The answer to the question is China safe to visit is a resounding yes! With its low level of violent crime, excellent infrastructure and friendly people, China is one of the safest countries to visit. China’s cities are safer than many cities in the west and crime against foreigners is almost unheard of.
The People’s Republic of China is a huge country that covers parts of Central and East Asia. From the Great Wall and Forbidden Palace to the otherworldly landscapes of Zhangjiajie and the deserts of the Silk Road, China has much to offer the intrepid traveller!
What’s more, China is an inexpensive country by world standards and travelling the country can be done on a budget!
But, is China safe to visit? Let’s find out…
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Is China Safe to Visit Now?
Update May 2021: China is slowly opening up its borders to foreign travel, but as of May 2021 international tourism has not yet returned and will likely not resume until 2022. For people already in China, tourism across the entire country, now including Tibet, is open for business.
Interested to know what it was like living in China during the coronavirus outbreak? Read about my time in lockdown in China.
When travelling around China in 2021 and beyond, there are a few differences to pre-covid travel. Expect lots of questions about where you have come from, how long you have been in China, and if you have travelled to any high-risk areas within the last three months.
Do you need a vaccination or PCR test to travel within China?
At present, no. A green health code and face mask are all you need to travel in China right now, though some municipalities/hotels may ask for a negative test. The situation is constantly changing, so pay attention to instructions from your employer in China, WeChat groups and your own government advisories for up to date information.
You can access the green health code by scanning the QR code at airports, stations and attractions and inputting your details (passport details, Chinese phone number and recent travel history.
Is China Safe to visit for Solo Travellers?
China is very safe for solo travellers. I have travelled the country alone from north to south and east to west and never felt unsafe or in danger. Walking in cities late at night is much safer than back home in London and violent crime is almost unheard of (though of course, it can happen anywhere).
The only place that some might consider a problem is the far west region of Xinjiang which is discussed in more detail in my article, is Xinjiang Safe? Answer: yes it is, although travel in the region is a little more difficult.
Check out my new guide to backpacking in China
China Safety Tips for Solo Travellers
- Avoid clubs or places where a lot of young men congregate and get drunk
- Use registered taxis and never take the unauthorized ones
- Keep valuables hidden
- Never get blind drunk
- Stay away from military and border areas (will be signposted)
These tips really should be common sense for wherever you travel and aren’t specific to China.
Is China Safe for Trekking?
Trekking is very safe in China due to the fact that most routes tend to be part of large national parks with a lot of facilities. The same goes for China’s famous mountains, where stone steps will usually lead you to the summits.
It is possible to get off the beaten track a little in the wilder areas of western China. If going into the Gobi Desert which stretches from Inner Mongolia into Gansu and Xinjiang, then precautions should be taken.
Ensure you have a map and compass and not just rely on your phone’s GPS to stay away from the border areas (China shares land borders with 14 different countries).
As China is a vast country the temperatures can differ wildly. The winters in northeastern China are extremely harsh with temperatures dropping below minus 40 Celcius.
The southern part of China is warm year-round and the far south tropical region is hot throughout the year with a monsoon climate.
For those trekking away from civilisation for more than a few days then think about getting encephalitis and rabies shots.
Is China Safe to Travel Around?
Road Safety in China
Traffic in Chinese cities can be a little crazy. Never rely on the green light at crossings and always check before crossing the street. E-bikes can mount the pavement so it pays to have your wits about you when walking in towns and cities.
Be aware that traffic is probably the biggest danger to travellers in China.
Are Taxis Safe in China?
Registered taxis are generally safe in China and are plentiful and easily recognizable. Avoid unofficial taxis which you will usually find near railway stations and tourist attractions. Just find the official taxi rank.
Many people use Didi, the Chinese equivalent of Uber. There have been reports of crimes committed against female passengers, but this remains rare. If in doubt, stick to official taxis.
Is Hitchhiking Safe in China
Hitchhiking is not common in China outside of rural areas and you may struggle to find a lift. People would usually expect a small payment so be clear upfront about your intentions.
Rail Safety in China
China has a modern, fast and safe rail network, making train travel a joy in the country. The slower overnight trains are perfectly safe. Lone females may feel safer with a hard sleeper as these carriages are open plan, unlike soft sleepers where you will be sharing a compartment with three other people.
For full information on China’s rail network, see my article on how to buy train tickets in China.
Is it Safe to Fly in China?
Air travel is cheap and convenient and China’s safety record is generally good with no airlines being banned from flying to Europe.
Is it safe to take photos in China?
Do not take photographs of police, soldiers, government buildings or borders!
Although this is a sensible rule of thumb anywhere, in communist countries such as China, paranoia can be high and this can land you in serious trouble compared with elsewhere (think a long spell in prison for spying).
Provided you follow the above, China’s beautiful landscapes and architecture are perfect for photographers!
It’s unlikely that you will ever come across a political gathering in China, though perhaps this could be possible in Xinjiang. However, if you witness large groups of people and police gathering, turn around and leave (this should be a general rule when travelling anywhere and is not specific to China).
Scams in China
The most common scam is the “Tea Shop Scam” which tourists may encounter at large tourist attractions in Beijing (be particularly aware around the Forbidden City). In this age-old scam, someone will try and befriend you in good English. This could be anyone from a seemingly educated older man to a young, attractive woman.
They will suggest going to a nearby tea shop to chat, however, the bill will be ludicrously high and violence may be threatened for non-payment. If a stranger offers to take you anywhere, politely decline their offer. Someone tried this with me in Beijing in 2016 but I was well aware of the scam.
Crime in China
Due to China’s authoritarian regime and the now infamous social credit system, crime doesn’t pay in the People’s Republic!
Violent crime remains rare and rarer still for travellers to become embroiled in such situations. Even on public transport pickpocketing is not really an issue (though it can happen anywhere). I have travelled hundreds of times on trains and busses across China and never had any problems.
The notion of “Face” is very important in China and Asia generally and if people are seen to lose face, situations can become ugly. An example of this is if you are drinking in a bar and drunk Chinese men want you to come and join them. Try and avoid these situations and just be polite, rather than angry or aggrieved. The best way to avoid this is to stay away from nightclubs and stick to bars popular with other foreigners.
Do I need vaccinations to visit China?
No vaccines are mandatory for entry to China (unless coming from certain high-risk countries) but the following shots are recommended:
- Hepatitis A
- Tick Borne Ecephilitis
If you have received both doses of a covid vaccine, then travel to China will be easier. For more information see this article.
Is China Water Safe to Drink?
Don’t drink water straight from the tap without boiling first or using a filter. Bottled water is ubiquitous and cheap costing ¥1 to ¥3 per 500ml bottle.
Dangerous Animals in China
Although once famed for tigers roaming the country, outside of a few very mall places in northeastern and southeastern China, you are extremely unlikely to ever come into contact with a tiger.
Mosquitos can be a problem in much of the country and they can carry diseases such as malaria in the far south (Sanya and Guangdong). Ensure you use bug spray and better to wear long sleeves when trekking in the forest/jungle.
Southern and central China is home to some quite venomous snakes including king cobras and kraits. Wear sturdy shoes or boots when trekking.
Ticks are present in the steppe and mountains in spring and summer so wear long sleeves and check yourself each day for tics. Leaches can be a problem in the far south.
In the event you do find a tick, the best advice is to have it professionally removed by a trained medical expert, but if this is not possible and you are a few days from help then you can read about how to remove ticks safely in this guide from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.
I have had to use Chinese hospitals on a number of occasions (not least for my annual health checkup). The hospitals are generally clean and the service is usually quick (quicker than back home in England).
Costs for things like consultations and x-rays are low, however if you need to stay in hospital for something serious, this can cost thousands, so ensure you have adequate travel insurance!
Pharmacies (drugstores) can be found in all towns and cities and are usually indicated by a green cross as elsewhere in the world. Chinese pharmacies will have both traditional Chinese medicine and western medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Although it is a very safe country, the deserts and mountains can pose a hazard for unprepared travellers. Ensure you have comprehensive cover before departing.
Internet in China
As you will likely be aware, the internet is tightly controlled in China. It is possible to circumvent this by using a VPN. You can find out all about how in my article about the best VPNs for China.
So, to answer the question; is China safe to visit, is a resounding yes. Use usual traveller caution and common sense and you will have a fantastic experience in this unforgettable country.
So, now that you know how safe is China, what is there to see and do? Check out my complete guide to China’s famous landmarks to find out more!
Places to visit in China:
About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang and now resides in the tropical paradise of Sanya on Hainan Island.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.