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Can I Travel? What to Know About Traveling Within China Right Now

We called 50 hotels in ten cities to find out what and where is open and what and where is not.
2020-04-16 12:11:55

We’ve been stuck in the city for too long and we want to go see something, someplace, someone else. We want to travel. But how to do it in the era of contact tracing, Big Data health history tracking and ubiquitous QR codes?

It is without a doubt more complicated than it used to be. There is no more just hopping on a plane and jumping into a taxi at your destination. In at least one case, an entire first-tier city is essentially closed to travelers. For others, while you might be able to get plane or train tickets, once you arrive, hotels may be tricky.

We called 50 hotels in 10 different cities to get a sense for what the guidelines are these days. In a word, they are frustratingly vague. They rarely say that people with international passports are forbidden outright, as we’d heard just a week or two ago.

Instead, they now say that it may be up to the police, who are notified when you check-in, whether you pose a health risk. If the police say you are, then there’s nothing the hotel can do about it.

Below, we break it down by traveling steps and then by ten major cities or destinations and what our phone calls found.


Your temperature will be taken. You’ll need a working Chinese phone number and either WeChat or Alipay to scan two essential QR codes before you are allowed to board the airplane. The first code is for an online registration of your 14-day travel history with the State Council of China; the system automatically tracks your travel history based on data collected by your telecom provider. The second code is for registering a health code with the government of your travel destination.

If you are going to Kunming, for example, you’ll need the Kunming or Yunnan health code. A suishenma won’t be enough. For that, you will need to provide a detailed address of your intended lodging. This QR code is usually printed and posted on a board in front of the check-in counter. Then the last, essential step: save screen shots of both! You will need to present them multiple times.

Depending on where are you going, it’s likely that you will be asked to scan another QR code to fill in a registration form for the Aviation Bureau.

When returning to Shanghai, you don’t present your suishenma. Instead, you register by scanning a different QR code at the exit. You then receive a text message which you show to airport staff before going to baggage claim.

In a word, confusing. Procedures may change every day. They may have changed in the 10 minutes since you started reading this. If in doubt, just scan whatever code that the staff tells you to. If you're trying to stay off the grid, stay on your couch for the moment.


Foreign passport holders are allowed to purchase train tickets, according to the 12306 hotline for China's Railway Bureau. At the station, there’s no special proof of health needed apart from having your temperature taken by an infrared thermometer at multiple times and places. You may also be asked to scan a QR Code for obtaining a local health code up on arrival, or complete a health declaration form, depending on the rules in the city you are going to.

It’s unclear whether you need to complete the online registration of your 14-day travel history like at at the airports. Regardless, you’ve got to do it at the hotel. Which brings us to…


Chinese cities don’t require a 14-day quarantine anymore for in-bound travelers as long as your health code shows green — but not every hotel will accept a guest with a foreign passport. Always always always call ahead and check before you book your room.

There’s still an element of uncertainty. The hotels are required to report your stay to the local police office, and it is possible that they will come to your door and check your proof of health. If they decide that you’re a risk to the local community, you will be asked to go to a designated hotel instead — not for quarantine, just for ease of monitoring. The chances for being rejected by a hotel are lower if you’ve already been in the country for more than 30 days or if it’s been at least a month after you’ve done the enforced, centralized quarantine.

Here are some things the hotels may look for:

  • An original letter of proof that you’ve finished an enforced quarantine and a hardcopy of your nucleic acid test result, if you’ve been abroad within the past 30 days
  • A green suishenma
  • A green local health code
  • Completion of your 14-day travel history registration (scan the QR Code at front desk)

If you’re travelling by airplane, you should have already gotten 3 and 4, but the hotels may ask you to show a real-time local health code or check your 14-day travel history again.




This might be an option. Zhejiang Province is now under a "third-level" Public Health Emergency, and under such circumstances Hangzhou has loosened its regulatory measures. If you have a green health code, you don’t need to quarantine. Hotels we talked to accept guests holding foreign passports but you need to present a green Hangzhou health code: Search for "杭州健康码" (Hangzhou jiankang ma) on Alipay or WeChat. Go see the tea fields or visit Dragon Well Manor.


Seems good to go. The hotels we spoke with all accept guests holding foreign passports. You need to register your 14-day travel history and present a green Suzhou Health Code (苏城码, sucheng ma). Search on WeChat for "苏州微警务" (Suzhou weijing wu) and then click "苏城通" (sucheng tong ) to complete the registration for the Suzhou Health Code For Overseas Personnel. Go see the gardens or eat the noodles.


Triple-check. Although also part of Zhejiang Province, Moganshan (read the guide) doesn’t have as consistent regulatory policy as Hangzhou. Some chain hotels do accept guests holding foreign passports, while others say they have to check with the local police first. The ones that do check you in will look for a green Huzhou health code (湖州健康码, Huzhou jiankang ma): Search on Alipay. They might also ask for a letter that shows you have not left the country (but don’t say where you might get such a letter) or a letter that proves you have completed your quarantine. Naked Retreats says they check the entry stamp in your passport and your Huzhou health code.


Save it for later. Most minsu we wrote about in this article do not take in guests holding a foreign passport. Dammit. If you want to climb Huangshan, the mountain is open but you need that elusive "proof you haven’t traveled abroad letter" and that’s, well, like harder to find than unicorn dust.


Possibly. Most hotels said no, and the others said they would submit your documents to a government official and see what they say. However, Wuyuan Skywells says they've had several foreigners visit this week, despite a common misconception that it's not okay. They need to register your visit with the police ahead of time but say the local government has been very supportive.



Policies are inconsistent; unless you’ve got business there, it seems better to hold off. Most hotels in Nanjing only accept the health code registered through an app called 宁归来 (ning gui lai), which requires you to have a Chinese ID card. For this reason, many hotels in Nanjing do not accept guests holding foreign passports, including big-name chains. Hotels that don’t require a 宁归来 health code will check you in but say they need to see your last entry stamp in your passport and your 14-day travel history. Other hotels said they don’t guarantee a secure check-in: if the Nanjing Immigration Bureau doesn’t approve your stay, they can’t let you stay.


Avoid. The city is still under a "first-level public health emergency" and regulations are heavy. You won’t be quarantined (you’re not coming from overseas), according to Beijing city hotline 12345, but hotels will probably not accept you. Most hotels we contacted just said no. We found two luxury hotels in Guomao that said they accept foreign passport holders but then they are going to report you to the local police office, and there’s no guarantee the police will let you stay. Even if they do, you will be required to provide a negative nucleic acid test result from the past seven days, a contact person who lives in Beijing and a green local health code, according to an official announcement on April 10.



This one seems a toss-up for visiting. Most hotels will accept foreign guests, although there are exceptions. One hotel told us that the local government suggests they don’t take foreign guests. Apart from a green suishenma, you also need to register through a WeChat program called "i深圳" (iShenzhen). Search for it in WeChat.


Mixed responses. One hotel told us foreign passport holders have to stay at a government-designated hotel — but wouldn’t tell us which one. However, most other hotels that they are allowed to take foreign passport holders as long as you have a green Guangzhou health code "穗康码" (hui kang ma). Find it on Alipay or WeChat. You also need a working Chinese phone number for declaring your 14-day travel history.


No go. You’ll have to quarantine for 14 days, if you are even allowed in. Forget it.