Traveler FAQs, Passports,
Visas and Health



Do I need a Passport to visit China

All US and Canadian citizens must have a valid Passport to visit the People's Republic of China . It must be signed and not expire within 6 months of entering China . In addition, it must have at least one blank VISA page (two or more are preferable).

My Passport expires in less than 6 months of my travel to China. What do I do?

You must renew your Passport before applying for a China Visa.

I have less than 2 blank VISA pages in my Passport. What do I do?

You must amend your US Passport to have more pages added, before applying for a China Visa. There are two ways to add pages to your VALID Passport.

1)      Go to: and follow the directions. There is no fee, but you have no way of tracking your Passport.

2)      Use a Passport Expeditor, like TravelDocs Travel Visas and Passport Services.
TravelDocs Travel visas and passport services

Go to: TravelDocs and follow the instructions. While there is a fee for this service, it has been our experience that the security of knowing where our Passport was, and its status outweighed the cost of the service.

Canadian Citizens: Please go to for more information

How do I obtain or renew a Passport?

There are two ways to obtain or renew a Passport:

1)      You can apply for a Passport at many US Post Offices around the country. To find the US Post Office nearest to you, and other valuable information go to

You'll need to apply in person if you are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time:  if your expired U.S. passport is not in your possession; if your previous U.S. passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago; if your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16; or if your currently valid U.S. passport has been lost, damaged or stolen. Need more information? Go to:

You can renew by mail if: Your most recent passport is available to submit and it is not damaged; you received the passport within the past 15 years; you were over age 16 when it was issued; you still have the same name, or can legally document your name change.

You can download the form and get more information here:

2) Use a Passport Expeditor: We have had excellent results using TravelDocs Travel Visas and Passport Services:

For a fee, Passport Expeditors will hand carry your application and/or Passport to the appropriate agencies for approval. You can track the status online, so you know where your Passport is at all times. Personally, we feel that the cost is worth the security of knowing what is going on with the process.

Canadian Citizens: Please go to for more information

What else should I know about Passport requirements?

April, May and June are the busiest months for Passport processing. If possible, apply early. Depending on the demand, passport processing time can take as long as a few months. Using a Passport Expeditor shortens this to a few days, but you will have to pay a fee to the Expeditor for this service.



Do I need a Visa to visit China

All US and Canadian Citizens must obtain a China Tourist Visa prior to departure.

How do I obtain a China Tourist Visa?

There are two ways to obtain a China Tourist Visa:

1)      Contact the Embassy of the PRC in the USA, fill out the appropriate forms and mail your Passport, application and fee to them.


Frankly, we feel this is risky at best! It is impossible to track the whereabouts of your Passport, or the status of your application. If you chose this option, be aware that ALL business STOPS during Chinese holidays. We had our visa applications delayed for 3 months due to holiday inactivity.


2)      Use a Passport Expeditor. By far, this is the safest and most reliable avenue to obtain a China Tourist Visa in a reasonable period of time. While there is a fee charged for this service, it is well worth the money spent.

Does Explore! TCM Tours offer a Visa Service?

Our partner TravelDocs Travel Visas and Passport Services will help our Explore! TCM Tours clients. Click here to go to the TravelDocs website and follow instructions to obtain your documents.

Where do I get an application for a China Visa?

You can go through the application process for a China Tourist Visa using TravelDocs

How do I fill out the questions on the application?

Click here to download our interactive Visa application. 

This document requires Click here to download.

What else should I know about Visa requirements?

Single entry and double entry tourist visas cost the same. If you plan to visit China again within 6 months of your departure, apply for the double entry visa. Otherwise, apply for a single entry tourist visa.

A tourist visa allows you to remain in China for a maximum of 30 continuous days. Overstaying your visa creates enormous problems. Don't risk it! If you plan to visit China for more than 30 days, exit China on day 30, and re-enter (provided you have a double or multiple entry visa). Note: Flying to Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macau is considered an exit from China.

Is it helpful to pay a Passport and Visa Expeditor?


In our opinion, Passport and Visa Expeditors make the process hassle-free. For a reasonable cost, they hand deliver your passport to the correct person at the Chinese Embassy, and receive it again when the process is completed. Another benefit is the ability to check the progress of your application online 24/7. You always know where your passport is, and what its status is. We find this feature both convenient and comforting.



Do I need vaccinations before visiting China?

At present, there are no specific vaccinations that are required before entering China . However, we strongly urge you to be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, if you haven't already done so. Be sure to do this well in advance of your departure. In addition, a current Tetanus Toxoid is recommended. Check with your family physician or your local Public Health Department for their recommendations.

You can also check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for updates on health risks in China.

Are there health risks with travel in China?


There are health risks with travel to ANY foreign country. That being said, the predominant risks to health with travel in China include traveler's diarrhea, food and water borne illnesses and airborne contaminants leading to breathing problems.

The risks of contracting serious diseases like: yellow fever, malaria, rabies, typhoid fever, Japanese encephalitis, H5N1 "Bird Flu" and schistosomiasis are extremely remote. With the exception of travel in Tibet and some of our "Adventure Explorations", your travel in China will be centered around major cities.

For further information, we highly recommend reading the suggestions that the CDC made for travel to China during the 2008 Olympics.

How can I decrease the chance of becoming ill in China?

We recommend the following:

1)      See your physician before traveling to China

2)      Get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (the earlier, the better!)

3)      Consider prophylactic treatment for Traveler's Diarrhea. Or, if you experience Traveler's Diarrhea, treat it early and aggressively.

4)      Wash your hands often... use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after using the toilet and before eating.

5)      Use common sense. Keep your fingers out of your mouth unless they are clean.


6)      Regard all water from the tap as if it was LAKE WATER . Sure, lake water is clean enough to bathe in and wash our hands with, but we wouldn't want to drink it. Likewise for ice. Except in 5 Star Hotels, consider all ice contaminated. Use bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. Place a washcloth over the tap in the bathroom to remind yourself not to drink the water.

7)      The tops of canned drinks are not clean. Be sure to wash them thoroughly with bottled water before using. Better yet, stick to bottled drinks and skip the worry.

8)      "Peel it, Wash it, Cook it, or FORGET IT!"

Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant and delicious in China. Everywhere you look there is something wondrous to eat and enjoy. But remember the saying above: Peel the fruit or vegetable with YOUR knife, wash fresh fruits or vegetables with BOTTLED WATER, make sure fresh vegetables are COOKED prior to eating (that means that fresh leafy salads are OFF THE MENU unless you are convinced that they have been washed in clean, fresh water). For the most part, food served in the hotel restaurants will meet or exceed these health standards. These warnings are aimed at food that you purchase away from hotel restaurants.

For more information on these and other recommendations, go to


Are your tours recommended for wheelchair travelers?


No. Wheelchair accessibility is limited or non-existent in China. Many of the venues have multiple stairs to climb with no ramp or elevator available. In addition, wheelchair storage aboard the busses and smaller vehicles that we use for transportation is highly problematic. ADA compliant hotel rooms, at many hotels, are non-existent.

I don't require a wheelchair, but I can't walk long distances or climb many stairs. Can I still go on your tours?

Explore! TCM Tours takes our guests to "off the beaten path" destinations. Many venues require the guest to walk considerable distances and climb many stairs. While you don't have to be a track star, you should be in shape enough to walk at least half a mile at a leisurely pace without stopping. If you can't climb stairs, we don't recommend that you join us in our Exploration. Destinations at higher altitudes, such as Yunnan Province, Tibet and Mount Everest Base Camp require higher levels of physical mobility and endurance. For those Explorations, we require documentation from your physician of your fitness to travel to high elevations, and that your blood pressure, pulmonary and cardiac status is normal.

We want you to fully enjoy your Exploration with us; so if you're not sure you can handle a particular Exploration, please discuss the itinerary with us prior to registration. We will help you design an Exploration that meets your needs.


What happens if I get sick in China during my tour?


In large cities in China, the hospitals are quite modern and can handle most immediate health needs. However, in remote areas like northern Yunnan Province and Tibet, hospitals may be long distances away, requiring air transport. Furthermore, they may not be equivalent to Western hospitals or clinics. In any case, it is likely that you will be required to pay for services upfront, receiving compensation from your health insurance company at a later date. Since most healthcare insurance companies in the USA and Canada do not cover healthcare in China : WE REQUIRE THAT YOU PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE THAT COVERS TRIP CANCELLATION, HEALTHCARE AND EMERGENCY EVACUATION IN CHINA.


Click here to purchase Travel Insurance from Access America that covers healthcare and emergency evacuation in China.


Can I get my prescription drugs refilled in China?


Maybe - depending on the prescription and the city in which you're touring. Be aware, however, that the drugs you purchase in China may not be equivalent to what you take at home. We strongly suggest you travel with an ample supply of prescription drugs you may be taking to avoid having to interrupt your time in China to tend to prescription drug needs. Furthermore, we recommend you keep any prescription medicines in your carry-on luggage and that all prescriptions remain in their original, marked containers. In addition, carry a copy of all of your prescriptions (name, dosage and times taken).


What happens if I lose or break my prescription glasses while I'm on a tour?


First, we suggest you bring an extra pair of prescription glasses, in the event you lose or break a pair. If you don't have a spare pair, bring the prescription with you. Optical shops in large cities are both friendly and efficient. Have a spare pair made while you are in China. Many locations can make replacement prescription glasses in one day. Prices are reasonable, but the quality of the lens materials may not be equivalent to those purchased in North America.


Are regular, over-the-counter drugs available in China?

Yes. But to avoid taking time from your tours to shop for aspirin or pain relievers, bring along small bottles (in their original containers) of aspirin or non-aspirin pain relievers, decongestants, anti-inflammatories and other common, over-the-counter drugs.


Are personal care items available in China?


For the most part, yes. Hotels provide toothbrushes, combs, toothpaste (not as tasty as at home), soap, shampoo and occasionally cotton swabs, sewing kits and skin care products like lotions. In larger cities, local stores and markets sell a wide variety of soap, individual packets of toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, lotions and skin care products. Many carry deodorants, although you may not recognize any of the brand names. Feminine hygiene products including pads and tampons are readily available. Oddly enough, we could not find rubbing alcohol anywhere in China . Other items that may be difficult to find include sunscreen lotions and hand sanitizing gels. (Although this may have changed following the Olympics in August, 2008.)





Is China a safe place to visit?


Yes. Compared to most Western countries China may be one of the safest countries in the world for visitors. Since the Olympics in 2008, Chinese cities have become even more safe and friendly. We frequently walk the streets alone, at all hours, without worry or difficulty.


However, we suggest you use common sense and take normal precautions: keep valuables in sight at all times, don't wear (or even bring) expensive jewelry, and travel only with small amounts of cash on your person.


Personal money pouches or belts are a good idea. Keep your passport in an extremely secure place on your person at all times. Leave your wallet at home, or locked up in your room. Keep only small bills in your front pockets. Back pockets are easily accessed by pickpockets.


Every hotel provides a safe for valuables - USE IT! Many are located in a closet in your room. Remember to lock your luggage when you leave your room. Leave nothing out that can't be replaced.


We can not stress enough the advantage of leaving expensive jewelry at home. Large jewels, gold chains and pendants are an invitation for loss. Sleep well, knowing that your valuables are safe at home.


What about the airlines, cruise ships, railroads, busses and vans?


Transportation systems within China - air, rail, bus, boat - are safe, particularly those chosen by reputable companies such as Explore! TCM Tours.