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In general, China does not present major risks for tourists. Most of the people you meet during your stay are friendly, honest and trustworthy. However, the country (like many others) is never immune to the slightest crime, bad weather or other unforeseen events that could affect the organization of your trip.
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Is China currently safe?
Indeed, there is absolutely no worrying threat to the health and safety of tourists.
No doubt, have you heard or relayed by TVvoire the media, the disappearance of an airliner connecting Malaysia to Beijing on March 8, 2014. This event would not be directly related to China. Moreover, air transport in the region remains statistically one of the safest ways to travel. There is also a bloody attack perpetrated by Xinjiang separatists in Kunming Station on March 1, 2014. It lasted only a few minutes and the assailants immediately neutralized. More generally, China has a relatively low crime rate, similar to that of the United Kingdom and Canada, but half as much as in the United States.
Although nothing spectacular happened this year, recent earthquakes have occurred in eccentric and non-tourist areas. For example, in 2013, there was no casualty or injury among foreign visitors in Leshan, and tourism activity in the region was returning to normal in the following month.
In addition, in recent years, epidemics of bird flu or swine in humans remain very limited, perfectly controlled and now eradicated.
The most important risks to the safety of travelers
For a foreigner who discovers China, the causes of damage come most often from usual accidents such as, for example, those of road traffic or during tourist activities or even discomfort caused by poor hygiene, a hot and cold or a simple dehydration.
China ranks 90th in the world for road deaths (better than most developing countries, similar to India and 20% higher than the United States). If you look at the statistics, it is by far the safest place to travel with China Travel’s private transport service.
Check out our “Road Traffic” pages in China and “How to cross a road safely in China?”.
During your stay, please carefully follow the safety tips and instructions of your guide. Although many tourist attractions, traffic routes and facilities in China are well designed with limited risks, there are probably even more dangers than in his home country. Look carefully where you are walking. Stay alert and be careful not to slip or stumble. Station falls everywhere! Watch your head§! Do not be surprised by protruding angles, possible jets of stone, trailing cables or other hanging objects, etc.
Know also that you will carry out more dangerous activities like climbing, swimming, rafting, mountaineering, etc…. At your peril. Make sure your travel insurance covers what you plan to do.
The main risks to your health come, most often, from a lack of regular attention such as eating a food that is not suitable for your health, wearing clothes that are not adapted to weather conditions, overworking or even suffering from an infectious problem. By consulting our pages, you will be able to know the climate corresponding to the seasons, the destinations of your choice and the recommended clothing. This will also avoid altitude sickness in areas of more than 2500 meters, mainly on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Prepare yourself seriously and take precautions. See our “How to stay healthy in China” page.
As a whole, in China, the crime rate remains relatively low. On the other hand, petty crime is steadily increasing, with tourists as the main targets. Basic knowledge of these potential risks and the most common scams will be very useful for you to travel peacefully and safely.
- Take the usual precautions and use common sense, especially in crowded places such as tourist areas and markets.
- Be especially careful when going out at night. At all times, try to stay in busy and well-lit places.
- Listen carefully to the safety tips of our local guides.
- For thieves, wallets, mobile phones, cameras, jewelry and laptops are particularly tempting targets.
- Try not to walk around with a significant amount of money or outside signs of wealth. Keep your wallet or purse out of reach (avoid back pockets at all costs). Finally, there is no point waving your wallet when you settle a purchase and expect (aside) a bit of money for the beggars.
- Of course, pickpockets are more popular than crowded places, such as public buses, trains, bus stops in city centers and major commercial arteries. We advise you to carefully monitor your property in these places.
- Avoid being dragged into a crowd while you are in possession of many valuables (camera, purse, backpack, etc ….). You can not, in fact, always watch over all your objects.
- Snatching flights are constantly increasing. Keep your valuables as close as possible.
- When you get off a taxi, bus, train, etc … remember to check that nothing clears your pockets. The lost item will probably have disappeared within minutes.
- If you fall asleep on public transit, beware of people who are bouncing or circling around to get to your stuff. Keep valuables inside your bag so that they are not visible or accessible by simply opening the zipper or in a pocket.
Keep your valuables safe
- Make sure your passports, tickets, visas, etc … are safe. To do this, simply wear them on you, under your clothes in a belt pouch.
- Never leave valuables in your hotel room or in your car. Use the hotel safe if, however, there is one.
- If you have a backpack or need to stay in a hostel, buy a padlock to secure your belongings in the lockers provided.
- Keep a photocopy of your passport and other vital documents separately
- I also recommend you to read our article: How to Avoid Pickpockets and Thieves?
Keep in mind that laws and their corresponding penalties at the local level (even those that might seem severe to you in your home country) apply to everyone. For example, it is strictly forbidden to demonstrate in a public place without prior authorization from the government. Drug offenses have far-reaching consequences and in some cases may lead to the death penalty like so many other serious crimes.
Get lost or encounter difficulties
As a general rule, although they speak very little English (with the exception of major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen), Chinese policemen are happy to welcome foreign tourists.
If you go astray, do not hesitate to ask your way to the police who will surely be flattered to help you.
For better communication, we suggest you write on paper, the usual expressions (both in Chinese and English) and bring a business card specifying, in both languages, the coordinates of your hotel. Try to learn a little Chinese.
Natural calamities and bad weather conditions
If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities scrupulously. Visit our “Travel Insurance for China” page.
Floods and landslides
Between April and June, the rainy season in southern and eastern China (eg, Guilin, Suzhou and Hangzhou); from June to August in the north and west (for example, Yunnan and Tibet), and between May and September in areas near the Yangtze River (such as Chongqing and Yichang).
Rural areas along the Yangtze River and other rivers may be flooded during their rainy season, affecting tourism activities nearby.
Landslides can be seen in the mountainous areas of southwestern China, Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet, from May to September when areas suffer significant rainfall.
In recent years, Sichuan Province has experienced two major earthquakes. That of 2013 has caused some tourist disturbances, in particular, in the periphery of the giant panda research center of Chengdu, and Leshan. Fortunately, there were no injuries among tourists. More recently, most earthquakes have occurred in the remote mountainous areas of western China without any impact on tourism activity.
During the wet summer season (usually June to August), typhoons can occur along the southern and eastern coasts. If you are traveling in these disturbed areas, you will need to regularly follow the weather reports.
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How to Avoid Pickpockets and Thieves