ORT Tour Information Center

The ORT information center is designed to help you plan and prepare for a trip to Xinjiang, China.  We've included information about booking with our company, visas and paperwork, weather and climate, what to pack for your trip, cultural do's and don'ts and much more.

So, you're getting ready for your Xinjiang trip!  There are many helpful items to pack and cultural "do's and don'ts" to know about.  This section is designed to give you detailed information about packing for your tour and helpful information about the Chinese and Uygher cultures that you will be experiencing.  We highly recommend that you spend time reading through this information to make the most our of your Xinjiang experience!

What to Pack:

Here are some of our suggestions on what to pack and a list of things you can get in most cities:

Bring or have on hand:

  1. Always carry tissue paper and some kind of hand cleanser with you as most bathrooms do not have toilet paper or soap
  2. Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, chapstick
  3. Basic medicines for headaches, upset stomach; supply of any medications you take
  4. It’s good for each person to have a copy of each others passport front page and visa
  5. Emergency contact information, medical insurance information

Can buy in local stores:

  1. Hand wipes
  2. Tissue packets, toilet paper
  3. Band-Aids
  4. Basic toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, combs/brushes, men’s razors, soap, laundry detergent (no stain sticks), towels, lotion
  5. Usually can get saltine crackers, PB, jam
  6. Snickers, M&Ms, local candy bars, candy, gum
  7. Umbrellas
  8. Clothing / Shoes (if you have small feet and a smaller build)

Visiting Mosques:

Please try your best to respect local culture when visiting a mosque. It is inappropriate to wear shorts and revealing clothing. Some mosques will provide wrap-around skirts for women. Please ask your guide in advance how you should dress before visiting a mosque. It is most appropriate for women to wear a headscarf, long skirt, socks of some kind, and at least short-sleeve length shirts. You will be asked/told to remove your shoes upon entering the mosque / praying area. If you do not wish to pack these things for your entire journey, ask your guide to help you find some cheap ones before visiting the mosque that you can leave behind when you are finished using them.

Culturally Unacceptable/Acceptable Behaviors:

When traveling within Xinjiang you need to remember it is a multi-cultural area. Though you will encounter many Han Chinese and some of their culture and sites, you will also be surrounded by Islamic minorities and their culture and customs.

  1. Though Xinjiang is being influenced more and more by Western and Han Chinese culture, it is still a more conservative area. Walking around Urumqi you will see a range of dress – from fully covered to barely anything. As you travel out to smaller cities and areas, the dress becomes more conservative and you may feel awkward walking around in short shorts and tank tops. Also, you will find that people dress more formally. Though you have the freedom to wear what you like, if you wish to engage the people and culture, we suggest a more conservative dress: men - button-up shirts, nice pants/slacks (shorts are ok as well but you generally only see younger Uyghur guys from the city that wear shorts); ladies – nice tops (doesn’t have to be a blouse), short-sleeves at the shortest length, pants or long skirts (or at least knee length shorts), nothing low-cut. 
  2. PDA (public display of affection): walking hand-in-hand is not such a big problem anymore, but showing much more affection than that can make those around you really uncomfortable or even angry! 
  3. Please do NOT ask Muslim minority people to arrange “questionable” activities for you! This goes against their beliefs and can result in a very uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. Though some may join you for a drink or smoke, please keep in mind that it is against Islamic beliefs to drink.
  4. Muslims do NOT eat pork and will not eat in Han Chinese restaurants as they are not "halal." You may find yourself tired of the minority food and in need of more vegetables. Politely acknowledging that you are aware your guide/driver will not eat with you in a Chinese restaurant, you can politely ask the guide to go with you into a Chinese restaurant and help you order some dishes before they go to a Muslim restaurant to eat.
  5. If you attend a wedding or local activity, dancing is often involved. It is very common and acceptable for people of the same gender to dance together, esp for girls to dance with girls.
  6. It is common for girls to walk hand-in-hand or elbow-in-elbow and for boys to walk with their arms over each other’s shoulders.
  7. Greetings: men greet each other by shaking hands with both hands and sometimes a big hug and slap on the back. Women often greet by kissing each other on each cheek. Women and men greet each other by placing the right hand over the heart and bowing slightly. However, it is not uncommon now for locals to greet tourists with a western-style handshake, so this is often acceptable now.
  8. Sniffing loudly or blowing your nose is considered rude, especially while eating. You should at least turn your head away. It’s best to just wipe your nose if need be and then when you can slip away, blow your nose.

Foods:

Xinjiang has many wonderful foods you’ll want to try. The main foods of Uyghurs include mutton, hand-made noodles, a rice dish called “polo”, and other foods made of dough. Though most tourists find these foods tasty, they do find themselves missing vegetables after a time.

If you are a vegetarian, have any food allergies, or have other dietary restrictions, please let us know before your tour begins so we accommodate you and your needs.

A lot of local foods contain msg, can be spicy, and are probably oilier than you may be used to. It is a good idea to bring some medicine for an upset stomach.

You will normally be served hot tea with your meals. If you want a bottled or cold drink, it is best to buy it from a local shop first. Due to hot and dry weather, it is important to drink lots of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration.

There are MANY wonderful and delicious fruits in Xinjiang to enjoy. Each city is famous for at least one kind of fruit / nut. Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice is amazing 

One important thing to be aware of is that nan (flat bread) and any other type of bread is viewed as “sacred”. It should never be thrown away, not even little crumbs. Hard nan is usually dipped in tea or soups and eat. Bread that’s going bad or crumbs are put up high for birds to eat. Nan should never be placed upside down either.

Washing of hands:

Watch how locals wash their hands. They normally cup their hands together and roll them over each other 3 times. When there is no running water, one person will use a pitcher to pour water into another’s hands. Be careful not to fling the water from your hands! Instead let your hands drip-dry, use tissue to dry your hands, or wait until you are offered a towel. This might be something you want to try making a habit before you begin your travels so you don’t forget.

Giving Gifts and Tips:

When being hosted by a local family, it is a kind and culturally appropriate gesture to give a small gift. Normally 2 kilos of fruits / nuts is good. You can ask your guide to help you in this area. If you want to bring some small gifts from your home country to give to hosts, or drivers/guides, or new friends you make, that is ok too.

Tipping is not a part of the overall culture. If you eat in a nice restaurant, there is no reason to tip, they will not know what to do if you leave a tip!

However, in some touristy hotels, you may wish to tip a little to the bellhop as they may have been introduced to the idea of tipping. You can ask your guide if you should tip and how much. If you give equivalent to one USD, that is probably being rather generous!

It is customary now to tip drivers and guides. You and your group can decide how much to tip based on the quality of service provided.

Customs: