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This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Staff advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Pre-Departure Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
Once abroad, a host university faculty or staff member representing UCEAP will be your first point of contact for all matters. Among other things, the designated person provides support with academic matters, program logistics, and personal issues.
It is critical that you understand the role of each person involved with program, logistic, and academic issues, and remember to communicate your concerns with all parties (both in Hong Kong and at UC).
The University of Hong Kong
Ms. Cathy Wong, Program Manager
Office of International Student Exchange
Global Lounge G/F, Fong Shu Chuen Amenities Centre
The University of Hong Kong
Phone (calling from the U.S.): (011-852) 2219-4131
Phone (calling from Hong Kong): 2219-4131
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code .......... 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Hong Kong country code ........852
Approximate Time Difference
This summer program provides a set curriculum for UC and other international students. You will spend part of your time at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) who sponsors this program through their Faculty of Business and Economics. The remaining time is spent in Shanghai.
- Attendance at all orientation sessions
- 10 UC quarter units; the variable unit option is not available
- Two courses (5 quarter/3.3 semester UC units each) for letter grade; the P/NP grading option is not permitted.
This program does not require you to complete a MyEAP Study List; courses and grades will be reported based on HKU transcripts. Both courses are assigned upper-division, business administration credit.
Instructors usually distribute syllabi and reading lists at the beginning of the course. Group projects are common in business administration.
While courses are taught in English, Cantonese is the language used in dormitories and in the community, and it may also be used in tutorials, labs, and studios. Some basic Cantonese will facilitate your interactions both in classes and in everyday activities. Lecturers may have accents that are difficult to understand. Before finalizing course enrollment, make sure you understand the main lecturer in each course.
You are expected to study independently, do the background reading, and incorporate class work and reading in your written papers. Some courses involve fieldwork, practical experience, or lab work. Student-centered inquiry and problem-based learning are encouraged. At the same time, be prepared for more memorization for exams than you may be accustomed to at UC; local teaching style emphasizes the repetition of lecture material on written quizzes and exams.
The two courses for summer 2017 are:
STRA3705 China Economy – Dr. Jing LI
This course provides a general introduction of China economy since 1949 with emphasis on the era of transition from a planned economy to a more market driven one. It aims to help students understand the development and transition of Chinese economy, the working of major market mechanism, as well as related issues that China encounters. Basic economic principles are used to explain the economic issues of modern China.
STRA3706 China Business Environment – Dr. Danqing WANG
This China Business Environment course examines the challenges and opportunities that a rising and rapidly changing China has provided for various business corporations, i.e., multinational corporations, domestic state-owned enterprises, entrepreneurial firms. It delineates the complexity of contemporary China with respect to economic, technological, political, social and cultural environments and how it influences corporations in a wide range of industries.
Syllabi will be provided the first week of class.
- You must take all exams at the host university.
- The exam schedule is not flexible.
Arrangements for early exams are not allowed. Unless there is an emergency situation, such as an extreme health situation, a safety or security threat, or closure of the university, you may not take final exams in the US or leave the program before completing final assessments.
Grading at Hong Kong institutions reflects the rigorous academic standards. Grading curves are very rare. If you apply yourself and adapt to local practices and expectations, you can earn good grades. Be aware that grades assigned by Hong Kong instructors are likely to be lower than you are accustomed to receiving.
Your academic progress will be assessed by methods that include fieldwork, laboratory assignments, individual and group projects, quizzes, exams, and any other criteria relevant to the particular course. Course attendance and participation may also be considered.
Most exams are in short answer or essay format. Class participation may be especially important in seminars and in courses that have tutorial sessions. You are required to attend class regularly, take all exams given for courses in which you are enrolled, and submit all written work for each course to the satisfaction of the instructor.
Language course grades are usually based on periodic quizzes and tests, homework assignments, class performance, and a final oral and written exam. You must attend every class unless you receive permission to be absent. Classes are small and absences will affect both your personal progress and grade for the course.
Grades for this program are expected in late October.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave the U.S. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet
are excellent resources.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals.
You will also need to understand the local culture and history. These sources will help you prepare before departure.
The line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior is hard to draw in Hong Kong. It can be difficult to navigate gracefully amidst Hong Kong’s mixture of Chinese and Western customs. Chinese people expect Westerners to follow what they understand as Western ways. Even students who try to adapt to local ways have a hard time because most people are too polite to admit that someone else’s conduct or dress is conspicuous or offensive, except when it causes embarrassment or misunderstanding. Be sensitive to local mores. Your curiosity and willingness to adapt will be welcomed by new Chinese friends, who will appreciate the respect you show them and their culture.
A certain code of conduct predominates and you need to be aware of the following aspects of that code, both on and off campus:
- If you are seen frequently with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you will be the subject of common gossip. If a friend of the opposite sex visits you from the U.S., some people may assume you have an intimate relationship. Note that most residence halls in Hong Kong have restrictions for visitors of the opposite sex. You are expected to obey these regulations.
- Chinese people do not greet each other by kissing or hugging. This common Western custom creates discomfort among Chinese, even if they are only observers. Most people restrict physical contact to a brief handshake. On the other hand, physical contact between members of the same sex is common, and you will frequently see women walking arm-in arm or a man with an arm around a male friend’s shoulder.
- Although some people in Hong Kong speak loudly, calling loudly to someone at a distance is considered impolite. Similarly, loud laughter or shouting in public places attracts unwanted attention.
- Ordinarily, the Chinese do not quibble over small amounts of money when in a restaurant or taking public transportation, and consider the American habit of splitting every expense as somewhat discourteous. When out in large groups, each member will usually pay his or her own way. If, on occasion, someone offers to treat, it is a common courtesy to reciprocate the generosity later.
Drugs and Alcohol
The Hong Kong government deals harshly with foreign students who are caught in possession of drugs. Your status as a foreign citizen does not provide exemption from Hong Kong penalties for the possession and use of drugs. Hong Kong drug laws are extremely severe. Possession of marijuana is treated as a serious offense.
Never feel pressured to drink. Being under the influence of alcohol is the single biggest risk to your safety while here, as it can lead you to make poor decisions.
If you are of legal age and choose to drink, you are advised to use good judgment; do not display any intoxicated behavior in public places. If you abuse alcohol, behave in a disorderly manner, or cause problems for your housing or host university, you will face disciplinary action by UCEAP.
Differing attitudes towards romantic relationships can complicate your social life. Young Westerners tend to form both casual and intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex more rapidly. While Westerners often have several girlfriends or boyfriends before settling down and marrying, the ideal among some Chinese remains to fall in love once, with courtship leading to marriage. Chinese are thus much more cautious about love and tend to view the Western approach to romance as irresponsible.
Problems occasionally arise when Chinese friends misinterpret gestures of friendship as signs of romantic interest. Many actions considered perfectly commonplace in the U.S., such as occasional outings or meetings for lunch, good-natured teasing, casual physical contact beyond shaking hands, invitation to tea after a lecture, all without the absolving presence of a third or fourth person, are fraught with meaning to many Chinese people.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Official UCEAP Start Date
Do not plan to travel outside of the U.S. after finals at UC and before the program begins. Each year, the host universities send acceptance letters and visa documents on different dates, sometimes only a short time before the program’s Official Start Date. You need to be in the U.S. to receive the materials.
Travel to the Host University
The dates of the program can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications in your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any unrecoverable transportation charges incurred for independent travel arrangements.
In order to keep informed of program changes, update MyEAP with any changes to your contact information.
Failure to arrive before the Official Start Date is cause for dismissal from the program. More detailed arrival information and directions to the check-in point are provided in the UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist online.
If you plan to arrive in Hong Kong early you will need to make your own hotel reservations. UCEAP cannot make arrangements for you to move into the dormitory earlier than the established move-in date.
Not all taxi drivers are familiar with the campus residences. Look up the location of your destination ahead of time. Provide the driver with the address of your housing assignment and have a campus map with you to show the driver exactly where you want to go.
After arrival you will participate in mandatory on-site orientations organized by your host university that cover a variety of topics. Orientations vary by location, but most include a welcome dinner, lunch, or other get-together and various outings to the local neighborhoods.
The orientations cover such topics as:
- Money matters
- Course registration
- Academic policies
- Introductions to important offices and people
You are required to attend and actively participate in all orientation events.
"The activities during the orientation were very helpful and well planned. I was able to explore the campus and adjust to the culture before school started." - UCEAP Student
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
There is no UCEAP group flight to Hong Kong. You are responsible for making your own flight arrangements. It is recommended that you arrive during regular business hours.
Detailed arrival instructions are provided in your UCEAP online Pre-Departure Checklist.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
You must carry at all times your Hong Kong Identity Card (HKID) if you have one, or a photocopy of your passport plus your local university student ID card. Police officers make occasional checks and you may be fined if you fail to produce required identification.
Hong Kong Student Visa
A visa is an endorsement issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department that grants you permission to enter and reside in Hong Kong for the purpose of study.
Unless you have a valid Hong Kong Identity Card (HKID), you must apply for a student visa. The host university will serve as a local sponsor and work with the Hong Kong Immigration Department on your behalf. According to Hong Kong immigration regulations, student visas cannot be issued for nationals from Afghanistan, Albania, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nepal, or Vietnam. If you are a citizen of any of these countries, contact UCEAP immediately.
The student visa is a self-adhesive label that will be placed on an empty page in your passport. The visa is valid for you to use one time as a single entry into Hong Kong on or before the date indicated.
When entering Hong Kong, you must already have affixed your student visa label in your passport before handing it to the Immigration Officer. If the documents are separate, the Officer will not validate the student visa.
Upon arrival in Hong Kong, ensure that the Immigration Officer stamps your visa to activate it. With an activated student visa and valid U.S. passport you may leave and reenter Hong Kong anytime before the expiration date as long as you remain in good standing with your host university.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, contact the Hong Kong Immigration Department to determine applicable travel restrictions and whether or not you will need supplementary documents for your visa application and/or reentry documents. Students holding a passport from China (PRC) will need to apply for an “Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao” (EEP). Taiwan ROC citizens are required to apply for a multiple-reentry visa if they plan to leave Hong Kong for any reason and return to continue your studies.
Hong Kong Identity Card
An HKID is proof of Hong Kong residency and is an official identity document issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
If you maintain the right to reside in Hong Kong, clear immigration with your Hong Kong Identity Card (HKID) and passport. You will not need a visa. Obtain further information through the Hong Kong Immigration Department.
If you are enrolled for the full academic year and maintain a valid student visa, you may apply for a temporary HKID. Host university staff will provide guidance.
You will not be eligible for a temporary HKID if you stay in Hong Kong for less than 180 days (i.e. for one term only).
Student ID Cards
Be sure to take extra passport-sized photos to Hong Kong, as these will be needed for the student ID card issued by the host university.
A passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your intended stay is required to enter China. The name on your passport, UCEAP application, and host university application must be identical in order to secure a visa, which is required for this program. Direct any questions to the Campus EAP Office immediately.
A separate visa will be needed for travel to the People's Republic of China. You will apply for either the “L” tourist visa or the "X2" student visa at the Chinese Consulate prior to your departure from the U.S.
Wait until you receive your HKU admission packet before you apply for your Chinese visa. It will include documents required for your visa application.
Students with Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan passports must obtain “home visit permits” to enter China and do not need to apply for a visa. Contact your local Chinese consulate for more information.
U.S. Travel Registration
As soon as you know your flight plans prior to departure, register online
with the U.S. Department of State. Registration is free and allows for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to be a source of assistance and information in case of difficulty or an emergency while traveling abroad.
It is easier to replace lost or stolen documents when you have photocopies. Photocopy all important documents in duplicate, including passport photo pages, visa pages, vaccination certificates, travelers checks receipts, airline tickets, student ID, birth certificate, credit cards (front and back), etc., then leave a copy at home with a parent or guardian and pack a set in various pieces of luggage. Spending a few moments copying documents now will save you time if you lose important documents.
Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.
If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at https://law.ucdavis.edu/uc-undocumented/
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
Identify all luggage on both the outside and inside with your name, home address, and destination.
When traveling always carry your passport, visa, airline tickets, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage.
Due to limited storage space in the host university dormitories, you should pack reasonable amounts of clothing and personal items. Most items are available for purchase in Hong Kong.
- A limited and comfortable wardrobe, including washable, easy-to-care-for clothing, lightweight shirts, slacks, jeans, and conservative shorts
- Appropriate attire for formal dinners and special events (a suit jacket and tie for men, a dress for women)
- Comfortable walking shoes that are easy to slip on and off (large-sized shoes are difficult to find in Hong Kong)
- Prescription medication
- Several passport photos (to use for identification cards and government forms)
- A few books, including a Chinese-English dictionary and a travel guide with a detailed map of Hong Kong (books in English are expensive in Hong Kong)
- A few American gifts for foreign hosts and new friends (suggestions: Frisbees; T-shirts; UC pens, pencils, or decals; baseball caps representing major league teams; California pistachios or almonds, postcards, or scenic calendars)
- Pictures of family, friends, and the UC campus to have a reminder of home and share with new friends
- Electric converter and plug adapter for any electronic items you pack (Hong Kong’s electrical system operates on 220V 50Hz)
- Digital recorder (especially useful if you will be studying Chinese language)
- Mosquito repellent and after-bite medicine
- Athletic gear, including a swimsuit
- Bathrobe and slippers
- Small travel backpack
"A backpack is essential for traveling (and if you fill it, that undoubtedly will be too much stuff)." - UCEAP Student
Do Not Pack
Electronic cigarettes, pepper spray, knuckle-dusters, tear gas, flick-knives, crossbows, and other items used for self-defense, which may be legal in the U.S., are considered illegal weapons in Hong Kong and prohibited. If found with these items, they will be confiscated and you may be arrested and prosecuted.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP Travel Insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends that you examine the details of the UCEAP Travel Insurance benefits and purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
The official currency unit in Hong Kong is the dollar (abbreviated HK$ or HKD). Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
Before leaving the U.S., you are encouraged to exchange U.S. $100 into Hong Kong dollars. Besides providing an opportunity to become familiar with the currency, the funds will be useful upon arrival for snacks, transportation, tips, and unexpected purchases. U.S. banks can purchase the foreign currency; the process may take a week or more. You may also exchange money at the airport in Hong Kong. Transportation from the airport must be paid in Hong Kong dollars.
It usually takes a few weeks to become financially established abroad. Prepare enough funds to cover expenses for the first two months (at least U.S. $1,500). Long delays in receiving mail and clearing personal checks abroad are more often the rule than the exception. Personal checks are rarely accepted in Hong Kong.
You may need to have enough money to pay your entire housing fee upon arrival in Hong Kong. The fee must be paid directly to your host university in local currency. Be sure to keep receipts. See the Housing section for program specific information.
You will be required to pay a refundable deposit for the residence halls, facilities, and libraries. The amount varies by host university. This money will be refunded after completion of the program if you have no outstanding debts and follow the appropriate check-out procedures.
UCEAP students have had bank accounts at the large American banks in Hong Kong, including Bank of America and Citibank. The Bank of America and Citibank operate several branches throughout Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the New Territories.
Opening a bank account in Hong Kong, with both savings and checking options, is relatively simple. To do so, you must apply in person and take a valid passport. There is a charge every time money is transferred to Hong Kong from another country (or vice versa) and there are standard fees for cashing travelers checks.
There are Hang Seng Bank, Bank of East Asia, and HSBC branches at HKU. The campus branches are open Monday through Saturday and provide normal banking services.
Many businesses throughout Hong Kong will accept credit cards (such as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express). However, most universities and venues on campus will take cash only.
If you plan on using your U.S. ATM and/or credit card while abroad, be sure to notify your bank ahead of time. Otherwise, they may freeze your account on suspicion of fraud.
Transferring Money Abroad
There are several basic ways to send money to Hong Kong from the U.S.:
- You can have money deposited into your U.S. account, from which you can draw funds using the account’s corresponding ATM and Visa, Citibank, or MasterCard debit card. There is no fee because it is not a cash advance. This system usually works for the following debit cards: Cirrus, Global Access, PLUS, Jetco, and EPS. Check with your bank in the U.S. to see if this option will work abroad for your card.
- If you open a Hong Kong bank account you can also get an ATM card from that bank and use it in ATMs in MTR stations. There is an annual charge of about HK $50 for the ATM card.
- Money can be sent directly as an interbank deposit from a U.S. bank to its Hong Kong branch.
- Funds can be cabled from any U.S. bank to any Hong Kong bank; funds sent in this way are usually available a week from the date they are sent.
- You can deposit U.S. travelers checks into a local account in Hong Kong and withdraw cash immediately. Most foreign currencies and travelers checks can be exchanged at Hong Kong banks, hotels, or money exchangers.
- Up to HK $500 can be sent through an international money order, available at selected banks.
- You can deposit a bank draft or any check, personal or institutional, into your local account; however, the Hong Kong bank will require one month for such checks to clear, during which time the funds will not be available. An additional service charge will be assessed for this kind of transaction.
- Western Union can be used to have money wired from home in a short amount of time (sometimes minutes). In most instances, you will receive local currency at competitive foreign exchange rates.
- Charles Schwab account holders can withdraw money from international ATMs and be reimbursed for fees incurred. However, there may be a minimum balance requirement.
Of all these methods, the most efficient and convenient is to use a U.S. ATM card at a Hong Kong ATM, or to have remittances sent directly from a bank in the U.S. to the local bank account in Hong Kong. Funds should be transmitted in U.S. dollars to avoid poor exchange rates. Funds remaining in the account at the end of the program can be converted to any currency, including U.S. dollars.
The official currency unit used in China is the yuan or renminbi (most often abbreviated RMB).
Get used to carrying more cash in China than you would in the U.S. People do not use checks, and credit cards are not as frequently accepted as they are in the U.S.
Shanghai is one of China’s most expensive cities, but many things are less expensive than in the United States. Meals and food are quite inexpensive, unless you want to eat in places catering to foreigners. Some students have found that foreigners are charged more than locals for items purchased in markets without fixed prices. If you can learn ways to bargain in Chinese or if you go shopping with a local Chinese friend, it will save you a lot of money.
Take money to China in the form of credit cards, ATM cards, travelers checks, and cash. ATM cards are the most convenient way to get cash, although you should be aware of your account’s daily withdrawal limits and plan accordingly. Many U.S. banks offer a foreign currency service where account holders can order RMB a few weeks prior to departure.
There is a money exchange window at the Shanghai Pudong Airport outside the International Arrivals gate. There will be a small fee charged per transaction (no matter where you exchange money). The fee varies by location and date.
In Shanghai, you can exchange U.S. cash at almost any bank or even some major department stores (with a passport). You can exchange travelers checks at the Bank of China.
The bank rate on any given day is standardized throughout China, so you will get the same rate wherever you go; only the transaction fee will vary. Changing money on the street is illegal in China. Counterfeit bills are a big problem in China and some UCEAP students have received bad bills changing money on the street.
U.S. currency can always be exchanged for foreign currency; keep some on hand for airport purchases, airport transfers, and departure taxes when leaving the country.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted in China at major department stores. In addition, money deposited into an account in the U.S. can be accessed via Visa, MasterCard, or American Express from ATMs in China on the Plus or the Cirrus systems. There are service fees for each transaction, even for viewing account balances.
Bank of America ATM cards can be used for cash withdrawal at China Construction Bank ATMs. Charles Schwab account holders can withdraw money from international ATMs and be reimbursed for fees incurred. However, there may be a minimum balance requirement.
Cash is issued in RMB. Exchange rates are fixed at the official rate. The maximum cash withdrawal per day is usually RMB 2,500. You can also get cash advances on your credit card, but beware that most credit card companies will charge high interest on cash advances. Check with your credit card company and bank for restrictions and possible fees associated with using your card abroad.
Be aware that Chinese ATMs sometimes run out of cash. If this happens, go into the bank and let them know.
The HKU Computer Center and the student amenities centers provide computer terminals. The Computer Center has a full range of facilities, with both Mac and PC computers with up-to-date software and campus Intranet and Internet access. You can sign up for an HKUSUA account upon arrival, which will allow you to use the networked PCs in the various amenities centers and labs.
Color and standard printers are available for a standard fee. The main computer lab (located in the Shaw Building) is open 24 hours a day, and a help desk is available. You may take your own laptop and use HKUACE (Access Everywhere Network) from various locations on campus to access the campus network. There are also wireless LAN access points at many locations on campus.
Be aware that the Chinese government restricts access to a range of Internet sites, including common ones such as YouTube, Facebook, and Blogger, among others. The list of blocked sites changes frequently. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is needed to access blocked sites.
Most dorms have shared phones and normally do not permit international calls. You can purchase a phone card, which can be used to make both local and international calls. These cards are available at supermarkets and convenience stores throughout Hong Kong. Many students buy cell phones and use them for both local and international calls.
"It is easy to buy a new cell phone in Hong Kong, and many students choose to buy a cheap one so they are not as afraid of losing an expensive smart phone." - UCEAP Student
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the technology for transmitting voice conversations via the Internet, is popular with students who take a laptop abroad. Social networking software such as Skype
is commonly used to make free or low-cost calls over the Internet.
Messenging apps (e.g. WhatsApp, Line, WeChat) are also increasing in popularity.
General Housing Information
The cost of university housing is a fraction of what it costs to rent a single room in Hong Kong. It provides very basic amenities and facilities at a low price and is most likely less comfortable than the dorm rooms offered by American universities.
If you arrive early, you will be responsible for making your own temporary accommodations until the residence hall opens.
You may find striking differences between residential life in Hong Kong and dormitory experiences in the U.S. Chinese and British influences create a greater sense of formality and hierarchy than is customary on American college campuses. For example, in some dormitories men and women may meet only in the public lounges.
Every dormitory is locked at a certain hour each night, and you will receive a key or security code so you can enter after hours. Although the security codes may occasionally change, this system is convenient. Some dormitories have a security guard who will open the door after hours and a registry that must be signed by residents who return late.
You might disagree with some of the regulations, but they are designed in the context of Hong Kong norms and should be respected. Failure to abide by the regulations may have unfavorable consequences. For instance, one female student was expelled from her assigned housing because a male friend stayed in her room after curfew hours.
The differences in dorm life between UC and universities in Hong Kong will take some adjustment. It is important to adapt to local residence hall culture if you are to make the most of your experience. Flexibility, cooperation, consideration, sensitivity, and respectful communication are critical for success.
Housing during the program is included as part of your fees paid to UCEAP.
There are thirteen halls, eleven that are directly administered by the university and two that are financially and administratively independent. The residence halls provide housing to over 3,000 undergraduate students. About a quarter of HKU’s full-time students reside in these halls during the academic year. Nine of the halls are coed, one is for women only, and three are for men only. Most halls are located within either a short bus ride or walking distance to the main campus. Each hall has a warden or manager to assist with the administration of the hall and several tutors.
"HKU dorms are close to the campus. They are normally very tall apartment buildings with shared bathroom and shower facilities. The common rooms are nice and security is very good." - UCEAP Student
The dorms differ in size, cost, location, and amenities due to university availability and resources, but are usually a convenient distance from the campus. All rooms are shared (doubles or triples). Each room has a bed, mattress, wardrobe, writing desk with a lamp, chair, bookshelf, network connection, air-conditioning, and a shared phone line.
Common rooms, such as bathrooms, lounges, laundry facilities, recreational facilities, and quiet study rooms are available. Communal bathroom and toilet facilities are provided on each floor. Each floor has its own pantry and is equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, hotplate, water boiler, and drinking fountain.
Bedding will be provided. You will need to pack or buy your towels upon arrival.
You will be responsible for cleaning your own room and the common rooms—the cleanliness of these areas will be determined by the cleanliness of the tenants. While the university’s facilities are generally modern and convenient, it takes time to adjust to the new living conditions. The halls are kept in sanitary condition but may not be as clean and well-furnished as facilities at UC.
You are encouraged to arrive during regular business hours on the Official Arrival Date so you can easily check into your room. If you arrive in Hong Kong before then, you will have to pay additional fees for your room for that time (pending availability) or arrange temporary accommodations. See the UCEAP program calendar for details.
"Eating really became a dream come true in Hong Kong. Snack stands are at every corner of the street. Sweet waffle balls or deep-fried edibles on a stick are sold for less than U.S. $1 for five pieces. If you want fresh seafood, go to the seafood market (in Choi Hung, I believe) where I guarantee that your fish and shrimp will be moving until you get home." - UCEAP Student
Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong is likely to be different from your prior experience. You can choose from hundreds of regional varieties of Chinese cuisine, ranging from popular Cantonese dim sum to pricey Chiu Chow fare. Hong Kong is a culinary paradise. Food guides can be purchased at local bookstores and at the Hong Kong Tourist Association.
Most students prepare food in shared kitchenettes in the residence halls or eat in the numerous canteens (cafeterias) on campus. In the canteens, every meal features a standard entrée served over a big dish of steamed rice. There are also menus that offer combinations of stir-fried meat, seafood, noodles, vegetables, bean curd, and mushrooms. Tea, coffee, and soft drinks are served in all canteens. Menus vary by canteen. Some canteens also have Western menu items such as sandwiches, salads, and pasta. There are also many dining options available off campus.
Your initial dining experiences may be daunting—especially if your local roommates start you off with chicken feet and pig intestine. Avoid retreating to the nearest fast-food chain. As you learn more about Chinese cuisine, you will find a range of choices and dishes palatable to your taste.
"People eat with a tiny bowl, not with a plate. The plate is for bones—don’t eat off of it. In small eateries, soak your utensils in the tea to disinfect them." - UCEAP Student
Vegetarian students report that eating at the canteens is difficult. You will be better served by either preparing your own meals or eating off campus. If you eat fish, you may have more options. If you follow Kosher or Halal dietary practices, you will find that food options are very limited, perhaps even nonexistent, on campus.
Three major restaurants are located on the main campus, in the student centers below Swire Hall and Simon K.Y. Lee Hall, and in the Chong Yuet Ming amenities center. Meals cost between HK $20 and HK $40. You can choose from a menu of Chinese or Western dishes, as well as a variety of sandwiches and drinks. Off campus there is also a wide variety of reasonably priced restaurants, food stalls, coffee shops, and even a McDonald’s.
If you have special dietary restrictions (for health or religious beliefs, for example) you may find that the offerings at the restaurants on campus do not meet your needs. You cannot cook in the residence hall, but grocery stores for snacks and drinks are available nearby.
HKU will make arrangements for students at a local hotel in Shanghai. Additional information will be provided by HKU prior to departure.
Shanghai is known for its wide variety of delicious food. With an international population, just about everything is available, but first try all the local specialties. If you like fish, you will enjoy the local delicacies that Shanghai’s proximity to the ocean provides. There is a wide variety of American fast-food restaurants (KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, etc.) and local food courts in malls. There are also “food streets,” which are entire streets dedicated to food stalls and restaurants. Vegetarians should visit Shanghai’s monasteries for traditional Buddhist cuisine.
An array of fresh produce, meat, and vegetables is available at several local markets. While produce prices are sometimes marked on the stalls, this should not deter you from bargaining; never pay more than the stipulated price. Often, those who do not speak Chinese well or who appear to be foreign will be charged more—but you should bargain. You can find a large variety of staples, including grains and spices at various markets.
Do not drink tap water. Take (or buy after arrival) a heavy duty bottle that can hold boiling water without melting. Hot water usually is available in the dorms from 6 a.m. until midnight. Boiled water for drinking is not available before 8 a.m., so be sure to fill a thermos the night before. In some dormitories, hot water is provided in thermoses and refilled daily.
Bottled water is available everywhere, and past students have purchased an office-type water cooler (with five-gallon bottles and a water delivery service) to share at inexpensive prices.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Hong Kong’s public transportation system is both varied and extensive, with double-decker buses, minibuses, trams, taxis, electric trains, subways, and a train line that continues into China. The system is efficient and inexpensive. Most options accept a specialized debit card (the “Octopus Card”) for payment, making it convenient to get around town.
"Hong Kong’s transportation system is one of the best that I have ever seen. It is extremely convenient, advanced, efficient, and affordable. You need virtually no planning to get from one part of Hong Kong to another as long as you’re on a subway or a bus." - UCEAP Student
Hong Kong is built around a harbor, and there is a considerable amount of water travel. The main service across the harbor between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island is provided by the Star Ferry, which is about a five-minute ride at a reasonable cost. Ferries also make frequent runs to the larger Hong Kong islands.
Hong Kong has a very good transportation system called the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). The MTR closes early, so if you like to stay out late at night, be prepared to pay a cab fare to return home.
"In Hong Kong, your number one friend in terms of transportation is the subway system called MTR. Your other number one friend is an Octopus Card. The Octopus Card is your way to pay for the MTR, and it is also accepted at almost every store and at many restaurants to be used like a debit card. You can add money to your Octopus card at all MTR stations." - UCEAP Student
"Be careful when you cross the street (it isn’t the U.S., cars don’t stop for you)." - UCEAP Student
Metered taxis are available 24 hours a day. However, finding an available taxi during rush hour and in the evenings can be a challange. Drivers usually do not speak any English. Fares are based on meters and are reasonable given traffic conditions. Tips are not expected. Make sure the driver turns on the meter once you get in and ask for the receipt before you exit. The U.S. Department of State reports that travelers should not hesitate to ask to be let out of a taxi immediately if the driver acts suspiciously, drives erratically, or refuses to set the meter.
The Shanghai Metro system has an extensive network consisting of multiple lines that operate at frequent intervals daily. The subway closes from late evening to 5 a.m., so be prepared to pay a cab fare to return home if you stay out late at night.
"If you want to explore, utilize the metro system. It’s actually very extensive and goes to a lot of interesting places (but be careful about what time each line closes, they can vary)." - UCEAP Student
You can purchase and reload a Shanghai Public Transportation Card (SPTC), also known as jiaotong yikatong, at Shanghai Metro stations. Single ride tickets are also available. Fares are determined by the distance traveled and range from RMB 3 to RMB 10.
"Get a transportation card! It will save you a couple RMB when you take the bus and metro in the same day, and no hassle to find change. The metro is very convenient and can take you almost anywhere." - UCEAP Student
The Shanghai public bus system provides coverage to most areas of the city. Fares vary by bus type and/or distance and can be paid using coins or the Shanghai Public Transportation Card. English bus route listings can be found online
Riding bikes in China is not like riding around a UC campus or neighborhood. You must exercise great care because many drivers and cyclists do not observe traffic rules, stoplights, or crosswalks. In addition, safety on the road is dubious (exposed manholes, ditches under construction that are unguarded by barricades). At night, hordes of cyclists cruise dimly lit streets without lights or reflectors.
Motorcycles & Cars
Do not operate a motorized vehicle in China. Not only are the traffic patterns and driver behavior difficult to figure out, but the cost of insurance and potential complications from accidents should be enough to dissuade you from driving.
Accidents involving these kinds of vehicles are common, and some UCEAP students have been involved in them. Caution is of the utmost importance in this regard. Instead, use public transportation which will easily take you anywhere you want to go in the city.
Students with Disabilities
While in Hong Kong, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Hong Kong law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, and the government generally enforces these provisions. The law mandates access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities.
Despite efforts to improve accessibility, Hong Kong continues to be challenging for those with physical disabilities. Due in part to Hong Kong’s topography, there are many stairs, inclines, and steep, uneven walkways not designed for anyone who uses a walker, cane, crutches, or wheelchair.
Students with disabilities will find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Standards adopted for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the Law on the Handicapped, which calls for their "gradual" implementation; however, compliance with the law is lax. Even in newer areas of large cities, sidewalks often do not have curb cuts, making wheelchair or stroller use difficult. Many large streets can be crossed only via overhead pedestrian bridges not accessible except by staircase. Although some sidewalks have special raised “buttons” or strips to help those who are blind or have restricted sight to follow the pavement, they are unreliable. While most public buildings have elevators, they are often locked, and the responsible official with the key must be located before they can be used.
In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one handicap-accessible toilet. International signage is used to identify handicap-accessible facilities. Free or reduced-entry fares on public transportation are sometimes provided for a handicapped person and a companion, although this is usually stated only in Chinese and is often restricted to residents with special identification cards.
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account.
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Due to immigration regulations, students are not permitted to work in Hong Kong or China. Working illegally is not endorsed or supported by UCEAP and can result in your arrest and prosecution for breaking the law.
Attitudes toward the LGBT community continue to evolve. Most aspects of public and official life demonstrate ambivalence toward homosexuality. The government does not actively support the LGBT community, but neither does it impose sanctions. Urban Chinese tend to be accepting of homosexuality, but in deeply conservative rural areas, homosexuality is neither discussed nor socially accepted. The result is a complex risk environment that has few clear social guidelines but little overt threat of violence or abuse.
For more information,
Know Before you Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term.
The UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. Your travel insurance policy number is ADDN 04834823. It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis.
You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses. For more information about the medical claim proces
or about non-medical claims
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is your responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims Status
ACI at email@example.com.
Good medical facilities are available, and there are many Western-trained physicians in Hong Kong.
Prescription drugs are widely available, although they may have different names than those in the U.S.
Hong Kong emergency service response times for police, fire, and ambulances are good. Some emergency personnel are trained to paramedic standards, though most are trained at the first responder level to perform basic stabilization and transport to the nearest hospital.
Doctors and hospitals require immediate cash payment for health services and generally do not accept credit cards.
In addition to the information provided in this guide, the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
maintains a listing of English-speaking medical providers.
University Health Centers
University health centers serve as primary care facilities and provide clinical services to all local and international students. The host university is not responsible for any charges incurred for visits with a private physician without a referral from a university health center physician.
HKU University Health Service
Primary care service at the University Health Service (UHS) is provided by a team of experienced doctors who can refer the student to specialist clinics or private medical providers. UHS is located in the Meng Wah Complex.
University Health Service
2/F, Meng Wah Complex
Medical appointment: 2549 4686 (6 lines)
General Inquiries: 3917 2501-2
Emergency (office hours): 3917 1999
Bring your passport and valid student visa with you to the public hospital. Persons permitted to stay in Hong Kong by the Immigration Department, and not classified as visitors, may be eligible for local rates when admitted into public hospitals. The cost of hospitalization in general wards, related treatment, and surgery depends on the residential status of the patient. Treatment for permanent residents of Hong Kong is provided at subsidized rates. Visitors to Hong Kong are not eligible for subsidized treatment and are charged as private patients.
Public clinics and hospitals do not operate on an appointment system and waiting times are often unpredictable.
Western-style medical facilities with international staffs are available. In rural areas, only rudimentary medical facilities are generally available with often poorly trained medical personnel who have little medical equipment and medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to accept responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact the Study Center immediately. The Study Center can recommend which clinic to visit, provide information about the UCEAP insurance claims process, and help make arrangements with your professors if you expect an extended absence.
Typically, emphasis is not placed on physical comfort or privacy in Chinese hospitals; communal treatment rooms are normal for most hospital visits, and private rooms are very uncommon. Students seeking medical care in China, especially in smaller, rural areas, should expect medical services to differ substantially from what they would expect in the U.S.
Even in the VIP/foreigner wards of major hospitals, patients have frequently encountered difficulty due to cultural, language, and regulatory differences. Physicians and hospitals have sometimes refused to supply American patients with complete copies of their Chinese hospital medical records, including laboratory test results, scans, and X-rays.
Both municipal and private ambulance services in China remain substandard. Response time is typically very slow and transport to the nearest hospital can take a long time due to congested traffic. Most ambulances are poorly equipped and staffed by individuals lacking EMT training. If you are injured or seriously ill, take a taxi or other immediately available vehicle to the nearest major hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance.
Shanghai United Family Hospital
If you are sick or injured, seek medical care at the Shanghai United Family Hospital, which is on the east side of Shanghai, about 30 minutes by taxi from Fudan and 40 minutes from Jiao Tong. You pay for your treatment and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance. If you are hospitalized the UCEAP assistance providers, United Healthcare Global, will make arrangements to pay the hospital bill directly but you must contact them first. Their contact information is on the insurance card
. If you have questions about benefits and the claims process, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shanghai United Family Hospital
No. 1139, Xianxia Road, Changning District, Shanghai 200336
Phone: (86) 21-2216-3900 (Press 2 for an English-language operator)
Emergency Hotline: (86) 21- 2216-3999
Know Before you Go
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
"Students are expected to wear surgical style masks in public when sick with a cold or flu." - UCEAP Student
Food and beverage precautions are essential to reduce chance of illness. While serious health concerns are low, it is beneficial to follow basic health precautions such as washing your hands often with soap and water (if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel with at least 60% alcohol), drinking bottled water, protecting yourself from insect bites, and observing hygiene standards. Avoid raw or undercooked seafood. Be wary of poor sanitary practices by street food vendors.
If you are sick or injured, seek care, pay for services up front and submit a claim through the UCEAP travel insurance. If you have questions about benefits or claims, contact ACI at email@example.com
"Expect different hygienic and etiquette practices: lots of spitting, littering, pushing, no lines, blowing snot on the ground, etc. Patience and understanding are definite virtues here. Also expect lots of traffic, pollution, and crowds." - UCEAP Student
In China’s vast territory, standards of hygiene can and do vary from place to place. The standard of medical care and the range of familiar medications available in China are often limited, particularly outside of major cities. Medical personnel in rural areas of the country may lack adequate training.
The required online UCEAP Travel Health Education Certification course will provide you with predeparture health-related advice about specific precautions and recommended vaccinations. You are responsible for reading all health‑related UCEAP materials.
- Good basic personal hygiene and handwashing are critical to help prevent the spread of illness and disease. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating.
- Bring a good multivitamin to last the duration of the program.
- Do not consume tap water, fountain drinks, or ice cubes. Drink only boiled water or beverages in sealed containers.
- Avoid undercooked food, dairy products, and food from street vendors.
- Avoid swimming, wading, or rafting in bodies of fresh water—such as lakes, ponds, canals, streams, or rivers—to prevent serious parasitic infections.
- Avoid handling all animals. Wash any bites or scratches right away with soap and water and immediately seek medical attention.
"Take toilet paper with you wherever you go. Health conditions are bearable, but be careful and stay as clean and healthy as possible." - UCEAP Student
Even if you are healthy, you need to be prepared. China is almost the same size as the United States, but it has five times the population, and densely populated areas are prone to more frequent viral outbreaks.
You may be susceptible to diarrhea, colds, insect-born illnesses, and other illnesses after arriving in China. Take a small personal medical kit containing cold remedies, cough drops, cough medicine, throat lozenges, and medication for diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach. Have enough to get you through the first few weeks until you can find what you need in China.
If you are covered by campus insurance, inquire about travel vaccine coverage. There is significant rabies risk from dogs exists throughout the country. Vaccination is recommended for prolonged stays for all travelers.
If you are covered by campus insurance, inquire about travel vaccine coverage. Risk exists in rural agricultural areas throughout the country, especially in Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunnan provinces; and in peri-urban areas around Beijing and Shanghai. Risk does not exist in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province. Transmission is significant from June through October and negligible the rest of the year.
At the time of writing this guide, risk exists in the northeastern part of the country in provinces along the border with Russia (Jilin, Heilongjiang, and northern Inner Mongolia provinces). Some risk may exist in Tibet and Yunnan provinces but specific current epidemiologic data are unavailable. Transmission occurs from April through December.
- Understand your UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor. US prescriptions are not valid in other countries. Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance; your campus or private insurance plan may cover it. You must travel with a letter from your prescribing explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
- If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, review international agreements governing the transportation of medications across borders check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician, on letterhead, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
Traveling with prescription medications
- Keep the medication in its original packaging clearly labelled with your name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is in liquid form, consult the US Transportation Security Administration., Traveling with Medications.
- Carry copies of all original US prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
Why is a letter from your treating physician necessary?
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure to monitor side effects and dosage. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
Consult with ACI, email@example.com. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section.
Prescription Medication in Hong Kong:
- You are responsible for confirming in advance that your prescription medications are legal in Hong Kong. More information is accessible through the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department.
- Prescription drugs are widely available, although they may have different names from those in the United States. Note that for many medications, a prescription from a Hong Kong doctor will be needed for purchase in Hong Kong.
- Do not plan on mailing medications to Hong Kong as they may be confiscated.
Pharmacies in Hong Kong are reliable. Both pharmaceutical and herbal Chinese medications are generally available. Pharmacies offer convenient hours and locations but they will not acknowledge U.S. prescriptions. However, some prescription-only items in the U.S. may be available over the counter at pharmacies in Hong Kong (for example, birth control pills).
Adderall is not legal in China. Work with your treating physician to request a substitute medication.
Take enough prescription medication to last through the end of your stay abroad, only if your prescription is legal in Shanghai, and if your US doctor can prescribe the whole amount.
Commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medications in the United States will likely be difficult—if not impossible—to find in China.
Psychotropic Medications (Adderall, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Vyvanse, etc.)
If you are traveling with psychotropic medications, contact the UCEAP travel assistance provider, Europ Assistance/USA (EA/USA) so they can advise about availability and legality of your medication. Phone:
1+866-451-7606; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
. Talk to your doctor before departure to get a substitute medication.
Ask your doctor for a letter detailing your condition, treatment and medication regime, including the generic name of your prescription. The letter must be on letterhead and have your doctor's contact information. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and store them in the original, labeled containers. Upon arrival, Chinese customs officials may ask for a copy of the prescription or the letter from your physician.
Medications prescribed by a doctor in Shanghai can be picked up from any pharmacy; many hospitals have pharmacies on-site that can also fill prescriptions.
Refer to the Health
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
for more information.
If you are currently in treatment in the U.S., discuss your UCEAP program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for going abroad. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
Your mental health is important to us all. Create a plan with your treating doctor. Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition – is something every person must think about when going abroad. Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home.
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
You may feel homesick or sad. Feeling down, anxious, homesick, depressed or stressed might be your body’s reaction to the new environment and different life away from your usual support network. Don't cope alone. Reach out for help to the local UCEAP program staff and your friends. If you have been feeling unhappy for longer than a few days, or it is staring to affect your enjoyment of
life and/or your studies, then you should see a doctor immediately.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy
covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process
. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at email@example.com.
The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
compiles a list of counseling and specialized services. There are several community organizations that provide mental health support or referral services. The Resource Counselling Centre
offers individual counseling in up to seven languages, including English, and is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. The Samaritans
maintains a multilingual 24/7 suicide prevention hotline. When calling from Hong Kong, dial 2896-0000.
Do not be surprised to think, “It’s not what I expected.” Expect the unexpected and be sensitive to romanticized misconceptions or unrealistic expectations. Living abroad is stressful by its very nature. Life in Hong Kong is fast-paced and adds crowds, noise, and a foreign surrounding. Ask for insight from locals and acknowledge that this is a valuable learning experience.
The prevalence of mental illness is rising in China but treatment facilities remain underdeveloped. China’s mental health care trails behind many countries around the world. There is lack of trained mental health professionals, low investment in mental health, high stigma among the population, and lack of an effective public mental health systems of care. Official policy does not permit primary health care professionals to independently diagnose and treat mental disorders within the primary care system. There is a reluctance to address mental illness and psychiatry due to the limited extent to which health care professionals and public health officials are involved with the issue. The country's public health system is struggling to keep up with the demand in mental health care.
In most regions of China, few good options exist even for local families that try to find professional help. China’s mental health hospitals are too few and grossly understaffed. China has a severe undersupply of trained mental health staff. Students with pre-existing conditions will need a treatment plan in place indicating when and who they will be reaching out for help.”
The UCEAP travel insurance policy
covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Work closely with the UCEAP staff in China to schedule an appointment with licensed medical providers.
Toilet paper and hand washing facilities may not be available in public restrooms in Hong Kong. It is advisable to carry tissues and antibacterial hand wipes as you travel throughout the city.
"Always take toilet paper with you anywhere you travel in Asia." - UCEAP Student
Most fruits and vegetables sold in Hong Kong originate in mainland China where pesticide use is unregulated. Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
Hong Kong remains at "Alert" response status for Pandemic Influenza. UCEAP continually reviews information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization, works closely with medical experts on the UC campuses, and monitors local host university and country health resources.
The risk of avian flu transmission to humans remains low, but avoid live birds and undercooked poultry. Feces of infected birds contain large amounts of the virus. Avoid direct contact with surfaces or objects contaminated by bird droppings in live food markets. Monitor your health for 10 days after leaving China and consult a health care provider if fever or respiratory problems occur.
Diseases from food and water are the leading cause of illness in travelers. Follow these tips for safe eating and drinking:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.
- Make sure food is fully cooked.
- Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
Unclean food and water can cause travelers' diarrhea and other diseases. Reduce your risk by sticking to safe food and water habits.
Dehydration can be a particular problem during travel. Listen to your body and learn to recognize the signs that you are not getting enough fluids.
China’s water supplies are often inadequate and many are polluted. All water in China must be boiled or treated before drinking. Most dorms and hotels have boiled water available for drinking (for tea, or plain, after it cools).
Do not consume tap water, fountain drinks, or ice cubes. Never drink unboiled water. Boiled water or bottled water is the best choice. Take (or buy after arrival) a heavy duty water bottle that can hold boiling water without melting. Cholera is active throughout the country. You must observe precautions.
China is the largest tobacco production and consumption country in the world. Even though a ban on smoking in most public buildings has come into force in Beijing and Shanghai, it is common to see many smokers inside and outside buildings.
Health officials started a crusade to clean up the city’s air by introducing strict new rules to restrict smoking in public places. However, many smokers are still commonly found inside and outside buildings.
If you have a chronic health condition that is exacerbated by cigarette smoke, consult with your physician before departure.
Health authorities report a high number of animal and human rabies cases annually in China. Do not touch wild or domestic animals in China.
UCEAP continually reviews information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization, works closely with medical experts on the UC campuses, and monitors local host university and country health resources.
Exercise care to prevent avian flu:
- Avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces or fluids from poultry or other animals.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Avoid those that appear ill. Wear an FDA-approved respirator mask when in public transportation during flu season.
- Stay informed of the situation.
- Eat thoroughly cooked food and drink bottled water.
- Refer to additional information on the UCEAP website.
In the event of a pandemic, UCEAP’s ability to assist you abroad may be severely limited by restrictions on local and international movement imposed for public health reasons by foreign governments or the United States.
HIV/AIDS is a significant concern in China. There is risk of exposure to unsafe blood and blood products in regional China. Specifically request the use of sterilized equipment. Additional charges may be incurred for the use of new syringes in hospitals or clinics. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
It is not unusual for many to consume large quantities of strong alcohol served in clubs in China. On rare occasions this has led to severe illness or even death. This year a local student died after taking the bar's challenge of drinking 6 cocktails in 3 minutes. The amount of alcohol was more than 1,000 milliliters of a strong alcoholic beverage.
A popular drink is Baijiu, also known as shaojiu. It is a Chinese alcoholic beverage made from grain. Báijiǔ literally means "white (clear) alcohol" or liquor, and is a strong distilled spirit, generally 52% alcohol by volume (ABV) (US: 104° proof).
Fake alcohol (ingredients include, antifreeze, methanol, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is also sometimes sold in bars and this can be more damaging to health than genuine products. Alcohol use disorders (AUDs), which encompass harmful patterns of drinking, such as alcohol dependence and abuse, have grown to become a frequent problem linked to disturbances in mental and physical health and in social functioning in China.
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
Precautions to take include:
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Air pollution is increasingly serious in Hong Kong. Congested vehicle traffic and mainland factories pump out ozone, sulfur, and nitrogen oxides, leading to a visible haze in the atmosphere on most days of the year. Average roadside pollution levels exceed WHO guidelines by 200% and continue to deteriorate, creating health risks for those with allergies, asthma, or cardiac problems.
Short-term symptoms of exposure to air pollution include:
- itchy eyes, nose, and throat,
- wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath,
- chest pain,
- nausea, and
- upper respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia),
- exacerbation of asthma and emphysema.
If you have a chronic medical condition, consult with a health care provider before travel, carry sufficient medication, and ask whether an FDA-approved respirator is recommended for days of high pollution concentration.
Excessive air pollution is a major problem in most Chinese cities. According to the World Bank, only one percent of China’s 560 million urban residents breathe air considered safe by EU standards. China is home to 16 of the 20 dirtiest cities and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
During the summer, high heat and humidity will also contribute to China’s poor air quality. Air pollution can result in cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses or the exacerbation of preexisting illness. If you have a preexisting respiratory condition, you may be especially at risk. Consult with your doctor before departure. Minimize exposure to the pollution while in China.
Dust storms, which occur on occasion across the north of the country, can cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations and exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Some visitors develop a sore throat during the first few days in the city due to the air pollution.
Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger attacks. Exposure to fine particle pollution (PM2.5) contributes to cardiovascular disease. In addition to talking to your doctor before departure from the U.S., refer to the following tips.
- Plan activities when and where pollution levels are lower.
- Change your activity level. When the air is polluted, try to take it easier if you are active outdoors. This will reduce how much pollution you breathe. Even if you can’t change your schedule, you might be able to change your activity so it is less intense.
- Listen to your body.
- Wear an N-95 respirator (approved by the United States National Institute of Safety and Health) and follow instructions from UCEAP and local public health messages.
- If you have a smartphone, get an app that can report instantly on outdoor air pollution and monitor levels before venturing out.
Even if you are healthy, you may experience temporary symptoms, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; phlegm; chest tightness; and shortness of breath.
If you have lung disease, you may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as normal, and you may experience coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, shortness of breath, and unusual fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms, reduce your exposure to particles and follow your doctor's advice.
If you have asthma or other chronic condition that could be impacted by air pollution, ask your doctor before departure from the U.S. to design an action plan in case your symptoms get worse while studying and living in China.
Updates on air quality and related issues in China can be found on the VECC-MEP website
Electronic cigarettes are regulated as pharmaceutical products, so possessing them without the proper authority could result in a stiff fine and up to two years in prison. Read more about entering Hong Kong with electronic cigarettes and e-cigarette regulations and laws worldwide.
You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being. Consider an action plan.
With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in minimizing or preventing personal risks. Take time to assess the risks, plan ahead to reduce them, and think how you would lessen the consequences if things go wrong. Start by outlining activities you plan to engage in through your program and/or during independent travel; label the risk and rate it based on the likelihood of harm and the severity of consequences. Consider measures you can take to reduce the severity and chance. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and has contracted with emergency assistance and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety.
Be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate and unpredictable terrorist attacks, which make it impossible to protect yourself from. Remain vigilant in all public areas in your UCEAP city and country and wherever you travel. Many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, are not looking for student or higher education targets.
Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent and appear to be on the rise. If you are in a crowded public place, know how you can exit quickly, identify barriers or safe places where you can shelter-in-place, and watch out for any vehicles that appear to be going at very high speed.
Report anything suspicious to local authorities. Read all security-related correspondence and advice from local staff. Schedule direct flights, if possible. Avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Minimize time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Have a plan for what you will do in the case of an emergency. If you are ever caught in a situation where somebody starts shooting, follow the active shooter guidelines: drop to the floor, get down as low as possible, and hide if possible. Cover yourself behind a solid object. Silence your phone. Do not move until the danger has passed.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and enhance your personal safety
Register online with the U.S. embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
The best deterrents against crime are awareness and common sense. Take prudent measures to protect your own well-being just as you would do on your home UC campus. Be aware of your surroundings and vigilant at all times.
Pay attention to all signs—even instincts—that alert you to possible danger. Buses and trains are typically very crowded; safeguard personal belongings, particularly cell phones, and keep baggage within eyesight. Never carry an unlocked backpack on your back when walking or travelling. Do not place items of high value inside.
Keep your room door and windows locked, both when you are in your room and when you are not, and never allow strangers to enter the premises. Do not invite strangers or questionable acquaintances to your dorm.
Do not give your personal information to strangers or go places with them alone. Caution is necessary in isolated areas, particularly at night, and traveling in groups is advisable. Some portions of the campus are not well lit at night, so exercise caution. If you are traveling in an area and feel unsafe, leave the area immediately.
Show purpose and awareness while walking around, assess your surroundings and heed all signs—even instincts—that alert you to possible danger. Situational awareness is necessary to avoid being a victim of crime.
Hong Kong has a low crime rate and the same petty crime problems as other major cities, especially in crowded venues. Exercise caution when in congested areas and pay particular attention to personal belongings while traveling on public transportation.
- Watch personal belongings in crowded areas
- Travel in groups at night and in certain areas including parks in the Victoria Peak area, where there have been recent incidents of assault and robbery
- Keep a close eye on your drinks and food while at bars or nightclubs and never accept a drink or food from strangers; criminals have been known to drug victims in order to rob them
- Report criminal incidents, including theft, immediately to the Study Center, the local police, and the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong
- Carry picture identification and emergency contact information at all times
- Sign out through MyEAP any time you travel for more than 24 hours
- Update your local contact information (including cell phone number) through MyEAP
The general police support and response to foreign victims of crime is excellent. The Hong Kong Police Force is highly trained and professional. There are numerous police stations strategically located throughout the various districts and communities of Hong Kong. Their response time to emergencies is under five minutes.
Shanghai is a relatively safe destination with a crime rate comparable to that of major metropolitan cities of comparable size. Lesser-developed areas in major cities have a higher rate of crime. Statistically, more crimes of opportunity transpire during late night/early morning hours. China's high conviction rate, use of modern technology in policing and extensive law enforcement presence throughout the city serve to deter most criminal activity. Violent crime does occur but the rate is relatively low considering the city's large population.
Petty crime (pickpocketing, credit card fraud, various financial scams) occur at rates consistent with previous years. Pickpocketing is quite common on public transportation, in shopping areas, and at tourist sites. Small thief groups commonly work in concert when targeting their victims.
Violent crimes affecting the expatriate community most often occur at bars, clubs, and restaurants in Shanghai’s vibrant nightlife districts. Bar fights have occurred due to misunderstandings, miscommunication, bravado, alcohol consumption, or some combination. While the legal age for consuming alcohol in China is 18, most establishments in Shanghai do not require identification. Some bars are overcrowded, and safety standards are seldom enforced. Prostitutes and drug dealers may be present in some bars and clubs. Sexual assaults have been reported, though incidents appear to be relatively rare. Most instances involve the consumption of alcohol beverages in bars, nightclubs, and massage parlors. Individuals who frequent bars, nightclubs, and similar establishments are more likely to be involved in physical altercations afterhours. Sexual assault may also occur in unlicensed taxi cabs.
Scams and Common Theft Tricks
While there have been several reported instances of robbery by force at bars/restaurants, many cases involved a variation of the same scam. Typically, a victim is invited to a specific location for a massage, tea, drinks, or music, often by an attractive local national. Once inside, the victim is confronted and violently threatened to turn over his/her credit card. The credit cards are charged thousands of dollars in undelivered services, and the victim is forced to sign the receipt. In most cases, victims are released unharmed, but not before receiving further threats of violence if the police are notified. This trend has been occurred for several years. Local police are engaged, but little is done because the victims generally do not report the crime until after they have departed China. Police seem unwilling to investigate crimes if the complainant is not present in China. In instances where the victim has reported the crime to the police immediately, there has been limited success in recovering lost money or valuables, and evidence of perpetrators being prosecuted is scarce. Similarly, foreigners may be approached by two or more Chinese citizens (most often attractive females). The two will ask the foreigners to take a picture of/with them. The conversation develops, at which point the foreigners are invited to practice English over a drink at a tea shop/bar. The bill ends up being overpriced, and foreigners are threatened that the local police will arrest them if the bill is not settled.
Individuals posing as plainclothes police officers will threaten to levy fake criminal charges against a victim. A financial solution to the problem will be quickly suggested; if accepted, the charge will disappear, and the victim will be released.
Foreigners are often approached by beggars with young children or a disabled child. Sometimes beggars will kneel and ask for money. They may approach their victims while singing sad Chinese songs out of sound amplifiers, strapped to their upper bodies, appealing to the victim's sympathy. Some of these beggars are part of a large network of criminals using children and handicapped persons in their criminal enterprise.
- Be cautious when approached by strangers and always request to see the price list before agreeing to any goods/services.
- Remain aware of your surroundings and alert.
Police are generally effective and helpful to foreign crime victims. The police force has English-speaking personnel available to assist foreigners, but officers usually only speak Shanghainese and/or Mandarin Chinese.
Stay in close touch with the Study Center and attend all meetings organized by Study Center officials.
The best deterrents against crime are awareness and common sense. Take prudent measures to protect your own well-being just as you would do on your home UC campus. Be aware of your surroundings and vigilant at all times.
Pay attention to all signs—even instincts—that alert you to possible danger. Buses and trains are typically very crowded; safeguard personal belongings, particularly cell phones, and keep baggage within eyesight. Never carry an unlocked backpack on your back when walking or riding a bike. Do not place items of high value inside.
Keep your dorm door and windows locked, both when you are in your room and when you are not, and never allow strangers to enter the premises. Every incident of dorm robbery in the past occurred while dorm doors or windows were left unlocked. Do not invite strangers or questionable acquaintances to your dorm.
Do not give your personal information to strangers or go places with them alone. Caution is necessary in isolated areas, particularly at night, and traveling in groups is advisable. Some portions of the campus are not well lit at night, so exercise caution. If you are traveling in an area and feel unsafe, leave the area immediately.
Show purpose and awareness while walking around, assess your surroundings and heed all signs—even instincts—that alert you to possible danger. Situational awareness is necessary to avoid being a victim of crime.
It is also important for you to stay in close touch with the Study Center and attend all meetings organized by Study Center officials.
Chinese Law & Criminal Penalties
While in China, as in any other country, you are subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. Local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by U.S. standards, apply to you. Americans are not protected by U.S. laws while in China.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those enforced in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you are arrested or jailed, the U.S. Government will do what it can to help you but they cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.
- In China, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain buildings.
- Do not take photographs of airports, government buildings, or other strategic infrastructure in China. Ask permission when taking pictures outside typical tourist sites. People caught taking pictures of sensitive installations may be subject to detention and interrogation, often without representation.
- Penalties for drug possession, use, and trafficking are strict. Offenders can expect severe jail sentences and fines. In the past, some foreign nationals have been executed for drug offenses. Other foreigners convicted on drug-related charges have received 15-year sentences.
China does not recognize dual nationality. Travelers holding U.S. passports who also hold Chinese citizenship are likely to be regarded by the Chinese authorities as a Chinese citizen, even if you travel to China on your U.S. passport. If you have formally renounced Chinese citizenship, carry clear evidence that you have done so. U.S. Embassy and Consulate officials are often denied access to arrested or detained U.S. citizens who do not enter China using their U.S. passport. For more information see the Dual-National U.S. Citizens section in this guide.
As a foreign national over 16 years of age, you are required to carry your passport or a passport copy with you at all times. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security and around major sporting or political events. Failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention.
The use of drugs is forbidden by law. There are severe penalties in China for drug offences including the death penalty.
Surveillance, Monitoring, and Privacy
There is no reasonale expectation of privacy in public or private locations. Security personnel carefully watch foreign visitors and may place you under surveillance. All means of communication—public phones, cell phones, faxes, e-mails, text messages, etc.—are likely monitored. The Chinese government has access to the infrastructure operated by the limited number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and wireless providers operating in China, and monitors them closely for any sign of activities and words considered subversive or pornographic. Wireless access to the Internet in major metropolitan areas is becoming more and more common. As such, the government can more easily access official and personal computers.
The Chinese government has publicly declared that it regularly monitors private e-mail and Internet browsing through cooperation with local ISPs. The government also employs several thousand individuals to police the Internet. Some bloggers are subject to particular scrutiny in China where such activity is often carefully monitored and in some cases blocked, depending upon the subject matter.
In general, be discreet about discussing politics and religion while in China. These are sensitive issues and are regulated by the government. Officials monitor information travelers bring into the country, especially political or religious material. Writing that is deemed antigovernment is not allowed, including some Christian literature and anything that supports the Tibetan freedom movement.
Protests involving democracy activists, labor organizations, and civil society groups occur with some frequency. Pro-democracy rallies can be quite large, but are usually peaceful and disruptions are typically limited. Do not participate in illegal demonstrations.
Visas may be terminated abruptly if local authorities learn of any involvement in public political demonstrations or political activism that they regard as disruptive.
Political protest is illegal in China and is rarely encountered by foreigners. Travelers who have attempted to engage in political protest activities in public places have been deported quickly, in some cases at their own expense, usually before the U.S. Embassy is aware of the situation.
Participating in unauthorized political activities or protests against Chinese policy in China may result in lengthy detentions and may impact your eligibility for future visas to visit China. Foreigners engaging in pro-Falun Gong or pro-Tibetan activities have been detained or immediately deported from China, usually at their own expense, after being questioned. Several reported they were subject to interrogations and were physically abused during detention. In addition, some alleged that personal property, including clothing, cameras, and computers, was not returned.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
About 90 percent of the population in Hong Kong rely on public transportation. Public transportation is generally safe. The China Motor Bus, although providing the most extensive service, is considered an unsafe bus company. Many drivers speak some English. Have your destination written in Chinese characters. Taxis, buses, and the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) are readily available, inexpensive, and generally safe. The MTR is an underground railway network and is the most popular mode of public transportation, carrying an average of 3.5 million passengers a day.
"Women traveling alone should avoid the unmarked taxis, known as pak pai. Although cheaper, they are not registered and can be dangerous." - UCEAP Student
Hong Kong has a highly developed and well-maintained road and highway network. Traffic moves on the left. During the daytime, traffic congests Hong Kong’s urban areas. Traffic accidents are a serious problem. UCEAP does not recommend that you operate any vehicle abroad.
Road risk is high. China accounts for 13% of global road fatalities. Bicycling can be hazardous. UCEAP strongly discourages riding a bicycle in the city due to congested traffic conditions. Most traffic injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists.
Most traffic injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists.
Do not drive. With only 4% of the world’s vehicles, China has 15% of the total global road fatalities. Injuries in road crashes are the second leading cause of death for people 15 to 44 years old in China. It has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world and the rate is increasing rapidly. Traffic is often chaotic, and right-of-way and other courtesies are often ignored. Cars, bicycles, motorbikes, trucks, and buses often treat road signs and signals as advisory rather than mandatory.
Most traffic accident injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions or who encounter unexpected road hazards (e.g., unmarked open manholes).
Cars, bicycles, motorbikes, trucks, and buses often treat road signs and signals as advisory rather than mandatory. Transport security is a concern in China, and using mass transit when traveling alone is inadvisable.
Criminals operate on subways, buses, and commuter trains; bus and rail stations are havens for pickpockets and thieves. Taking steps to reduce vulnerability when riding trains or buses is necessary. Keep valuables secured at all times.
All forms of public transportation are crowded and can become dangerously so during peak times (morning and evening commutes). Passengers typically must be able to read Chinese to read maps and fare charts. Drivers usually do not know any foreign languages. Beware of pickpockets and thieves.
Few U.S. Embassy personnel take public buses, as they are often overfilled to dangerous levels, have poor temperature controls, and do not provide route information in English. Bus accidents are also common.
Robbery is a growing problem that has led to the deployment of mobile police teams at stations with notable security problems and on crime-prone train services. Outside main cities, few stations have strict security measures to limit access to platforms where scam artists and other petty criminals abound.
Use trains during daylight hours only, if possible. Booking the highest-class ticket available is recommended. Do not accept food or drinks from strangers; criminals occasionally drug unsuspecting victims. Never leave belongings unattended when traveling on trains.
Women traveling on public transportation may be groped or sexually harassed verbally, particularly during periods of warm weather. Women should avoid traveling alone on buses and trains at night, especially since taxis are relatively inexpensive, easy to find on main streets, and much safer.
Use official taxis (two-tone sedans) that employ meters. Avoid taking unmarked private cars (heiche) that function as illegal taxis.Do not take black cars that are unlicensed and without meters. If a driver refuses to use a meter, exit the vehicle and use another taxi. Drivers should always use the meter and provide receipts. If they don't, passengers can call complaint hotlines run by the government in Beijing: 68351150 or 68351570. In Shanghai the official complaint line is 12319. Large cities in China may have English-speaking staff available on these hotlines.
Few drivers speak a foreign language, so have your destination written in Chinese characters.
Taxis rarely have functioning seatbelts for passengers. If seatbelts are available, use them to reduce the risk of injury.
Beijing taxi fares are artificially suppressed, making taxis reasonably priced but difficult to hail; supply often falls far short of demand, especially during peak times. Taxis routinely refuse to stop for foreigners, particularly those of African descent. Many foreigners have been stranded for long periods because they could not get a taxi or the taxi driver demanded a huge surcharge. Taxi drivers often refuse to take fares that require them to leave the center of the city.
The US Embassy has received reports of foreigners taking rickshaws or pedi-cabs at tourist sites (Tiananmen Square, Houhai Park) and being driven through hutongs (or alleyways) where they were shaken down for money. Typically, however, the victims are left relatively unharmed.
For more information, access, Taxi and Bus Passenger Safety Checklist.
- Vehicles traveling in the wrong lanes frequently hit pedestrians and bicyclists. Be careful while walking near traffic. Most traffic accident injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions or who encounter unexpected road hazards (e.g., unmarked open manholes).
- Exercise special caution when crossing streets in China; pedestrians do not have the right of way.
- Cars regularly make right turns at a red light without stopping and will not yield for pedestrians.
- Even if crossing a one-way street, always look both ways.
Pedestrian bridges and underpasses may be lacking.
Pedestrians may be fined for crossing against crosswalk signals.
Cars and buses traveling in the wrong lanes often hit pedestrians and cyclists on sidewalks.
For more information access, Pedestrian Safety Checklist.
During the typhoon season (July-September), the Hong Kong Observatory
issues typhoon warnings an average of six times a year and heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently. The Hong Kong Observatory has an excellent notification and monitoring system. If the government announces a Typhoon Signal 8 or above or a Black Rainstorm Warning, many facilities in Hong Kong close and bridges may close to traffic.
The rainy season occurs between April and October. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and mudslides which may interrupt essential services. Typhoons can occur along the southern and eastern coasts between May and November. Monitor weather reports if travelling in affected areas. Identify local shelters.
China is subject to earthquakes. In general, the seismic hazard of Shanghai is low to medium. For more information about earthquake history in China, visit earthquake.usgs.gov
Travel Warnings and UCEAP Policy
The Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women (ACSW) is a non-government charitable organization that works to raise awareness of sexual violence against women and promotes a gender equal environment.
The Association, advocates for both the government and the community to provide adequate support to victims, to defend their rights and restore their lives with confidence and dignity.
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
Fire - Dial 999
The Hong Kong Fire Services Department is an emergency service responsible for firefighting and rescue on land and sea. It also provides an emergency ambulance service for the sick and the injured, and gives fire protection advice to the public. Facilities are strategically located to provide emergency response for all areas. The graded response times for building fire calls are 6 minutes for built-up areas and 9 to 23 minutes for areas of dispersed risks and isolated developments.
Fire - Dial 119
About 398,000 fires occurred in China between 2008 and 2010, resulting in 3,865 deaths and property losses of 5.21 billion yuan ($800 million). For fire safety and prevention information, read the Fire Safety section of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as in the US. Check fire precautions including access to fire exits. Make sure that you can escape any location.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, UC security provider, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy evacuation on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its security providers, is covered by UCEAP itravel nsurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad
Ambulance, Fire, Police: call 999
CUHK: (011-852) 3943-7595
HKU: (011-852) 3917-2882
HKUST: (011-852) 2358-8999
U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong
American Citizen Services
26 Garden Road, Hong Kong
Phone: (011-852) 2841-2211
Fax: (011-852) 2845-4845
Hours: M–F: 8:30–noon & 1:30–4 p.m.; Wed: 8:30–noon only
After-hours emergencies: (011-852) 2523-9011
If you are abroad
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times:
Fudan Campus Security: (86-21) 6564-2001
Jiao Tong Emergency Assistance: (86-21) 5474-9110
U.S. Consulate in Shanghai
American Citizen Services
Westgate Mall, 1038 West Nanjing Road, 8th Floor
Phone: (86-21) 3217-4650
Fax: (86-21) 6217-2071
Regular hours: 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday–Friday
After-hours emergencies: (86-21) 3217-4650, (86-10) 8531-4000
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.