- We advise you exercise normal safety precautions in China.
- Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security threats.
- We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution if travelling to Tibet Autonomous Region. You should not attempt to travel to Tibet without permission from the Chinese authorities. For details about obtaining a travel permit to Tibet, see Local travel below.
- We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution if travelling to Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region due to its volatile security situation and heightened ethnic tensions. In July 2009, violent protests resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. A number of further protests and incidents, including bombings, have occurred in the region since that date. In late July 2011, a series of violent incidents occurred in the city of Kashgar in which a number of people were killed and injured. You should avoid any protests or large gatherings.
- The Chinese authorities have put in place stringent requirements for visa issue. You should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of China for detailed information well in advance of your intended travel date.
- You should seek professional legal advice before entering into a contract of any sort in China. See Laws for more information.
- The Chinese government does not recognise dual nationality. If you are an Australian/Chinese dual national, you should travel on your Australian passport, obtain a visa for China and present yourself as Australian at all times. See Information for dual nationals for more information.
- The World Health Organization has confirmed human deaths from avian influenza in China. See Health issues below for advice to Australians travelling to or residing in China.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of China for the most up to date information. For foreigners already travelling or resident within China, all visa inquiries should be directed to the Foreigners Entry and Exit Administration Section of the local Public Security Bureau.
If travelling to China, your passport must be valid for at least six months after the duration of your intended stay and you must also be able to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket. A visa is required for all travellers to China whether for tourism, business, employment or study purposes. You should ensure that you obtain the appropriate visa for the purpose of your visit. It is very difficult to obtain a visa at Chinese border entry points.
If your passport is lost or stolen while in China you will firstly need to obtain an official loss report from the local police (this report can be used when checking in to a hotel and will be necessary for obtaining a new passport and Chinese visa). You will need to obtain a replacement passport from the nearest Australian embassy or consulate, as well as a Chinese visa to allow you to leave China. Issue of a visa by the Chinese authorities can take up to five working days, and can be delayed significantly longer during Chinese holiday periods. Australians who have lost or had their passport stolen in China should not expect the Chinese visa renewal or replacement process to be expedited for them to meet travel or flight schedules. We encourage you to keep a copy of your passport and Chinese visa in a safe place when travelling in China.
Chinese authorities strictly enforce penalties for entry and exit visa violations. Current regulations include a 500RMB fine (not to exceed 5,000RMB) for each day overstayed, and/or detention. The period of detention can range from 5 to 30 days depending on the severity of the violation.
We recommend that travellers ensure they depart China before their visa expiry date.
Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions (SAR) and have separate visa and entry administration. Travellers who exit mainland China to visit Hong Kong or Macau may require a new Chinese visa to re-enter mainland China. In particular, travellers with a single entry visa for China should take particular note of this requirement. Some travel permits, issued in Hong Kong or at Hong Kong-Macau-Chinese mainland border crossings, are valid for limited travel to designated areas only such as Shenzhen, Zhuhai or other areas in Guangdong Province. It is illegal to use these permits to travel to other parts of China. Travellers should carefully check the details on their visa.
You may need a visa to transit China if your stopover is longer than 24 hours and requires you to leave the airport. However, if you are staying for less than 24 hours while transiting en route to a third country, and you have a pre-purchased outward ticket, you may not need a transit visa. If you need to leave the airport during the 24 hour period, you may be able to apply for a permit on arrival at the airport. These requirements can change often and vary between airports. You should check specific requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of China for the most up to date information.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
Civil unrest/political tension
You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Australians could inadvertently become victims of violence directed at others.
Xinjiang: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution if travelling to Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The security situation in Xinjiang is volatile due to heightened ethnic tensions. In July 2009, violent protests resulted in a large number of deaths and injuries in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. A number of further protests and incidents, including bombings, have occurred in the region since that date. In late July 2011, a series of violent incidents occurred in the city of Kashgar in which a number of people were killed and injured. The government may impose restrictions on movement and communications in Kashgar and nearby areas with little warning. You should avoid any protests or large gatherings.
Tibet: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution if travelling to the Tibet Autonomous Region. On 14 March 2008, protests by Tibetan monks in Lhasa turned violent with reports of deaths and injuries. Demonstrations and violence could occur with little warning.
You should not attempt to travel to Tibet without permission from the Chinese authorities. Foreigners wishing to travel to Tibet must apply for a Tibet Entry Permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. For further information, see Local travel below.
Avoid photographing, videoing or participating in protests or other acts which could be seen as provocative by authorities in Tibet or elsewhere in China.
Petty crime directed at foreigners, particularly pick pocketing, purse snatching and theft of laptops, passports and mobile phones occurs. Resisting can lead to violence or injury. Travellers have been targeted on overnight long distance trains and buses and on public transport. Foreigners have been assaulted and robbed, particularly in popular expatriate gathering areas including the bar and shopping precincts of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other major cities.
Foreigners have also been targets of a number of scams when travelling in China. An increasing number of tourists are being approached and invited for a drink at a teahouse, cafe or bar nearby for an number of reasons including “to practice English”. Afterwards the tourist is presented with a vastly inflated bill and is not permitted to leave until they pay the bill by credit card. Physical violence, including serious assault, and credit card skimming or duplication has occurred.
There have been reports of foreign travellers being drugged and robbed in China after accepting offers of food, drink or transportation from strangers.
There have been incidents of ATM scams including the use of fake ATMs that take the user's card. ATM robberies are also common. It is recommended you use ATMs when accompanied, inside a secure place such as a bank, and during daylight hours to reduce risks.
If you are the victim of petty crime or a scam, you should report it immediately to the local police. Even though they may not be able to get your money or goods back, they can issue you with an official loss report for insurance purposes.
For further information on how to reduce your risk on various types of scams visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's SCAMwatch website at www.scamwatch.gov.au.
There is a risk of armed bandit attacks in remote areas bordering Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Russia. You should be vigilant if travelling in these areas.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. In large Chinese cities (e.g. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen) ATMs that allow cash withdrawals using Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, Maestro, American Express and JCB are widely available. Opportunities to make purchases by credit are common, particularly in international hotels and restaurants. In smaller cities, using international cards may be more difficult.
The Chinese Customs Administration requires that travellers carrying over US$6,000 (or equivalent in foreign currencies) in cash must declare it upon arrival in China. The declaration should be kept safely and shown to customs officials upon departure. Travellers who wish to depart China carrying between US$6,000 and US$10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currencies) should obtain permission from a Chinese bank to do so.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible. You must also report your loss of passport to the nearest police station and obtain a confirmation report of passport loss before you are able to secure an exit visa to leave China. The police loss report will also assist you to check in to a hotel if required. The process of obtaining a new Chinese visa may take up to a week to complete.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Australian Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Travellers are permitted only in areas open to foreigners. Travel near military installations and near some border areas within China is restricted.
Foreigners wishing to travel to Tibet must apply for a Tibet Entry Permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Applications for Tibet Entry Permits can only be lodged through specialised travel agents in China and travel can only be undertaken through organised tours.
Tibet, Qinghai, parts of Xinjiang, and western Sichuan are situated at altitudes over 3000 metres. Travellers in these areas may suffer from altitude sickness.
Travel and living conditions vary greatly between city areas and less developed rural areas. You may have trouble finding services such as banking, internet access and telephones, including mobile phone reception, in rural areas.
Poorly maintained roads and aggressive driving can make travel by road in China dangerous. See our road travel page.
Tour operators, public buses and ferries might not meet the safety standards you would expect in Australia, particularly in rural areas of the country.
You should contact your airline or travel agent for up-to-date information on flights and transport options, for both domestic and international travel.
Please refer to our air travel page about aviation safety and security.
When you are in China, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
In China, a person aged 14 years and above is considered to be responsible for their actions, and treated as an adult under the law. If detained, a person of this age will be held with adults and be subject to the same conditions and legal processes as adults.
There are strictly enforced laws which prohibit demonstrations without prior approval from the government. If arrested, you could be jailed or deported.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty.
Other serious crimes may also attract the death penalty.
Gambling and prostitution are illegal in mainland China.
Photography of military or government buildings may result in a penalty. You should seek permission from local authorities before taking photographs.
Homosexual acts are not illegal in China, but you should be aware of local sensitivities.
All foreigners including long-term residents are required to register their place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) within 24 hours of arrival, and at each change of residential location. This can be done by visiting the nearest police station and presenting your passport and valid Chinese visa. Foreigners staying with family or friends in a private home are required to register with the PSB. Failure to do so could result in fines and detention. If you are staying at a hotel, this is done as part of the normal check-in process, after the hotel verifies your passport and valid visa. Foreigners with residence permits are now required to register after each re-entry.
You should carry evidence of your identity at all times and present it upon demand of police authorities. Your passport or a Chinese residence card is an acceptable form of identity. Failure to carry ID or comply with the registration requirement could result in fines and detention.
Restrictions apply to certain religious activities, including preaching, distributing literature and associating with unapproved religious groups. Falun Gong activities are banned in China. Falun Gong related demonstrations and activities contravene Chinese laws. If you participate, you could be arrested, imprisoned and/or deported.
Business disputes in China - If you are considering entering into a contract of any sort in China, for example a business contract or residential lease, you are advised to seek professional legal advice before entering into the contract.
If Australian nationals carrying out business in China become involved in a business or civil dispute, they may be prevented from leaving the country until the matter is resolved. This has recently resulted in Australians being restricted from leaving China for extended periods of time, sometimes many years.
Business issues that may be classified as civil or commercial disputes in Australia, may be classified as criminal matters in China, particularly business dealings where state enterprises or state assets are involved. Penalties for commercial or economic crimes can be severe.
There has been an increase in the number of incidents in which Australians and other foreigners have been held against their will at their work place. These incidents may involve other companies or disgruntled employees attempting to resolve business and employment disputes through protests which are often accompanied with threats of violence.
Employment in China - Disputes over alleged misrepresentation of working and living conditions for Australians working in China, particularly those teaching English, occur frequently. If you are considering travelling to China for work, you should verify the true nature of the work being offered and make sure you have the correct visa before arrival. You are advised to seek professional legal advice before signing any contract, whether in Australia or after arrival in China.
Points to check carefully include:
- Employment contracts: Contracts may contain unacceptable conditions. For example, conditions for early termination may state that the employee surrenders the right to a return air ticket, and pay may be withheld.
- Passports: Reputable businesses will not request you to surrender your passport for "safe-keeping".
- Failure to maintain a valid visa could result in a fine of 500 RMB per day and detention. Employment in China usually requires a 'Z-class' visa and a Chinese residence permit.
Our Living and Working Overseas brochure provides further information for Australians considering working or living overseas.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
The Chinese government does not recognise dual nationality and will not allow consular access by the Australian Embassy or Consulate to Australians detained by Chinese authorities if they have entered China on a Chinese passport, a Hong Kong or Macau identity card, an identity card issued by Taiwan or any non-Australian foreign passport. If you are an Australian/Chinese dual national, you should travel on your Australian passport, obtain a visa for China and present yourself as Australian at all times.
If you are a former Chinese citizen and have not renounced your citizenship according to Chinese law, it is possible that Chinese authorities will continue to treat you as a Chinese citizen and not allow you Australian consular services, even if you entered China on an Australian or other foreign passport. If you do not advise the Chinese authorities formally that you have become an Australian citizen, or if you continue to maintain a Chinese passport or household registration, it is possible that Chinese authorities will treat you as a Chinese citizen. Similarly, it is possible that certain types of Chinese citizens, such as state functionaries, will not be permitted to renounce their Chinese nationality under Chinese law. You are advised to seek professional legal advice if you are uncertain about your citizenship status under Chinese law.
Our Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
International standard medical services in China are expensive. We recommend that if you intend to be resident in China for an extended period of time you should explore options for acquiring local health insurance or establish with your employer whether health coverage is provided through your employment.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for staying healthy while travelling overseas.
The standard of medical care and the range of familiar medications available in China is often limited, particularly outside of major cities. Medical personnel in rural areas of the country may lack adequate training. Some hospitals in major cities have specialised departments for treating foreigners. Hospitals and doctors often require cash payment, prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care. Medical evacuation from China is very expensive.
Travel to China for medical treatment is increasing. Australians should ensure that they are not lured to uncertified medical establishments where medical standards are lacking or where the establishment is not able to provide the medical service or patient care advertised. You should seek independent information, such as from health professionals and former patients, to satisfy yourself of the quality of medical service.
The WHO advises in 2011 there has been outbreak of poliomyelitis in Xinjiang province. Travellers should ensure that vaccinations for poliomyelitis are current and take the necessary precautions.
Dairy products: For information on the melamine contamination of dairy products in 2008, please refer to the World Health Organisation’s website article 'Melamine contamination event, China, 2008'.
H7N9 Avian influenza cases in 2013: Chinese authorities have confirmed cases in humans of (H7N9) avian influenza in China. For more information see the websites of the Department of Health and Ageing and the World Health Organisation.
H1N1 Avian influenza: The World Health Organization has previously confirmed human deaths from (H1N1) avian influenza in China. The Department of Health and Ageing advises Australians who reside in China for an extended period to consider, as a precautionary measure, having access to influenza antiviral medicine for treatment. Long term residents are at a greater risk of exposure to avian influenza over time. You should seek medical advice before taking antiviral medicines. Australians intending to travel to China for shorter periods are at much lower risk of infection but should discuss the risk of avian influenza with their doctor as part of their routine pre-travel health checks.
If the avian influenza virus mutates to a form where efficient human-to-human transmission occurs, it may spread quickly and local authorities could move quickly to impose restrictions on travel. Australian travellers and long-term residents in China should be prepared to take personal responsibility for their own safety and well-being, including deciding when to leave an affected area and ensuring they have appropriate contingency plans in place. Australians in China should monitor the travel advice and bulletin for updated information and advice, and ensure that their travel documents, including passports and visas for any non-Australian family members, are up to date in case they need to depart at short notice.
Japanese Encephalitis: Japanese Encephalitis (also known as Encephalitis B), a mosquito-borne disease, is endemic in rural areas of Southern China from June to August.
The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is found throughout many regions of North, South and South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.
HIV/AIDS: HIV/AIDS is a significant concern in China. There is a risk of exposure to unsafe blood and blood products in regional China. Travellers should specifically request the use of sterilised equipment. Additional charges may be incurred for the use of new syringes in hospitals or clinics. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
Rabies: Health authorities report a high number of animal and human rabies cases annually in China. You should be cautious in all contact with both wild and domestic animals in China.
Malaria: The risk of malaria is heightened in rural areas of the country, particularly in the provinces of Hainan, Yunnan, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Tibet (Zanbo Valley areas only), Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Shandong. The risk of malaria increases during warm weather. We encourage you to: see your doctor about vaccinations before travelling; take prophylaxis against malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases where necessary; ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof; and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is common in China with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. In Asia, outbreaks of HFMD usually start in March/April and peak in May but can continue until August to October each year. It mostly affects children under the age of 10 years but adult cases (particularly young adults) are not unusual. The illness is characterised by fever as well as blisters and rashes on the hands, feet and buttocks. HFMD is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges and faeces of infected people. Normal hygiene precautions should be taken including careful and frequent hand washing.
Pollution: Major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou experience frequent high pollution, which in some places can reach hazardous levels. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, particularly cardiac and respiratory, may be especially affected. If you live in or intend to visit China and are concerned about the levels of air pollution you should seek medical advice. You should also follow advice from local authorities about days with high levels of pollution and methods to reduce exposure.
The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection provides air quality data for cities in China. You can monitor the pollution index for many cities through websites and mobile apps such as the Air Quality Index or the website of the US Embassy which provides air quality index ratings based on the standards of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Information on air quality can also be found on the World Health Organisation website.
The high levels of air pollution in industrialised areas in China, including in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions.
Dust storms, which occur on occasion across the north of the country, can cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations and exacerbate respiratory and cardio-vascular problems.
Tap water in China may not be safe to drink, depending on your location. Travellers are advised to drink only bottled water.
Quarantine requirements vary throughout the provinces and municipalities in China. The nearest Embassy or Consulate of the People's Republic of China can provide detailed information.
Where to get help
In China, you can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian Embassy, Beijing
21 Dongzhimenwai Dajie
Sanlitun, Beijing 100600
Telephone: (86 10) 5140 4111
Facsimile: (86 10) 5140 4292
Australian Consulate General, Shanghai
Level 22, CITIC Square
1168 Nanjing Xi Lu
Telephone: (86 21) 2215 5200
Facsimile: (86 21) 2215 5252
Australian Consulate General, Guangzhou
12th Floor, Development Centre
No. 3 Linjiang Road
Zhujiang New City
Telephone: (86 20) 3814 0111
Facsimile: (86 20) 3814 0112
If you are travelling to China, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
The rainy season occurs between April and October. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and mudslides which may interrupt essential services. Typhoons can occur along the southern and eastern coasts between May and November. You should monitor weather reports if travelling in affected areas. If travelling during typhoon season you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.
The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning. You can check the latest typhoon information from the World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre or the China Meteorological Association.
In the event of an approaching typhoon, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The typhoon could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe typhoon may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should review and follow hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e.passport, picture ID's, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our severe weather page.
China is subject to earthquakes. An earthquake in Sichuan Province on 12 May 2008 measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. Many people were killed, injured or left homeless.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
Parents should be aware of the local requirement to register a new born child within 30-days of the child’s birth. Parents intending to seek Australian citizenship by descent for children born overseas should contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at the nearest Australian embassy or consulate for further advice.
Where one parent is from mainland China, a child born in China will be considered a Chinese national under Chinese Law. This may affect the willingness of local authorities to recognise the child’s Australian citizenship and passport. For further information on this, parents should contact the local Entry and Exit Administration Bureau.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities in China we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments