Asia and Oceania

China Flag of China

Still current at: 10 June 2008
Updated: 10 June 2008


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary (12 May earthquake).  The overall level of the advice has not changed but we still advise against all but essential travel to Sichuan Province.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • Following widespread unrest in Tibet, including violent protests in the city of Lhasa in March 2008 and in some Tibetan areas of the provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai and at Xiahe in Gansu in China, the situation remains tense.  Travel to Tibet requires permission from the Chinese authorities; this is currently not being granted.  You should keep yourself informed of developments (this includes regularly checking this travel advice for updates) and be aware of heightened tensions and avoid all areas where demonstrations are taking place.  See the General (Tibet) section of the advice for more details.

  • We advise against all but essential travel to Sichuan Province, outside of the provincial capital of Chengdu.  On 12 May 2008 an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck south western China, 92 kms northwest of Chengdu,  causing significant damage.  There have been over 80,000  fatalities so far.   Due to rescue and relief operations, damage to infrastructure throughout the area, the continuing potential for aftershocks and the threat of "quake lake" flooding, exacerbated by recent heavy rain, we advise against all but essential travel to areas of Sichuan except Chengdu.  Air and main road links to Chengdu are functioning normally and the city is open for business, although many residents are still living in tents on the streets.   British Embassy staff are assisting British nationals in the affected area; if you are concerned for relatives and/or friends please call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500.

  • The Beijing Olympic Games run from 8 to 24 August 2008 and the Paralympic Games run from 6 to 17 September 2008.  If you intend to travel to China for this then see the “Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games” page of the FCO website for more details.  If you intend to be in China at this time for other reasons you should be aware that most hotels in the cities where events will take place have been booked up months in advance

  • An intestinal virus, a variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, is affecting China with over 12,000 reported cases by 7 May 2008.   Anhui province is the most affected area but there have also been reported cases in Hangzhou City in Zhejiang province, Hubei province, Beijing and Hong Kong.  Children are at particular risk from the virus with 22 reported deaths being in children under the age of 6.  See the Health section of this advice for more details.

  • Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in China have led to a small number of human fatalities.  The last fatality was in 2008.  See the Health (Avian Influenza) section of this advice and the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet for more details.

  • British nationals require visas to enter China.  Visas cannot be obtained on arrival except at Hainan Island.  Carefully check your visa validity as fines can be levied for overstaying.  You are also required to register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival.  See the Entry Requirements section of this advice for more details.

  • There is an underlying threat from terrorism in China. This reflects both the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and the possibility of terrorist acts by groups opposed to the Chinese Government. Particularly in the run-up to the Olympic Games, attacks cannot be ruled out, particularly in major urban areas.  They could be indiscriminate including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers

  • The tropical cyclone season in China normally runs from May to November, affecting the south eastern coastal regions of China.  See the Natural Disasters (Typhoons) section of this advice and Hurricanes for more details.

  • Most visits to China are trouble free.  The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in China in 2007 were: replacing lost or stolen passports (over 250 cases); dealing with hospitalisations or deaths (38 cases); and arrests, for a variety of offences (23 cases).  You are required to carry your passport at all times as the Police regularly carry out random checks.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is an underlying threat from terrorism in China. This reflects both the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and the possibility of terrorist attacks by groups opposed to the Chinese Government.  Particularly in the run-up to the Olympic Games, attacks cannot be ruled out, particularly in major urban areas. They could be indiscriminate including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  For further information see Terrorism Abroad.
 
Crime
 
Serious crime against foreigners is rare.  However, crime does occur both in cities and in the countryside.  You should be aware that the theft of British passports, particularly in the larger cities, is on the increase.  Major tourist sites attract thieves and pickpockets.  Take extra care around street markets, at Beijing International Airport and when visiting popular expatriate bar areas after dark.  Make sure you visit bar areas in company.  If you resist a robbery attempt, it could lead to serious violence; the use of knives is fairly common.
 
You should be wary of using pedicabs in Beijing.  Since late 2005, there has been an increase in the number of muggings and demands for money with menaces by pedicab drivers.  Foreign females, travelling alone, have been particularly targeted.  If you do use a pedicab, be sure to negotiate the price (in RMB) in advance.
 
We strongly advise you not to trek alone in isolated or sparsely populated areas, including those that follow parts of the Great Wall.  If you do so, you should leave your itinerary and expected time of return at your hotel/hostel or with a third party.
 
Areas bordering on Siberia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Laos and Burma are poorly policed.  In Yunnan, drug smuggling and related crimes are on the increase.  There is also a risk of attack from armed bandits in the more remote areas of China.
 
On the whole, travel in China remains safe and incident-free.  However, you should remain alert and keep your valuables, including passport, in a safe place.  In public places, ensure you keep your belongings firmly with you at all times.
 
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
 
Political Situation
 
China Country Profile
 
China is in practice a one party state.

You should be aware of strictly enforced regulations against any public demonstrations which do not have prior approval from the authorities.  Violators have been deported, and could face imprisonment.

Local Travel
 
Severe weather conditions are possible in eastern and southern coastal provinces during the typhoon season (May-November).  You should check before travelling to these provinces during these months.
 
You may face temperature monitoring measures imposed by local and provincial authorities when you travel within China.
 
For travel to Tibet see the General section of this travel advice.
 
Road Travel
 
The poor quality of roads and generally low driving standards leads to many, sometimes serious, accidents.
 
For further information see Driving Abroad.
 
Sea Travel

There have been several incidents of overcrowded ferries sinking, leading to loss of life.  There have also been attacks of piracy in the South China Sea.  We advise mariners to be vigilant and take appropriate precautions.
 
For more general information see River and Sea Safety
 
Rail Travel

Trains are inexpensive and a generally safe mode of travel.  They can be very crowded but are a popular way to travel, even for long distances.

On 28 April 2008 at least 70 people were killed and over 400 injured after 2 trains collided in Shandong province.  An enquiry by the Chinese authorities concluded that the crash was caused by human error.  This was the most serious train crash since 2005.

Trans-Siberian express trains are noted for smuggling.  Search your compartment and secure the cabin door before departure.  Petty theft from overnight trains and buses is common.

Local laws and customs

There are severe penalties in China for drug offences, including in some cases the death penalty. 
 
Foreign nationals are required to carry their passports with them at all times as the Police carry out increasingly frequent random checks; failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention.

There are restrictions on undertaking certain religious activities, including preaching and distributing religious materials.  The Falun Gong movement is banned in China.

Homosexuality is not illegal although there are no laws specifically protecting the rights of homosexuals.
 
For more general information for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas

British nationals require visas to enter the mainland of China, but not Hong Kong.  Visas cannot be obtained on arrival except at Hainan Island.  Contact the Chinese Embassy in London.

Carefully check your visa validity as fines are levied for overstaying.

Passport validity

Your passport should have a minimum validity of six months.
Registering with the Chinese authorities
 
You are required to register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival.  Chinese authorities are now actively enforcing this requirement.  If you are staying in a hotel, registration is done on your behalf as part of the check-in process.

Stays of more than six months

If you are entering China for employment, study or private purposes for a stay of over six months, you must produce a health certificate, which includes a blood test for HIV, which has been legalised by the Chinese Embassy.

Travelling to Hong Kong

If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China you will require a double or multiple entry visa to gain re-entry to the mainland.

Transiting China

British nationals who are transiting China en route to a third country do not require a transit visa if staying within the confines of the airport for less than 24 hours.  If your stopover requires you to leave the airport, you will need a transit visa for both the outward and return journeys.

Travelling with children

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Chinese Embassy in London.

Health

The WHO does not currently consider Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) to be a significant threat to public health in China.  See the website of WHO for more details.
 
Dengue and rabies are common in China.  Every year China has around 1,000 human rabies cases but there have been no significant outbreaks since early 2007 when five people died in Hunan province.
 
You should be aware that as a result of the earthquake that affected Sichuan Province on 12 May 2008 there is an increased risk of disease in the affected areas.

An intestinal virus, a variant of hand, foot and mouth disease, is affecting China with over 12,000 reported cases by 7 May 2008.  Anhui province is the most affected area but there have also been reported cases in Hangzhou City in Shejiang province, Hubei province, Beijing and Hong Kong.  Children are at particular risk from the virus with 22 reported deaths being in children under the age of 6. The WHO advise that there is no cause for alarm and that you should take normal precautions and be vigilant about washing hands, etc.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 650,000 adults aged 15 or over in China were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.1% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to China and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
 
For more general health information see Travel Health.

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

There are intermittent outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in poultry in China that have resulted in small numbers of human fatalities.  These are usually confined to rural areas and are generally believed to arise from close contact with live infected poultry; infected animals are culled.  No further cases have been reported since the death of a woman in Guangdong province in Southern China in February 2008.

Since the end of 2003, a number of human deaths have also occurred in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
 
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be low.  However, as a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

The WHO has warned of the possibility that the Avian Influenza outbreaks could lead at some point to a human flu pandemic, if the virus mutates to a form which is easily transmissible between people.

British nationals living longer term in an Avian Influenza affected region should take personal responsibility for their own safety in the event of a future pandemic, including considering their access to adequate healthcare and ensuring travel documents are up to date.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.

Natural disasters

Earthquakes

China is located in an active seismic zone and is periodically subject to earthquakes.

We advise against all but essential travel to Sichuan Province.  On 12 May 2008 an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck south-western China, 92 kms northwest of Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan Province. Air transport links have been restored to Chengdu and Chongqing airports which are reported as operating normally but there is significant damage to infrastructure in the Province and the Chinese authorities have warned of the possibility of aftershocks in the affected regions. You should follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local and international media for updates.

Other earthquakes to affect China have occurred in Hotan, Xinjiang province in March 2008 and in Yunnan Province in south-west China in June 2007, both measured 6.4 on the Richter scale.  Earthquakes of similar magnitude have also occurred in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, and Yunnan Province in 2003.

Flooding

Parts of central, southern and western China, particularly those bordering the Yangtze River, are susceptible to flooding.  You should check your route and the weather forecast locally before setting off on your journey.  Chongqing experienced serious flooding in April/May 2007.  Following the earthquake in south western China on 12 May 2008, there is a risk of flooding in the affected area.

Typhoons

The tropical cyclone season usually runs from May to November, affecting the south eastern coastal regions of China.  You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation.  For more detailed information see Hurricanes

The last typhoon to affect China was Typhoon Neoguri in April 2008, when over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes on Hainan Island.  Tropical Cyclone Wipha, in September 2007, also destroyed homes and killed five.

General

Insurance

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See Travel Insurance. 
 
If things do go wrong when you are overseas then see How We Can Help.

Lost/stolen passports

Before submitting an application for a replacement lost/stolen passport, the loss should be reported to the nearest police station and to the Municipal Public Security Bureau, who will issue a confirmation of loss report.  Flight arrangements may also have to be re-scheduled as an exit visa is required for those departing China on a new passport.

Registration
 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.

If you are travelling independently, or planning an extended visit, you are particularly encouraged to register with the nearest British mission either the British Embassy in Beijing or the British Consulate-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou or Chongqing.  Further information is available on the Embassy webiste:  http://www.uk.cn
 
Fire precautions
 
Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as in the UK.  You are advised to check fire precautions such as access to fire exits.

Money

It is not possible to change Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.  Outside major cities, credit cards are not always readily acceptable and the availability of cash point machines (ATMs) is limited.

Teaching appointments

An increasing number of British nationals are becoming attracted to opportunities to teach English in China.  Most of those who do so have an extremely positive and enjoyable experience.  However, some have experienced difficulties.  The most common problems encountered arise from being faced with living or working conditions that do not meet expectations and complications over obtaining the correct visas and residence permits.  There have also been complaints of breach of contract, confiscation of passports and of payment being withheld.

If you wish to take up teaching appointments in China you are advised to contact the nearest Chinese diplomatic mission for information on obtaining the appropriate documentation.  It is illegal to work on a tourist or business visa.  Thorough research on the educational establishment and the area in which you intend to work will pay dividends.  Further information can be found in the consular area of the web-site of the British Embassy Beijing.

TIBET

The situation in the city of Lhasa, Tibet and in some Tibetan areas of the provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai and at Xiahe in Gansu in China, remains tense.  This follows widespread unrest and violent protests in March 2008. Shops and schools in Lhasa have since reopened.

You are advised to avoid areas where demonstrations take place and, if caught up in an outbreak of violence, to seek safe haven in hotels and other buildings and remain indoors.  There is no indication that foreigners are being targeted, but there is potential for anyone in these areas to be caught up in the violence.  You should also be aware that videoing or photographing protests could be regarded as provocative by the authorities in Tibet and elsewhere in China.

Travel to Tibet or the ethnic Tibetan provinces requires the permission of the Chinese authorities; this is unlikely to be granted at this time.  While the Chinese authorities have said there is no curfew in force in Lhasa, they have also said that they are not currently processing applications for travel to Tibet; road blocks have been erected and reports continue that troops are deployed in and around the ethnic Tibetan provinces.  If you have imminent travel plans you should check the situation with your tour operator.  

The local authorities will react strongly if you are found to be carrying letters or packages from Tibetan nationals to be posted in other countries.

The extreme altitude in Tibet may cause altitude sickness.  In normal circumstances if you are elderly or have a heart condition, pulmonary or bronchial problems you seek medical advice before travelling to this region.

Photography in Buddhist monasteries requires permission and a fee, normally negotiated in advance, is payable.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

British Embassy, Beijing

Address:

British Embassy
11 Guang Hua Lu
Jian Guo Men Wai
Beijing 100600

Telephone:

(86) (10) 5192 4000

Fax:

(86) (10) 6532 1937
(86) (10) 6532 1930 Consular

Email: mailto:info@britishcentre.org.cn

Email: mailto:commercialmail.beijing@fco.gov.uk

Email: mailto:ukscience.beijing@fco.gov.uk

Email: mailto:beijingvisamail@fco.gov.uk

Office hours:

GMT:
Mon-Fri: 0030-0400 / 0530-0900

Local Time:
Mon-Fri: 0830-1200 / 1330-1700

Website: http://www.uk.cn



 

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