If I bring American Dollars to China are they redeemable in all transactions? eg shopping, accomodation, train travel etc. Thank you
Foreign travelers in China can make some payments with their major credit cards. Among cards accepted are Visa, Master's, American Express, Diners Club, and a couple of others. You can use your card to pay for your hotel and shop at big department stores. Small shops would not accept them. Some better restaurants also take international cards. Train stations won't take them, but large travel agencies that book for you may take cards.,
You can bring some U.S. money to China but you need to convert the money into Chinese currency to purchase goods or pay for services. You may find street vendors who take U.S. dollars, but that is not the standard practice.
Converting foreign currencies to Chinese RMB ("People's Money") is easy. It can be done at bank branches or at hotels. You need to have your passports to do so.
Also, foreign travelers can now use their own credit or debit cards to get cash out of ATM's in China. You can probably take out ¥2,500 (US$350 or so) on a given day. There are withdrawl fees. Not all ATM's are set up for international use, but many are, especially in cities where there is significant foreign traffic. Check with your card companies and ask them about using your cards in China. One additional reason to do this is that some credit card companies needs to know that you'll be traveling abroad and will use cards out there; otherwise they may become concerned that someone else out there is using your card.
There have been reports that thieves set up small camera's at ATM's to capture people's card number and password, so be careful when you use these machines. It would be the best to use one that is at a bank.
One should not carry around a whole lot cash on him. Watch out for pickpockets.
If you need to take a large amount of money with you to China, you can take traveler's check, which can be turned into cash in the country. If you lose any of them, you're protected.
If you have made major payments such as for accommodation with your cards, there is no need for you to carry a lot cash on you. City residents make several thousand dollars a month; given that, you can have a sense how much is needed on a daily basis - granted, as a foreign tourist you spend more than the natives.
Another thing, it seems that whereas you can exchange your U.S. dollars into the Chinese currency easily, it is not as easy to go the other way around, namely to exchange the Chinese money remaining in your hand back into U.S. dollars. You probably need to do it at the bank where you initially exchange your U.S. dollars into Chinese curreny and have your receipt to show that you indeed did this. At least that was the case a couple of years back. This should not too much of a problem though, as you can measure how much Chinese money you need and do not get a whole lot more than you actually need so that by the time you leave China, you won't have a large amount of Chinese money with you.