The currency in China is the Chinese Yuan (CNY) and the Renminbi (RMB). The most common note is the 100RMB. You’ll be able to pay for most things with this note and get it broken down into smaller denominations. You might get some funny looks, however, if you try to pay for a bottle of water (2–4RMB) with this note.
In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) is the accepted currency, and you’ll want to make sure you have some to hand if you’re travelling to the territory. The HKD isn’t a regulated currency, so be careful with the exchange rate between both your money at home and between RMB and CNY.
In the past, especially in Hong Kong, it was possible to barter with US dollars and UK pounds. This is not the case anymore. Shops and market stalls will not accept foreign currency, as it’s too time-consuming to change it themselves.
In the cities, ATMs are everywhere but may charge you. Make sure you check with your bank before withdrawing money in a foreign country, as some charge for the service. Outside major cities, credit cards are not always accepted, and the availability of ATMs is limited.
Chinese shops are very suspicious of non-local credit and debit cards due to fraud, and high foreign exchange rates. You may be asked to show your passport to pay with your card, or even be refused outright. Don’t take this personally as they’re not being impolite. If you come back with cash, they’ll be happy to serve you.
One of the increasingly popular ways to pay is with cashless payments via smartphone applications. Apps like such as WeChat Pay, TenPay and others are commonplace. Tied to the major Chinese tech companies such as Tencent and Alibaba, these apps are safe and secure, and increasingly accepted by everyone from restaurants to taxi drivers.
We always recommend you pick up your cash before you go on holiday. You can do that in our stores, or by ordering online. You can also try a Cash Passport. This pre-paid debit card is insured against loss, so you’re covered if you ever lose your wallet while travelling.
Travellers cheques are not widely accepted in China, apart from a small number of hotels in the very largest cities. If you’re using travellers cheques, we’d recommend you cash them as soon as possible at a hotel or a bureau de change.
The Chinese exchange rate is regulated and the same everywhere, so it doesn’t matter where you exchange your money in China. In all international airports, there are money changers as well as ATMs. Unlike most other countries, the exchange rate at the airport is good, so we recommend you pick up your cash as soon as possible if you haven’t done so before you arrive.
Bigger hotels will also exchange currency, but usually only small amounts, and often only for cash. Be aware though that you’ll have problems exchanging Scottish or Northern Irish banknotes in China.