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A 2010 study conducted by Forbes magazine ranks Shenzhen's population density as the 5th highest in the world. Shenzhen also boasts the highest per capita GDP in China, pulling in an impressive USD13,581 in 2009, but this is hotly disputed due to the method whereby the population figure is derived. But many observers also point out that, given the preponderance of privately held companies in Shenzhen and the widespread avoidance of tax, it is highly likely that the GDP figure is also severely understated. A walk around Shenzhen's leafy western suburbs will quickly allay any doubts as to the wealth in the city.

Although little visited by international tourists, Shenzhen is a popular destination for Chinese domestic tourists. They were originally attracted by its famous theme parks but as the city has developed and become richer they are increasingly drawn by Shenzhen's famous architecture, shopping, bars, restaurants and active art scene. Shenzhen's beaches have become famous throughout China. In 2006, the Dapeng Peninsula, the location of Shenzhen's best beaches, was nominated by the China National Geographic Magazine as one of the most beautiful coastlines in China. Visitors are also starting to recognize some fascinating historical sites, particularly those related to the Hakka culture and Hong Kong's annexation after the Opium Wars, which are scattered throughout the suburban area.

From a climate perspective, the best time to visit Shenzhen is October to December when the weather is pleasantly cool. Shenzhen has a sub-tropical climate with incredibly high humidity combined with soaring temperatures in the summer. For many, this is a season to avoid. The long intense summer also coincides with the typhoon season from June to October. Spring is cooler but is often afflicted by fog and heavy thunderstorms.







People's Republic of China



Ancient China[edit]

The recorded history of Chinese civilization can be traced to the Yellow River valley, said to be the 'cradle of Chinese civilization'. The Xia Dynasty was the first dynasty to be described in ancient historical chronicles, though to date, no concrete proof of its existence has been found. Nevertheless, archaeological evidence has shown that at the very least, an early bronze age Chinese civilization had developed by the period described.

Shang DynastyZhou DynastySpring and Autumn PeriodWarring States period.

Imperial China[edit]

Qin DynastyHan Dynasty

Three Kingdoms PeriodJin DynastySui

Tang DynastySong DynastyVietnamYuan (Mongol) dynasty

Ming dynastyQing (Manchu) dynasty

The Republic and WWII[edit]

Republic of ChinaKuomintangChinese Communist Party

Japan established a puppet state under the name Manchukuo in Manchuria in 1931, and launched a full-scale invasion of China's heartland in 1937. The Japanese initiated a brutal system of rule in Eastern China, culminating in the Nanjing Massacre of 1937. After fleeing west to Chongqing, the KMT realized the urgency of the situation signed a tenuous agreement with the CCP to form a second united front against the Japanese. With the defeat of Japan in 1945, the KMT and CCP armies maneuvered for positions in north China, setting the stage for the civil war in the years to come. The civil war lasted from 1946 to 1949 and ended with the Kuomintang defeated and sent packing to Taiwan where they hoped to re-establish themselves and recapture the mainland some day.

A Red China[edit]

People's Republic of China

Massive social experiments such as the Hundred Flowers Campaign (百花运动 bǎihuā yùndòng), the Great Leap Forward (大跃进 dàyuèjìn), intended to collectivize and industrialize China quickly, and the Cultural Revolution (无产阶级文化大革命 wúchǎn jiējí wénhuà dà gémìng), aimed at changing everything by discipline, destruction of the "Four Olds," and total dedication to Mao Zedong Thought, rocked China from 1957 to 1976. The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution are generally considered disastrous failures in China. During the Cultural Revolution in particular, China's cultural heritage, including monuments, temples, historical artifacts, and works of literature sustained catastrophic damage at the hands of Red Guard factions. It was only due to the intervention of Zhou Enlai and the PLA that major sites, such as the Potala Palace, the Mogao Caves, and the Forbidden City escaped destruction during the Cultural Revolution.


The country is administratively divided into 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions and 4 directly-controlled municipalities. Each of the provincial governments is given power over the internal, often economic, affairs of their provinces. Autonomous regions are given more freedom than regular provinces, one example of which is the right to declare additional official languages in the region besides Mandarin. In addition, there are the Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of Hong Kong, Macau, and Wolong. Both Hong Kong and Macau have separate legal systems and immigration departments from the mainland, and are given the freedom to enact laws separately from the mainland. Their political systems are more open and directly electoral in nature. Wolong's legal system is limited to nature preservation. Taiwan is also claimed by the PRC as a province, though no part of Taiwan is currently under the control of the PRC. Both governments support re-unification in principle and recently signed a trade pact to closer link their economies, essentially removing the danger of war.

People and Habits[edit]

China is a very diverse place with large variations in culture, language, customs and economic levels. The economic landscape is particularly diverse. The major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai are modern and comparatively wealthy. However, about 50% of Chinese still live in rural areas even though only 10% of China's land is arable. Hundreds of millions of rural residents still farm with manual labour or draft animals. Some 200 to 300 million former peasants have migrated to townships and cities in search of work. Government estimates for 2005 reported that 90 million people lived on less than ¥924 a year and 26 million were under the official poverty line of ¥668 a year. Generally the southern and eastern coastal regions are more wealthy while inland areas, the far west and north, and the southwest are much much less developed.

The cultural landscape is unsurprisingly very diverse given the sheer size of the country. China has 56 officially recognized ethnic groups; the largest by far is the Han which comprise over 90% of the population. The other 55 groups enjoy affirmative action for university admission and exemption from the one-child policy. The Han, however, are far from homogeneous and speak a wide variety of mutually unintelligible local "dialects"; which most linguists actually classify as different languages using more or less the same set of Chinese characters. Many of the minority ethnic groups have their own languages as well. Contrary to popular belief, there is no single unified Han Chinese culture, and while they share certain common elements such as Confucian and Taoist beliefs, the regional variations in culture among the Han ethnic group are actually very diverse. Many customs and deities are specific to individual regions and even villages. Celebrations for the lunar new year and other national festivals vary drastically from region to region. Specific customs related to the celebration of important occasions such as weddings, funerals and births also vary widely. In general contemporary urban Chinese society is rather secular and traditional culture is more of an underlying current in every day life. Among ethnic minorities, the Zhuang, Manchu, Hui and Miao are the largest in size. Other notable ethnic minorities include: Koreans, Tibetans, Mongols, Uighurs, Kirghiz and even Russians. In fact, China is home to the largest Korean population outside Korea and is also home to more ethnic Mongols than the Republic of Mongolia itself. Many minorities have been assimilated to various degrees with the loss of language and customs or a fusing with Han traditions. An exception to this trend is the current situation of the Tibetans and Uighurs in China who remain fiercely defensive of their cultures.

Some behaviours that are quite normal in China may be somewhat jarring and vulgar for foreigners:

  • Spitting: in the street, shops, supermarkets, hotel lobbies, hallways, restaurants, on buses and even in hospitals. Traditional Chinese medical thought believes it is unhealthy to swallow phlegm. Spitting has declined considerably in more developed urban areas like Beijing and Shanghai since the SARS epidemic of 2002. However, in other areas the habit persists to varying degrees, from moderate to ever-present.
  • Smoking: almost anywhere, including areas with "no smoking signs" including health clubs, football pitches and even hospitals. Few restaurants have no smoking areas although Beijing now forbids smoking in most restaurants. Enforcement of smoking bans can vary but with the exception of Hong Kong, they most likely will not be. Lower class establishments often do not even have ashtrays. Western restaurants seem to be the only ones who consistently enforce the ban. Masks would be good idea for long distance bus trips. It is perfectly common for someone to smoke in a lift, restroom, in a massage parlor, even in the hospital. If your country of origin has banned smoking in most public places, then this aspect of China may be shocking.
  • Anyone who does not look Chinese will find that calls of "hello" or "laowai" are common: lǎowài (老外) literally means "old outsider", a colloquial term for "foreigner"; the more formal term is wàiguórén (外国人). Calls of "laowai" are ubiquitous outside of the big cities (and even there, occasionally); these calls will come from just about anyone, of any age, and are even more likely from the very young and can occur many times in any given day. Dark skin discrimination is quite a common issue to deal with in China.
  • Staring: This is common through most of the country. The staring usually originates out of sheer curiosity, almost never out of hostility. Don't be surprised if someone comes right up to you and just looks as if they are watching the TV, no harm done!
  • Drinking: It is quite common for older members to toast younger members when eating. It is considered extremely disrespectful to turn down the toast, even in good faith.
  • Loud conversations, noise, discussions or public arguments: These are very common. Many mainland Chinese speak very loudly in public (including in the early mornings) and it may be one of the first things you notice upon arrival. Loud speech usually does not mean that the speaker is angry or engaged in an argument (although obviously it can). Full-blown fights involving physical violence are not very common, but they do occur. If you witness such an event, leave the vicinity and do not get involved. Foreigners are almost never targets in China and you will either be treated with respect or just ignored provided you don't act recklessly. The majority of violence or disrespect directed towards foreigners comes in the form of passive aggressive comments or in being grossly overcharged for pretty much everything. Noise means life, and China is rooted in a community based culture, so you may want to bring earplugs for long bus or train rides!
  • Pushing, shoving and/or jumping queues: This often occurs anywhere where there are queues, (or lack thereof) particularly at train stations. Again, often there simply are no queues at all. Therefore, queue jumping is a major problem in China. Best bet is to pick a line that looks like its moving or just wait for everyone to get on or off the bus or train first but you may be left behind! Keep in mind that the concept of personal space more or less does not exist in China. It is perfectly common and acceptable behaviour for someone to come in very close contact with you or to bump into you and say nothing. Don't get mad as they will be surprised and most likely won't even understand why you are offended!
  • General disregard of city, provincial and/or national rules, regulations and laws. This includes (among many other things) dangerous and negligent driving, (see Driving in China) that includes excessive speeding, not using head lights at night, lack of use of turn signals, and driving on the wrong side of the street, jaywalking, and smoking in non-smoking areas or defiance of smoking bans.
  • Sanitation: Many Chinese do not cover their mouths when they sneeze. Also, it is not uncommon for small children (2-4 years old) to eliminate their waste in public (in bushes, on public sidewalks, even in train stations).

Some long-time foreign residents say such behaviours are getting worse; others say the opposite. The cause is usually attributed to the influx of millions of migrants from the countryside who are unfamiliar with big city life. Some department stores place attendants at the foot of each escalator to keep folks from stopping to have a look-see as soon as they get off - when the escalator behind them is fully packed.

On the whole, however, the Chinese love a good laugh and because there are so many ethnic groups and outsiders from other regions, they are used to different ways of doing things and are quite okay with that (in tier one and tier two cities at least). Indeed the Chinese often make conversation with strangers by discussing differences in accent or dialect. They are very used to sign language and quick to see a non-verbal joke or pun wherever they can spot one. Note that a laugh doesn't necessarily mean scorn, just amusement. The Chinese like a "collective good laugh" often at times or circumstances that westerners might consider rude. Finally, the Chinese love and adore children, allow them a great deal of freedom, and heap attention upon them. If you have children, bring them!

Lucky Numbers[edit]

In general, 3, 6, 8, and 9 are lucky numbers for most of the Chinese. “Three” means “high above shine the three stars” while the three stars include gods of fortune, prosperity and longevity. “Six” represents smoothness or success. Many young people choose the dates with “six” as their wedding days, such as the 6th, 16th and 26th. “Eight” sounds so close to the word for wealth that many people believe eight is a number that is linked to prosperity. So it is no surprise that the opening ceremony for the Olympics started at 8:08:08 on 08/08/2008. “Nine” is also regarded as a lucky number with the meaning of everlasting.

“Four” is a taboo for most Chinese because the pronunciation in Mandarin is close to “death”. Some hotels will have their floor numbers go straight from three to five much like some American hotels have their floor numbers go from twelve to fourteen, skipping the "unlucky" number 13.

Climate and Terrain[edit]

Back in the days of the planned economy, the rules stated that buildings in areas north of the Yangtze River got heat in the winter, but anything south of it did not — this meant unheated buildings in places like Shanghai and Nanjing, which routinely see temperatures below freezing in winter. The rule has long since been relaxed, but the effects are still visible. In general, Chinese use less heating, less building insulation, and wear more warm clothing than Westerners in comparable climates. In a schools or apartments and office buildings, even if the rooms are heated, the corridors are not. Double glazing is quite rare. Students wear winter jackets in class, along with their teachers and long underwear is very common. Air conditioning is increasingly common but is similarly not used in corridors and is often used with the windows and doors open.


transport is extremely crowded

Lunar New Year dates
The year of the Horse started on 31 Jan 2014

  • The year of the Goat will begin on 19 Feb 2015
  • The year of the Monkey will begin on 8 Feb 2016
  • The year of the Rooster will begin on 28 Jan 2017
  • China has five major annual holidays:

    • Chinese New Year or Spring Festival (春节 chūnjié) - late January/mid-February
    • Qingming Festival — usually 4–6 Apr, or the tomb sweeping day, cemeteries are crowded with people who go to sweep the tombs of their ancestors and offer sacrifices. Traffic on the way to cemeteries can be very heavy.
    • Labor Day or May Day (劳动节 láodòngjié) - 1 May
    • Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 duānwǔjié) - 5th day of the 5th lunar month, usually May-Jun. Boat races and eating zongzi (粽子, steamed pouches of sticky rice) are a traditional parts of the celebration.
    • Mid-Autumn Day (中秋节 zhōngqiūjié)- 15th day of the 8th lunar month, usually Oct. Also called the Moon Cake Festival after its signature treat, moon cakes (月饼 yuèbǐng). People meet outside, putting food on tables and looking up at the full harvest moon while talking about life.
    • National Day (国庆节 guóqìngjié) - 1 Oct

    The Chinese New Year and National Day are not one-day holidays; nearly all workers get at least a week for Chinese New Year, some get two or three, and students get four to six weeks. For National Day, a week is typical.

    Chinese New Year

    Also, during early July university students (twenty-odd million of them!) go home and in late August they return to school, jamming transportation options especially between the east coast and the western regions of Sichuan, Gansu, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

    A complete list of Chinese festivals would be very long since many areas or ethnic groups have their own local ones. See listings for individual towns for details. Here is a list of some of the nationally important festivals not mentioned above:

    • Lantern Festival (元宵节 yuánxiāojié or 上元节 shàngyuánjié) - 15th day of the 1st lunar month, just after Chinese New Year, usually in February or March. In some cities, such as Quanzhou, this is a big festival with elaborate lanterns all over town.
    • Double Seventh Festival (七夕 qīxī) - 7th day of the 7th lunar month, usually August, is a festival of romance, sort of a Chinese Valentine's Day.
    • Double Ninth Festival or Chongyang Festival (重阳节 chóngyángjié) - 9th day of the 9th lunar month, usually in October.
    • Winter Solstice Festival (冬至 dōngzhì) - December 22 or 23.

    In addition to these, some Western festivals are noticeable, at least in major cities. Around Christmas, one hears carols — mostly English, a few in Latin, plus Chinese versions of "Jingle Bells", "Amazing Grace", and for some reason "Oh Susana". Some stores are decorated and one sees many shop assistants in red and white elf hats. For Valentine's Day, many restaurants offer special meals. Chinese Christians celebrate services and masses at officially sanctioned Protestant and Catholic churches as well.


    Non-guidebooks, either about China, or by Chinese writers.


    • The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo - the Venetian traveler's stories in the Middle Kingdom (see also: On the trail of Marco Polo)
    • Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han by Hannü (ISBN 9789889799939) - Tibet through the Tibetans with a Han traveler
    • Behind the Wall- A journey through china by Colin Thubron. Thubron recounts his 1987 travels through China, from Beijing to Jiayuguan.


    • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck - The classic tale of Chinese peasant life at the turn of the twentieth century, by the author who kindled the American public's interest in China in the 1930's. Ms. Buck won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938 for the body of her work about China.
    • Winter Stars by Beatrice Lao (ISBN 988979991X) - a collection of poems born between the Alps and the Tyrrhenian
    • Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义) - the classic Chinese novel of the heroic deeds of the generals and leaders of the three kingdoms following the collapse of the Han dynasty. Noted for its details of cunning military and political strategies. One of the Four Great Classics. It continues to inspire films, TV series, comics, and video games throughout East Asia.
    • Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh (水浒传) - a Song Dynasty tale of bandits living in the Huai River Valley who fight against the corrupt government. Noted for the rebellious nature of its main characters against an established order. It's the Chinese version of "sticking it to the man". One of the Four Great Classics.
    • Journey to the West (西游记) - perhaps the most famous Chinese novel, a fantasy account of Xuan Zang's Tang Dynasty journey to retrieve sacred Buddhist texts with the aid of the monkey king Sun Wukong, the gluttonous Zhu Bajie and dependable Sha Wujing. Noted for its extremely creative fantasies and adventures. One of the Four Great Classics.
    • Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦) also known as The Story of the Stone (Penguin Classics, 5 volumes)- a lively account of aristocratic life in the Qing dynasty told through the stories of three powerful families. Noted for its extremely accurate portrayal of Chinese aristocrats and the work is often regarded as the zenith of Chinese literature. One of the Four Great Classics.


    • Twilight in The Forbidden City by R.F. Johnston (ISBN 0968045952) Also available in Kindle Edition. As the British-born Tutor to the Dragon Emperor, Johnston was the only foreigner in history to be allowed inside the inner court of the Qing Dynasty. Johnston carried high imperial titles and lived in both the Forbidden City and the New Summer Palace. Twilight in the Forbidden City reflects his eyewitness accounts of the memorable events of the time.
    • The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence - a renowned book written by a Yale professor about Chinese history since 1644.
    • 1587, A Year of No Significance by Ray Huang - describes an uneventful year in the history of Ming Dynasty China. Its Chinese edition is one of the most well known history books on this period.
    • China: A New History by John K. Fairbank - the last book of a prominent American academic that helped shape modern Sinology.
    • The Cambridge History of China - ongoing series of books published by Cambridge University Press covering the early and modern history of China. This is the largest and most comprehensive history of China in the English language.
    • The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600 by Valerie Hansen - presents in colorful detail the history, culture, and socio-economic development of China from the Shang period to the Ming.
    • 1421, The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies (ISBN 0553815229) - well known but well contested account of China's alleged efforts to explore and map the entire world. Interestingly, this book which suggests that Chinese first discovered the New World is largely denounced as fictional by Chinese academics.
    • The Sextants of Beijing by Joanna Waley-Cohen - a book that summarizes recent thinking on how China was much more open and less xenophobic than often assumed.
    • Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow- recounts the months that he spent with the Chinese Red Army in the summer and fall of 1936.
    • The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang (ISBN 0140277447) - the forgotten Holocaust in WWII
    • The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe by John Rabe - firsthand description of the sadistic rapes, torture and slaughter perpetrated by Japanese soldiers in WWII and Rabe's ultimate success in saving perhaps a quarter of a million lives
    • Wild Swans by Jung Chang (ISBN 0007176155) - a biography of three generations, from the warlord days to the end of Mao's era, illustrating life under China's version of nationalism and communism (banned in China)
    • Mao-An unknown story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. A biography of Mao and an account of China under his rule.
    • Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now by Jan Wong, a reporter for the Globe and Mail of Toronto, Canada. The book describes her experiences as one of the first foreign exchange students to study in China after the Cultural Revolution and her life and experiences as a reporter in China until the mid 1990s.


    • Bernardo Bertolucci - The Last Emperor (1987)
    • Zhang Yimou - Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
    • Chen Kaige - Farewell My Concubine (1993)
    • Zhang Yimou - To Live (1994)
    • Wu Ziniu - Don't Cry, Nanking (1995)
    • Zhang Yimou - Keep cool (1997)
    • Xie Jin - The Opium War (1997)
    • Zhang Yang - Shower (1999)
    • Feng Xiao Gang - Sorry Baby (1999)
    • Zhang Yimou - Not one less (1999)
    • Xiaoshuai Wang – Beijing bicycle (2001)
    • Zhang Yimou - Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005)
    • Gianni Amelio - La stella che non c’è or The Missing Star (2006)
    • Zhang Yuan - Little Red Flowers (2006)
    • Daniel Lee - Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008)
    • Roger Spottiswoode - The Children of Huangshi (2008)
    • Wu Tianming - The King of Masks (1996)



    • Beijing (北京) — the capital and cultural centre
    • Guangzhou (广州) — one of the most prosperous and liberal cities in the south, near Hong Kong
    • Guilin (桂林) — popular destination for both Chinese and foreign tourists with sensational mountain and river scenery
    • Hangzhou (杭州) — famously beautiful city and major centre for the silk industry
    • Kunming (昆明) — capital of Yunnan and gateway to a rainbow of ethnic minority areas
    • Nanjing (南京) — a renowned historical and cultural city with many historic sites
    • Shanghai (上海) — famous for its riverside cityscape, China's largest city is a major commercial center with many shopping opportunities
    • Suzhou (苏州) — "Venice of the East," an ancient city famous for canals and gardens just west of Shanghai
    • Xi'an (西安) — the oldest city and ancient capital of China, home to ten dynasties including the Han and the Tang, terminus of the ancient Silk Road, and home of the terracotta warriors
    • Yangzhou (扬州) — "Epitome of China" with a history of over 2,500 years, Marco Polo served as the city's governor for three years in the late 13th century.

    Other destinations[edit]

    • Great Wall of China (万里长城) — longer than 8,000 km, this ancient wall is the most iconic landmark of China
    • Hainan (海南) — a tropical paradise island undergoing heavy tourist-oriented development
    • Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve (九寨沟) — known as the habitat of giant pandas and for its many multi-level waterfalls and colourful lakes
    • Leshan — most famous for its huge riverside cliff-carving of Buddha and nearby Mount Emei
    • Mount Everest — straddling the border between Nepal and Tibet, this is the world's highest mountain
    • Mount Tai (泰山 Tài Shān) — one of the five Daoist sacred mountains in China, and because of its history the most climbed mountain in China
    • Tibet (西藏) — with a majority of Tibetan Buddhists and traditional Tibetan culture, it feels like an entirely different world
    • Turpan — in the Islamic area of Xinjiang, this area is known for its grapes, harsh climate and Uighur culture
    • Yungang Grottoes — these mountain-side caves and recesses number more than 50 in all and are filled with 51,000 Buddhist statues

    Get in[edit]


    Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to travel to Mainland China;

    For 15 days

    • Brunei, Japan and Singapore.

    For 30 days

    • Seychelles, Mauritius, Bahamas, Fiji, and Grenada

    For 90 days

    • San Marino

    Visa-free via international airports[edit]

    • You must have a confirmed, onward ticket to a third country before you board your flight to China. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are "international flights" so you may fly there on a non-stop flight after your time in China.
    • You cannot have a return ticket to the country you came from, even if the cities are different (i.e. New York-Beijing-Los Angeles would not work).
    • You also must fly into and fly out of the same city and airport. Note: In Shanghai you can fly into or out of either airport, I.e. into Pudong and out of Hongqiao or vice-versa.
    • You may not leave the metropolitan area of the city you arrive in. For example: You cannot fly into Beijing, take another flight to Shanghai or Guangzhou and leave China from there under the 72-hour transit rule.

    Pearl River Delta[edit]

    Those visiting Hong Kong and Macau are able to visit the Pearl River Delta visa-free only under certain conditions.

    • The visitor is a national of a country which has diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China
    • The visitor is visiting the Pearl River Delta as part of a tour group organised by a Hong Kong or Macao based travel agency.
    • The stay is six days or less (21 days for citizens of Germany, South Korea and Russia)
    • The visitor stays only within the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Huizhou and Shantou.

    Tour group[edit]


    Border Cities[edit]


    The most notable exception to this rule is transit through certain airports. Most airports allow a 12- to 24-hour stay without a visa so long as you do do not pass through immigration and customs (stay airside) and are en-route to a different country.

    To visit mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau residents of Chinese nationality need to apply at the China Travel Service, the sole authorized issuing agent, to obtain a Home Return Permit (回乡证), a credit card sized ID allowing multiple entries and unlimited stay for 10 years with no restrictions including on employment. Taiwan residents may obtain an entry permit (valid for 3 months) at airports in Dalian, Fuhzou, Haikou, Qingdao, Sanya, Shanghai, Wuhan, Xiamen and China Travel Services in Hong Kong and Macau. Visitors must hold a Republic of China passport, Taiwanese Identity Card and Taiwan Compatriot Pass (台胞证 táibāozhèng). The Compatriot Pass may be obtained for single use at airports in Fuzhou, Haikou, Qingdao, Sanya, Wuhan and Xiamen. The entry permit fee is ¥100 plus ¥50 for issuing a single-use Taiwan Compatriot Pass. Travellers should check the most up-to-date information before traveling.

    Visa overview

  • C visa - international flight crews
  • D visa - permanent residents
  • F visa - business trips, exchanges, and study trips
  • G visa - transit
  • J visa - journalists, incl. J-1 and J-2 visa types
  • L visa - for general visitors
  • M visa - trade and commercial activities
  • Q visa - overseas Chinese visiting for family reunions, incl. Q-1 and Q-2 visa types
  • R visa - foreigner workers urgently needed within the mainland
  • S visa - foreigners visiting for family reunions, incl. S-1 and S-2 visa types
  • X visa - for students, incl. X-1 and X-1 visa types
  • Z visa - foreign workers
  • Tourist visa extensions can be applied for at the local Entry & Exit Bureaus against handing in the following documents: valid passport, visa extension application form including one 2-inch-sized picture, a copy of the Registration Form of Temporary Residence which you receive from the local police station at registration.

    Some travellers will need a dual entry or multiple entry visa. For example, if you enter China on a single entry visa, then depart the mainland to Hong Kong or Macau, you need a new visa to re-enter the mainland. In Hong Kong, multiple entry visas are officially available only to HKID holders, but the authorities are willing to bend the rules somewhat and may approve three-month multiple entry visas for short-term Hong Kong qualified residents, including exchange students. It is recommended to apply directly with the Chinese government in this case, as some agents will be unwilling to submit such an application on your behalf. For holders of multiple entry visas to renew your visa you must leave China. The easist way was to go to Hong Kong, Seoul or some other country, cross the border and re-enter China. A new way is to go to Xiamen and cross to Jinmen island. Jinmen is held by Taiwan and like Hong Kong is offically considered leaving China. See details of below on boats to China.

    There may be restrictions on visas for political reasons and these vary over time. For example:

    • The visa fee for American nationals was increased to US0 (or US0 as part of a group tour) in reciprocation for increased fees for Chinese nationals visiting America. [2]
    • Visas issued in Hong Kong are generally limited to 30 days, same day service is difficult to get. Multiple-entry visas have also become much harder or impossible to get.
    • Indian nationals are limited to 10- or 15-day tourist visas, and are required to show US0 per day of visa validity in the form of traveller's checks (US ,000 and ,500, respectively).

    A few years ago, the Z (working) visa was a long-term visa. Now a Z-visa only gets you into the country for 30 days; once you are there, the employer gets you a residence permit. This is effectively a multiple-entry visa; you can leave China and return using it. Some local visa offices will refuse to issue a residence permit if you entered China on a tourist (L) visa. In those cases, you have to enter on a Z-visa. These are only issued outside China, so obtaining one will likely require a departure from the mainland, for example to a neighbouring country. (Note that in Korea, tourists not holding an alien registration card must now travel to Busan, as the Chinese consulate in Seoul does not issue visas to non-residents in Korea.) They also usually require an invitation letter from the employer. In other cases it is possible to convert an L visa to a residence permit; it depends upon which office you are dealing with and perhaps on your employer's connections.


    Special Economic Zone Visa[edit]


    Any non-Chinese citizen must have a Tibet Travel Permit in order to enter Tibet. This permit is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau, and will be checked when going on board any buses, trains or airlines that bound for the TAR. However, the only way to obtain a Tibet Travel Permit is to arrange a tour operated by a Tibet travel agent which at least includes hotels and transportation. Foreigners are also not permitted to travel by public buses across Tibet and are only allowed to travel by private transportation as organised in the tour. Moreover, if entering Tibet from Nepal, one must also joined a group tour and be only allowed on a group visa. The Tibet Travel Permit has to be handed in to the tour guide upon arrival in the airport or train station, and to tour guide will keep the permit until the traveler left the TAR. The Tibet Travel Permit is also required by Taiwanese holding a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, but it is not required for Chinese citizens from Hong Kong or Macao holding a Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents.

    Registering your abode[edit]

    If staying in a hotel, guest house or hostel, the staff will request to see, and often scan, your passport, visa, and entry stamps at check-in.

    If you are staying in a private residence, you are in theory required to register your abode with the local police within 24 (city) to 72 (countryside) hours of arrival, though in practice the law is rarely if ever enforced so long as you don't cause any trouble. The police will ask for (1) a copy of the photograph page of your passport, (2) a copy of your visa, (3) a copy of your immigration entry stamp, (4) a photograph, (5) a copy of the tenancy agreement or other document concerning the place you are staying in. That agreement might not be in your name but it will still be requested.

    • Registration needs to be done each time you come into China (except for resident permit holders - they should register only after a new visa is issued)
    • A fine of up to ¥500 can be levied if you didn't register within 24 hours.
    • The process is quite long (more than 3 hours) and it's better to come with an interpreter. (In Shanghai this is not required of holders of residence permits of any kind, only for visa holders)

    By plane[edit]

    Transiting Hong Kong and Macau

    If arriving in Hong Kong or Macau there are ferries that can shuttle passengers straight to another destination such as Shekou or Bao'an Airport in Shenzhen, Macau Airport, Zhuhai and elsewhere without actually "entering" Hong Kong or Macau. A shuttle bus takes transit passengers to the ferry terminal so their official entry point, where they clear immigration, will be the ferry destination rather than the airport. Please note that the ferries do have different hours so landing late at night may make it necessary to enter either territory to catch another bus or ferry to one's ultimate destination. For example, it would be necessary to clear immigration if going from HK Int'l Airport to Macau via the Macau Ferry Terminal. The most recent information on the ferries to Hong Kong can be found at the Hong Kong International Airport website.[4]

    If you live in a city with a sizable overseas Chinese community, check for cheap flights with someone in that community or visit travel agencies operated by Chinese. Sometimes flights advertised only in Chinese newspapers or travel agencies cost significantly less than posted fares in English. However if you ask, you can get the same discount price.

    Airlines and Routes

    China's carriers are growing rapidly. Airbus estimates the size of China’s passenger aircraft fleet will triple from 1,400 planes in 2009 to 4,200 planes in 2029.

    • North America: Delta Air Lines [14] serves Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou through its hub at Narita and directly from Detroit, Boston and Seattle. United [15] has the most nonstop flights, serving Hong Kong, Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai from Chicago, San Francisco, Newark, and Washington. American [16] flies nonstop to Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong from Chicago. Air Canada [17] serves Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong from Toronto and Vancouver.
    • Australia: Qantas [18] offers direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to Hong Kong. Qantas also flies to Beijing and Shanghai from Sydney but only offers a code-share service to Shanghai from Melbourne. There may be cheaper flights via Southeast Asia; some of the discount airlines there fly to Australia. China Southern Airlines now offers direct flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Guangzhou with ongoing connections to the major cities.
    • New Zealand: Air New Zealand [19] offers direct flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong. China Southern Airlines now offers direct flights from Auckland to Guangzhou with ongoing connections to the major cities.
    • Southeast Asia: Singapore has arguably the best connections, due to its large ethnic Chinese population, with flights to all the major cities as well as some regional centers such as Xiamen, Kunming and Shenzhen. Besides Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila offer good connections. Tiger Airways [20], Jetstar [21], Air Asia [22], and Cebu Pacific [23] offer low-priced flights from Southeast Asia (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manila) to various destinations in southern China, including Xiamen, Jinghong, Guangzhou, Haikou and Macau.
    • Europe: Most of the major European airlines, including Air France [24], British Airways [25], and Finnair [26] have direct flights from their hubs to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai; several fly to Guangzhou as well. A few have links to other Chinese cities. For example KLM [27]flies direct from Amsterdam to Chengdu, Hangzhou and Xiamen and Lufthansa [28] flies a Frankfurt to Nanjing route.
    • Taiwan: Regular direct flights between Taiwan and Mainland China resumed in 2008, after a 59 year ban. There are now daily direct flights between Taipei and major cities in China.

    Flights between Europe and China

    Airline From To Flight time Departure Days Econ Seat P/W Notes
    Finnair Helsinki (HEL) Beijing (PEK) 7:50 Daily 32" / 18"
    Finnair Beijing (PEK) Helsinki (HEL) 8:30 M-Sa 32" / 18"
    Finnair Helsinki (HEL) Chongqing (CKG) 8:40 M, W, F-Sa 32" / 18" Service starts May 9, 2012
    Finnair Chongqing (CKG) Helsinki (HEL) 9:25 Tu, Th, Sa-Su 32" / 18" Service starts May 9, 2012
    Finnair Helsinki (HEL) Shanghai (PVG) 9:05 Daily 32" / 18"
    Finnair Shanghai (PVG) Helsinki (HEL) 10:15 Daily 32" / 18"
    Hainan Airlines Berlin (TXL) Beijing (PEK) 9:25 W, F, Su 32" / 19"
    Hainan Airlines Beijing (PEK) Berlin (TXL) 10:20 W, Su 32" / 19"
    Hainan Airlines Budapest (BUD) Beijing (PEK) 9:20 M, F 32" / 19"
    Hainan Airlines Beijing (PEK) Budapest (BUD) 10:10 M, F 32" / 19"
    Hainan Airlines Brussels (BRU) Beijing (PEK) 9:40 Tu, Th, Sa-Su 32" / 19" Also on Fr from Apr2012, Mo from Jul2012
    Hainan Airlines Beijing (PEK) Brussels (BRU) 10:35 Tu, Th, Sa-Su 32" / 19" Also on Fr from Apr2012, Mo from Jul2012
    Hainan Airlines Brussels (BRU) Shanghai (PVG) 32" / 19"
    Hainan Airlines Shanghai (PVG) Brussels (BRU) 32" / 19"
    Hainan Airlines Zürich (ZRH) Beijing (PEK) 10:00 Tu, Th, Su 32" / 19"
    Hainan Airlines Beijing (PEK) Zürich (ZRH) 10:45 Tu, Th, Su 32" / 19"
    KLM Amsterdam (AMS) Chengdu (CTU) 9:25 31" / 17.5"
    KLM Chengdu (CTU) Amsterdam (AMS) 10:35 31" / 17.5"
    Lufthansa Frankfurt (FRA) Qingdao (TAO) 13:10 M, W, F 32" / 17.5" Stopover in Shenyang
    Lufthansa Qingdao (TAO) Frankfurt (FRA) 14:25 Tu, Th, Sa 32" / 17.5" Stopover in Shenyang
    Lufthansa Frankfurt (FRA) Shenyang (SHE) 10:15 M, W, F 32" / 17.5"
    Lufthansa Shenyang (SHE) Frankfurt (FRA) 11:15 W, F, Su 32" / 17.5"

    By train[edit]

    China can be reached by train from many of its neighboring countries and even all the way from Europe.

    • Russia & Europe - two lines of the Trans-Siberian Railway (Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian) run between Moscow and Beijing, stopping in various other Russian cities, and for the Trans-Mongolian, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
    • Kazakhstan & Central Asia - from Almaty, Kazakhstan, one can travel by rail to Urumqi in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. There are long waits at the border crossing for customs, as well as for changing the wheelbase for the next country's track.
    • Hong Kong - regular services link mainland China with Hong Kong. Direct trains run from Hong Kong's Hung Hom direct to Guangzhou East station. Immigration is done at the respective station rather that at the border. Some trains also stop at other Guangdong stations. The Hong Kong MTR runs from the city to 2 points on the Shenzhen border. The main border crossing is at Lo Wu/Luo Hu, which is next to Shenzhen's main station.
    • Vietnam - from Nanning in Guangxi province into Vietnam via the Friendship Pass. Services from Kunming have been suspended since 2002.
    • North Korea - four weekly connections between the North Korean capital Pyongyang and Beijing.

    By road[edit]


    Myanmar (Burma)[edit]


    For most travelers Hanoi is the origin for any overland journey to China. There are currently three international crossings:

    • Dong Dang (V) - Pingxiang (C)

    You can catch a local bus from Hanoi's eastern bus station (Ben Xe Street, Gia Lam District, tel: 04/827-1529) to Lang Son, where you have to switch transport to minibus or motorbike to reach the border at Dong Dang. Alternatively there are many offers from open-tour providers; for those in a hurry, they might be a good option if they offer a direct hotel to border crossing transfer.

    You can change money with freelance money changers, but check the rate carefully beforehand.

    • Lao Cai (V) - Hekou (C)

    You can take a train from Hanoi to Lao Cai for about 420,000 VND (as of 11/2011) for a soft sleeper. The trip takes about 8 hours. From there, it's a long walk (or a 5 minute ride) to the Lao Cai/Hekou border. Crossing the border is simple, fill out a customs card and wait in line. They will search your belongings (in particular your books/written material). Outside the Hekou border crossing is a variety of shops, and the bus terminal is about a 10 minute ride from the border. A ticket to Kunming from Hekou costs about ¥140; the ride is about 7 hours.

    • Mong Cai (V) - Dongxing (C)

    At Dongxing, you can take a bus to Nanning, a sleeper bus to Guangzhou (approximately ¥180), or a sleeper bus to Shenzhen (approximately ¥230, 12 hours) (March 2006).





    From Zamiin Uud. Take a local train from Ulaanbaatar to Zamiin Uud. Then Bus or Jeep to Erlian in China. There are local trains leaving in the evening most days and arriving in the morning. The border opens around 8:30. From Erlian there are buses and trains to other locations in China.





    North Korea[edit]

    Hong Kong[edit]

    Lok Ma ChauSha Tau KokMan Kam ToShenzhen Bay Bridge


    Portas do CercoLotus Bridge


    By boat[edit]

    Hong Kong and Macau[edit]


    South Korea[edit]



    Cruise ship[edit]

    Get around[edit]

    By plane[edit]

    China is a huge country, so unless you enjoy spending a couple of days on the train or on the road getting from one area to another, you should definitely consider domestic flights. China has many domestic flights connecting all the major cities and tourist destinations. Airlines include the three international carriers: Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern, as well as regional ones including Hainan Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Shanghai Airlines. In recent years, it has been popular for large cities and provinces to open their own (dubiously funded) airline. These include Chongqing Airlines, Chengdu Airline and Hebei Airlines, amongst others. The parent company behind Hainan Airlines has spawned some 13 airlines in the region, including Grand China Air, Yangtse Express, Hong Kong Airlines and Deer Jet.


    Prices for domestic flights are set at standard rates, but discounts are common, especially on the busier routes. Most good hotels, and many hostels, will have a travel ticket service and may be able to save you 15%-70% off the price of tickets. Travel agencies and booking offices are plentiful in all Chinese cities and offer similar discounts. Even before considering discounts, traveling by plane in China is not expensive.

    For travel within China, it is usually best to buy tickets in China via a high street travel agent, or on Chinese websites. Most domestic flights when bought abroad (e.g. on Expedia or even via an Air China office) will be much more expensive, as only full fare tickets are sold. Discounted tickets are only sold within China, or as a tag on fare on an international ticket. Schedules for domestic flights are generally not finalised or released until around 2-3 months before a flight. Unlike most air markets, early buyers will pay higher rates, as discounts tend to increase with time. For most flights, the optimum purchase period is between 2-4 weeks before a flight. On emptier flights, it can be easy to get a very discounted rate in the days before the flight. Once you know your intended route, it’s advisable to monitor the fares to see when they rise and fall (which they will almost definitely do). However, when travelling during a busy period (e.g. Chinese New Year), it’s wise to buy earlier to guarantee yourself a seat. Some more expensive tickets are flexible, allowing you to cancel for a nominal amount (between 5%-20%), then rebook at a lower fare. Recently, discounts have been made available in premium cabins on domestic flights. On some routes, the buy-up from economy is very minimal, and is worth it for the extra space. Beware, however, than often perks of the ground (e.g. lounge, extra luggage, points) are not included on the discount rates.

    Be prepared for unexplained flight delays as these are common despite pressure from both the government and consumers. For short distances, consider other, seemingly slower options. Flight cancellations are also not uncommon. If you buy your ticket from a Chinese vendor they will likely try to contact you (if you left contact information) to let you know about the change in flight plan. If you purchased your ticket overseas, be certain to check on the flight status a day or two before you plan to fly. Chinese airlines are generally quick to offer meals when a particular flight has been delayed, although the meals/snacks might not be suited to Western tastes. It’s always advisable to travel with emergency rations in China. water cannot be brought through security, but all Chinese airports have hot water machines, so bring a plastic mug and some tea bags.

    As everywhere in the world, prices for food and drink at Chinese airports are vastly inflated. Coffee that is ¥25 in a downtown shop is ¥78 at the same chain's airport branches. KFC seems to be the one exception; their many airport shops charge the same prices as other branches. Paying ¥20 or more for a KFC meal may or may not be worthwhile when there are ¥5 noodles across the street, but at the airports it is usually the best deal around.

    By train[edit]

    Train travel is the major mode of long-distance transportation for the Chinese themselves. Their extensive, and rapidly expanding, network of routes covers the entire country. Roughly a quarter of the world's total rail traffic is in China.

    CRHbest way to get around

    Train types[edit]

    Chinese trains are split into different categories designated by letters and numbers indicated on the ticket. A guide to the hierarchy of Chinese trains from fastest to slowest are as follows:

    • G-series (高速 gāosù) – 300 km/h long-haul high-speed expresses - currently on Wuhan–Guangzhou, Zhengzhou–Xi'an, Beijing-Xi'an, Shanghai–Nanjing, Shanghai–Hangzhou, Beijing–Shanghai, Haerbin-Dalian, and Guangzhou–Shenzhen lines.
    • C-series (城际 chéngjì) – 300 km/h short-haul high-speed expresses - currently only on Beijing–Wuqing–Tianjin–Tanggu line.
    • D-series (动车 dòngchē) – 200 km/h high speed expresses.
    • Z-series (直达 zhídá) – 160 km/h non/less-stop services connecting major cities. Accommodation is mostly soft seat or soft sleeper, although they often have a couple of hard sleepers too.
    • T-series (特快 tèkuài) – 140 km/h intercity trains calling at major cities only. Similar to Z–trains although they usually stop at more stations.
    • K-series (快速 kuàisù) – 120 km/h fast trains, the most often seen series, calls at more stations than a T train and has more hard-sleepers and seats.
    • General fast trains (普快 pǔkuài) – 120 km/h trains, with no letter designation, four digits starts with 1–5. These trains are the cheapest, although slowest long-distance trains
    • General trains (普客 pǔkè) - 100 km/h short-distance trains with no letter designation, four digits starts with 5, 6, or 7. Slowest trains, stop almost everywhere.
    • Commuting trains (通勤 tōngqín) / Service trains (路用 lùyòng) - four digits starts with 8, or five digits starts with 57, very slow local trains, mostly used by rail staffs.
    • L-series (临时 línshí) – seasonal trains suitable to K- or four-digit-series.
    • Y-series (旅游 lǚyóu) – trains primarily serving tourist groups.
    • S-series (市郊 shìjiāo) - Currently the only on the Beijing Suburban Railway between Beijing North and Yanqing County via Badaling (Great Wall).


    On the regular non-CRH trains there are five classes of travel:

    • Soft sleepers (软卧 ruǎnwò) are the most comfortable mode of transportation and are still relatively cheap by Western standards. The soft sleeper compartments contain four bunks stacked two to a column (though some newer trains have two-bunk compartments), a latchable door for privacy, and are quite spacious. Try to get the lower bunk as climbing up to upper bunk is not that easy, also if you can sit on th bed and look out the window if you don't want to sleep.
    • note: Ticker holder of this class can go to the VIP waiting room at station.
    • Hard sleepers (硬卧 yìngwò), on the other hand, have 3 beds per column open to the corridor. The highest bunk is very high up and leaves little space for headroom. Taller travelers (6'3" and above) may find this to be the best bunk since when sleeping your feet will extend into the passageway and they will not be bumped. The top bunk is also useful for people with things to hide (e.g. cameras). When placed by your head they are harder for would-be thieves to reach. It should be noted that the "hard" sleeper is not "hard"; the beds have a mattress and are generally quite comfortable. All sleepers have pillows and a blanket.
    • Soft seats (软座 ruǎnzuò) are cloth-covered, generally reclining seats and are a special category that you will rarely find. These are only available on day trains between destinations of about 4-8 hours of travel time, as well as on all high speed trains (class D and above).
    • Hard seats (硬座 yìngzuò), which are actually padded, are not for everyone, especially overnight, as they are 5 seats wide, in a three and two arrangement. It is in this class, however, that most of the backpacker crowd travels. Despite the "no smoking" signs, there almost always remain smokers within the car. There is invariably a crowd of smokers at the ends of the cars and the smoke will drift endlessly into the cabin. On most trains, particularly in China's interior, the space between the cars is a designated smoking area although the signs for "designated smoking area" are only in Chinese so this fact may not be clear to many travelers. Overnight travel in the hard seats can safely be deemed uncomfortable for just about everyone and will cause a great deal of discomfort for nearly including many restless endless hours of no sleep.
    • Standing (无座 wúzuò) allow access to the hard seat car but give no seat reservation. Consider carrying a tripod chair in your backpack to make such journeys more comfortable.

    The soft seat and soft sleeper cars, and some of hard seat and hard sleeper cars are air-conditioned.

    second classfirst classVIP class

    Train tickets[edit]

    present ID

    There are local state railway ticket agencies in many locations remote from train stations, clearly marked "Booking Office for Train Tickets" in English and Chinese and a locomotive emblem, but easily overlooked as these are simple "hole in the wall" shops. They are equipped with computers networked with the central booking system. Tickets purchased at these types of locations can be bought up to 10 days in advance at face value prices which can be half of what commercial travel agencies charge. Staff usually does not speak English. An easy fix is finding someone who looks like a college student and he will be usually very willing to help.

    During busy seasons (Chinese New Year, for example) tickets sell out rapidly at train stations. It may be better to get tickets in advance through an agent. In major cities there are also agents who sell tickets in the normal time frame with a nominal markup. The convenience of avoiding a trip to the train station and waiting in the queue is well worth the small increase in cost. Travel agencies will accept money and bookings for tickets in advance but no one can guarantee your ticket until the station releases them onto the market, at which point your agency will go and buy the ticket they had previously "guaranteed" you. This is true anywhere in China.

    Travel tips[edit]

    The toilets on trains tend to be a little more "usable" than on buses or most public areas because they are simple devices that empty the contents directly onto the track and thus don't smell as bad. Soft sleeper cars usually have European throne-style toilets at one end of the car and Chinese squat toilets at the other. Be aware that on non-CRH trains if the train will be stopping at a station, the conductor will normally lock the bathrooms prior to arrival so that people will not leave deposits on the ground at the station.

    Long distance trains will have a buffet or dining car, which serves hot, but generally overpriced, at ¥25 or so and frankly not very tasty, food. The menu will be