Information about Traveling to Chengdu

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Pre-Trip Information

Below, we've outlined pertinent information to consider before you depart for Chengdu, including how to obtain the necessary tourist visa, vaccination requirements, and background on Chengdu's history, culture and geography. Finally, we've linked to helpful websites where you can read more about China and Sichuan cuisine.

Visa Requirements

If you are staying in China for less than 90 days, and your passport is valid for at least six months after your arrival date, then you will NOT need a visa to enter Hong Kong. However, you WILL need a tourist visa to enter mainland China and attend our program.

To obtain a visa you must contact the People's Republic of China Consulate office. In the United States there are offices located in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco. Be aware that consulate offices tend to only accept visa applications during specific hours, and that regulations can change at any time.
At present, you will need following documents to obtain a mainland China tourist visa:

• Passport, valid for at least 6 month after arrival date

• Two passport photos

• A copy of your flight itinerary/tickets

• A hotel reservation letter, which we will provide upon receipt of your payment

• Chinese visa fee, dependent on your nationality

You may apply for a single entry, double entry or multiple entry visa, all costing the same. Depending on your circumstances, a multiple entry visa may be preferable, and must be explained when you apply. 

Visas are granted for a specific period, usually 30 days, so if you're planning to extend your trip, you should apply for a longer-term visa of 60-180 days. We strongly suggest you review the consulates' requirements carefully and apply as soon as possible. Applications can be completed in two weeks, but there are often delays. The Chinese take visas very seriously. If you overstay your visit, and attempt to return to China in the future, you may be denied a visa altogether. If you have any difficulty, please contact us and we will do our best to assist.

The U.S. Department of State also provides up-to-date information on China visas for American travelers at: US State Department Travel Information on China

Travel Vaccinations

No vaccinations are required for a trip to China, except for Yellow Fever if you're arriving from an infected area. However, it is recommended that you see your physician, and preferably a specialist in travel medicine, at least 6 weeks before departure. There are recommended vaccines that you should be up-to-date with.

Disease outbreaks, such as SARS and Avian Flu, have been concerns for China in recent years. To learn more, including whether or not these illnesses could threaten your stay in Asia, visit the Health Information for Travelers to China section of the Centers for Disease Control website

Health Information for Travelers to China

Medical Travel & Trip Cancellation Insurance

We advise you to speak with your medical insurance carrier to determine your coverage if you become ill while abroad. Regardless of your current coverage, we strongly recommend you purchase medical travel insurance; the expense is relatively nominal (under $ 5.00 per day) when compared with the cost of becoming ill abroad and cost of an emergency transfer back to your home country. Medical travelers insurance companies have expertise dealing with foreign doctors and hospitals which can be extremely important. For United State travelers, we have had excellent experience with Seven Corners which provides quotes on line and can also provide trip cancellation insurance.  

Medical Travel Insurance from Seven Corners

About Chengdu

Location and Size:

China is divided into 22 controlled provinces, with Sichuan Province in the center of the country. Chengdu, now a vast metropolitan city of 10.4 million inhabitants, has been the capital of Sichuan since 1952.

Chengdu is situated 845 miles northwest of Hong Kong, 727 miles from the East China Sea, and 495 miles from the South China Sea. The city measures 87 miles east to west, and 75 miles south to north. Much of the city's growth has occurred over the past 20 years and continues today, so expect to see construction in progress throughout Chengdu. 


Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province
Greater Chengdu area has a population of 10.4 million and a new subway system


Chengdu's sub-tropical, moist monsoon climate features four distinctive seasons, with temperatures ranging from a January low of 35F to an August high of 88F. The best time to visit is spring or fall, when rains are minimal and temperatures are around 60F.

What to Pack:

We suggest packing lightweight clothing that can easily be washed by hand, and that dries quickly. The school classrooms and many restaurants have minimal heat, so bring layers of clothes in case you get cold -you will be given a white chef's coat to wear over your street clothes. We also advise bringing a light jacket for walking around the city during the evening.

Here is information about Chengdu Weather or for all of China see China Weather


The history of Chengdu extends over 2,300 years, and the city was one of 24 proclaimed "culturally and historically important" by China's State Council.

The name Chengdu originated early in the 4th century BC, when King of ancient Shu, Kaiming IX, moved the capital from Shuangliu to Chengdu. The town that was built eventually became the capital city, prompting the ancestors to name it "Chengdu," meaning "to become a capital" in Chinese.

In 311 BC, the Qin Dynasty's construction of a 3.5-meter-high and 6-kilometer-long protective wall around Chengdu marked the beginnings of the city we know today.

Trade and Industry:

Early in the Tang and Song Dynasties, each month was devoted to a different trade fair, such as lamps in January, silkworms in March and plum trees in October. Today, some street names reveal the city's vibrant trading past-Yanshi Street, for example, was the street for salt trade. Chengdu was also the birthplace of paper money, with workshops in Jingchong Temple in the northern part of the city. This production was vitally important to promoting trade and economic development.

Significant Products:

Chengdu became known for its brocades during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 23), and was known as Brocade City or Jinguan City, after an official named Jinguan was put in charge of brocade production. Today, the Brocade Museum is among the city's most compelling attractions.

Chengdu was also known as the City of Hibiscus during the Five Kingdoms Period, from 907-960. During this time, Mengchang, the king of Latter Shu Kingdom, decreed to plant hibiscus plants on the city's protective wall.

Tea cooking and culture originated in Xinjin, a town in Sichuan province, and ancient poetry reveals descriptions of Chengdu tea drinking. The city remained a crucial center of tea production during the Tang and Song dynasties, and teahouses here gradually developed a unique style. Today, it's believed that Chengdu has more teahouses than any city in the world.

Cultural Growth:

Assimilation and an emphasis on learning has helped Chengdu to develop a vibrant arts and music scene, and highly respected culinary techniques over the past 2,000 years. Cultural growth boomed during the Eight-Year Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945), when many societies and associations relocated to the city, and 27 colleges and universities sprouted up. Today, Chengdu's prosperous political, cultural and economic spheres are a testament to a consistently progressive outlook.

Additional Resources on Sichuan Food and Chinese Culture

We have hired international writers to contribute articles on food and culture in Chengdu. To read about food and culture in Chengdu 

Blogs and websites:  - The authoritative voice on Chinese cuisine for the Western world has an active blog. - This unique pastry shop and school in Beijing offers lessons to budding pastry chefs, in either English or Chinese. - This travel company leads small group Culinary Tours in Asia. -  A superb resource for information on Chinese food, culture and history that's regularly updated with interesting articles by Stephen Jack.

Suggested Reading:


Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China By Fuchsia Dunlap The story of a young Englishwoman who goes to Chengdu and becomes the first western woman to attend and graduate from the Sichuan Insitute of Higher Cusine. The book tells of her experience in an class of all chinese men and her attempt to share with them some of the pleasures of western cooking - a hysterical must read before you arrive in Chengdu.

The Last Chinese Chef By Nicole Mones A wonderful novel of food, friendship, and falling in love, and one that will introduce you to the hidden universe of China's cuisine.

Serve the People: A Stir Fried Journey Through China By Jen Lin Liu A memorable moutwatering tour of today's china written by a journalist/food writer who enrolls in a local Chinese cooking school.

Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop (Hardcover - Jun 2003)

Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop (Hardcover - Feb 17, 2007)

Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook by Yan-Kit So (2006)

The GONG BAO JI Challenge:

Before you take off for Chengdu, we ask you to try to prepare one recipe - Gong Bao Ji - also known as Chicken with Peanuts. This is a classic Sichuan dish and will help prepare you for your cooking school experience. To see our prior program participants from around the world in action click here: The Gong Bao Ji Challenge