No more PCR tests will be needed to enter China, as of 29 April.
Indeed, with regards to COVID-19 entry requirements to China, things have come a long way, even since the first quarter of 2023. In other words, it’s no longer a sisyphean task to enter the country, particularly as a non-resident.
The last time I was in China was actually in November 2019, about 20 days before Wuhan was sealed off from the world. I was in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, exploring where the British sliced off Hong Kong from the mainland, riding around in bumper cars that had seen better years, and enjoying delicious combinations of cloyingly sweet east meets west desserts:
Even though I have lived in China on a couple of different occasions, I can’t get enough of traveling around it; it probably explains why, during the pandemic, I would seek out Chinatowns while the borders were closed. The ever-growing rail network — high-speed or otherwise — helps one forget that the Chinese air force regularly delays flights. The food is typically awesome — but is it all really food? — and I always keep a look out for spontaneous night markets. And the grottoes and karst formations — i.e. the natural landscapes — are inimitable.
No more PCR tests is a great step. But you still need an antigen test. Well, the Chinese government strongly advises visitors to bring results of an antigen test 48 hours prior to your arrival. However, since it has been about 3.5 years since my last visit, I have a bigger concern than random entry requirements: QR codes.
When I left Guangzhou, I noticed more and more stores were shifting to contactless pay, in those cases, the Chinese brands WeChat Pay and Alipay. Sometimes, I’d have to chase down an employee to open the till, as I didn’t have access to those QR codes. Heck, I even saw a sweet potato vendor on some unlit backstreet in the boonies of Guangzhou who preferred the QR codes.
What’s the situation like these days? Are Beijing and Shanghai (and I suppose Guangzhou) going to be an issue? Should I stick with the less economically developed parts of the country, ostensibly where contactless pay is less diffuse? Does anyone have recent/current experience in the Tier 1 cities (Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou/Shenzhen), and anywhere else? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
I’ve recently been back in China. You don’t need to worry about the Antigens test. All you need is to fill the health self declare form, and get a QR code. That’s all need, and the only thing airline will check.
Appreciate your comment, Kevin.
I’ve been reading that Chinese immigration doesn’t necessarily check test results anymore … not sure about airlines TO China.
You can easily buy Alipay in the USA and I managed to buy WeChatPay from a company in Singapore even before Covid . . . it’s probably now even easier.
You will almost certainly be able to use currency in China if you insist, but having the apps will make you feel much less like a tourist. Absolutely load up before you go. Don’t be the tourist guy who wants to pay with cash.
I appreciate your reply, Mak.
Tourist or not, I’m going to be a foreigner there; those optics are unavoidable.
No qualms about using cash if it saves me aggravation signing up with some mainland payment app. Go to a hypermarket, get change, no problem.
Have you ever had issues using WeChatPay from the perspective of having a non China-based credit card/account?
n.b. I have WeChat, but that’s more to keep in touch with folks.
Of course you’ll still be a foreigner, but you can have a much more local experience while using the payment apps. This is particularly true if you buy food on the street . . . and you should. No street vendors want to bother with your cash and you’ll slow down the line.
Yes, I have WeChatPay (which I prefer over AliPay) and don’t have a Chinese bank account or credit card. I believe AliPay you can now buy with a US credit card or bank account. For WeChatPay, at least up to Covid when I was last in China, I was able to buy the credits from a company in Singapore called Yayaka which resold them to foreigners at a premium of several percent. I still have credits on my phone for my next trip. Their WeChat ID is ‘topupchina’. It could well be that foreigners can now buy WeChatPay directly without the service, but I haven’t had occassion to look in a while.
Ryan T says
Just left China, flew in via tpe on CA. Was not asked for Covid results, nor was anyone else. It hasn’t been enforced for a while so I’m glad that now it’ll be official. You do need the QR code to enter and exit, but can be done in a browser instead of in wechat. You can’t use funds sent to you anymore unless you have added a mainland issued bank card to wechat, so funds in my wechat wallet were frozen. Was able to open a local bank account while on an 10 year tourist M visa issued pre Covid. Some bank branches said resident card was required but I was able to find a quiet Construction bank branch in Shenzhen that was less strict. You will probably need basic Chinese or bring someone who is native.
Appreciate your comment, Ryan.
I’d always recommend erring on the cautious side; it would suck to get turned away at the border after a TPAC flight just because you didn’t have a negative antigen test. But yes, it does seem like China is finally acquiescing to the average entry requirement.
In other news, are you familiar with Alipay Tour Pass? This seems to pop up more and more.