China Travel Guide

China is a spectacular travel destination. From the mountains of the far west to the beaches of the south and everything in between, this is a country that’s sure to amaze you at every turn. We lived and traveled around China for more than a year, and in this post we share our most useful travel tips and information.

China Flag

Traveling in China can be difficult at times, but by asking questions to your hotel, hostel, or apartment owner before setting off, you can save yourself a lot of hassle. Hopefully, this guide will help you ahead of your visit too!

English isn’t widely spoken here, but don’t let that put you off. Chinese people are generally very patient with visitors and don’t expect you to know any of their languages. Hand motions and basic words can go a long way.

wondering what to do in beijing? visiting the great wall is a highlight

On this page, you’ll find all of our posts about China. We’ve lived and traveled in the country for over a year and we love it. Here, you’ll find some of the best places to visit, things to do, the best times to plan your trip, and much more.

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Plan Your Trip

Things To Do

Find some of the most exciting and fun things to do all over the country.

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Travel Tips

Some useful travel tips to help ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

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Where To Stay

The best neighborhoods, hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs throughout the country.

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Best Time To Visit

When to travel in order to have the best possible weather or fewer crowds.

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Visa Requirements

What you need to enter the country and travel for the duration of your intended trip.

Getting Around

Buses, planes, trains, taxis, Ubers, rental cars, and more. Find out how to get from A to B.

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Places To Visit

Find the coolest places to visit including cities, towns, beaches & more.

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Cost of Travel

Budget your trip properly by understanding the cost of food, accommodation & more.

Food & Drink

Delicious food, drinks to try, and the best cafes, restaurants, and bars to check out.

Places To Visit in China

Even after spending over a year living and traveling in the country, Dariece and I have still barely scratched the surface of the best places to visit in China. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the best places to visit while you’re in China.

Beijing Forbidden City

Beijing: The capital of China, Beijing, is a fascinating city with a rich history and culture. There are many things to see and do in Beijing, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also home to a large number of restaurants and shops.

Yangshuo: If you’re looking for a unique travel destination, be sure to add Yangshuo in China to your list. Located in the stunning Guilin region, Yangshuo is known for its dramatic landscapes and idyllic countryside. There are many things to see and do in Yangshuo, including hiking, biking, and exploring the local villages. This was probably our favorite hiking destination in China.

Sichuan: Sichuan is a province in southwest China that’s known for its stunning scenery and delicious food. The province is home to many ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. There are also many things to see and do in Sichuan, such as hiking, biking, and exploring the local villages. Our favorite part was of course, the hot pot!

The Forbidden City in Beijing: The Forbidden City is one of the most popular places to visit in China, and for good reason – it’s an amazing historical site. The palace was built in the 15th century and served as the home of the Chinese emperors for over 500 years. If you’re interested in Chinese history, the Forbidden City has to be on your itinerary.

The Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an: Xi’an is home to one of the most incredible archaeological sites in the world – the Terracotta Warriors. These life-sized statues were created over 2,000 years ago to serve as funerary objects for Emperor Qin Shi Huang. They’re a must-see for any history buff.

The Great Wall of China: The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic landmarks on earth, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in China. It’s one of the longest walls in the world, stretching for over an incredible 5,500 miles. If you’re looking for an epic day trip, the Great Wall is a great option. We took a day tour of the Great Wall and highly recommend it.

The Li River in Guilin: The Li River is one of the most beautiful places in all of China, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re traveling through Guilin. The river flows through some stunningly beautiful countryside, and there are plenty of places to stop and take photos. It’s definitely one of China’s highlights.

The Bund in Shanghai: The Bund is a waterfront district in Shanghai that offers some of the best views in all of China. It’s home to some impressive architecture, including several Art Deco buildings from the 1920s and 30s. If you’re looking for a scenic spot to take photos or just enjoy the view, the Bund is hard to beat.

Overlooking The Bund in Shanghai.

Things To Do in China

There are so many different things to do in China that it can be overwhelming to list them all on one page. Below, you’ll find the best things to do in some of the major cities in China, as well as things to do in some lesser-known places. Whether you’re heading to China for a week, a month, or a year, we can help you find the best things to build into your stay.

China is a country with a long and fascinating history. There are plenty of things to see and do in the country; from ancient temples and palaces to scenic mountains and lakes. Here are five of the best things to do in China:

Visit the Great Wall of China: The Great Wall is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, and for good reason – it’s an incredible sight. The wall stretches for more than 5,000 miles, making it one of the longest man-made structures on the planet.

living in china as a foreigner
China is filled with historical sites, such as the Great Wall of China

See the Terracotta Warriors: These life-sized clay soldiers were built over 2,000 years ago to protect the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang – there are thousands of them! A must-see sight for any visitor to China. This Terracotta Warrior tour on Viator is super highly rated and has a great description of the history.

Tour Beijing’s Forbidden City: This sprawling palace was once home to China’s emperors and their families. It’s now open to visitors and is a must-see for anyone interested in Chinese history.

Eat The Food: You may think you know Chinese food if you’ve had it in a Western country, but it’s SO much better in China. The country is home to a wide variety of delicious dishes, from spicy Sichuan cuisine to hearty northern fare. There are also plenty of tasty snacks to enjoy, such as steamed buns or dumplings. Make sure you try as much of China’s amazing cuisine as you can!

Take a Yangtze River Cruise: A cruise down the Yangtze River is a great way to see some of China’s most beautiful scenery, including the Three Gorges Dam and the pandas of Chengdu Forest Zoo.

Cost of Travel in China

When it comes to the cost of travel in China, there are a few things to consider. For starters, transportation is relatively affordable – buses, trains, and flights are all reasonably priced. However, accommodation can be more expensive in big cities than in smaller towns and villages. And while food is generally affordable, restaurant meals can be pricey within tourist areas.

In terms of transportation, buses are the cheapest option, with a short bus ride costing between 1 and 3 yuan. Trains are also affordable, with tickets costing between 4 and 9 yuan for short trips, and up to 50 yuan for longer journeys. Plane tickets are the most expensive mode of transportation, with prices starting at around 200 yuan for short flights.

The stunning Shanghai skyline of the Pudong District in China.

Accommodation is generally more expensive in big cities than in smaller towns and villages. Hostels or budget hotels can be found for as little as 20 yuan per night in some places, while rooms in nicer hotels can cost hundreds of yuan per night. In tourist areas, accommodation can be even more expensive, with prices for a simple room starting at around 100 yuan per night.

Food is generally affordable in China, with street food often costing just a few yuan and restaurant meals typically ranging from 10 to 30 yuan. However, there are some exceptions – particularly in tourist areas – where restaurant meals can cost 50 yuan or more.

Overall, the cost of travel in China varies depending on your location and chosen mode of transportation. But generally, it’s relatively affordable compared to other countries around the world.

Budget: Budget travelers can expect to spend around 200-300 yuan ($14-$28 USD) per day when traveling in China. This includes budget accommodation, transportation, and food costs.

In terms of budget accommodation, hostels or budget hotels can be found for as little as 200 yuan ($14 USD) per night in some places, while rooms in nicer hotels can cost hundreds of yuan per night. In tourist areas, accommodation can be even more expensive, with prices for a simple room starting at around 400 yuan ($28 USD) per night.

Transportation is generally affordable in China, with buses and city transport costing between 10 and 30 yuan ($1.40-$2.80 USD), and trains between cities costing between 400 and 900 yuan ($28-$130 USD). The most expensive mode of transportation is flying; with plane tickets starting at around 600 yuan ($86 USD), budget travelers should try and avoid this option where possible.

A delicious Chinese food on ceramic plate

Food is also affordable in China, with street food often costing just a couple hundred yuan (under $5 USD) and restaurant meals typically ranging from 50 to 100 yuan ($7-$14 USD). However, there are some exceptions – particularly in tourist areas – where restaurant meals can cost 200 yuan ($28 USD) or more. Budget travelers should be mindful of these higher prices when eating out.

Midrange ($50-$130 USD/day): A midrange traveler in China can expect to spend around 350-900 yuan ($50-$130 USD) per day. This includes midrange hotel accommodation, transportation, and food costs.

In terms of budget accommodation, a midrange traveler can find decent hotel rooms for around 200 yuan ($28 USD) per night in some places, while nicer hotels in larger cities can cost quite a bit more.

The most expensive mode of transportation is flying, so visitors traveling with a midrange budget should try to avoid this where possible.

Midrange food is also affordable in China, with street food often costing just a few yuan, and midrange restaurant meals typically priced from 100 to 200 yuan ($14-$28 USD).

Top-End Travel ($2,000+/day): A top-end traveler in China can expect to spend around 2,000+ yuan ($285 USD) per day. This includes high-end accommodation, transportation, and food costs.

In terms of accommodation, a top-end traveler can find luxurious hotel rooms for around 1,000 yuan ($143 USD) per night in some places.

Beijing architecture and city skyline in the morning with blue sky.

Top-end restaurant meals typically range from 200 to 900+ yuan ($28-$175 USD). Overall, a top-end traveler can expect to spend around 2,000 yuan ($285 USD) per day when traveling in China.

When visiting China, it’s important to be aware of the different costs associated with each type of expense. This will help you plan your budget accordingly and know what to expect when traveling around the country. Below, we’ve broken down some of the main travel costs in China.

Accommodation: Let’s start by looking at accommodation costs. As mentioned, prices for a simple room can start at around 20 yuan ($2.90) per night in some places, while rooms in nicer hotels can cost hundreds of yuan per night. In tourist areas, accommodation can be even more expensive, with prices for a simple room (or even just a dorm bed) starting at around 100 yuan ($14) per night.

For those looking for even more luxury, there are also a number of high-end hotels available in China where prices start at 1,000 yuan ($143 USD) per night.

Transportation: Next, let’s look at transportation costs. As mentioned, transportation is generally affordable in China, with buses and city transport costing between 10 and 30 yuan ($1.40-$2.80 USD), trains between cities costing between 400 and 900 yuan ($28-$130 USD), and plane tickets starting at around 600 yuan ($86 USD).

Food: Food is also affordable in China, with street food often costing just a few yuan and restaurant meals typically ranging from 50 to 100 yuan ($7-$14 USD). Remember that there are some exceptions – particularly in tourist areas – where restaurant meals can cost 200 yuan ($28 USD) or more. Be aware of these higher prices when eating out.

Tours: The cost of tours can range in price from just a few dollars for a day trip, to several hundred dollars for an extended tour. Some popular day trips include the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the Bund in Shanghai. There are also many day tours available that will take you to several different attractions within one city or region.

A view of a group of Terracotta Warriors lined up in Xi'an, China.
Don’t miss the museums in China, especially the Terracotta Warriors

If you want to save money, there are also free walking tours available in most major cities. These walks are led by local residents who love their city and are passionate about sharing its history and culture with guests – they’re usually a great way to get your bearings and learn a lot about the country along the way.

Entrance Fees: If you’re planning a trip to China, it’s important to be aware of the average costs of entrance fees to major tourist attractions. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular tourist destinations in China and give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay for admission.

The Great Wall of China is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, and tickets cost around 60 Yuan (roughly $9 USD). If you’re looking to visit the Terracotta Warriors, tickets will set you back around 110 Yuan (about $16 USD), while entry into Chinese museums generally costs between 10 and 20 Yuan (between $1.50 and $3 USD).

Overall, the cost of travel in China varies depending on your location, your chosen mode of transportation, and the items on your itinerary. In general, it’s relatively affordable compared to other countries around the world.

Where To Stay in China

There are many choices for where to stay in China, depending on your budget and preferences. If you’re looking for a luxurious hotel, Beijing and Shanghai have some of the best in the country. There are also a number of high-end resorts in popular tourist destinations like Hangzhou, Wuzhen, and Suzhou.

If you’re on a tighter budget, there are plenty of affordable hotel options as well. Low-cost chains like Holiday Inn and Best Western have a number of properties throughout China, and there are also numerous locally owned and operated hotels that offer good value for your money too.

For those who prefer something more unique, Airbnb and other home rental services are widely available in China. There are literally thousands of listings to choose from, so with a little searching, you can find something that fits your needs perfectly. And finally, if you’re looking for an authentic Chinese experience, staying with a local family through a home-sharing program is a great option.

Hotels: If you’re looking for a luxurious hotel, Beijing and Shanghai have some of the best in the country. There are also a number of high-end resorts in popular tourist destinations like Hangzhou, Wuzhen, and Suzhou.

The beautiful scenery of Wuzhen, China.

If you’re traveling on a lower budget, there are plenty of affordable hotel options as well. Low-cost chains like Holiday Inn and Best Western have a number of properties throughout China, and there are also numerous locally owned and operated hotels that offer good value for your money.

Guesthouses: Guesthouses are a popular option for travelers looking for a more authentic Chinese experience. They typically offer basic amenities like a bed, desk, and a common area (sometimes even with a kitchen for cooking your own meals). Some may also have a TV, refrigerator, and air conditioning.

Guests can expect to interact with the owners and other guests in the common areas of the guesthouse. Most guesthouses do not provide maid or room service, so you’re responsible for cleaning your own room during your stay.

There are many websites that list guesthouses in China, but the best way to find one is by searching on Google Maps. We typically book our guesthouses in China on Booking.com.

Airbnb: For those who prefer something more unique, Airbnb and other home rental services are widely available in China. There are literally thousands of listings to choose from, so you’re sure to find just the kind of accommodation you’re after.

Hostels: Hostels are a popular option for travelers looking for a backpacker vibe. We’ve stayed in plenty of hostels in China and actually prefer them to hotels in a lot of cases. For those who don’t want to stay in dorms or extremely basic private rooms, you can opt for one of the many “boutique hostels” throughout the country that offer far better arrangements and often organize fun party nights like dumpling-making, meet-ups, pub crawls, and more.

Food & Drink in China

Food in China is greatly influenced by its geography and climate. The cuisine of Northern China is known for its noodles, dumplings, and hearty dishes such as buns and pancakes. The flavors of this region are typically salty and savory. Southern Chinese cuisine is known for its rice-based dishes, seafood, and numerous sauces. This region is known for its sweet and sour flavors.

There are many must-try dishes in Chinese cuisine. Some of the most popular include Peking duck, Kung Pao chicken, chow mein, and General Tso’s chicken. These dishes offer a taste of the many fantastic flavors found in Chinese cuisine.

One of the main ingredients in Chinese cuisine is rice. Rice is a staple in many dishes and can be served either plain or with various toppings or sauces. Noodles are also common in Chinese cuisine and can be served stir-fried, boiled, or in soups.

Chinese food in guangzhou

Chinese cuisine has a long history dating back thousands of years. The flavors and ingredients used in Chinese food have evolved over time to create the unique cuisine that exists today. If you’re looking for a unique culinary experience, be sure to try some local dishes!

After living in China for over a year and eating out with our Chinese friends (who always order for us and never disappoint), we’ve tried countless Chinese dishes. It’s extremely hard to narrow down our list of favorites, but as far as iconic Chinese meals go, here are 5 that you shouldn’t miss.

Peking Duck: A dish from Beijing that’s made of roasted duck and served with thin pancakes, hoisin sauce, and cucumbers.

  • Ingredients: duck, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, five spice powder
  • Flavor: sweet and savory with a slightly crispy skin
  • History: Peking duck has been around for over 700 years and originated in the imperial palace
  • Restaurants: usually found in nicer restaurants or Chinese specialty restaurants

Hot Pot: Sichuan hot pot is a popular dish in China that’s made of spicy broth and various types of meat and vegetables.

  • Ingredients: beef, pork, lamb, chicken, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, rice noodles
  • Flavor: spicy and savory with a slight numbing effect from the Sichuan pepper
  • History: Sichuan hot pot has been around for over 1,000 years and originated in the Sichuan province
  • Restaurants: usually found in nicer restaurants or Chinese specialty restaurants

Dim Sum: Dim sum is a type of Chinese cuisine that’s typically served as a small snack or appetizer.

  • Ingredients: a variety of meats, seafood, vegetables, and pastries steamed or fried
  • Flavor: salty, sweet, savory, and sometimes spicy
  • History: Dim sum has been around for over 1,000 years and originated in Guangdong province
  • Restaurants: usually found in nicer restaurants or Cantonese restaurants

Ma Po Tofu: Ma Po tofu is a popular dish in China that’s made of spicy tofu and pork.

  • Ingredients: tofu, ground pork, onion, garlic, chili pepper, bean sauce, sugar, rice wine
  • Flavor: spicy and savory with a slight numbing effect from the Sichuan pepper
  • History: Ma Po tofu has been around for over 1,000 years and originated in Sichuan province.
  • Restaurants: usually found in nicer restaurants or Sichuan restaurants

Shanghai Dumplings: Shanghai dumplings are a popular dish in China that’s made of pork and shrimp.

  • Ingredients: pork, shrimp, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, rice noodles
  • Flavor: salty, umami, sweet, savory, and sometimes spicy
  • History: Shanghai dumplings have been around for over 1,000 years and originated in Shanghai
  • Restaurants: usually found in Shanghai-style restaurants throughout the country

China Travel Tips & Information

If you’re looking for travel tips, information, or help for when you’re on the road in China, then you’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find all of our posts that include useful China travel information including the cost of living and traveling in certain places, pros and cons, cultural quirks, and more.

The magnificent overlooking view of The Great Wall of China

China is an amazing country with a rich history and culture. There are many things that are useful to know before traveling to China, however, in order to ensure your trip runs smoothly and is as enjoyable as possible.

Some important things to keep in mind when traveling to China:

Language: China is a linguistically diverse country, with over a dozen different dialects spoken throughout the country. The official language of China is Mandarin, which is spoken by the majority of the population. However, English is also becoming more commonly spoken, so don’t worry if you don’t know any Mandarin – most people in larger Chinese cities will be able to understand you if you speak English.

In our experience, outside of major cities, there’s very little English spoken, so it’s a good idea to have your hostel or hotel write your next destination, hotel name and address in Chinese on a piece of paper for you before you set off on a travel day. That way you can always just show your piece of paper to someone to make sure you’re on the right track.

Currency: The official currency of China is the Renminbi (RMB), which is also referred to as the Chinese Yuan. The RMB is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are accepted in most large cities in China, but it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand just in case.

Ride a Bike: One of the most popular ways to get around is by bike, and cycling can be a great way to see the country up close and personal. We always rode around our hometown of Yangzhou when we lived there. Even though it’s not a huge city by Chinese standards, there were decent bike lanes and it felt quite safe.

Weather: The weather in China can vary greatly depending on the region you’re visiting. Generally, however, summers are hot and humid and winters are cold and dry. It’s always a good idea to pack clothes for all types of weather, just to be safe!

Customs and Etiquette: When traveling in any foreign country, it’s important to understand the culture and etiquette of that place in order to avoid any awkward or uncomfortable situations. China is no exception, and there are a few things you should know before traveling there.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese are generally quite conservative when it comes to dress and behavior. It’s best to avoid wearing revealing clothing or engaging in overly physical displays of affection in public. Additionally, be sure to observe proper table manners when eating – chopsticks are the norm in China, so using them correctly is important. Never stick your chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice, and only place them on the table when you’re done eating (otherwise, it’s acceptable to lay them across the bowl or plate you’re eating from).

chinese etiquette

Finally, always be respectful when speaking to locals – they may not understand English, so it’s courteous to know some basic Mandarin phrases before you go.

All in all, China is an amazing travel destination with something to offer to everyone. Just make sure you do your research beforehand so that you’re prepared for what awaits you there!

Our Travels in China

Below, you’ll find all of our personal travel blogs about living in and exploring the country of China. If you want to learn about China travel, then experience it directly through the lens of two people who have spent a lot of time there. If you’re interested in traveling to China, I hope that these posts will inspire you to go!

When To Travel To China

One thing that we love about China is that it’s a year-round destination. We know that because we lived there throughout all of the seasons. No matter when you visit China, you’ll have a great time. That being said, the north can be extremely cold in the winter and the south can be hot in the summer, so here’s a little bit of help to work out the best time to visit China.

The Absolute Best Time To Visit China

April – May / September – October

As far as weather goes, the best times to visit China are in the Spring (April-May) and the Fall (September-October). This is when most of the country has ideal weather for seeing sights and exploring.

best time to visit China

These are also the two periods of the year when China isn’t experiencing holidays. You want to avoid busy peak times like Chinese New Year and summertime holidays.

The Worst Time To Visit China

When visiting a country with a billion people in it, you’ll have to consider public holiday times if you want to avoid claustrophobia from crowds. You’ll want to try to plan your trip to skip these festivals and events in China:

  • Labor Day Holiday (May 1-3)
  • Chinese National Day (October 1-7)
  • Chinese New Year (sometime in late January to mid-February)

Getting Around China

China is a huge country with many different regions. Traveling within China can be difficult, but with the right information, it can be easy and fun. There are many transportation options available, including plane, train, bus, car rental, bicycle, tuk-tuk, and private driver.

Train: The most popular way to travel within China is by train. Trains are affordable, fast, and reliable. There are several classes of trains, from the least expensive hard seat to the more expensive soft sleeper. It is important to book tickets in advance – especially during the busy holiday seasons.

Shanghai light rail train in China

Bus: Buses are another common way to travel in China. Buses are affordable and usually stop at every town along their routes. However, buses can be crowded and uncomfortable, especially during busy times.

Plane: Planes are a quick way to travel between major cities in China, but tickets can be expensive and there are often limited flights per day.

Car Rental: Car rental is a good option for those who want to explore China on their own schedule. Car rental agencies are plentiful in most cities. Drivers should be aware of the rules of the road, which can be different than those in their home country.

Bicycle: Bicycles are a great way to explore smaller towns and villages in China. Bicycles can be rented from most hotels or from local businesses. Be aware that bicycle traffic can be heavy in larger cities and that drivers do not always look out for cyclists.

Tuk-Tuk: Tuk-tuks are small three-wheeled vehicles that are common in Southeast Asia. They can be hired for short trips within a city or for transportation between cities. Tuk-tuks are a fun way to explore a new city, but travelers should be aware of the potential for scams by tuk-tuk drivers.

Private Driver: Private drivers can be hired to take tourists anywhere in China they want to go. Drivers can be arranged through travel agencies or online platforms such as Uber or Didi Chuxing . Drivers generally speak English and can provide tips on where to go and what to see during your stay.

China Entry Requirements

If you’re planning on traveling to China, it’s important to be aware of the entry requirements. In order to travel to China, you will need a valid passport and visa. A visa is an endorsement or stamp in your passport that allows you to stay in China for a specific period of time.

There are different types of visas depending on the purpose of your visit. The most common type of visa is a tourist visa, which is valid for up to 30 days.

how to get a visa for China

To apply for a Chinese visa, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • A valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity
  • A photocopy of the information page of your passport
  • One completed application form
  • One passport-style photograph
  • Proof of legal status in your country (if not a citizen)
  • A photocopy of your round-trip ticket or itinerary
  • A photocopy of your hotel reservations or host’s contact information

The application process can be done either through the Chinese embassy or consulate in your country or through a visa agency. It is important to note that processing times may vary, so it’s best to start the process as soon as possible – it’s not something you can leave for the last minute!

Visa Free Entry

If you’re a member of the countries listed below, you won’t need a visa to enter China for the duration stated. All other nationalities will have to apply for a Chinese tourist visa before arriving in the country.

90 days
Armenia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
San Marino

60 days
Mauritius

30 days
Bahamas
Barbados
Belarus2
Dominica
Ecuador
Fiji
Grenada
Qatar
Serbia
Suriname
Seychelles
Tonga
United Arab Emirates

15 days (temporarily suspended)
Brunei
Japan
Singapore

We try to keep this information up to date, but it’s always best to visit the website of the nearest Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to you.

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