COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The People’s Republic of China was established on October 1, 1949, with Beijing as its capital city. With well over 1.3 billion citizens, China is the world's most populous country and the world’s fourth-largest country in terms of territory. Although political power remains centralized in the Chinese Communist Party, China is undergoing profound economic and social changes. Modern tourist facilities are available in major cities, but many facilities in smaller provincial cities and rural areas may be below international standards. Read the Department of State Background Notes on China for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit China, please take the time to tell our embassy and consulates about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing China
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600
Telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000
Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000
The Embassy consular district includes the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin and the provinces/autonomous regions of Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, and Xinjiang.
The U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu
Number 4, Lingshiguan Road, Section 4, Renmin Nanlu,
Telephone: (86)(28) 8558-3992
Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000
This consular district includes the provinces/autonomous region of Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang (Tibet) and Yunnan, as well as the municipality of Chongqing.
The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou
5/F Tian Yu Garden, Phase II
136-142 Lin He Zhong Lu, Tianhe District, Guangzhou
Telephone: (86)(20) 8518-7605
Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000
This consular district includes: the provinces/autonomous region of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Fujian.
The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai
Westgate Mall, 8th Floor, 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu,
Telephone: (86)(21) 3217-4650
Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (21) 3217-4650
This consular district includes Shanghai municipality and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
The U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang
No. 52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District,
Telephone: (86)(24) 2322-1198
Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000
This consular district includes: the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning.
The U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan
New World International Trade Tower I
No. 568, Jianshe Avenue
Hankou, Wuhan 430022
Telephone: (86) (027) 8555-7791
Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000
[Please note that consular services are provided only during quarterly outreaches in Wuhan. Contact the Embassy in Beijing for other consular and emergency services.]
Before You Go: To enter China, you need a visa as well as six months' validity remaining on your passport. If you do not have a valid passport and the appropriate Chinese visa, you will not be allowed to enter China, you will be fined, and you will be subject to immediate deportation. U.S. citizens traveling to China may apply for up to a one-year multiple-entry visa. Check your U.S. passport before applying for a visa to make sure that it has one year or more validity remaining; otherwise, you may be issued a visa for less than the time you request. The Chinese Embassy and consulates general in the United States do not always issue maximum validity visas even if requested to do so. A multiple-entry visa is essential if you plan to re-enter China, especially if you plan to visit either Hong Kong or Macau and return to China. China has recently instituted new supporting document requirements for tourist (L) visas. Visit the website of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for the most current visa information.
Many regions, such as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other remote areas, require special permits for tourist travel. Permits are not always granted, as during certain times the PRC may not allow foreigners to enter an area it deems restricted. The easiest way to apply for the appropriate permit is through a local Chinese travel agent. Permits usually cost approximately RMB 200, are single-entry, and are valid for a maximum of three months. The TAR remains a sensitive area for travel, and even when travel to Tibet is allowed, usually only Lhasa and part of Shan Nan are open to foreigners. If you do enter a restricted area without the requisite permit, you could be fined, taken into custody, and deported for illegal entry. A Border Travel Permit (bianfangzheng) is required for travel in and around the TAR and the Nepal border area. Applications for the permit are made at the Public Security Bureau’s office in Lhasa. To learn more about specific entry requirements for restricted areas, check with the Visa Office of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States by telephone (202) 338-6688 between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, fax (202) 588-9760, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
China no longer restricts tourists with HIV from visiting, but will not issue them residence permits. Please verify the restrictions with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of Chinabefore you travel.
For information about U.S. customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China’s websitealso has a list of other available services and frequently-asked visa questions with links to their consulates general in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
Upon Arrival: Once you are in China, the PRC expects you to comply with the requirements of your visa. For example, if you are on a tourist visa, you are not allowed to work; if you are on a work visa, you typically cannot become a full-time student. It is difficult to change or renew your visa within China. Visitors cannot change tourist (L) and exchange (F) visas to other visa types. Entry and exit requirements are strictly enforced. Police, school administrators, airline and train officials, and hotel staff may check your visa to make sure you have not overstayed. You will typically not be allowed to check into a hotel or travel by plane or on some trains if your visa has expired, and you may be taken into custody. If you intentionally or inadvertently violate the terms of your Chinese visa, including staying after your visa has expired, you may be charged a RMB 500 fine per day up to a maximum of RMB 5,000, experience departure delays, and face possible detention.
Whether you are traveling to or living in China, you must register with the police within 24 hours of your arrival in the country. Even foreigners with residence permits are required to register after each re-entry. If you are staying in a hotel, the staff will automatically register you. However, if you are staying in a private home with family or friends, you should take your passport to the local police station to register. Failure to do so could result in fines and detention. Chinese law requires that you carry a valid U.S. passport and Chinese visa or residence permit at all times. If you are visiting China, you should carry your passport with you, out of reach of pickpockets. If you live in China and have a residence permit, you should carry that document and leave your passport in a secure location, except when traveling.
Some parts of China are off limits or accessible only if you travel with an organized tour. You should always use common sense and avoid unlawful entry to sensitive areas, including military zones or bases and places where there is current civil unrest. If problems arise, the U.S. Embassy has limited ability to provide assistance. The Chinese government will not usually authorize the travel of U.S. government personnel to Tibet or areas where there is civil unrest, even to provide consular assistance to U.S. citizens.
Leaving China: You must have a valid visa not only to enter China, but also to leave China. If your visa has expired or if you lose your passport while you are in China, immigration authorities will not permit you to exit the country until you receive a new visa. The time it takes to get a visa replaced varies depending on where you are in China; however, in Beijing, it can take at least one week from the date of application, regardless of your previously-scheduled departure date. You should not expect the Chinese visa renewal or replacement process to be expedited to meet your travel schedule.
When you overstay in China, you may be detained for various amounts of time, as well as fined up to RMB 5000. You must apply for a visa extension from the Entry/Exit Bureau before attempting to leave the country.
If your passport is lost or stolen in China, you will need to replace both the U.S. passport and the Chinese visa. The first step in this process is to immediately report the loss or theft of your passport to the Chinese authorities and obtain a report.. Reporting regulations vary from place to place in China. For instance, if you lose your passport in Beijing, the local authorities will require you to file a police report at the local police station before they will issue a replacement visa in your new passport, while in Shanghai you must report the loss to the Entry/Exit Bureau. In Chengdu and Chongqing, the local authorities will require you to file a report first with your local police station and then with your local Entry/Exit Bureau. Once you report the loss and are given a copy of the report, you will need to come into the U.S.Embassy or a consulate general to apply for a new U.S. passport. Once you have the passport, you will need to take it to the local Entry and Exit Bureau to obtain a replacement Chinese visa.
U.S. citizens named (or whose businesses are named) as respondents in civil suits are often barred from leaving China pending resolution of the case. More information regarding business disputes and exit bans can be found in the the SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES section.
Transiting China: In general, if you are travelling through China en route to another country, you do not need a visa, as long as you stay in China less than 24 hours and do not leave the airport. If, however, you are a transit passenger and have more than one stopover in China, you must exit the transit lounge at the first stop to apply for an endorsement in your passport that permits multiple stops in China. As long as you have a ticket that continues on to an international destination, the endorsement should be routine.
If Shanghai Pudong airport is your international transit point, you may stay in Shanghai for 48 hours if you have a valid passport, a visa for your destination, and an onward plane ticket. Make sure you get an endorsement stamp at the immigration desk before you leave the airport.
Dual Nationality: China does not recognize dual nationality. Chinese authorities recognize the U.S. citizenship only of persons who enter China using a Chinese visa in a U.S. passport. If you use any other type of travel document to enter China, the Chinese government will likely not permit the U.S. Embassy or consulates general in China to provide you with consular assistance. For example, when U.S. citizens who have entered China using non-U.S. passports are arrested, the Government of China will neither notify the U.S. mission of their detention, nor allow U.S. consular officers to visit them while they are detained. If you are a dual national with valid U.S. and Chinese passports, you should take care in determining which passport to use to enter and exit China.
Chinese authorities generally consider a child born in China to be a Chinese citizen if one parent is a Chinese national, even if the child is issued a U.S. passport while in China. In such cases, prior to departing China with your child, you should contact the local Public Security Bureau and/or Entry-Exit Bureau for information on obtaining a travel document.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: For most visitors, China remains a very safe country. Petty street crime is the most common safety concern for U.S. citizens in China. However, business disputes between U.S. citizens and Chinese business partners can result in a physical confrontation or kidnapping.
Some parts of the country are restricted or you may need a special permit to travel there. Please keep in mind that you are a guest in a foreign country where U.S. laws do not apply. You are subject to Chinese law and legal procedures.
Violent crime is not common in China, but violent demonstrations can erupt without warning, and in past years there have been some fatal bombings and explosions which could pose a random threat to foreign visitors in the area. The vast majority of these local incidents are related to disputes over land seizures, social issues, employment disputes, environmental problems, or conflicts involving ethnic minorities. Some incidents have become large-scale and involved criminal activity, including hostage taking and vandalism.
Stay up to date:
CRIME: When visiting China, you should always take routine safety precautions and pay attention to your surroundings. Petty theft remains the most prevalent type of crime encountered. Pickpockets target tourists at sightseeing destinations, airports, crowded subways, markets, and stores. Make sure you guard your passport and wallet, as most incidents tend to involve items kept in back pockets, backpacks, or bags/purses swung over a shoulder or set down in a taxi, another vehicle, a restaurant, or a shop.
Narcotics-related crimes and use are also on the rise in China. Chinese law enforcement authorities have little tolerance for illegal drugs, and they periodically conduct widespread sweeps of bar and nightclub districts, targeting narcotics distributors and drug users. Expatriates from various countries have been detained in such police actions.
Con artists targeting visitors are also common in popular tourist sites. A common scam involves younger Chinese “English students,” often women or a couple, offering a local tour and an invitation to tea at a nearby restaurant. When the bill comes, the restaurant owners force victims to pay an exorbitant bill before they can leave the premises.
Taxi drivers, especially at airports, sometimes target arriving travelers, refusing to use the meter or claiming they are a limousine and can charge higher fares. Always have the name of your destination written in Chinese to show the driver, and get a receipt when you arrive at your destination. It is a good practice to keep valuables such as purses, camera bags, and computer cases next to you or in your lap rather than in a less-accessible area of the taxi. Ask the driver to remove the bags from the trunk before you get out of the taxi and before you pay, so he cannot drive away with your luggage.
Do not buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States; if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law. Some U.S. citizens report that items purchased, even at state-owned or museum stores, believed to be antiques or genuine gems are later determined to be reproductions.
Counterfeit currency is a significant concern in China. Cab drivers and businesses have given many people, not just tourists, counterfeit currency. Carrying small bills or using exact change, particularly in taxis, can help protect you. Some merchants will switch a large bill with a counterfeit bill and return it to you, claiming that you passed them the counterfeit bill. If you must pay with RMB 100 bills, it may be useful to note the last few serial numbers before paying in case they get switched. There have been cases of people receiving counterfeit bills from free-standing ATMs. Use only ATMs at financial institutions or those recommended by your hotel.
Political protest is not legal or permitted in China and is rarely encountered by foreigners. Travelers who have attempted to engage in political protest activities in public places have been deported quickly, in some cases at their own expense, usually before the U.S. Embassy is aware of the situation.
Participating in unauthorized political activities or protests against Chinese policy in China may result in lengthy detentions and may impact your eligibility for future visas to visit China. Foreigners engaging in pro-Falun Gong or pro-Tibetan activities have been detained or immediately deported from China, usually at their own expense, after being questioned. Several reported they were subject to interrogations and were physically abused during detention. In addition, some alleged that personal property, including clothing, cameras, and computers, was not returned.
U.S. citizens have been detained and expelled for distributing religious literature. Chinese customs authorities have enforced strict regulations concerning the importation of religious literature, including Bibles. If you bring religious literature with you, it should be a "reasonable amount” for your personal use only. If you attempt to bring larger quantities, the literature will likely be confiscated and you may be fined, detained, or deported.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in China is “110”; however, very few English speakers staff this hotline. Please note that the local police can be reached only by calling “110” from the location where the crime occurred. Remember that if your passport is stolen, you must not only apply for a new passport at the U.S. Embassy or consulate but must also apply for a new visa. To receive the new visa, Chinese visa officials may require that you file a police report about your stolen passport at the police station nearest to where the theft occurred. You may also be directed to file a report at the local Entry/Exit Bureau as well. If someone steals your passport, save yourself possible inconvenience by filing the police report right away.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in China, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in China, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not wherever you go.
China gives the police the authority to detain and deport foreigners for a wide variety of reasons, including engaging in prohibited religious activities and soliciting prostitutes. If you do not have your passport with you, you may be taken in for questioning. China has strict laws against driving under the influence of alcohol that can lead to immediate detention on a criminal charge.
If you are arrested in China, the U.S.-China Consular Convention requires Chinese authorities to notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate general of your arrest within four days. Typically, the police will not allow anyone other than a consular officer to visit you during your initial detention period, including your family or even an attorney. Bail is rarely granted in China, and you can be subject to detention for many months before being granted a trial. Please see the section on DUAL NATIONALITY for the limits on consular notification and access in the cases of persons who hold dual nationality.
North Korea: China shares a lengthy border with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea or DPRK), a country with which the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations. If you cross into North Korea, even inadvertently, you will become subject to North Korean law. For further information about travel to North Korea, consult the North Korea Country Specific Information webpage and the Travel Warning for North Korea.
Commercial Disputes: If you or your company becomes involved in a civil business dispute in China, the Chinese government may prohibit you from leaving China, without advance notice, and until the matter is resolved under Chinese law. There are cases of U.S. citizens being prevented from leaving China for months and even years while civil cases are pending. In some cases, defendants have even been put into police custody pending resolution of their civil cases. Some local businesspeople who feel that they have been wronged by a foreign business partner may hire "debt collectors” to harass and intimidate the foreigner or his/her family in hopes of collecting the debt. Foreign managers or company owners have in some cases been physically detained as leverage during dispute negotiations. The Embassy and consulates general can provide a list of local attorneys who can be hired to provide counsel. For information on commercial contracts and disputes and for general assistance , please consult the U.S. Commercial Service website for China.
Surveillance and Monitoring: Security personnel carefully watch foreign visitors and may place you under surveillance. Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage, and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and personal possessions in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge. Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other business-sensitive information may be taken and shared with local interests.
Natural gas: U.S. citizens who rent apartments with gas appliances should be aware that, in some areas, natural gas is not scented to warn occupants of gas leaks or concentrations. In addition, heaters may not always be well vented, allowing excess carbon monoxide to build up in living spaces. Fatal accidents involving U.S. citizens have occurred. If you plan to live in China, you should ensure all gas appliances are properly vented or install gas and carbon monoxide detectors in your residence. These devices are not widely available in China, and if possible, you should purchase them prior to your arrival.
Cell phones: In China, most people use cell phones for calls and SMS messaging. Telephones and SIM cards are widely available, and minutes can be purchased at many convenience stores. Vendors require identification from anyone purchasing a SIM card, and the purchaser’s identity is registered with the government.
Internet access: The Internet is used widely throughout China. Most hotels, even in remote areas, offer Internet access, often for a fee. Low-cost cyber cafes or Internet bars are widely available and are often open 24 hours a day. You may have to show your passport and have your photo taken before you can log on. Many websites are blocked, including social networking sites such as Facebook, and you can expect that your Internet activity may be monitored.
Contracts: Anyone entering into a commercial or employment contract in China should first have it reviewed by legal counsel, both in the United States and in China. The U.S. Foreign Commercial Servicecan assist you in identifying and vetting business contacts and opportunities. Many U.S. citizens have reported difficulty getting their contracts enforced by Chinese courts, and others have reported being forced out of profitable joint ventures and being unable to secure legal recourse in China. If you or your company are the subject of a court order requiring you to pay a settlement in a legal case, failure to make this payment may result in an exit ban which will prohibit your departure from China until payment is made.
English/Secondary School Teachers: English teachers in China frequently report being recruited through misrepresentations or having contract disputes which can result in termination, lost wages, having school authorities confiscate their passports, forced eviction from housing, and even threats of violence. It is important to research the school at which you will be teaching and also to make sure that you have the proper visa to legally teach English in China. Do not accept a one-way airline ticket from a school to teach English in China, as some U.S. citizens have reported that the school never provided their airfare home. If you do have a dispute with your school, you may wish to consult with or hire a local attorney; seek assistance from the police if your safety is threatened. Prospective teachers are encouraged to read the Teaching in China Guideon the U.S. Embassy's American Citizen Services website.
Social Insurance: China has a social insurance system to which foreigners who work in China must contribute. When you sign an employment contract, you must apply for a social insurance number, and it is important that your employer work with you to comply with the regulations. Please check the official website for updated information.
Air Quality in China: Air pollution is a significant problem in many cities and regions in China. Pollutants such as particle pollution and ozone are linked to a number of significant health effects, and those effects are likely to be more severe for sensitive populations, including people with heart or lung disease, children, and older adults. While the quality of air can differ greatly between cities or between urban and rural areas, U.S. citizens living in or traveling to China may wish to consult their doctor when living in or prior to traveling to areas with significant air pollution.
The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection provides its own air quality data for cities throughout China. You can view the information at http://english.mep.gov.cn.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai make air quality data available to
the U.S. citizen community. View these data from the following links:
*U.S. Embassy Beijing air quality data: http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/070109air.html
*U.S. Consulate in Chengdu air quality data: http://chengdu.usembassy-china.org.cn/air-quality-monitor4.html
*U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou air quality data: http://guangzhou.usembassy-china.org.cn/guangzhou-air-quality-monitor.html
*U.S. Consulate in Shanghai air quality data: http://shanghai.usembassy-china.org.cn/airmonitor.html
Typhoons: The southeast coast of China is subject to strong typhoons and tropical storms, usually from July through September. For current information about typhoons and tropical storms, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu and the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Earthquakes: China is a seismically active country, and earthquakes occur throughout the country. Notable earthquakes include one in Qinghai in 2010 in which 3,000 people were killed and a major quake in Sichuan in 2008 when more than 87,000 people perished. U.S. citizens should make contingency plans and leave emergency contact information with family members outside of China. Check here for information about earthquake preparedness, and general information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Accessibility: While in China, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Standards adopted for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the Law on the Handicapped, which calls for their "gradual" implementation; however, compliance with the law is lax. Even in newer areas of large cities, sidewalks often do not have curb cuts, making wheelchair or stroller use difficult. Many large streets can be crossed only via overhead pedestrian bridges not accessible except by staircase. Although some sidewalks have special raised “buttons” or strips to help those who are blind or have restricted sight to follow the pavement, they are unreliable. While most public buildings have elevators, they are often locked, and the responsible official with the key must be located before they can be used.
In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one handicap-accessible toilet. International signage is used to identify handicap-accessible facilities. Free or reduced-entry fares on public transportation are sometimes provided for a handicapped person and a companion, although this is usually stated only in Chinese and is often restricted to residents with special identification cards.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The standards of medical care in China are not equivalent to those in the United States. If you plan to travel outside of major Chinese cities, you should consider making special preparations.
Travelers have reported difficulty passing through customs inspection when arriving with large quantities of prescription medications. If you regularly take over-the-counter or prescription medication, bring your own supply in the original container, including each drug's generic name, and carry the doctor’s prescription with you. Many commonly-used U.S. drugs and medications are not available in China, and some that bear names that are the same as or similar to prescription medications from the United States may not contain the same ingredients or may be counterfeit. If you try to have medications sent to you from outside China, you may have problems getting them released by Chinese Customs and/or you may have to pay high customs duties.
Reuse of medical supplies such as syringes and needles or poor sterilization practices are problems in China, contributing to transmission of diseases such as hepatitis, which is endemic in China. To avoid contamination, travelers should always ask doctors and dentists to use sterilized equipment and be prepared to pay for new syringe needles in hospitals or clinics.
In emergencies, Chinese ambulances are often slow to arrive, and most do not have sophisticated medical equipment or trained responders. In most parts of China, helicopter evacuations are not commercially available. Many travelers choose to take taxis or other vehicles to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for ambulances to arrive. Most hospitals demand cash payment or a deposit in advance for admission, procedures, or emergencies, although a few hospitals in major cities may accept credit cards.
Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and a few other large cities have medical facilities with some international staff. Many hospitals in major Chinese cities have so-called VIP wards (gaogan bingfang). Most VIP wards provide medical services to foreigners and have some English-speaking staff. However, even in the VIP/foreigner wards of major hospitals, you may have difficulty due to cultural, language, and regulatory differences. In China, it is customary for patients’ families to help care for them in the hospital and to supply their toiletries, paper supplies, and meals. Hospitals often refuse to perform surgery or administer treatment without the written consent of the patient’s family, even if they are not in China, and doctors frequently will only tell the family members the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis, but will not discuss it with the patient. Physicians and hospitals sometimes refuse to give U.S. patients copies of their Chinese hospital medical records, including laboratory test results, scans, and x-rays.
Mental health facilities or medications are not widely available in China. If you are traveling to or studying abroad in China, before you go, put a plan in place for managing your mental health.
In most rural areas, only rudimentary medical facilities are available, often with poorly trained personnel who have little medical equipment and medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to accept responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.
If you elect to have surgery or other medical services performed in China, be aware that there is little legal recourse to protect you in case of medical malpractice. The U.S. Embassy and consulates general in China maintain lists of local English-speaking doctors and hospitals, which are published on their respective American Citizens Services web pages.
Most roads and towns in Tibet, Qinghai, parts of Xinjiang, and western Sichuan are situated at altitudes over 10,000 feet. If you plan to travel in these areas, you should seek medical advice in advance of travel, allow time for acclimatization to the high altitude, and remain alert to signs of altitude sickness. Air pollution is also a significant problem throughout China, and you should consult your doctor prior to travel and consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. Please note that the CDC recommends that travelers to China ensure that their polio vaccinations are up to date. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. Tuberculosis is also an increasingly serious health concern in China. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
HIV is a significant concern in China. An estimated quarter of a million people in China are living with HIV, most of whom are not aware of their status. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service and may not begin treatment without payment or may discontinue treatment if you become unable to pay. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not cover you when you are abroad, it might be a good idea to take out another one that covers you for the duration of your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in China, you will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Rules, regulations, and conditions vary greatly throughout China, but a general rule of thumb is that traffic safety is poor and driving in China can be dangerous.
Traffic is chaotic and largely unregulated, and right-of-way and other courtesies are usually ignored. The average Chinese driver has fewer than five years’ experience behind the wheel and the rate of traffic accidents in China, including fatal accidents, is among the highest in the world. Cars, bicycles, motorbikes, trucks, and buses often treat road signs and signals as advisory rather than mandatory. Pedestrians never have the right of way, and you should always be careful while travelling in, or even walking near, traffic. Child safety seats are not widely available in China, and most taxis and other cars do not have seat belts in the back seats. Motorcycle and bicycle accidents are frequent and often serious. If you decide to ride a bike or motorcycle, wear a helmet.
You may not drive in China using your U.S. driver’s license or an international license. If you have a resident permit, you can apply for a PRC driver’s license, although regulations for obtaining a license vary from province to province. Liability issues and the difficulty of passing the driver’s test may make it preferable to employ a local driver.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, stay calm; road altercations sometimes turn violent quickly. The safest course is to call the police and wait for them. Even minor traffic accidents can become major public dramas. In some instances bystanders have surrounded accident scenes and nominated themselves to be an ad hoc jury. The parties involved in an accident may offer money to the crowd in exchange for favorable consideration. If there are no injuries and damage is minimal, the parties often come to agreement on the spot. If no agreement is reached and the police are called, the police may mediate or conduct an on-site investigation requiring those involved to come to the police station to sign statements. Unresolved disputes are handled by the courts. In cases where there are injuries, the driver whose vehicle is determined to have inflicted the injury will often be held at least partially liable for the injured person’s medical costs regardless of actual responsibility for the accident. Many foreigners have been involved in incidents where the victims appear to have purposely caused accidents and claimed to have been injured in order to get payment for their supposed damages and medical care. When foreigners are involved in an accident, the police will sometimes hold their passports until the other parties are satisfied with the compensation they receive.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of China’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of China’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for China dated September 12, 2012, to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.Back to Top