Currency Mainland China

Although for most destinations it's usually a good idea to exchange at least some money—just enough to cover airport incidentals and transportation to your hotel—before you leave home so you can avoid the less-favorable rates you'll get at airport currency-exchange desks, mainland China is different. Yuan, also known as RMB (Renminbi, or "People's Money"), are not easily obtainable overseas, and rates are worse when they can be found, although rates at back street money-changers away from Hong Kong's main shopping areas are often better than in mainland China.

There is no legal private money-changing in mainland China, and rates are fixed to be the same at all outlets nationwide on a daily basis. So change at the airport when you arrive, and then at larger branches of the Bank of China, or at desks administered by the bank in your hotel or at major department stores in larger cities. If you find a shop offering to change your money at other than a formal Bank of China exchange counter, they are doing so illegally, and you open yourself to shenanigans with rates and fake bills, which are fairly common. Even the meanest hole-in-the-wall restaurant has an ultraviolet note tester. Do not deal with black-market money-changers.

Hotel exchange desks will only change money for their guests, but they are open very long hours 7 days a week. Bank hours vary from province to province. In some provinces they operate the same hours every day; in others, the exchange counter is open during hours different from those of the rest of the bank and not on weekends; in still others, banks are completely closed on weekends. See "Banks, Foreign Exchange & ATMs," in the "Fast Facts" section of each destination.

Theyudn is pegged to the U.S. dollar, trading within ¥8.276 to ¥8.28 to one U.S. dollar, only allowed to move within a band of 0.2%. For all other currencies, strength in comparison to the yudn is a matter of strength in comparison to the U.S. dollar. The pound sterling has recently been trading at around $1.56 and ¥12.95, the euro at $1.07 and ¥8.87. The latest rates can be found at ucc.

There are notes for ¥100, ¥50, ¥20, ¥10, ¥5, ¥2, and ¥1, which also appears as a coin. The word yudn is rarely spoken, and sums are usually referred to as kuhi qidn, "pieces of money," usually shortened to just kuhi. San kuhi is ¥3. Notes carry Arabic numerals as well as numbers in Chinese characters, so there's no fear of confusion. The next unit down, the jido (¥0.10), is spoken of as the mdo.

There are notes of a smaller size for ¥0.50, ¥0.20, and ¥0.10, as well as coins for these values. The smallest and almost worthless unit is the fen (both written and spoken) or cent and, unbelievably, when you change money you may be given tiny notes or lightweight coins for ¥0.05, ¥0.02, and ¥0.01, but this is the only time you'll see them except in the bowls of beggars or donation boxes in temples. The most useful note is the ¥10 ($1.25), so keep a good stock. Street stalls, convenience stores, and taxis are often not happy with ¥100 ($13) notes.

Keep receipts when you exchange money, and you can reconvert excess ¥RMB into hard currency when you leave China, although sometimes not more than half the total sum for which you can produce receipts, and sometimes these receipts must be not more than 3 months old.


In Hong Kong the currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$), whose notes are issued by a variety of banks, although all coins look the same. It is pegged to the U.S. dollar at around HK$7.80 to US$1. Keep foreign exchange to a minimum at the airport (use the ATMs at departures level) or at other points of entry. Do not change in hotels or banks, but with money-changers, and choose moneychangers away from the main streets for a significantly better rate. Banks have limited weekend hours, but money-changers are open every day.

Macau's official currency is the pataca (MOP$), pegged to the Hong Kong dollar (and thus to the U.S. dollar) at a rate of MOP$103.20 to HK$ 100—about MOP$8 to US$1. Hong Kong dollars are accepted everywhere, including both coins and notes (even on buses), but at par. If you arrive in Macau from Hong Kong for a short stay, there's little point in changing money beforehand. But your change will invariably be in patacas, which are useless in Hong Kong or mainland China.

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