Travel insurance for China

Heading to China? Make sure you get the best travel insurance deal possible.

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From its towering cities to its sprawling countryside and gargantuan wall, it’s hard not to be blown away by China. Yet taking a plunge into the great unknown comes with its fair share of risk too.

Thankfully travel insurance is here to help protect you should you need to go to a hospital having eaten some dodgy street food, or you end up getting robbed.

In this guide we explain what level of travel insurance you’ll need for your big trip to the Far East.

Why do I need travel insurance for China?

Whether you’re heading to the bright lights of Shanghai or cycling through rural scenery, there are plenty of situations that could potentially ruin your trip. Here’s what a decent travel insurance deal will cover you for.

Medical emergency. Healthcare isn’t free in China so seeing a doctor or spending time in hospital could be incredibly expensive. So too is emergency repatriation if you need to get sent home quickly. It’s a good idea to have travel insurance that will cover you for at least £2 million in medical expenses.

Baggage. Should your baggage or personal belongings get lost or damaged you’ll get financial compensation.

Cancellations. Life is unpredictable and you might need to cancel your holiday at the last minute due to an unexpected event. You might have found out you need surgery for a health issue, for example. With insurance, you’ll be reimbursed for cancelled flights and prepaid deposits.

Delays. If there are major flight delays, you will get help with paying for expenses such as food and last minute accommodation.

Personal liability cover. Should you injure someone or damage their property, this will cover you for any legal expenses.

Do I need any vaccinations before going to China?

Try and see your doctor about 8 weeks before departure to ask about vaccinations. You will definitely need to make sure you are up to date with routine jabs such as your measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and the dipheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Your doctor may well suggest you get shots for the following too:

  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Rabies
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Tick-borne Encephalitis
  • Malaria medicine if applicable

Why should I visit China?

China is a country with a history that spans over 5,000 years and it goes without saying that it has jaw-dropping architecture, a variety of exciting cuisines and a way of life that’s completely different to our own.

If you want to witness firsthand the fusion of the past and the present, visit Beijing and stumble down old alleyways known as “hutongs” which lie among all the skyscrapers and high rise buildings.

To get a real taste of China’s ancient culture and ways of life, you can see the Terracotta Army or walk around the Forbidden City. Get away from all the bustle of the city and take a train ride to experience the serenity and scenic hills of Guilin City, which is not to be missed.

When is the best time to visit China?

China is beautiful all year round, but there are times of the year which will suit certain types of trip better.

For instance, if you are heading north of the Great Wall to explore the China-Mongolia border, you should avoid going between November-December and March-April. When winter sets in there temperatures can drop to -40°C.

In general, the easiest season to explore China is autumn, between September and early October, when rain is limited.

Looking to do your trip on a shoestring or limited budget? You might want to avoid public holiday periods or “high seasons”. Labour Day (May 1-3), National Day (October 1-8) or university holidays in June to September or January and February for instance. These are popular times for travel by locals so accommodation and travel prices shoot up.

China travel tips

China is so vast and full of a wide range of cultures that are so different from those you find in Britain, so it can be overwhelming for many travellers. You may even find you suffer from culture shock. Yet you can prepare yourself for your trip into the great unknown with these handy tips.

  • Saving face. People in China are extremely concerned about their reputation and how they are perceived by others. Locals may not always say what they mean in fear that they will insult you and cause you to “lose face”. You should pay them the same courtesy and refrain from embarrassing the Chinese in public. Pay attention to their body language to try and understand what they really mean.
  • Staring. Depending on where you travel to, the locals there may never have seen someone with skin or eye colour different to their own. Don’t be surprised if you catch people staring, or if they come up and say something about your appearance.
  • Taxis. Travellers often use taxis as they’re easy to use and cheap, particularly compared with a black cab in London. However, you still need to stay alert and only use taxis with a meter to avoid being ripped off.
  • Eating. It is common for locals to raise the bowl of food to their lips and shovel the food in with chopsticks. Don’t be afraid to join in and test out your chopsticks skills.

What are the visa and entry requirements for China?

If you are travelling to China on a British passport, you will need to apply for a visa to enter the country, unless you’re going to Hong Kong or Macao.

The other exception is if you are transiting, or “stopping over”. Depending on which airport you fly into you might be able to apply for a visa waiver, which will let you remain in China for 144 hours without an actual visa.

Should you be visiting China for a few days or more though, you will need to apply at an application centre in Britain. To apply you will need:

  • A passport with at least six months validity that contains blank visa pages plus a photocopy of the data and photo pages.
  • A photocopy of your previous Chinese visas or passports if applicable.
  • A fully completed visa application form.

Do I need to bring cash with me to China?

The official currency in China is the Yuan Renminbi (RMB), usually referred to by the locals as Kuai Renminbi. When visiting China, you should make sure you have a range of options for accessing money including:

  • Cash. You can exchange money at hotels, banks and exchange booths. This will be at the official government rate.
  • ATMs. There are plenty of cash points in populated areas, but some won’t accept foreign cards. If in doubt look for Bank of China, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, or China Construction Bank.
  • Credit cards. These are now accepted in a fair number of hotels, restaurants and shops, but you may be hit with a commission charge and your bank will levy you with a conversion fee.
  • Travellers’ cheques. Avoid using these as most Chinese establishments won’t accept them and they can only be cashed at the Bank of China.
  • Prepaid travel money cards. With the likes of Transferwise, you can get a debit card that lets you send, spend and receive money using the real exchange rate, and doesn’t hit you with hidden fees.

Whichever types of payment method you go for, remember to keep them separate. Should you lose your wallet with your cash and all your cards in, you may be left in a bit of a bind.

Who do I contact in an emergency?

If you find yourself in an emergency in China, some helpful contacts include:

  • Your travel insurer. The company you took out cover with will have a 24/7 call centre for claims such as a medical emergency.
  • 24 Hour Emergency police. Can be reached on 110.
  • 24 Hour emergency medical centre. Can be reached on 120.
  • British Embassies and Consulates. Make a note of the contact details of any local British Embassy or Consulate before you head off.

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