
• Barter for handicrafts and wicker goods at the free markets, and clothes from street traders.
• When buying antiques, make sure they sport the shop’s official red seal or you may run into problems when leaving the country.
• Hotels usually serve western-style breakfast, a Chinese table d’hôte lunch and dinner.
• Western-style food is rarely available in local restaurants. You’ll usually be seated at a large, round table seating up to 10 people, and knives and forks are rarely provided.
• Vegetarians beware - ‘vegetarian’ dishes can be cooked in meat juices.
• Try a spicy Sichuan hotpot.
• Avoid tap water and ice – stick to bottled water.
• Sip flower tea at a traditional Chengdu tea house.