The golden roof on Jokhang Temple, Lhasa
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The golden roof on Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

© Hemera / Thinkstock

Tibet Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,228,400 sq km (474,288 sq miles).

Population

3.3 million (2016).

Population density

2.7 per sq km.

Government

People's Republic of China comprises 23 provinces (China considers Taiwan its 23rd province), five autonomous regions, two special administrative regions and four municipalities directly under central government.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. However, most 4 and 5-star hotels are also wired for the use of 110-volt appliances. Plugs with two flat pins, two round pins, or three flat, angled pins are used.

Hidden high on the roof of the world, Tibet is a land of golden monasteries, spectacular mountain scenery and a deep spiritual heritage that lives as much in our imagination as it does in the remote Himalayas.

Of course, it’s hard to ignore the complex political situation, with Tibet seen both as occupied territory and an integral part of China for the best part of a century depending on who you talk to. This contentious situation can affect your freedom of movement in the country, and so it’s wise to plan your itinerary and do your research well in advance.

Once you’ve crossed these barriers, however, an enthralling, unique realm awaits.

Many travellers will be drawn to Tibet by the spectacular Buddhist temples, ageless monasteries perched on cliff edges and robed monks chanting peacefully. With the amount of reverence and faith among Tibetans, Tibet truly feels like one of the most spiritual places on Earth.

Beyond the zen vibes, Tibet’s nature is also life-affirming. Stunning high-altitude scenery and huge blue salt lakes borne on high towards the heavens are the highlights, while epic journeys beckon. Try the world's highest railway trip, for example, or take the classic overland drive across the Himalayas to Kathmandu in Nepal.

A recurring highlight wherever you go is the Tibetan people, always quick with a smile, from visiting bands of pilgrims to nomads in their yak-hair tents. Be sure to try beer in a Lhasa teahouse, or to accept a monk’s offer of yak-butter tea. The Tibetans’ openness and warmth in the face of political oppression is remarkable.

Once the very definition of remote, arduous and forbidden travel, Tibet is now surprisingly well connected by road, plane and even rail links. Massive change is reshaping the politically troubled plateau but complicated travel restrictions make independent travel tricky, so do plan ahead.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for mainland China on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Direct flights between the UK and mainland China have resumed, following the earlier ban on direct passenger services imposed by the Chinese authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check with airlines  for routes, schedules and ticketing.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in China.

You should check local testing facilities information on the National Health Commission website.

Those failing pre-departure health checks in China, including children checks, will be contacted by host authorities and sent to a designated hospital for treatment. You will remain there until you have tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times, the processes for which can take a number of weeks.

You may be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. Whilst we cannot prevent this, if it happens to you or is about to happen, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care. For further information on healthcare in China, see the Health section.

Failure to comply with the quarantine conditions or testing put in place, or any attempts to deliberately conceal health conditions can result in being sentenced to up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and foreign nationals.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in China

Mandatory requirements to check temperatures and use health kit apps or scan QR codes to prove travel history are in place at transport hubs, hotels, commercial buildings including restaurants, residential compounds and other locations.

Restrictions on movement and quarantine arrangements remain for travel between different parts of the country. Some cities and provinces need travellers from high to medium risk areas to undergo 14 days of isolation in their place of residence or in centralised observation. Quarantine and other COVID-19 measures, including PCR tests to enter public buildings, are enforced by local authorities and vary across China, so you should check in advance.

The possibility that local authorities impose mandatory lockdowns in response to fresh outbreaks is high. Such lockdowns may result in disruptions to medical and other basic services, including food delivery. You should ensure you have prepared additional food, water and medical supplies in case you are mandated to isolate at home.

There have been reports of individuals who have frequented bars or restaurants where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 being mandated to undergo 14 days of centralised quarantine. You should keep up to date with the latest developments and this travel advice, including requirements for evidence of a negative COVID-19 NAT test within 48 hours of travel from high to medium risk areas.

There have been reports of discrimination against foreign nationals in China as a result of a perceived risk that they might re-import COVID-19.

Healthcare in China

Medical facilities may come under strain in response to localised outbreaks, particularly when cities are placed in lockdown. Designated hospitals have been established in each province to take patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

You may be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. Whilst we cannot prevent this, if it happens to you or is about to happen, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care.

Medical facilities are largely functioning as normal but quarantine restrictions may delay or limit access to such care. View Health for further details on healthcare in China.

For contact details for English speaking doctors, visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Help and support

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Crime

Personal attacks, including sexual assaults, are rare but they do occur, including through drinks being spiked. You should take reasonable precautions - do not leave drinks unattended and avoid accepting drinks from strangers. Women, travelling alone or with female friends, could be at greater risk - see our advice for women travelling abroad.

Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur and less serious crime is not unusual. You should take care of your belongings at major tourist sites and other busy places, particularly where foreigners gather. If your passport is lost or stolen, you will need to go to the nearest police station or Public Security Bureau and get a report of the incident.

Avoid travelling in unmarked or unmetered taxis, as there have been incidents of sexual assault and robbery against foreigners. In marked taxis, make sure someone knows where you are and try to take a note of the taxi’s number.

Disputes over taxi fares can occur and quickly escalate. Insist on paying the metered fare and ask for a receipt; this has the taxi number on it.

Do not hike alone in isolated areas, including on the Great Wall. If you do, always leave your itinerary, mobile number and expected time of return at your hotel or with a third party.

There is a risk of attack from armed criminals in remote areas. The areas bordering on Siberia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Laos and Burma are poorly policed. In Yunnan Province, drug smuggling and other crimes are increasing.

Scams

Beware of scams in popular tourist areas. A common example is the ‘tea tasting’ scam or ‘massage’ scam. You may be invited to visit a bar, to participate in tea tasting or for a massage, but then face demands for an exorbitant fee. This can be followed by threats or actual violence, and credit card fraud.

Check QR code stickers on rental bicycles carefully before using them. There have been cases of the legitimate barcode being replaced with a false code, which redirects money to a different account.

Commercial disputes

Before entering into a contract in China you should take legal advice, both in the United Kingdom and in China. Contracts entered into in the United Kingdom are not always enforced by Chinese courts.

If you’re involved in or connected to a business and/or civil dispute, the Chinese authorities may prohibit you from leaving China until the matter is resolved. This is known as a travel ban. For more detailed advice on business risks and commercial disputes, see our guide on commercial disputes in China.

Incidents of British nationals being detained against their will to extort money or intimidate them have occurred. It is rare for violence to be used, but the threat of violence is a recurring theme. You should report any threats of violence to the Chinese police.

Local travel

Tibet and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)

You can only travel to the TAR on an organised tour and you must get a permit first, through a specialised travel agent in China. Chinese authorities sometimes stop issuing these without notice, and also restrict travel to Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in neighbouring Provinces, even if you have a permit. You should check with tour operators or travel agents and monitor this travel advice and other media for information.

Once in Tibet you should avoid demonstrations and other large public gatherings. Ongoing political and ethnic tensions can lead to unrest and protest, sometimes violent. Security measures will be tight and unauthorised gatherings may be dispersed by force. Do not film or photograph any such activities or outbreaks of violence. Local authorities will react negatively if you’re found carrying letters or packages from Tibetan nationals to be posted in other countries.

Photography in Buddhist monasteries needs permission and carries a fee.

You should be aware that the ability of the British Embassy Beijing and British Consulates in China to provide consular support in the Tibet Autonomous Region is limited.

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

There have been instances of violent unrest in Xinjiang, causing deaths. There have been allegations of the use of lethal force to disperse protests.

Be alert to the possibility of being caught up in any unexpected demonstrations or outbreaks of violence. The Chinese authorities will increase the security presence in the area and tend to react quickly and harshly to these incidents. The Chinese authorities may restrict communications and travel to some areas of Xinjiang at short notice.

There have been widespread arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial detention in Xinjiang, mainly affecting the local population, particularly Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. You may be at increased risk if you’re of Uyghur descent and/or have lived previously in Xinjiang; or if you appear to be Muslim.

You should expect airport-style security measures, including passport and security checks, at entrances to public places such as shopping centres, markets and parks. You may need to inform the security forces of your phone number, have your photograph taken, or be questioned as to the nature of your travel. Related to reports of the use of forced labour in Xinjiang, there have been reports of due diligence auditors being detained and harassed.

Carry your passport at all times, avoid all protests and large crowds, be vigilant and monitor media reports. Do not photograph or film protests, large crowds, security officials or installations, or anything of a military nature. Mosques and other religious sites are also considered “sensitive” sites by the authorities.

You should be aware that the ability of the British Embassy Beijing and British Consulates in China to provide consular support in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is limited.

Building safety

Fire precautions 

Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as in the UK. Check fire precautions including access to fire exits. Make sure your accommodation has a working fire alarm and regularly check that the fire exits aren’t blocked.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Make sure your accommodation has a working carbon monoxide alarm. There have been incidences of carbon monoxide poisoning and death due to incorrectly installed gas equipment. The ‘Be Alarmed’ campaign gives practical advice on how to stay safe, and lists the symptoms to look out for.

Road travel

There are significant travel restrictions in China due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus. See Coronavirus

You need a Chinese driving licence to drive in China. You must also have valid insurance.

Accidents are common in China due to the poor quality of roads, high volumes of traffic and generally low driving standards, so you should drive with caution. If you’re involved in a serious traffic accident, call the police. Do not move your vehicle until they arrive but make sure you and your passengers are in a safe place. In cases where there are injuries, you may be held liable for medical costs. You will also be held liable if you run over a pedestrian.

There are harsh penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol, even at very low levels.

Sea travel

Mariners should avoid the disputed territory between China and other countries in the East China Sea. There have also been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the area. See the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing website for further information.

Rail travel

You should be aware that there are significant travel restrictions in China due to the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Train services are operating at reduced levels and train stations are conducting temperature checks of incoming passengers.

You will need to produce your passport to buy a ticket and again to board the train.

Trans-Mongolian express trains (Beijing-Moscow via Ulaanbaatar) are noted for smuggling. Search your compartment and secure the cabin door before departure.

Petty theft from overnight trains is common.

Political situation

China is a one-party state. Though China is very open to foreign visitors, you should be aware of political and cultural sensitivities in conversation with Chinese people.

Territorial disputes between China and neighbouring countries have caused high regional tension. There have been a number of anti-Japanese and anti-Korean demonstrations in several cities across China. These protests have generally taken place outside diplomatic missions, but some have targeted other Japanese and Korean interests.

Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings. The Chinese authorities enforce public order strictly and you may face arrest, detention and/or deportation. Foreign journalists have been intimidated, assaulted or detained for trying to report demonstrations. You may also risk becoming a target yourself when general anti-foreign sentiment runs high. Keep yourself informed of developments and follow the advice of the local authorities. During periods of tension, some news reporting, access to text-messaging, the internet and to international telephone lines may be blocked.

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in China.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Although foreigners haven’t been specifically targeted, attacks may occur in places visited by foreigners. Since early 2014, a number of explosions and knife attacks have occurred in public places, including in busy railway stations, resulting in injuries and fatalities. You should take particular care during national holidays or when transiting public transport hubs, and always follow the advice of the local authorities.

There have been no recent attacks in the main tourist areas.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

ID

Carry your passport with you at all times; a photocopy is not regarded as valid ID. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security and major sporting or political events. Failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention. If you renew your passport while you’re in China, you must register your new passport with the authorities promptly or face a fine.

Activities

All foreign nationals traveling to or around areas deemed as “sensitive” might attract greater scrutiny from the authorities, including when taking photographs near sensitive sites, engaging with political groups or charities, and making statements deemed politically sensitive. People who are current or former employees of foreign governments, media outlets or NGOs are likely to attract additional scrutiny, particularly when travelling to areas with large ethnic minority population and when travelling to Xinjiang (see also the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region section under “Safety and security”).

China’s authorities have under certain circumstances detained foreigners citing ‘endangering national security’. National Security is interpreted broadly and you may be detained without having intended to break the law. There is also a risk of arbitrary detention, including of British nationals.

There are restrictions on certain religious activities, including preaching and distributing religious materials. The Falun Gong movement is banned in China.

Gambling is illegal in mainland China.

Criminal proceedings

Chinese laws and procedures relating to the arrest and detention of suspects of crime are different from in the UK. If you’re suspected of a crime, the Chinese authorities have the power to prevent you from leaving China (by withholding your passport or applying a travel ban) or to detain you for up to 37 days without charge. Travel bans may also be imposed on individuals involved in commercial or private disputes. If you’re detained on grounds of national security, which is interpreted more broadly than in the UK, you may be detained for up to 6 months before formal arrest and may be denied legal representation before charges are brought.

Drugs

There are extremely severe penalties for drugs offences in China, including the death penalty. The Chinese authorities undertake random drug testing on foreign nationals including on entry to the country. If you test positive, the Chinese authorities can prosecute you regardless of where or when you consumed drugs. Police raids on homes also occur; if drugs are found in your property, penalties can be extremely severe.

There have been increasing incidences of police raids on nightclubs and bars. When such raids take place, patrons will be subject to on the spot drug testing and immigration checks. This may involve being kept at the location, or a secondary location, for several hours whilst hair and urine samples are taken and passport and visa checks conducted. Testing positive to drugs, or being found in breach of your visa conditions, can lead to heavy fines, detention and deportation.

Dual nationality

China doesn’t recognise dual nationality. If you enter China on a Chinese passport or identity card, the British Embassy may not be able to offer you help. If you were born in China to a Chinese national parent you will be considered by the Chinese authorities to have Chinese nationality, and may be treated as a Chinese citizen, even if you used a British passport to enter China. If you have formally renounced Chinese citizenship, you should carry clear evidence that you have done so.

Cyber

The Chinese authorities maintain controls on internet access. Some services, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are permanently blocked. Other websites may be blocked from time to time.

China’s cyber security laws are changing and online products and services (eg VPNs) need to be licensed by the Chinese government. More information is available on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website (in Mandarin only). Make sure you stay informed and follow Chinese law.

LGBT

Although homosexuality is not prohibited by law, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. There’s no provision under Chinese legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. You can find information on LGBT life in China on the British Embassy website. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page has information on travelling to China.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in China set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how China’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

All travellers

British nationals need a visa to enter mainland China, including Hainan Island, but not Hong Kong or Macao. Separate Travel Advice for Hong Kong can be found here.

Eligibility for visas for travel to China remains restricted. At present, visas are issued for:

  • applicants who have obtained an “Invitation Letter” or “Verification Confirmation of Invitation” issued by a provincial foreign affairs office or department of commerce (M or F visa)
  • applicants who have obtained a “Notification Letter of Foreigners Work Permit” (Z visa)
  • applicants intending to visit a family member with a Z, M, or F visa
  • applicants intending to visit a family member who is a Chinese citizen or who holds a Chinese permanent residence permit
  • applicants (including dependents) who qualify for a high-level talent (R) visa
  • applicants who qualify for a C visa

All visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 inclusive need to make their visa application in person at a Visa Application Centre. As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) has to be provided. The Chinese Visa Application Centres in London, Manchester and Edinburgh are operating but with limited opening hours. The Application Centre in Belfast remains closed.

Biometric data may be checked/collected by the immigration authorities when entering China to register your entry to the country.

If you’re issued a visa to travel from the UK to China in these circumstances all travellers will need to submit a Health Declaration Certificate to your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the UK before you travel, who will need to certify your form and return it to you via email.

More details, including the process for submitting forms for those still eligible, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.

It is currently not possible to apply for a visa waiver to transit through China. All travellers entering into China must comply in full with quarantine requirements; there are no exemptions to this, and transiting airside is not currently permitted

If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China and wish to return to the mainland, you’ll need a visa that allows you to make a second entry into China. You will also be required to comply with quarantine measures in both Hong Kong, and on your return to the mainland.

It is your responsibility to check your visa details carefully. Do not overstay your visa or work illegally. The authorities conduct regular checks and you may be fined, detained or deported (or all three).

If you remain in China longer than 6 months, you may need to get a Residence Permit.

Further details on visa requirements can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.

If you are already in China and have a visa enquiry, please contact the National Immigration Hotline: 12367 (option 2 for English).

If you’re fully vaccinated

If you’re issued a visa to travel from the UK to China all travellers will need to submit a Health Declaration Certificate to your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the UK before you travel, who will need to certify your form and return it to you via email. Entry requirements for China are the same regardless of vaccination status.

More details, including the process for submitting forms for those still eligible, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.

In order to receive a Health Declaration Certificate (HDC) from the Chinese Embassy you must provide evidence of two PCR tests for COVID-19, taken 48 hours before you travel. At least one of the tests must be taken within 24 hours of your departure. The two tests must be conducted in different testing intuitions 24 hours apart. You can use any legal testing centre that can provide a PCR test and full report. See the list of PCR testing centres.

You will not be able to receive a HDC if you have had COVID within the last 14 days. If you have previously been diagnosed with COVID, you will need to upload two additional negative nucleic acid test reports with an interval of more than 24 hours at least 14 days before the departure date.

Additional guidance on how to obtain a Health Declaration Certificate can be found on the Chinese Embassy website.

Quarantine requirements

Following health checks on arrival, you will then need to enter quarantine in a centralised facility for at least 7 days; you may be permitted complete an additional 3 days of quarantine at home , if you have suitable accommodation. In the event your accommodation is not deemed suitable, the remaining days of quarantine will be in a centralised facility. All quarantine costs will be covered by the traveller. Quarantine requirements can change at short notice and may differ between provinces.

At some points of entry, children 14 and over, will be required to quarantine alone, irrespective of whether they test positive or negative for COVID-19.

You may be separated from your child if one of you tests positive for coronavirus. Whilst we cannot prevent this, if it happens to you or is about to happen, you can call +86 (0)10 8529 6600 for 24/7 urgent consular assistance. Non-residents may be charged for their care. For further information on healthcare in China, please see the Coronavirus section.

Follow-up tests are likely to take place throughout the quarantine period. The frequency and type of testing may differ from facility to facility.. Anyone who tests positive will be moved to a designated quarantine hospital. Family members of someone who tests positive or those who have been in close contact, will likely be moved to a different quarantine facility. Family members may be split up in these circumstances. Quarantine hospital care is not covered by the Chinese government.

For all quarantine arrangements in China:

  • unless directed by the authorities, you’re not allowed to leave your designated room for the duration of your quarantine and/or home isolation. This means you’re also unable to leave China for the duration of the quarantine
  • depending on the quarantine location, facilities may be basic: there may be no fridge, no air-conditioning, and limited or no internet/wifi
  • during your stay you will be responsible for cleaning the room
  • if meals are not available at the quarantine location, you will need to arrange food orders for delivery from outside
  • larger sized families with two parents may be separated into 2 rooms.
  • if you’re on prescription medication make sure you bring enough with you to last for at least 3-4 weeks together with medical documents certifying that you need to take this medication. See Health for further information

Failure to comply with the quarantine conditions or testing put in place, or any attempts to deliberately conceal health conditions can result in being sentenced to up to three years in prison. This applies to both Chinese and foreign nationals.

After quarantine

Following quarantine, you will need to obtain a green QR health code in order to secure accommodation. In cities with lockdowns, many hotels no longer accept new guests, including those who have recently arrived into China and completed mandatory quarantine. Before arriving into China, you should ensure you have confirmed your accommodation following your mandatory quarantine . Depending on the COVID situation at the time, it can be difficult to find hotel accommodation at the end of the mandatory quarantine period

If you’re not fully vaccinated

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must follow the requirements outlined above in applying for a Health Declaration Certificate. You must also follow the same quarantine requirements.

If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year

Travellers who have had COVID-19 in the past year must follow the requirements outlined above in applying for a Health Declaration Certificate. You must also follow the same quarantine requirements .

You will not be able to receive a HDC if you have had COVID within the last 14 days. If you have previously been diagnosed with COVID, you will need to upload two additional negative nucleic acid test reports with an interval of more than 24 hours at least 14 days before the departure date.

Children and young people

Children aged 5 and under can be exempted for the pre-flight tests but are still required to apply for a Health Declaration Certificate. Children must also follow the same quarantine requirements.

If you’re transiting through a third country to arrive in China

Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.

Transiting through a third country to China is permitted. Travellers who are transiting through a third country should follow the rules for obtaining a Health Declaration Certificate from the Chinese Embassy of the country through which they are transiting. Check with your airline before departing.

Exemptions

There are currently no exemptions to quarantine requirements upon arrival in China.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from China. You may need to show a police report indicating how you lost your full passport. If your ETD has been issued in China, you will need an exit visa from the Public Security Bureau before you can leave. This process can take up to 7 working days.

Registering with the Chinese authorities

You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Chinese authorities enforce this requirement with regular spot-checks of foreigners’ documentation. If you’re staying in a hotel, they will do this for you as part of the check-in process.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Working in China

You can only work in China if you have a Z visa - tourist and business visit visas do not allow you to do so. You must also hold a valid work permit. The local police regularly carry out checks on companies/schools. Violation of Chinese immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, deportation, a travel ban preventing you from leaving China, and an exclusion order, which prevents you from returning.

Before you leave the UK you should contact the Chinese Embassy to check visa requirements. When submitting your visa application, and when you receive your work permit, check that the details are correct, including the location you’ll be working in. If they’re not, you can be detained.

If you intend to change employer once you’re in China, you should check with the Chinese authorities whether a new visa and work permit is needed before doing so.

Teaching in China

Teaching in China can be a rewarding experience, but before you travel it’s important that you research thoroughly the school or university that is hiring you and are confident that they are following the law. There have been many incidents of teachers being detained and/or deported for working on the wrong visas. It is your responsibility to check you’re working on the correct visa.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

If you are visiting China, your passport should be valid for 6 months from the date you arrive.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Healthcare

If you’re on prescription medication, make sure you bring enough with you or have access to a supply in China. Certain medicines may not be available and you may be prohibited from bringing others into the country. For more information and advice, check with your GP and the Embassy of China before travelling.

Healthcare is not free in China and can be very expensive. Make sure you have comprehensive travel and medical insurance covering healthcare and medical evacuation/repatriation for the duration of your stay. For more information, see Medical treatment in China.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 120 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you need treatment.

Health risks

The high levels of air pollution in major urban and industrialised areas in China may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can check the pollution index levels for Beijing and other cities on the Air Quality Index website.

Tap water in China is generally not safe to drink. You should drink only bottled water.

The extreme altitude (over 3,000m) of some areas, including Tibet, parts of Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, may cause altitude sickness.

The Chinese authorities react quickly to any outbreaks of any infectious disease, including enforcing quarantine for those showing symptoms.

Human infections of avian influenza are being reported in China, particularly among those individuals who have been in close contact with infected birds. Before travelling, you should read more information and follow the prevention advice on Public Health England and NaTHNaC’s websites.

Dengue fever is present in some parts of China mainly during the rainy season. There has been a large increase in cases of dengue fever in Guangdong province. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

China is subject to various natural disasters, including earthquakes, flooding and typhoons. You should monitor the China Meteorological Bureau

China is located in an active seismic zone and can experience major earthquakes. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the  US Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

The latest tsunami warnings can be found on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website.

Flooding and storms are common during the wet season (May to November). You should monitor local weather reports and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities, including any evacuation orders.

The typhoon season in China normally runs from May to November, affecting southern and eastern coastal regions in particular. Air travel and other forms of transport can be affected. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms on the Japan Meteorological Agency and the China Meteorological Administration websites.

See the FCDO’s Tropical Cyclones page for further advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a typhoon.

Outside major cities, credit cards are not always accepted and the availability of ATMs is limited. It is not possible to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes.

Counterfeit bank notes (especially RMB100) are increasingly common, including when taking money out of an ATM. Banks will not replace them. It is quite normal to check notes carefully before accepting them from others.

Cashless payments via smartphone applications such as WeChat Pay are increasingly commonplace.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can not provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can not offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can not find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.