|From Mark Rauterku...|
Getting to Beijing has been expensive.
The passports for the boys needed to be re-issued. You can't enter China unless you've got more than six months of valid time still on the passport. The boys, because the children grow so fast, need to get their passports renewed more frequently than adults.
Then there are charges for the visas. A service helps by standing in lines and speeding the process that might otherwise be impossible. Our passports, after getting stamped by the local post office, went to Miami, Florida, then to either Boston or New York. I forget. Then they came back to Pittsburgh.
All four of our passports went out in one envelope. But, they came back in two. First the boys then the adults -- about five days apart.
The cost for the kids was $505.00. The charge for the adults, $990. Plus, there were two or three overnight envelopes to pay for. The helper required the kid's original birth certificate and not a photocopy as had been presented earlier.
The visa and passports for China allow us one entry into China between now (July 28) and January 1, 2009. We get to stay for no more than 30 days.
Furthermore, the paperwork we needed to show included our round trip airline tickets. They want to know you've paid for your flight home. And, the home bank account information to prove that there is sufficient money in your home bank. Plus, we needed to show a lease as to where we would be staying while in China. Not just an address or a statement we'll be staying with friends. No, we provided a lease. And, with the lease a copy of the passport of our host and friend in Beijing.
In Beijing, I expect we'll need to check in with the local police department. That has been the case in the past. We'll also swing by the USA Embassy -- just to let them know we're in town. Nice to have friends.
The 'red tape' is easy to witness. But, we've got nothing to hide. We don't need to worry about going into or out of the country with more than $10,000. Not even close.
We've got a weekly budget. We know what we spend in the US for a weeks worth of food and groceries. We'll stay within 3-times that amount per week and will be on budget.
To make budget, we won't be going to McDonald's or KFC -- much. Those are expensive places.
When we went in the past, the US Dollar was much stronger. Europe is way worse. But in the early trips we used a factor of 1:8.1 RMB. That was $1 US dollar to 8.1 of the Chineese currency, called either 'yen' or 'RMB'. Now, it is much worse. We're in the 1:5 or 1:6 range.
In Pittsburgh, PNC Bank does not even hold onto the foreign currency from China. But many other money is available there. However, there is an exchange window in the Pittsburgh International Airport. They had an "olympic special' if you cashed in $1,500 USD. We'll had time to kill in D.C. before our plane left for Beijing. That's where we did the first wave of money transfers.
We've also got a bit of money tied up in travelers checks now.
China didn't take much plastic on our other visits. Visa is a sponsor -- and we are not to leave home without it. Yeah, right.
You've got to watch out so as to not get some bad money. A bank setting is going to be trusting for our comfort. However, there was only one bank in Chengdu that would cash our travelers checks.