Traveling Domestically in China Post-Pandemic

With international travel not possible for foreigners living in China, some have felt that their travel options are somewhat limited, with many avoiding travel all together. However, domestic travel has been an option for several months now, but many are still unsure about what it would be like traveling in China post-COVID. What do you need to do? Is it possible to travel wherever you want? What loops with you need to jump through in order to do so.

Luckily, many provincial governments are eager to get the domestic travel market rolling again, so the process for travel is not as difficult as you might think. However, there are several things to consider before you heading straight out to test the waters.

Hectic Health Codes

By now, every person living in Xi’an is familiar with the 一码通, the local health code that this required for you to scan in for most places these days in the name of tracking viral exposure. However, this code is not nationally recognized, so each place that you would like to travel to may require their own version of this. The registration process for each can vary from the very simple to the overly complex, but most will require the submission of your personal information and a declaration that you have not been to any high risk areas in the past 14 days.

Another option is to register through an Alipay account. In most provinces, going through your Alipay account will allow you to register for any local health apps that are required. Sometimes it will also be necessary to verify your location history through the 通信行程卡, a mini program available through Wechat, that will use your location information from your mobile phone provider to verify that you have not been in any high risk areas in the past 14 day.

Mask Up

While you may have seen a greater number of people not wearing masks in the outdoors, they are still required for most form of transportation, as well as need to be worn inside the airport and on the plane. While different cities will have different requirements for wearing a mask depending on their individual situation, the general rule follows that when you are on public transportation, taking a taxi/did, or are in a high-traffic indoor place (such as a museum) masks should be worn.

Limited Access

While the situation is generally ok in most areas of China, many of the rules limiting the number of visitors to various sites that you might want to visit may still be limited. If you have a particular place in mind that you would like to visit, it would be good to check ahead for ticket registration online or through WeChat. This can typically be done by searching the full name of the place in Chinese through WeChat and selecting the Official Accounts tab. If your Chinese is minimal, you might want to have someone more fluent assist you, as it is easy to select the wrong type of ticket if you are not careful. Also, be aware that many of these official accounts will not have an option for inserting a passport number, so you may not be able to pre-book your ticket. This does not mean that you can’t get in, as many places will have a small number of reserved in-person tickets that you can get at the gate. Availability of these tickets may be limited, so get to your chosen destination early to guarantee yourself a ticket.

Check Your Accommodation

Speaking of held over rules, some hotels, hostels, or other accommodation are not allowed to host non-Chinese citizens due to local regulations, even if you have already booked and paid before your arrival. Often this is out of the hands of the hotel staff, so it is better to check ahead of time by calling the place you intend to stay at and verifying that you can indeed stay there. Hotels will also be a good source of information on which of their local tourist sites will be accessible, so while you are on the phone, you might as well ask.

Be Prepared

While it may not be strictly necessary, it might be a good idea to obtain a negative COVID-19 test by going to a local hospital or lab before leaving on your trip. Remember that they are only valid for 72-hours, so plan accordingly so that you can have one ready when going to the airport or to check into a hotel. While most that have traveled in recent months have not reported needing to show such a test, it is an extra layer of security in case it is necessary.

In addition to this, be prepared for longer lines and waits than usual, as most people will crowd the entrances, having not signed up for the local health code, and then try to sign up on the spot, all while blocking the entrance. You also might find lines in places where you might not expect, as many places only have a single entrance opened up, which means that everyone is funneling through that single spot.

Traveling domestically is an option that you might not have considered recently, but if you’re looking to do a bit of traveling in the near future, this is roughly what you can expect. Stay safe on your travels, and enjoy your time off while it lasts.