Guide on Traveling Domestically in China

Traveling within China is now different than before. There are new regulations such as requiring QR codes, wearing masks, etc. Things can get confusing, especially for people who need to travel from one province to another province.

This is a guide on how to get around within China. People who are traveling via air or train after quarantine may find this especially useful.

Health QR Codes

Health QR codes are scanned to get into places such as airports, train stations, subway stations, hospitals, and other public places. QR codes usually show one of two colors: green or red. Green represents that you’re good to go and red usually means that you’re either in quarantine, in the hospital due to COVID-19, or suspected of having COVID-19. If your code shows up as red, you will not be allowed to enter.

Each province has its own health QR code. In some cases, a city may have its own QR code (such as Shenzhen). You must have a health QR code in the province and/or city you are currently in and you must have the health QR code of your next destination.

To get a health QR code, you will need to have either WeChat or Alipay to get the code.

For instructions on how to get a particular province/city’s QR code, you can go to ExpatFocus’ article here.

Note: The provincial health QR codes are different from the QR code received when flying internationally (China Customs App/Customs Health App). When flying from another country to China, you are given a QR code to get through customs. This QR code will not work for any domestic travel.

Traveling via Air or Train

Traveling domestically is much easier than internationally. As long as you have your health QR code, taking a plane or train shouldn’t be difficult. However, there are a few things that you should be aware of when traveling.

For travelers flying or taking a train immediately after quarantine, it is absolutely vital that you have your quarantine release letter and nucleic acid test report given to you by the hotel. There is a possibility your health QR code for the province you are currently in may not turn green before taking your flight or train (usually a health QR code turns green within 24 hours after being released from quarantine). In some provinces, the quarantine release letter and test report are two separate documents. In other provinces, such as Guangdong and Fujian, both are on the same document. Triple check that you have both of these things!

Airport Procedure for Departure

When you go to the airport, the procedure will roughly be as follows:

Present health QR code of the province you’re currently in at the entrance of the airport. If you just got out of quarantine and your code is red, present quarantine letter and nucleic acid test report. You will also get a temperature check. Make sure you wear a mask. This is mandatory. You must wear a mask at all times in the airport.

Check in for your flight at the counter or kiosk. Some airports, such as Guangzhou, now only have kiosks available for check-in. The kiosks have English service so you should not a problem getting your boarding pass printed. If you used the kiosk to print your boarding pass, you must then go to the counter to drop off your luggage. If your luggage is overweight, the staff at the counter will give you a bill and tell you to go to another counter to pay for the extra weight. Once paid, return to the first counter and you will get the baggage tag attached on your boarding pass. Note: Check-in for domestic flights opens 2 hours before the scheduled flight.

Next, go through security. You will have your picture taken prior to putting your things through the scanner. The officer will ask you to take your mask off for the picture.

Once you clear security, you are free to roam about until your flight. Boarding usually starts 30-45 minutes before the flight.

Airport Procedure for Arrivals

Once you leave the plane, follow the signs for baggage claim, pick up your luggage, and exit. Present the health QR code of the province/city you’re in if asked. Domestic arrivals procedure is much more straightforward and easy than international arrivals.

Train Station Procedure for Departure

Present health QR code of the province you’re currently in at the entrance of the airport. If you just got out of quarantine and your code is red, present quarantine letter and nucleic acid test report. You will also get a temperature check. Make sure you wear a mask. This is mandatory. You must wear a mask at all times in the airport.Traveling by high speed train in China is easy, fast, affordable and efficient in China, and comfortable, especially first class. If you enjoy legroom and not worrying about the weight of your luggage, then traveling by train might be the way to go. Depending how far your quarantine location is from where you leave, traveling by train might be the most practical option too. You can book your train tickets ahead of time on Wechat or on the English version of Ctrip, The step when you arrive at the train station will be to show your passport, your quarantine release forms, and your ticket confirmation to get into the station. Then you will pass through the luggage scanners. Note that you are not allowed to transport anything sharp, so any knives, etc. will be confiscated. Best to ship them ahead. Then you should check the boards and figure out what platform your train is leaving from and then wait in the waiting room near that platform until they call boarding for your train, usually half an hour to 20 minutes before the scheduled departure. If you have large suitcases, it is best to get on at the back of your car so you can store them in the space behind the last row of seats. Now all you have to do is enjoy the ride, and perhaps fill out the health QR code for your destination if you haven’t already. See the link above to find yours.

Train Station Procedure for Arrivals

Simply exit the train with all your luggage and follow the signs/large crowd of people to exit the station. Present the health QR code of the province/city you’re in if asked. If you do not yet have the QR code, there will likely be large signs you can scan to access the mini program you need to fill out.

Shipping Luggage

For those traveling home after quarantine, you probably have a lot of luggage with you. If you are flying after quarantine, do note that for free checked baggage, you only have 20 kg/44 pounds for economy class or 30 kg/66 pounds for business class (unless you booked both your domestic and international tickets together, in which case the weight limit will be the same as your international flight). Overweight baggage cost is between 20-30 RMB per kg (excess baggage is charged by the weight, not piece) depending on the distance of the flight. You may want to consider using a courier to ship your luggage as it may be much cheaper.

When shipping things, you book a pickup via the courier website, phone, app, or in the mini-program on WeChat or Alipay. To our current knowledge, SF Express is the only courier company that has English service. A link to SF Express website can be found here (if you receive an error message you may need to ahem change your settings or turn off an app off so it knows where you are). If you do require English service, you must use the website or call them, as their app and mini-program on WeChat/Alipay are in Chinese only. When scheduling a pickup, you can do same-day pickup or schedule it days ahead.

Traveling via Car (Didi and Taxi)

If you are traveling by Didi or taxi, you may or may not be asked to show your health QR code. Regardless, make sure to have your QR code ready if the driver asks you. If your QR code is still red, then be ready to show your quarantine release letter/nucleic acid test.


Danielle is from Vancouver and currently lives in Shanghai. When not working or helping Canadians get back to China, she looks for new places to eat in SH!

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