Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.
Business/name cards are common in Chinese business culture and will frequently be exchanged upon meeting a stranger in a business context. The card should be held in both hands when offering to the other person; offering it with one hand is considered ill mannered. When receiving a card, use two hands and study it before continuing. Do not miss an opportunity to develop an appropriate new business contact, as relationships, called guanxi in Mandarin, remain very important in China. With China’s shift towards a digital society, the exchange of contact information via WeChat is becoming increasingly common – particularly among younger business professionals who may not even carry business cards. It is important to have business cards available, but also expect that a new contact may not have any to exchange.
The threat level for the PRC is considered low for crime and terrorism. Americans should reconsider travel in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.
For the most up-to-date information related to traveling and living in China, please see the U.S. Department of State section on China International Travel Information.
When visiting China, keep in mind:
- Visitors arriving without valid passports and Chinese visas are not permitted to enter China and may also be subject to fines.
- Visitors traveling to the PRC on a single-entry visa should be reminded that trips to Hong Kong or Macau Special Administrative Regions are treated as a visit outside Mainland China. If the traveler tries to return to Mainland China after a visit to one of these two destinations but only has a single-entry visa, they will be denied entry. Visitors facing this dilemma should apply for a new visa at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the China Travel Service in Hong Kong to re-enter China.
- Transit through the PRC without a visa is permitted in some circumstances. See the visa requirement section below. Before travel, always check your itinerary and the most recent Chinese visa regulations to be sure your trip meets the regulations.
- Recent travel advisories and other useful information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s travel website.
- Remember to connect with the U.S. Embassy and Consulates through the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
For the most up-to-date entry, exit, and transit requirements, please visit the Information on Chinese Visas section of the U.S. Embassy Beijing website.
Additionally, you may contact the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Washington, D.C. for specific information on China’s immigration and nationality laws.
The People’s Republic of China’s currency is officially called the Renminbi (RMB) and is also known as the Yuan, or colloquially as the Kuai.
Electronic payments are the overwhelming choice in China, and the distribution of counterfeit currency continues to be a major issue. Unsuspecting Americans are passed fraudulent notes at restaurants, stores, and in taxi cabs.
China’s merchants almost exclusively utilize cashless transactions. While credit cards are often accepted at international hotels and/or expat-friendly restaurants, many stores, shops, and restaurants only accept payments via Alipay and or WeChat Pay. Both can be accessed through a phone-based app that can be linked to a credit card. A local bank account is required for WeChat payment; however, Alipay Tour can generally be linked to a foreign credit card.
International and domestic phone calls can be made with little difficulty in China, particularly in the major cities. International and domestic calls can typically be made directly from hotel rooms and phone cards and SIM cards are widely available. Phones can be rented at the airport arrival terminals for short term use.
Calling China from the United States
When calling China from the United States, add “011” before the country code. Next dial 86, the country code for China.
Cities shown are where the U.S. Government has an Embassy or Consulate:
Hong Kong: 852
For calls made within China, add a “0” before the city code.
Local Directory Assistance (some English): 114
Other Numbers (Emergencies)
U.S. Embassy: 011-86 10-8531-3000. Within Beijing, dial 8531-4000 (American Citizen Services) and listen for the menu options.
Additional important information, including travel advisories, can be found at the U.S. Citizen Services section of the U.S. Embassy website.
Emergency/Fire (Chinese & English): 119
Police (Chinese & English): 110
Medical Emergency (Chinese & English): 120
Privacy on Calls
All visitors should be aware that they have no expectation of privacy in public or private locations. The U.S. Embassy regularly receives reports of human and technical monitoring of U.S. citizens.
All hotel rooms and offices are subject to on-site or remote technical monitoring at all times. Hotel rooms, residences, and offices may be accessed at any time without the occupants’ consent or knowledge. Elevators and public areas of housing compounds are also under continuous surveillance.
All means of communication—telephones, mobile phones, faxes, e-mails, text messages, etc.—are likely monitored and likely accessed by other parties. The government has access to the infrastructure operated by the limited number of internet service providers (ISPs) and wireless providers. Wireless access to the Internet in major metropolitan areas is extremely common. It is advised to bring only the bare minimum electronic equipment when traveling with minimal and only necessary company information, and to reset completely upon departure.
Metered taxis exist, but cannot be hailed along main streets without the use of an app. Transportation is easily arranged at the front door of the hotel, and concierge desks have cards with the name and address of the hotel in Chinese and will often assist with giving instructions to the taxi driver.
Ride Hailing Services
Several different services are available, and it is best to ask for apps used locally. Some services, including ShouYue, have an English version that can be linked to a foreign credit card as well as a foreign phone number. These apps tend to be similar in price to metered taxis if not cheaper. Many cars are metered, with an estimate given before starting the trip which may be adjusted upon completion of the trip. Payment is made through the app. Didi, formerly very popular all over China, is currently restricted. As of July 4, 2021, Chinese regulators ordered all app stores to remove Didi’s app and banned the company from registering new users.
Air travel to and from China has been severely impacted by the PRC’s COVID-19 prevention policies. Gradual return to normalcy is expected over the course of 2023.
The Chinese government has invested significantly into China’s rail transportation system, and it is one of the largest and most efficient systems in the world. Trains are a popular and convenient transportation option, offering several classes of services including business class, which is the most comfortable (and most expensive) option.
Mandarin Chinese is the national language. Other than Mandarin there are six major Chinese dialects, as well as numerous local dialects.
Pinyin refers to the standardized Romanization system used to represent the pronunciation of Chinese characters.
For business purposes, it is important to provide contacts with bilingual business cards, usually with Chinese characters on one side, English on the other. Titles and company names should be translated with care into Chinese to ensure a positive meaning.
Western-style medical facilities with international staff are available in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and a few other large cities. Many other hospitals in major Chinese cities have so-called VIP wards. These feature reasonably up-to-date medical technology and physicians who are both knowledgeable and skilled. Most VIP wards also provide medical services to foreigners and have English-speaking doctors and nurses.
Most hospitals in China will not accept medical insurance from the United States. Prior to departing for China, travelers are advised to consult the Travelers’ Health section published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Medical Assistance page on the U.S Embassy Beijing website.
Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays
Time throughout China is set to Beijing time, which is eight hours ahead of GMT/UTC. When it is noon in Beijing it is also noon in far-off Lhasa, Urumqi, and all other parts of the country. However, western China does follow a later work schedule to coincide with daylight hours.
China officially has a five-day work week, although some businesses stretch to six days. Offices and government departments are normally open Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., with some closing for one or two hours in the middle of the day.
The Embassy is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Embassy Holiday Calendar lists the American and Chinese holidays observed by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Temporary Entry of Materials for Personal Use
Reasonable quantities of items for personal use by short-term visitors may be imported duty-free. Although travelers will notice that China Customs officials at the airports do not routinely subject baggage to careful inspection upon arrival, random searches are possible. China allows an individual to import 400 cigarettes (600, if staying more than six months), 100 cigars, two bottles of wine or spirits (verify current allowable quantity at the duty-free shop before purchasing), and a reasonable amount of perfume. Cash amounts exceeding $5,000 (or equivalent in other foreign currency) should be declared.
Chinese law prohibits the import of cold cuts and fresh fruit. There are limits on other items, such as herbal medicine, that can be taken out of the country. Rare animals and plants cannot be exported. Cultural relics, handicrafts, gold and silver ornaments, and jewelry purchased in China must be shown to customs upon leaving China. If these items are deemed to be “cultural treasures” they will be confiscated.
It is illegal to import any printed material, film, and tapes, etc. that are “detrimental to China’s political, economic, cultural, or ethical interests.” Tapes, books or DVDs that “contain state secrets or are otherwise prohibited for export” can also be seized on departing China.
U.S. Foreign Commercial Service, China
American Chamber of Commerce China (AmCham)
Chinese Government Entities
Chinese Ministry of Commerce
China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)
National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)