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Jan 1st, 2021 by David O Connor

Travelling to China in 2022

Traveling to China in 2020/2021

We have done our utmost to ensure the information about travelling to China is accurate as of November 12th 2020. This blog should be used a guide. We encourage all travelers to double check information due to the changing nature of policies and protocols.

In November, restrictions on travelling to China have tightened further. This was due to the number of imported cases brought into China. These restrictions included China temporarily suspending issuing of visa and travel from the UK and a number of counties until further notice.

China suffered through some of the toughest COVID restrictions in the world. As the number of COVID-19 cases plummeted,  Chinese students eagerly returned to their classrooms. Chinese Students lost almost 8 months of school after most of the country went into a hard lockdown. Just as eager to return to China were foreign teachers.

For those who stayed in China or returned before China closed its borders, many were rewarded with increased salaries and benefits, as the shortage for teachers kicked in. Although there was also reports of teachers being denied wages because schools were closed. 

For those who didn’t return before the borders closed, it was the start of a long wait. Many foreign teachers are now clambering to come back to China. Returning to China or going or travelling for the first time to teach is a somewhat complicated matter.

Three main factors will determine your ability to travel and teach in China in 2021. They are your:

  1. Nationality (what passport do you hold?)
  2. Residence (where will you be travelling from?)
  3. Intended destination (which Chinese city in are you heading to?)

Although there are differences between provinces, a few requirements have been (somewhat) standardized. We have provided a standardized step by step guide. We have included the usual caveats of information that you need to be aware of. Read carefully.

Steps to Follow When Travelling to China

  1.  Apply for a one-time entry visa from your nearest Chinese embassy,  consulate or visa centre.  The cost of the visa varies depending on your point of departure. For the most part, you will need a PU along with the usual documents.
  2. Once you have your visa in your passport, you are ready to book your Flight.  This visa usually valid for only 90 days from the date is has been issued. .

This is where COVID Jenga begins. 

    3. Confirm your Flight. Before even deciding the date of your flight and travel back to China, do your homework and book a flight that exists. Many flights seem available on flight websites that are in fact, ‘ghost flights.’ Check approved flights by the Chinese authorities, contact the airline directly and check FlightRadar24.

Do not book any flight through Hong Kong. You will not be allowed to transit your flight to mainland China.

    4. Purchase your flight. Instead of waiting on your negative COVID19 test, you can book in advance. Check individual airline’s terms and conditions. In some cases like Air China, there is a no change fees policy.

Congrats you have your visa and flights booked, almost there. The last piece of the puzzle before you can fly is the Health Declaration Form. The China Health Declaration was designed to check the tourists’ medical status upon entering China. You will not be allowed to board your flight to China without this form stamped by the Chinese authorities. 


How to get your Health Declaration Form

    5. You can download the Health Declaration Form from any Chinese Embassy website.  To get it stamped and approved, you will need scanned copies of the following

  • Health Declaration form – signed and dated
  • COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and a COVID-19 IgG antibody test results. 
  • Bio page of your passport

Within 48 hours (2 days) before travelling, you’ll need to have passed a COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and a COVID-19 IgG antibody test. Generally your local consulate and the embassy will accept these tests from any recognised medical institutions. Check with them to confirm the test will be accepted.

A 48-hour window means there is a very small margin of error when you are organising your departure. You must liaise carefully with your testing supplier and ensure you get your results back the same day. 

The good news is that most embassies are working late and weekends to reply with stamped approval. Don’t depend on this. Place as much time within this stage as you possibly can and preferably during weekdays.


Travelling to China through a third country

   6. OK so you think you have all that? If you are not travelling direct, then think again. As part of the regulations, if you fly through a third country, you will need to have passed a COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and a COVID-19 IgG antibody testin that country too. 

For instance, if you are travelling from Ireland to China via Amsterdam, you will need to get more testing completed in Amsterdam before you are allowed to board your final flight to China. This, of course, means more logistical headaches and another addition to your already growing list of expenses. 

All is not lost. Frankfurt and Helsinki airports have already started ‘ready that day’ tests and we expect more airports to follow suit. During the course of these events, it’s important that you can get a refund from the airline in the case of a positive test.

Steps to Follow When Arriving in China

  • To be permitted to enter china you will need a health QR code. This code has a 24-hour expiration time. This code is only available with a flight that has a destination within mainland China. So, if you are flying from London to China via Amsterdam, you will need to receive your QR code in Amsterdam NOT London. 

If you are at your final gate and don’t know how to get your QR code, don’t panic. The consensus from travelers is that airline staff have been super knowledgeable and helpful. If you are still none the wiser at this point, a tip would be to approach the business class section and ask for help.

  • You will have to show your code at passport control.
  • Once you arrive in China, you’ll need to follow designated health protocols at the airport of arrival.
  • You will have to complete a COVID test at the airport. The new restrictions includes a blood test (for IgC antibody testing) to compliment the swab of your mouth and nose.
  • You will then be processed and brought to your quarantine hotel for 14 days. 
  • If your COVID tests are negative, you will continue your quarantine for 14 days undisturbed. Be prepared not to be notified about a negative test result. Just be grateful you don’t hear anymore about it.
  • If your COVID tests are positive, you may escorted to a medical facility for monitoring, treatment, and isolation.
Teach in China - returning to china

Protocols You Should Know

You’ll find that protocols will be different in regards to:

  • Your one-time entry visa.

Chinese embassies and consulates have devised their own requirements for the visa application. The best thing to do is to contact your nearest one and find out what you need to do. Many are requesting an PU letter from the Chinese Foreign Affairs Office. If you have a teaching job lined up, your employer can help you get this letter.

  • Quarantine type

Every province in China has also set up its own rules. Most arrivals must do 14 days centralized quarantine. Some returning teachers have been allowed to do 7 days controlled quarantine and 7 days at home. The only real given here is that a 14-day quarantine is mandatory, one way or another.

  • Quarantine Facility

Be warned, quarantine hotels vary massively. Some has reported being settled in 4-star hotels with access to outside delivery. Others have been placed in less desirable hotels with no deliveries. The best chance of getting a good hotel is in Xiamen, due to it being a seaside resort and popular with tourists. 

  • Quarantine fee

Quarantine is not free. The cost per night ranges from 300-600 RMB for a 14-day hotel stay. Some include food, others just Bed and breakfast. Ask at reception when ‘checking in’.

Worried about centralized quarantine? Don’t be! We’ll tell you How to Survive Quarantine in China.

Travelling to China – prepare for the flight

International travel has in disarray since the COVID-crisis began. It’s impossible to list the situation in every city operating flights into China. However there are some basic things you ought to do, no matter where you’re flying from.

  1. Forego online booking engines this year. Instead, book your flight directly with an approved airline or even a travel agent. They are up-to-date when it comes to flight regulations right now.
  2. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Temperature testing and checking of  additional documentation takes time.
  3. Service on board is restricted. Pack a light blanket, pillow and snacks. The airline should advise you on the service situation of the airline you’re flying with. 
  4. Pack (and wear) a face masks on the plane. And make sure you have plenty of sanitizer in your hand-luggage. The policy of the airlines is that your must wear facemasks at all times.
  5. Be patient. Boarding and disembarking may be staggered and can take upwards of 2 hours.
  6. Have all your documents ready upon arrival (don’t forget the QR code). Expect long queues and delays as every passenger will have their papers checked. 
  7. Quick tip: Prepare a piece of paper with all essential information. You will be repeatedly filling out forms and it will speed everything up.
  8. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Although it may seem crowded and confusing. Plenty of workers are on hand to help people navigate through airports and onwards to their quarantine stations.
Teach in China - return to china

What happens if you return to China as a couple, or family?

When it comes to centralised hotel quarantine, you won’t have much of a say as to which hotel you’ll be allocated. Families will be placed in the same hotel. Children up to the age of 14 can share a room with one parent. The unofficial policy was single-room occupancy with every person allocated their own room. This stance seems to have softened with many married couples now allowed to share.  However do not take this for granted.

Inside Tip: Have you marriage certificate with you when checking in. We found this to be an effective way of being allowed to Share. 

What happens if you test positive for COVID during quarantine?

Once at the hotel, your temperature is taken daily. In fact your temperature will be checked at least twice a day. You also be likely retested for COVID during your quarantine, normally on your second and second last day in quarantine. This will come in the form of swab testing and blood testing for antibodies of the virus.

Should you test positive, you will be relocated to a medical facility for monitoring, treatment and isolation. Anyone traveling with you will also have their quarantine extended. This also goes for fellow passengers seated three rows away in any direction.

So yes, expect the unexpected! If your happened to have shared a row with someone who goes on to test positive for COVID, it is likely that your own quarantine will also be extended. At the very least your will be moved to another hotel for isolation.

What happens when your quarantine is over?

Just before your quarantine time is up, you will be tested again for COVID. If you test negative, you will be given a release letter at the end of your isolation period. Once you have this release letter and have followed all instructions, you will then be free to go home and return to your normal life.

If you are travelling to another city, you may have to give a proof of flight. The hotel should then ferry you to the airport to catch your flight to your home city. 

Travelling to China – teachers’ personal experiences

Just to give you an idea of how different and fluid the situation can be for teachers returning to China, here are some personal stories you may find useful to read.

Bernard William Mackey – an Irish citizen teaching in the Zheijang Province

Bernard left China back in January, on one of the last flights departing for Europe, and spent just two months in Ireland before returning to China in March. He was one of the last Europeans who managed to get back before the hard lockdown started. His story of living in China during the worst of the COVID pandemic sounds stressful but at least he was there, en-situ, when classrooms reconvened.

Leah White – a Canadian citizen teaching in Beijing

By sheer coincidence, Leah left China for a vacation to North America just before the Chinese New Year – before COVID was even named. She hasn’t been able to return to China and her teaching job yet she’s still working, teaching her classes online, sometime setting her alarm for 4am due to the time difference. Leah’s employer is working hard to get her back into the country (her specific schools has suffered various closures due to COVID infections) and Leah is excited at the prospect of returning soon. Here’s her story.

Contact Us

Looking to return to China to teach in 2021 or to take up your first-ever teaching position in the country? You’re in luck! Considering so many foreign teachers left the country and many still aren’t able (or willing) to return, there’s been a surge in demand for foreign teachers in China. Positions are available, almost all over the country and, with a bit of planning, there’s no reason your teaching in China dream can’t become a reality.

Yes, even in 2021.

Contact us for more personalized advice.

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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