You should also consider the following:
Let's talk about each of these issues one by one...
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A Plane Ticket
A plane ticket to China this August will likely cost you between $900 and $1200, depending on how cheap a ticket you can find. There are cheaper times of the year than August to travel to China, but the wedding's in August, so I recommend coming then.
Get your ticket as early as possible, because seats may run out! Here are some places you might look for tickets:
I'll be adding to this list if I find any other good options. If anyone finds any other good options, post them on the discussion board, or send us an email at wedding @ riverbendfarm . org (remove the spaces).
We'd thought about trying to negotiate a group rate for airfare, but it would have required around 20 people leaving from the same airport on the same day.
You may already have a passport. If you don't, you should get one. Information on doing so can be found here.
In order to enter China you will need a Chinese visa stamped in your passport. You almost certainly need an "L" visa (a tourist visa). Instructions on getting an L visa can be found here. You'll notice in the instructions that you may not mail in your visa application, and that you must go to the embassy or consulate to get the visa. This is actually quite convenient if you live near a consulate, but not if you live far away from one. Fortunately, there are mail-in services such as the following:
This is the service that my sister used for her visa when she came over this April. It's particularly convenient if you also need a passport, because they can take care of the passport and visa applications in one fell swoop.
While I've purchased tickets from FlyChina.com, I have never used their visa service. I'd imagine it's quite reliable.
William Du at Ideal Travel is very helpful, and can often find good deals on tickets to China.
There is, of course, an extra fee associated with getting your visa through these services. Let me know if you know of any other visa services that we should recommend.
China is a very safe country. I feel safer walking around the streets of Beijing at night than I do walking around the streets of Durham, North Carolina. That said, you should still be careful and aware. Pickpockets are common, and common sense dictates that it's best to travel in groups.
As far as immunizations go, as long as you are caught up with immunizations that you are supposed to have living in the US, and are not going to travel to rural areas in China, you're probably fine. The Center for Disease Control recommends that you get a Hepatitis A vaccination, especially if you plan to travel to rural areas in China. The complete CDC recommendations for travel in East Asia can be found here. Read their recommendations carefully, but also realize that Beijing, while in a "developing" country, is a very modern and developed city, and Western health facilities are readily available. You should talk with your doctor about the need for various vaccinations.
It's a good idea to bring a health information card to China with information about your vaccination history, any medications your are taking, and any allergies you have to specific medications.
The official currency of China is the RMB (renminbi) also referred to as Chinese Yuan. The exchange rate of the RMB is pegged to the US dollar, and is generally about RMB8.27 to $1. You can exchange traveler's checks at the Bank of China, which has many branches around Beijing, and can also use your ATM card (if it supports the Plus and/or Cirrus networks--look on the back of your card) to withdraw RMB from Bank of China ATMs.
As far as how much money you should bring, check out the In Beijing section.