Canadians need a visa to travel to China.
- Climate of China
- Culture of China
- Visas to China
- Embassy and Consulates of China in Canada
- Vaccines for China
- Travel Alerts for China
- Calling China
- Chinese Money
- Chinese Electric Information
- Emergency Information for Canadians in China
- Calling Canada from China
- Maps of China
- Driving in China
- Chinese Transportation
- Chinese Internet
- Chinese Shopping
- Chinese Food
China is the third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada, and so it shouldn't be shocking to find out that its climate is just as diverse as Canada, ranging from sub-arctic to tropical. Most of China has a "monsoon" climate but with huge variations in temperature and precipitation within that. China is usually divided into three climate areas:
- The Hot Summer / Cold Winter Zone
- The Hot Zone
- The Cold Zone
The Hot Summer / Cold Winter Zone contains about half the population of China but only about 20% of the land. The summers usually feature days with highs in the high 20s or very low 30s (but occasionally into the 40s) and the winters feature daytime highs just above zero. There is rain in the summer and snow or sleet in the winter.
Much of the country can be considered "The Cold Zone." The northeast of China is sub-arctic with really cold winters and warm summers. The west of China is also cold, though it is significantly drier than the northeast and gets much more sun.
The southeast of the country is the "Hot Zone." The winters are warm and the summers are hot and overall the area gets the most rain of any part of China.
|Average Precipitation mm (inches)||74.4||59.1||93.8||74.2||84.5||181.8||145.7||213.7||87.1||55.6||52.3||43.9||1,166.1|
|Average Precipitation mm||2.7||4.9||8.3||21.2||34.2||78.1||185.2||159.7||45.5||21.8||7.4||2.8||571.8|
South Central China
|Average Precipitation mm||19.5||20.6||36.2||104.6||151.7||171.2||175.4||134.4||127.6||92.4||45.9||24.9||1,104.4|
|Average rainfall mm||40.9||69.4||84.7||201.2||283.7||276.2||232.5||227.0||166.2||87.3||35.4||31.6||1,736.1|
|Average rainfall mm||26.4||47.9||69.9||154.3||237.1||346.5||319.7||354.4||254.0||63.3||35.4||26.9||1,935.8|
China is one of the oldest civilizations on the planet and Chinese culture is so old and broad that we cannot do it justice here. So here are just a few tidbits about China:
- We in the west often think of the Chinese having one culture, one language and so forth, but that's not true.
- The Chinese language is actually many languages and dialetcs.
- The Chinese people are actually many different ethnicities.
- Though we often assume China has "no religion," Chinese citizens have many different beliefs.
Languages in China
Mandarin is the official language of China; it is spoken by nearly 1 billion people worldwide (more than any other language and double that of Spanish, the second most spoken language). China also has a number of "recognized" regional languages.
|Top 10 Chinese Languages|
|Chinese Language||Percentage of Speakers
|Mandarin (what we call Chinese)||70.9%|
|Wu (mostly spoken in eastern China)||6.5%|
|Min (spoken in Taiwan, southeast and southern China, and by Chinese ex-pats)||6.0%|
|Yue (what we call Cantonese, spoken insoutheastern China and Hong Kong and Macau)||5.0%|
|Jin (spoken in central China)||3.8%|
|Xiang (spoken in south central China)||3.0%|
|Hakka (spoken in southeast China, Taiwan and by Chinese ex-pats)||2.5%|
|Gan (spoken in south central China)||1.7%|
|Huizhou (spoken in eastern China)||0.4%|
|Pinghua (spoken in southern China)||0.2%|
If you want to know more about other languages in China, let us know by completing the form at the bottom of this page.
Ethnicities in China
Over 90% of China is Han Chinese; there are 56 other "official" ethnic groups, as well as countless others. Below are all the "recognized" ethnic groups in China with at least 100,00 members:
|English Name||Percent of Population||2010 Population|
Religion in China
- Dark Red: traditional Chinese paganisms, Confuscianism, and/or Taoism
- Yellow: Buddhism
- Sea Green: Islam
- Plum Pink: "Non Han" traditional Chinese paganisms or local variant of Taoism
- Aquamarine: Tengerism
- Green Yellow: Tungus
Please note that Hong Kong has a different visa policy than the one described below.
Only 9 countries can travel to China visa-exempt. A further 20 countries can travel without a visa if a "For Public Affairs" endorsement is obtained. Nationals of the rest of the 200 or so countries in the world need a visa to visit China.
Tourist Visa to China (L Visa)
Most people who need a visa to China can get one at any Chinese Embassy or Consulate outside of China. Citizens of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey can only apply in their home country. So if you are a Canadian Permanent Resident from one of these countries, you cannot apply for a visa at a Chinese Consulate in Canada.
Applications must be made in person by you or by a third party agency, such as CIBT (see top right corner of this page). Visas can also be purchased on arrival, if you have previously arranged for "visa on arrival" and only if you are landing at one of these airports.
L Visas are good for between 14 and 90 days and may be extended for 30 days up to two times. Canadian citizens are entitled to apply for a 10-year multiple entry visa.
Business Visa to China (F Visa)
Application for an F Visa is the same as an L Visa. Validity for F visas ranges between and 1 and 6 months.
|Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Ottawa
515 St. Patrick Street, Ottawa,
Ontario, K1N 5H3
Consulate General of China in Calgary Calgary
1011 6th Avenue S.W.
Suite 100, Calgary,
Alberta T2P 0W1
|Consulate General of China Toronto
240 St. George Street, Toronto,
Ontario, M5R 2P4
|Consulate General of China Vancouver
3380 Granville Street, Vancouver,
British Columbia, V6H 3K3
Vaccination or Disease
Recommendations or Requirements for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
|Routine||Required if you are not up-to-date with routine shots, such as measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc.|
|Hepatitis A||Highly recommended for all unvaccinated travellers, as you can get Hep A from contaminated food or water throughout the country|
|Hepatitis B||Recommended for all unvaccinated travellers who will have sex, get a tattoo or receive medical care while in China|
|Malaria||Highly recommended as you can be exposed to Malaria through mosquitos in south eastern China|
|Polio||Recommended if you are traveling to Xinjiang, especially if you are doing humanitarian work.|
|Typhoid||Highly recommended for all unvaccinated travellers|
|Yellow Fever||Proof of vaccination is required only for travellers from Africa and Central and South America|
How you call China depends on whether you are calling a landline or a cell phone. For both types of phones you must dial the exit code from Canada plus the country code for China:
- 011-86-[8 to 12 digits, depending on area code]
Chinese local numbers can be anything from eight to twelve digits. Cell phones are always eleven digits and always begin with a 1.
Calling Landlines in China
Because there are a billion people in China, there are a lot of area codes. Here is a brief list of the area codes of the major cities. To find an area code for a smaller community, see this page. As with many countries around the world, area code lengths are not standardized.
|City||Area Code||City||Area Code||City||Area Code|
So, to call a landline in China, dial
- 011-86-xx(x)-local number
Calling Cell Phones in China
To call a cell phone in China, dial
- 011-86-1x-local number
The first cell prefix is always 1, the second can be 3, 4, 5 or 8.
China uses the Renminbi. Use the converter below to see how it compares to our dollar:
If your appliance cannot handle 200 volts, you should not plug it in and buy a converter. However, many appliances are now rated to handle this voltage level. Always check your appliance before plugging in.
If your appliance can handle 200 volts, you will only need an adapter for your plugs some of the time. If your appliance has only two prongs, some outlets in China will accept it, depending on where you are. Sockets in China will not handle three-pronged North American plugs.
Adapters are so common that many hotels will actually provide them to you if asked. Otherwise they can be bought cheaply in most major cities in China. So, unless your appliance is not rated for 200 volts and it is three-pronged you do not normally need to bring adapters and converters with you to China.
Embassy of Canada in Beijing
Telephone: 86 (10) 5139-4000
E-mail: [email protected]
Consulate General of Canada in Chongqing
Room 1705, Metropolitan Tower
Telephone: 86 (23) 6373-8007
E-mail: [email protected]
Consulate General of Canada in Guangzhou
China Hotel Office Tower, Suite 801
Telephone: 86 (20) 8611-6100
E-mail: [email protected]
Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai
ECO City Building, 8th floor
Telephone: 86 (21) 3279-2800
E-mail: [email protected]
Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong
Telephone: 85 (2) 3719 4700
E-mail: [email protected]
Lost or Stolen Belongings
To Call China from Canada is much easier than calling China from Canada. Just dial the following:
- 00-1-(3-digit area code)-local number
List of area codes in Canada
403 / 587 (southern Alberta)
587 / 780 (central and northern Alberta)
236 / 250 / 778 (majority of BC)
236 / 604 / 778 (Metro Vancouver)
226 / 519 (southwestern Ontario)
249 / 705 (northeastern Ontario)
289 / 365 / 905 (Greater Toronto Area)
343 / 613 (eastern Ontario)
416 / 647 (Toronto)
807 (northwestern Ontario)
|Manitoba||204 / 431||PEI||782 / 902|
418 / 581 (eastern Quebec)
438 / 514 (Montreal)
450 / 579 (Greater Montreal)
819 / 873 (remainder of Quebec)
|Newfoundland and Labrador||709||Saskatchewan||306 / 639|
|Nova Scotia||782 / 902|
Only newer 3G and 4G cell phones will work in China, provided you have activitated international service.
Administrative Regions of China [Public Domain]
- Greenish Yellow = Chongming County
- Blue = Baoshan
- Light Pink = Jiading
- Light Purple = Yangpu
- Lighter Green = Hongkou
- Pink = Zhabei
- Brown = Putuo
- Pale Yellow = Pudong
- White = Jing'an
- Blue Grey = Changning
- Purple = Huangpu
- Green = Xuhui
- Orange = Qingpu
- Light Blue = Songjiang
- Pale Green Yellow = Jinshan
- Grey = Fengxian
- Beige = Inner City (left to right: Xicheng, Dongcheng)
- Pink = "Urban Area" (clockwise from top: Haidian, Chaoyang, Fengtai, Shijingshan)
- Blue = Inner Suburbs (clockwise from top: Changping, Shunyi, Tongzhou, Daxing, Fangshan, Mentougou)
- Light Green = Outer Suburbs (left to right: Yanging, Huairou, Miyun, Pinggu)
- Light Blue = Conghua
- Pink = Huadu
- Green = Zengcheng
- Light Yellow = Baiyun
- Dark Yellow = Huangpu
- Light Pink = Tianhe
- Darker Blue = Yuexia
- Lighter Blue = Haizhu
- Orange = Liwan
- Greenish Yellow = Panyu
- Grey = Nansha (New Area)
The driving conditions in China are somewhat legendary and most foreigners who are in the country only briefly to travel or do business do not drive. When people rent cars, they usually rent drivers as well. This is an easy option for business travelers but may not be affordable for the average person, though wages are very low. If you are staying there longer and want to buy a car, many people suggest hiring a driver.
You cannot drive in China with an International Driver's License. Nor can you drive in China with a license from Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan. Only licenses from Belgium and Hong Kong can be used to get a Chinese license without a test. The test is written and available in English in major cities, but requires a 90% pass rate. Basically, we are telling you to not plan on driving in China.
Oh, by the way, China has the highest number of traffic fatalities in the world.
Taxis are usually cheaper in China than in Canada, in part because there are so many of them. There should be a set rate for the first few kilometres, after that it should be about 2 or 3 Yuan per additional km. If the driver does not turn on the metre, exit the vehicle as soon as possible. If you cannot speak Chinese, get someone who writes Chinese to write down your destination in Chinese so you can give it to the driver.
You can also take rickshaws or motorbike taxis, however you should only do so if you speak Chinese. Please note that these vehicles are not regulated and the operators regularly gouge tourists on the price.
In China, as in Canada, there are muncipal buses and long-distance buses.
City buses are usually locals or express. The local bus is cheaper and the express bus stops less frequently. Telling the difference without reading and speaking Chinese can be very difficult. Rail travel is recommended if it is available.
The major cities are all launching "Bus Rapid Transit" lines, which should make travel by bus better.
Long Distance Buses
Buses are cheaper than taking the train from city to city. However, price, comfort and safety all vary wildly from company to company and service to service. Some buses will not depart until they are full, for example. If you can, take the train. If not, try to get a bus with sleeper beds.
China has the highest volume of rail passenger traffic in the world. China also has the world's fastest train and a number of other high speed lines. The high speed and regular rail network covers much of the country and is the best option for travel from city to city.
Over 20 major cities in China provide some form of urban rail, including subways, above-ground rail and light rail. Information on these routes is more easy to understand for tourists and so taking the subway, the train or the tram in the city is recommended over the bus, if you do not have a private driver.
The internet is heavily regulated in China. In order to be accessible to web browsers in China, a site must have a "ICP license." To get the license, the site must be operated from within China. Therefore you can expect to not be able to access your email, social media accounts or favourite sites while you are in China.
There are over 100,000 internet cafes in China and they often provide better service than regular connections. Internet cafes were, therefore, extremely important in China. Now most hotels will provide Wifi so internet cafes are less important for tourists than they used to be.
China has the largest population in the world and manufactures more consumer goods than any other country. The options are endless. If you would like to see more information about shopping in China, let us know by completing the form at the bottom of this page.
In Canada we are used to "Canadian Chinese," except in the big cities, where there are a few different kinds of Chinese. But there are actually at least 8 different cuisines in China:
|Cuisine||What's it Like?|
|Cantonese||The closest thing to Canadian or American Chinese food|
|Sichuan||Spicy and closer to Vietnamese and Thai than other types of Chinese food|
|Anhui||Fowl, dumplings, soups|
|Shandong||Broths, creamed soups, seafood and chicken, lots of salt|
|Fujian||Soups, stews, use of fish sauce and other local sauces|
|Jiangsu||Seasonal vegetables, "soft" meat, seafood, emphasis on similar colours|
|Hunan||Spicy, emphasis on deep colours, braised and smoked meats|
|Zhejiang||Mellow flavours, poultry and seafood|