Travel Tips

Safety and Laws

Embassies and Consulates

While traveling or living in Beijing, your country’s embassy or consulate can assist if: you need to apply for a passport or emergency passport (for example if your passport has been lost or stolen), you have fallen seriously ill, you have been the victim of a crime or you have been arrested or imprisoned. They can also register births, deaths and marriages for their citizens, issue visas, and can often supply trade development information for businesses.


Security and Safety

Travelers are advised to take routine precautions for personal safety. Remain aware when traveling, avoid restricted areas, ensure your wallet is secure as pickpockets can be at work in popular tourist spots. It is illegal in China to exchange money outside of a bank or official currency exchange, be aware of Chinese nationals that may want you to exchange RMBs for US dollars.

Tourist Information Centers

  • Capital Airport Tourist Information Center: Beijing — Tel +86010 64598148
  • Chaoyang Tourist Information Center: Beijing — Tel +86010 64176627
  • Dongcheng Tourist Center: Beijing — Tel +86010 65123034
  • Xicheng Tourist Information Center: Beijing — Tel +86010 66160108
  • Xuanwu Tourist Information Center: Beijing — Tel +86010 63510018
  • Haidian Tourist Information Center: Beijing — Tel +86010 82622895
  • Fengtai Tourist Information Center: Beijing — Tel +86010 63323983

Public Toilets

Public toilets in Beijing are called WC (water closet) or toilet, restaurants, shopping malls bus stations, airports, and some scenic spot usually have a public toilet facility. Private toilets usually charge a fee of about .5RMB – 1RMB.

Tap Water

Do not drink the tap water, stick to bottled water and don’t drink drinks with ice cubes or fruit juices that may have been watered down with tap water. Bottled water can be bought at any convenience store and roadside kiosks.

Major Catastrophes

The Emergency Management Office in Guangdong Province, where Beijing is located, has a helpful and comprehensive web site in English, with information about what to do in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, typhoon or flood, or major disease outbreak like dengue fever, flu or SARS. See Click on the online booklet “Are You Ready?” which details how the emergency procedures work, describes the warning signals and emergency alerts and explains what individuals and families should do. Emergency shelters are set up in public parks, squares and stadiums. The web site lists the evacuation routes.

Police and Local Laws

110 is China’s equivalent of 911. Use this to report a crime or an emergency. Police officers tend to be very diligent in pursuing traffic violations or instances of public disorder. Around Beijing are public posters describing how citizens should behave, including: no cursing, spitting, littering, arguing, jaywalking, illegal parking, vandalism, loitering or smoking in public places.

Political slogans or demonstrations criticizing the government or the Communist Party are regarded as inciting public disorder. Handing out unauthorized literature is also forbidden. In some cases police have used methods of investigation or interrogation that would not be acceptable in North America. Penalties for breaking the law, even unintentionally, can be severe. The legal system is in transition. China has a constitution which protects some individual rights, but the Communist Party has ultimate control over the way the law is applied. Foreign nationals can be arrested, imprisoned or expelled from China.

Drugs and Alcohol

Alcohol is easily available in China at bars, restaurants and government liquor stores. Beer, including regional specialty beers, is popular. Also common is the powerful bai jiu, made from rice or sorghum. The alcohol content of many Chinese beers and other beverages is higher than the Western equivalents, so you should be careful about your intake. If you drink too much, you can be arrested for being drunk and disorderly which can result in a fine or imprisonment.

Drug abuse and trafficking are regarded as threats to national security in China. If you are convicted of possession, use of or trafficking in illegal drugs, the penalties are severe and can include large fines and long terms of imprisonment.

Restricted Areas

China closely monitors Internet content for material that the Communist Party regards as politically or morally unacceptable. Internet access is blocked to obscene or politically subversive sites and many overseas web sites. To warn Internet users to stay away from illegal content, Beijing police have animated police officers who appear on screen on China’s most popular portals, including Sohu and Sina. Chinese authorities monitor Internet use by individuals.

All military locations and anything that can be regarded as being of security or military interest are off-limits. Taking photographs of such areas can result in problems with the authorities.

If traveling to Tibet, you must obtain permission in advance form the Tibet Travel Bureau. Most areas in Tibet are not open to foreigners except Lhasa City, Shigatze, Naqu, Zedng and Zheng Muxkhasa and the main roads between them. You can be fined, arrested and deported for visiting restricted areas.