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China is truly a land of extremes. You have the breathtaking space-age style of Shanghai, the constant bustle of Hong Kong, and then the natural beauty of the Li River and the Yellow Mountains. This country has the largest population of any nation on the planet, and each region is truly like a country of its own.

Because of this, you need to account for every situation on your travels, so let’s take a closer look at how travel insurance can protect you against the unexpected.

Do I need travel insurance for China?

The question you should ask yourself is whether you can afford to travel anywhere without travel insurance. That’s because the unexpected has the habit of striking when you least expect it! What if you break your ankle climbing the Great Wall of China, lose your passport in transit or your flight home gets cancelled? You’d be tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket in medical bills and other expenses.

Travel insurance is specifically designed to provide financial protection against these mishaps or for when things go wrong, so you can enjoy your trip when things go right. You can’t put a price on peace of mind!

Here are a few key reasons why you should get cover for your trip to China.

Great wall of china under sunshine during sunset

Medical expenses

Medical treatment in China can be expensive. If you require healthcare services, you’ll be grateful to have a travel insurance policy to shoulder the cost, especially if you need medical evacuation, which can cost thousands of dollars up front.

It’s good to know that medical care in China is top tier, and the staff who treat you in popular tourist hubs will typically be able to communicate via a translator – or, they’ll speak English. You may struggle to find English-speaking doctors and nurses in rural areas, however.

Are you vaccinated? You should consider vaccinations against the following diseases:

  • polio
  • rabies
  • tuberculosis
  • influenza
  • measles
  • hepatitis A/B
  • typhoid
  • Japanese Encephalitis

Consult a doctor or visit a travel health clinic a month before departure for the most up to date information.

Driving

Roads in China are notoriously busy and can be in poor condition, which could increase your likelihood of getting into a car accident. If this happens, your rental car company would typically charge you an excess to cover the cost of repairs.

Travel insurance helps pay for this excess if your rental car is damaged or stolen, although this will depend on your level of cover.

Other things to look out for on the roads:

  • drive on the right-hand side of the road in mainland China
  • don’t switch your headlights on during the daytime or you could land yourself a fine.

Theft and loss of belongings

The threat of theft in China is the same as in any other overpopulated country. This means that getting your mobile phone nicked on the train by an opportunistic pickpocket isn’t improbable and neither is the likelihood of losing your suitcase in transit. That’s where travel insurance comes in; it could cover your luggage and personal belongings from theft, damage and loss.

Keep in mind that you should keep your passport on you at all times, in case you’re asked by authorities to present it. This then represents an opportunity to lose it though, so be on your guard and keep this precious document out of sight whenever possible.

Cancellations and cost of delays

Despite increased capacity at Chinese airports, flight delays are getting worse, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, with data revealing that the average length of domestic flight delays increased to 24 minutes in 2017.

This means you could miss your connecting flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and have to fork out to stay in a hotel near the airport overnight to catch the next available flight. Travel insurance can provide financial protection for trip cancellations or delays up to a limited amount.

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What should my travel insurance policy for China include?

Typically, you’ll have the choice between single-trip and annual cover travel insurance. Single-trip policies cover one trip, and potentially layovers as well, until you return to your home in Australia.  An annual or multi-trip policy generally covers any number of overseas trips taken within a year, however, the policy will stipulate what the maximum trip length is for any one journey. The maximum trip length will vary – some policies could be as low as 15 days, some as high as 93 days. It’s important to ensure that your longest trip doesn’t exceed the policy’s stipulated maximum trip length. Generally, travel insurance should provide cover for:

  • overseas medical and hospital expenses
  • trip cancellation, amendment and delay costs
  • lost, damaged or stolen luggage and personal belongings
  • theft of cash
  • additional expenses
  • rental car excess
  • some sports and activities
  • personal liability
  • permanent disability and loss of income
  • accidental death
  • dependents under 21
  • 24-7 emergency assistance.

Travel insurance benefits are subject to the limits of cover, policy terms, conditions and exclusions outlined in your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). Not every policy covers all of the above.

China travel insurance: exclusions and what to watch out for

Just like any other insurance product, travel insurance comes with a set of general exclusions and doesn’t typically cover:

  • travelling against government advice or warning (these are listed on Smartraveller)
  • negligence leading to loss or damage of personal belongings and valuables (i.e. forgetting your luggage at the taxi rank)
  • trip cancellations due to change of mind or unpreparedness (i.e. forgetting to renew your passport or getting a visa on time)
  • extreme or high-risk sports and activities
  • hire car excess if the accident was caused by not adhering to road rules or if the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • injury sustained from paid work
  • drug or alcohol-related claims
  • loss or injuries from unlawful activities
  • loss or injuries from unapproved pre-existing conditions
  • acts of war, terrorism or civil unrest.

Things to keep in mind when travelling to China

  • Tourists have previously been targeted by scammers. Common scams include credit card skimming, tourists being invited for a massage, teahouse service, or to a café, before being given an inflated bill they must pay before they can leave and travellers being drugged and robbed. It’s important to remain vigilant and look out for suspicious activity.
  • You’ll need to request permission from the Chinese government if you’d like to travel into Tibet.
  • Drug offences are severely punishable by the law, and this includes the death penalty. Even the possession of a small amount of drugs could land you in jail, or worse.
  • You’ll require a visa to enter the country for longer than three days.
  • China does not enjoy an uncensored internet, so you may not be able to access Facebook, Google, etc.

Guiyang, China skyline at Jiaxiu Pavilion on the Nanming River

Top travel tips for China

1. Check your passport and visa requirements

If you’re travelling to China as an Australian citizen, you should make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned return date, or you risk being refused entry into the country.

You also typically need a visa to travel to China. You can apply for a Chinese visa in person or by mail to the relevant Chinese Visa Application Service Centres in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Brisbane. It can take anywhere between four days and two weeks for your visa to be approved. You should also know that the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General in Australia don’t accept visa applications submitted directly by passport holders.[1]

2. Register your trip with the Australia government

There’s no such thing as being too safe, especially when it comes to international travel. That’s why you should consider registering your travel plans with Smartraveller, so that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can keep track of you in China and contact you or your family in case of emergency.

The Australian government offers advice, alerts and the latest updates for more than 170 countries to help Aussies avoid difficulties abroad. Remember however, that registering with Smartraveller doesn’t guarantee you consular assistance if you get into trouble on foreign soil.

3. Always have cash on hand

While Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted in China, you should know that some cities still operate largely on a cash-based economy. As such, it might be a good idea to keep some cash handy just in case or be prepared to take regular trips to the ATM to withdraw Chinese yuan.

Also, be sure to get a credit or debit card with low or 0% international transaction fees, so you don’t get charged for making transactions overseas.

4. Research local Chinese laws and customs

You’ll be bound by China’s local laws and penalties the moment your plane lands in the country. Some may appear harsh by Australian standards but their legal traditions have been in place for centuries, and you’ll need to obey them all. A person aged 14 years and over is considered an adult under the law in China.

So, do your research around what acts are forbidden and punishable by law. Sanctions for serious drug offences are especially severe in China; foreigners have been executed for drug offences.

The following activities are also illegal in China:

  • participating in certain religious activities like preaching, distributing literature and associating with unapproved religious groups
  • gambling and the promotion of gambling activities
  • taking pictures of military or government buildings without permission from local authorities.

Compare travel insurance

Looking for travel insurance to protect you on your Chinese adventure? Use our free comparison tool to compare a range of comprehensive and basic policy options based on your preferred level of cover, policy benefits and excess amount to find a travel insurance in just minutes!

If you’re thinking of travelling somewhere else, check out our travel guide cover for different countries.

Sources

Travel Vaccination Clinic- Vaccinations for China (2018).

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Australia- How to Apply and Visa Fees (2016).

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