Rush hour traffic at night at Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street

Blue Devil Travel: China

Mitigate Risk and Promote Success

-By Charles Givens

February 12, 2024

China is one of top destinations for Duke-sponsored travel. For those within the Duke community who plan on visiting the country, here are some essential “to dos” to ensure a smooth and successful trip:

1. Duke Kunshan (DKU) Travel

2. Plan Visas and Permits Early

  • Passport Validity: make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months prior to your departure date to China.
  • Visa Pages: You will need to have two blank, consecutively numbered “visa” pages in your passport.
  • Past Travel: Make sure to know the details and copies of previous China visas.
  • Visa Category: Enter under the correct visa category, not “tourist” if conducting academic activities.
  • Detailed Information: Be prepared to share extensive details about your work, education, family, and trip (military service, political affiliation, spouse/children details).

3. Research Cultural Norms

  • Business Etiquette: Understand and practice appropriate greetings, business card exchange and communication styles. Be mindful of hierarchies and respect for elders.
  • Gift Giving: Gifts are often exchanged in business settings. Research appropriate gifts and avoid sensitive topics like politics or religion.
  • Dining: Be prepared for different dining customs, including communal dishes and potentially unfamiliar ingredients.
Rush hour traffic at night at Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street
Rush hour traffic at Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street in Shanghai (Photo credit: Sophia Li via Duke Global Baton Instagram)

4. Master Essential Communication

  • Attempt the Language: Even a few key phrases can go a long way in showing respect and bridging communication gaps. Consider language learning apps or resources.
  • Translation Apps: Download reliable translation apps for offline use in case of Internet limitations.
  • Business Cards: Prepare bilingual business cards with your name, title, Duke affiliation, and contact information. Note that business cards are presented formally, with two hands outstretched and a slight bow.

5. Stay Connected and Secure

  • VPN: Due to internet restrictions in China, download a reliable VPN (Virtual Private Network) before your trip to access essential services and websites.
  • Mobile Data: Obtain a local SIM card for mobile data and calls. Inform your bank and credit card companies about your travel plans to avoid service interruptions.
  • Data Security: Be cautious about public Wi-Fi and avoid sharing sensitive information on unsecured networks.
A rainy day overlooking the Shanghai skyline next to the Huangpu River
A rainy day overlooking the Shanghai skyline next to the Huangpu River (Photo credit: Sophia Li via Duke Global Baton Instagram)

6. Sensitive Information and IT

  • Traveling with university devices: Remove all sensitive data, including research, HIPAA, protected data, personal information, etc.
  • Use a loaned device: Use a clean loaner laptop with no sensitive information
  • Ask for professional help: Consult your OIT representative for additional information.

7. Leverage Duke Travel Resources

  • Duke Global Administrative and Travel Support: This office provides comprehensive pre-travel guidance, including visa and permit assistance, travel insurance, and logistical support. They can also help you register your trip with Duke and answer any questions you may have. Website:
  • Duke Travel Clinic: Schedule a pre-travel consultation with the Duke Travel Clinic to receive immunizations, medications, and personalized health advice specific to your China trip. Website:
  • Duke Travel Registry: Register your travel plans with the Duke Travel Registry before your departure. This mandatory step for all Duke-sponsored travel allows support staff? to stay informed of your whereabouts and provide assistance in case of emergencies. Website:

By following these seven “to dos,” Duke University professionals can approach their work visit to China with confidence. Travelers will mitigate their chance of risk and increase the likelihood of a productive trip. Remember, this list serves as a starting point, and tailoring your preparations to your specific trip details and goals is crucial.