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HONG KONG, HongKong [HK]
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Changing Money in China

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Have you ever had to change money before you go on holiday or business? What’s the easiest way to this?...Right, just visit the “bureaux de change”, give them your currency and tell them what currency you need, accept the conversion rate and take your money, all done in about 5 minutes (unless you’re converting HUGE amounts).

Here in China they have a different method.

Firstly, you have to hunt down one of four banks that allow money conversion. Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Merchants Bank of China or Construction Bank of China.

Second, you need to fill in a form that asks for your name, address, ID number and my all-time favorite “what’s the use of the converted currency”, all of this must be filled out in Chinese, except your name. They do usually have English speaking staff that can help.

The next step is to take a ticket from the machine and wait and wait and wait and if you’re lucky wait just one more time!

Breaking from the story a little I’d like to point out that banking in most countries takes place during the lunch hour because people have lunch break and that’s the only time they have to do their banking so banks take the step of having extra staff available during this time, but that’s NOT China, China banks like to send everyone out to lunch and have a skeleton staff available, so my advice is try and avoid banking at lunchtime because the queues do not get any shorter at lunchtime!

Once your number is called, just in case your Chinese isn’t so hot they do that screens, so when you hear something take a look up or wake up if you’ve fallen asleep during the wait!

When you’re at the counter this is where the fun begins, you will need to sign no less than 4 pages that have been printed and also had over your ID for photocopying, then they will do some stuff in the computer and have a colleague come and stamp their work.

The last step is for them to check your money and make sure it’s real and not broken/damaged in anyway.

If all goes well you will be handed some Chinese notes and you can leave. On a good day you get get all this done inside an hour. And it’s the same procedure if you want to convert Chinese Yuan (reminbi) to another currency.

I know what you’re thinking, that this can also happen back home if you are changing large amounts and I have to agree that you are correct. However in China this applies to any amount you change, a friend of mine was a little strapped for cash just before payday and had a about US$15 that he wanted to convert, had to go through this procedure up until the last step where they told him the $10 note wasn’t “new” enough and they couldn’t convert it for him! He was pretty angry as you can imagine.

So the moral of this story is this; If you can, change any currency before you arrive in China or after you leave China, especially if it’s smaller amounts, or you can wait until you visit Hong Kong where the banking structure is, thankfully, simpler and they have bureaux de change outlets on almost every street corner in Kowloon.

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