Visitors to China must have a valid passport, with at least six months before expiry after leaving China, and a visa. This can be obtained via a travel agent or direct from the Chinese embassy or consulate in your own country (see Diplomatic Representation). A passport photograph is required, as well as the fee and application form.
If you want to extend your visa you should apply to the local police at the Public Security Bureau.
Anyone travelling on, for example, the Trans-Siberian railway from Berlin to Moscow and Mongolia then on to Beijing (see Getting to China), will also require a visa (and three passport photographs) for the former Soviet Union; transit through Mongolia does not require a visa but you will need photographs (e.g. two for a stopover in Mongolia).
If you are visiting Hong Kong you can get a visa for China on supplying two passport photographs from the Travellers Hostel (Block A, 16th floor, Chungking Mansions, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong; tel. 368 77 10/723 30 06), Guangdong (H.K.) Tours Company Ltd. (6 & 7F Guangdong Tours Building, 9-15 Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong; tel.839 34 33) or the Visa Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (Lower Block, 5th floor, 26 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong; tel. 827 95 69).
If you need the visa on the same day it will cost more.
Anyone wanting to go to Hainan Island can apply for a visa on arrival at Haikou Airport.
When to Go
Because China is such a vast country it has a variety of different climate zones. The north and north-west have a dry continental climate while the weather in the centre and the south tends to be tropical, humid and rainy.
This means that temperatures can differ between north and south at the same time of year by as much as 20 degrees Centigrade.
Kunming in Yunnan Province has no summer at all and goes straight from spring into autumn. Canton and Nanning in the far south have no winter or spring but go immediately from autumn into summer.
The besttimestovisitChina are spring and autumn when temperatures are quite even and the climate is moderate almost everywhere.
Summer, from May to September, is very hot, and that applies roughly to the country as a whole; the weather is hot and humid with a little rain in both north and south, but southern China also gets the monsoon from June to August.
The winter climate in the centre and the south is usually relatively mild and never drops below freezing point, unlike the north and north-west which have clear skies, icy winds and mostly snow to follow.
The hot summer months call for light clothing and protection against the sun (sunglasses, etc.). In the south-west rainwear is needed and an umbrella to cope with the frequent downpours.