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China Travel Tips

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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.

Start by ensuring you have the proper passport and visa for your visit. Check the State Department website for any active travel warnings or travel advisories. While you are there, be sure to take note of key information like the nearest U.S. consulate to your destination, available English-speking medical facilities, and any limitations on what can be carried either in or out of China.

That takes care of the basics, but there's a lot more to a smooth, safe trip to China.

Passport Requirements

All American travelers require a passport to travel internationally. That said, even a valid passport could be rejected if it doesn't meet China's specific criteria. China is one of the countries that requires visitors to have at least six months of validity remaining on their passport before entering. China also requires each visiting traveler to have a minimum of two blank pages remaining in their pasport book.

Visas are also required for both entry and exit. For more, check out our full guide to China's travel requirements here.

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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.

Once you are committed to traveling to China, you should sign up for the U.S. Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) program. This totally free service will provide you with the latest travel advisories as well as serve as a critical method of contact for resolving passport emergencies abroad, initiating an emergency evacuation, or receiving urgent information from home.

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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 bureau.

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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 bank cards are also available throughout Hong Kong and to a limited extent in major Mainland cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.

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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 duty.
Chinese customs regulations prohibit the import or export of the following items:

  • arms, ammunition, and explosives
  • radio transmitter-receivers and principal parts
  • Chinese currency (renminbi)
  • books, films, records, tapes, etc. which are “detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture, and ethics”
  • poisonous drugs and narcotics
  • infected animal or plant products
  • infected foodstuffs.

Note: Videotapes and other recordable media may be confiscated by Chinese customs to determine that they do not violate prohibitions noted above. Tapes are sometimes held for several months before being returned. (There is no guarantee that they will ever be returned.)

Export of the following items is also prohibited:

  • valuable cultural relics and rare books relating to Chinese history, culture, and art
  • rare animals, rare plants and their seeds
  • 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 atacarnet@uscib.org or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Information concerning regulations and procedures governing items that may be brought into China is available through the Chinese Embassy and Consulates in the United States.

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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.

However, whenever you travel internationally - wherever your destination - there are many required considerations and precautions to ensure your safety abroad. For more, see our complete guide to international travel safety.

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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 or imprisoned.

Chinese laws prohibit public demonstrations without a valid permit obtained from the Chinese Public Security Bureau in the city where the demonstration is planned.

Chinese authorities 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 and fined.

Religious proselytizing or passing out of religious materials is strictly forbidden. Americans suspected of engaging in such activities have been fined, arrested or deported.

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.

Criminal penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in China are strict. Convicted offenders may receive severe jail sentences and fines.

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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.

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Dual Nationality

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 China.

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 China.

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 for additional information.

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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 your departure.

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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 activities.

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 are common.

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 website at http://www.cdc.gov.

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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.

SOS International, 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.

Additional information on medical providers specializing in treating foreigners, including dental and orthodontic clinics, is available on the U.S. Embassy's web page.

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Medical Insurance

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.

Supplemental insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, is strongly recommended and can be purchased in the United States prior to travel.

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.

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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.

Hong Kong SAR is cosmopolitan and highly developed, and a popular destination.

Macau 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 Mongolia.

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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 overbooked.

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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Top 10 Tourist Attractions in China

China's vast area, comparable to the area of the United States, borders 14 countries and four seas. Known formally as the People's Republic of China, it has a 4000-year-old heritage that reads like a best-selling historical novel and stands as a testament to its enduring will. Modern China is in many ways a complex mix of past and future; its traditions, natural beauty, and economic and cultural resurgence has made it a popular international tourist destination. Here is a small sampling of must-see tourist attractions in China.

Chengdu Giant Pandas

Chengdu Giant Pandas.
Chengdu Giant Pandas by gill_penney/Flickr.com

Pandas are the cutest creatures around and just make you want to cuddle, however, poor conservation habits caused them to lose their habitats by destroying their forests. That's where the beautiful people of Chengdu, China stepped in with the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base. Here, their six pandas grew into 90 through careful and determined efforts to bring them back. You can visit them at the breeding base and see them lounging, sleeping, and eating bamboo in natural enclosures. Try to start your visit sometime between 8:00 and 10:00 in the morning during their feeding hours; it's when they are the most active. Once you've had your fill adorable Giant Pandas (is that possible?), check out the mischievous Red Pandas, also on the list of endangered animals. Next, head to the nursery to see the always entertaining panda babies.

Yangtze River Cruise

Yangtze River Cruise.
Yangtze River Cruise by puliar/Flickr.com

China's Yangtze River at 6,300 km is the third longest river in the world, behind only the Nile and the Amazon. As it winds its way through nine provinces from Tibet to the East China Sea, what better way to experience its majesty than on a Yangtze river cruise? One of the most popular places to cruise the Yangtze is between the cities of Yichang and Chongqing in either direction. Highlights along the way include the magnificent three gorges, the elephant shaped rock, the enigmatic hanging coffins, and the mystifying Fengdu Ghost City. Spend some time exploring the natural beauty surrounding the ancient city of Yichang and the Three Gorges Dam. On the opposite end, check out the Giant Pandas at Chongqing Zoo, and try some of the city's famous spicy dishes.

Xian Terracotta Warriors

Xian Terracotta Warriors.
Xian Terracotta Warriors by romainguy/Flickr.com

Perhaps one of the most spectacular archaeological finds in the world is that of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses located in Xian, China. The first hints of this impressive find were discovered in 1974 by local farmers; the terracotta statues date back to the late third century BCE. During this time the first Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang had this impressive funerary art created. When he passed, they were buried with him to protect him in the afterlife. The museum that was created to showcase these wonderful historical pieces covers about 16,300 square meters in three pits. Arranged in traditional battle formations, more than 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, weapons, and chariots have been unearthed in these pits. This area is now combined with the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum as a single attraction.

Best of Shanghai

Shanghai at Night.
Shanghaia at Night by Robert S. Donovan/Flickr.com

Shanghai is a city of contradictions where the past and the future collide in the most interesting ways. Let your first experience in Shanghai be a ride on the Maglev, a magnetic levitation train goes zero to 220 mph in about two minutes. Contrast sophisticated and futuristic Pudong with the historic and classic Bund, from Vue Bar on the 32nd floor of Hyatt on the Bund. Don't miss the noodle ninjas who combine the tradition of kung fu with the culinary traditions of hand-pulled noodles and hot pot; the best spot is for this experience is Hai Di Lao Hot Pot. Shoppers, hit high-energy Nanjing Road for the best in high-end luxury items, shop the Old Quarter for Cultural Revolution memorabilia, or check out Xintiandi where 1920s Shanghai affluence meets modern artisan boutiques. Shanghai has parks galore, but be sure to check out midday ballroom dancing at Fuxing Park, and see the tallest statue of Frederic Chopin in the world at Zhongshan Park.

Check out the top-rated tours of Shanghai

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China by capelle79/Flickr.com

There are many places along the Great Wall of China to visit, but there is one in particular that is a little quieter with a less touristy vibe than the rest. That is the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall that was originally built to keep out nomadic tribes from the north; it is still an almost perfectly preserved section of the wall. Its condition is due, in part, to the lack of tourist shops along this portion making it a less visited area by tour companies. You can walk undisturbed for almost an hour looking out over the gorgeous pines and orchards in the mountains just north of Beijing. Along with the picturesque landscape, there are more than 20 watch towers to explore along this stretch of the wall. Four villages, including Mutianyu, give you a glimpse into today's rural China.

Full-Day Beijing Experience With Mutianyu Great Wall

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Yuanyang Rice Terraces by V-A-K/Flickr.com

The Yuanyang Rice Terraces are an artistic masterpiece, a surreal experience by any measure that should be on anyone's bucket list who has the opportunity to travel China's southwest. Located on the slopes of Ailao Mountain in Yuanyang County, Yunnan near the borders of Vietnam and Laos, this stunning abstract of color has been mindfully created with great care since the Tang Dynasty. The Hani people have used traditional farming methods to shape 13,000 hectares of rice terraces over generations, not only creating something visually stunning, but ecologically dynamic and in tune with nature. To get the most out of this other-worldly landscape, the best views are sunrise from the Duoyishu scenic area, and sunset from the Bada scenic area. The best view for the most intense colors among the rice terraces is from the Laohuzui scenic area. Grab your camera for some unbelievable shots.

Huangguoshu Waterfall National Park

Huangguoshu Waterfall National Park
Huangguoshu Waterfall National Park

If you're a fan of waterfalls, then the Huangguoshu Waterfall in the Anshun, Guizhou province of China should not be missed on your next trip to China. It is one of the largest waterfalls in East Asia, measuring an astounding 255 feet high and 331 feet wide. The primary waterfall takes up a large portion of its length and width with little waterfalls combining with it. The waterfalls' cluster pattern changes depending on the season, making as high as 18 to a cluster at some points. The most intriguing aspect of this tourist attraction is the three different views it affords depending on where your vantage point is located. You can see it from a distance from a viewing pavilion, get an aerial look from a separate viewing area, or stare up from below in a third viewing location. All three offer a unique experience and none should be missed. If you really want to be blown away, come view it at night.

Leshan Giant Buddha

Leshan Giant Buddha
Leshan Giant Buddha by Lorenzo Schiavi/Flickr.com

One of the best things about visiting China is abundant and diverse historical and cultural finds. Among them is the Leshan Giant Buddha located in the Sichuan Province a little east of Leshan City. The giant smiling Buddha was carved into stone at the junction of three rivers: Min River, Dadu River, and Qingyi River to offer protection to the people who worked there. A monk named Hai Tong raised the money to create this almost 250-foot carving, because he believed a water spirit was making the waters too dangerous. The Buddha was carved to control the water spirit; it took 90 years to finish. The size alone is astonishing, but the intricacy of the statue is what is truly amazing. From the 1,021 buns in the coiled hair of the Buddha to the drainage system that was put in place to displace rainwater. It is a truly exceptional sight.

The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas

Caves of the Thousand Buddhas
Caves of the Thousand Buddhas by Allan Grey/Flickr.com

The Mogao Grottoes are a system of Buddhist cave temples located south of the city of Dunhuang in Gansu. Originally there were roughly 1000 cave temples, of which around 750 have survived and 30 are open to the public. The caves were built by monks traveling the Silk Road from India to China and served as a place to rest, meditate, and translate sutras. They were painted with elaborate frescoes that were used in meditation and also told a story. Multitudes of artists worked on the frescoes between the 4th and 14th centuries, and five dynasties are depicted among the cave temples in unique styles. The caves also contained thousands of manuscripts in different languages. This is the ideal destination for exploring centuries of Chinese culture. There is a research and exhibition center with information in English; it also serves lunches.

Beijing Zoo and Aquarium

Beijing Aquarium.
Beijing Aquarium by Drnantu/Flickr.com

The zoo is not that great, but what the zoo lacks, the aquarium more than makes up for it. The Beijing Aquarium is also recognized as one of the largest aquariums in the world with a myriad of marine animals. In the zoo, not only will you enjoy the animals kept there, but you can also walk through its gardens and admire its lakes and ponds.

These are just a few of the magnificent destinations China has to offer. Before you go, you will need to make sure your passport is valid a minimum of six months beyond your visit, and you must obtain a tourist visa from the Chinese embassy in the U.S. If you are traveling to Tibet, you also need to get a Tibet Travel Permit to visit Lhasa. To travel around Tibet and explore all it has to offer, you must be with a group tour and get an Alien's Travel Permit. If your tour goes into any militarily sensitive areas, you will also need a Military Area Entry Permit. Your Chinese travel agency can arrange all the travel permits necessary for your trip. Keep in mind that areas of Tibet may be closed to tourists by the Chinese government with little notice.

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China's Festivals and National Holidays

chinese lunar new year lucky envelopes

China currently has 7 official national holidays. There were major changes made to Chinese public holidays in 2008. The Labor Day golden week was abandoned and replaced by the three new holidays named Qingming festival, Duanwu festival and Mid-Autumn festival. A characteristic of Chinese holidays is that holidays that fall on a weekend are usually swapped with the closest weekday so that there can be a longer period of celebration. Like all other country's national holidays, those of the Chinese often represent their unique culture and heritage. It's good to be aware of these holidays if you plan to travel to China so that you can plan appropriately.

New Year's Day (1 Jan)

This is the start of a new Gregorian calendar and is a day for reflection and relaxation in China. However, keep in mind that this is not a particularly festive time of the year as it is in the western world since the Chinese celebrate New Year according to their own lunar calendar.

Chinese New Year

Starting with the Chinese New Year, as this celebration kicks off the events and festivals in China, you will actually find this referred to as the Spring Festival in China itself. This is the longest and most important holiday in the country and you will find that different regions have their own individual ways of celebrating this important holiday. There are several elements that are consistent across the country though, so you will get to experience these wherever you are visiting.

Like Christmas and the New Year in the Western world, the Chinese New Year is a time for families and friends to get together to eat meals, and exchange gifts. The tradition of giving red envelopes (hongbao) is very common, and inside these red envelopes are monetary gifts. Homes, stores, streets and offices are decorated with duilian which are lines of poetry that wish good fortune and health on those who pass by.

The parades that include dragon dances or lion dances are the most revered by tourists coming to visit China as these dragons and lions are a very strong part of the identity of the Chinese. Fireworks are also in abundance. In all, the celebrations cover a period of two weeks, culminating with the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. Thousands of lanterns illuminated in the night makes this a very beautiful and moving event to witness.

Qingming Festival

This festival falls on the fifth solar term of the Chinese lunar calendar and generally takes place on either the 4th or 5th of April on the Gregorian calendar. This is a day to remember and honor ancestors at grave sites. Tombs are swept and gifts are offered to these ancestors in the form of tea, food, wine and more. Willow branches are sometimes carried or put up outside homes to fend off the evil spirit wanderer of Qingming. During Qingming, people also go on outings with their families, sing, dance and enjoy the outdoors. Couples begin to court and traditionally kites are flown in the shape of characters from the Chinese opera.

Labor Day (1 May)

Labor Day was initially a three-day holiday in China; however, it was reduced to a one-day holiday in 2008. Like other countries, Labor Day in China celebrates the work of the general labor movement.

Dragon Boat Festival

China's Dragon Boat Festival is another of the more famous festivals celebrated here, largely because dragon boat festivals have become popular in the Western world too. Officially known as Duanwu in China, and also sometimes as the "Double Fifth", this festival takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar.

The Dragon Boat Festival is thought to be an ancient festival in China, though its origins are debated, with different traditions preferred in differing regions of the country. The most popular theory is that the festival commemorates the death of the poet Qu Yuan. The local people of the ancient state of Chu dropped sticky rice triangles that were wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river so that they would feed Qu Yuan in the afterlife, and then they paddled out in boats to scare away the fish. It's the paddling in boats that is thought to have given birth to the dragon boat festival.

If you're coming to China to experience the Dragon Boat Festival, the highlight is probably going to be the dragon boat racing, but the festival also includes the preparation and eating of some very tasty foods and drinks, along with some ancient rituals that are said to promote health and well being. The date of the Dragon Boat Festival changes each year, plus festivities can take place at different times in different cities.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Known also as the moon and lantern festival, this holiday is held during a full moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar (generally September or early October). This is a day to gather families and/or crops, give thanks for unions/harvests and praying for babies, a spouse, longevity, beauty and other similar things.

National Day (1 Oct)

This day celebrates China's day of independence. Government-organized events such as concerts and massive firework shows are hallmarks of the celebration on this day. Places of public significance are decorated and portraits of past leaders are displayed.

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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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