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~ - 7. Leaving China When you are ready to leave the PRC, one of the first things to do is decide how to ship back to the United States all the goods you have accumulated. Parcel post is one obvious way to ship your belongings home, but there are two other alternatives. One is air freight, which is convenient but expensive, especially in light of recent price hikes. Air freight is handled by the CAAC office. The other alternative is sea freight, which is inexpensive but slow plan on about three months in transit. Sea freight is handled by the Friendship Store's transportation section; the store takes charge of building a crate for your shipment and moving it to a seaport city. Returning Americans who live in cities without this service and want to ship by sea freight have had to find someone to build the crate and accompany it to the coast personally, a rather cumbersome procedure. Ask your foreign affairs officials for help. Changes in airline ticketing can be made in China, but during busy tourist seasons (from May through October) individual travelers have had difficulty booking flights. Flights must be confirmed through the airlines on which you hold the ticket or, if the airline has no direct representation in your city, through the CAAC office. Be sure to check with your travel agent about any restrictions that apply to your ticket, and be sure to reconfirm your flight. In most cases, reservations can be made 21 days before departure at the earliest, and reservations can be reconfirmed no more than 3 days before the flight. Remember to take your passport with you when you deal with the airlines on any matter. Some travelers actually find it easier to mail their ticket back to the United States for flight validations or itinerary changes; in that case, however, be sure to allow six weeks turnaround time. Be aware also that most tickets are valid only for one year from the issue date. 135
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136 CHINA BOUND Exit visas are no longer required. The new travel regulations state that "foreigners leave by their valid passports or other valid travel documents." Regulations governing the kinds of materials that may be taken out of the country without permission are not clear, and if in doubt, you should check with your host unit. Student regulations (see Appendix B) state: Foreign students must observe the Chinese customs regulations con- cerning materials to be taken out of China or mailed abroad. The fol- lowing items are allowable: textbooks, class handouts and related materials issued to them by the school, study notes, photographs, and audiovisual materials related to study. Any materials issued by the school which are not intended for outside circulation must be approved for exit by the school authorities, who will provide the student with an itemized certificate of authorization to present to the customs of- r. ulcer. Although traditions vary from unit to unit and from place to place, generally it is difficult to leave expensive items with individual friends as gifts without inciting the envy of their colleagues. Radios, type- writers, tape recorders, and bicycles may be coveted by Chinese friends and coworkers, but you must be sensitive to the following regulations: (1) Technically, all hardware brought into the country must be taken out at departure. Customs officials pay particular attention to watches and cameras. (2) Some of the goods you might want to sell or give away could create problems because they are either rationed or, like bicycles, must be registered in the name of the owner who must present a sales slip as proof of purchase. If possible, have someone from your unit accompany you to the air- port to help cut through the red tape and speed you on your way. To exit, you will need foreign currency exchange slips, your Bank of China passbook (if you have one), the customs declaration you filled out upon entry into China (any items listed but not taken out can be taxed), and Y15 for the departure tax. As in other important activities, there is a ritual of leave-taking in China that begins a few weeks before departure: tea parties with col- leagues and cadres from the unit, at least one farewell banquet, picture- taking sessions, exchanges of gifts, dinner invitations from Chinese friends, parties with foreign friends. The hectic schedule of arranging the myr- iad bureaucratic details and the rituals of departure also may be com- plicated by sudden professional opportunities as the host unit rushes to comply with longstanding requests. Nevertheless, the uncharacter- istically fast pace that marks the end of a stay in China helps you overcome the sadness of leaving good friends and colleagues and ap- preciative students. Your adventure in China will soon be over but not soon forgotten.