China Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our China Traveler Information guide.
At AardvarkCompare we can’t recommend travel insurance enough. Whether you are just traveling a few hundred miles from home to see family, or traveling to the other side of the world, travel insurance should be considered an essential part of your holiday packing. The hope is that you won’t have to use your travel insurance, and that you’ll have a fun and enjoyable trip. The following China Traveler Information should help you make the most of your trip to China.
Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
Note: Due to the current Coronavirus in China, traveler restrictions are in place. Please ensure your destination is permitted by your insurer. Please also check state department and CDC (links below) for further current information
PASSPORT VALIDITY: Six months.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: Two pages.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Yes.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: Max RMB 20,000.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: Max RMB 20,000.
Embassies and Consulates
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600
Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Fax: +(86)(10) 8531-3300
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.
U.S. Consulate General Chengdu
Number 4 Lingshiguan Road
Section 4, Renmin Nanlu
Telephone: +(86)(28) 8558-3992
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Fax: +(86)(28) 8554-6229
This consular district includes the provinces/autonomous region of Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang (Tibet) and Yunnan, as well as the municipality of Chongqing.
U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou
43 Hua Jiu Road, Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe District
Telephone: +(86)(20) 3814-5775
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Fax: +(86)(20) 3814-5572
This consular district includes the provinces/autonomous region of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Fujian.
U.S. Consulate General Shanghai
Westgate Mall, 9th Floor, 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu,
Telephone: +(86)(21) 8011-2400
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Fax: +(86)(21) 6148-8266
This consular district includes Shanghai municipality and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
U.S. Consulate General Shenyang
No. 52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District,
Telephone: +(86)(24) 2322-1198
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(24) 2322-1198
Fax: +(86)(24) 2323-1465
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
Fax: +(86)(027) 8555-7761
Please note that Wuhan does not provide regularly scheduled consular services. Contact the Embassy in Beijing for consular assistance.
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on China for information on U.S. - China relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Entry & Exit:
- Obtain a visa prior to arrival and have a passport with at least six months' validity remaining. The lack of either will result in a fine and immediate deportation.
- Apply for a ten-year multiple entry visa, useful for repeated travel, or trips to Hong Kong or Macau with returns to China.
- If you plan to work in China, be sure to obtain the correct visa. Working in China is not permissible on a student or tourist visa, and may result in detention, criminal charges and deportation.
- You must have a valid visa to exit China and you must leave China before the expiration of the listed duration of stay.
Lack of a visa, having an expired visa, or overstaying your visa will result in detention and/or fines.
- Apply for a visa extension from your local Entry/Exit Bureau before attempting to leave the country. Do not expect your request to be expedited, so apply ahead of time.
- Visit the website of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for current visa information as well as information on China’s immigration and nationality laws.
The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR):
The TAR requires special permits for tourist travel, most often obtained through a Chinese travel agent. If you do enter a restricted area without the requisite permit, you could be fined, taken into custody, and deported for illegal entry. To learn more about specific entry requirements for Tibet or other restricted areas, check with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of China.
- When transiting certain international airports, you may stay in mainland China without a Chinese visa.
- The duration of allowed stay and how broadly you may travel varies by region.
- Transiting without a visa requires a valid passport, a visa for your onward destination (if necessary), and an onward ticket from the same location.
- You must inform your airline upon check-in and get an endorsement stamp at the immigration desk before leaving the airport.
- Consult the Chinese Embassy/consulate for a current list of eligible airports and more detailed guidance.
- Chinese border officials have the authority to deny foreign travelers’ entry to China without warning or explanation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates cannot intervene on your behalf if denied entry to China.
During Your Stay:
- Failure to register with the police within 24 hours of arrival in the country could result in fines and deportation. You can register with hotel staff or the local police station.
- Local regulations require foreigners to carry valid passports and Chinese visas or residence permits at all times.
- Entry and exit requirements are strictly enforced, as are restrictions on activities allowed by any particular visa class.
- Police, school administrators, transportation officials, and hotel staff may check your visa to make sure you have not overstayed. If you overstay your visa’s duration of stay, you may be denied service by hotels, airports and train stations, as well as face fines and detention.
- If you encounter problems in Tibet, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide assistance, as the Chinese government does not usually authorize U.S. government personnel to travel there, even to provide consular assistance to U.S. citizens.
Dual Nationality: The Chinese government does not recognize dual nationality. If you are a dual national of the United States and China, the Chinese government will usually not permit the U.S. Embassy to provide consular assistance to you unless you entered China on a U.S. passport with a valid Chinese visa. Regardless of your travel documents, if you are a dual national, or otherwise have ethnic or historical ties to China, it is possible that Chinese authorities will assert that you are a Chinese citizen and deny your access to U.S. consular representatives if you are detained.
Because the Chinese government does not recognize dual citizenship, dual U.S.-Chinese citizens may face a number of hurdles when seeking public benefits in China. U.S. citizens who are also citizens of China may experience difficulty in accessing benefits in China such as enrollment in public schools, treatment at public hospitals and clinics, or obtaining Chinese identity and citizenship documents, such as passports. U.S.-Chinese dual citizens must navigate conflicting aspects of Chinese nationality, which the Chinese government may inconsistently apply.
If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen or have a possible claim to Chinese citizenship, and you are traveling to China, inform yourself about Chinese law and practices relating to determination and loss of Chinese citizenship. Chinese authorities generally consider a child born in China to at least one Chinese parent to be a Chinese citizen, even if the child was issued a U.S. passport at the time of birth. If you have or had a claim to Chinese citizenship and your child is born in China, prior to departing China with your child, contact the local Public Security Bureau and/or Entry-Exit Bureau for information on obtaining a travel document. If you have or had a claim to Chinese citizenship and your child is born in the United States, please contact the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for specific information on the documentation requirements to bring your child to China.
Safety and Security
For most visitors, China remains a very safe country. Petty street crime is the most common safety concern for U.S. citizens. Training, capability, and responsiveness of Chinese authorities varies by region and even city. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General have no law enforcement authority and may not represent U.S. citizens in either criminal or civil legal matters. To ensure your safety and security in China, you should:
- Take routine safety precautions.
- Pay attention to surroundings.
- Report any concerns to the local police.
- Call “110,” the local equivalent to “911”; however, very few English speakers staff this hotline.
Violent crime is not common in China, however:
- Demonstrations may quickly turn violent.
- Domestic unrest and terrorism can occur.
- Business disputes between U.S. citizens and Chinese business partners can sometimes result in physical confrontation or kidnapping. Go straight to the police if you feel threatened or relocate to a public place.
- Be alert to criminal schemes, such as:
- “Tourist Tea” Scams: Young Chinese invite visitors out to tea and leave them with an exorbitant bill.
- Phone Scams: We have received reports that some individuals within China have received telephone calls where the callers pose as police officers and request a funds transfer to resolve an identity theft or money laundering investigation. In these cases, DO NOT WIRE any money. If you receive any suspicious calls or requests, contact the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) to verify the caller’s identity.
- “Black Cabs”: Be cautious when using taxi services, especially at airports. Avoid unlicensed “black cabs,” insist that the driver use the meter, and get a receipt. Have the name of your destination written in Chinese characters and ask the driver to remove the bags from the trunk before you get out of the taxi and before you pay.
- Counterfeit Currency: Counterfeit currency is a significant concern in China. Carrying small bills or using exact change, particularly in taxis, can help protect you. Use only ATMs at trusted financial institutions.
If you already have been victim of a scam, catalogue as many details as possible, including names, telephone and bank numbers, and email and IP addresses; file a police report, and inform the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. consulate. Please see the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.
Victims of Crime: Report crimes to the local police and contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- Help you find appropriate medical care.
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
- Contact relatives or friends on your behalf.
- Explain the local criminal justice process in general terms.
- Provide a list of local attorneys.
- Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution.
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home.
- Replace a stolen or lost passport.
Lost or Stolen Passports: If your passport is stolen, you must apply for both a new passport at the U.S. Embassy or consulate, and a new Chinese visa. File a police report at the nearest police station right away. You may also be directed to file a report at the local Exit/Entry Bureau.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy or consulate for assistance. Domestic violence in China is rarely recognized as a crime.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to Chinese laws. If you violate Chinese laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
- If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy or the nearest consulate immediately. See our webpage for further information.
- The Chinese must notify a U.S. consular officer within four days; however, this does not always occur in a timely manner.
- A consular officer may be the only authorized visitor during your initial detention period.
- Bail is rarely granted.
- Detention may last many months before a trial.
- The U.S. Embassy or Consulate is unable to represent you in a legal matter.
- Travelers to China should enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and you may wish to have someone contact the Embassy or nearest consulate if you are detained.
- Please see the section on DUAL NATIONALITY for the limits on consular notification and access to dual nationals.
The Chinese legal system can be opaque and the interpretation and enforcement of local laws arbitrary. The judiciary does not enjoy independence from political influence. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in China should be aware of varying levels of scrutiny to which they will be subject from Chinese local law enforcement and state security.
Certain provisions of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China – such as “social order” crimes (Article 293) and crimes involving “endangering state security” and “state secrets” (Article 102 to 113) – are ill-defined and can be interpreted by the authorities arbitrarily and situationally. Information that may be common knowledge in other countries could be considered a “state secret” in China, and information can be designated a “state secret” retroactively.
Drug and Alcohol Enforcement:
Chinese law enforcement authorities have little tolerance for illegal drugs, including marijuana. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in China are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, or the death penalty. Police regularly conduct unannounced drug tests on people suspected of drug use and have been known to enter a bar or nightclub and subject all patrons to immediate drug testing. Police may force you to provide a urine, blood, or hair follicle sample on short notice. A positive finding, even if the drug was legal elsewhere or consumed prior to arriving in China, can lead to immediate detention, fines, deportation, and/or a ban from re-entering China.
China also has strict laws against driving under the influence of alcohol that can lead to immediate detention on a criminal charge.
Assisted Reproductive Technology: In vitro fertilization (IVF) is widely and legally practiced. Chinese law, however, strictly forbids surrogacy, and surrogacy contracts will not be considered valid. The use of reproductive technology for medical research and profit is strictly controlled.
Contracts and Commercial Disputes: Before entering into a commercial or employment contract in China, have it reviewed by legal counsel both in the United States and in China. The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service can assist you in identifying and vetting business contacts and opportunities, but may not intervene in contract disputes. Many U.S. citizens have reported difficulty getting their contracts enforced by Chinese courts or being forced out of profitable joint-ventures without opportunity to secure legal recourse in China.
Counterfeit Goods: Do not buy counterfeit or pirated goods. The bootlegs are illegal in the United States and you may also be breaking local law by purchasing them.
Cruise Ship Passengers: Click here for safety information and travel advice.
Earthquakes: Earthquakes occur throughout China. Check here for information about earthquake preparedness.
English/Secondary School Teachers: English teachers in China frequently report employment disputes which can result in questioning by local authorities, termination, lost wages, confiscation of passports, forced eviction from housing, and even threats of violence. Please see the Teaching in China Guide on the U.S. Embassy's website.
Exit/Travel Bans: Business disputes, court orders to pay a settlement, or government investigations into both criminal and civil issues may result in an exit ban which will prohibit your departure from China until the issue is resolved. Even individuals and their family members who are not directly involved, or even aware of these proceedings, can be subject to an exit ban. Additionally, some local businesspeople who feel that they have been wronged by a foreign business partner may hire "debt collectors” to harass, intimidate, and sometimes physically detain foreign business partners or family members in hopes of collecting the debt. The U.S. Embassy or consulate can provide a list of local attorneys who serve U.S. clients, but otherwise are unable to intervene in civil cases. Local law enforcement authorities are generally unwilling to become involved in what they consider private business matters, and may not provide the individual who has been barred from leaving China with any written notice of the exit ban.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Same sex marriages are not legally recognized in China and local authorities will not provide marriage certificates to same-sex couples. There are no civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, though homosexuality has been decriminalized. Prejudices and discrimination still exist in many parts of the country. There are growing LGBTI communities in some of China’s largest cities and violence against LGBTI individuals in China is relatively rare. Seeour LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights Report for further details.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): In January 2017, China implemented a law regulating the operations of foreign NGOs in China. NGOs and their employees should ensure they are complying with all relevant statutory requirements, particularly if working in sensitive areas or fields. Additionally, the Chinese government announced sanctions on five U.S.-based NGOs in December 2019.
North Korea: Do not travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals. For further information, consult the North Korea Country Information webpage and the Travel Advisory for North Korea.
Political and Religious Activity: Participating in unauthorized political or religious activities, including participating in public protests or sending private electronic messages critical of the government,may result in detention and Chinese government-imposed restrictions on future travel to China. Although China’s constitution permits freedom of religious belief, government officials are increasing pressure on domestic religious activity. The U.S. Mission to China has observed an increase in the number of U.S. citizens being interrogated, detained, and/or forced to leave the country in connection with real or perceived religious proselytization. U.S. citizens have been detained and/or expelled for distributing religious literature, including Bibles, or engaging in unauthorized religious meetings. If you bring religious literature with you, Chinese law dictates that it be a “reasonable amount” for your personal use. If you attempt to bring larger quantities, the literature will likely be confiscated and you may be fined, detained, or deported.
Social Insurance: China has a social insurance system to which foreigners who work in China must contribute. When you sign an employment contract, you must apply for a social insurance number, and it is important that your employer work with you to comply with the regulations. Please check the official website for updated information.
Social Media: Social media accounts are widely monitored in China. Local authorities may use information they deem critical, controversial, or that might involve illegal activity against both the poster of the material and the host of the social media forum under Chinese law. Individuals have also been held responsible for the content that others place within social media spaces they control, such as the comments section under a post or within a group chat that an individual controls.
Special Scrutiny of Foreign Citizens: On occasion, citizens of the United States visiting or resident in China have been interrogated or detained for reasons said to be related to “state security.” In such circumstances, you could face arrest, detention, or an exit ban prohibiting your departure from China for a prolonged period. Dual U.S.-Chinese nationals and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be at a higher risk of facing such special scrutiny. Information about dual nationality can be found on our website.
Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.
Surveillance and Monitoring: Security personnel carefully watch foreign visitors and may place you under surveillance. Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage, and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and personal possessions in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge. Security personnel have been known to detain and deport U.S. citizens sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.
Transferring Money to/From China: China’s regulatory environment includes tightening capital outflow controls that can severely impact one’s ability to move money out of the country. Wire transfers may only be available to those who have an active bank account in China. Ask your local China bank location for more information. The U.S. Department of State may be able to help transfer funds to a destitute U.S citizen overseas through our office in Washington, D.C. to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. More information on this option is available here.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: U.S. citizens with mobility disabilities may face challenges while traveling in China. Sidewalks often do not have curb cuts and many streets can be crossed only via pedestrian bridges or underpasses accessible by staircase. Assistive technologies for blind people and those with other vision disabilities are unreliable, and access to elevators in public buildings can be restricted. In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one accessible toilet.
Typhoons: The southeast coast of China is subject to strong typhoons and tropical storms, usually from July through September. For current information, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu and the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region: Extraordinary security measures are in place through the region. Authorities may impose curfews and restrictions on short notice. They also engage in invasive surveillance techniques against individuals. Expect significant travel delays, avoid gatherings and demonstrations, always carry ID, and follow the instructions of local authorities. Travelers with ethnic ties to the region may experience special restrictions, discrimination, and even arbitrary detention.
Quality of Care: The standards of medical care in China are not equivalent to those in the United States. Even in private hospitals or public hospitals with well-equipped wards, English-speaking patients frequently encounter difficulty due to cultural, language, and regulatory differences. Rural areas have rudimentary facilities and inadequate staffing. Additionally, Rh-negative blood may be difficult to obtain; the blood type of the general Asian populace is Rh positive.
Payment and Insurance: Chinese ambulances are often slow to arrive, and most do not have sophisticated medical equipment or trained responders. Cash payment for services is often required prior to treatment, including emergency cases. Travelers will be asked to post a deposit prior to admission to cover the expected cost of treatment. Hospitals in major cities may accept credit cards. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in China maintain lists of local English-speaking doctors and hospitals.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Medication: If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to ensure the medication is legal in China. Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with the prescription. Many commonly-used U.S. drugs and medications are not available in China, and counterfeit, low-quality knockoffs are prevalent. If you try to have medications sent to you from outside China, you may have problems getting them released by Chinese Customs and/or you may have to pay high customs duties.
Air Quality: Air pollution is a significant problem in many locations. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang make air quality data available to the U.S. citizen community. The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection provides its own air quality data for cities throughout China.
Most roads and towns in Tibet, Qinghai, parts of Xinjiang, and western Sichuan are situated at altitudes over 10,000 feet. Take appropriate precautions to prepare for and be alert to altitude sickness.
Disease: The following diseases are prevalent:
- hepatitis A
- hepatitis B
Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Traffic safety is generally poor and driving can be dangerous, though rules, regulations, and conditions vary greatly throughout China.
Traffic can be chaotic and largely unregulated and the rate of accidents, including fatal accidents, is among the highest in the world. Motorcycle and bicycle accidents are frequent and often deadly. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, and you should show extreme caution when walking in traffic, even in marked crosswalks. Child safety seats are not widely available.
- You may not drive in China using a U.S. or international driver’s license.
- You can apply for a Chinese driver’s license if you have a resident permit.
- If you are involved in a traffic accident, stay calm and call and wait for the police.
- If there are no injuries and damage is minimal, the parties often come to agreement on the spot.
- Unresolved disputes are handled by the courts.
- In cases involving injuries, the driver determined at fault is responsible for the injured person’s medical costs. Sometimes, the police may hold your passport until the other parties are satisfied with the compensation they receive.
- Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, visit China’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.
Public Transportation: Public transportation, including subways, trains, and buses, generally has a positive safety record and is widely available in major cities, although individuals on crowded buses and subways are often targeted by pick-pockets.
Aviation Safety Oversight:The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of China’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of China’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to China should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in China. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.
Have questions? We would love to hear from you. Send us a chat, Send us a Mail or alternatively Call Us at (650) 492-6298.
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