State Department Guidelines For Travel To China

Traveling to China

China is a 7.7 million square mile country in East Asia with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people as of 2020. It is the second most populous country in the world after India and the most populous in terms of population density. For travelers, the Chinese government has certain measures in place and American citizens should follow them in order to ensure a safe and successful journey in the country.

Entry Requirements and Tips

The U.S. Department of State has a few guidelines in place for travelers to China. All American citizens must obtain a valid passport and Chinese visa before they can enter the country. Without the visa, Americans are not permitted to enter China. U.S. citizens must also have a valid tourist visa to remain in the country for more than 180 days with proof of hotel reservation. For U.S. citizens under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must accompany them at all times during their trip.
It is also crucial that American travelers carry a printed copy of their valid passport and visa at all times while in China. Chinese officials have a right to ask for this information at any time and if there is a mismatch between the passport and the visa, American citizens may be subject to detention or fines.

Safety Considerations

Some areas of China, especially western regions, may not be as regulated as Eastern cities. American citizens should conduct proper research on the region they are visiting in order to understand basic safety do’s and don’ts. Also, due to high levels of air pollution in some areas, travelers must keep their physical health in mind during their trip. Furthermore, U.S. citizens must take special care of their belongings when they are outside.

Culture and Customs

Chinese culture is ancient and deeply rooted in traditions and good manners. It is customary to greet people with a bow or nod of the head – a sign of respect. Similarly, Chinese citizens are extremely hospitable and take immense pride in hosting their guests. This hospitality should be returned in kind.
American travelers should also be aware that it is common for Chinese citizens to not accept gifts on the first offer. This is a sign of respect and politeness. Additionally, it is prohibited to take pictures of military personnel and facilities as well as some religious or cultural sites that may be considered sacred.

Travel Rules and Regulations

U.S. citizens are not allowed to travel to China without a valid passport and visa. Furthermore, U.S. citizens should also be mindful of the current political situation and be prepared for changes in security levels. When it comes to health and safety, travelers should be cautious and vigilant of their surroundings, especially in busy areas. American citizens should respect Chinese customs and only take pictures at places where it is permissible.

Do’s and Don’ts

When traveling to China, American citizens should be aware of certain regulations and cultural rules. It is important to speak in a respectful tone and keep composure even if they feel frustrated. It is important to remember that taking pictures of military personnel or facilities or religious sites is strictly prohibited. Furthermore, China has certain traditions when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. It is a sign of politeness and respect to not accept gifts on the first offer.

Understanding Chinese Cuisine

Chinese cuisine is known for its variety and diverse range of flavors. Traditional Chinese dishes are based on the principles of balance, color, and taste. Chinese chefs make use of a wide range of ingredients such as meat, seafood, rice, vegetables, sauces, and spices. Dishes are often cooked with oils such as soybean and peanut and meats such as pork and chicken. American travelers should make sure to sample the different regional cuisines when in China.

Health Requirements

U.S. citizens traveling to China must be in good health and follow certain health protocol to protect themselves and others. Vaccinations are a must before traveling in order to stay safe from sickness and disease. Travelers should make sure to get vaccinated at least four to six weeks before the trip. It is also important to carry a few over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and anti-diarrheal medications as these can help in emergencies.

Suggested Itinerary

China is full of different attractions for travelers of every sort. Building an itinerary is the best way to make sure that all the major sights are seen and time is managed efficiently. For a rounded experience, it is suggested to divide the trip into two portions – Northern and Southern China. Northern China has traditional cities such as Beijing where one can explore the Forbidden City and the Tiananmen Square. Southern China has cities such as Guangzhou and Hangzhou that boast of majestic mountains and picturesque views.

Finding Accommodation

It is easy to find a suitable and affordable accommodation in China. U.S. citizens must keep in mind that accommodation usually require passports and valid visas. Hotels, hostels, and guesthouses are the best places to look for a comfortable stay. Airbnb and Couchsurfing websites are other options that offer more personalized services. It is best to book hotels in advance in order to save money.


Transportation in China is efficient, affordable, and safe. International visitors can use buses, trains, and planes to get from point A to point B. Planes are the fastest and often the most expensive option. Trains are generally comfortable and cover medium-distance areas. Buses can be a bit cramped, but are the cheaper option for short distances. Renting a vehicle is also an option, however, driving is complicated and requires keen focus.

John Melendez

John J. Melendez is a journalist, author, and commentator specializing in Chinese culture, politics, and international relations. He is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, and is the author of several books on Chinese culture and politics. He currently resides in Beijing, China.

Leave a Comment