Chinese Travel Information

Chinachina flag

Boasting the largest population in the world with the second largest landmass, China is a one-party state with a division of power between the National People’s Congress (NPC), the President and the State Council . Officially known as the People’s Republic of China, the political leadership within the state are also the leaders of the party, creating a single centralized focus of power.  Under the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the NPC (National People’s Congress) is the highest branch of state power in China.

The city of Beijing is the country’s capital and the second largest city in the country. With a population of over 20 million people, Beijing is the nation’s political, cultural and educational center. It is also home to the Beijing Capital International Airport which is the second busiest passenger airport in the world. Most of China’s state-owned companies are located in Beijing and it is a major hub for the country’s highways, expressways and high-speed rail networks.

Traveling to China is best done in the springtime from March to April or autumn from September to October.  Given the sheer size of the country,  the weather can be extremely diverse depending on your destination.  In the northeast the summers are hot and dry and the winters are extremely cold.  The north and central regions have lots of rain coupled with hot summers and cold winters.  In the southeast there is frequent rainfall, semi-tropical summers and cool winters.

Before You Leave

Passports and Required Travel Documents

As a US citizen, you will need a valid passport and a prearranged visa to enter China.  If you already have a valid passport, check that your passport will not expire for at least six months from your return date. If you need a passport visit the State Department’s website to find out how to apply for either your first passport or to renew a previous passport.

A visa is a stamp or endorsement placed in your passport granting you permission to visit China. Visas must be obtained prior to leaving the US and are usually issued by the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC or a Chinese Consulate office located within the US.  Visit the Chinese Embassy website to find out how to get your tourist visa for China prior to your departure.  This process may take several weeks and requires your valid passport, so leave plenty of time for all required travel documents. There are also several private companies that can assist you with obtaining your passport and your visa entry documents.  We suggest checking with: http://www.passportsandvisas.com or http://visacentral.com if you need help or are short on time.

Visiting Hong Kong or Macau does not require a visa for stays of 90 days or less as a  US citizen. You will still need six months validity on your passport and a return or continuing airline ticket.  Be sure to apply for a tourist visa prior to your departure from the US if there is any chance of a visit to the People’s Republic of China while you are in Hong Kong or Macau.  Entering China from Hong Kong still requires a tourist visa. You will need to fill out an entry card on arrival, usually handed out on the plane. The entry card is given to immigration control, who will hand you back the carbon copy. This should be kept until you leave Hong Kong, as it needs to be given to immigration control.

Health Concerns and Vaccinations

Any international traveler should be up-to-date with all routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT), and influenza (Flu).  Travelers to China should also receive vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis and make sure their polio vaccinations are current.  If you will be staying in China for over a month or will be visiting rural areas outside of the city centers, check with your doctor regarding the recommended Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine and anti-Malaria drugs.  Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  for information on these vaccinations and current precautions or updates.

Pack all necessary medications in their original containers and bring a letter from your doctor describing any serious medical conditions if you have any concerns.  A small first aid kit with bandages, antibacterial cream, a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a sunscreen, mosquito repellent and an anti diarrhea medication is also useful.  Make sure you get your teeth checked before you travel, and if you wear glasses take a spare pair and your prescription.

 

Because of the humidity of China, take precautions to avoid dehydration and drink plenty of sealed, bottled water. The tap water throughout China is not safe to drink until it has been boiled.  This is true in most hotels as well. Be sure to ask and never assume the tap water is safe without boiling first.  Use bottled water to brush your teeth, especially the first few days as your body acclimates to a new diet and a new environment.  Be sure to use a mosquito repellent always as dengue fever and malaria can be present.

 

Flights/Hotels/Cars

When checking flights to compare travel prices and itineraries we suggest checking:

www.cheaptickets.com , www.travelocity.com or www.expedia.com for airfare and hotel bookings. They often have the best prices for flights and flight hotel packages.

 

You may also want to look into trip cancellation insurance.  Check out travel insurance at squaremouth.com  where you can compare hundreds of travel insurance products.  Oftentimes getting a combination of trip cancellation, medical, and medical evacuation insurances is the best value for your money.

China does not recognize the International Drivers License and you will not be allowed to rent a car in China without a Chinese drivers license. Fortunately, taxis are usually plentiful and very inexpensive in most town centers. These travel guides should help you with any questions you have about getting around in China:

www.lonelyplanet.com                                 www.fodors.com                       www.frommers.com

 

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

This program is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This program allows the Department of State to better assist you in case of an emergency. Your itinerary is submitted and you can also receive updates on Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts and other information for a particular country.

You can enroll in the Smart Traveler Program by clicking here: Smart Traveler Program

 

Electricity in China   

China uses  220V, 50HZ, AC so you will need voltage converters and plug adapters for any electronics you plan to take with you.  If you’re bringing a laptop or tablet with you, don’t forget a surge protector too.  Check out these sites for more information on voltage converters, plug adapters and surge protectors.

www.walkabouttravelgear.com            www.radioshack.com                     www.amazon.com

 

Common Wall Sockets in China:

Chinese  Money  

 

The Renminbi (RMB) is the currency of China.The primary unit of the Renminbi is known as  the Yuan (CNY). One Yuan is worth ten Jiao and a Jiao is worth ten Fen.  It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different bills and their colors and values before you leave.  Chinese Renminbi banknotes are available in  1 Jiao, 5 Jiao, 1 Yuan, 5 Yuan, 10 Yuan, 20 Yuan, 50 Yuan, and 100 Yuan. The coin used is 1 Yuan and 5 Jiao. The current exchange rate from US dollars to Chinese Renminbi (RMB) can be found at: www.oanda.com.

You can change dollars or travelers checks at border crossings, international airports, tourist hotels and branches of the Bank of China. The official exchange rate is honored almost everywhere and the charge for changing money or travelers checks is standardized, so there is no need to shop around for the best price.  Keep at least a few of your exchange receipts. You will need them if you want to exchange any remaining RMB you have at the end of your trip.

 

Visa, Mastercard, American Express and JCB are accepted on a limited basis in China.  Be sure to have extra Chinese currency if traveling away from the city centers. Never assume the restaurant, bar or hotel will take a credit card.  The Chinese do not use credit cards regularly and many businesses are just beginning to accept them as a payment method.

 

Time

China is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There’s no daylight savings time in China and since 1949 all of China has recognized one standard time: China Standard Time.

 

Is it Safe?

While violent crime is almost nonexistent in China, petty thievery and pick pocketing can be a problem.  High-risk areas in China are train and bus stations, city and long-distance buses (especially sleeper buses), hard-seat train carriages and public toilets.

You will have no problems if you take some precautions:

  • Keep your passport and cash in a concealed travel wallet. Some examples of  travel wallets can be found at http://amazon.com
  • Keep your valuables in the hotel safe.
  • Use your common sense. Stick to well traveled roads and don’t walk down dark alleys.
  • Avoid traveling alone or walking alone at night or in isolated areas
  • Never flash a lot of cash, jewelry or expensive camera equipment

If you need assistance, the local equivalents to the “911” line in China are 110 for police, 119 for fire, and 120 for ambulance.

Check the “Threats to Safety and Securitiy”  page on the US State Department’s website by clicking here: US State Department.  You will find other valuable country specific information on this website under “International Travel.”

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in China, you are subject to the laws of China even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you are arrested, contact the US Embassy immediately.

Cell phones in China

Most of the cell phones used in the US will not work in China.  Some of the newer high-end phones are compatible, however.  Check with your cell phone company prior to leaving for China. International roaming charges can be extremely expensive so beware.

You can also buy a cell phone in China.  Many well-known brands such as Motorola, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and others are sold in large department stores or franchise stores.  Be sure to ask about a SIM card too.  These do not automatically come with the phone but are necessary to operate a cell phone in China.

If you plan to use your cell phone in more than one city, make sure to activate the national roaming service.  But also check the rates on this roaming service.  It can be expensive.

One service you can check for renting or purchasing a worldwide cellphone is www.Mobal.com.

 

Availability of Healthcare:

 

Medical facilities and healthcare in China are not what they are in the US.  If you take any type of prescription medication or supplements, bring you own supply in the original container, including each drug’s generic name and carry the doctor’s prescription with you.  Many commonly known drugs, vitamins or supplements from the US are not available in China or do not have the same ingredients or potency.

 

In an emergency, it is often quicker and more efficient to take a taxi or other vehicle to the nearest major hospital.  Chinese ambulances are known to be slow and not well equipped.  Be prepared to pay cash upfront for any medical emergency or a deposit for any procedures or hospitalization. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide coverage for medical costs outside the U.S.

 

If you elect to have surgery or other medical services in China, be aware that there is little legal recourse to protect you in case of medical malpractice. The U.S. Embassy and consulates general in China maintain lists of localEnglish-speaking doctors and hospitals, which are published on their respective American Citizens Services web pages.

 

To avoid contamination of Hepatitis, always ask doctors and dentists to use sterilized equipment and be prepared to pay for new syringe needles in hospitals or clinics.  Reuse of medical supplies is not uncommon and foreigners should be careful and diligent.

Medical Insurance

Do not assume your health insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

 

Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not cover you while you are on your trip, it may be a good idea to take out another hea lth insurance policy that will cover you while you are away.  For more information, please see the list of Medical Insurance Companies on the US Department of State website at:

Medical Insurance.”

Important Links:

For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, we suggest: http://www.squaremouth.com

For information on medical transfers and evacuations, visit: http://medjetassist.com

 

US Embassy and Consulate in China

U.S. Embassy in Beijing

S. Embassy in Beijing China

No. 55 An Jia Lou Road

Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600

Telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

The Embassy consular district includes the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin and the provinces’ autonomous regions of Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, and Xinjiang.

The U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu

Number 4, Lingshiguan Road, Section 4, Renmin Nanlu,

Chengdu 610041.

Telephone: (86)(28) 8558-3992

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

This consular district includes the provinces/autonomous region of Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang (Tibet) and Yunnan, as well as the municipality of Chongqing.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou

5/F Tian Yu Garden, Phase II

136-142 Lin He Zhong Lu, Tianhe District, Guangzhou

Telephone: (86)(20) 8518-7605

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

This consular district includes: the provinces/autonomous region of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Fujian.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai

Westgate Mall, 8th Floor, 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu,

Shanghai 200031

Telephone: (86)(21) 3217-4650

Emergency after-hours telephone:   (86) (21) 3217-4650

This consular district includes Shanghai municipality and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang

No. 52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District,

Shenyang 110003

Telephone: (86)(24) 2322-1198

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

This consular district includes:   the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan

New World International Trade Tower I

No. 568, Jianshe Avenue

Hankou, Wuhan  430022

Telephone: (86) (027) 8555-7791

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

[Please note that consular services are provided only during quarterly outreaches in Wuhan.Contact the Embassy in Beijing for other consular and emergency services.]

Updated on 04/07/2017. Please let us know if this information is outdated.