We’re so excited to have you on board for one of our awesome programs in China! This guide is here to lead you through the pre-departure process, making sure you are fully prepared before you go.

We recommend getting started as soon as you’ve been accepted on the program, particularly since some activities, such as sorting out vaccinations and visas, can take a significant period of time.

    1. Accept your offer

    Sounds obvious, but you’ll need to let us know by the given deadline that you would like to accept your offer of a place on the program! In many cases, this is also conditional on you booking flights or paying a deposit – this will be made clear to you in your offer letter.

      2. Visa invite letters

      For most of our programs, you will require an F visa (cultural exchange visa) for China. This requires an invite letter from the school or company, for which we will need the following details:
      • Full name (as on passport)
      • Date of birth
      • Sex
      • Citizenship
      • Passport number
      • Expected dates in China
      Please get these details to us ASAP as writing the visa invite letters can take some time. Your program coordinator will contact you to let you know the deadline and how to send us these details – usually via an online form or spreadsheet.
      Once your visa invite letter has been issued, please double check all the details on it are correct and then you can proceed with the visa application process (see section 7 below).

      3. Vaccinations

      Never go abroad without first checking if you need any vaccinations! We recommend booking an appointment with your local travel nurse to check which vaccinations you will need. Many travel clinics and GP surgeries can get busy around the spring/ summer period so do book an appointment ASAP. Some vaccinations require multiple injections over a couple of months to be fully effective, so make sure you allow sufficient time for this. 
      All participants must be up to date with routine vaccinations, and additionally we recommend getting Hepatitis A and Tetanus vaccinations as a minimum. Depending on which part of China you will be going to, either on the program or in your further travels, several other vaccinations may also be required.

      A good website providing advice on which vaccinations are usually recommended for China and other countries is TravelHealthPro. However, we would emphasise that online information is no substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional.

      4. Book your flights

      We’d recommend booking your flights as early as possible to get the best deals, and using a flight comparison website such as SkyScanner or Kayak. To get the best deals, be flexible on your dates and consider flying from alternative airports which could offer cheaper prices. You’ll often find that the budget flights will include a layover in Europe – see this as a positive and turn it into a bonus day holiday if you can! 

      Bear in mind that you may want additional time to travel after your program, so book your flights accordingly and consider booking flexible return tickets if you know you’re plans are likely to change! 
      Sometimes your place on the program will be conditional on you booking flights by the specified deadline – this will be made clear in your offer letter. This is usually the case for our free programs, acting as a deposit to confirm your commitment to the program. 

      5. Travel insurance

      Everyone’s heard of Murphy’s Law – travel without insurance and you’ll be guaranteed to lose your luggage, miss a connecting flight or break a leg! Travel Boost recommends World Nomads, who provide a reliable and trustworthy insurance package perfect for gap year travellers:
      • Cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities
      • 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support and claims management
      • Focuses on what you actually need and leaves out what you don’t
      • Very flexible – extend on the road or even buy from abroad
      • Access to up-to-date travel safety alerts, as well as travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub
      • Learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal
      • Give a little back and support a community development project
      • Very competitive prices – great for budget travellers

      6. Meet the gang

      For most of our programs, there is a large group of participants – we’ll set up a Facebook group for you all to get to know each other before you go! This is also a great way to discuss travel plans with your new travel buddies. Don’t forget you can also follow Travel Boost on Facebook,  Instagram and YouTube for updates on all our programs!

      7. Apply for your visa

      Once your visa invite letter has been issued, you’ll need to get in motion the visa application process. You should do this at least three weeks but no more than three months before you travel. Some important points:
      • Most participants will need an F (cultural exchange) visa
      • The standard maximum validity of an F visa is 90 days, so bear this in mind when planning your travels
      • F visas are usually single entry only – so if you’re planning trips around Asia or into Hong Kong/ Macao (which count as outside of mainland China) specify this on your visa application form and ask for a double entry visa
      • We recommend Visa For China as the largest and most trusted visa agency in the UK.
      • We recommend applying by post rather than in person, since this is a lot less hassle and avoids a complicated interview process.
      • Apply to the centres in Manchester or Edinburgh rather than London, since they are less busy and the London centre tends to be more fussy if you have made a minor mistake on the application form.
      • Fill in EVERY box of the application form – if it is not applicable (e.g. for the national ID/ citizenship number if you are a UK citizen), write “N/A” in the box rather than leaving it blank.
      • DO NOT mention “teaching” on your application form, even if your program includes a significant proportion of teaching. This is because in the past there have been many cases of full-time teachers working illegally on F visas. Instead, list the reason for your visit as “cultural exchange” in the “other” section of the form. Remember that our programs include many opportunities for you to participate in cultural activities, learn Chinese or explore local sights – they are not standard teaching jobs.
      • The details of your inviter, address in China, who will be paying for your visit, etc. should be listed on your visa invite letter. Please make sure these details match! 
      An up-to-date list of the documents required can be found on the Visa For China website, but these usually consist of: 
      • Completed application form
      • Invite letter
      • Passport (with at least six months validity remaining and two blank visa pages)
      • Photocopy of the passport data and photo page
      • Photocopy of all previous Chinese visas and entry/ exit stamps (if in a previous passport, also include a photocopy of the old passport data and photo page)
      • Photocopy of all previous Chinese passports (if previously a Chinese citizen)
      • Proof of legal status (for non-British citizens resident in the UK)
      • Passport style photo
      • Completed declaration form
      • Flight ticket booking confirmation
      • Hotel bookings (optional)
      • Tour bookings (optional)
      • Pre-paid Special Delivery return envelope
      • Payment authorisation form

      8. Internet

      As you may have heard, internet access in China is restricted by the government. Therefore, we recommend downloading a VPN (virtual private network), which enables you to get around the “great firewall” by connecting to a server outside of China. Most universities will offer a free VPN service for their students, so this should be your first point of call. 

      If you don’t have access to an institutional VPN service, we recommend using ExpressVPN – the most popular with expats in China. Don’t rely on free VPN services as these are almost all blocked by the Chinese government and have been known to sell on your private information. Travel Boost recommends Express VPN over other VPN providers because they:

      • Are the world’s largest premium VPN provider
      • Are the most trusted in China for reliability and up-time
      • Offer 24/7 customer support
      • Have an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee
      • Have 2000+ servers in 148 locations
      • Offer easy-to-use apps for all devices (including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux)
      • Enable you to access Netflix, BBC iPlayer, iTV, and more
      • Are totally private and anonymous, with no activity/ connection logs and a very high level of encryption (best-in-class)
      • Offer very affordable monthly plans, with free trials available on some mobile devices

      In addition, we would recommend getting your phone unlocked so you can purchase a local SIM card in China – this is a lot more affordable than splashing out on an international data plan and will make it much easier to communicate and navigate in-country.

      9. TEFL training

      Most of our programs include a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) training course. This is either fully online or via blended learning, and makes sure you are fully prepared for your teaching placement. We recommend allowing a couple of weeks to work your way through the course, giving you plenty of time to explore the extended reading and resources as well as prepare your lesson plan assignments.

      10. Pack your bags!

      As tempting as it is to leave packing until the last minute, do make sure you’ve got everything you need in advance! We recommend including:

      • At least one week’s worth of clothes and underwear – on most of our programs free laundry facilities are available though so you don’t need to bring the whole wardrobe!
      • Towel and toiletries (note for the women out there: tampons are almost impossible to get hold of in China so stock up)
      • Any prescription medication (with a copy of the prescription or doctor’s note) – bring enough for the entire duration of your stay as western medicine can be hard to get hold of in some Chinese cities
      • Mosquito repellant (at least 50% DEET)
      • Suncream and aftersun
      • Adapter (China mostly uses 220 volts, 50Hz, AC electricity supply and two-prong plugs, with both round and flat prongs)
      • Extension lead (so you only need to bring one adapter)
      • Chargers
      • Portable battery pack
      • Unlocked phone
      • Notepad and pens
      • Some initial spending money (around 1000-2000 RMB) and at least two debit cards (in case one is blocked/ stolen)