Make sure you have comprehensive cover ahead of your trip to China
If you plan to visit the Great Wall of China or see the Forbidden City, make sure that you get travel insurance so that you can step onto the plane with peace of mind.
Visiting the country is an experience like no other, with plenty to see and discover. The East Asian country has diverse lands to explore, whether you are looking to travel through cities and grasslands, or you just want to relax along the coastline.
It has the largest population in the world, and it is one of the oldest civilisations. This has led to its history and culture becoming a must-see for travellers. Every region has its own feel and there is plenty to explore if you are hoping to experience a different way of life.
China’s tourism industry continue to grow with millions travelling there each year, while the World Trade Organization estimates that it could become the number one tourist destination by 2020.
What travel insurance should I get for a holiday in China?
If you are planning a trip to China, you will need to get a travel insurance policy that is either Worldwide, or Worldwide excluding USA, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. You then have the option of getting either single trip or annual multi trip cover.
A single trip policy is likely to suit you if it is your only planned holiday over the next year, while annual multi-trip cover might be a cheaper option if you plan to travel two or more times within a one-year period.
Is a visa required for trips to China and do I need vaccinations?
UK citizens usually require a visa to enter the country, and this can be done by visiting a Visa Application Centre. If you are aged between 14 and 70 then you are required to complete the application in person by visiting one of the centres in London, Manchester, Edinburgh or Belfast. You can book an appointment online and part of the process will see you get your fingerprints and photo taken. You are advised to apply for a visa around one month before your planned departure
You should have at least 6 months remaining on your passport when you travel to the country, and foreign nationals over the age of 16 are expected to carry it with them at all times. You must also register where you are staying during you trip with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arriving, but this is normally done for you if you are staying at a hotel.
There have been reports of avian influenza affecting some people in the country when coming into close contact with infected birds. Dengue fever and malaria can also be present in parts of the country and you should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites if you are in a high-risk area.
It is advised that you check you have up-to-date boosters that are standard in the UK, such as MMR and other vaccines, while you can also consider getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A&B, Tetanus and Rabies. If you are not sure what vaccinations you should take ahead of your trip, then you should seek medical advice.
What to do on holiday in China?
One of the biggest tourist attractions is the Great Wall of China, which passes through several cities. It is an estimated 13,170 miles long, although some parts of the wall have been preserved better than others. Certain parts were built during different dynasties in China’s history with the aim of protecting them from their enemies. The oldest parts of the wall are believed to have been built at around 700 BC, with the most recent additions being made during the 17th century.
Parts of the Great Wall can be found in Beijing, including Mutianyu, which is a fully restored part of the wall that attracts large numbers of tourists each year.
Visitors to Beijing can also visit various parks and museums, including the Temple of Heaven and Jingshan Park. Another popular place to go is The Forbidden City, a 15th century palace that was the home of 24 different emperors up until 1912. It is made up of 980 buildings and houses the Palace Museum, and it has an estimated 14 million visitors each year.
In the Lintong district, visitors can see Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum. It Is a collection of sculptures that represent the army of Qin Shi Huang, who was the first Emperor of a unified China. They were buried with him in around 210 BC but weren’t discovered until 1974. Visitors can see the Terracotta army first-hand in this extraordinary sight, and there are many tours available that take you around the structures, as well as the museum and the nearby city walls.
If you are looking for the cheapest destination in the country, Shanghai ranked 6th in a recent study we did on the cheapest cities to explore in 24 hours. The city has over 1,300 free entry attractions that you can visit, while an average taxi costs around 30p per km. Travellers can also expect to spend around £1.17 for a beer, while there are 187 different options for cheap eats.
Tourists looking to enjoy a relaxed day in Shanghai can visit the Yu Garden in the Huangpu district. It was first built in the 1500’s and the five acres are divided into six areas that have their own style and displays to enjoy. This includes the 12-metre-high Grand Rockery, which is made of huangshi stone.
You can also go along the Huangpu River and visit The Bund on the waterfront. It provides great views of the skyscrapers that now fill the city’s skyline, while the other surrounding architecture provides more stunning scenery and a chance to see some of the city’s more recent history. If you are looking to do some shopping while you are there, Nanjing Road is known as Shanghai’s main shopping street with hundreds of stores open to visit, selling items like silk, wool and embroidery, as well as traditional Chinese food.
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When to travel to China
The wet season usually takes place between April and August each year, although it can last longer, and this can lead to flooding in certain areas. It is also at this time of year that typhoons can hit the country, which mostly affects people near the southern and eastern coastlines. The time of year that you can expect to experience more of the rain depends on where in the country you are, as it usually starts in the south and gradually moves north.
If you are travelling to the north then it is better to go earlier in the year if you want to enjoy less of the rain, with March and April being a good time to experience the spring weather. If you want to enjoy the best weather conditions, then Autumn is usually one of the more popular choices among travellers. It is relatively dry, and the temperatures are warm but comfortable.
Chinese New Year
This is a popular time for tourists to visit, as it offers the chance to experience one of the country’s biggest celebrations. Factories shut down for several weeks, but many businesses will remain open for the holiday, including restaurants, hotels and popular tourist spots. You should plan ahead though, as some places might have limited opening hours during the main days of the celebrations. The occasion could also see higher costs for travel in some areas, while you are also likely to face bigger crowds of people as a lot of locals won’t be working.
It is a very popular time of year for locals go on holiday as well, making many areas busier than normal. So, if you are looking to have a more relaxing stay, then travelling during new year might not be the best option for you.
If you want to experience other holidays, there is also Qing Ming Jie, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.
China travel advice
If you are planning to drive then you will need to get a temporary driving permit or a Chinese driving licence, as foreign and international licences are not valid. There can be a lot of traffic on the roads and driving standards can be quite low. The World Health Organisation reports that around 200,000 people lose their lives each year because of road traffic accidents. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises that you drive with caution and call the police if you are in a serious traffic accident.
Chinese authorities can prevent you from leaving the country if they suspect you of committing a crime, while there can be severe penalties for drug offences. It is also worth remembering that internet services like Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all blocked, while other websites could also be inaccessible while you are there.
Gambling is illegal and there are some restrictions on preaching and distributing religious materials. Same-sex marriage is not currently recognised, although homosexuality itself isn’t prohibited. Despite this, public displays of affection could draw negative attention, and there is no specific legislation that currently protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.
Mandarin is the official dialect in China, and it is spoken by a large majority of the population, although there are several other dialects that are used in certain cities, such as Jeija, Min and Xiang. Cantonese is another common language in the country, while English is one of the more widely spoken foreign languages, although it is only known by an estimated 10 million people.
In many parts of the country, you are likely to find that the locals don’t speak English, but there are many simple phrases that you can use to try to communicate.
Learn some Chinese phrases
Here are some Mandarin and Chinese words and phrases that you can use during your trip
- Hello – Nǐhǎo (pronounced ‘nee how’)
- Good morning – Zǎo (Zow)
- Good night – Wǎn'ān (One un)
- Thank you – Xièxiè (Shie Shie)
- OK – Hǎo (how)
- Not OK – bu hao (boo how)
- Excuse me – qĭng wen (king when)
- I’m sorry – duì bù qǐ (do ee boo key)
How to stay safe in China
China is generally a safe place to visit, but tourists still need to be vigilant of theft and drinks being spiked, particularly in bars and busy tourist spots. Travellers are also advised to avoid getting into unmarked taxis and to keep an eye on your belongings when you are in busy areas.
There are various natural disasters that can take place in China, including earthquakes and flooding. There is also a typhoon season that usually lasts between May and November each year. They often affect the coastal regions in the south, and they can sometimes lead to delays to flights.
Tourists should avoid tap water as it is unsafe to consume and should instead stick to drinking bottled water. It is generally safe to use the water for showers and for brushing your teeth, but it shouldn’t be used to drink as it is not well filtered or purified.
High levels of air pollution has also been a big problem in many of the major cities, but over the last few years the government has been working to tackle the issue. In areas that still have high air pollution like Beijing, you should take caution as it can cause some medical issues, particularly for children and the elderly.
Travellers have also been warned of ongoing protests that are taking place in Hong Kong, as some of the demonstrations have taken place in areas that are popular with tourists. While they are mostly peaceful, there have been some violent altercations between protestors and the police. Tourists looking to visit Hong Kong are advised to stay aware of ongoing protests and avoid them where possible, and you should also regularly check your transport plans and flight status for potential disruptions.
The rising tensions also mean that you could face greater scrutiny at the border if you are crossing between Hong Kong and mainland China.
What to do if you need help in China
If you need emergency medical assistance or need to reach other emergency services, then you should call 120 to request an ambulance, 110 for police, and 119 for fire.
The British Embassy is in Beijing and if you need urgent help you should call +86 (0) 10 8529 6600. There are also British Consulate General’s in Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shanghai and Wuhan.
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Your Single Trip Travel Insurance comes with a number of benefits. These include:
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- Our policy can protect you from 1-365 days. Even if you only plan on having one trip, you can let your holiday last even longer.
- Cover for up to £15 million provided for medical expenses. Including emergency medical treatment, repatriation and the services of a medical assistance company
- Insurance may be available if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Let us know if you or any other insured parties require additional cover, and we will do our best to accommodate.
- We provide cover for up to 150 sports and activities free of charge. Let you hair down and try your hand at some of the sports and activities which may be on offer.
- Your baggage will be insured for up to £2500, including your valuables and delayed baggage. Should your luggage or personal belongings become delayed, lost, stolen or damaged during your trip.
- Optional - Winter sports, ski and snowboard cover can be included. Which includes a whole lot more than just ski and snowboarding!
- Optional - Gadget cover can be added. Add extra cover for your mobile phone, tablet or laptop with up to £1000 protection against theft, damage or loss on your trip.
- You can be eligible for single trip insurance up to the maximum age of 85. Be free to travel the world whether you're young, or young at heart
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If you have any unanswered questions, please visit our Winter Sports FAQ’s page for more information.
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