Is China Safe To Travel To And Tourist Friendly?
1. Is It Safe To Travel To China For Holidays?
As someone who has travelled to China several times, I have always felt very safe. So yes, my experience and many others is that China is generally a safe place to visit as foreign tourists.
The Chinese Government is keen on promoting tourism for people to see the real China, not the media China. It is therefore strong on ensuring safety and security for foreign and local Chinese tourists.
This makes China one of the safest countries in the world to visit, where crime rates are low. However, like every country you visit, you must take sensible precautions and respect local cultures and laws. Scams and pickpocketing in busy places like train stations and tourist attractions are common in China. So be aware, but don’t become suspicious of everyone who may seek to help you.
Increasing numbers of foreigners visit China as the cities are very safe and accessible. Whether you go on a China tour, use a travel guide, or plan things yourself, you will be fine.
So grab your passport, get travel insurance, and head to China for a travel experience you will never forget. My blog on 10 Unforgettable Things To Do In China will give you some great ideas of where to visit in China.
2. Is China Safe For Solo Traveler’s?
I have visited several places in China as a solo traveller who cannot speak Mandarin. From my own experiences and from what others have reported, yes, China is safe for solo travelers.
However, whether you are travelling by yourself, as a couple or part of a group, the same precautions need to be taken. My safety tips are:
- For first-time or non-experienced solo travelers, maybe go safe and travel around China with a good tour company or guide.
- If you want to plan and do your own thing, stick with the bigger cities as your first China experience.
- Taxis are very cheap in China so use them. But use the official taxis or, even better, a ride-hailing app like Didi. For official taxis, make sure they use the meter.
- Make sure you purchase a good data and call mobile phone package. Almost all transactions in China are now via phone apps, so access to data is vital for payment and contacting people.
- Keep your valuables secure and hidden away. The good thing in China is you don’t need to carry much cash. However, you need your passport a lot, so keep that safe!
- As a foreigner, make sure you appreciate and respect the country’s traditions and laws. China is not a place to take the law lightly.
- Don’t take photos of military or government buildings, and respect policemen and women.
- Be careful in accepting offers of help or visiting places of interest whether you intend to see them or not.
- As in any country, don’t leave your drinks unattended wherever you are.
3. How Are Tourists Treated In China?
China is an amazing country in the world with large numbers of foreign tourists discovering that over recent years. China is getting more open and accessible for tourism every year.
Although there are cultural differences, Chinese people are very warm, welcoming and ready to help. However, the vast majority of tourists in China are actually Chinese people. So yes, China is tourist-friendly, but you need to be aware that:
Foreigners do stand out
Your experience depending on where you come from, will vary. Chinese people are more used to seeing people from Western countries.
Therefore, people from other ethnic backgrounds will get a lot of attention. As a black African man, I can however say that this attention is 99% of the time more of curiosity than animosity. I love visiting China, have always felt safe and will continue to visit. So don’t let it be an issue; just be aware.
Majority of the information is in Mandarin
The big city train and metro stations and major attractions have limited English signage. Likewise, voice announcements will be in Mandarin.
Restaurants will rarely have English or other foreign language menus. A large proportion of people you will engage with on the streets, in shops etc, only speak Mandarin.
These can be challenging but not impossible to deal with if you use most mobile phone translation apps now available. These can help you scan written words or listen to voice announcements to translate into your language.
Mobile data is key
As a tourist in China, you must have access to mobile data as almost everything is mobile-dependent. Whether you are paying for things or want to use apps like navigation or mail, you need data.
This isn’t a problem, as many solutions are available to buy sim cards before or when you get to China.
You need a VPN
Yes, the internet in China is regulated. Without a VPN you cannot access normal internet websites or use any google associated phone apps. And you will be surprised how many apps you use that are affected by this, including Google Play Store, Facebook and YouTube.
Again, this isn’t a problem as there are VPNs you can purchase for this purpose. However, you must make sure you have installed that before you leave your country. If you don’t, you will not be able to access Google Play Store to download it.
4. Staying Safe – Traveller Tips On Safety In China
Keep your valuable possessions safe
Wherever you travel in the world, keeping your valuable things safe should be the first thing on your mind. So:
- Use concealed travel wallet & passport belts or bags with secure zips/locks. This is especially needed as you must carry your passport with you daily in China. You need your passport to get into train stations or as ID.
- Use a room safe if one is in your hotel room for other smaller valuables. Otherwise, lock them in your suitcase when you leave your room.
- Use secure locks on your suitcase, especially TSA-approved locks.
- If you travel by train, put your suitcase in a safe place. Ideally, put it in front of you on the racks above the seat so you can see it.
- In metro trains or buses, have your bag on your lap or in front of you and check your zips have been closed.
- Be aware of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas, and watch out for accidental bumps. Again, have your bag in front of you, and put things into your front rather than back pockets.
Watch out for illegal taxis
Illegal (or Black) taxis in China are unlicensed cars that are usually private vehicles or former taxis. They are usually found near busy locations like main train stations, airports and tourist attractions. Driven by normal people, they offer people an alternative to official taxis.
They are distinguishable from the official taxis as they have a license plate with a “P” at the end. Official taxis are brightly coloured (e.g., red, yellow, blue, green) with a license plate with a “B” at the end. Official taxis also have an LED Taxi Flag on top of the car showing availability, and an official number on the side of the car.
Black taxis should be avoided by tourists in China because:
- They are not regulated and therefore not as safe as official taxis for your welfare, and if you leave valuables in the car.
- Although they may have meters these are fake, and they will claim it is broken when your journey starts. In most cases they will insist on agreeing a fee, which will be much higher than the normal cost.
So take official taxis or use as I did mobile taxi apps like DiDi Chuxing, as they are similar to Uber.
Be aware and look out for potential scams and tourist traps
Many Chinese people you meet will make you feel welcome in China. However, like most countries there will be people keen to take advantage of foreign tourists, and China is no different. Some of the common scams to look out for in China include:
Invitation to a nice Tea Ceremony place
This involves a young, friendly Chinese woman or man approaching you in broken English to engage in friendly conversation. Most people you will meet in the streets don’t speak English, or even if they do won’t initiate things directly. Therefore, this should be a flag for you to be careful.
The general purpose of this scam is to invite you to join them in a teahouse which has a nice tea ceremony. This is only because they are going there and want to invite you so they can practise their English. Once there, you will then be served some standard tea and then presented with a very large bill. By then, the person that took you there has disappeared on the way to the toilet!
This is getting less of a risk because most transactions now take place via mobile phone apps. However, it can still happen when shopkeepers or street vendors give you fake money. It is near impossible for you as a tourist to tell the difference.
So my best advice is to use Alipay or WeChat Pay mobile payment options instead. If they don’t take that, then walk away unless you really need the item.
- Taxi meter not working
You get this all around the world where taxis have meters, so China is no exception. Taxis in China should use their meters. It’s a small LED unit at the bottom of the dashboard in front of the gear stick. It’s hard to spot the first time but look out for it.
The scam is that the meter isn’t working, so you will need to pay in cash or agree on a price with them. To start with, you should not be caught out by this! Always ask before you get into the car if the meter works. If it doesn’t, don’t get into it and wait for another.
The availability of mobile ride-hailing apps has helped with that, as you don’t now need to feel pressured you won’t get a cab.
- Taxi meter working but long way taken
Again, a common scam worldwide, with the driver taking an extra-long route. This is harder to work out unless you have mobile data and VPN access. This will allow you can track your journey with for example, Google Maps, so at least you can challenge them.
5. Is It Safe To Walk Around China At Night?
Most places in China have a lively social scene with shopping malls containing restaurants, shops and café bars open till about 10pm. This is especially the case in big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, meaning many people are around at night.
China is really a safe country, and definitely safe to walk around at night in the big cities. So yes, have a walk about at night to enjoy the wonderful life taking place around you. However, big city or not, tourists, especially women travelers should be careful and aware at all times.
Staying safe is also easier in groups if you can, by staying in well-lit places and avoiding isolated streets.
6. Is China A Safe Place To Drink The Water?
One of the main questions people ask when travelling to foreign countries is whether it’s safe to drink tap water. Although water treatment processes are improving in China, general advice is to stay away from water straight out a tap.
Chinese people traditionally drink a lot of hot boiled water for health purposes. It’s definitely safe for travelers to drink this, and you will see hot water dispensers in many train stations and trains. You can also use purifiers or filters or buy bottled water, which is the most convenient option.
So yes, drinking water in China is safe for foreigners if you follow the advice above.
7. Is Street Food Safe To Eat On My China Travel?
China is a safe place to visit for foreign travelers who like to enjoy local food. Tasting the delicious street food available in different parts of China should be one of the highlights of your trip in China.
So tips to help you have a good China trip traveller experience are:
- Go with the local’s knowledge. If more Chinese people are going to certain stalls, go there!
- Use your eyes and get a feel of how hygienic a stall is. If the stall or food looks suspicious, give it a miss.
- Hot, freshly cooked food is less risk than rewarmed or uncooked food.
- Be especially careful of eating seafood.
- Make sure you carry some anti-diarrhoea tablets and rehydration salts. There is always a risk of an upset stomach when you travel, so go prepared.
Following the advice above, you will enjoy one of the best things to do in China: eating delicious mouth-watering food.
8. Conclusion On Why China Is A Safe Place To Visit
China is definitely safe to visit, as I have experienced on several occasions. It’s a beautiful, diverse country with many wonderful cultural experiences. Like most countries, it’s important to know that there are some safety concerns that you need to plan for.
Although violent crime in China against foreigners is relatively low, petty crimes and scams do occur, so be vigilant but not paranoid. Wherever you’re travelling to in China, do some research, plan your trips, and follow the above advice.
You will have a memorable experience.
Q: What is the best time to travel to China?
A: The best time to visit really depends on what you are interested in. March to May or September to November are ideal for milder weather and fewer crowds. If you like winter activity, visiting Harbin the world’s largest ice and snow festival, is a must between December to early March. There are also many festivals like Chines New Year in January or February or the Dragon Boat festival in June.
Q: Is air pollution a concern when traveling to China?
A: Air pollution in China can be a concern in some areas, especially larger major cities like Beijing. Air quality measures have however improved significantly over the past few years, meaning China is a safe country to travel to. These actions include a significant move to the use of electric motorcycles and cars. It is however advisable for people suffering from respiratory problems to wear face masks when travelling in larger cities.
Q: Do I need a local guide or China tour when traveling in China?
A: Although using a travel agency means you pay much more for your trip, it makes China safe to visit, especially if it’s your first trip. Unless you speak Mandarin, using local guides or travel consultants are always good options to reduce the stress of being in a very different culture. The abundance of mobile phone translation apps however also means adventurous tourists can navigate around China by themselves.
Q: Can I travel to China right now in 2023?
A: Following my recent trip in April 2023, I can confirm China is safe to travel to following the Covid outbreak. The wearing of face masks is common by most people on trains, buses and most public places. It is still advisable for foreign citizens visiting China to check the travel advisory of their home country and the latest guidelines before traveling.
Q: What are some popular tourist destinations in China?
A: China is a wonderful tourist destination with an abundance of amazing places to explore. Some popular tourist places include Shanghai, Beijing and the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, and the Yangtze River. You can read my blog 10 Unforgettable Things To Do In China for ideas on where to visit.
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