Is China Safe? Safety Tips For Traveling In China

Eleanor Boniface
Career China Digital Marketing Manager
Nov 16, 2018

Safety is an important issue to think about when moving abroad. Whether you’re traveling to China for a short trip or wanting to move there for work, it’s necessary to know how to protect yourself and your belongings, how to avoid scams, and how to follow local laws and cultural taboos.

Here are some tips that will help you to stay safe in China, while still having a fantastic time.

How To Stay Safe When Traveling In China

Topic: Hotel / Hostel

Tips and Information:

  • Choose your hotel carefully in a safe environment. Some places in China might be in small alleys or hard to find places.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially when going out alone.
  • Tell your friends and family where you are going and give them your travel itinerary.
  • Always look where the emergency exits are in hotels and check for any problems with the rooms (such as windows, doors, and locks).
  • Some hotels in China will have a different style of bathroom - be careful of wet floors and don't slip.
  • Make sure you confirm the identity of anyone who enters your room.
  • Place your valuables in your hotel room safe or ask the hotel to lock them up.
  • Grab a business card with the hotel name on it so you can find your way back if you get lost, or show taxi drivers.
  • Be aware of the safety alarm buttons in the lift in case of emergency.
  • Read the hotel handbook on how to operate the electronics in the hotel room.

Topic: Traveling around

Tips and Information:

  • Protect your passport and other important documents by carrying them in something on you in person.
  • Make sure you carry a photocopy of all vital documents in various places.
  • It is recommended you buy a lock to carry on you when traveling.
  • There are some common tourist scams you might encounter when traveling in China. Read more about Tourist Scams to be more prepared.

Topic: Health

Tips and information:

  • Water: do not drink the tap water in China, because it is not drinkable unless it is boiled. It is very easy and cheap to buy bottled water most places in China.
  • Food: Be careful when buying street food in China and make sure it is cooked all the way. If you have an upset stomach then Chinese pharmacies offer both western and eastern medicine at very reasonable prices. Prescription medication can usually be purchased without a prescription (within reason) by simply providing the pharmacist with your identification.
  • Swimming: Don't swim in fresh water in most parts of China to avoid infection with schistosomiasis.
  • Air pollution: Larger cities in China will have some air pollution problems. Many locals and even foreigners will wear masks on days with very high levels of air pollution, but it is recommended to avoid being outside on days with particularly bad pollution. It is also good to buy an air purifier for you work or home.

Topic: Theft

Tips and Information:

  • Keep your wallet, mobile phone, camera, jewelry and laptop safe in your bag. These are big targets for thieves.
  • Don't leave your bag on the back of your chair or even by your feet when you go to restaurants. Always keep an eye on your belongings.
  • Don't carry large amounts of money or obvious expensive objects. Try not to flash your wallet or money, especially on crowded streets where there might be pickpockets.
  • Make sure nothing has fallen out of your bag or pockets when you leave a taxi, bus, or train.

Read more about How To Protect Important Documents and Things When You Travel.

Topic: Crossing the Road

Tips and information:

  • One of the biggest risks while traveling in China is Chinese traffic. There are many new or inexperienced drivers, and the traffic rules can be different or not always followed. This leads to many accidents.
  • Important to note: pedestrians in China do not have the right of way. Be extremely careful when you go to cross the road.
  • Streets in China are very noisy, with lots of horns and beeps. Big cars and black cars belonging to government officials will most always gets the right of way.
  • Many drivers will run red lights, and lots of scooters will drive the wrong way. Always check carefully when you're around street areas.

How To Stay Safe When Living In China

Topic: Bicycle theft

Tips and Information:

  • Bicycle thefts are very common in China. Always bring your bike inside, especially if it expensive.
  • If you have a scooter, it is recommended to take your batteries with you because this is what thieves will target.

Topic: Bar Fights

Tips and Information:

  • Some Chinese men will not approve of Chinese women being around foreign men, so many conflicts will arise around women.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially late at nights in bars. Try to avoid controntations, because you can get arrested and put in prison for fighting with locals.

Topic: Natural Disasters

Tips and Information:

  • Typhoons: often occur during the wet season rom June to August. If you live along the southern and eastern coasts, be aware of any weather updates. Bad flooding can occur in these areas.
  • Floods and landslides: The time of year varies depending on which part of China you're in. They occur between April and June in southern and eastern China, from June until August in the north and between May and September for the areas near the Yangtze River.
  • Earthquakes: There are few earthquakes in modern day China and they most likely will occur in non-tourist areas like western China.

Understanding Local Laws

Topic: General Information

Tips and Information:

  • Even though you are a traveler or foreigner living in China, local laws and penalties will still apply to you. 
  • if you’re suspected of a crime, Chinese police can arrest or detain you, and also withhold your passport. You could be detained for weeks or months, or given a travel ban that prevents you from leaving China.

Topic: Gambling

Tips and Information:

  • Gambling is illegal in mainland China.
  • Macau is full of casinos and the only place you are allowed to gamble

Topic: Cyber Laws

Tips and Information:

  • China’s cyber security laws are contantly changing, so be aware of news related to these laws
  • Online products and services (like VPNs) are required to be licensed by the Chinese government.
  • meetings or public holidays, VPN’s may not work. These will go back to normal once these events are over.
  • Any slander about the Chinese government will be picked up by national security. You can and will be taken in to a police station and face deportation.

Learn more about VPNs here: What's the Best VPN for China?

Topic: Religion

Tips and Information:

China has restrictions on certain religious activities, like preaching and distributing religious materials.

Topic: Drugs

Tips and Information:

  • Drug offenses will have extremely severe penalties, possibly even the death penalty.
  • The Chinese authorities will sometimes do random drug testing on foreigners. If you test positive, the Chinese authorities can prosecute you regardless of where or when you consumed drugs. Be careful when you go to bars or clubs as well.

Topic: Passport

Tips and Information:

  • According to Chinese law, you should carry your passport with you at all times, or at least carry a photocopy of your information page and visa page.
  • Police will hold random checks, especially during major events. If you cannot show your ID during these check, you might be fined or detained.

Topic: Homosexuality

Tips and Information:

  • Homosexuality is not prohibited by law
  • However, general public attitudes in China might be less tolerant than the rest of the world
  • There isn't any protection in Chinese law guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

China Is Safe, But Do Your Research

China is indeed a very safe country, but like any other place you visit, you should do some research before you go and take precautions. As long as you are aware of your surroundings and use precaution, you won’t need to worry about being unsafe. 

Learn more about living and working in China with The Ultimate Guide for Moving to China

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