Is it safe to travel to China?

China is generally a safe country to travel to, as long as you know where you’re going and stay alert. China is visited by travellers from all around the world, and is of no danger to any person who understands local cultures and obeys local laws.

In saying this, China’s government does keep quite a tight lid on foreign influences, such as websites and news coverage, with internet censorship and public surveillance a common occurrence all over the country. Demonstrations and protests are prohibited in public places in China, and if you find yourself in one, or you take a photo or video of the event, this could land you in trouble.

Here are few other things to take note of when visiting China.

Safety in public places

For the most part, China is a safe place to visit, and crowds in public places should not cause any worry. Of course, small risks are still present, including petty theft and pickpocketing in tourist areas, as well as at train stations and on sleeper buses and trains. As you have to carry your passport to purchase many things in China (SIM cards, train tickets, etc), be super vigilant, and always have photocopies and/or digital copies.

If you do find yourself haggling and bargaining in markets, be sure you have correct change and keep confident when negotiating with the stall holder. Paying for unmarked or unpriced goods may get you caught paying a whole load more, and if you’re not equipped with any Chinese phrases to use in the transaction, the language barrier will work against you.

Other scams you might encounter include being invited into a local’s home for a tea ceremony, and at the end, presenting you with an inflated bill of around RMB 1000 (USD 156). Always go with a reputable provider, or agree on a price beforehand.

Road and transport safety

As with many Asian countries, crossing the road safely does pose a higher risk than usual due to lax road rules, especially in smaller cities with less traffic lights. Even if you are crossing on a green pedestrian light, ensure you look both ways and cross safely, as there have been instances of tourists being seriously injured by late-coming vehicles.

Taxis are something to be wary of, too. When arriving in a city, always hail a taxi from the marked taxi rank and ensure the meter is on. Some taxis do not have seatbelts and are notoriously manic drivers, so if you do feel uncomfortable, request one with belts.

Environmental and weather safety

China has had widespread problems with environmental deterioration for years with the rise of industry. Air pollution is a problem in major cities around the country, so keep an eye out for air quality indexes each day, especially in hotter seasons, and if air quality is poor, limit your outdoor sightseeing.

Typhoons and monsoons are quite common around China, particularly in the south and southeast coastal areas between April and October. Low-lying areas around the Yangzi and Li rivers are also prone to flooding during this time. If you are travelling around then, keep constantly updated with weather forecasts.

Safety for solo and female travellers

Exercise normal safety precautions if you are visiting as a solo or female traveller. Stay to well-lit areas at night, keep your valuables (especially your passport) safe and travel in groups if you can.

Tips for staying safe in China

  • Keep your valuables safe in crowded places and on public transport
  • Be extra careful when crossing the road, even on a green light
  • Have your accommodation address written down in Chinese, and carry it with you at all times
  • Do not get involved or go near protests or demonstrations of any kind

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