Top events in China

April
21

A popular celebration of the harvest and sale of the new season's Longjing tea crop.

May
01

Two decades on from its launch, this festival of French culture is still going strong. The calendar is always varied, with events from opera and...

May
01

Running for more than 20 years, the Macau Arts Festival sees a month-long international programme of exhibitions and performances. In addition to...

Great Wall of China
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Great Wall of China

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China Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

9,596,960 sq km (3,705,406 sq miles).

Population

1.3 billion (2013).

Population density

140 per sq km.

Capital

Beijing.

Government

People's Republic. China comprises 23 provinces (China considers Taiwan its 23rd province), five autonomous regions, two special administrative regions and four municipalities directly under central government.

Head of state

President Xi Jinping since 2013.

Head of government

Premier Li Keqiang since 2013.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-pin and three-pin sockets are generally in use. However, most 4- to 5-star hotels are also wired for 110-volt appliances.

Colossal, dizzying and fiercely, endlessly foreign, China is a destination not easily compared to anywhere else on the planet. Home to approximately one-fifth of the human race, China variously dazzles, befuddles, frustrates and thrills. The key visitor attractions are renowned around the globe – think the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Terracotta Warriors – but on the ground it’s the sheer scale and off-kilter energy of the place that leave the most lasting impression.

The rampant economic drive of the last decade means many of China’s cities are as shaped by modernity as anywhere you care to mention, but it’s also somewhere underpinned by dearly held traditions and an almost unfathomable amount of diversity. China's landscapes unfurl dramatically across the map, its customs are as fascinating as they are numerous, and its sights, sounds and infinite oddities altogether amount to one of the world’s truly great travel experiences

The pace of modernisation in its key cities – Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou and increasingly others – have thrown up skylines to rival any global city in the world. The skyscrapers of these cities are emblematic of the ‘new’ China – a modern powerhouse both economically and politically, and the eager to make the rest of the world sit up and take notice. China’s cities hum with an energy and pace so quick that even the metropolis-hardened of visitors will feel it. The flipside to this – levels of smog and pollution so severe you’ll feel like you’re walking through a cloud, and the indiscriminate pulling down of ancient architecture to make way for shiny new buildings, seem to be the unfortunate consequences of progress.

Shift away from the urban sprawl and out into China’s rural areas and countryside however, and the visitor is confronted with a very different reality. The sheer size of the country – where the landscape veers from the lush green terraced rice fields to the harsh mountain geography of the Himalayas, and the awe-inducing beauty of UNESCO-protected Yangtze river as it winds its way through the Yunnan province. In many of the rural heartlands, that tableau of life in China fifty years ago can still be found, with village life seemingly unchanged, on the surface. Still, for visitors to China the greatest reward will be scratching beneath it, to engage with a country that will contradicts and captivates in equal measure.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 18 April 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

On 1 March 2014 a terrorist attack at Kunming station in south west China killed more than 30 people and injured over 140.

The tropical cyclone (typhoon) season in China normally runs from May to November, affecting the southern and eastern coastal regions of China. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms.

Take particular care if travelling in Tibet or Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Don’t attempt to travel to Tibet without the appropriate permits. Tibetan Autonomous Region (or Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in neighbouring Provinces) can be closed to foreigners without notice.

China is prone to earthquakes. An earthquake of magnitude 6.8 struck parts of Xinjiang on 12 February 2014. Please check with local authorities before travelling to this area.

Cases of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) have been reported in eastern and southern China.

Territorial disputes between China and neighbouring countries have caused high regional tension. There have been a number of anti-Japanese demonstrations in several cities across China.

Foreign nationals over the age of 16 must carry their passport at all times. 

You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. 

There is a general threat from terrorism. 

Police have the power to detain you or prevent you from leaving China if you are suspected of a crime or have a court action against you. There are severe penalties in China for drugs-related offences including the death penalty.

China doesn’t recognise dual nationality. If you hold Chinese nationality, the Chinese authorities may regard you as a Chinese national.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Over 570,000 British nationals visit mainland China every year. Most visits are trouble free.

Edited by Jane Duru
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