Planning your first trip to Suzhou? Here are a few quick tips to help prepare you for the journey.

Weather: Suzhou enjoys relatively mild weather year round, though the sweet spots to visit are during the spring (March to June) and early autumn (September and October). Temperatures peak in July and August at an average daily high of around 32-degrees Celsius; summer (June to September) also brings the heaviest rainfall. It’s dry and brisk from November to February.

Visas: Most visitors must secure a Chinese visa prior to arrival; fees vary by country. An exception is granted to travellers hailing from 51 countries transiting through the Yangtze River Delta Region in 144 hours (six days) or less at specific ports of entry, which include the international airports in Shanghai and Hangzhou.

Note that US residents can now apply for a multiple-entry 10-year visa on the same fee schedule as a single-entry visa; Canada (9 years 11 months) and the United Kingdom (2 years) have similar arrangements.

Language: Most locals do not speak English, including taxi drivers. Consider bringing a phrasebook and/or translator app, and do not get into a taxi without your destination written or loaded on your phone in Chinese. Carry your Ascott Residence’s business card, as well.

Drinking Water: It’s not safe to drink tap water in Suzhou (or in most parts of China), so stick to sealed bottled water. Though tap water is generally okay for brushing your teeth, use bottled water when possible to be on the safe side.

Safety: The vast majority of visitors do not experience any problems in Suzhou. The biggest hazard may be crossing the street—watch out for motorists ignoring traffic signals, as well as for the silent scooters many locals use to zip around town.