Travel Consideration: China

Contributed By RealAdventures

The People's Republic of China has been a one-party state controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since its founding in 1949. It is the most populous country in the world, and one of the world's largest and fastest-growing economies. Modern tourist facilities are not widely available, except in major cities.

Valid visas are required, and those who arrive in China without a visa are usually fined at the port of entry and generally not allowed to enter China. The Chinese Government does not permit foreigners to visit some areas of China. Reconfirmation of departure reservations is essential. Travelers who have not reconfirmed have been stranded when outgoing flights are overbooked. For information about entry requirements and restricted areas, travelers may consult the Embassy of the People's Republic of China at 2300 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Washington. D.C. 20008, or call (202) 328-2500 through 2502. For more information regarding PRC visas, contact the Embassy’s visa section at (202) 328-2517 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. There are also Chinese Consulates General in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

A small number of bombings and incidents of unrest have occurred in recent years, mostly in parts of China inhabited by ethnic minorities. Terrorism has not been a widespread problem in China, however, and there have been no known incidents of terrorism or political violence directed against American citizens.

China has a low crime rate; however, crime has increased in the past few years, principally in the major cities. Heated arguments in China sometimes attract large crowds of onlookers who, on occasion, have become abusive. Theft is the most common crime affecting visitors and occurs most frequently in crowded public areas, such as hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, and tourist and transportation sites. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. In order to obtain new Chinese visas, travelers must first get a police report regarding the theft. Due to Chinese procedures, it usually requires at least two working days to obtain a new passport and Chinese exit visa. Chinese authorities require that travelers have valid visas to exit China, and even to travel and register in hotels within China. Useful information on safeguarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad. This is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 or via the Internet at

: The quality of medical care in China varies. Competent, trained doctors and nurses are available in major metropolitan centers, but many do not speak English. Hospital accommodations are spartan, and medical technology is not up-to-date. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services and may not accept checks or credit cards. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.

Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost from 10,000 to 100,000 U.S. dollars. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage including provision for medical evacuation is strongly recommended. It may be purchased in the United States prior to travel. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, and whether it includes a provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

The following two private emergency medical assistance firms have representative offices in Beijing: (Disclaimer: The Department of State provides this information as a service to U.S. citizens but cannot specifically recommend any medical assistance firm nor guarantee the quality of services of any private corporation.
Asia Emergency Assistance Ltd. (AEA International)
Building C, BITIC Leasing Center
No. 1 North Road, Xing Fu San Cun
Chaoyang District
Beijing 100600

Tel: (86-10) 6462-9112, 6462-9100 (24 hours)
Fax (86-10)6462-9111

From U.S.: 1-800-468-5232
24-hr number from U.S.(Seattle, Washington):
Tel: (206) 621-9911
Fax: (206) 340-6000

MEDEX Assistance Corporation
Regus Office 19, Beijing Lufthansa Center
No. 50 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing 100016

Tel: (86-10) 6465-1264
Fax: (86-10) 6465-1240

Email: (Baltimore, Maryland)
Tel: (410) 453-6300 (24 hours)
AEA has an internationally staffed clinic in Beijing

In large cities in China most roads are well-paved, traffic lights function, and drivers generally comply with basic traffic laws. However, the growing number of vehicles, many of which are driven by relatively inexperienced drivers, as well as the large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists, lead to congestion and additional risks. In any accident involving an automobile and a pedestrian or cyclist, the driver of the automobile is legally presumed to be at fault. Foreigners often complain that they are automatically considered at fault in any accident, simply because they are foreign. Drivers on inland and rural roads are less likely to comply with basic traffic safety procedures. Additionally, livestock are a common obstacle on roads outside the larger coastal cities.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and do not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Long delays in the judicial process are common, sometimes lasting for years. There is no bail in China, and foreigners are normally detained while their cases are being investigated. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Criminal penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect severe jail sentences and fines. Foreign passport holders have been executed for drug offenses, and one U.S. citizen, convicted on drug-related charges in Shanghai, received a 15-year prison sentence. In 1998, another U.S. citizen was sentenced to death, with a two-year reprieve, on a conviction of drug dealing.

Chinese authorities have seized documents, literature, and letters which they deem to be pornographic, political in nature, or intended for religious proselytism. Persons seeking to enter China with religious materials in a quantity deemed to be greater than that needed for personal use may be detained and fined. Magazines with photographs, including some advertisements, considered commonplace in Western countries may be regarded as sexually explicit pornography. Books, films, records, tapes, and compact disks may be seized by Chinese Customs to determine that they do not violate Chinese prohibitions. Individuals believed to be engaged in religious proselytism or in conduct Chinese officials consider immoral or inappropriate have been detained and expelled.

China does not recognize dual nationality. Some U.S. citizens who are also Chinese nationals have experienced difficulty entering and departing China on U.S. passports, and some U.S. passports have been seized by Chinese authorities. Dual nationals may be subject to Chinese laws which impose special obligations. In some cases, such dual nationals are required to use Chinese documentation to enter China, in which case U.S. consular access and protection will be denied. (Conversely, the United States requires that all U.S. citizens enter and depart the United States on U.S. passports.) Dual nationals who enter and depart China using a U.S. passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular access and protection under the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention. The ability of the U.S. Embassy or Consulates General to provide normal consular services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter China on a Chinese or other non-U.S. passport.

China does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of children born in China if one of the parents is a PRC national. Such children are required to enter and depart China on PRC travel documents. China also does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of children born in the United States to PRC national parents who are neither lawful permanent residents nor U.S. citizens. Although Chinese consulates have frequently issued visas to such individuals in error, they are treated solely as PRC nationals by Chinese authorities when in China. Specific questions on dual nationality may be directed to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Department of State, Room 4811A, Washington. D.C. 20520 or to the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. Consulates General in China.

For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

Adoption: After completing a lengthy pre-approval process, U.S. citizens wishing to adopt a child in China can expect to spend at least two weeks in China. U.S. immigrant visas for adopted children are issued at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting China are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or at one of the U.S. Consulates General in China. They may also obtain updated information on travel and security within the country at the Embassy or Consulates General. It is also possible to register from the United States via the Internet through the U.S. Embassy’s home page. (See next paragraph.)

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section in China is located at 2 Xiu Shui Dong Jie, Beijing - 100600, telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431, 6532-3831, and after-hours: (86-10) 6532-1910; fax (86-10) 6532-4153, 6532-3178. The U.S. Embassy Internet address is: U.S. Embassy in Beijing .

The U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu is located at Number 4, Lingshiguan Road, Section 4, Renmin Nanlu, Chengdu 610041, telephone: (86-28) 558-3992, 555-3119; fax (86-28) 558-3520.

The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou is located at Number 1 South Shamian Street, Shamian Island 200S1, Guangzhou 510133; telephone: (86-20) 8188-8911 ext. 255 or (86-20) 8186-2418; after-hours: (86-20) 9070-4511; fax: (86-20) 8186-2341.

The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai is located at 1469 Huaihai Zhong Lu, telephone: (86-21) 6433-6880, after-hours: (86-21) 6433-3936; fax: (86-21) 6433-4122, 6471-1148.

The U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang is located at No. 52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District, Shenyang 110003, telephone: (86-24) 2322-1198, 2322-0368; after-hours: (86-24) 9085-0801; fax (86-24) 2322-2374.

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