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What's up in Yunnan during Covid-19?

We are almost halfway through 2020, and whether it is just the course of nature, an influence from the planets or a 5G conspiracy, everyone’s life seems to have been put upside down this year. It has been about 4 months since the Corona virus first broke out in Wuhan in Hubei province in China. February and March have been a tough time in China for both people and businesses, with strict lock downs and quarantine rules and just as the situation in China, or at least in Yunnan started to get better, the virus started spread in the rest of the world and became an official pandemic. Since end of March, we at Wonders of Yunnan went back from working at home to working at our office, and since then life has been gradually gone back to normal.

So how have we been doing these last months in Yunnan? Honestly, I think we are doing pretty well! Luckily, the lockdown in China came in time to prevent an outbreak in the more remote areas such as Yunnan and in total there were only 185 cases in Yunnan with 2 deaths and no active cases as of May 2020.

By now travelling within Yunnan is no problem and I even went on a little trip to the north of China during the May Labor Day holidays. I personally don’t actively follow the daily news anymore, because it was pretty frustration from time to time, hearing how some governments and people reacted (or didn’t react) to the virus after what we experienced in China, and because of that, I often forgot that the situation in the rest of the world was – and still is – quite intense. I got occasional updates from friends and family at home, but except for that, life is going on like normal here. The only difference is that people still wear mouth masks, but many also don’t, every now and then we have to scan a QR code when we want to enter a supermarket and occasionally our temperature gets measured entering buildings.

Of course, we as a travel agency are still affected by the Covid-19 virus, since China restricted all foreigners from entering China, even those who have a valid visa. Sadly, many local businesses such as tour operators, hotels and restaurants, had to close their doors, but we are happy to say that we are still standing strong in these difficult times. We have several other projects running, from launching a new website to promising new business cooperations. When all this is over – and starting from now even for expats living in China – we will still be there to receive guests to share Yunnan and China with the world again.

Here are a few travel updates we like to share, both official and personal.

kunming renminzhonglu empty during covid-19 corona virus outbreakpeople wearing face masks at green lake park kunming during covid-19 corona virus outbreak

Kunming has been quiet the last few months, but now (June) things are almost back to normal again

Covid-19 situation in China

The people and government in China are very aware of the risk of a second outbreak, and still take strict measures to prevent this. Halfway May, international news widely covered that the city of Shulan in Jilin province in the northwest of China was put under lockdown again after 11 people linked to one case were diagnosed with covid-19 again. The province went from medium to high-risk and over a hundred million people had to stay at home again. But due to this quick response of the government, as of June 1st, Shulan is not under lockdown anymore and the risk for Jilin Province is lowered from high-risk to low-risk again.

As of June 3rd, the city of Wuhan where the Coronavirus first emerged and the outbreak was worst in China, finished a 19-day campaign in which all 10 million citizens were tested for Covid-19. No expense was spared, the campaign cost about 125 million dollars. 300 people were tested positive, all asymptomatic. Their 1,174 close contacts were tested negative, showing that the virus might not spread easily in asymptomatic cases, but more research will be done.

Foreigner Travel Ban

End of March 2020, the Chinese government announced that all foreigners are banned from entering China. This includes foreigners with valid visas and residence permits. Halfway May the restrictions were loosened slightly, but only for foreign business executives from certain countries. It was also announced that the international flight restrictions are expected to continue until at least October. So, for normal people (who are not important business executives), it will be highly unlikely to be able to come to China before October. There is no official statement though when the borders will open yet.

Hotels

During April and May, foreigners visiting places such as Dali and Lijiang had to stay in one specific government designated hotel and other hotels could not accept foreigners. At time of writing (begin June), we can confirm that hotels in Dali are accepting foreign guests as normal again, and I expect the situation to be the same in other places. We still recommend when you travel to contact the hotel you want to stay personally to check if they accept foreigners just to be sure.

Train travel within Yunnan

I have been taking the high-speed train to Dali a couple of times last 2 months, and by now it is no problem anymore for foreigners to travel by train in Yunnan. The train station staff is now used to deal with foreigners, and it is quicker than a few weeks ago. Everyone entering the train station needs to wear a face mask (doesn’t have to be a medical mask, cotton masks are accepted too) and scan a QR-health code with Alipay or WeChat, and when you receive a green code, you can enter without problem. When taking the train from both Kunming and Dali Railway Station, foreigners will be registered on a separate paper with passport info, train data and phone number, which might take 5 to 10 minutes extra. Important is the last entry date into China, which now for all foreigners should be no problem since foreigners can’t enter China since over a month now. Some questions can be asked where you live and if you travel for tourism.

When arriving in Dali, you will have to register again and give an address where you will stay. I stayed with a friend and gave my friend’s home address, and no further questions were asked. When I came to Dali last week, I didn’t even need to register anymore (the staff recognized me from the weekend before). In Kunming there is no extra registration or check for foreigners when arriving at Kunming Station.

For those living in Yunnan, and seemingly anywhere in China, travelling by train should be no problem if you have a green code and if you haven’t been to Wuhan (possibly Hubei) or high-risk areas recently. *

* Note that I have been in Kunming the whole time (my last entry into china was January 6th) and can only speak for travel between Kunming and Dali. The situation could be different for other individuals and other routes. But even when I came back from Shanxi province (where I also received a green code), I still had no trouble taking the train within Yunnan.

Domestic travel by Plane

The same as for the train, I speak for my own case where I have green health codes and have been in a low risk area for a long time. If you have been in quarantine, do not have a green code, or have been to a high (or medium) risk area, you could run into more complications.

During the May Labor Day holidays from May 1st to 5th (already one month ago, the situation might even be better by now), I went to visit friends in Taiyuan in Shanxi province, not too far from Beijing. Entering Kunming airport was no problem, but there was a minor issue when boarding the plane. Everyone boarding the plane, had to scan a QR code and register a health code for Shanxi province. The mobile application form could not register foreign passports. In the end I could board the plane without further ado, but I did have to wait for some “health experts” in hazmat suits to come and check my temperature – even after having my temperature checked 3 times already – and they gave me a paper registration form they told me to hand in when arriving in Shanxi. Upon arrival in Shanxi, no one even noticed me and I could leave the airport without being stopped. This is one occasional experience and it could be totally different for other individuals, airlines and destinations, but I just want to share it so you can be prepared for some small trouble. Stay patient, cooperate, have a translation app at hand if you don’t speak Chinese and try to apply for the provincial green health code on Alipay as alternative. When flying back to Kunming I encountered no problems or extra checks.

dali old town yunnan china deserted during covid-19 corona virus outbreaklijiang old town yunnan china deserted during covid-19 corona virus outbreak

Dali and Lijiang Old Town were quiet this year, but tourists are slowly returning

Visiting attractions

Foreigners can visit most of Yunnan’s places without problem by now. At time of writing, local travel agencies and tour operators cannot officially accept customers from outside of Yunnan, both Chinese and foreigners. This means you cannot officially hire a tour guide from a travel agency, but you can visit Yunnan and most attractions on your own.

We called local agencies and attractions to ask if foreigners are allowed to visit now. If you do not come from a high-risk area (check this official link in Chinese for live updates about covid-19 in China and which areas are high risk) and you have a Green Health Code, you can visit all attractions around Yunnan, including Stone Forest, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La Old Towns, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yuanyang and Jianshui by yourself. Foreigners from outside of Yunnan have also successfully visited here. Since Xishuangbanna borders with Laos and Vietnam, it can be a little bit stricter here. There are people crossing the border illegally despite the restriction for foreigners entering China, and it is possible there are more checks here. Make sure you have your green health code and passport at hand all times and we expect it should be alright to visit.

Can I still take a tour in Yunnan?

As mentioned above, travel agencies are not officially allowed to arrange tours for any visitors from outside Yunnan, but if you want to have a tour in Yunnan, we can still help you since there is a way we can work around it!

We cannot officially arrange tour packages, but we can legally arrange separate services, this means that we can register your tour as separate packages, such as a separate car booking, hotel booking, train/flight ticket booking and tour guide booking etc., and not as a tour package in our paperwork. This doesn’t change anything for you, and you will still have your all-inclusive tour to enjoy!

If you are living in China and want to get out and visit this unique corner of China, do not hesitate to contact us, we gladly welcome you to Yunnan! Contact us via our Contact form, Tailormade form or send us your question or enquiry via info@wondersofyunnan.com.