You must apply for a visa before coming to China. There are generally two types of visas for foreigners:
· L Visa – this lasts for between two weeks and a month and is most often applied for by tourists. An L Visa allows you a one-time entry into China, but you must leave by the time the visa is due to expire.
· M Visa – this lasts for between three months and ten years and is most often applied for by those who are involved in commercial and trade activities. The M Visa allows you multiple entries into and exits from China as well as mid-term residency.
Applying for a via to enter China is very simple and you can apply yourself, either by going to the Chinese embassy in your country of residence, or by going to your local travel agent, who will also be happy to assist you.
Unlike many other countries, China has its own bank card system, Union Pay, and consequently international bank or credit cards such as Visa or Mastercard are rarely accepted except by some international hotel chains and major retail outlets. Smaller retail outlets – shops, stores – and taxis, trains, etc. do not accept international bank or credit cards. Only very few ATMs will accept international bank or credit cards if you want to withdraw cash.
When coming to China I strongly recommend you bring a certain, but safe amount of cash with you. The unit if currency in China is the Yuan, with the international currency code RMB. It is possible to exchange currency (cash) in China, but the banks will only convert U.S. dollars and euros, the common currency of the European Union.
It is not illegal to enter China with pharmaceutical drugs that are for personal use. If you are found with five-year’s supply of any pharmaceutical drug in your suitcase, this is unlikely to be accepted as being for personal use, so be sensible about the quantities you have on you. If you have a medical condition that requires long-term medication, bring six month’s supply of the drugs required with you, and make arrangements for the delivery of further medication using a reputable international parcel delivery service such as FedEx.
Chinese medicine and Western medicine vary in so many ways, so while both have ways of treating common ailments such as a cold, the flu, a stomach bug or a headache, if you are not a fluent Chinese speaker, you will find it difficult to find ‘off the shelf’ medication you are more used to. I strongly recommend you bring a ‘first aid’ kit with you which contains:
· Antiseptic cream
· Other simple medications for common minor ailments
Ask your local pharmacist for any advice on what you should take with you when travelling to China.
Many first-time visitors to China bring very little with them in the way of clothing and footwear as they believe everything is cheap to buy in China. Very quickly they discover the error of their ways!
First, most Westerners are larger than the average Far Eastern person, so it can be very difficult to find clothing that will fit. Second, contrary to popular belief, the retail price of clothes and footwear in China is very high. This may help you to understand why so many Chinese tourists to Europe and America buy so many clothes. It is not because they can’t find the same fashions in China, it is simply that they are much more expensive to buy in China.
Of course, you can still find cheap clothing in Chinese ‘night markets’, but there is a reason these clothes are cheap – they are of poor quality.
While it is easy to get access to the Internet in China and while Wi-Fi connection is readily available, many Western websites and social media platforms are banned and access to them is blocked. These platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Google, Gmail, YouTube, etc. China has its own versions of these, such as Baidu, RenRen, Weibo, etc.
However, if you install the app for a Virtual Private Network – more commonly called a VPN – on your smartphone, laptop and/or tablet, this will allow you to access any website without them being blocked as you can use the VPN to connect to the internet from what appears to be another country of your choice. Make sure you install a VPN app before coming to China as you can’t access websites where you can download the apps once here.
Chinese Customs will confiscate any raw meat or fish you attempt to bring into the country. However, you can bring in cheese, cooked meat of fish, canned meat or fish, alcohol and most other foodstuffs and beverages providing they are in their original sealed containers.
Common sense should tell you that attempting to bring any type of weapon into China should not be attempted. However, while you may not see some types of knife as an offensive weapon, Chinese Customs will probably have a different opinion. Some years back I innocently tried to bring in an ornamental knife my grandfather gave to me. It was a very expensive tourist gift-type knife and clearly not intended as a weapon, but it was still confiscated at customs, which upset me greatly.
On the off chance you still happen to have physical pictures and magazines of a pornographic nature, do not try to bring them into China, they are illegal.
It is illegal to bring any form of cigarette lighter into China. If you happen to own a cheap disposable lighter or have a precious custom-made Zippo and bring it China, it will simply end up as a gift for Chinese customs officers!
Both the Holy Bible and the Quran are illegal in China, which may surprise many of you. It is illegal to have one in your home, on your person, or to sell. While I have never heard of anyone being imprisoned for innocently bringing a Bible with them in their luggage, it is best not to try and risk anything.