China travel guide
Colossal, dizzying and fiercely foreign, China isn’t easily compared to anywhere else on the planet. Home to approximately one fifth of the human race, it 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 it’s the sheer scale and off-kilter energy of the place that leave the most lasting impression.
The economic drive of recent times 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 customs and a near-unfathomable amount of diversity. China's landscapes unfurl across the map in vast swathes of territory, and its sights, sounds and infinite oddities collectively amount to one of the world’s truly great travel experiences. The food’s fantastic too, and getting to grips with the different regional cuisines can be hugely enjoyable.
In other areas, tradition only counts for so much. The pace of development in its key cities – Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and increasingly others – has thrown up skylines to rival almost any in the world. They’re emblematic of the ‘new’ China, a powerhouse both economically and politically; somewhere eager to make the rest of the world sit up and take notice. Even the ego-driven rulers of the past, from Qin Shi Huang through to Mao, would surely be amazed at just how influential their country has become.
Shift away from the urban sprawl and out into China’s rural areas, however, and you’re confronted with a very different reality. The scenery veers from lush terraced rice paddies and the harsh peaks of the Himalayas to the gorges of the UNESCO-protected Yangtze River. In some of the rural heartlands, indeed, the tableau of life can seem little changed from 50 years ago, at least on the surface. China is full of endless quirks and contradictions, but that’s half the charm.
9,596,960 sq km (3,705,406 sq miles).
1,382,323,332 (UN estimate 2016).
142.5 per sq km.
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.
President Xi Jinping since 2013.
Premier Li Keqiang since 2013.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for mainland China on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All direct flights from the UK to mainland China have been suspended. This measure will be subject to future review but no date has been given.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in China.
Returning to the UK
Travelling from and returning to the UK
Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
You should check local testing facilities information on the National Health Commission website.
Those failing pre-departure health checks in China, including children checks, will be contacted by host authorities and sent to a designated hospital for treatment. You will remain there until you have tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times, the processes for which can take a number of weeks.
You may be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. Whilst we cannot prevent this, if it happens to you or is about to happen, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care. For further information on healthcare in China, see the Health section.
Failure to comply with the quarantine conditions or testing put in place, or any attempts to deliberately conceal health conditions can result in being sentenced to up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and foreign nationals.
If you have confirmed flight bookings from Shanghai and require a Consulate letter to seek permission from your local community to leave lockdown and travel to the airport please contact us as follows:
Confirmed flights departing within 7 days: Call the 24/7 number +86 (0)10 8529 6600.
Confirmed flights departing in more than 7 days: Contact us using the feedback form, providing your name, flight details and contact number.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in China
Mandatory requirements to check temperatures and use health kit apps or scan QR codes to prove travel history are in place at transport hubs, hotels, commercial buildings including restaurants, residential compounds and other locations.
Restrictions on movement and quarantine arrangements remain for travel between different parts of the country. Some cities and provinces need travellers from high to medium risk areas to undergo 14 days of isolation in their place of residence or in centralised observation. Quarantine is enforced at the neighbourhood level and procedures vary, so check in advance.
The possibility that local authorities impose mandatory lockdowns in response to fresh outbreaks is high. Such lockdowns may result in disruptions to medical and other basic services, including food delivery. You should ensure you have prepared additional food, water and medical supplies in case you are mandated to isolate at home.
There have been reports of individuals who have frequented bars or restaurants where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 being mandated to undergo 14 days of centralised quarantine. You should keep up to date with the latest developments and this travel advice, including requirements for evidence of a negative COVID-19 NAT test within 48 hours of travel from high to medium risk areas.
There have been reports of discrimination against foreign nationals in China as a result of a perceived risk that they might re-import COVID-19.
Healthcare in China
Medical facilities may come under strain in response to localised outbreaks, particularly when cities are placed in lockdown. Designated hospitals have been established in each province to take patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
You may be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. Whilst we cannot prevent this, if it happens to you or is about to happen, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care.
Medical facilities are largely functioning as normal but quarantine restrictions may delay or limit access to such care. View Health for further details on healthcare in China.
For contact details for English speaking doctors, visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in China
We will update this page when the Government of China announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The Chinese national vaccination programme started in December 2020 and is using the Sinovac, Sinopharm and CanSino vaccines. The Government of China has stated that British nationals resident in China are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. There is no centralised registration system for vaccinations in China, it is managed at provincial and local levels, you should contact your local healthcare provider for further information.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in China, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Help and support
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Personal attacks, including sexual assaults, are rare but they do occur, including through drinks being spiked. You should take reasonable precautions - do not leave drinks unattended and avoid accepting drinks from strangers. Women, travelling alone or with female friends, could be at greater risk - see our advice for women travelling abroad.
Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur and less serious crime is not unusual. You should take care of your belongings at major tourist sites and other busy places, particularly where foreigners gather. If your passport is lost or stolen, you will need to go to the nearest police station or Public Security Bureau and get a report of the incident.
Avoid travelling in unmarked or unmetered taxis, as there have been incidents of sexual assault and robbery against foreigners. In marked taxis, make sure someone knows where you are and try to take a note of the taxi’s number.
Disputes over taxi fares can occur and quickly escalate. Insist on paying the metered fare and ask for a receipt; this has the taxi number on it.
Do not hike alone in isolated areas, including on the Great Wall. If you do, always leave your itinerary, mobile number and expected time of return at your hotel or with a third party.
There is a risk of attack from armed criminals in remote areas. The areas bordering on Siberia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Laos and Burma are poorly policed. In Yunnan Province, drug smuggling and other crimes are increasing.
Beware of scams in popular tourist areas. A common example is the ‘tea tasting’ scam or ‘massage’ scam. You may be invited to visit a bar, to participate in tea tasting or for a massage, but then face demands for an exorbitant fee. This can be followed by threats or actual violence, and credit card fraud.
Check QR code stickers on rental bicycles carefully before using them. There have been cases of the legitimate barcode being replaced with a false code, which redirects money to a different account.
Before entering into a contract in China you should take legal advice, both in the United Kingdom and in China. Contracts entered into in the United Kingdom are not always enforced by Chinese courts.
If you’re involved in or connected to a business and/or civil dispute, the Chinese authorities may prohibit you from leaving China until the matter is resolved. This is known as a travel ban. For more detailed advice on business risks and commercial disputes, see our guide on commercial disputes in China.
Incidents of British nationals being detained against their will to extort money or intimidate them have occurred. It is rare for violence to be used, but the threat of violence is a recurring theme. You should report any threats of violence to the Chinese police.
Tibet and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)
You can only travel to the TAR on an organised tour and you must get a permit first, through a specialised travel agent in China. Chinese authorities sometimes stop issuing these without notice, and also restrict travel to Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in neighbouring Provinces, even if you have a permit. You should check with tour operators or travel agents and monitor this travel advice and other media for information.
Once in Tibet you should avoid demonstrations and other large public gatherings. Ongoing political and ethnic tensions can lead to unrest and protest, sometimes violent. Security measures will be tight and unauthorised gatherings may be dispersed by force. Do not film or photograph any such activities or outbreaks of violence. Local authorities will react negatively if you’re found carrying letters or packages from Tibetan nationals to be posted in other countries.
Photography in Buddhist monasteries needs permission and carries a fee.
You should be aware that the ability of the British Embassy Beijing and British Consulates in China to provide consular support in the Tibet Autonomous Region is limited.
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
There have been instances of violent unrest in Xinjiang, causing deaths. There have been allegations of the use of lethal force to disperse protests.
Be alert to the possibility of being caught up in any unexpected demonstrations or outbreaks of violence. The Chinese authorities will increase the security presence in the area and tend to react quickly and harshly to these incidents. The Chinese authorities may restrict communications and travel to some areas of Xinjiang at short notice.
There have been widespread arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial detention in Xinjiang, mainly affecting the local population, particularly Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. You may be at increased risk if you’re of Uyghur descent and/or have lived previously in Xinjiang; or if you appear to be Muslim.
You should expect airport-style security measures, including passport and security checks, at entrances to public places such as shopping centres, markets and parks. You may need to inform the security forces of your phone number, have your photograph taken, or be questioned as to the nature of your travel. Related to reports of the use of forced labour in Xinjiang, there have been reports of due diligence auditors being detained and harassed.
Carry your passport at all times, avoid all protests and large crowds, be vigilant and monitor media reports. Do not photograph or film protests, large crowds, security officials or installations, or anything of a military nature. Mosques and other religious sites are also considered “sensitive” sites by the authorities.
You should be aware that the ability of the British Embassy Beijing and British Consulates in China to provide consular support in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is limited.
Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as in the UK. Check fire precautions including access to fire exits. Make sure your accommodation has a working fire alarm and regularly check that the fire exits aren’t blocked.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Make sure your accommodation has a working carbon monoxide alarm. There have been incidences of carbon monoxide poisoning and death due to incorrectly installed gas equipment. The ‘Be Alarmed’ campaign gives practical advice on how to stay safe, and lists the symptoms to look out for.
There are significant travel restrictions in China due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus. See Coronavirus
You need a Chinese driving licence to drive in China. You must also have valid insurance.
Accidents are common in China due to the poor quality of roads, high volumes of traffic and generally low driving standards, so you should drive with caution. If you’re involved in a serious traffic accident, call the police. Do not move your vehicle until they arrive but make sure you and your passengers are in a safe place. In cases where there are injuries, you may be held liable for medical costs. You will also be held liable if you run over a pedestrian.
There are harsh penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol, even at very low levels.
Mariners should avoid the disputed territory between China and other countries in the East China Sea. There have also been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the area. See the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing website for further information.
You should be aware that there are significant travel restrictions in China due to the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Train services are operating at reduced levels and train stations are conducting temperature checks of incoming passengers.
You will need to produce your passport to buy a ticket and again to board the train.
Trans-Mongolian express trains (Beijing-Moscow via Ulaanbaatar) are noted for smuggling. Search your compartment and secure the cabin door before departure.
Petty theft from overnight trains is common.
China is a one-party state. Though China is very open to foreign visitors, you should be aware of political and cultural sensitivities in conversation with Chinese people.
Territorial disputes between China and neighbouring countries have caused high regional tension. There have been a number of anti-Japanese and anti-Korean demonstrations in several cities across China. These protests have generally taken place outside diplomatic missions, but some have targeted other Japanese and Korean interests.
Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings. The Chinese authorities enforce public order strictly and you may face arrest, detention and/or deportation. Foreign journalists have been intimidated, assaulted or detained for trying to report demonstrations. You may also risk becoming a target yourself when general anti-foreign sentiment runs high. Keep yourself informed of developments and follow the advice of the local authorities. During periods of tension, some news reporting, access to text-messaging, the internet and to international telephone lines may be blocked.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in China.
Although foreigners haven’t been specifically targeted, attacks may occur in places visited by foreigners. Since early 2014, a number of explosions and knife attacks have occurred in public places, including in busy railway stations, resulting in injuries and fatalities. You should take particular care during national holidays or when transiting public transport hubs, and always follow the advice of the local authorities.
There have been no recent attacks in the main tourist areas.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Carry your passport with you at all times; a photocopy is not regarded as valid ID. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security and major sporting or political events. Failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention. If you renew your passport while you’re in China, you must register your new passport with the authorities promptly or face a fine.
All foreign nationals traveling to or around areas deemed as “sensitive” might attract greater scrutiny from the authorities, including when taking photographs near sensitive sites, engaging with political groups or charities, and making statements deemed politically sensitive. People who are current or former employees of foreign governments, media outlets or NGOs are likely to attract additional scrutiny, particularly when travelling to areas with large ethnic minority population and when travelling to Xinjiang (see also the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region section under “Safety and security”).
China’s authorities have under certain circumstances detained foreigners citing ‘endangering national security’. National Security is interpreted broadly and you may be detained without having intended to break the law. There is also a risk of arbitrary detention, including of British nationals.
There are restrictions on certain religious activities, including preaching and distributing religious materials. The Falun Gong movement is banned in China.
Gambling is illegal in mainland China.
Chinese laws and procedures relating to the arrest and detention of suspects of crime are different from in the UK. If you’re suspected of a crime, the Chinese authorities have the power to prevent you from leaving China (by withholding your passport or applying a travel ban) or to detain you for up to 37 days without charge. Travel bans may also be imposed on individuals involved in commercial or private disputes. If you’re detained on grounds of national security, which is interpreted more broadly than in the UK, you may be detained for up to 6 months before formal arrest and may be denied legal representation before charges are brought.
There are extremely severe penalties for drugs offences in China, including the death penalty. The Chinese authorities undertake random drug testing on foreign nationals including on entry to the country. If you test positive, the Chinese authorities can prosecute you regardless of where or when you consumed drugs. Police raids on homes also occur; if drugs are found in your property, penalties can be extremely severe.
There have been increasing incidences of police raids on nightclubs and bars. When such raids take place, patrons will be subject to on the spot drug testing and immigration checks. This may involve being kept at the location, or a secondary location, for several hours whilst hair and urine samples are taken and passport and visa checks conducted. Testing positive to drugs, or being found in breach of your visa conditions, can lead to heavy fines, detention and deportation.
China doesn’t recognise dual nationality. If you enter China on a Chinese passport or identity card, the British Embassy may not be able to offer you help. If you were born in China to a Chinese national parent you will be considered by the Chinese authorities to have Chinese nationality, and may be treated as a Chinese citizen, even if you used a British passport to enter China. If you have formally renounced Chinese citizenship, you should carry clear evidence that you have done so.
The Chinese authorities maintain controls on internet access. Some services, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are permanently blocked. Other websites may be blocked from time to time.
China’s cyber security laws are changing and online products and services (eg VPNs) need to be licensed by the Chinese government. More information is available on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website (in Mandarin only). Make sure you stay informed and follow Chinese law.
Although homosexuality is not prohibited by law, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. There’s no provision under Chinese legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. You can find information on LGBT life in China on the British Embassy website. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in China set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry and transit
You will need a valid visa to enter China. The Chinese Visa Application Centres in London, Manchester and Edinburgh are operating but with limited opening hours. The Application Centre in Belfast remains closed.
The Chinese authorities have suspended all direct flights from the UK. This measure will be subject to review but no date has been announced. Restrictions on travel to China from other countries, and the necessary requirements, may be different. British nationals travelling to China from a third country should follow the directions on the website of the local Chinese Embassy or consulate for requirements from that country.
On 4 November 2020 the Chinese Embassy in the UK announced the temporary suspension of entry into China by non-Chinese nationals in the UK holding Chinese visas or residence permits valid at the time of the announcement. Entry by holders of diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas would not be affected. Foreign nationals visiting China for emergencies can still apply for visas at Chinese Embassies or Consulates and entry by non-Chinese nationals in the UK with visas issued after 3 November 2020 will not be affected.
If you’re issued a visa to travel from the UK to China in these circumstances you will need to submit a Health Declaration Form to your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the UK before you travel, who will need to certify your form and return it to you via email.
More details, including the process for submitting forms for those still eligible, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
In order to receive a Health Declaration Form from the Chinese Embassy you must provide evidence of a negative nucleic acid test seven days before you travel, followed by a negative nucleic acid and an IgM antibody test for COVID-19 taken no more than 48 hours before you travel.
Reports of both your nucleic acid (COVID-19) and IgM (antibody) tests must come from the same service provider. This does not mean the provider must carry out both tests, but that the provider must guarantee both test reports. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test from one of the eligible providers listed on the Embassy website.
Additional guidance on how to obtain a Health Declaration Certificate, including if you have been vaccinated, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website. Only vaccines approved by the independent MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority) are available in the UK via the NHS’ COVID-19 vaccination programme. Certifications for vaccines administered in China are not yet recognised by the UK Government. (See ‘Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status’)
Further details on visa requirements can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.
A limited number of international flights from other countries are flying into Beijing. Other international passenger flights to Beijing continue to be diverted to 16 designated airports in Chengdu, Changsha, Hefei, Lanzhou, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Hohhot, Jinan, Qingdao, Nanjing, Shenyang, Dalian, Zhengzhou, Xi’an and Wuhan. A small number of international flights are also operating direct between European cities and Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao.
Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status
China has not yet confirmed that it will accept the UK solutions for demonstrating your COVID vaccination status. You should follow guidance for alternative entry requirements. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination.
Health checks on arrival
All international arrivals will be subject to PCR testing on arrival, during and after quarantine. Even asymptomatic carriers will be isolated in a Covid hospital until they return at least three consecutive negative results. There have been some cases of individuals testing intermittently positive for a number of weeks. Travellers with a history of COVID-19 infection should consider leaving a gap between an infection and travel to China. All travellers should take precautions before and during travel to minimise as far as possible the chances of testing positive on arrival.
Health regulations surrounding passengers arriving from overseas are continuously changing. You should contact the Chinese Embassy before you travel if you have any questions regarding these entry requirements, quarantine rules or the requirements for individual cities.
Following health checks on arrival, you will then need to enter quarantine for at least 14 days. At some points of entry children 14 and over will be required to quarantine alone irrespective of whether they test positive or negative for COVID.
You may be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. Whilst we cannot prevent this, if it happens to you or is about to happen, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care. For further information on healthcare in China, please see the Coronavirus section
Quarantine is usually spent at either a centralised government hotel (with costs covered by the traveller) or your home. Quarantine requirements can change at short notice and may differ from province to province.
Follow-up swab tests are likely to take place during your quarantine period. Family members of someone who tests positive, or those who have been in close contact, will need to go into a government quarantine hospital.
For all quarantine arrangements in China:
- unless directed by the authorities you’re not allowed to leave your designated quarantine location for 14 days. This means you’re also unable to leave China for the duration of the quarantine
- depending on the quarantine location, facilities may be basic: there may be no fridge, no air-conditioning, and limited or no internet/wifi
- during your stay you will be responsible for cleaning the room
- if meals are not available at the quarantine location, you will need to arrange food orders for delivery from outside
- larger sized families with two parents may be separated into 2 rooms.
- if you’re on prescription medication make sure you bring enough with you to last for at least 3-4 weeks together with medical documents certifying that you need to take this medication. See Health for further information
Failure to comply with the quarantine conditions or testing put in place, or any attempts to deliberately conceal health conditions can result in being sentenced to up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and foreign nationals.
Following quarantine, you will need to obtain a green QR health code in order to secure accommodation. In cities with lockdowns, many hotels no longer accept new guests, including those who have recently arrived into China and completed mandatory quarantine. Before arriving into China, you should ensure you have confirmed your accommodation following your mandatory quarantine.
Regular entry requirements
British nationals normally need a visa to enter mainland China, including Hainan Island, but not Hong Kong or Macao.
All visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 inclusive need to make their visa application in person at a Visa Application Centre. As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) has to be provided.
Biometric data may be checked/collected by the immigration authorities when entering China to register your entry to the country.
If you’re transiting China, visa waivers are available in certain places. Visitors transiting through Shanghai can apply online for a 144 hour visa exemption via the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection. In other visa waiver transit locations, applications must be made in person on arrival. More information is available on the Visa Application Service Centre website.
The British Embassy in Beijing has received reports of a recent increase in cases where entry to China under the visa waiver on arrival scheme has been refused, which may be linked to previous travel history. You should note that entry to China under a visa waiver is not guaranteed - Chinese border officials have the right to refuse entry without warning or explanation. You should contact the Chinese Embassy or the China Visa Application Service Centre before your proposed trip for further information. If you’re unsure about your eligibility for a visa waiver, you’re advised to apply for a visa before travelling.
If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China and wish to return to the mainland, you’ll need a visa that allows you to make a second entry into China.
It is your responsibility to check your visa details carefully. Do not overstay your visa or work illegally. The authorities conduct regular checks and you may be fined, detained or deported (or all three).
If you remain in China longer than 6 months, you may need to get a Residence Permit.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months when you enter China.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from China. You may need to show a police report indicating how you lost your full passport.
If your ETD has been issued in China, you will need an exit visa from the Public Security Bureau before you can leave. This process can take up to 7 working days.
Registering with the Chinese authorities
You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Chinese authorities enforce this requirement with regular spot-checks of foreigners’ documentation. If you’re staying in a hotel, they will do this for you as part of the check-in process.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Working in China
You can only work in China if you have a Z visa - tourist and business visit visas do not allow you to do so. You must also hold a valid work permit. The local police regularly carry out checks on companies/schools. Violation of Chinese immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, deportation, a travel ban preventing you from leaving China, and an exclusion order, which prevents you from returning.
Before you leave the UK you should contact the Chinese Embassy to check visa requirements. When submitting your visa application, and when you receive your work permit, check that the details are correct, including the location you’ll be working in. If they’re not, you can be detained.
If you intend to change employer once you’re in China, you should check with the Chinese authorities whether a new visa and work permit is needed before doing so.
Teaching in China
Teaching in China can be a rewarding experience, but before you travel it’s important that you research thoroughly the school or university that is hiring you and are confident that they are following the law. There have been many incidents of teachers being detained and/or deported for working on the wrong visas. It is your responsibility to check you’re working on the correct visa.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for mainland China on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in China.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
If you’re on prescription medication, make sure you bring enough with you or have access to a supply in China. Certain medicines may not be available and you may be prohibited from bringing others into the country. For more information and advice, check with your GP and the Embassy of China before travelling.
Healthcare is not free in China and can be very expensive. Make sure you have comprehensive travel and medical insurance covering healthcare and medical evacuation/repatriation for the duration of your stay. For more information, see Medical treatment in China.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 120 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you need treatment.
The high levels of air pollution in major urban and industrialised areas in China may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can check the pollution index levels for Beijing and other cities on the Air Quality Index website.
Tap water in China is generally not safe to drink. You should drink only bottled water.
The extreme altitude (over 3,000m) of some areas, including Tibet, parts of Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, may cause altitude sickness.
The Chinese authorities react quickly to any outbreaks of any infectious disease, including enforcing quarantine for those showing symptoms.
Human infections of avian influenza are being reported in China, particularly among those individuals who have been in close contact with infected birds. Before travelling, you should read more information and follow the prevention advice on Public Health England and NaTHNaC’s websites.
Dengue fever is present in some parts of China mainly during the rainy season. There has been a large increase in cases of dengue fever in Guangdong province. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
China is subject to various natural disasters, including earthquakes, flooding and typhoons. You should monitor the China Meteorological Bureau
China is located in an active seismic zone and can experience major earthquakes. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the US Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
The latest tsunami warnings can be found on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website.
Flooding and storms are common during the wet season (May to November). You should monitor local weather reports and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities, including any evacuation orders.
The typhoon season in China normally runs from May to November, affecting southern and eastern coastal regions in particular. Air travel and other forms of transport can be affected. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms on the Japan Meteorological Agency and the China Meteorological Administration websites.
See the FCDO’s Tropical Cyclones page for further advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a typhoon.
Outside major cities, credit cards are not always accepted and the availability of ATMs is limited. It is not possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.
Counterfeit bank notes (especially RMB100) are increasingly common, including when taking money out of an ATM. Banks will not replace them. It is quite normal to check notes carefully before accepting them from others.
Cashless payments via smartphone applications such as WeChat Pay are increasingly commonplace.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can not provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can not offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can not find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.