Document Prep for China

Some of the most common questions I get asked are about our international travel preparations, things like travel documents, vaccinations, that kind of stuff. So I figured I’d put together a post going over everything so everyone can see how I’m getting ready for a year of seeing the world.

Passports and Visas

It is slightly more work to travel to China than it is to Europe (for US citizens), but not nearly as bad as some places. I started working on all of our necessary documents months ago in preparation. To fly into China, you need a passport that has been valid for at least six months, along with a Tourist Visa. A Tourist Visa is an additional travel document that is glued onto one of my passport pages (it has nothing to do with credit cards). It explicitly states how long I can stay within the country and how many times I can come back.

Chinese-Visa-1024x639
The example visa above is a single entry Tourist Visa. The L category is for tourists and the number of entries is listed as 01. It is valid from June 12, 2009 to September 12, 2009 and only allows the visitor to stay for 30 days at a time (duration of each stay). The person carrying this visa will only be able to visit China once for up to 30 days before they need to get a new visa. They will not be able to return to China if they leave briefly to visit Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet, or Taiwan. 

After researching, I ordered our visas from Chinese Visa Service Center rather than flying to the embassy in San Francisco. After the embassy fees, service fees, and shipping fees (all required), our visas cost us $270 each. That is quite expensive for a visa, but the terms are very good. We get multiple entries from November 2017 to November 2027, and each entry period is good for 90 days. This means we can go in and out of the country as many times as we would like for the next 10 years as long as we are never in the country for longer than 90 days at a time! This will be perfect for our long term travel plans, since we’re trying to keep things as flexible as possible.

Vaccinations and Insurance

There are no vaccination requirements for China, although the Hepatitis series was recommended by most doctors we talked to. We ended up getting the series along with all of our other boosters. Our doctor also got us prescriptions for a basic antibiotic and two Z-Packs (for severe food poisoning). We did not have any trouble finding other basic medicines last time we were in China, but we did put together our usual travel pack of meds for convenience.

We purchased travel insurance from World Nomads. For a little over $1,000 each, we are covered for most accidents that happen at least 100 miles from home. It includes emergency medical assistance, evacuation, and even little things like lost or stolen luggage. It will not cover our usual preventative doctor visits and does not count on our taxes as medical coverage. However, we plan to keep up with our usual check-ups while traveling by simply paying the low out of pocket costs. We will reconsider getting a recognized health insurance next year.

Back-Up Documents

I never go on a vacation without organizing a set of travel documents. We make three sets of everything: one set we bring with us, one set we leave behind with a trusted friend, and the other set is digital. Our travel documents include photocopies of our passports and visas, additional passport photos cut to size, a general itinerary, and emergency contact information. The trusted friend also keeps our check books, one of our credit cards, a copy of our online banking passwords, and our Will. This helps us to cover all of our bases in case we run into trouble.

My sister once lost her ID in Florida two days before leaving on a cruise that required an ID. I’ve been in hotels where the front desk took my passport for the night because their scanner was broken and they had to register me in person. I have also been locked out of the internet for more than a week during which my credit card bill became overdue. These things DO happen and I like to be prepared.


Hopefully this helps make sense of everything. I’ve been working hard for months getting everything put together, but I feel like I’ve got all the bases covered. Feel free to leave comments if you’ve got any other questions about my travel prep. Or, you know, if you want to come visit us, I might be able to give you a hand!

6 comments

  1. So, if we fly out to Hong Kong, it looks like we don’t need a Visa. However, you guys are in Guangzhou, not Hong Kong. Is there an easy way to look into coordinating this? -Kyle

    1. Of course. We can get in and out of Hong Kong pretty easily. If you do not get a visa, you will not be able to visit mainland China though.. and that would be a miss. There are options for a single use visa that are much cheaper.

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