Money & Banks
The official currency in China and the third pole regions is the Ren Min Bi (RMB/CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan)=10 jiao (mao).
ATMs can only be found in Chengdu, Kunming, Lhasa, Lijiang, Shigatse, Xining, Urumqi, Kathmandu and Lanzhou in the third pole region (Tibetan Plateau). In the remote areas like Western Sichuan, Mt.Kailash, EBC and Yunnan remoteness, access to ATMs will be limited. Generally speaking, on the trips to the third pole regions, you will want to rely more on cash than plastic.
The overall recommendation for most of our trips are: bring enough cash to cover your needs for 80% of the trips and only expect to be able to use plastic (credit, debit or ATM card) 20% of the time. If you do need to change money you can do so when you arrive at the airport, or at banks and money exchange offices. Please note that most establishments in Asia will not accept foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded and they can be very difficult to exchange or extra fees added when exchanging at banks. Please ensure that you have new, clean notes. Besides, we strongly advice against bringing travelers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
Credit cards are common in China, so you will be able to use one in Chengdu, Kunming, Lijiang, Lhasa, Shigatse, Xining, Urumqi, and Lanzhou, and rarely accepted in the remote areas of the third pole regions. Many villages, towns and mountain regions will be cash only. Even though you will use cash more often, we still suggest that you bring one or two credit/debit cards, especially if you are planning a large purchase (artwork, jewelry, herbs) or if you are taking the optional post trip extension in China. We also suggest that you bring more than one brand of card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) if possible, because not every shop will take every card.
Every traveler is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for meals, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping; as well as check the specific inclusions and exclusions of each trip to estimate your spending money. Besides, please note that due to restrictrions on currency conversion for foreigners in China, it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.