You’ve probably heard about it by now: the green Health Code that is your ticket in China to travel, to stay at a hotel, to get into the subway. Well, if not, or if you’d like to know the details on traveling in China sometime soon – this summer, for instance! – read on. Follow us on WeChat to learn more.
July 1st update: Registering for a Green Code as a Foreigner
As of July 1, China released a Health Code app designed specifically for foreigners living within China and for international visitors. Officially called the ‘Health Code Traveler Version,’ the app and built-in Alipay and WeChat Mini Apps offers foreign travelers a convenient way to submit COVID-related health information, such as travel history, COVID test results, and health symptoms. Although some foreigners are able to use the previously released WeChat and Alipay apps (as below), other foreigners could not register using those platforms, potentially because their English names were too long. This updated system is specifically built to recognize foreign names and passport information.
What the app interface looks like as the full app (left) and the WeChat Mini Program (right)
The app and Mini Programs offer an English-language interface and color-code system which mimics that of the Health Kit app released by the government earlier in April for local residents.
We recommend travelers register through the app before they arrive at their intended destination. If you are traveling to China from overseas, you should only register once you arrive in the country.
Either in your app store or within WeChat or Alipay, type in ‘国家政府服务平台’ (zheng–fu–fu–wu-ping-tai) to the search bar. Once installed, tap on ‘Health Code Traveler Version’ (as pictured above) and follow the instructions to register. Once completed, your traveler information should be updated automatically within 12 hours.
Shoppers’ Health Codes are checked before they can enter Beijing’s trendy Sanlitun district. Photo by WildChina’s Jenny Zhao
Registering for a Green Code using WeChat or Alipay
Countries around the world are using different technology to track COVID-19 cases and prevent the spread of the virus – from the COVIDSafe app in Australia to community contact tracing in Massachusetts. Here in China, it’s all about a green Health Code on WeChat or Alipay.
The built-in mini-programs are all about tracking where you have been. Upon registering, you’re asked a series of questions, including your whereabouts for the last 14 days and if you’ve had COVID-19 symptoms. Alternatively, if you use the WeChat Health Kit mini-program, you just need to enter your name and passport number, then upload a picture of your ID (and, you can do it all in English!). Based on your answers, and whether you’ve been in a high-risk area or in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case (based on your answers or location data), you’re given a colored QR code: either red, green, or yellow.
If it’s green, you’re good to go! You can travel outside of your province, you can enter restaurants and bars, you can check into a hotel. If it’s yellow or red… well, you either need to self-isolate as you may have had contact with a case or go into government quarantine as you may have contracted the virus yourself.
The three Health Code colors (1) Green: you’re okay to travel or enter public places. (2) Yellow: You need to isolate for 7 days. (3) You must isolate for 14 days. Photo from Alipay
But this isn’t new news – here in China, we’ve had the Health Code in place for a while. But as travel within China opens up, there’s a new part to the green code puzzle that’s a little more complicated.
Even though the green code is an officially sanctioned ‘okay’, different cities and provinces issue their own codes. So, before you travel anywhere outside of your region, you need to apply for a green code at your intended destination. Sometimes this is as easy as clicking through a few screens within WeChat. Sometimes, it can take up to 48 hours to be approved. Additionally, some provinces and cities are requiring travelers to undergo a COVID-19 test.
A screenshot from Alipay shows where a user has been for the last 14 days. Photo by WildChina’s Megan Wu
Getting this information about what the regulations are isn’t always easy. But, that’s where we come in. We’ve been collecting as much information as we can from our partners around the country, and we’re here to help guide and overcome challenges with you when traveling domestically. As each province is different, hotels or local partners from those different regions will need to send you (or us) codes for their particular city to scan and complete before you arrive in the city.
Health Codes are different for each city you travel to in China, as seen above for (1) Shanghai, (2) Ningbo, (3) Linzhi, and (4) Lhasa. Photos by WildChina’s Aki Yang
Regulations and screening are especially tough for foreigners at the moment as well, even if they’ve been in China the whole time. But travel is possible – we’ve done it ourselves. You just need to make sure – at a minimum – that you have your health code ready, a valid copy of your ID, and a mask and hand sanitizer to hand. As mentioned, some cities do require a COVID-19 test as well, and these regulations may change over the next few weeks. Get in touch with us for up-to-date information.
Now that the country is starting to relax the temporary restrictions on domestic travel, we want to help you to visit different parts of China safely and responsibly. We’ll help you to avoid crowded sites (that’s our specialty anyway) and help you to spread your footprint in order to positively support local economies. We want to make sure travel is safe and positive for not only you and your guides, but also for the communities you visit. This pandemic has been difficult for all of us, and we want to do what we can to give back to communities hard-hit by this outbreak.
We’ve updated our health and safety procedures, so that, once we’re given the green light to operate China-wide again, we can ensure all travelers and staff are safe and well-equipped. We’ve also been training our guides and drivers to be aware of all risks and safety precautions, as well as taking into account any sudden changes in the itinerary if the situation in your destination were to change.
For regular updates on travel around the country, see our Travel Advisory page.