China Travel Tips
Prepare for a Safe Trip to China
A little planning
and knowledge will go a long way toward making your trip to the People's Republic of China go
smoothly. Learning more about China and obeying the laws and respecting
the customs will make your stay as pleasant and incident-free as possible.
All American citizens
visiting China for a month or more are encouraged to register with the
U.S. Embassy in Beijing or the nearest U.S. consulate. Registration will
assist posts in China in locating you in the event of an emergency
at home or in replacing a lost or stolen passport.
Areas of Interest in China
Modern tourist facilities
are available in major cities in China. China is full of natural and man-made
wonders. Its great rivers include the Yellow and the Yangtze.
SAR is cosmopolitan
and highly developed, and a popular destination.
SAR has well
developed tourism facilities. Gambling and tourism are some of the major
factors in Macau’s economy.
There are also many
mountain ranges including the Himalayas along the southern border of Tibet
and the Kunlun Mountains stretching east and west along Tibet’s
northern edge. Part of the Gobi desert is located in China’s Inner
popular man-made wonder is the Great Wall. The Great Wall was built in
the 3rd century B.C. (completed in 204 B.C.). It extends for about 1500
miles from Gansu province to the Bohai Gulf. The wall averages 20 to 50
feet high and 15 to 25 feet thick. The actual length, including branches
and windings, is more than 2000 miles.
Restricted Areas in China
Visitors to China
should be aware that Chinese regulations strictly prohibit travel in “closed”
areas without special permission. However, over 1,200 cities and areas
in China are open to visitors without special travel permits, including
most major scenic and historical sites. If you need to know if an area
is open to travel without a permit, seek advice from the nearest Chinese
embassy or consulate, or, if you are already in China, from the U.S. Embassy
in Beijing, the nearest U.S. consulate, or the local Chinese public security
China's Currency Regulations
Chinese currency is
called yuan or, more commonly, renminbi (RMB).
Foreign currency (cash
or traveler’s checks) may be exchanged for Chinese currency at licensed
exchange facilities of the Bank of China and other authorized banks.
Money exchange facilities
are available at major airports, hotels, and department stores. Major
brands of traveler’s checks are accepted at such exchange facilities
and cash advances against a credit card can be arranged, a service charge
is usually added. Consult with your bank before departing the United States
to be sure that your brand of check or credit card will be accepted. Major
credit cards (American Express, Mastercard and Visa) are accepted by most
major hotels and in many well-known restaurants. ATMs compatible with
US bankcards are also available throughout Hong Kong and to a limited
extent in major Mainland cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.
Customs Regulations for China
Items such as watches,
radios, cameras, and calculators imported duty free for personal use may
not be transferred or sold to others. Gifts and articles carried on behalf
of others must be declared to the customs inspector and are subject to
Chinese customs regulations prohibit the import or export of the following
ammunition, and explosives;
(b) radio transmitter-receivers and principal parts;
(c) Chinese currency (renminbi);
(d) books, films, records, tapes, etc. which are “detrimental to
China’s politics, economy, culture, and ethics” (e.g. pornographic
or religious content)
(e) poisonous drugs and narcotics;
(f) infected animal or plant products; and
(g) infected foodstuffs.
Note: Videotapes may
be confiscated by Chinese customs to determine that they do not violate
prohibitions noted in item (d), above. Tapes are sometimes held for several
months before being returned. (There is no guarantee that they will ever
Export of the following
items is also prohibited:
cultural relics and rare books relating to Chinese history, culture, and
(b) rare animals, rare plants and their seeds; and
(c) precious metals and diamonds and articles made from them.
Antiques and imitations
approved for export are marked with a red wax seal.
According to the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration, improper glazing of some dinnerware for
sale in China can cause lead contamination in food. Therefore, unless
you have proof of its safety, dinnerware purchased in China should be
used for decorative purposes only. Chinese commercial shipments of dinnerware
to the United States are tested to conform to U.S. safety standards.
Movie cameras and
videotaping equipment should be declared upon entry into China.
Chinese customs officials
encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission)
Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial
samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters,
located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of
the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet
in the United States. For additional information, please call telephone
(212) 354-4480, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.uscib.org
regulations and procedures governing items that may be brought into China
is available through the Chinese Embassy and Consulates in the United
States. (See the Chinese Embassy and consulates addresses listed at the
end of this pamphlet.)
Crime in China
China has a low crime
rate; however crime has increased in the past few years, principally in
the major cities. U.S. citizens and other foreigners have seldom been
victims of violent crime.
Legal Matters for Travel to China
Remember: while in
China, you are subject to Chinese laws and regulations. Laws in China
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and do
not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Please exercise caution and carefully obey local laws. Penalties for breaking
the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested
Chinese laws prohibit
public demonstrations without a valid permit obtained from the Chinese
Public Security Bureau in the city where the demonstration is planned.
have seized documents, literature, and letters which they deem to be pornographic
or political in nature or those which are intended for religious proselytizing.
If you seek to enter China with religious materials in a quantity greater
than what is considered needed for personal use, you could be detained
or passing out of religious materials is strictly forbidden. Americans
suspected of engaging in such activities have been fined, arrested or
Magazines with photographs
considered commonplace in Western countries, including some advertisements,
may be regarded as pornography. Books, films, records, tapes, etc., which
are “detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture, and
ethics” will be seized by Chinese Customs to determine that they
do not violate these prohibitions.
Foreign visitors and
residents in China have sometimes been detained and heavily fined for
having improper sexual relations with Chinese citizens. In most of these
cases, the foreigners involved had invited Chinese citizens to their hotel
rooms. Any U.S. citizen who is detained by Chinese authorities for questioning
regarding this or any other violation of Chinese law or regulations should
notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. consulate as soon as possible.
for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in China are strict.
Convicted offenders may receive severe jail sentences and fines.
Consular Access in China
Under the U.S. -P.R.C.
Consular Convention of 1980, U.S. consular officers shall be notified
if a U.S. citizen is arrested or detained no later than four days after
the arrest or detention.
Under the Convention,
U.S. consular officers must be informed upon request of the reasons for
the arrest or detention and have a right to visit the citizen after a
formal request is made by the consular officer. U.S. consular officers
cannot serve as attorneys or give legal advice. They can, however, provide
a list of local English speaking attorneys you may retain and help you
find legal representation.
U.S. citizens have
rights to consular access under the U.S. - PRC Consular Convention and
should insist upon contact with the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. consulates
general. If you are denied this right, continue to protest.
China Travel Tips Top
China does not recognize
dual nationality. If you are a citizen of both China and the U.S., you
may experience difficulty entering and departing China on your U.S. passports.
In some cases, U.S. passports have been seized by Chinese authorities.
Dual nationals may be subject to Chinese laws which impose special obligations.
Such persons are often required to use Chinese documentation to enter
The United States
requires that all U.S. citizens enter and depart the United States on
U.S. passports. Dual nationals who enter and depart China using a U.S.
passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular access
and protection under the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention. The ability of
the U.S. Embassy or consulates general to provide normal consular services
would be extremely limited should a dual national enter China on a Chinese
or other passport.
China does not recognize
the U.S. citizenship of children born in China, when one of the parents
is a PRC national. Such children are required to depart China on PRC travel
documents. Children born in the United States to PRC national parents,
who are neither lawful permanent residents nor U.S. citizens, are not
recognized as U.S. citizens under Chinese nationality law. Although Chinese
consulates have frequently issued visas to such individuals in error,
they are treated solely as PRC nationals by Chinese authorities when in
Before traveling to
China, dual nationals should contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services
at (202) 647-6769 or the U.S. Embassy in Beijing (see address at end of
this booklet) for additional information.
Passport Confiscation and Business Disputes
If you are planning
to conduct business in China, please be vigilant in investigating the
companies you plan to work with to ensure they are reputable or to learn
whether a prior history of disputes exists.
The confiscation of
foreign passports of persons involved in business disputes has increased
in China in recent years, frequently resulting in individuals being placed
under house arrest or being unable to leave China until the dispute is
satisfactorily resolved. As a valid Chinese visa is required in order
to depart China, obtaining a replacement for a confiscated U.S. passport
will not facilitate exiting the PRC and the Chinese government will block
Health Issues for Travel to China
Tourist travel in
China can be extremely strenuous and may be especially debilitating to
someone in poor health. Tours often involve walking long distances and
up steep hills. All, especially those with a history of coronary/pulmonary
problems, should have a complete medical checkup before making final travel
plans. It is very important to schedule rest periods during your touring
China discourages travel by persons who are ill, pregnant, or are of advanced
age. Visa applicants over 60 are sometimes required to complete a health
questionnaire. If medical problems exist, a letter from your physician
in the United States explaining treatment and, if relevant, copies of
your most recent electrocardiograms, would be helpful in case a medical
emergency occurs in China.
China lacks handicapped-accessible
facilities. Even travel to popular destinations such as the Great Wall
and the Forbidden City can present problems to persons with disabilities.
If you require such facilities, you may want to discuss this with your
travel agent or host well in advance of your proposed travel.
Air pollution in the
large cities is severe, particularly in winter, and respiratory ailments
Be aware that HIV
has become a significant concern in China. You should always ask doctors
and dentists to use sterilized equipment and be prepared to pay for new
syringe needles in hospitals or clinics.
Do not to drink tap
water in China. Hotels almost always supply boiled water that is safe
to drink. Buy bottled water and/or carbonated drinks. Make sure you carry
water purification tablets to use when neither boiled water nor bottled
drinks are available.
If you are planning
to rent an apartment with gas appliances while in China, be aware that
in some areas natural gas is not scented to warn occupants of gas leaks
or concentrations. Also, heaters may not always be well vented, thereby
allowing excess carbon monoxide to build up in living spaces.
There have been fatal
accidents involving American citizens, so make sure all gas appliances
are properly vented or install gas and carbon monoxide detectors in your
residence. These devices are not widely available in China, and they should
be purchased prior to arrival.
You can obtain information
on vaccinations and other health precautions for travelers in the United
States from local health departments, private doctors, travel clinics,
and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention at 1-877-FYI-TRIP
(1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
Medical Facilities in China
You can select hospitals
in major Chinese cities that have so-called VIP wards (gaogan bingfang).
These wards feature reasonably up-to-date medical technology and physicians
who are both knowledgeable and skilled. Most of these VIP wards also provide
medical services to foreigners, feature English-speaking doctors and nurses,
and may even accept credit cards for payment.
Even in the VIP/Foreigner
wards of major hospitals, however, American patients have frequently encountered
difficulty due to cultural and regulatory differences. Physicians and
hospitals have sometimes refused to supply American patients with complete
copies of their Chinese hospital medical records, including laboratory
test results, scans, and x-rays. Physicians have also frequently discouraged
Americans from obtaining second opinions from outside physicians. Hospitals
have sometimes been reluctant to release patients for medical evacuation
in cases where they would prefer to keep the patient for an extended stay.
Ambulances do not
carry sophisticated medical equipment, and ambulance personnel generally
have little or no medical training. Therefore, injured or seriously ill
Americans should take taxis or other immediately available vehicles to
the nearest major hospital rather than waiting for ambulances to arrive.
In rural areas, only
rudimentary medical facilities are generally available. Medical personnel
in rural areas are often poorly trained and are often reluctant to accept
responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.
Foreign-operated medical providers catering to expatriates and visitors
are available, though their services are usually considerably more expensive
than hospitals and clinics operated by local government health authorities.
Ltd., operates clinics and provides medical evacuation and medical escort
services in several Chinese cities. For medical emergencies anywhere in
mainland China, Americans can call the SOS International, Ltd., 24-hour
“Alarm Center” in Beijing at (86-10) 64629100 or in Shanghai
at (86-21) 62950099 for advice and referrals to local facilities. SOS
International Alarm Centers can also be contacted in Hong Kong at (852)
24289900 and in the United States at (1-800) 523-6586.
The Australian firm,
GlobalDoctor, Ltd., has opened clinics staffed by English-speaking doctors
within the VIP wards of government-run hospitals in Chengdu, Nanjing,
and Beijing and plans to open additional facilities within several months
in Xian and Shenzhen. GlobalDoctor can be reached by telephone from China
at (61-8) 92263088 or on the Internet at www.eglobaldoctor.com.
on medical providers specializing in treating foreigners, including dental
and orthodontic clinics, is available on the U.S. Embassies web page at
Americans are advised
to travel to China with both health insurance and medical evacuation insurance
(often included in so-called “travel” insurance and provided
as part of a tour group package).
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States.
Even when insurance does cover services received in China, it will usually
be necessary to pay first and then file for reimbursement with the insurance
company upon returning to the United States.
with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation,
is strongly recommended and can be purchased in the United States prior
Some insurance policies
also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of
remains in the event of death.
Recent medical evacuations
by air ambulance from China to nearby areas have cost over US $50,000.
Most standard U.S. medical insurance policies do not cover the cost of
such medical evacuations. Click here for FREE Quotes on Travel Health Insurance.
Travel Arrangements Within China
Package tours, while
often more expensive than self arranged travel, will insulate you from
the difficulties of booking travel by air, rail, bus or car in China.
Transportation systems have not expanded as fast as the number of Chinese
and international travelers has increased. Planes and trains are often
Tickets or reservations
for onward travel should be reconfirmed at each stop. Hotels, for a fee,
will assist in making reservations and purchasing tickets.
Train travel can be
difficult to reserve, even for the experienced traveler. Round trip rail
tickets are not generally available without the services of a travel agency.
Beware of counterfeit train tickets. Unethical entrepreneurs manufacture
and sell such tickets at railway stations.
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