It’s easy to forget the size and scope of China until you’re in it.As a result, it’s no surprise the country’s culture, geography, and cuisine are so diverse. From the subtropical bamboo rainforests of Sichuan Province to the arid deserts of Inner Mongolia to the rice paddy terraces of Yunnan Province, you can spend months in China and only see a small slice of what the country has to offer. Good thing there are many delicious dumplings, spicy Sichuan dishes, and roast duck dinners to provide the fuel for further explorations.
China’s ancient practises are slowly becoming a thing of the past, through the country’s immense history is still honoured through popular tourist destinations such as the Terracotta Warriors, the Yungang Grottoes, and Beijing’s Forbidden City. Eyes now are on the cities, and many Chinese are making the move from the rural reaches of the country into some of the world’s most populous metropolises.
Tourism is increasing in China, and the government is opening more regions and attractions to foreign visitors. According to the World Tourism Organization, China is set to become the world’s largest tourist country by 2020. Given the language barrier and restrictions that remain on travel, China can still be a challenging place to navigate, and most tourists opt for guided tours when visiting.
There’s no doubt about it – China is changing fast, and the country you visit today will likely look very different in a few short years.
Based on personal medical history and advice from the Public Health Agency, the following vaccinations are recommended for travel to China:
- Japanese Encephalitis: This virus occurs in almost all Asian countries, including parts of China. Vaccination is recommended for those spending extended periods of time outside and in parts of southern China where irrigation is done through flooding.
- Rabies: Rabies is spread through the saliva or scratch of an infected animal. China has the one of the highest number of reported Rabies cases in the world, and vaccination is recommended for travel.
- Polio: Though the last Polio case was reported in China in 1994, the country borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, two countries where the virus is still an endemic. Ensure your vaccination is up-to-date.
- Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is spread to humans through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. This shot is recommended especially if you plan to sample some of China’s many street food offerings.
- Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease commonly spread through sexual intercourse, exchange of body fluids, use of an infected needle, or piercing tools.
Malaria is a low risk to most travellers visiting China, however mosquitoes infected with the virus are found in the southern Yunnan Province, particularly near the China-Myanmar border. In all other areas, caution against mosquito bites is recommended.
There have been human cases of avian influenza reported in China since 2013. The majority of cases occur in eastern and southeastern parts of the country, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Two Italian travellers contracted avian influenza in January 2015 following a trip to China.
Guidance on these and other possible risks in China vary based on a traveller’s specific itinerary. A travel health specialist at Passport Health will be able to help identify what to be aware of and how bes to prepare for your trip. Schedule your appointment online or call us at to start your adventure today!
The climate in China is variable based on your destination and time of travel. Here is what you can expect in a few of China’s most popular tourist destinations:
Beijing experiences hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. During the winter, the temperature hovers around the -8º Celsius mark, with summer temperatures reaching up to 30º Celsius. June until August is the rainiest season in Beijing.
Xi’an has a temperate climate with hot and humid summers, cold and dry winters, and a relatively dry spring and autumn season. Most rain falls from July to late October, and short thunderstorm bursts often occur in the summer months. Temperatures in the summer reach 30º Celsius and drop to -18º Celsius in the winter months.
Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate that causes four distinctive seasons. Winters are cold and damp, though there is often very little snowfall. Summers are humid, and spring and autumn are considered the best times of year to visit.
Chengdu has a humid subtropical climate which can range from 2º Celsius in the winter to 28º Celsius in the summer months. Rainfall is common year round, but especially in July and August.
Hong Kong has hot and humid summers with the occasional typhoon that can cause landslides and flooding. Winter is generally mild though clouds and wind can sweep in from the north around February. Temperatures in Hong Kong have never dropped below freezing and the average summertime high is 31º Celsius.
In addition to packing for the weather, travellers should also consider China’s Air Pollution Index. An index of 200 or higher is considered highly polluted, and is quite common in many Chinese cities. During that time travellers should remain indoors, particularly those with heart and respiratory problems. Face masks are recommended for major cities, and will also help protect travellers from sandstorms that can blow through cities during the spring months.
China is very safe against violent crime, and it’s rare for a foreign tourist to be robbed or raped. Pickpocketing, however, is more common, especially in popular tourist destinations and transit stations.
Most train and subway stations in China have police and bag scanners positioned outside the gates. Expect to have the contents of your water bottle checked and ensure you’re not carrying any sharp items in your bag. For the most part, security officials are primarily checking for domestic terrorism threats and will not question foreigners.
Domestic terrorism is a threat in the Xinjiang Uyghur region, the westernmost part of China. Political and religious conflict have led to gun, knife, and explosive violence in recent years. Public demonstrations and certain religious activities are not permitted in China and may result in detention, deportation, and imprisonment.
One of the largest safety threats in China is the traffic. The cars, buses, and motorbikes barrelling down the road have the tendency to disobey traffic signals, and unlike in Italy, pedestrians do not have the right of way. Exercise caution when crossing the street, and follow the “power in numbers” tactic – if a large group of people have decided to cross the road, chances are it is safe to follow.
A good general safety tip when navigating a new city is to ask your accommodation for a business card written in both Chinese and English – you can show this card to a taxi driver or store clerk in case you get lost.
Expect to bump up against some restrictions if you’re trying to search health and safety information while in China. Google and its nested platforms (Gmail, Google Maps, etc.) are blocked in China, and Internet browsers will automatically direct you to a local, Chinese-language search engine. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are also blocked in the country. To ensure you can stay up-to-date with the latest travel information, considering downloading or purchase a Virtual Private Network (VPN) package for your smartphone or laptop, which will usually allow you to blocked sites.
In addition to your clothing, guidebook, and any medication recommended by your Passport Health Travel Specialist, here are a few additional items you should consider packing:
- Face mask: Pollution and sandstorms are an issue in China. Buying a mask at home is recommended, and you should look for one that has an N95 rating or higher, meaning it will filter out 95% of airborne particles. Cotton and surgical masks will not provide sufficient protection, and any mask you buy should be tight-fitting to your face.
- Thermos for hot water: Almost all hotels, transit stations, and trains will have a free hot water tank where travellers can fill up a thermos of tea or a bowl of soup noodles. Drinking boiled water will also ensure all bacteria has been killed.
- Sanitary wipes and toilet paper: Some washrooms in China, particularly in rural regions, leave something to be desired. Expect basic squat toilets outside of cities, where you will have to bring your own tissue. There isn’t always running water in facilities and sanitary wipes or hand sanitizer will help you stay healthy and clean.
- Minimal luggage: China isn’t always the most accessible of places, and a lack of escalators and elevators in subway stations, combined with the large amount of people can make wheeling around a suitcase a challenge.
- Comfortable shoes and sandals: Chances are at least one part of your trip will involve a large amount of walking – whether it’s traversing the Great Wall or exploring one of Hong Kong’s islands, good shoes are essential. Sturdy sandals can also be nice for warmer days and for use as shower sandals in budget accommodation.
All Italians visiting China should register with the Embassy before departure. This will inform the office of your travel plans within the country and will allow them to reach out to you in the case of an emergency or evacuation. If you plan to purchase a local SIM card you can also enter your phone number to receive SMS updates from the office.
Ambasciata d'Italia a Pechino
San Li Tun Dong Er Jie, Nr. 2 - 100600 Pechino
Repubblica Popolare Cinese
Tel.: +86 10 8532.7600
Visit the Embassy website prior to your departure.
It’s very important that all Italians travelling to China apply for an entry visa well in advance of departure. To do so, travellers need a passport that is valid for at least six months. There are Chinese Visa Application Service Centres where you can have your application processed in-person.
To apply for a Chinese visa travellers must provide an extensive list of documents, including: confirmed inward and outward tickets to China, address of accommodation upon arrival, and itinerary details or contact information for tour group. Upon arriving in China, every traveller is required to register at the accommodation listed on their arrival card. Hotels and most hostels will do this as part of check in.
Italian travellers can receive a free 72-hour transit visa when flying into a number of major cities, including Beijing, Chengdu, Dalian, and Xi’an. To be eligible for this transit visa, travellers must have an onward ticket confirmed within 72 hours of landing in China.
Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions (SAR) and travellers can receive a landing slip upon arrival at the airport. The landing slip is valid for 90 days in Hong Kong and 30 days in Macau for Canadian travellers.
If you have any questions about travelling to China or are wondering what shots you may need for your trip, schedule an appointment with your local Internationl Health Passport Travel Clinic today or call +39 392 0056499.