Exploring the land of the dragon: Essential tips for traveling to China

By Tian Yi (People's Daily Online) 10:24, January 18, 2024

Editor’s Note: The Chinese people are preparing to welcome the Year of the Dragon as Chinese New Year approaches. International visitors to China can expect to experience a spectrum of cherished traditions and exceptional hospitality. Following the implementation of new visa exemption regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will further optimize visa policies to encourage personal exchanges between China and foreign countries.

This photo taken on Nov. 6, 2023 shows the autumn scenery of the Huangyaguan Great Wall in Jizhou District of Tianjin, north China. (Xinhua/Sun Fanyue)

On January 15, 2024, China announced the application of a unilateral visa-free policy to Switzerland, and the Swiss side will provide visa facilitation for Chinese citizens and Chinese companies investing in Switzerland.

Starting from November 2023, China has issued multiple new visa policies to facilitate foreign travelers to visit the country. In late November 2023, China issued a visa-free policy of up to 15 days for ordinary passport holders from six countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia.

Effective Dec. 1, 2023, the visa-free policy will be available until Nov. 30, 2024. The policy expands existing visa-free policies for foreign citizens and has attracted more travelers from policy-related countries to visit China. According to the National Immigration Administration, in December 2023, China recorded 214,000 inbound visits from the six countries, a sequential increase of 28.5 percent. Of these, 118,000 were visa-free visits, accounting for 55.1 percent of total visits.

China’s new visa policies have been warmly welcomed by other countries and have prompted new bilateral visa agreements. Following the new policy’s issuance, Malaysia introduced a 30-day visa-free policy for Chinese citizens. In early December, China and Singapore announced plans to implement a reciprocal 30-day visa exemption policy for citizens of both countries.

To simplify future travel to China for tourists worldwide, People’s Daily Online has compiled a list of travel tips.

Dubbed the world's eighth ancient wonder, the Terracotta Army is a collection of life-sized sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shihuang, China's first emperor. (Photo by Liu Ning)

Tips for visiting China

According to data from June 2023, China is home to nearly 1.1 billion netizens, accounting for 76.4 percent of the population. With a rapidly increasing number of internet users and a booming e-payment and online shopping industry, the nation offers an extensive network of online services for basic needs.

Travelers visiting China are advised to purchase a Chinese SIM card. Having a local phone number is crucial in China, as many essential services require phone verification codes. This includes online payments, travel recommendations, food delivery, and everyday transportation services.

This photo taken on July 5, 2023 shows the test train 55301 before departing from Guiyang North Station in Guiyang, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Liu Xu)

Cashless payments:

Cashless payments are widely accepted in Chinese society. Most transactions are conducted through WeChat Pay and Alipay. WeChat Pay is a part of the social media platform WeChat, while Alipay is more commonly used for e-commerce orders, transportation and fee payments.

Travel recommendation apps:

Meituan (美团), along with its subsidiary Dianping (大众点评), serves as a comprehensive guide app for visitors looking for both popular and lesser-known destinations. They feature a scoring system that helps identify attractive traveling spots.

Xiaohongshu (小红书) is a social media platform where travelers often share personalized sightseeing experiences, including specific highlights of tourist attractions, travel route recommendations, and time management tips.

Restaurants and food delivery apps:

Meituan and Dianping offer special deals and combo menus in many restaurants. Their rating systems provide recommendations, similar in function to Yelp in the Western world. Meituan also offers food delivery services.

Ele.me (饿了么), owned by Alibaba, is another food delivery app that offers various coupons and bonuses, providing an alternative to Meituan.


Metro/Subway and buses: In addition to local apps, WeChat and Alipay offer QR codes for local bus routes and subways. Passengers can scan their QR code at subway stations or on buses.

Shared bikes: Riders can book shared bikes through Meituan and Alipay. Meituan’s bikes are painted bright yellow, while Alipay’s are blue and white.

Taxi and car-hailing services: Taxis and car-hailing services can mainly be booked through three apps: Amap (高德地图), Meituan and Didi (滴滴).

Photo taken on Oct. 9, 2021 shows designated parking zones for shared bikes and mopeds in Hohhot, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. (People’s Daily Online/Ding Genhou)

Social media:

The most popular social media sites in China include WeChat (微信), QQ, and Sina Weibo (新浪微博). WeChat and QQ, both created by Chinese digital giant Tencent, are primarily messaging apps that allow users to stay in touch with friends or business partners. These platforms facilitate the easy sharing of photos and information. Weibo is more like Threads or X, keeping users updated on trending topics in China or the interests of their followers.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Wu Chengliang)


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