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Passport and Visa

You will need both a current passport (valid for 6 months or more after entry) and a visa to visit mainland China (unless you are a Chinese citizen).

We recommend that you apply for a tourist visa, at least a month or more before your journey. If needed, there are services available to expedite the process and shorten the wait time. (You do NOT need an invitation letter for a tourist visa.)

One may apply for a visa at the Chinese Embassy in your capital city or at the nearest Chinese Consulate at your nearest domestic metropolis. Alternatively, many travel agencies will assist you with the visa application and some can submit it on your behalf. For detailed information, please contact your local Embassy, Consulate, or travel agency.

If you wish to apply for a business visa, instead of a tourist visa, the conference organizer can issue an official invitation letter to you. To pursue this option: (1) Complete the online registration form and pay the registration fee. (2) Complete the application form for the visa invitation letter (including your name, passport number, etc.). (3) Scan the passport information page. (4) Email the required documents above to:

Since it takes two weeks to issue an official invitation letter for a business visa application, we advise that you complete and send all documents before June 1, 2019.

Visa Exceptions (Visa-Free Transits)

Citizens of 53 eligible countries can now stay visa free within Guangdong Province for up to 72 hours (3 days) if transiting through China via Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) to a third country or region destination. The 72-hour limit is calculated by starting with the zero hour for the next day of the traveler’s entry.

For further details, please see the following additional information.


Guangzhou’s climate is humid subtropical with average July high temperatures of 33°C (91°F). Summer also brings occasional torrential rain and typhoons. Seasonal clothing such as shorts, shirts, and skirts is advised. Ultraviolet radiation is quite strong in July. Wear a hat and sunglasses, if you venture outside, and remember to apply sunscreen and mosquito repellent.


To protect yourself and your personal belongings while you are traveling in China, please be sure that your insurance coverage is adequate for your journey. You may wish to contact your current insurer and purchase additional medical and travel insurance. As a side benefit, many credit cards also provide some built-in insurance coverage (please check terms and conditions before booking your trip).


Electricity is supplied at 220V, 50Hz in China. Most modern electronics are dual-voltage capable and can be used without a problem. However, if you have old 120V only electronics, please be sure to bring a step-down voltage converter or use the 120V outlet in the lavatory of your hotel room (if available). In addition, the electrical outlet configuration will be different from many other countries – please be sure to bring an international plug adapter. (Your hotel may have some available to borrow at the front desk, if you forget.)

Currency Exchange and Card Use

Before your trip, we recommend that you inform (online or via telephone) your banque and credit card companies that you will be traveling overseas — listing each country and duration. Also, make sure to verify that you indeed have a working PIN for each card (or allow at least two weeks for the PIN to be mailed to you).

In China, RMB is the only accepted currency. To receive the most favorable exchange rate, we recommend that you obtain any needed cash from an ATM upon arrival at the destination airport or at any ATM located in a major banque in Guangzhou. Some debit cards will rebate foreign ATM withdrawal fees (Charles Schwab, First Republic, etc.) or you can search online to locate appropriate in-network ATMs.

Alternatively, bureaux de change can be found at airports, most hotels, and in large shopping centers. The exchange rate is about USD 1 = RMB 6.96 (but a significant fee will also be incurred). Oanda and XE smartphone apps give current conversion rates. When exchanging money, keep your receipt; you can change any remaining RMB back to foreign currency when leaving China.

Visa and Master Card are accepted in many department stores and hotels. If feasible, bring credit cards that waive foreign transaction fees (Capital One, Citi, Chase Sapphire, etc.). Make sure that your card is charged in RMB and not in a foreign currency; dynamic currency conversion adds extra charges.

The Bank of China and most hotels will cash traveler’s cheques issued by any major foreign banque or financial institution (for which you must show a passport and pay a 0.75 percent commission). Traveler’s cheques signed over to a third party cannot be cashed in China, but can be presented for collection through the Bank of China. All on-site conference payments can be paid by the above mentioned credit cards; however, traveler’s cheques are not acceptable.

Internet, Mobile Phone, and Digital Services

Please check with your current mobile phone carrier regarding international roaming availability for mainland China — hotspot capability (tethering or pocket) and rates (data, texting, and phone calls). If necessary, you may wish to upgrade your service for the duration of your trip.

We do not recommend trying to purchase a SIM card in China for your mobile device; it is an uncertain and often complicated process for a short-term visit.

Wi-Fi is commonly available in airport lounges, malls, and coffee shops (Starbucks, Costa, Maan, etc.). However, for Wi-Fi outside of your hotel, you will have to provide a phone number in order to access it. For Wi-Fi available VOIP services to communicate overseas, consider these services: Signal, TeamViewer,, Skype (SkypeOut for landline connections), etc.

Portable internet for multiple devices can be accessed either by using your mobile phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot via tethering, or by purchasing (or renting) a pocket Wi-Fi device from your carrier or third-party vendor — either before your trip or at the airport upon arrival. (See below.)

VPN services are recommended for your security in public spaces and to access otherwise inaccessible sites. Your institute may already offer a VPN for your use. If not, you may wish to purchase a private VPN service (see below). Alternatively, limited free VPN services are available either via free trial membership or via proxy server services (Lantern, Shadowsocks, Tor with Bridges, etc.).

Google, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Bloomberg, Reuters, Wikipedia, and other Western sites are blocked. BBC, NPR, France24, CNN, and Euronews are still available news services.

Alternatives & Suggested Digital Services

Microsoft (, Hotmail, Bing, etc.): email, search, file storage
Yandex: email, search, file storage, document sharing
Yahoo: email, search, weather
Zoho: document sharing
Pocket & Instapaper: offline article storage
Maps app (iOS only) app
Google Translate app: translation via camera, microphone, or typing
(download app and Offline translation packs before your trip)


Pocket Wi-Fi (‘MiFi’; Mobile Hotspots) or Tethering

Privacy Tools (VPN providers, limited proxy server services, etc.)