These Frequently Asked Questions are designed to cover all aspects of our China Summer Programmes. The information is divided up into categories based on what previous applicants have been most keen to find answers about, please just click one of the subtitles in the categories section below to go straight to that part of the page. If you have a query which is not answered here, please use the submit a question box at the end of this page and your query will be answered asap.
You can read through the categories below to find out more about the programmes, if you have any particular queries now then you can search them in the box below
Please click on one of the bullet points below to go straight to the relevant section of our FAQs
General questions that we are frequently asked about Gotoco and our offerings
Queries about applying for our programmes
General information about our programme types
Questions relating to our TEFL certification
Important information for those that are joining a programme
Gotoco is an abbreviated form of ‘go-to company‘, we aspire to be the ‘go-to‘ for anyone wishing to ‘go to China!’
We were founded to contest the idea that those wishing to go to China for youth exchange and interesting projects should have to pay hefty placement fees.
It has always been and always will be our aim to charge no fee to those wishing to participate. Because we don’t charge the high fees of similar China placement organisations, we cannot offer package holidays. Instead we provide the networks, ideas, contacts and tools to enable as many people as possible to take part in and create exciting programmes. We have created a system that enables you to have an incredible China learning experience affordably and independently.
It is always an option to go it alone, turn up in China and see what kind of summer experiences you can find. But those of you that would prefer to have our assistance will find multiple benefits including cost/hassle savings and much enhanced experiences.
Gotoco has been setting up summer youth exchange programmes since 2011, so we really know how to manage quality and ensure people get the best out of their experiences. Our dedicated team will always be just an email away to help you and make sure you get as much out of the experience as possible.
We make sure that all positions are as educational, exciting and useful for participants as they are for the local students. Every partner in China is able to offer support for our TEFL training and Chinese lessons as well as some local excursions.
The team you join will usually be made up of other like-minded individuals who are keen to have an incredible summer learning about China and the world. Participants tend to form life-long close bonds with the others on their teams. We offer good quality food and accommodation and are on-hand to troubleshoot and help with any difficulties you face during any part of the process.
Our pre-departure preparation support includes organising the complex paperwork for your visa, in cooperation with the relevant authorities in China which is something individuals on their own often struggle with. If you have any problems during your placement we will be able to re-allocate you to one of our numerous other programmes around the country—which is something that would be hard to do if you went alone.
Our team strives to make your experience in China as enjoyable and hassle free as possible, to give you a great learning experience and an unforgettable summer.
Once your programme is confirmed, you will be directed on how to buy flights and upload your arrival and departure information into a webform for the partner schools to view.
You are expected to pay for
- visa, pre-departure immunisation costs and comprehensive travel and medical insurance
- roundtrip airfare to/from China and domestic travel within China
- study classes and accommodation outside of your programme
- any damages caused to property in China, including your accommodation
In line with China’s visa laws, you cannot be paid for your time in China. To obtain a work (Z) visa, you need to have completed an undergraduate degree and have two years of relevant work experience.
We provide added benefits, such as free accommodation and meals at the programmes and a week’s accommodation in Yangshuo at the end. We also recommend you look into grant and scholarship opportunities at your university or school.
Many universities and colleges provide travel grants and scholarships. Please contact your college committee, student union, university internship or careers services for more information. Gotoco does not offer any scholarships itself though we are able to fund the return flights of those that join us as campus reps, for more info please click here.
Accommodation and meals are provided free of charge at your programme. Most added extras are also provided free of charge so your personal costs are kept to a minimum, including free
You will need to pay for your own flights, visa and travel within China but will receive meals and accommodation at the programmes for free. You will then only need money for extra food and drinks and activities outside the programme. For reference or for estimating cost of post-programme tourism, please find some prices of common items below (all prices are averages and vary depending on your location)
- one litre of Qingdao beer in a bar: C¥3-30
- a meal in a good restaurant: C¥30 yuan per dish
- snacks from street vendors: C¥5-10 per item
- a short taxi journey in most cities costs C¥15-25, journeys of an hour can cost C¥100
- accommodation in a dorm room in a normal backpacker hostel: C¥30-50
- an overnight journey of 10 hours or less on a train with a bed: under C¥200*It is possible to have an interesting time travelling around China after our programmes on a shoestring budget of around 4000RMB/month**At the time of writing C¥10 was equivalent to £1.16 or US$1.45
Other major costs include
flights: we are usually able to suggest cost savings and partnerships with Chinese travel agents that make it possible to get return flights to China from the UK for around £400-500, or from the USA for upwards of $800
- visa costs vary by nationality based on diplomatic circumstances and reciprocal fee rates, this link takes you to the Chinese government’s official visa service centre site where you can find out more:
- British passport holders must pay £151 to the Chinese consular visa processing centre for a visa. We recommend visas are processed with the help of an agency, this is to ensure that forms are filled in correctly the first time to prevent extra expenses from visa rejections and time-delays (missed flights etc.) Currently we advise UK applicants to process with the help of UVSUK who offer well-reviewed services and offer a 50% discount for Gotoco applicants (£25 service fee+£8 postage)
We are not legally permitted to advise on vaccinations and travel/health insurance. It is up to you to research both and you are advised to take both seriously (please read through our FAQs for further information on both).
Travelling in a different country is thrilling; it will give you a great sense of independence, confidence, and courage. Not only is this a great teaching opportunity, it is a fun learning experience as well. Our programmes allow you to make meaningful relationships that will stand the test of time. Learning about a new culture will give you insight into different world perspectives, helping you in your future career.
Currently, we cannot provide class credit for the programmes. However, we are in discussions with several institutions and aim to offer class credit in the coming year. Watch this space!
While our programmes are primarily designed for those that know little about China to learn about China, we are always grateful for any assistance that Chinese nationals wish to offer us. We can recruit in a number of roles—predominantly co-ordinating our projects during the summer and also helping us manage our campus recruitment and activities in the run up to the summer. There are lots of roles available as English teachers for Chinese nationals.
You can apply anytime, but the sooner you apply the better because we make offers on a rolling basis throughout the year from September onwards.
There is no cut-off point for applications, in special cases we can even place people on programmes as late as July (for a July start). However, if you want to be sure of a place, it is best to apply right now—please click here to do so
We are passionate about making these opportunities available to whomsoever is interested in coming. We focus on recruitment efforts at universities because students are always excited about joining our programmes, not because we only accept university students.
We are very happy to consider applications from those without a university background or those that have graduated already. Besides students, we particularly welcome applications from those on gap-years and pre-university students. We always make sure you join a likeminded team with shared interests and similar stages in life—university students usually join university teams, while under 18s usually join under 18s teams.
We have no particular requirements other than that you be open to an adventure and excited about teaching. We do our best to set up placements for people from all sorts of backgrounds. We are also very happy to arrange customised programmes for those that are in groups or in non-typical age groups.
If your availability changes at any point, please update your dates of availability on the application form—when you submit an application, you are then informed how to update these details in the first email we send you.
We will get back to you on your initial application within two weeks, before setting up an interview with the school as quickly as possible.
However, your final destination within China will normally be confirmed in April or May, as this is when the summer programmes are finalised.
Yes, of course. The only requirement we have is that you speak native-level English. We have had volunteers from many countries around the world in the past who have contributed greatly to our programmes and had brilliant summers.
To apply just click here, you will need to provide
• your CV/resume
• a photo you are happy for our partners to see, preferably you doing an activity (e.g. sport, music) with your face visible
• a 200 word personal statement; let us know why you want to go to China, why you want to volunteer at the summer programmes and what makes you the right fit for our programmes
On your application, indicate any preferences you have for your location, e.g. urban or rural, and we will do our best to match you to your ideal programme, although we cannot guarantee to meet all preferences.
We will review your application and get back to you within two weeks. If you do not hear from us within this time, do not hesitate to email [email protected]
Successful candidates will have a consultative Skype interview with prospective programmes before we let you know where you will be heading next summer. We will confirm your place on our programmes as quickly as possible.
We judge all applicants on their merits and do not discriminate against candidates in any way. Please click here to apply now
Currently, we cannot provide class credit for the programmes. However, we are in discussions with several institutions and aim to offer class credit in the coming year. Watch this space!
All of our partner schools have promised us that they will be happy to offer you the chance to learn Mandarin. If you want to get your Chinese lingo going, make sure you let them know when you are out in China so that they can arrange classes for you. There are also lots of great resources that you could use now to begin, please email us for suggestions and tips.
Competency in any language other than English is not a requirement for our programmes. Every programme will assign teaching assistants who can speak English to you, and many people around town can often speak some English.
However, we do recommend bringing a simple phrase book with you to help if you decide to explore China on your own. Typically less than 5 percent of our participants ever have any basic knowledge of Mandarin before coming out to take part.
If, however, you do have some competency in Mandarin, you will certainly benefit from being immersed in an environment that will be conducive to learning even more! Please be aware that Mandarin Chinese is the official language spoken across all parts of China, though each region has its own local dialect–such as Cantonese speaking parts of the South.
Depending on your location, you will be able to get to class on foot or by bike, car or subway. The programme team will help explain the best mode of transport for you once you arrive.
Programmes provide accommodation either on the school site or in hotels and apartments in the town or city, with some also offering homestay options. You usually live with a teammate from your programme, a staff member from the programme or the student or their family.
We will confirm your place on the programme as quickly as we can after receiving your application. If we give you a guaranteed offer, it means that you can rest assured that we will definitely be offering you a place in China this summer.
However, your final destination within China will be confirmed in April or May of the year you are due to come, as this is when our partners finalise their summer programmes.
Teaching hours vary depending on your school, but generally should not exceed 6-8 hours (not including breaks) a day, five or six days a week. You will spend your time on a mixture of class teaching, lesson planning and outdoor or co-curricular activities. School’s exact schedules will be communicated directly by the programme staff during the selection process.
We welcome you to tell us your preferred locations and we will work with you and the partner schools to find the best match for you. However, we cannot guarantee your preferences will be met as we run a competitive selection process.
You may start a programme in a new location after your first programme ends. For example. you could spend July in Qingdao or Beijing and August in Xi’an or another location. Make sure you communicate this preference to us as early as possible.
The age of the students will depend on your programme. Students range from 5 to 17 years old while some schools even run adult classes. Let us know your preference and we will try and match you to the right school for you, although we cannot guarantee to meet all requests.
All programmes vary, but we always aim for a minimum of two to four volunteers in each location. Many locations have larger groups, either in the school or in the town as a whole. Once you are made an offer, you will be put in touch with the others on your programme.
The programmes at different schools run for varying periods of time. The majority of camps last one month, after which you are invited to visit our base in Yangshuo with accommodation provided. However, camps can last from three weeks to two months. Make your availability clear to us from the start and we will work to find the right camp for you.
If your availability changes at any point, please update your application form—the process for doing so is explained once you submit an application.
Our programmes run in the Chinese summer holidays between early May and September, ranging from three weeks to two months. There are various start dates, though generally we take volunteers on at the end of June, in the middle of July or at the beginning of August.
The TEFL is awarded on the basis of 120 hours training and practice, which takes into account upwards of 70 hours teaching and lesson planning, as well as the 50 hour online course, delivered via PDF prior to and during the projects.
If you aren’t able to complete 70+ hours then the certificate will still be awarded for the number of hours you do complete. However, it would be advisable to aim to complete 70+ hours, which would mean being in China for 3-4 weeks or more. This is because 120 hours is seen as the basic gold standard for most good TEFLs. For example, 120 hours is the amount that is required as a prerequisite for Chinese work visas.
Currently our shortest programmes run for 2 weeks and include a TEFL certificate of less than 120 hours. The exact amount accounted for will be clarified once the award is offered. In some cases, on intensive programmes, we are still able to issue it as a 120 hour award.
Our TEFL is offered in-house. This means we deliver and tailor the training segment to suit the needs of our programmes. The TEFL is awarded on the basis of 120 hours training and practice, which takes into account upwards of 70 hours teaching and lesson planning, as well as the 50 hour online course, delivered via PDF prior to and during the projects. Many schools also give you basic TEFL refresher training prior to beginning your teaching. Our TEFL will teach you TEFL’s core principles and enable you to get much more out of your programme.
There are nine chapters to the PDF training course covering different aspects of teaching in the classroom, with tips for resources, activities and on volunteering in China. There are short questions to work through at the end of each chapter. At the end of the summer, once you have completed the questions and hours in the classroom, you will need to complete the short exercises and send them in for review. We will then issue you with your TEFL certificate.
The majority of TEFLs available on the market are offered by private institutions such as ours. Unlike degrees and some other certifications, there is as yet no general accrediting body applicable to TEFLs, just a few larger institutions that provide awards—such as Cambridge (CELTA) and Trinity London (TESOL).
TEFL is a generic acronym that means Teaching of English as a Foreign Language. A TEFL certificate is the prerequisite for English teaching jobs all around the world. A TEFL certificate and China teaching experience is also something that is highly regarded by graduate employers in diverse industries.
Previous Gotoco participants have used our TEFL certificate and their China teaching experience to get a broad range of excellent jobs all over the world in diverse fields—particularly in teaching. The process of learning about and getting experience for TEFL certification is highly enjoyable, intellectually stimulating and very valuable.
- https://itunes.apple.com/cn/app/qunar-find-cheap-flights/id965784666?mt=8 (www.qunar.com is usually the cheapest site with the most route options – but it is only accessible in English as an App.)
- https://itunes.apple.com/cn/app/qunar-find-cheap-flights/id965784666?mt=8 (www.qunar.com is usually the cheapest site with the most route options—but it is only accessible in English as an App.)
China has a health system that differs significantly from what you may be used to in the West. There is currently no system of primary care in place that offers Western medicine—all medical issues that require Western medical attention are treated in large general hospitals.
This can mean long waits, distant journeys and high treatment prices for those hoping to get seen to for minor ailments or alternately Chinese medicine. The primary care that is offered usually comes in the form of pharmacies that specialise in Chinese medicine. There are certainly benefits to both systems, however if you are used to Western medicine we suggest coming to China with a well stocked first aid kit so that you can treat yourself for minor issues such as
- colds or influenza
- minor wounds, such as blisters
- mild food poisoning, such as traveller’s diarrhoea
Please also be sure to have enough medicine to cater to any long standing conditions you may have. It will be hard to acquire replacement medications in country. Among other things be sure to be well stocked on
- asthma inhalers
- nasal decongestant sprays
- other prescription medication
Wi-Fi is normally provided in your accommodation or on programmes so you may want to take a laptop or other handheld device to access this service.
If you wish to access Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Google, Gmail and other blocked sites while in China, please download a VPN now.
VPN means ‘virtual private network’ it allows you to bypass Chinese internet restrictions. Your universities might offer a VPN, which they intend you to use to access sites like JSTOR.
Otherwise, you can pay £5 a month for an extremely good one called Astrill from here.
The tap water in China is normally not suitable for drinking. Therefore boiling and filtering water is a necessity while you are visiting. Bottled water is also readily available.
While eating, restaurants typically offer bottled water, but occasionally you may run into a place where only hot water, hot tea, or cold sweetened drinks are available.
Please make sure you know what you are eating prior to taking a bite, Chinese food is delicious and filled with all sorts of spices and oils. If you have nut allergies, MSG allergies or don’t eat meat—please make sure this is communicated to those serving the food.
It is not uncommon for foreign visitors to suffer low intensity traveller’s diarrhoea during their time in China, please consider having medication to cater to this if it occurs, and drink plenty of water.
Wi-Fi is normally provided in your accommodation or on the programme campus so you may want to take a laptop or other handheld device to access this service.
As you may know—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Gmail and other foreign sites and platforms are not accessible in China. Please make sure you are able to access alternate means for communication—such as hotmail or WeChat prior to coming out.
If in doubt about whether you can access a site, please check here. For those that wish to avoid having their internet blocked in China, please consider signing up for a VPN before coming. VPN means ‘virtual private network’ it allows you to bypass Chinese internet restrictions. Your universities might offer a VPN, which they intend you to use to access sites like JSTOR. Otherwise, you can pay roughly £5 a month for an extremely good one called Astrill from here.
WeChat, a mobile app similar to Whatsapp, is highly popular in China. It will be invaluable during your time in China for communicating with the team at your school and making friends locally, so we urge you to download it now. Not only is it useful for messaging friends and family, businesses often give discounts to customers following their WeChat account.
Many people pay for their goods and services by scanning a business owners’ QR code through their WeChat app. However, this requires you, the user, to link your bank account or add money to your account.
Once your programme is confirmed, you will be directed to buy flights and upload your arrival and departure information into an online form on our site, which our partner schools can view for reference.
Each partner school has different airport or train station pick-up plans and you should communicate directly with them for the best plan. We will assist with communication when necessary, but you must understand that it is your responsibility to ensure you have agreed on your pick-up arrangements with your programme team before coming out to China
Before you come, you can get a currency card, such as CaxtonFx or from the Post Office (UK). With these cards, you only pay exchange rates and avoid any bank fees for taking money out or on transactions.
These currency cards work at most banks which accept foreign cards, such as ICBC, Bank of China and China Construction Bank. Bank of America account holders can withdraw money from China Construction Bank free of charge. As a rule of thumb, always let your financial institution know when and where you are going overseas to avoid problems with your bank account.
While China is rapidly changing when it comes to finance and banking, it is still a good idea to carry cash. We recommend bringing a reserve of cash, e.g. C¥1-2000, in case your bank card has any problems while you are here. You can also exchange money at the airport when you arrive, or at banks, but beware bank processes can be more complicated.
Be aware you will need to show your passport when exchanging money. Generally, most major banks in China accept visa or mastercard or Amex cards from major foreign banks.
Let your service provider know you are leaving for China. You may be able to work out a data plan. If this is not an option you may purchase a temporary Chinese sim card and data plan for smartphones from China Mobile, China Unicom, or China Telecom.
This process may require a passport depending on the company and your purchase. It is useful to remember that landlines in China have 8 digit numbers, while cell phones have 11 digits.
Pack for the season as you will be staying with Gotoco anywhere between May and September. China is a large country, so it is advisable to research the weather of the region you will be teaching in. Pack hand sanitiser, deodorant, familiar western medicine, bug spray and electric plug/socket converters, which can sometimes be hard to find. Prescription medication, if needed, should be arranged to be picked up before the trip.
Please find out more information here.
Your first port of call will be your primary contact at the programme. For any issues which they cannot help you with, you will be given contact information for your Gotoco representative before leaving for China.
Once we have confirmed your offer, we will send you all the information you need for arranging your visa. Our volunteers will travel on a cultural exchange (F) visa and we will arrange all the necessary invitation letters for you. It is usually issued for single, double or multiple entry with duration of stay up to 60 or 90 days per visit.
Visas are issued at the discretion of the issuing authorities. Gotoco offers advice through the application process, but is not responsible the ultimate visa issuance.
Volunteers on our programmes often comment on how much safer China feels than the UK and USA. Though people typically have a great time in China, you should still exercise a sensible level of caution and be prepared.
Neither our organisation nor our partner schools can accept liability for any difficulties that you may encounter–but naturally we will do all we can to assist in any way possible. We have provided placements to hundreds of volunteers over the years, and never yet encountered any major problems.
The most common hassles travellers run into are instances of petty theft at tourist sites and traveller’s diarrhoea. We suggest you
- exercise normal caution
- avoid suspicious situations
- take care of your belongings
- do not eat anything suspect
- carry a basic first aid kit
- use common sense
- do not break any local laws
Check out this link which has been recommended by previous travellers.
For more information, check
Prior to departure you must take out comprehensive travel and health insurance, including emergency repatriation. Please do your research properly and choose a provider that suits your needs. We cannot make a formal recommendation, but in previous years participants have often opted for Lonely Planet’s recommended provider: Global Nomads.
For vaccinations you should contact healthcare and medical professionals to ensure you get the most up-to-date information. We are not legally permitted to provide vaccination advice as we are not medical professionals. Past applicants have recommended that those with these queries could consult the UK NHS’s free online advice here.
*Below is some informal information based on our and our previous volunteers’ experience over the years. This should not be taken as authoritative and you should contact healthcare professionals before finalising your vaccination and insurance plans.
Before coming to China the UK’s NHS recommends that you are vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Typhoid. Additional vaccinations for Rabies are recommended particularly for those going to rural areas that are far away from major hospitals—our placements do not normally fit into this category.
Likewise the vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis, though not required, is recommended for anyone travelling in areas with paddy fields such as Yangshuo. In past years few volunteers have chosen the latter two vaccinations as they are quite expensive, but if you have the option to get them then do get them.
Malaria is extremely unlikely to be an issue as most locations in China are not in a Malaria zone. If you have travel plans to Southeast Asia you might consider taking Malaria medication with you from the UK or USA. Those joining us for programmes right on China’s border with South East Asian countries (currently only programmes in Xishuangbanna) should seek the latest advice as sometimes anti-malarials are recommended there.
Please check out the NHS Fit for Travel website for more info.
Vaccinations against Japanese encephalitis are sometimes recommended for rural locations, although China is not a high-risk area. Please consult with a medical professional once you know your location.
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