China

Fast Facts
Visa-free

Citizens of 15 countries can visit China for up to 15 days without a visa. This visa-free travel policy is valid until 31 December 2025 and applies to passport holders of Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. The purpose of travel must be for tourism, business, visiting friends and family or transit.

Citizens of Brunei are also granted visa-free entry for up to 15 days while citizens of Singapore are granted 30 days visa-free entry.

For the most up-to-date information about visa eligibility and requirements visit the China Visa Application Service.

Transit without visa (TWOV)
Nationals of 54 countries can transit via China without a visa for up to six days. This is a great option for travellers who would like to experience a short stop-over in China and explore various areas of the country.

Travellers can apply for a transit without visa (TWOV) on arrival. The permit covers a period of 24, 72 or 144 hours. Travellers must hold a valid passport from an eligible country and show proof of onward travel to a third country.

To be eligible for TWOV, travellers must enter and exit via one of 29 designated ports and may only travel within the following regions: Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Shandong, Liaoning, Chengdu, Kunming, Xi’an, Chongqing, Xiamen and Wuhan.

Nationals of the following countries are eligible to apply for TWOV: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

Hainan province visa-free for 30 days
A 30-day visa-free option is available for visitors travelling to Hainan province for the purposes of exhibitions, sporting events, tourism, business, medical and visiting family. This policy allows travellers to explore the entire province if arriving directly from Hong Kong or any other location outside mainland China.

Eligible travellers must be a citizen of one of the following counties: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Ukraine and United States.

Visa-free for cruise groups

Cruise passengers arriving at designated cruise ports can visit China for up to 15 days without a visa.

To be eligible for this scheme, travellers must be part of a tour group organised or received by a certified Chinese travel agency, such as Asian Trails China. The group must consist of at least two international tourists and enter via one of 13 ports, including Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Sanya.

Tourist visa

Tourist L visas are valid for one to three months. Single, double and multiple entry visas are available at some consulates and the visa typically permits entry within three months from the date of issue with a maximum stay of 30 days.

Visa applications typically take three to five working days to process. Express visas can be processed in three days for an additional fee. Requirements and timings may vary depending on the country of application.

Documents required to obtain a visa
  • Passport valid for at least six months with two or more blank pages;
  • Onward ticket, hotel order or personal invitation letter in China;
  • One passport photograph, including one for any child travelling on a parent’s passport.

All the above information may change without prior notice. It remains the traveller’s responsibility to check visa requirements before travelling.

Time zone
GMT+8
Language

Official language: Mandarin

Although the official language is Mandarin, there are many different dialects spoken across the nation. Many people in the major cities and towns speak some level of English and can engage in basic communication with tourists.

What to pack
  • Clothing that is comfortable and appropriate for the climate at the time of year and destination of travel
  • Smart evening wear may be required for dining at hotels and high-end restaurants (please check the dress code for specific venues with your Asian Trails guide);
  • A formal outfit for attending operas or shows where a formal dress code is required, such as the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show in Xi’An.
  • A lightweight raincoat may be useful if travelling during rainy season;
  • An umbrella can offer shade from the strong sun and/or rain;
  • Reusable water bottle;
  • Sun hat and sunscreen;
  • Insect repellent;
  • Universal plug adaptor.
Electricity
The standard voltage in China and Hong Kong is 220V (50Hz).

China
Hong Kong
Phone & internet
A local sim card is easily available at the airport or from a local service provider. An extensive 3G/4G network is in place and covers most urban areas.
Do
  • Support local businesses and shop at fair-trade stores or social enterprises (ask Asian Trails for recommendations);
  • Choose to dine at locally-owned restaurants serving local cuisine;
  • Switch off the air-conditioning and lights when you leave your hotel room;
  • Donate to local charities and NGOs if you would like to support local people and nature (ask Asian Trails for recommendations);
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of people;
  • It is customary to remove shoes when entering a private home;
  • Fill your companion’s tea cup when it is empty, especially if your companion is older than you; leave your tea cup half full if you have had enough to drink.
Don’t
  • Avoid using single-use plastic bags or cups to minimise the problem of plastic waste;
  • Don’t buy from children selling souvenirs on the streets, and don’t give them money or sweets, as this encourages them to stay out of school;
  • Don’t take home religious objects such as Buddha images or other sacred items;
  • Don’t buy wildlife products or items made from animal skins;
  • Don’t write anything in red ink as this is traditionally used for letters of protest;
  • Don’t place your chopsticks upright in your bowl as this action is associated with funerals; use the special rests provided;
  • Don’t point the soles of your feet at others and avoid touching people on the head as this is considered bad manners;
  • Avoid overt public displays of affection;
  • Avoid discussing politics or other issues that may cause offence to locals.
Currency

Official currency of China: Chinese yuan (CNY)

The currency is also known as renminbi (RMB) or “People’s Money”. In speech, the national currency is referred to as kuai qian, often shortened to kuai, which means “pieces of money”.

ATMs are widely available in China, but some may not accept foreign cards. Cash can be exchanged at branches of the Bank of China. Some hotels or major department stores can also exchange cash. Hotel exchange desks are open seven days a week, but usually only change money for resident guests.


Official currency of Hong Kong: Hong Kong dollar (HKD)

ATMs that accept foreign cards are widely available in Hong Kong. Cash can be exchanged at a bank or exchange bureau.

Banking hours

In China, bank opening hours vary, but usual hours are:

  • Monday to Friday: 9 am to 1 pm and 1 pm to 5 pm;
  • Saturday: 9 am to 1 pm.

In Hong Kong, usual banking hours are:

  • Monday to Friday: 9 am to 5 pm;
  • Saturday: 2 pm to 5 pm.
Credit cards
In China, Alipay and WeChat Pay now allow international travellers to link their Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club, JCB or Discover cards to a digital wallet. These digital wallets are widely used across China for shopping, dining, hotel accommodations and transportation. For more details on how to add a card to a digital wallet, read more.


In Hong Kong, credit cards are widely accepted.

Tipping
While not compulsory, gratuities are always appreciated in China and Hong Kong. Tipping is not part of the local culture, but many in the travel and service industry are accustomed to receiving a small amount for good service. Please consider the following as a guide to common practice, although tipping and the amount to tip is always at the discretion of the individual.


Guides and drivers Tipping is entirely up to the individual and depends on the level of satisfaction with the service.
Hotel porters It is typical to tip hotel porters for carrying bags to the room.
Restaurants A service charge of 10% is often included in the bill. An additional tip is not expected, but it is customary to round up the bill.
Taxi drivers Tipping taxi drivers is not expected, but it is customary to round up the fare.
Domestic flights

This is often the fastest and most convenient way to travel across China’s vast expanse, with several national airlines offering direct connections between the major cities.

Taxis

Taxis are easy to find in major cities. Always make sure the driver resets the meter, especially if he has been waiting in a queue. Rides can also be booked via DiDi, the primary ride sharing platform in China.

Trains

The railway sector is undergoing a major transformation in China: there are 200-kph trains between Shenzhen and Guangzhou; 300kph tilting trains are already actively used; the world’s highest altitude railway that runs to Lhasa; and the world’s first commercial maglev (magnetic levitation) is in operation between Shanghai and Pudong airport. China also boasts the world’s longest high-speed railway network, spanning over 45,000 km.

Metro

Many of the major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong have public metro systems that connect many of the key landmarks within the destination.

Bicycles

An increasingly popular way to explore, bicycles are an eco-friendly way to travel, offering a unique perspective of city life.

Religion

China has been a multi-religion country since ancient times. Confucianism is an indigenous religion which became the guiding ideology for feudalism society but it did not develop into a national belief. However, it has made the culture more tolerant to others and enabled other religions to be brought into the country. According to recent surveys, 85 per cent of Chinese people have religious beliefs.

The three principal religions in China known as the “Three Teachings” – Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism – are inextricably linked and you will often find elements of all three of these religious disciplines in a single temple.

Food
China offers a variety of culinary experiences, from opulent restaurants to hawker street stalls. The cuisines of different provinces give insights into the characteristics of each locale.

Cantonese food typically features an abundance of fresh seafood cooked in light sauces and side dishes of rice, meat and vegetable served in clay pots. Dim sum is a Cantonese favourite featuring a huge selection of miniature buns, spring rolls, and dumplings.

Northern cuisine is typified by the use of salt, garlic, ginger, and onion and hearty staples of steamed buns, noodles, pancakes and dumplings filled with pork, leek or cabbage.

Spicy Sichuan dishes pack a punch through the use of the region’s powerful chillies. Spicy hotpot dishes are some of the best known and tastiest cuisines of Sichuan.

Common local dishes:

  • Beijing duck – this opulent Mandarin-style dish of duck served with plum sauce is the highest form of Northern cuisine;
  • Gongbao jiding – chicken with chili and peanuts;
  • Mapo doufu – tofu served in a spicy sauce.
Shopping
Ranging from bustling traditional markets to glitzy ultra-modern malls, China has an abundance of shopping opportunities that differ widely across this vast country. Most shops, restaurants and transport systems offer the same service seven days a week. Shops are typically open from 8 am to 8 pm.

Beijing is renowned for pearls and silk in the Hongqiao Market. Shanghai’s South Bund Fabric Market is famous for its handmade suits. Chengdu sells some of the best green tea on the planet and when in Xinjiang check out the exquisite jade.

Fascinating markets are in abundance across China. Panjiayuan Jiuhuo Shichang in Beijing is a huge outdoor market held on weekends. This market stocks the best selection of all things Chinese including reproduction Ming furniture, traditional clothing worn by many of China’s ethnic minorities and Mao memorabilia. South Bund Fabric Market in Shanghai stocks fine fabrics such as silk, cotton, linen, wool, and cashmere at very competitive prices. Yide Road Wholesale Market in Guangzhou is one of the most colourful markets in a city that is awash with bustling markets.

What to buy:

  • Silks, cashmere and fabrics;
  • Tailored clothing;
  • Art and calligraphy;
  • Ceramics;
  • Tea;
  • Traditional kites;
  • Jade jewellery;
  • Porcelain.
Vaccinations
Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you have recently travelled to a country where the disease is present.

There are currently no other vaccine requirements, although it is advisable to be up-to-date with standard inoculations, such as:

  • Typhoid;
  • Cholera;
  • Hepatitis A and B;
  • Tuberculosis;
  • Rabies;
  • Meningococcal meningitis;
  • Japanese B encephalitis;
  • Polio, diphtheria and tetanus;
  • Malaria and dengue (especially if travelling to remote areas).

Consult your doctor for the most appropriate medical advice. If you require a particular medication, ensure that you pack an adequate supply, as it may not be available locally.

Drinking water

Avoid drinking tap water in China and Hong Kong. Bottled mineral water is easy to find at convenience stores around the country. Ice cubes are typically safe if served at a hotel or restaurant, but best avoided at street stalls and in remote parts of the country.

Safety
China and Hong Kong are safe countries to visit. However, it is advisable to take some precautions to safeguard your belongings:

  • Never leave items unattended;
  • Maintain a firm grip on bags and wallets, especially in crowded places and on busy streets;
  • Leave expensive jewellery at home and store valuables in the hotel safety deposit box or in-room safe;
  • Avoid engaging with touts who approach you in the street.
Insurance
Travellers are advised to obtain appropriate insurance to cover any accidents or medical emergencies while travelling. In some cases, treatment will not be administered without proof of travel insurance. Ensure that your plan covers motor vehicle accidents if you plan to hire a car or motorbike. Emergency evacuation cover is highly recommended as you may have to fly out of the country for treatment.
Emergency numbers
China

  • Police 110
  • Emergency Medical Services 120
  • Fire service 119
  • Traffic accidents 122

Hong Kong

  • Police, fire services or ambulance 999
  • For the speech or hearing impaired, call or SMS 992

Disclaimer

This information was valid at the time of publication and it is subject to change at any time. We cannot be held responsible for any external links. You acknowledge, by your use of this site, that you use it at your own risk and that Asian Trails shall not be liable for any damages of any kind related to your use of this site, or the information contained within. We reserve the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update information at any time without prior notice.

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