China is a vibrant mix of history and modernity. There is something to see and do for every traveller; from the innovative architecture found in the financial and commercial centre of Shanghai to the country’s 5,000-year old civilisation that can be seen in its many monuments and museums in Beijing.
China also has many activities for travellers seeking adventure. These sites tend to be less well-known (and therefore, less crowded!) like the Buddhist caves at Dunhuang and the great Taklamakan Desert in the far north-west.
Contrary to what films portray, Chinese people are very peaceful, and the majority will be genuinely interested in getting to know you and even practice their English with you. Leave all stereotypes behind and enjoy the country and its culture.
Overall, yes, China is currently under no major threats. In fact, China has a low murder rate – Similar to the United Kingdom and Canada, and less than half that of the United States.
Crime and Scams
However, travelers are often victims of petty crime such as theft. Always take precautions and use common sense as you would in any tourist area and crowded place. Be especially cautious at train stations like when you are waiting in line to buy your ticket. The Chinese tend to push up really tight because they don’t want people to cut in line, so be wary of the person behind you. If you happen to catch a pickpocket in the act, make a big loud scene as the last thing a scammer or pickpocket wants is attention, and with some luck, a policeman might be around and help you. Chinese criminals understand that committing a crime against a foreigner is bad publicity for the country, so not many are dumb enough to risk being harshly punished by the government.
Counterfeit is a significant concern in China, especially counterfeit currency. Always try to carry small bills or to use exact change. If you need to withdraw money, use ATMs at trusted financial institutions. All bills (except the one yuan) have metal ribbons from top to bottom a little left from the center. You should be able to see them as a silver line when looked at from the back. The flower design near the middle of each bill and the Chairman Mao’s jacket image are textured, so there should be some bumpiness when touching them.
Just like in Turkey, some well-dressed men or women may approach you and ask you to take a picture of them before dragging you to expensive cafés or restaurants and then leaving you with a crazy bill that you will be forced to pay. These con artists are usually found along Shanghai’s East Nanjing Rd, the Bund, and Beijing’s Wangfujing Dajie.
Beijing’s Capital Airport is infamous for its taxi scams; always stand in line at the taxi rank and make sure that the driver uses his/her meter. It is best to avoid pedicabs and motorized three-wheelers as many people have complained about drivers changing the price even if you had already agreed on a price.
Traffic accidents are the major cause of Death in China. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 600 traffic deaths per day. Do not be surprised if there are no seatbelts on long-distance buses, or if they are unusable.
And since we are talking about traffic, it is important to note that crossing the road in China has also its risks. Be extra vigilant when crossing the street as cars frequently turn on red lights, so the green for pedestrians does not always mean safe to cross.
Most earthquakes occur in the west of China (in remote mountainous areas) with no effect on tourism. In recent years, the Sichuan Province experienced two large quakes that caused some disruptions to tourism, but no travelers were injured.
Some rural areas may be subject to flooding during the rainy season like regions near the Yangtze River. The rainy season occurs between April and June in southern and eastern China, from June to August in the north and west, and between May and September for the areas near the Yangtze River.
Mountainous areas in the southwest of China that have plenty of rain like Yunnan, Sichuan provinces and Tibet (from May to September) are more likely to have Landslides.
Typhoons are common during the wet season (from June to August) along the southern and eastern coasts.
Air pollution is severe, so always monitor the air pollution levels as they change quickly. There are a few websites and apps that can help you.
Warnings & Dangers
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
China is quite safe and a non-violent country. Travelers are often victims of petty crime, but this can be prevented by taking precautions.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: HIGH
Pickpockets and purse snatching are common in crowded places. We advise that you keep an eye on your belonging when you find yourself in busy and crowded areas.
MUGGING & KIDNAPPING RISK: LOW
Mugging and kidnapping against foreigners are extremely rare.
SCAMS RISK: HIGH
Counterfeit currency is a significant problem in China. Always try to carry small bills or to use exact change.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM
Be cautious when taking a taxi, especially at airports. Avoid unlicensed taxis, insist that the taxi driver use his/her meter, request a receipt, and ask your driver to remove the bags from the trunk before you get out of the taxi and before you pay.
NATURAL RISKS: MEDIUM
China is located in an active seismic zone, but earthquakes usually occur in non-tourist zones. The rainy season may cause flooding and landslides. Flooding is common in central, western, and southern China, especially areas around the Yangtze River. The Karakoram and Khunjerab Pass routes can be dangerous due to landslides. Typhoons are usual along the southern and eastern coasts. Moreover, air pollution is severe; you can monitor air pollution levels here.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
Terrorist attacks are likely in China. Take particular care and remain vigilant when traveling to or within Xinjiang as most attacks take place in this region according to the Chinese government.
WOMEN TRAVELER RISK: LOW
China is a safe place to travel for female travellers, but it is always good to exercise precautions like you would in any other country.
There are no specific difficulties for travellers entering China. The main requirements are a passport that’s valid for six months after the expiry date of your visa, and a visa.
Citizens from 51 nations (including the US, Australia, Canada, France, Brazil and the UK) can stay in Beijing for 72 hours without a visa as long as it is a layover, they are traveling outside of China, have a third-country visa, and an air ticket out of Beijing. Similarly, travellers from the 51 nations can stay 144 hours in Shanghai, Nanjing or Gangzhou without a visa.
China’s currency is called “yuan” or renminbi (RMB, “the people’s money”). Denominations of bills: 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1 yuan. There are ATMs in big cities and towns. China is still a cash culture, so do not rely on your credit card.
The rainy season typically begins in February and ends in September. July and August are the hottest months of the year; some provinces have reported heat alerts. The typhoon season in China is usually from May to November affecting the southern and eastern coasts.
China’s major airports are Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Xian Xianyang International Airport, Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport. If you’re looking for cheap flight deals, you can find some on JetRadar