Planning a Trip to Chongqing
Tips on flight and hotel booking, visas and currency exchange
July and August are extremely hot (40°C / 104°F max temp.) and very wet (171 mm / 7 inches of rain in July). Temperatures during the rest of the year are quite pleasant. The winter months are characterized by dense fog. The best times to travel to Chongqing are in the fall or spring. See: weather and climate data from the China Meteorological Administration
The following international airlines fly to Chongqing: Air China, Asiana, Finnair, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Hainan Airlines.
For travelers from Europe, Finnair is particularly attractive with inexpensive flights and fast connections via Helsinki. The modern Finnair Airbus 340 is pleasant even in economy class, with comfortable leg room and an individual in-flight entertainment system in many languages that provide an enjoyable travel experience.
Inexpensive hotels in Chongqing are found easily on metasearch engines for hotels, such as booking.com. Check that the hotel is centrally located, and review the comments for the hotel carefully because shortcomings are addressed openly. For a prime location in the Jiefangbei pedestrian zone, you can expect to pay around $50 per night.
Visa and entry requirements
The current visa requirements can be obtained on the website of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States (embassies in other countries can be googled easily). Among the things to keep, you must submit a valid passport and your travel documents together with the application, which means that you should pay attention to the cancellation policies for the hotel and airline. The passport should be valid for at least 3 months beyond the length of visit requested, and should contain two blank pages for the visa. With a carefully filled out visa application, your passport, travel documents and a few days of patience (individual tourists must visit the embassy or consulate twice), there should be no problem obtaining your visa. China is very interested in attracting more Western tourists, and some of the tough restrictions in force during the Beijing Olympics have eased considerably. Additional travel and safety information is available from the U.S. State Department.
Since yuan are rarely exchanged in most Western countries, local banks might charge high fees and offer an unfavorable exchange rate, and obtaining yuan before traveling might be very expensive. A recommendation would be to acquire about 200 yuan to cover the first 1-2 days of travel, and thereafter obtain yuan as needed by exchanging money in Chongqing. Anyone can exchange currency in one of the many of Bank of China (BOC) branches, and the exchange rate offered is better than changing money in a local bank or when withdrawing cash from a Chinese ATM. The exchange procedure in the BOC is a bit cumbersome, though, and takes about 15 minutes with several forms that must receive official stamps. You must present your passport and enter your current address. Larger hotels frequently offer a currency exchange service for their guests. Incidentally, in the past it was necessary to present a confirmation from the currency exchange offices when exchanging yuan back to dollars before returning. According to an employee of the Bank of China in Chongqing, though, this rule has been rescinded.