China International Travel Service (CITS)

The word “International” is somewhat odd in the title of this company as it is “sort of” international. Mind you, I had to deal with them the other day. I went to the CITS Office upstairs at the Beijing International Hotel to buy a train ticket from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. This went well and when tendering my International VISA Card I was told that 4% would be added to cover the fee. “OK” says I. I am used to that from a number of places now and whilst I would normally use cash as much as possible, I did not have the CNY 999.00 with me at the time.

The staff in the office calculated the 4% as follows:

999 yuan divide by 0.96 equals 1040.63 yuan – which was what was billed to my credit card.

I told the staff “but that is 4.17% added, not 4%”! From my point of view, if you add 4%, then the following calculation is performed:

999 yuan multiplied by 1.04 equals 1038.96 yuan.

They replied that dividing by 0.96 was the way that their Head Office had explained that they do it. Maybe mathematics works differently here.

I did have a few days spare though so thought I would slip down to Hong Kong for a couple of days. There is a train from Beijing to Kowloon in Hong Kong. “Can I buy a ticket for the train to Hong Kong here?” I asked. “No” was the answer. “You need to buy that from either Beijing Station or West Station”.

More on that matter in another blog entry.

So, I returned to the hotel with my train ticket to Ulaanbaatar. There is a CITS office in my hotel as well so I thought I would ask about the train to Hong Kong. After an original “yes we can” that changed to a “no, you need to get that from the train station”. More on the train station later.

“Fly me to Hong Kong” I said. CITS organised my ticket. I whipped out my International VISA Card (see earlier in this entry).

” I am sorry sir, we cannot take international VISA cards here, only local cards – this is our company policy. Can you pay cash please?”


So I went and got a fist full of dollars (sorry, yuan) from the bank and came back and paid for my ticket.

So, one branch of CITS selling train tickets can use international VISA cards adding 4.17% on, whilst another branch of CITS cannot.

Seems China has this only half done. It will be fun when there are a flood of Olympic Visitors in 835 days time to China, especially as VISA is a sponsor (I think) of the Olympics.