Some of the foreign currencies I have laid on my worn-out map of Shanghai

This is the last post of the series where I give some tips in Mandarin Chinese. After having tackled situations like asking for directions, eating out, going to the doctor, traveling and renting a place, here I write the typical expressions you might need in case you have to deal with money-related problems.

The most common issue when traveling is money exchange. Sure you can also directly withdraw from the ATM, but in case you have brought cash, Euro, pounds sterling or US dollars, you might want to exchange them into the local currency. Usually, if you do it at the arrival at the airport you are very likely to find English-speaking people at the counter, but if you need to exchange some money once in the city, the chances become quite little.

Here are some of the words you might need at the bank:

Money: qián (钱)

Withdraw money: qu qián (取钱)

Check (or cheque in the UK): zhi piào (支票)

Account number: zhàng hào (帐号)

Password: mì ma (密码)

To open an account: kai zhànghù (开帐户)

Bank transfer: zhuan zhàng (转帐)

Exchange rate: huì lù (汇率)

Foreign currency: wài huì (外汇)

To sign: qian zì (签字)

To agree: tóng yì (同意)

US dollars: mei yuán (美元)

Euro: ou yuán (欧元)

British pound: ying bàng (英镑)

Japanese yen: rì yuán (日元)

To exchange money: huàn qián (换钱)

There are many banks in China, but the most popular two are Bank of China (Zhong Guó yínháng, 中国银行) and ICBC (Gongshang yínháng, 工商银行), and every branch displays both the Chinese characters and the English translation.

If you go to the bank to exchange money, a typical dialogue you might have with the bank teller could start with you asking if they actually do this kind of service: “Qingwèn, zhèr néng bù néng huàn qián? (请问, 这儿能不能换钱?)”

At this point the assistant will ask you what kind of currency you want to exchange, the most likely ones he would mention being US dollars and Euro: “Néng. Mei yuán háishì ou yuán? (能. 美元还是欧元?)”. After you answer, say, dollars, he will ask you how much you want to exchange: “Huàn duoshao? (换多少?)”

Supposedly, you want to exchange 300 dollars (sanbai mei yuán - 三百美元), probably, before giving the money you’ll want to inquiry about how much is the exchange rate: “Sanbai mei yuán, yì mei yuán huàn duoshao Rénmínbì? (三百美元, 一美元换多少人民币?)”

The bank teller will tell you the rate, here as an example would be 6.8, and will ask you to count the money: “Jintian de huìlù shì liù kuài ba. Qing nín kàn yí xià, zhèshì nín yào huàn de Rénmínbì, qing dian yí xià (今天的汇率是六块八. 请您看一下, 这是您要换的人民币, 请点一下).” And, as usual, at the end, you will thank and leave: “Hao, xièxie. Zài jiàn (好, 谢谢. 再见).”

Of course the money-related issues you might have to deal with while abroad are countless, and here I’ve only tackled one of the most common, but if you feel there are words or expressions I neglected, leave it in a comment and I’ll update the post.

This is the last part of the series meant to be helpful for travelers in China. I think it would have been useful for me at the beginning of my stay in Shanghai to know some words, sentences or even have some phrases written in Chinese characters to show to locals when I couldn’t make myself understood. It’s with this spirit that I’ve written these posts, and I hope they will help someone out.

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