1. Visa

You need a passport which is valid for at least 6 months after application. It must have at least 2 empty pages. The price of the tourist visa will vary according to your nationality, type of visa (1, 2 or multiple entries, 6 months, 1 year, etc…) and the urgency you need.

When applying for a visa, a detailed itinerary of your intended trip is required. Make sure you have all the documents, a passport photo in the exact required size (they are very picky), and bring your hotel booking confirmations, an invitation letter (if you have one) and your flight tickets.

There are multiple types of visas:

 

Transit Visa

You can use it only if you are transiting in some cities in China for a max of 72 or 144 hours. This Chinese government site will help you discover if you are entitled to get the transit-free visa and for how long you can stay: http://app.www.gov.cn/govdata/html5/2018/visafreetransit/mobile/index.html

 

Visa on arrival

If you are in Hong Kong and want to visit Shenzhen, in China, you can ask for a visa on arrival which allows you to stay only in the Shenzhen area for a maximum of 5 days, but 1 entry. Please note that is not valid for all passports.

If you are in Macao, there is also a similar visa to enter in Zhuhai for maximum 3 days, one entry.

Read more about visa and visa requirements here.

 

Text continues below the gallery

2. Internet

Access to Google, Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, Youtube, Whatsapp and other American services is blocked in China. If you want to have full access to ​the Internet, you will need a VPN. My advice is to download one before arriving in China.

There are many VPN in the market, some free, others not. VPN Express is a paid app that works very well, but you can also try a free one like Hula VPN.

Please note that VPNs might be blocked in China in the future. Also, whether the use of VPNs in China is legal or not is subject to discussion.

 

3. Overcoming the language barrier

Before going to China, download an app to help you with the language. My favorite is ​Google Translate​, but you have many choices like ​Waygo ​or ​Pleco dictionary​.

Once you have the app, my tip is to download the Chinese dictionary offline. Google Translate and Waygo have a camera function, with which you can translate any text just by pointing the camera at it. This is an amazing help to read signs, documents, the menu at a restaurant or any other text you need to understand. Another useful feature is the conversation function, which allows you to talk in your own language. It translates into Chinese and vice versa in real-time.

Another tip is to print out some sentences in Chinese characters like your hotel, airport, train station or any other place you are planning to go. This works well in case you run out of battery or your VPN suddenly stops working.

 

4. Train

China has a vast railway system that connects most areas in the country, including the high-speed trains that reach up to 400 km/h. It’s one of the busiest in the world. It’s always wise to ​book in advance​. A good website is trip.com where you can book and buy the tickets. Be aware that you have to collect the ticket at the train station, at the ticket counter. Remember they usually don’t speak English and the automatic ticket machines are only set in Chinese.

Trains in China are usually on time. I recommend arriving at least 1 hour before due to the long line at ticket counters and security controls.

 

5. When to go?

Avoid the main Chinese public holidays like ​Chinese New Year​, around February and ​Mid Autumn Festival​, around September-October. I would also avoid the main attractions on Sundays.

 

6. Travel medical insurance

I highly recommended travel medical insurance in China. If you need medical care, the international hospital is your best choice, as you will find someone who speaks English and high-quality service.

 

7. Driving in China

The international driver’s license is not accepted in China, so the best thing to do, if you need to travel by car in China, is to rent a car with a driver. Taxis are very cheap, so another good option is to hire a taxi for a day, by setting the price beforehand. The only problem is that few of the drivers speak English, so be ready with your printed Chinese sentences or use your app to translate.

DiDi is the Chinese version for Uber. One of the most popular ways to get a taxi/car in China is by phone. So download the app, luckily also available in English, before going to China to make things easier. It’s incredibly convenient.

 

8. Security

China is a ​safe country​, just be aware of pickpockets, particularly in tourist places and big cities. Police officers are everywhere. Even to get into train stations and subways, you’ll be subjected to a security check.

 

9. Eating out

It might be convenient to carry a set of napkins; you’ll need them everywhere including restaurants and toilets.

Chinese people usually drink hot tea or hot water during their meals, so make sure to ask for cold water. You’ll be served hot boiling water if you don’t specifically ask for cold.

Tipping is not necessary in local restaurants but expected in high-end ones.

 

10. Money

Although more and more businesses accept Visa and Mastercard these days, the most widely accepted card scheme is UnionPay. However, when you are traveling through China, you’ll mostly need to pay with cash.

The official currency of China is the yuan, otherwise known as RMB or colloquially as ‘quai’. Notes are available for 1RMB, 10RMB, 20RMB, 50RMB, and 100RMB. There are also 1RMB coins available, as well as smaller fractions of known as ‘Mao’ for the Chinese leader who adorns them.

Chinese businesses do not accept any other currency, including the US dollar or Hong Kong dollar.

While many Chinese banks don’t accept foreign cards, you can withdraw yuan at larger chains such as HSBC. They usually offer a better exchange rate than services like Travelex. International ATMs are available in all major cities but may be harder to find in less tourist-friendly areas.

It’s wise to tell your back that you’re going to China, to avoid your credit card from being blocked.

 

 

Flight loads

Traveling to China on a standby ticket? Get accurate and reliable flight loads with the StaffTraveler app. Download the app for iOS or Android now to join!

Receive updates by email

Subscribe to get occasional updates on new posts

We respect your privacy. Read more here.