China is reopening to foreign holidaymakers after three years of border restrictions. The country that retreated from its long-standing zero-Covid policy in December and declared victory over the virus in February.
As of Wednesday 15 March, it is now issuing visas for international tourists, the Chinese Government has announced.
Tens of millions of international travellers visited China prior to the pandemic.
What are the new visa rules?
Starting from Wednesday 15 March, foreign offices can once again process applications for Chinese visas and valid visas that were issued before 28 March 2020 can be used for travel to the country.
Additionally, parts of China that did not require visa before the pandemic will return to visa-free entry.
Beijing will also lift rules for other locations, including Hainan island cruise ships which pass through Shanghai ports.
British nationals require a visa to enter mainland China, including Hainan Island, but not for travel to Hong Kong or Macao.
Do travellers need to take a Covid test?
All travellers need a negative PCR test result to enter China, according to the UK Foreign Office advice.
The negative PCR test must be taken within 48 hours of boarding a flight to China and must be submitted by filling in the health declaration form via the China Customs website, or through the China Customs app or a WeChat account. Those who have a positive test result will not be permitted to board a flight to China.
Travellers entering China who display symptoms of fever, or who have an abnormal health declaration, may be asked to undertake an antigen test on arrival.
Those who test positive will be released to self-quarantine if symptoms are mild, or recommended to go to a medical institution for diagnosis and treatment if symptoms are more severe.
People travelling with a child who is aged five or under must apply for a Customs Code Health Declaration Code for the child.
Are there rules for return to the UK?
Yes, the UK Government requires passengers aged 12 or older travelling from mainland China to England to take a pre-departure Covid test.
The test must be taken no more than two days before travel and passengers need to show evidence of the test result before leaving mainland China for England. This will be checked by the airline and Border Force may require travellers to show this on arrival to England.
The rule applies to all direct and indirect flights from mainland China. It does not apply to those travelling directly to England from Hong Kong and Macao.
The test can be a lateral flow or a PCR.
Since 8 January, some passengers have been asked to take part in a voluntary test on arrival in England as the UK Government monitors for potential new Covid variants. This only applies to passengers aged 18 or over who are travelling from mainland China and arriving at Heathrow Airport.
Are tour operators restarting China holidays?
Yes, specialist tour operators such as Wendy Wu are preparing to resume group tours in China.
Wendy Wu, founder of Wendy Wu Tours, said: “This is clearly a major milestone for tourism, and undoubtedly one of the most eagerly anticipated reopenings for Asia tourism following the pandemic.”
Wu added: “Touring in China is going to be a whole new experience.
“The country has had three years without tourism to rejuvenate and refresh and so as we begin preparations to return with UK tourists, China is eagerly looking forward to welcoming visitors again, with a touring experience that promises to be as fresh and captivating, as one resembling 20 years ago.”