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A Comprehensive China Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Landing in China!

Updated: Jul 16

Travel Visa: China 72/144-hour Visa Free Transit

Since 2016, China has implemented a 144-hour visa-free transit policy to facilitate short visits for foreigners, particularly to Shanghai. By 2023, this 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy was extended to travelers from 54 countries, allowing entry to over 20 cities across China. For official information on the 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, including the eligible countries, application conditions, and available cities, visit the National Immigration Administration website: National Immigration Administration.

If you meet all the required conditions, congratulations! It’s time to plan your trip to China. If this is your first visit to the ‘Mysterious Land of the East,’ the most common question among Western travelers is: Is China safe for foreigners?

Is China safe for foreigners?

First of all, China is a strictly gun-free country. According to the World Population Review's data on gun deaths by country, China has a very low or even 0% ranking in terms of both gun deaths and violent deaths, indicating a safer environment (the lower the ranking, the better). Additionally, China is a leading anti-drug nation, ranking only 74th out of 130 countries in the prevalence of opiate use (source: Wikipedia). When it comes to terrorism, China ranks 73rd out of 89 countries on the Global Terrorism Index, showing a very low likelihood of terrorist attacks (source: Vision of Humanity). Overall, China is safer than most countries and is definitely worth exploring.

Which airlines should I choose?

We highly recommend choosing a Chinese airline if it's available from your city. This is a fantastic way to kick off your China trip, immersing yourself in a unique Chinese flying experience with Chinese food, aircrew, and broadcasts. These airlines offer direct flights between many major cities worldwide: Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Xiamen Air, and Hainan Airlines.

Which Airports in China Should I Choose?

China has a total of 259 airports, so which one should you choose when booking your flight? To save on airfare, consider flying into one of China's four major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen. These cities have the most flights, increasing your chances of finding a cheaper ticket. Additionally, several second-tier cities now offer direct international flights, including Hangzhou, Xiamen, Chengdu, Xi’an, Kunming, Harbin, and Shenyang. Choose your destination based on whether the flight offers good value for money or saves you time to explore more of China’s vast landscape (note: China is very big!).

Which Cities Should I Visit to Experience Local Chinese Culture?

If it's your first time in China and you feel a bit uneasy stepping out of your comfort zone, but still want to experience local Chinese culture, Beijing and Shanghai are your top choices. The language barrier can be a significant challenge for foreigners, but in these cities, you're more likely to find locals who speak English. Moreover, both Beijing and Shanghai offer a variety of Western restaurants and cafés, making it easy to find familiar food options if you're not yet accustomed to Chinese cuisine.

If you've been to China before and have already visited Beijing and Shanghai, it’s time to explore more local experiences! The following cities are highly recommended for immersing yourself in local Chinese culture:

  • Guangzhou

  • Chongqing

  • Wuhan

For a glimpse into the lifestyle of Chinese youth, visit some new first- or second-tier cities. They offer a convenient, modern Chinese lifestyle reflective of most urban areas in China:

  • Shenzhen

  • Hangzhou

  • Chengdu

For niche tourist spots with spectacular landscapes and unique ethnic characteristics, consider these special destinations:

  • Yunnan

  • Sichuan

  • Hainan

  • Tibet

  • Inner Mongolia

What Must-Have Apps Do Foreigners Need to Download for 'Free-Move' in China?

Nearly all Western apps, including Google, Instagram, and Facebook, are banned in China. To ensure a smooth travel experience, it's recommended to download the following Chinese apps. These apps cover 90% of daily life needs, with each offering additional in-app features:

  • Gaode Map/Baidu Map (equivalent to Google Maps)

  • Dazhong Dianping (similar to TripAdvisor)

  • WeChat (includes WeChat Pay and WeChat mini-programs)

  • Yiyan Baidu (an AI tool for comprehensive assistance, similar to ChatGPT)

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