Being fortunate enough to have the right paperwork to fly to China during those times is great. Be prepared to endure a 14-day quarantine in China if you are coming back here. Are you worried about what to expect? Then this article is exactly what you want to read. I will give you the latest updates on requirements as well as how the quarantine will work and what you should expect. All the information in this article is my own experience and it might vary among regions and cities. Since policy changes in China are frequent, I cannot promise you that the quarantine will still look like this once you start yours.
Preparation for the flight to China
Let’s say you fulfill the VISA requirements and have either the VISA in your passport or you still have a valid residence permit.
Now it is crucial to make sure you understand what is needed to board the airplane that brings you to China, to finally start your quarantine.
At the time when I did it (My flight was on the 6th of October), policies had already changed for the stricter. The validity of Covid test results decreases from 5 days to 3 days, which makes the whole process more exhausting.
In addition to that, to fly via a transfer airport, you need your Covid test result approved by the local Chinese consulate.
The covid test results are valid for only 2 days now. Using non-direct flights is almost impossible, as you need a negative test from the airport that flies directly to China.
This limits the number of flights and in my opinion, makes the process easier. There is less you can do wrong.
Get your flight ticket, but be careful
When I booked my flight, I searched for weeks on the Google flights platform. Eventually, I booked a flight with China Southern Airlines from Frankfurt, via Amsterdam, to Guangzhou.
With changing rules, you need to make sure to only book a direct flight to China. You do not want any transfer on your way to China. Also, make a good decision in which city you want to quarantine. The first city you step foot in will be your quarantine destination. You cannot take any domestic flights in China before finishing your quarantine.
Covid tests and consulate approval
I have to get my Covid test result approved by the consulate. Each consulate has an email address where you can send your test results and a filled out health declaration. After 1-2 days you get your signed documents back and can print them out.
You need the consulate approval for:
- Test facilities not approved by the Chinese government
- Flights that have a stop-over (changed by now)
Nowadays the way to go to China is by direct flight, you should not worry about this too much.
Follow my suggestion and it will be easy to get back, maybe not the cheapest alternative but the safest.
Once you have your flight to China booked, take a good look at the departure and boarding time. You want to get to the airport early enough to take an express Covid test.
Most big airports have testing centers that are approved by the Chinese government.
In most German airports you will find centers of Centogene.
Read their opening hours carefully and make sure you have enough time to take the test & get the result before boarding the airplane. For taking the test you should plan 1-2 hours. It depends heavily on how many people are waiting in line to get tested. Unusual times (very early in the morning) are probably your best bet if you don’t like to wait.
The flight into quarantine, in China
Boarding the flight, crowded as always
Boarding the flight is not much different than it was pre-covid. It is crowded and you have to wait a long time to get on.
This time, before you get your boarding pass, the airline checks all your documents. They will ensure you are eligible to board on this flight, you need a valid negative Covid test result.
When I was flying back, about half of the passengers were wearing a full hazmat suit. They taped all zipper areas and even covered their shoes. It reminds me of one of those horror movies. But I guess they don’t want to take any risk to get into a hospital in China, to be treated for Covid.
The regulation says that you have to wear a facial mask at all times. Every single seat was taken on the airplane, not sure if that is the best way to ensure distancing.
Flight attendants in hazmat suits
The pre-covid flight attendants were always dressed so well. Don’t expect it nowadays.
Every member of the cabin crew has a full hazmat suit on. Interaction with guests is limited to a minimum.
No meals during the entire flight. The only thing you get is a bag with some Chinese candy and other products. If you aren’t a big fan of processed food that is heavy on sugar and salt, you better bring something by yourself.
The flight itself is pretty normal. Not many people dare to eat (you have to take off your mask for that) or to use the restroom.
Arrival at Guangzhou airport during Covid
Finally arrived at the airport. It feels good to walk around and stretch your legs. To continue further to the next step, you have to scan a QR code.
After scanning you need to fill out your personal information, such as countries visited, residence, name, etc.
Make sure you have a phone. You need it. Luckily there is staff who can give you a hotspot, as wifi in Chinese airports is heavily regulated and if you don’t have a Chinese phone number or ID, you won’t be able to use it.
The staff also helps you to fill out the form correctly.
After that, you get registered and a stamp on the back of your passport.
They will send you to the testing station and do 2 covid tests. Throat test and nasal test. In my opinion, the nasal test is way more uncomfortable, but you don’t have a choice. After finishing the test, you get another sticker on your passport.
Now you can continue to walk to the immigration. Nothing has changed here.
Transportation to the quarantine hotel
First, you need to get your luggage. You probably know this process very well. The only difference is that the staff takes all luggage off the belt and puts it in order. They want to prevent the passengers from crowding up.
Then you continue to line up for the bus transfer to a hotel. Unfortunately, you cannot choose your hotel. Try to ask the staff about a Westerner friendly hotel if you have the chance, but you should not expect one. I have many friends who returned to China, their quarantine hotel quality varies widely. The government sets the price for each hotel. There are different categories and price levels, you can expect a huge difference between provinces and cities.
Some people I know are staying in a modern Holiday Inn with an open internet, couch & TV who pay less than you, who stays in a run-down Chinese hotel.
The staff, in hazmat suits, of course, takes you to a bus and registers you. The bus ride will most likely take up to 1 hour, depending on the traffic and where the hotel is located.
How does a quarantine hotel in China looks like
The quarantine hotels in China are fine
Once I get on the bus I get curious about which kind of hotel they drop me off at. It takes the bus almost an hour until reaching the destination, in the heart of Guangzhou’s train station district.
The hotel is called 流花饭馆广州 LiuHua Hotel Guangzhou. It is an older 4-star Chinese hotel. It probably has seen its best times around 20 years ago. Anyway, it really isn’t too bad after all.
There is only one huge disadvantage that this hotel has, the internet speed. I have been told it is because the number of guests is high, but I suspect it is their bad internet connection.
At various times I have done an internet speed test and the results are frustrating. Pictures, movies, or anything else than reading documents is not possible. Anyway, I decided to study a lot and got a new healthy and educational daily routine with it.
Ordering food during quarantine, easier than ever
When it comes to food, there are quite a few options for you. The room has a menu where you can order food from. There is a menu for each day, consisting of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Each meal costs RMB 40 which is reasonable but not too cheap of a price. I try breakfast on my first day, because I am still exhausted and the idea of getting breakfast delivered right when I wake up is tempting.
This is the first and last time I order any food from the hotel. The selection for breakfast is not what I prefer for breakfast and the quality overall isn’t exciting either. I don’t have to try lunch and dinner to know it isn’t my taste. I had the Thursday breakfast set.
Luckily I have an app called “Meituan”. It is one of the apps that allows you to order food in restaurants and let it get delivered to your place. I call the reception and they confirm that it is possible to order food from outside.
In their menu, you can find the Chinese address and name of the hotel. That information + your floor and room number you have to enter.
Prepare food delivery apps before quarantine
You need a Chinese phone number to do this. If you have a friend that can help you out, this is fine too. I have to do this since my Chinese sim card was not active anymore. I recommend downloading the app and have a friend showing you how to do it before you get into quarantine. This app will be crucial for you during quarantine. Having the meal you want delivered to your room is always the best time of the day, during your quarantine in China.
A few extra things that I order, besides daily food is:
- Brown sugar (for the tea)
- Soda water
- Fresh fruit tea
There are plenty of food options available since the hotel’s location is very central.
All delivered food is placed in front of your door. There is a chair that works as a little table. Trash can be filled in a plastic bag and just put it on the floor next to your door.
Quarantine hotel daily routine
Your day probably starts with somebody knocking on your door. Every day your temperature has to be checked and recorded, twice.
The first temperature check is at 9:30 am. Get your mask on and just open the door. Not a big deal.
The second check is around the afternoon, mostly 16:00 to 16:30 pm. In addition to the temperature check, I also receive a chloride tab that I can dissolve in water, to clean my room.
On day 7 of your quarantine, you have another Covid throat test. The test was in the afternoon. The sound of people choking on those sampling sticks will let you know that they are coming.
Quarantine special case, somebody tested positive on airplane
Well, it would be too easy to just stay in that room for 14 days, wouldn’t it? I get used to it and have my routine figured out when suddenly I get a call. The lady explains to me that I have to change the location tomorrow night because I am a special guest. She can’t not answer anything else, her English is not that good.
So I call the doctor, who speaks pretty good English, and try to find out more. It turns out that “special guest” means I was sitting close to somebody who got tested positive.
On the airplane, if there is a person tested positive, everybody within 3 rows before and after that person, as well as anyone in the same row, has to transfer to a special facility.
I have to pack all my stuff and wear a mask. Upon a call from the reception, I am allowed to leave my room and take the elevator to go to the lobby. The checkout was pretty normal and I get the rest of my security deposit paid back (RMB 6000). Then I wait for another hotel guest. The transport is in the evening, around 7:30 pm. An ambulance is assigned to transport the other guest and me to the new location.
Special quarantine hotel, 新亚大酒店 New Asia hotel
On my way to the hotel, I am quite excited. Some of my friends stayed in a modern Holiday Inn with fast and open internet and all amenities you can think of. Maybe I get lucky and the next hotel will be like that.
Well, the previous was an old 4-star hotel. The new hotel was an old and small 2-star hotel. At check-in, I do the regular procedure of paying and getting my room card. The first impression of the hotel is not good. Everything is pretty run-down and dirty.
Welcome to the 新亚大酒店 New Asia hotel.
After seeing the entrance and floors, my expectations for the room are not very high. When I finally get into the room, I am surprised. A standard room without many amenities, unfortunately, no real desk, but overall quite clean.
Whoever stayed in the room before is a heavy smoker as I can still smell the smoke until about 2 days after check-in.
Overall it is not as good as the first hotel, except for one crucial thing – the internet speed. Having high-speed internet again excites me so much that I forget about all the other downgrades there. Finally I can watch videos again and listen to music. There are times from 7 pm to 10 pm where it can get a bit slower, but overall the speed is totally fine.
The selection of restaurants to order from is the same as before, since the hotels are not far from each other.
Release from Chinese quarantine
The day before my official release date I have to do another Covid throat test. Upon the negative result of it, I am allowed to leave starting at midnight. I decide to leave in the morning as there is no rush to leave in the middle of the night.
You will be given your most important documents the day before your release. It is the “Certificate of Release from Centralized Quarantine and Medical Observation”. Take a picture of it as soon as you get it, this is an important document. Without it, you won’t be allowed to enter some areas or use certain services.
Once you check out you are on your own. Whether you walk or take a taxi is up to you. I am sure you could ask the receptionist to order a taxi for you. But getting one yourself is not so difficult either, just use the DiDi app on Wechat or flag down one on the streets.
Check up after quarantine
- 2 weeks after release I got call from CDC,
- Want another covid test, according to government regulations
- Then can also get the health app