Chengdu is a burgeoning hub of activity and connections in so many ways and on so many levels. The city is fast turning into a showcase for some of the finest aspects of China's thousands of years of history as well as a timely redeployment of cultural, geographical and technical strengths that have long made this crossroads metropolis a commercial, cultural and culinary magnet.
As in many parts of Asia, the concept of ‘face' (respect) is very important. Take sensible steps to avoid showing disrespect to people or causing a ‘loss of face' for anybody, including yourself. In particular, avoid behaviour that may cause embarrassment. Do not insult people or behave in an insulting manner toward state, cultural or spiritual symbols, representatives or similar.
Avoid yelling. Even in difficult or confusing situations, try to avoid speaking in a loud, angry manner. In China, relationships between and amongst people are of paramount importance. Building relationships, taking steps to underscore the respect in which those relationships are held, and otherwise maintaining those relationships are very important activities.
Chinese people tend to be modest and excessive praise can be embarrassing for all concerned. Things, especially if they might be viewed as negative, are rarely presented or tackled head-on, in a direct or confrontational manner. Negative comments or use of the word ‘no' are to be avoided, with a graceful excuse being much more preferable.
No matter how uncomfortable it may feel for a Westerner, tipping is not part of Chinese culture. To not tip is not considered rude; it is simply not an issue. Though things are slowly changing, especially in top-end hotels where staff regularly deal with Westerners, you should never feel any pressure in Chengdu to give a tip. The venues where you might be expected to tip expensive hotels or restaurants may well already add a significant service charge to your bill, so don't sweat it. If, however, you encounter someone who clearly far exceeded the normal requirements of their job in an effort to help you, offer them a small something but do not be surprised at the uncomfortable attempts at polite refusal this may trigger.
The Chinese currency is called the renminbi (RMB) and the basic unit is the yuan (CNY). The two names are generally used interchangeably. Currency-exchange services are available at the airport, top-end hotels and branches of major banks. There are plenty of ATMs in Chengdu that accept foreign cards and they usually offer a choice of Chinese or English languages. Major hotels accept credit cards but otherwise, cash is usually the most reliable form of payment. Always keep your ATM or exchange receipts so you can exchange leftover Chinese currency back into your home currency at the airport.
Though not as unbearably hot as some of China's ‘furnace' cities, Chengdu does have a subtropical monsoon climate. The summer season, July to August, is hot and humid, around 25-30˚C, and is also the monsoon season. Winter is generally just a few degrees above freezing, with the wet climate making it seem even chillier. Though it may be bearable in town, those aiming to visit the mountains will have to prepare for very cold weather at this time of year. The best times of the year to visit Chengdu are March to June and September to November.
Not only is Chengdu a major regional transport hub but the city offers quite a range of urban transport options. Taxis are cheap, new and plentiful. There is an extensive network of buses, both with and without air-conditioning.
There are many dedicated tour buses and these can be a superb choice for seeing the main attractions, as well as some of the less well-known sites. Especially in the center of the city, pedicabs are a viable option. And finally, you can rent everything from a bicycle to a car, a jeep or even a minibus.
Getting into and out of Chengdu is supported by an even greater range of options. The three main bus stations Chadianzi, Wuguiqiao and Xinnanmen each service different destinations. Chengdu has two train stations and the main station is in north Chengdu. Trains from these stations connect to destinations throughout China and beyond.
Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) is about 16km south of Chengdu. A new second runway recently opened, allowing the airport to support the new Airbus A380 superjumbo. The airport provides access by air to a huge number of domestic destinations as well as key international aviation hubs like Amsterdam, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo and Taipei.
Getting to downtown Chengdu from the airport takes 20 to 30 minutes by taxi and 30 to 40 minutes by bus.
Spoken languages: Chengdu dialect, Sichuanese, Mandarin
Electrical: 220-240 Volts, 50 Hertz
Phone/calling code: +86 28