In this blog, I’ll share my personal experience travelling from Canada to China. Since the onset of COVID-19, the Chinese government has implemented a number of precautions, making travel much more difficult. Recalling my nervousness of having returned to China alone, I decided to write a blog detailing my experience in order to calm your nerves. I hope that this blog will serve as a resource for Canadians interested in flying to China. I’ll include as much detail as possible in the blog about any information or tips that I pick up on my trip that will help you prepare. Please keep in mind that the information and policy may change at any time. Once again, I strongly advise you to check with the most recent policy to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.
At around the end of April 2021, I decided to go back to China. I was in Toronto and I wanted to go back to Guangzhou, China at the beginning of June. I turned to my travel agency when it came to booking flights. I vividly remember that I had two options for flying back to China at the beginning of June: The first option was a direct flight (From Toronto to Guangzhou), and the second option was a non-direct flight (From Toronto to Vancouver, and then to Guangzhou). I chose the non-direct flight because it was much cheaper than the direct flight. However, I was so glad that I chose the non-direct flight and that I booked my flight ticket early because the direct flight was cancelled due to a policy change in China.
According to the “Notice on June International Flight Schedule of China Southern Airlines” issued by China Southern Airlines, all flights on the Toronto-Guangzhou route will be officially cancelled between May 27 and June 30. It is reported that this time, in addition to China Southern Airlines, there will be a large number of flight cancellations from Canada-China.
The policy change scared me a lot. If I had chosen the other option, which was flying directly from Toronto-GuangZhou, then my flight would have gotten cancelled. In addition, after the news was released, the price of flight tickets doubled from the previous price due to the high demand. The fare for Vancouver-Guangzhou in June was over $3,700CAD (18,000+ RMB), which was more than doubled of the price that I paid. Though the price in July has dropped a lot, it is still close to $2,000. Therefore, I highly suggest that as soon as you have decided to return to China, book the flight ticket as soon as possible in order to avoid the spike of high demand. In addition, you should be aware that flights will be subject to change, so it would be great to prepare plan B in case the worst happens. Though I was lucky, I was still nervous and had already accepted the fact that my flight had been canceled.
Preparing to get onboard
There are a few things to look for and mention that I will go through all of the list one by one.
- Understanding how the whole process will work (China is very cautious about COVID and there is a lot of documentation you will need to obtain and understand
- Covid test (this is the most crucial part, it may affect if you don’t do this properly and I almost messed up this step)
COVID-19 Test and Applying for QR Code
Understanding the procedure is perhaps one of the most important steps in order to successfully fly back to China. The procedure is complicated because not only does it involve the interaction between you and the Embassy of China, it also has a lot of different QR codes throughout the process.
According to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Canada, foreign passengers who are to fly from Canada to China will be required to take nucleic acid and IgM antibody tests, and apply for a QR code with “HDC” mark to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate General in Canada within two days before boarding. The test must be taken within two days before boarding, meaning that even if you have taken these tests before, it would not matter.
After obtaining the above-mentioned test results, you should apply for the QR code with “HDC” mark by logging on the website https://hrhk.cs.mfa.gov.cn/H5/ via computer or by scanning the 2-dimensional bar code with a smartphone within two days before boarding.
In addition to the COVID test, you would also need to upload your personal information, provide your health status and upload the test certificates, passports, itinerary and other documents as required online. From then, as I have mentioned before, it will then be examined and verified by the Chinese Embassy or Consulates in Canada. Upon approval, they will receive a QR code with “HDC” mark. You must present the electronic or printed code, and follow the procedures for inspection by relevant airlines before boarding.
For instance, my flight was on June 2, and I went to an examination site that had both the nucleic acid and IgM antibody tests on June 1. Thankfully, I got the test result back on the day of, applied for the HDC QR code at midnight, and got the QR code approval from the Embassy a few hours before my flight to Vancouver. In other words, rather than performing the tests the day before the flight, it is preferable to do so two days prior to the flight (48 hours prior). Though there is a guarantee that you will not miss your flight if you do it the day before, there is a risk of not receiving your results, as well as a processing time for the Embassy to approve the QR code. The QR code is important because you will need it to board your flight. As a result, I was overjoyed when I received the code at the airport because I knew I wouldn’t be able to board the flight otherwise.
First let’s talk about the packing. Of course, you should have things that you would like to bring with you abroad. After living inside a quarantine hotel for fourteen days with no food delivery or package delivery due to the restrictions (It may be subjected to change depending on the different quarantine hotel), these are the list of items that I brought and items that I wish I have brought with me (You mean read the list as a sort of a guide to give you an idea of what you should bring)
I arrived three and a half hours before the flight on June 2 because I thought there might be some procedures. However, I was mistaken: because of the pandemic, only a few people were at Pearson Airport. Everything was the same except that you might have to take your temperature. That said, it’s always a good idea to arrive early in case something unexpected occurs. After checking in, I proceeded to the airport’s interior. The majority of the stores at Pearson Airport were open, but I didn’t want to shop there, so I went straight to the terminal.
After arriving at the Vancouver airport, it was then I started shopping because there were many more stores inside the Vancouver airport in comparison to the Pearson airport. There are plenty of shops to entertain, from airport staples like newsstands, book stores, convenience stores, souvenir shops, and a number of Duty Free options.
When I boarded the flight, the crew members were all wearing protective gear such as goggles and insulating clothes to protect themselves.
During the Flight
I didn’t eat anything during my flight and instead boarded the plane with a full stomach. I didn’t eat anything because I couldn’t protect myself from COVID-19 without a mask. However, this is a matter of personal preference, and I’ve seen people enjoying their meals on planes as well! Because of COVID-19, the China Southern Airline only serves snacks instead of hot meals. During the flight, a member of the crew came around twice to check everyone’s temperature.
Getting Off the Airplane
Unlike usual, after the airplane has landed, the passengers waited on the plane for about 30 minutes because the workers in the airport were getting ready. When I got off the plane, the staff gave me a number plate, and that number plate determined the order in which I would go for airport check-in (Workers checked my COVID-19 test result in Canada and asked about my health). Meanwhile, there was a code on the sheet where you would have to scan the Qr code and fill in the information. This code will be necessary to present to the staff.
Please note that the process of getting off the airplane to arrive at your hotel will be more than 6 hours, so it is highly recommended that you eat in between to stay energized. After I had filled in the code, I waited for my turn to talk to the health workers. The health workers asked me to present the Qr code that I filled in and the COVID-19 test results that I took in Canada. After that, I walked a long way to get my COVID-19 test done. After another hour, I was directed to customs and, after that, got the luggage.
After getting my luggage, I waited in line with other passengers for our quarantine hotel to be arranged. It’s worth noting that you can’t stay in a quarantine hotel of your choice. The quarantine hotel you receive will be randomised and solely determined by chance: some will be better than others, while others will be worse. I boarded a bus after waiting for about an hour, not knowing where I was going and was heading straight to the quarantine hotel.
Despite the fact that the process appeared to be complicated, the airport staff were absolutely wonderful, and there were signs directing passengers at the GuangZhou airport.
At the Quarantine Hotel
Though my destination was GuangZhou, the city of my quarantine hotel was DongGuan. Due to the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in China, delivery wasn’t allowed to my quarantine hotel. Therefore, every day, the staff would deliver food by ringing my doorbell. The wifi at the hotel was decent. However, the unstable wifi did somewhat impact the speed of using VPN and my zoom classes. The staff also requires that I take my temperature twice daily and that they check on me every day to ensure that I am physically fit. In addition, three COVID-19 tests were done during my 14-days quarantine.
After the mandatory 14-days quarantine at the appointed hotel, I also needed to qurantine for another seven days at my house. When I arrived at my house, I was required to call my community and to let them know that I had arrived. After that, a few medical workers arrived at my house and checked all of my documentation. I was alerted not to leave the house until after my quarantine (Though you can technically break the rules, your health code during quarantine will be yellow, which means you won’t be allowed to go to places like supermarkets because you’ll need to show that you have a green code to get in.) All the procedures were the same, except I was quarantined at home. Suprised but not suprised, I had to do two more COVID-19 tests: One on the second day and another one on the seventh day. Unlike the COVID-19 test that I did at the quarantine hotel, I had to travel to the examination site. The food that the government provided match with my taste buds as I am a native in Guangdong. However, for people who weren’t from Guangdong, they were complaining about the lack of saltiness in the food.
The whole process was a pain, but the moment I stepped off the plane and realised I was in China, I was ecstatic. It was a completely different experience than flying without the presence of a pandemic. Finally, I hope that this blog will be useful to those of you who will be returning to China, and I would like to express my gratitude to all of the medical professionals who worked so hard to make my trip comfortable and safe!