Expat Information Guide About Travel To China

Traveling to China is a great opportunity for any expat who wants to get to experience the majestic culture and history of an ancient nation firsthand. This guide will provide useful information for expats hoping to make the journey. As an overview, expats should know that Chinese visa regulations are generally more stringent than in many other countries, and the need to understand the language can be challenging.

Visa regulations in China can be quite complex for an expat who is hoping to go to the country for an extended period of time. The visa categories available include tourist, business, working, study, and family visit visas. Obtaining a visa in China can take up to four months, and it is important to do your research beforehand to make sure you have the correct documents. Expat forums and websites are a great source of information.

In order to apply properly for a visa, an expat needs to have documents such as a valid passport, birth certificate, recommendation letters, and other supporting documents. Additionally, it’s important to note that individual cases could differ, so consulting a lawyer about the visa process could be wise. Visa prices will depend on the category and the duration of the stay.

A major consideration for any expat wanting to travel to China is the language barrier. Even though most people in urban areas speak English, many people in more remote parts of the country may only be able to communicate in Chinese. As such, it is a good idea to learn some key phrases in Chinese, or to make sure you have someone who can speak the language when you travel.

When it comes to finding accommodation, expats can consider staying in a hotel, renting an apartment, or finding a homestay with a local family. Hotels and apartments are easy to find in big cities and, depending on the region, prices can range from very expensive to quite affordable. However, one of the best ways to get to know the local culture is to find a homestay and live like a local.

Healthcare is another important factor to consider when planning a trip to China. Basic medical care is available in most cities, but there are differences in standards between cities. For important medical care it’s recommended to make sure you are covered and that you have your National Health Service card if you are from the UK.

In terms of safety, it’s important to remember that city centers can be heavily crowded, but generally crime levels are low. The best rule of thumb is to be aware of your surroundings, and to exercise common sense. Pick-pocketing and scams are common in some cities, so it’s best to be vigilant. Tourists should generally avoid traveling alone and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

Overall, with some basic precautions and research it’s possible for any expat to make a comfortable and worthwhile trip to China. There are so many places to explore and a huge diversity of cultures, landscapes, and attractions.


Public transportation in China is generally quite reliable, with high-speed trains connecting major cities. For intercity travel there are buses, trains, planes and boats available. Air travel is the most convenient, especially for longer distances, while high-speed trains may be the most cost-effective. Of course, expats may also choose to rent a car, although this might be a more expensive option.

Furthermore, getting around big cities can be quite easy, as there are a variety of transportation options, including buses, metro, and taxis. Fares are usually very cheap and the public transportation systems are quite efficient. Expats should also be aware that traffic rules are not always strictly enforced, even though safety standards are generally quite good.

Finally, when traveling to small towns or rural areas, expats may find that the public transportation options are limited. As such, it’s best to do some research in advance and to plan your route carefully.

Money and Banking

When traveling to China, it’s important to have a plan for managing your finances. Since the official currency of China is the Chinese Yuan (CNY), expats will need to make sure they have some cash with them when they arrive. Exchange rates in cities are generally quite competitive, and there are convenient ATM machines in many major cities. Expats should keep in mind that some banks may have withdrawal limits, so it is a good idea to have a backup plan.

Another important consideration for managing finances is banking. Expats will need to find a bank that is suited to their needs. Additionally, many banks in China require that their customers show a valid work contract, visa, and residence permit before opening an account. As such, it is best to look for a bank that specifically provides services to foreign customers.

Finally, when it comes to making payments, credit cards are widely accepted at most stores in the bigger cities. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are all widely accepted. But when it comes to making payments in smaller towns or rural areas, cash is often the only option. It is a good idea to carry sufficient cash with you in those situations.

Food and Dining

Food in China is a big part of the culture, and there is an almost infinite number of dishes to try. Some of the most popular dishes include kung pao chicken, Beijing roast duck, dumplings, and hot pot. Expats should be sure to sample these dishes if they have the chance. Additionally, vegetarian options are available in many restaurants.

When it comes to dining, etiquette can be somewhat different from what expats may be used to. Generally, it is polite to accept any food that is served, even if it is not to your taste. Additionally, diners are expected to taste everything that is served. However, once the food has been tasted, it is acceptable to refuse more if there is too much.

Furthermore, it is normal for the bill to be split between everyone at the table. In some cases, the host may take care of the bill, and this should be taken as a sign of respect. Finally, it is considered rude to leave a mess at the table, so try to leave the table as you found it.

Holidays and Celebrations

China has some holidays and celebrations that could be an interesting part of an expat’s experience. Every year, the Lunar New Year (Spring Festival) is celebrated in mid-February and is one of the biggest celebrations in the country. Public holidays in China include Tomb Sweeping Day, National Day, Autumnal Equinox, and Dragon Boat Festival. Each of these holidays may include specific rituals and should be celebrated with respect and reverence.

Additionally, Chinese festivals such as the Lantern Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival are celebrated on specific days of the year. The Lantern Festival marks the hearing of Spring, and is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The Dragon Boat Festival is recognized as one of the oldest festivals, and is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. Finally, the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.

Attending these festivals is a great opportunity to get a better understanding of Chinese culture. This said, it’s important to remember that these are celebrations which are deeply ingrained in the culture, and expats should make sure to treat them with respect.

Sightseeing and Attractions

There are many sights and attractions to explore in China, from bustling cities to majestic urban parks to mystical mountains. Some of the top attractions include the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City in Beijing, and Yu Garden in Shanghai. Expats may also want to visit the stunning Buddhist temples and monasteries.

In terms of cities themselves, there are several ranging from small towns to metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing. Expats can find anything they may be looking for, from modern shopping malls to narrow alleyways with centuries-old homes. A walk around the Hutongs of Beijing is a great way to explore the culture and to learn about the history of the city.

Finally, outdoor adventurers will not be disappointed by the beautiful mountains, rivers, and lakes of China. From the natural phenomenon of the Yellow Mountains to the stunning beauty of the Yangtze River, there is something for everyone. The dramatic beauty of the mountains and the tranquil waters of the rivers make for some unforgettable experiences.

Bernice Sorrells

Bernice A. Sorrells is a freelance journalist and travel writer from the United States. She has written extensively about China, covering topics such as culture, history, politics, and economics. Bernice has traveled extensively throughout China, visiting many of its provinces and cities.

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