Gotoco Camp China




Use the search box to find an immediate answer to any of your questions. We aim to have all questions answered on this site, so your answer should be there. But if it isn’t, you can also email us at the contact form on the bottom of this page.

Our FAQs are laid out in full below. They cover all aspects of our China Summer Programmes to make sure you’re fully prepared.

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 see a dropdown of questions and answers. If you have accepted a place already, please login at the bottom of the page so that you can view an even more comprehensive set of FAQs.


  • Applications Queries about applying for our programmes


    • How does the application process work?

      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 us–recruitment[at]go-to.co

      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, with final offers usually made from March-June as this is when the summer camps confirm their teams.

      We judge all applicants on their merits and do not discriminate against candidates in any way. Please click here to apply now


    • How much choice do I have over location?

      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 for your specific availability will be met as we run a competitive selection process.

      We have projects available on over 70 projects across China. These include programmes in cities such as Qingdao, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Lanzhou and Beijing, as well as more rural programmes in Yangshuo (Guangxi province), across Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. Your exact location will be confirmed once we determine the best project for you, based on your availability, out of the many programmes we work with all over China, and you have interviewed with them. Once we have selected a programme for you, we will send you full details online and give you the opportunity to ask any questions you have. 


    • I am not currently at university, may I still apply?

      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 and usually have the time available in the summer, 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. However, if you are under 18, then we will need express guardian permission before you come to China. We always make sure you join a likeminded team with shared interests and similar stages in life.

      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.


    • I’m a Chinese national, should I apply?

      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 in our office co-ordinating our projects during the summer and developing our programmes in China. There are also roles available as English teachers for Chinese nationals, but please email us before applying for more information.


    • If I was granted a conditional provisional offer, instead of a full offer, what does this mean?

      What are the conditional provisional (CP) offers?

      If we think you are a great candidate for our programmes, but we aren't able to offer you one of our few guaranteed roles, we will make you a CP offer instead. These offers are only made to those select people that we would really like to invite to join us in China but cannot make a guaranteed 'full' offer to. A shortage of placements on our side or a factor in your application can mean you are given a CP and not a full offer.

      If you choose to accept the CP offer, you will eventually need to make a commitment deposit of £100/$150USD, this deposit means you are committing to join us for your stated dates if we make you a placement offer. Your deposit will be returned to you after you complete a programme, or in case we haven't been able to place you then you may request a refund after 15th June. We will do our best to place you if you accept this offer so you will need to keep a period of 4-5 weeks in July available for that, if we make you an offer before 15th June and you decide to not come on our programme then the deposit cannot be returned.

      We usually make these CP offers because we are running low on places or because of a factor to do with your application, such as those listed below. We are committed to make sure every great candidate has the chance to undertake our placements which is why we make these offers. If you wish to take part in our programmes, then please accept the offer. Looking forward to hearing from you!

      Application factors that could lead to a CP offer:

      We are running low on suitable places

      If we don't have sufficient places at present for your profile, then we will make you a CP offer.

      Dates and application preferences:

      It may be that your stated preferences on the application form, or your available dates aren't compatible with our programmes (most of which run throughout July)

      Experience:

      Most of our programmes are entry level roles, but it may be that you didn't demonstrate sufficient evidence of relevant transferable skills and experiences in your application

      Local visa and legal compliance rules:

      As with the J1 Visa scheme in the USA and other similar cultural exchange visa programmes worldwide, international diplomacy and local laws complicate the process of making placements in China. This means that many of our schools are obliged to only offer places to candidates that meet certain age, nationality (e.g English speaking countries), work experience requirements and current work status requirements. International diplomacy and bilateral agreements mean that we generally aren't able to seek visas (except in exceptional circumstances) for applicants outside of our UK, North America and Europe base.


    • Question about requirements for Nationality, Country and Language Level

      Question:

      I am not British, Canadian or American, can I apply? Do you have native English level requirements? Is this open to people from all countries and nationalities?

      Yes, of course. We want to give everyone an incredible summer opportunity. The only requirement for all programmes is that you speak advanced-level English. If you're studying at a UK, US or Canadian university, then your English will definitely be good enough for our programmes in China. If not, that is also fine - we will just check your level based on how well the application form and CV/resume is written. We have around 100 programmes, all with different requirements - some of them require a very high level of academic English (higher than that of many native English speakers), others require only a conversational level. Many of our schools recognise that sometimes the best teachers of English are those that already learned it as a second language to an advanced level! If your level of English is not high that is fine, we will still have a programme for you.

      So far, we have had brilliant participants from 40+ countries around the world. They have contributed greatly to our programmes and had brilliant summers. So, please apply!


    • What happens if my availability changes?

      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 to you.

      Once you are given an offer to join us in China, please do keep the dates you put on your application form free as we will be looking for a fun, engaging programme for you between these dates. Any changes of availability after that point will have to be approved by us.


    • When do the programmes run?

      Our programmes run in the Chinese summer holidays between late June and September, ranging from two weeks to three months, with a few programmes starting earlier in May and June. 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 vast majority of programmes run from the end of June to early August, so keeping this period available will give you the best chance of joining the right programme for you.


    • When is the deadline for applications?

      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


    • When will I find out where I will spend my summer?

      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 from March-June, as this is when the programmes confirm their summer plans and let you know that they'd like you to be a part of their team.

      If you have any concerns about these timings, then please don't hesitate to contact us. We'll also be in touch with you throughout the year to make sure you're prepared for your trip to China!


  • Coronavirus May Update


    • Are programmes cancelled for summer 2020? 

      Currently, it is very unlikely that July programmes will be able to go ahead, and, due to this, we recommend that you make other plans closer to home for July. However, there are more positive signs for August and September programmes as life in China is returning to a new normal. We will make a final announcement:

      • on July programmes by 15th June 2020 latest
      • on August programmes by 16th July 2020 latest
      • on September programmes by mid-August at the latest 

      On 27th March 2020 China suspended entry for all foreign nationals. If this travel ban is lifted and visa centres reopen, and our team of China experts confirm that our three requirements are met (as set out in our January update below), then we are ready to move forward with programme confirmations, visa processing and flight bookings. 

      We are leaving the possibility of running the programmes open until the dates listed above because everyone on our team is very committed to creating meaningful people-to-people cultural exchange and adventure travel opportunities for all Gotoco’ers. As long as there is a chance to make the summer camps a reality for you, we will be here working hard to do so.

      We appreciate that you might, however, want to decide on your participation now, which is why we have extended all offers until 2021, to give you the freedom to choose what you would like to do this summer, safe in the knowledge that you can join us in China at a later date.

      We will notify you immediately if any programmes are able to go ahead in summer 2020, and you will be able to choose at that point if you would like to join the programmes this year or continue to wait until 2021. If you would prefer to withdraw fully now and give up your place for 2021, please go to this link for more information.


    • Are you offering programmes in any countries other than China?

      Due to the on-going global pandemic, we do not deem it safe to launch new projects or partnerships in other countries. Due to restrictions on travel, our team cannot currently check that the camps would be safe for you to join and we would not be able to guarantee that you'd have the usual rewarding and fun Gotoco experience. For this reason, we are not launching any new projects in new countries this year, but we will update you when we do in future years!


    • Are you still accepting applications?

      Applications remain open if you would like to secure your place for 2021 now and gain access to the TEFL. We will review applications on a rolling basis, and we encourage you to contact us before applying so that we can make sure you're clear on the options available to you.


    • How can we keep up to date with reasonable, non-sensational information?

      Sources to stay tuned to

      Other than the Gotoco team, we advise you to check out the following:

      There are tech tools and links to reliable information in this handbook

      https://coronavirustechhandbook.com/

      The British Chamber of Commerce in China

      https://www.britishchamber.cn/en/about-us/novel-coronavirus-outbreak-information-page/

      Excellent local news source that avoids sensationalism and provides updates on the real situation

      https://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2020/01/22/coronavirus-count-in-beijing

      Medical assessment of the situation from January summarising some key points

      https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.23.20018549v1.full.pdf

      Global authorities:

      USA state department:

      https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/china-travel-advisory.html

      USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

      https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

      World Health Organisation:

      https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

      UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

      https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china

      For those with knowledge of China, WeChat is a great resource for staying tuned with situations in various cities.

      Sources to avoid: 

      As ever please avoid any Tabloid press (Daily Mail, Express, Sun, Mirror etc), and other websites that need to compete for clicks.

      Social media tends not to give an accurate representation, there is a tendency for people to enjoy ‘marking yourself safe’ or videos with no context or accurate explanations to share the publicity generated by crises such as this one. Twitter, Youtube, Facebook have been particularly bad.


    • I have an offer for 2020, but have not yet paid my deposit, can I pay it now and secure a place for 2021 and access to the TEFL?

      It is great to hear that you are interested in joining us in 2021 and completing the online TEFL now! If you would like to do so, please email us at [email protected] so that we can discuss your options with you.


    • I have lost my earnings/my university funding has been cancelled, what can I do?

      If travel restrictions are lifted and it is safe for programmes to go ahead, but you are no longer able to come to China because your funding for the trip has been undermined, please let us know by email and we will look at how we can help you.

      If it is a university funding issue, we will talk to your university on your behalf and demonstrate our emergency planning and track record and work to get your funding reinstated on a case-by-case basis.

      If the issue is to do with lost earnings, please note we also have limited funding available to those that join our campus ambassador team, if you are successful in applying for a place on this then you could get funded through our scholarship budget.


    • I would like to request a deposit refund and give up my offer for 2020 and 2021 now, and not gain access to the TEFL, how can I do so?

      We appreciate that this is a very difficult time for everyone and that some of you will not be able to travel to China in 2021 and know you can no longer go this summer.

      If you know you won’t be able to join us in China in 2020 or 2021 and you do not want access to our TEFL training, you can go to this link to let us know and to request a deposit return. We thank you again for your patience and understanding in this challenging period, which none of us could have imagined when you first applied to our Summer 2020 Programme.


    • I've paid a deposit, how can I access the TEFL documents?

      You can gain access to our TEFL course by filling in the form on this link.

      Our online TEFL is a valuable certificate for securing online tutoring jobs and for showing other employers your range of skills and interests. You can complete the online TEFL now and receive the 50-hour online certificate. In future when you join us on a programme in China and complete the required hours teaching practicum on the ground in a school, then you will be able to upgrade to the full 120-hour TEFL, that you can use for TEFL jobs and visas around the world. Practicum TEFL certifications of this sort usually cost a lot of money, but we provide it to Gotoco’ers fully-funded by programmes in China. We want to continue to provide the online training to you in advance of your trip to China so that you can benefit from it now and be prepared for when you get to China—this year or next.


    • What is the situation on the ground in China now?

      It is great to see that life in Beijing is returning to a new normal, with restaurants, bars, parks, and more re-opening. Over the next few weeks we will be documenting what life is like in China’s capital on Instagram (@gotocochina), starting with a series by Tristan Knotts, a member of our team. This week, you can see the cycle trips he’s been going on around the Great Wall, the Western Hills, and the small alleyways (hutongs) in old Beijing near our office—head over to Instagram to find out more. 

      As life returns to normal in Beijing, our partners across China are starting to plan their summer camps and to ensure they can run safely for everyone involved, in line with global, national, and local guidelines. If travel bans are lifted and our experts confirm programmes are safe to join, then we will notify you and discuss your options for travelling to China with you. 


  • Coronavirus October Update


    • Can I access the TEFL training now?

      Yep! If you have paid deferred your summer 2020 offer or paid your deposit for summer 2021, then you can access the TEFL documents here.


      If you haven't yet paid a deposit but would like to do the online TEFL training, then you can do so on this link. We've made the TEFL available widely now to help those looking for online teaching jobs during the pandemic.


      Our online TEFL is a valuable certificate for securing online tutoring jobs and for showing other employers your range of skills and interests. You can complete the online TEFL now and receive the 50-hour online certificate. In future when you join us on a programme in China and complete the required hours teaching practicum on the ground in a school, then you will be able to upgrade to the full 120-hour TEFL, that you can use for TEFL jobs and visas around the world. Practicum TEFL certifications of this sort usually cost a lot of money, but we provide it to Gotoco’ers fully-funded by programmes in China. We want to continue to provide the online training to you in advance of your trip to China so that you can benefit from it now and be prepared for when you get to China.



    • Can I apply for summer 2021 now?

      Yes! Applications for 2021 are open now and run on a rolling basis throughout the academic year. The sooner you apply the better as places tend to fill up quickly! Full info available on this link.


    • If I paid a deposit, is my place for summer 2020 deferred to summer 2021?

      Yes! If you paid your deposit to join us in China for summer 2020, then your place is deferred to summer 2021 and you can access the online TEFL materials now. To confirm your deferral, please just go to this link.


      If you definitely can't make it in summer 2021 and don't want to benefit from our TEFL now, then you can withdraw your application on this link. We'll still be here to help you plan a trip to China in future, and can always be contacted by email if you have any questions—we've lived in China for a decade and are always very happy to help others explore this fascinating country!


      The deadline for confirming your deferral or cancelling your place is 15 March 2021. We have extended this deadline as long as possible to give you time to decide what you would like to do next summer in the new year.



    • What happens if I pay my deposit and COVID-19 means I can't go to China in summer 2021?

      Your refundable deposit is fully protected and if you are unable to join us in China in summer 2021 after paying your deposit due to COVID-19 and you have not completed the online TEFL certification, then you will be able to defer to summer 2022 or request a refund of your deposit.


      We are always here to help and if you ever have any concerns, just email us ([email protected]) to chat to one of our team.


      COVID-19 is under control in China and we were very pleased to see our partner camps and schools running programmes around the country in July and August 2020 to give children a much-needed break from online learning and to allow them to do fun activities in the summer months. Our partners very much missed welcoming Gotoco’ers though and can’t wait to see you all again in 2021!


      While China’s borders are still closed to most international visitors, they have now opened for foreign nationals holding valid residence permits. We expect the borders to open for Gotoco’ers before summer 2021 and will keep working with our partners in China to make our programmes safe for you. We will keep you up-to-date on government announcements throughout the coming months and will ensure you have all the information you need every step of the way.


    • What is the situation with COVID-19 in China at the moment?

      COVID-19 is currently under control in China (6 October 2020) and we were very pleased to see our partner camps and schools running programmes around the country in July and August to give children a much-needed break from online learning and to allow them to do fun activities in the summer months. Our partners very much missed welcoming Gotoco’ers though and can’t wait to see you all again in 2021!


      While China’s borders are still closed to most international visitors, they have now opened for foreign nationals holding valid residence permits. We expect the borders to open for Gotoco’ers before summer 2021 and will keep working with our partners in China to make our programmes safe for you. We will keep you up-to-date on government announcements throughout the coming months and will ensure you have all the information you need every step of the way.


      Here are some sources we recommend for keeping up-to-date on the COVID-19 situation in China:


      If you have any questions, then contact us by email!



  • General General questions that we are frequently asked about Gotoco and our offerings


    • Can I get funding and scholarships?

      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 Ambassadors and meet the requirements, for more information please click here.

      Some independent organisations also provide funding for students, such as the Live Like Ally Foundation. Please research organisations online, and if you have questions or need us to assist you with a grant application, please don't hesitate to email us at recruitment[at]go-to.co.


    • Coronavirus Updates

      Coronavirus Update, 2nd October 2020


      Summary


      • Applications for summer 2021 now open
      • COVID-19 is under control in China and we expect international travellers to be welcomed safely into the country in 2021
      • Summer 2020 offers deferred to 2021 (deadline for confirming deferral is 15 March 2021)
      • We will keep you updated on COVID-19's impact on summer 2021 programming throughout the year
      • Refundable deposits for summer 2021 give you immediate access to our online TEFL training
      • Refundable deposits are fully protected and you will be able to request a refund if COVID-19 disrupts your plans (as long as you have not completed your online TEFL certification, more info below)

      All of us here at Gotoco would like to thank you again for your continued support and understanding over the summer during turbulent times as the world has tried to get to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a new academic year begins, we want to provide you with clarity on our programmes for summer 2021 to allow you to plan for the year ahead.


      Applications for summer 2021 are now open!


      COVID-19 is under control in China and we were very pleased to see our partner camps and schools running programmes around the country in July and August to give children a much-needed break from online learning and to allow them to do fun activities in the summer months. Our partners very much missed welcoming Gotoco'ers though and can't wait to see you all again in 2021!


      While China's borders are still closed to most international visitors, they have now opened for foreign nationals holding valid residence permits. We expect the borders to open for Gotoco'ers before summer 2021 and will keep working with our partners in China to make our programmes safe for you. We will keep you up-to-date on government announcements throughout the coming months and will ensure you have all the information you need every step of the way.


      When you pay your refundable deposit for summer 2021, you will gain immediate access to our online TEFL training and can complete it and gain certification ahead of your trip to China. You can then use this certificate for teaching online to earn funds during the school year. When in China, you will then complete the offline teaching practicum to upgrade your TEFL to our full 120-hour certificate that you can use for jobs around the world.


      Your refundable deposit is fully protected and if you are unable to join us in China in summer 2021 after paying your deposit and you have not completed the online TEFL certification, then you will be able to defer to summer 2022 or request a refund.


      Please check out the FAQs below for more information.


      All of us here at Gotoco hope you, your family, and friends are all keeping safe and well during the global pandemic. 


      Best wishes,


      Richard, Lisha, Danny, and all the Gotoco Team


      FAQs



      Yes! Applications for 2021 are open now and run on a rolling basis throughout the academic year. The sooner you apply the better as places tend to fill up quickly! Full info available on this link.

      Your refundable deposit is fully protected and if you are unable to join us in China in summer 2021 after paying your deposit due to COVID-19 and you have not completed the online TEFL certification, then you will be able to defer to summer 2022 or request a refund of your deposit.


      We are always here to help and if you ever have any concerns, just email us ([email protected]) to chat to one of our team.


      COVID-19 is under control in China and we were very pleased to see our partner camps and schools running programmes around the country in July and August 2020 to give children a much-needed break from online learning and to allow them to do fun activities in the summer months. Our partners very much missed welcoming Gotoco’ers though and can’t wait to see you all again in 2021!


      While China’s borders are still closed to most international visitors, they have now opened for foreign nationals holding valid residence permits. We expect the borders to open for Gotoco’ers before summer 2021 and will keep working with our partners in China to make our programmes safe for you. We will keep you up-to-date on government announcements throughout the coming months and will ensure you have all the information you need every step of the way.

      COVID-19 is currently under control in China (6 October 2020) and we were very pleased to see our partner camps and schools running programmes around the country in July and August to give children a much-needed break from online learning and to allow them to do fun activities in the summer months. Our partners very much missed welcoming Gotoco’ers though and can’t wait to see you all again in 2021!


      While China’s borders are still closed to most international visitors, they have now opened for foreign nationals holding valid residence permits. We expect the borders to open for Gotoco’ers before summer 2021 and will keep working with our partners in China to make our programmes safe for you. We will keep you up-to-date on government announcements throughout the coming months and will ensure you have all the information you need every step of the way.


      Here are some sources we recommend for keeping up-to-date on the COVID-19 situation in China:


      If you have any questions, then contact us by email!


      Yes! If you paid your deposit to join us in China for summer 2020, then your place is deferred to summer 2021 and you can access the online TEFL materials now. To confirm your deferral, please just go to this link.


      If you definitely can’t make it in summer 2021 and don’t want to benefit from our TEFL now, then you can withdraw your application on this link. We’ll still be here to help you plan a trip to China in future, and can always be contacted by email if you have any questions—we’ve lived in China for a decade and are always very happy to help others explore this fascinating country!


      The deadline for confirming your deferral or cancelling your place is 15 March 2021. We have extended this deadline as long as possible to give you time to decide what you would like to do next summer in the new year.


      Yep! If you have paid deferred your summer 2020 offer or paid your deposit for summer 2021, then you can access the TEFL documents here.


      If you haven’t yet paid a deposit but would like to do the online TEFL training, then you can do so on this link. We’ve made the TEFL available widely now to help those looking for online teaching jobs during the pandemic.


      Our online TEFL is a valuable certificate for securing online tutoring jobs and for showing other employers your range of skills and interests. You can complete the online TEFL now and receive the 50-hour online certificate. In future when you join us on a programme in China and complete the required hours teaching practicum on the ground in a school, then you will be able to upgrade to the full 120-hour TEFL, that you can use for TEFL jobs and visas around the world. Practicum TEFL certifications of this sort usually cost a lot of money, but we provide it to Gotoco’ers fully-funded by programmes in China. We want to continue to provide the online training to you in advance of your trip to China so that you can benefit from it now and be prepared for when you get to China.


      Load More





      Coronavirus Update, 29th May 2020


      All of us here at Gotoco hope you, your family, and friends are all keeping safe and well during this unusual and difficult period of global pandemic.  This is a challenging time for everyone and we appreciate your continued patience and positivity while we have been working to make our summer camps possible this year.


      Summary


      • All 2020 summer offers automatically extended to summer 2021
      • Instant access to our TEFL training and certification for summer 2020 offer holders
      • Many summer programmes in China are going ahead following containment efforts there, but foreign nationals cannot enter China yet due to the on-going global pandemic 
      • Therefore, summer 2020 start dates are postponed until further notice (more detail on this and deposit return requests below)


      All 2020 Summer Offers Extended to Summer 2021 + Instant Access to our TEFL Training and Certification!

      At present, China has successfully contained the spread of COVID within its borders, while many countries around the world, including in Europe and North America, are sadly still struggling. As a result, China’s borders are currently closed to foreign travellers, meaning that it is very unlikely that Gotoco'ers will be able to join summer programmes before August at the earliest, despite our partners across China making plans for the safe running of their camps (see FAQ below for more information). To ameliorate this situation, we are now extending all Gotoco China Summer 2020 offers to 2021.

      Moreover, so that everyone who has paid a deposit can receive the training they applied to us for, we have decided to offer Gotoco'ers access to our online TEFL training and certification course from today. This allows Gotoco'ers to gain an online TEFL certificate now, which you can use for online tutoring and for showing your skills on your CV. It also means all Gotoco'ers can rest assured that you have a guaranteed offer to join us in China in Winter 2020-21 (December-January) or Summer 2021 (June-September), if COVID-19 means you are unable or unwilling to travel to China this year. Please go to this form to access the TEFL documents.

      As your offer is now guaranteed for summer 2021, you may wish to make other plans for this year and join us in 2021 instead, and we completely understand that. Your deposit remains valid for Gotoco summer programmes until October 2021, and you do not need to do anything at this point to confirm your deferral—your offer is automatically extended. However, as mentioned, you will need to first go to this form to access the TEFL documents.


      We will notify you immediately if any programmes are able to go ahead in summer 2020, and you will be able to choose at that point if you would like to join the programmes this year or continue to wait until 2021. 


      If you know you won’t be able to join us in 2020 or 2021 and want to withdraw fully from the programme now, you can do so on this link.


      For more detail on all of this, please read the FAQs below.


      Thank you all for your positivity and support


      We have been very grateful for all your positivity and support during this very challenging time for everyone. Despite the difficulties that our social enterprise, our partners, and all Gotoco’ers are facing, as well as the global obstacles for in-person cultural exchange, our team is hopeful that positive developments will eventually come from this period of global struggle. You can read more on our hopes for social progress in our April Coronavirus update below.


      We are also working to create more resources for all Gotoco’ers to help everyone in our community prepare for fun and fulfilling future careers and to take part in meaningful cultural exchange. We will let you know more about these resources over the coming months, and look forward to sharing them all with you!


      Our team is also here to answer any questions you have by email, so please do contact us if you have any queries.


      We look forward to helping you visit China as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.


      Thanks!


      The Gotoco Team



      FAQs



      Currently, it is very unlikely that July programmes will be able to go ahead, and, due to this, we recommend that you make other plans closer to home for July. However, there are more positive signs for August and September programmes as life in China is returning to a new normal. We will make a final announcement:

      • on July programmes by 15th June 2020 latest
      • on August programmes by 16th July 2020 latest
      • on September programmes by mid-August at the latest 

      On 27th March 2020 China suspended entry for all foreign nationals. If this travel ban is lifted and visa centres reopen, and our team of China experts confirm that our three requirements are met (as set out in our January update below), then we are ready to move forward with programme confirmations, visa processing and flight bookings. 

      We are leaving the possibility of running the programmes open until the dates listed above because everyone on our team is very committed to creating meaningful people-to-people cultural exchange and adventure travel opportunities for all Gotoco’ers. As long as there is a chance to make the summer camps a reality for you, we will be here working hard to do so.

      We appreciate that you might, however, want to decide on your participation now, which is why we have extended all offers until 2021, to give you the freedom to choose what you would like to do this summer, safe in the knowledge that you can join us in China at a later date.

      We will notify you immediately if any programmes are able to go ahead in summer 2020, and you will be able to choose at that point if you would like to join the programmes this year or continue to wait until 2021. If you would prefer to withdraw fully now and give up your place for 2021, please go to this link for more information.

      You can gain access to our TEFL course by filling in the form on this link.

      Our online TEFL is a valuable certificate for securing online tutoring jobs and for showing other employers your range of skills and interests. You can complete the online TEFL now and receive the 50-hour online certificate. In future when you join us on a programme in China and complete the required hours teaching practicum on the ground in a school, then you will be able to upgrade to the full 120-hour TEFL, that you can use for TEFL jobs and visas around the world. Practicum TEFL certifications of this sort usually cost a lot of money, but we provide it to Gotoco’ers fully-funded by programmes in China. We want to continue to provide the online training to you in advance of your trip to China so that you can benefit from it now and be prepared for when you get to China—this year or next.

      It is great to see that life in Beijing is returning to a new normal, with restaurants, bars, parks, and more re-opening. Over the next few weeks we will be documenting what life is like in China’s capital on Instagram (@gotocochina), starting with a series by Tristan Knotts, a member of our team. This week, you can see the cycle trips he’s been going on around the Great Wall, the Western Hills, and the small alleyways (hutongs) in old Beijing near our office—head over to Instagram to find out more. 

      As life returns to normal in Beijing, our partners across China are starting to plan their summer camps and to ensure they can run safely for everyone involved, in line with global, national, and local guidelines. If travel bans are lifted and our experts confirm programmes are safe to join, then we will notify you and discuss your options for travelling to China with you. 

      Due to the on-going global pandemic, we do not deem it safe to launch new projects or partnerships in other countries. Due to restrictions on travel, our team cannot currently check that the camps would be safe for you to join and we would not be able to guarantee that you’d have the usual rewarding and fun Gotoco experience. For this reason, we are not launching any new projects in new countries this year, but we will update you when we do in future years!

      We appreciate that this is a very difficult time for everyone and that some of you will not be able to travel to China in 2021 and know you can no longer go this summer.

      If you know you won’t be able to join us in China in 2020 or 2021 and you do not want access to our TEFL training, you can go to this link to let us know and to request a deposit return. We thank you again for your patience and understanding in this challenging period, which none of us could have imagined when you first applied to our Summer 2020 Programme.

      If travel restrictions are lifted and it is safe for programmes to go ahead, but you are no longer able to come to China because your funding for the trip has been undermined, please let us know by email and we will look at how we can help you.

      If it is a university funding issue, we will talk to your university on your behalf and demonstrate our emergency planning and track record and work to get your funding reinstated on a case-by-case basis.

      If the issue is to do with lost earnings, please note we also have limited funding available to those that join our campus ambassador team, if you are successful in applying for a place on this then you could get funded through our scholarship budget.

      It is great to hear that you are interested in joining us in 2021 and completing the online TEFL now! If you would like to do so, please email us at [email protected] so that we can discuss your options with you.

      Applications remain open if you would like to secure your place for 2021 now and gain access to the TEFL. We will review applications on a rolling basis, and we encourage you to contact us before applying so that we can make sure you’re clear on the options available to you.

      Sources to stay tuned to

      Other than the Gotoco team, we advise you to check out the following:

      There are tech tools and links to reliable information in this handbook

      https://coronavirustechhandbook.com/

      The British Chamber of Commerce in China

      Excellent local news source that avoids sensationalism and provides updates on the real situation

      https://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2020/01/22/coronavirus-count-in-beijing

      Medical assessment of the situation from January summarising some key points

      https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.23.20018549v1.full.pdf

      Global authorities:

      USA state department:

      https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/china-travel-advisory.html

      USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

      https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

      World Health Organisation:

      https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

      UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

      https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china

      For those with knowledge of China, WeChat is a great resource for staying tuned with situations in various cities.

      Sources to avoid: 

      As ever please avoid any Tabloid press (Daily Mail, Express, Sun, Mirror etc), and other websites that need to compete for clicks.

      Social media tends not to give an accurate representation, there is a tendency for people to enjoy ‘marking yourself safe’ or videos with no context or accurate explanations to share the publicity generated by crises such as this one. Twitter, Youtube, Facebook have been particularly bad.

      Load More





      Coronavirus Update, 2nd April 2020


      Everyone here at Gotoco hopes that you are keeping safe and well, wherever you are during this global struggle. Rays of hope come from China, where it appears the virus has been more-or-less contained for now, while countries that were perhaps slightly slow to respond (including in Europe and the US) are responding strongly now and beginning the mass mobilisations they need to swiftly peak their outbreaks.

      2020 isn’t all bad news, major global traumas like this force massive shifts in how we live. The wake of World War II brought global and drastic social progress including moves towards:

      • Decolonisation
      • Democratisation
      • Women's empowerment and liberation
      • And wonderful initiatives like the NHS in the UK.

      So too will COVID reshape our societies. Concepts that were ideals last year are now credible and being shaped into policy around the world:

      • Exciting experiments have begun with the universal basic wage, such as this one in Spain.
      • Remote working is now widespread—how much better could our lives be if we can reduce commutes and unnecessary office hours through this to allow more time to cherish our families, friends, and hobbies?
      • The environment has been given breathing space, dolphins have been spotted in parts of Southern Italy in clearer seas, skies above polluted cities are clearer, some consumerism has been reduced and eating habits changed. We hope that consumer preferences may be radically altered once normality returns.
      • Forays into provision of free basic healthcare may change certain countries forever, and some people are now taking the health effects of smoking more seriously.
      • Education is moving online too; a milestone this week came when Eton, one of the UK’s oldest and most successful schools opted to offer free public access to their online learning:
      • There are fantastic developments in industry too, including Gotoco co-founder Danny Parrott’s own brother who is leading a revolution to make incredibly expensive intensive care equipment available to all (http://globalvent.org/). They have already begun to release free, open-source designs and to produce ventilators that can be made out of simple, locally available components by small factories all over the world. Once this pandemic ends, they will turn their attention to dialysis and other expensive ICU kit to make quality healthcare more accessible around the globe.

      Though 2020 blind-sided the world with catastrophe, we are beginning to look beyond it. We hope that the light at the end of this tunnel may be that of a more equitable, co-operative, genuinely 21st century, modernised world.


      So, what's happening at Gotoco?

      Like all of you, we are taking each day as it comes and staying abreast of updates as they come in. We were made aware of the gravity of this situation very early, back in January, when we had to turn our Beijing office into a remote team and evacuate winter camps teams! We have done our best to be very sensitive to the effects of the current pandemic and want to do everything we can to support our community.

      As I'm sure you're aware, the pandemic is having a limiting effect on global travel, and we want to make sure you're up-to-date on how this affects your planned summer in China. Now is the beginning of April, there is still plenty of time left before summer, and we still aim to run as planned in summer 2020. Developments are coming so fast now that each day feels like a week; it took China 2 months to get through and re-open and we hope that the rest of the world can have a similar or even better trajectory. We hope the peak will soon pass in your countries so together we can plan for a summer of fun.


      Coronavirus and your Summer in China

      We currently still aim for our summer programmes to go ahead, especially given the effectiveness of containment of the virus in China. There are various restrictions in place limiting global travel at present, but we expect these to be resolved in time for the summer. On current projections, China looks like it will be the first country to completely contain COVID, so for anyone hoping to leave home this summer we think China is still a great plan!

      The safety, health and enjoyment of all Gotoco'ers is of the utmost importance to us so we'll keep monitoring the situation and will provide an update on if programmes can go ahead in May 2020 (or earlier if the situation allows). If there is a risk to health, then we won't go ahead with summer programmes as we put our participants' health and wellbeing first, and in that instance we would offer:

      1. an option to defer your place to another year with TEFL certification this year;
      2. alternative placements in other countries;
      3. the option to withdraw fully. However, we do not expect it to come to this and I encourage you to continue with the application as normal.

      Your deposit is held with consumer protections in a secure system, it will be returned if the virus is still a problem in May 2020, please check this link for more info


      Support your Community

      Wherever you are in the world, we urge you to follow local government and health advice, including washing your hands regularly and practising social distancing, to slow the spread of the virus and reduce the pressure on healthcare providers. 

      If you are able to, we also encourage you to volunteer to help those in need. If you're in the UK, you can sign up to volunteer to help the NHS on this link: https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS






      Prior Updates from January-March 2020


      Summary


      We currently aim for all of our China summer programmes to go ahead as planned, and so you should continue with your application as normal. We will take a final decision in May 2020 (or earlier if the situation allows), and will keep all Gotoco'ers updated accordingly. 


      Our Expectations


      Due to the extensive government and public health response in China, we hope that the situation will improve sufficiently so that the following three conditions are met. Once these are met, we can give summer 2020 programmes the go-ahead:

      1. The Foreign Office travel advisory against all but essential travel must have been lifted.

      2. Our team of experts on the ground in China need to sign off that they believe it is safe to run programmes in China.

      3. Our 100 or so partners around China need to give their assurance that projects will be safe and plans are in place to ensure the welfare of our teams. Moreover, even if the FCO, our experts and the partners all give the all-clear, partners must agree to emergency plans and evacuation budgets in case of unexpected future escalations/recurrence.

      Support your Community

      Wherever you are in the world, we urge you to follow local government and health advice, including washing your hands regularly and practising social distancing, to slow the spread of the virus and reduce the pressure on healthcare providers. 

      If you are able to, we also encourage you to volunteer to help those in need. If you're in the UK, you can sign up to volunteer to help the NHS on this link: https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS



      Please email us with any other queries.

      Email: [email protected]

      Best wishes,

      The Gotoco Directors!

      Richard Lloyd, Lisha Tang, Danny Parrott

      ***********

       

       

       

       


    • Deposits

      We require a small programme confirmation deposit. We are a social enterprise committed to making your trip to China as convenient and low-cost as possible, which is why we don't charge any fees to take part. The deposit simply confirms your commitment to coming to China, and is returned to you once you have completed your summer programme and provided feedback. 

      The deposit is requested in two instalments of £100 each (or equivalent in your local currency). The first is before we arrange for the consultative interview (by phone) between you and the programme in China. The second instalment is to confirm you wish to hold the offer with the particular programme after your interview. We will need this paid in full before we can issue you with a visa invitation letter or TEFL course documentation, to ensure you are committed to coming to China and that your programme can plan for your arrival. The deposits are paid via Paypal, and a payment link will be automatically sent to you when you reach the right points in the application process.

      For more information about our deposit terms, such as refund terms, please check out this page: https://www.go-to.co/deposit-faqs/


    • Flights

      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.

      Please also read this FAQ on direct flights to China and this one on flights with layovers. You can also check this FAQ to learn about arrival procedures, and this one to learn about visas.


    • How much does the visa cost and how does it all work

      Chinese visa costs vary depending on your passport type and the duration of stay and number of entries you may need in China. Some nationalities have their visas for free while others must pay a price. British passports, for example, incur a total cost of £151 but luckily get longer stays/numbers of entries than other European passports, you can read more about pricing at this helpful link

      We usually advise our participants to process their visa application with the help of a local China visa expert agency, this can add to the overall price. For example, our trusted UK agent adds a £15 commission while our North American agents add $30-50. We suggest this because the Chinese visa application is quite a difficult process and working with an agent ensures that you a/obtain the correct and most legally appropriate visa, b/ avoid mistakes on your application which could cost you a penalty charge (sometimes China charges you double price if errors in your application cause you to resubmit your visa application.c/ get treated well, looked after by experts, and charged a fair price

       


    • How much money will I need for the summer?

      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. 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¥30-80
      • 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 £1.10 or US$1.44

      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).

      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.

      Please also read this FAQ on direct flights to China and this one on flights with layovers. You can also check this FAQ to learn about arrival procedures, and this one to learn about visas.


    • How much money will I need?

      What’s included?

      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

      • Free placement service to join one of over 100 exciting programmes across China
      • Funded TEFL training and certification
      • Free bedroom and meals throughout your programme
      • Free 5 day holiday to Yangshuo, a stunningly beautiful mountain town between Hong Kong and the Vietnamese border.
      • Free guidance on applying for a visa and booking flights
      • Free 24/7 support throughout your time in China
      • Free post-programme support for job references and career opportunities
      • For UK based applicants, free background and criminal records check (for UK based applicants, this means a DBS or equivalent)

      What’s not included?

      You will need to pay for your own flights, visa and travel within China but will receive meals and accommodation at the programmes. You will then only need money for extra food and drinks and activities outside the programme.

      How much do things in China cost?

      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¥30-80
      • an overnight journey of 10 hours or less on a train with a bed: under C¥200

      How much should I budget?

      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 £1.10 or US$1.44.

      Related topics


    • I cannot speak Chinese, how will I get around?

      Chinese (Mandarin) competency 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.


    • What am I expected to pay for?

      Our programmes are funded and free!

      Free means:

      We won't charge you any fees to participate!

      Funded means:

      Our programmes will always cover all of your costs for:

      -Accommodation

      -Meals

      - Chinese lessons and scheduled cultural tours and excursions

      -Post programme 5 day tour of Yangshuo - our beautiful home in the mountains (between Hong Kong and Vietnam)

      You are expected to pay for

      • your visa, prices vary by nationality of passport. Around £150 for UK passports.
      • pre-departure immunisation costs and comprehensive travel and medical insurance, costs vary depending on the advice of your doctor
      • roundtrip airfare to/from China and domestic travel within China, prices fluctuate but we can help with our local travel agent recommendations. Around £450-700 for a return to China from UK or North America

      Please also read this FAQ on how much money you will need for the summer.


    • What does 'Gotoco' stand for?

      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.


    • Why should I go to China?

      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.


    • Why should I join Gotoco this summer?

      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 savings on cost and hassle, as well as much-enhanced experiences overall. The opportunity to obtain a TEFL free-of-charge and join a programme in China is unique and highly sought after, and we look forward to helping you have a fun and engaging summer in China.

      Gotoco is not a recruitment agency, we are a social enterprise committed to maximising your experience in China. Our social mission is to improve cross-cultural understanding and foster a strong, inclusive global community through accessible international cultural exchange and educational projects in China. 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 Gotoco team 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 or WeChat message away to help you and make sure you get as much out of the experience as possible.

      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.


    • Will I be able to get class credit for this programme?

      Currently, we cannot provide class credit for the programmes. However, we are in discussions with several institutions and aim to offer class credit as soon as possible. Watch this space!


    • Will I receive a stipend?

      In line with China’s visa laws, you cannot be paid for your time in China unless you have a work (Z) visa. To obtain a work (Z) visa, you need to have completed an undergraduate degree and have two years of relevant work experience, or already have a TEFL qualification for certain teaching jobs in China.

      We provide added benefits: you receive free accommodation and meals at the programmes and 5 nights of accommodation in Yangshuo at the end, as well as options such as Mandarin lessons and cultural excursions. Unlike most similar programmes, as a social enterprise, we impose no fees on participants to make the experience as affordable as possible and allow as many people as possible to explore China and earn a TEFL certificate.  Our social mission is to improve cross-cultural understanding and foster a strong, inclusive global community through accessible international cultural exchange and educational projects in China.

      If you are concerned about funding your flight and visa, we also recommend you look into grant and scholarship opportunities at your university or school, or from independent bodies. If you have questions on this, or need us to assist you with a grant application, please don't hesitate to email us at recruitment[at]go-to.co.

      Please also check out our FAQ on how much money you will need for the summer.


  • In Country Information for your time in China


    • Can I travel after the programme ends?

      We encourage all of our volunteers to travel China as much as they can after finishing their programme. We can help you work out where you want to travel and point you in the right direction. Travelling to Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau and back into China counts as leaving China and re-entering, so, if you plan to visit these places during your stay, you will have to make sure your visa permits this before planning your trip. You can learn more about visa requirements by reading our FAQ on crossing the Hong Kong and Macau borders.

      Our base in Yangshuo, where you will end your time in China with us, is a great place to launch further travel from, as it and neighbouring Guilin have abundant high-speed rail links across southern China, including to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and across Guangdong province, as well as to Changsha in Hunan or Guiyang in Guizhou, among others. A popular route with past Gotoco-ers would see you start by visiting the beautiful Longji rice terraces near Guilin, before travelling north to Zhangjiajie, a stunning national park in Hunan province, whose scenery inspired the Hallelujah mountains in Avatar, and then on west to Chongqing or Chengdu in Sichuan province.

      We can offer travel recommendations based on how much time you have and whether you'd rather visit busy urban centres, see beautiful nature, travel to places off the beaten trail, sample culinary delights, or explore cultural relics. From Yangshuo, you could also travel down to southeast Asia, as Vietnam is only a roughly 8-hour bus journey from Yangshuo.

      We're always here to guide you in planning your trip!


    • Communications in China: WeChat, Internet Access and VPNs

      Internet access behind the 'Great Fire Wall' of China. Banned sites and how to access them?

      Wi-Fi is provided on your programmes so you may want to take a laptop or other handheld device to access the internet and prepare lessons well or just chat to your families/friends. As you may know—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Gmail and other foreign sites  and platforms (even Tinder..) are not accessible in China. Prior to entering China, we suggest you get a VPN or take measures to ensure you are able to access alternate means for communication—such as hotmail (if you are a Gmail user, as its banned..) or WeChat prior to coming out.

      VPN - the key to access internet without restrictions

      If you wish to access Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Google, Gmail and other blocked sites while in China, please configure a VPN now.  If in doubt about whether you can access a site, please check here.

      VPN means ‘virtual private network’ it allows you to bypass Chinese internet restrictions, it gives you access to the internet of whichever nation's IP address you log into. Most universities around the world offer a VPN for free to their students, which is intended for you to be able to access sites that you need to be in campus to view, such as JSTOR and other academic journals. Please contact your university to check if they have a VPN service which you can use. We suggest you get a premium VPN, as outlined below:

      Our favourite VPN: Our Beijing office team need access to Facebook etc everyday, we live behind the Great Fire Wall so have some opinions on VPNs which you may find helpful. At present, August 2019, our preferred VPN is this one: https://www.sednax.com/  in our experience, it only works well on Laptops and not phones/tablets. It is very cost effective and works very well in China, but is a little tricky to setup. It has a totally different system to most premium VPNs available it is worth the effort getting setup because we haven't had a single day in our Beijing office where it didn't work this year. Otherwise, you can pay around £5 a month for an easier to configure VPN that works on devices and laptops, for those options read the next paragraph (these VPNs mentioned below aren't recommended by our Beijing office team as they are too unreliable long term, but they would be fine for a short trip/short usage.)

      Easier to setup premium VPNs:  If the option above is to hard to setup, then you can pay £5-10 a month for a decent private VPN service. One of the best ones is called Astrill, you can read about it here , for it to work well you will need to purchase the add-ons such as dedicated IP/VIP.  An alternative to Astrill is Express VPN (but it tends not to work so well in China...) both VPNs are easy to setup and work on computers and phones. There are quite a few VPN providers offering service for free, but you get what you pay for... Some premium VPN services also allow you to cancel within 30 days at no cost, which might mean you can use their services and cancel before you are charged. Generally, our Beijing office team finds these popular VPNs to be unreliable but they tend to work a little bit of the time...Unfortunately, any premium VPN service ends up being popular and once it is used alot then the government tried to sniff it out and crack down on it.

      Please test your VPN before you head to China, its much harder to get setup once in country: After downloading a VPN and turning it on, it should change your IP address. To test whether it works please first go to this link without it turned on,  and then go there again with it turned on. If the IPs are significantly different then the VPN should be working and will function in China.

      Legality:

      People often ask us if it is legal to use a VPN in China. This is a fascinating question! Some estimate as many as 10% of China's population use a VPN, legal issues have only arisen in minority cases for those people selling VPNs. It is very normal among urban, young, student segments of China to use a VPN - so don't worry!

      WeChat

      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.

      Find out more about WeChat here. For information on phone and data usage in China, please read this FAQ.


    • Culture Shock - Being a Celebrity

      China has a huge population, but with less diversity than many North American or European countries—so foreigners do stand out. This is particularly true of smaller cities where Western visitors are rarer. In certain places, you might be some of the first foreign or Western people your students have ever met, or at least got to know. Similarly, many older Chinese people won’t have travelled much or at all, and so will be even more likely to be surprised when they see you.

      A natural consequence of this is that foreigners can get treated with great hospitality and locals tend to be very friendly, generous and curious about you. The same impulse means it is common for visitors to be stared at or have their photos taken without permission. People may take photos of you, sometimes subtly and sometimes not. You might get asked to pose for photos, particularly with children, or people might simply take a photo of you while you’re not looking. This will probably become quite normal to you after a while, but can be a bit strange the first few times—remember that nothing negative is normally meant by it, you’re just more noticeable and unfamiliar. Whilst it may cause awkwardness in some cultures to realise that someone has noticed you staring at them, in China this often isn’t the case; again, nothing is meant by it.


    • Do I need to know Mandarin?

      Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese or any Chinese-language dialect) competency is not a requirement for our programmes.

      Every programme will assign teaching assistants or programme coordinators who can speak English to you, and many people around town can often speak some English. However, please do remember that English is not ubiquitous in China and that you may need to use body language and other communication methods to make your point at times, especially if you travel independently in rural areas—this is part of the fun of travelling! We recommend bringing a simple phrase book with you to help if you decide to explore China on your own. If you are out and about without a bilingual teaching assistant, it is generally also best to look for younger people if you need help in English as they are far more likely to have learnt English at school.

      You can learn Mandarin while you are in China on your programme. If you would like Mandarin lessons, make sure you let your programme know before you arrive. If you'd like to learn more about the lessons in China, then please head to this FAQ on learning the language.

      If you're new to Mandarin, then while it can be frustrating at first not to be able to understand a lot of what is being said around you, you will become used to this fairly quickly. Learn the words for ‘hello’ (你好nǐ hǎo), ‘thank you’ (谢谢xìe xìe) and ‘goodbye’ (再见zàijiàn) before you come to get the ball rolling and show your Chinese colleagues and Mandarin teachers that you are keen to learn about the local culture and language. You will probably be surprised at how many words and phrases you come to recognise during your time in China.

      If you would like to start learning before you come to China, then please contact us for more information. There are great apps available to help you start to learn Mandarin, such as Duolingo, and you can often find language partners either on campus or online on sites such as www.italki.com. Please do use all the resources available to you if you are interested in learning the language!


    • Health

      China has a health system that differs significantly from what you may be used to in the West. While there is huge reform going on in healthcare in China, 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 . 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
      • headaches

      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
      • EpiPens
      • other prescription medication


    • Is air quality an issue in China? Should I expect cities to be polluted?

      Many cities in China suffer from severe air pollution, while some in northern and western China also suffer from sandstorms sporadically throughout the year. Environmental issues are at the top of the central government agenda, although vested interests at the local level can limit implementation. We all hope the pollution will reduce more quickly than they are at present, but for now be sensible about doing vigorous exercise if air pollution is high.

      The risks of air pollution shouldn't be an issue for anyone on our programmes, partly because pollution peaks in winter (due to coal burning, central heating and other factors), but also because the major risks are for those who have had long-term exposure (think in terms of years, not weeks).

      Download an AQI (air quality index) app to monitor local air pollution, and consider investing in a face mask to wear on certain days. If you want an effective mask, it should be N95 certified as anything that isn't doesn't filter out the most problematic particles of pollution.

      As you will only be exposed to the pollution for a short period over the summer, you do not need to be too concerned, but it is always advisable to keep it in mind when planning runs or outdoor activities. It is usually advisable to avoid intense physical exercise or to wear a mask when pollution is high.

      As a guide, 15[unit] pm2.5 is deemed healthy by the WHO, while many Chinese cities consistently reach 100[unit] or more. Do also check your home city’s air pollution index, it might be higher than you think!


    • Is China safe?

      Participants on our programmes often comment on how much safer China feels than the UK, Canada and the USA. Though people typically have a great time in China, you should still exercise a sensible level of caution and be prepared: be careful and sensible and avoid taking any unnecessary risks. Keep your valuables safe and secure at all times. Raise any concerns about the security of your accommodation with your programme coordinator and contact Gotoco if you need more assistance.

      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 participants over the years, and never yet encountered any major problems.

      Before coming, make sure you have photocopies of your passport information page, visa and travel/health insurance policy. Keep the copies in a different place to the originals so if you lose your bag, you can use them to get a replacement. Foreigners are supposed to carry their passport round with them in China, but we recommend only carrying photocopies of your passport and visa, to reduce the risk of losing these important documents. You can use a driving licence or other national ID for entry into bars, if necessary.

      Be careful crossing roads—there are normally multiple lanes of traffic and cars/bikes/scooters/buses to watch out for. The volume of traffic is generally quite high, but also quite stop-start and motorists are generally ready to slow down for pedestrians and bikes if necessary, but ensure you make eye contact with the driver and are certain they will stop before stepping into the road. Generally it is best to wait until the road is quiet before crossing, as you would at home. Make sure you follow all traffic signals.

      Always be alert and aware that the rules of the road are different to what you’re used to. Use of car horns is very common and can be irritating when you’re not accustomed to it, but it helps to warn others that a vehicle is coming, rather than being used infrequently (as in the UK) as a sign of danger or extreme annoyance.

      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

      • travel advisories of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office accessible here
      • travel warnings section of the U.S. State Department at (202) 647-5225
      • travel advisories of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
      • U.S. Centers for Disease Control at (877) FYI-TRIP or online here


    • What can I do during my time-off?

      Activities depend on your location. In areas such as Yangshuo in Guangxi, you can go kayaking, hiking and caving in your spare time. Everyone will have the offer to join us here once their programme ends in another location.

      In urban areas such as Beijing and Shanghai, you can spend afternoons at tea shops, go and see acrobatics or explore historical treasures. Please discuss the sites in your location with your programme contact once we confirm your location.


    • What do I do if I get homesick in China?

      It is perfectly natural to have times when you miss home comforts, family, or friends, especially if it is your first time travelling abroad alone. As well as comfort foods that you bring with you from home, western restaurants and groups of expats, especially other foreign teachers in your school, are there to help you feel more at home and relaxed. Throwing yourself into activities and meeting new people can often help lift you much more than staying in your room and calling home. That said, it is good to keep regular contact with home (even if more for your parents than for you!).

      Get your family and friends to download WeChat before you come to China. WeChat will be a much more reliable mode of communication than WhatsApp or other messaging services which are often blocked or slower in speed in China. Remember: you will need a VPN for Facebook, Twitter and Google, making them slower than normal, and while Skype does work, it is not as reliable or efficient as WeChat.


    • What happens when I land at the airport?

      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 your Wechat contact (usually the interviewer) 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

      Arrival

      The first thing you’re likely to notice when you arrive (if like >90% of those that join us, you’re not a Mandarin speaker) is how different the language is from English, and how difficult it can be to understand things once you get out of the airport. It’s quite normal to feel overwhelmed by this, but don’t worry! Follow the instructions given by the school for your airport pick-up or the instructions on how you can make the transit yourself. If you can’t see your meeting group rightaway, stay where you are and call one of the numbers given to you by the school or your Gotoco representative. Most transport hubs/tourist sites have bilingual staff in case you need help, likewise many people in China are able to speak some English in case you need to ask for assistance. Please also read this FAQ on Mandarin.

      If you need to travel from the airport to another location for pick-up, make sure you have clear written instructions in English and Chinese, as well as contact phone numbers. Showing the directions for where you need to go, such as a train station or bus connection, to someone by pointing at the Chinese characters you have written down will help you find your way. Though not everyone speaks English, pointing and miming can still get you a long way.

      Don't forget to keep an eye on your passport and other valuables when leaving the airport and travelling on to your school – with everything else going on, and the fact that you may be tired from the long journey, it can be easy to forget about your valuables. While petty theft is often less prevalent in many parts of China than in the UK or USA, you should always still be very vigilant with all your valuables – especially in transit areas/tourist hubs. It might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with this list of scams that tourists sometimes encounter – http://travelscams.org/asia/common-tourist-scams-china/ transit hubs/ – tourist areas are the usual places where you could encounter these.

      If you have any problems, don’t hesitate to ask for help—contact either the Gotoco team or staff from your school (or both). And if there are problems connecting to a phone network, try looking for somewhere with free wifi or calling options, e.g. in the airport, in cafés, or restaurants.

      Once you arrive on your programme, your school should arrange for you to register your location with the police. This is a normal procedure for all foreigners in China. Speak to your programme coordinators to make sure you have done everything you need to do, and contact Gotoco if you have any concerns.


    • What is the assistant teaching like in China?

      For many volunteers the participation in assistant teaching is by far the most enjoyable and rewarding part of their China experience. You should have been informed before arriving about the age, level of English and number of students you will be helping to teach (if not, the school should happily tell you what you need to know). It might be a good idea to have a think about any teaching materials you might like to bring with you—stickers and sweets are usually pretty popular and can help to control a noisy class. The students are generally very enthusiastic, and both they and the teachers will be really grateful to you for giving up your time to assist in the teaching of English. The most important qualities are enthusiasm, patience and commitment to your role. English culture and language may be just as unfamiliar to the children as Chinese is to you, so bear this in mind and adapt your lessons as needed.

       

      Teaching methods in China are generally very different from language teaching in England; while the language lessons you may be used to will likely have incorporated games, creative tasks and group work, the way English is taught in China is quite focused on rote-learning. Often, lessons consist of ‘drilling’ (you’ll have learnt this in your TEFL course–this is a method of teaching whereby a teacher reads a word/sentence and the students repeat it back to them numerous times). You might therefore be surprised by how enthusiastically the children respond to games and other fun teaching methods (or perhaps by their reluctance to get involved), as it might be the first time they have been taught in this way.

       

      Similarly, you might be asked to help out in lessons by simply reading out of a textbook and asking the children to repeat back to you. This may seem a bit boring or ineffective, it is the method which the students will likely be used to and most confident with. Feel free to innovate! The schools are usually happy for you to bring in your own ideas too, and as you spend more time with your classes you will start to get to know which methods work best.

       

      Read through the Gotoco TEFL documents carefully before you come out and start to prepare lesson plans based on information provided by your schools. The TEFL course includes general teacher training, as well as China-specific tips on class management, school hierarchies and effective practices.


    • What's public transport like in China?

      Most major cities have subway systems, and smaller cities or rural areas have buses and trains. Ask for information on public transport, including how and where to buy tickets, from your programme coordinators.

      For longer journeys, your programme coordinators will be able to help you plan your trip and purchase tickets, although you will usually need to pay for yourself unless it is for a programme activity.

      The train network in China is vast and often inexpensive, with both regular and high-speed trains crisscrossing the country daily. It is well-worth trying out a high-speed train while you are there, and an overnight sleeper train is a must! If you are travelling to and from Yangshuo at the end of your time in China, then consider getting a slow train on the way there and a high-speed train on the way back (or vice-versa). Beware that tickets often do sellout quickly, so talk to your programme coordinators about buying tickets well in advance.

      If you need any extra assistance, do not hesitate to contact your Gotoco representative.


    • What's safe to drink? Information on Water, Tea, Alcohol

      Avoid drinking tap water in almost all locations in China. Bottled water is readily available and you should always make sure you have enough water overnight or if you’re going on activities. This is especially true in rural areas, where shops might close earlier in the evening or you might have to wait for transport into town—stock up on large bottles of water to make sure you always have enough.

      Hot or boiled water is also more common than cold water. Many Chinese people much prefer drinking hot water to cold, claiming health benefits, and you will find that you are often given boiled water in restaurants. This water is fine to drink, but if you feel uncomfortable then bottled water is usually available for purchase. You may also be surprised by the benefits of hot water with lemon and ginger when you’re feeling a bit run down or tired! You might also want to purchase a flask if you would like to save money (and plastic!) by boiling water for your own consumption.

      In terms of other drinks—please enjoy the variety on offer, with many soft drinks being different to what you might be used to at home, although all the regulars like Coca Cola are also available. If you're in Beijing and like fizzy drinks, then make sure you try Arctic Ocean (Běibīngyáng 北冰洋)! Otherwise, all sorts of bottled drinks are available throughout the country; first time visitors usually get excited about the delicious range of flavoured teas, soy milk drinks, 'Bubble Milk Tea', hot tea and, of course, alcoholic beverages.

      If you drink alcohol, then please take note: occasionally venues (usually glitzy nightclubs and bars) might sell adulterated hard spirits, which can give you a bad hangover or make you very inebriated. There have also been stories of people being poisoned by adulterated spirits, so do be careful. However, most locations are perfectly safe, you should just make sure to be careful to always know what you are drinking, as you should anywhere in the world, and always drink in moderation.

      You may also be introduced to Báijiǔ白酒—China's famous rice spirit. It is occasionally referred to as 'white wine' or 'rice wine'. Please drink with moderation, it is stronger than most spirits you are used to! People in China tend to be very hospitable, and in the evenings might treat you to rounds of drinks—be sure to know your limits and drink sensibly.

      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.


    • What's the food like in China?

      Chinese food is delicious and there are usually plenty of delicacies to choose from—spicy and non-spicy, hot and cold, savoury and sweet. Be prepared to try new things, even if you have no idea what they are exactly. The food in China is very different from the dishes you might be used to seeing in Chinese restaurants at home in Europe or North America, so don’t be surprised if the food you’re presented with looks very unfamiliar. It’s all part of the experience and most of the time you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

      If you think you’ll miss English food, maybe bring a couple of things with you from home—Marmite, biscuits, crisps and chocolate all help reduce any cravings for home comforts. Tea is also a good example of something which you can get in China but isn’t quite the same as it is in the UK, so if you’re addicted to English Breakfast Tea maybe consider bringing teabags. There will be plenty of opportunity both to try new foods and to buy things which you recognise from home. Supermarkets contain some interesting surprises and can be fun to explore. The variety of flavours of crisps is particularly impressive, ranging from standard flavours to more diverse ones like yoghurt and cucumber.

      If you are vegetarian or have any food allergies or dietary requirements, you should ask one of your contacts at the school how to communicate this to others. Get your manager to write it down in Chinese and English, and carry it with you at all times.

      If you have a nut allergy, make sure you communicate this clearly before any meals and have it written down to show restaurants. Peanut oil is used quite commonly in China and you must be very careful to avoid it, if you have allergies.

      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.


    • Where and how do I get local currency?

      Credit/Debit Cards and Cash

      While China is miles ahead of most of the world in terms of mobile payments, most places in China do not take credit cards, so you will have to take Renminbi (Chinese currency) wherever you go. There are ATMs where you can take money out, but tell your bank that you are in China and be aware of international fees! Currency cards, such as CaxtonFx, Monzo or from the Post Office (UK), are also a good option to avoid unfavourable exchange rates, and they offer a free online checking account with no fees for international withdraws.

      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.

      Mobile Payments

      China is miles ahead of most countries around the world in terms of mobile payments. Even in small rural villages or up secluded mountains, you can use WeChat or AliPay to pay for goods and services, just by scanning a QR code. However, this requires you, the user, to link your bank account or add money to your account. Some international cards, such as Monzo, can be used on WeChat, but don't bank on it: still follow the guidelines for cards and cash shown above as the payment system will usually require you to have a Chinese bank account.

      Even if you cannot use it for payments, 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 for making friends locally, so we urge you to download it now. Not only is it useful for messaging friends and family, businesses also often give discounts to customers following their WeChat account.

      Find out more about WeChat here. For information on phone and data usage in China, please read this FAQ.


    • Will I be able to learn Mandarin?

      Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese or any Chinese-language dialect) competency is not a requirement for our programmes, but you can learn Mandarin while you are here.

      If you would like Mandarin lessons, make sure you let your programme know before you arrive. The method of learning depends on your level and the exact programme you are on. Most programmes offer more formal lessons twice per week for an hour each time, usually aimed at a beginner's level, as well as the opportunity to learn informally from Chinese teachers, assistants and friends throughout your stay. Lessons and practise usually principally focus on oral and listening skills, but if you would like to learn some writing then let your programme know before you arrive. Some programmes will offer informal opportunities to learn without formal classes, depending on the teaching schedule. Information on how your programme will provide lessons will be provided at the interview stage. If this is very important to you, then make sure you let your programme and us know what you are looking for.

      If you already know some Mandarin, then all of our programmes in China offer you a great opportunity to practise and enhance your language skills. You will have ample time to chat with your fellow teachers and local residents in Mandarin, so do make the most of it! Remember though that your principal purpose is to teach the children English so do make sure you mainly speak English with the students and save your personal language learning for after class. Most programmes will not usually offer more advanced Mandarin reading or writing classes, but if you have particular goals then communicate these before you arrive and your programme coordinator will see what is possible for you.

      If you have never learnt Mandarin before, then, while it can be frustrating at first not to be able to understand a lot of what is being said around you, you will become used to this fairly quickly. Learn the words for ‘hello’ (你好nǐ hǎo), ‘thank you’ (谢谢xìe xìe) and ‘goodbye’ (再见zàijiàn) before you come to get the ball rolling and show your Chinese colleagues and Mandarin teachers that you are keen to learn about the local culture and language. You will probably be surprised at how many words and phrases you come to recognise during your time in China. We will also send you a starter pack with some key phrases before you arrive in China.

      If you would like to start learning before you come to China, then please contact us for more information. There are great apps available to help you start to learn Mandarin, such as Duolingo, and you can often find language partners either on campus or online on sites such as www.italki.com. Please do use all the resources available to you if you are interested in learning the language!

      If you are worried about your language skills, then don't despair: every programme will assign teaching assistants or programme coordinators who can speak English to you, and many people around town can often speak some English. However, please do remember that English is not ubiquitous in China and that you may need to use body language and other communication methods to make your point at times, especially if you travel independently in rural areas—this is part of the fun of travelling! We recommend bringing a simple phrase book with you to help if you decide to explore China on your own. If you are out and about without a bilingual teaching assistant, it is generally also best to look for younger people if you need help in English as they are far more likely to have learnt English at school.


  • Pre-departure Important information for preparing to join us in China


    • Communications in China: WeChat, Internet Access and VPNs

      Internet access behind the 'Great Fire Wall' of China. Banned sites and how to access them?

      Wi-Fi is provided on your programmes so you may want to take a laptop or other handheld device to access the internet and prepare lessons well or just chat to your families/friends. As you may know—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Gmail and other foreign sites  and platforms (even Tinder..) are not accessible in China. Prior to entering China, we suggest you get a VPN or take measures to ensure you are able to access alternate means for communication—such as hotmail (if you are a Gmail user, as its banned..) or WeChat prior to coming out.

      VPN - the key to access internet without restrictions

      If you wish to access Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Google, Gmail and other blocked sites while in China, please configure a VPN now.  If in doubt about whether you can access a site, please check here.

      VPN means ‘virtual private network’ it allows you to bypass Chinese internet restrictions, it gives you access to the internet of whichever nation's IP address you log into. Most universities around the world offer a VPN for free to their students, which is intended for you to be able to access sites that you need to be in campus to view, such as JSTOR and other academic journals. Please contact your university to check if they have a VPN service which you can use. We suggest you get a premium VPN, as outlined below:

      Our favourite VPN: Our Beijing office team need access to Facebook etc everyday, we live behind the Great Fire Wall so have some opinions on VPNs which you may find helpful. At present, August 2019, our preferred VPN is this one: https://www.sednax.com/  in our experience, it only works well on Laptops and not phones/tablets. It is very cost effective and works very well in China, but is a little tricky to setup. It has a totally different system to most premium VPNs available it is worth the effort getting setup because we haven't had a single day in our Beijing office where it didn't work this year. Otherwise, you can pay around £5 a month for an easier to configure VPN that works on devices and laptops, for those options read the next paragraph (these VPNs mentioned below aren't recommended by our Beijing office team as they are too unreliable long term, but they would be fine for a short trip/short usage.)

      Easier to setup premium VPNs:  If the option above is to hard to setup, then you can pay £5-10 a month for a decent private VPN service. One of the best ones is called Astrill, you can read about it here , for it to work well you will need to purchase the add-ons such as dedicated IP/VIP.  An alternative to Astrill is Express VPN (but it tends not to work so well in China...) both VPNs are easy to setup and work on computers and phones. There are quite a few VPN providers offering service for free, but you get what you pay for... Some premium VPN services also allow you to cancel within 30 days at no cost, which might mean you can use their services and cancel before you are charged. Generally, our Beijing office team finds these popular VPNs to be unreliable but they tend to work a little bit of the time...Unfortunately, any premium VPN service ends up being popular and once it is used alot then the government tried to sniff it out and crack down on it.

      Please test your VPN before you head to China, its much harder to get setup once in country: After downloading a VPN and turning it on, it should change your IP address. To test whether it works please first go to this link without it turned on,  and then go there again with it turned on. If the IPs are significantly different then the VPN should be working and will function in China.

      Legality:

      People often ask us if it is legal to use a VPN in China. This is a fascinating question! Some estimate as many as 10% of China's population use a VPN, legal issues have only arisen in minority cases for those people selling VPNs. It is very normal among urban, young, student segments of China to use a VPN - so don't worry!

      WeChat

      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.

      Find out more about WeChat here. For information on phone and data usage in China, please read this FAQ.


    • Crossing Borders - Customs/Immigration

      When crossing a border into Mainland China, whether by a land crossing (e.g. Hong Kong), or sea crossing (e.g. from Taiwan) or air crossing (e.g. any international airport), you will need to follow the standard border formalities—immigration and customs.

      For Customs:

      China's customs rules abide by global norms, while tending to be less strict than those for EU states, USA, Australia etc. Nevertheless, you still need to familiarise yourself with and abide by their rules. You may find a rundown of these rules by checking Google (we advise this just in case the information we provide becomes out-of-date due to new regulations. This link provides fairly comprehensive guidance on what you may/may not bring to China:

      It goes without saying that illegal drugs, and anything else that you wouldn't cross a border with in your home country, shouldn't be brought into China.

      Occasionally we are asked if you might have problems for importing certain media/book items into China. Generally, you are permitted to import media/book items for personal consumption that are considered legal globally—obviously anything that is illegal in your country will probably be illegal in China.

      *In the past we have been asked whether it is okay to bring: religious books (e.g. Bibles), political books (e.g. Western authors writing about China) etc. Generally these items are fine as long as they are clearly for personal use and not for dissemination in China. There may be certain items that could be confiscated on arrival—these would be any extremely sensitive item, such as writings by the Dalai Lama or Liu Xiaobo, or books about outlawed movements, e.g Falun Gong. Airports tend to be liberal about these policies, the only border we are aware of in China that is strict is the one between Nepal and Chinese Tibet—Lonely Planet guides that depict Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory in their map, and anything mentioning the Dalai Lama have been know to be confiscated upon arrival. Likewise, at the border between North Korea and China, iPads that have anti-North Korean items, such as the film 'The Interview', are sometimes confiscated. The borders which our participants usually enter China through tend to be more liberal about these policies.

      For Immigration:

      You will be expected to fill in a short form on arrival (see below). It should be very straightforward to fill in. The only point to remember here is that the tick-box section for 'purpose of visit' should be in accordance with the visa type you are using.

      We have advised all participants to process F visas which are for cultural exchange, internships, and short non-tourist visits. If you have an F visa, then on the form please tick 'Visit访问'.

      If you are on any other type of visa, then please tick the appropriate box:

      E.g:

      • Tourist (L visa) should tick ’Sightseeing/in leisure/参观/休闲'
      • Any type of study visa (X) should tick 'Study/学习'
      • only those on work visas should tick 'Employment/就业', our projects are usually short-term, non-remunerated, non-work, cultural exchange projects so the majority of participants will not have processed a work visa. Most people should not, therefore, tick 'Employment/就业'

      *For more information, refer to articles on Google such as this: http://www.vagabondjourney.com/4-easy-tips-for-filling-out-immigration-arrival-forms-correctly/


    • Crossing Borders - Notes about Hong Kong & Macau

      Hong Kong and Macau enjoy special status within China as SARs (Special Administrative Regions.) They have their own immigration policies which are separate to China's.

      This means that, for the sake of your visa, going from China to Hong Kong/Macau is equivalent to leaving China and going abroad. So, if you make this journey you will lose one entry on your visa—most people are issued a double entry visa, you can check this by looking at your visa's number of entries. If your visa is single entry, then please do not plan to visit Hong Kong and return to China after your initial entry into China, unless you plan on obtaining a new visa for China in Hong Kong. If you would like to visit Hong Kong and only have a single entry visa, then consider flying to and from Hong Kong and visiting the region at the beginning or end of your trip so that it doesn't affect your China visa.*

      In certain circumstances, you may only be issued a 30-day visa instead of the standard 60 or 90 days. When this happens, if you have a double-entry visa, then you can make a trip to Hong Kong/Macau to activate the next 30 days (this is applicable if you hold a double- or multiple-entry 30-day visa). If you only hold a single-entry 30-day visa and need longer, then you may extend within China or otherwise visit Hong Kong/Macau to apply for a visa from our recommended agent there. If you are from the UK, USA or Canada, as well as many other countries, then you do not need a visa in advance of travel to Hong Kong or Macau.

      If you need more advice on this, please don't hesitate to contact us.

      *Please note, in 2016 one applicant made a mistake which you should try to avoid. They chose to fly into Hong Kong with a stop in Beijing where they planned to undertake tourism for 2 days. They then flew to Hong Kong and re-entered China from Hong Kong where they found out the visa had expired because it was only single entry and they had stamped their single entry in Beijing already and then left to fly to Hong Kong. In the end, they had to stay in Hong Kong for 3 days to get a new visa, at some expense. If you have a similar plan to this, please make sure you check that your visa has more than one entry.

      If you wish to fly into China for a short period and fly out again, then you could also take a 72- or 144-hour visa on arrival in a major city such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen or Tianjin. Please read more here: https://www.travelchinaguide.com/embassy/visa/free-72hour/faq.htm   Make sure you meet all of the eligibility criteria if you wish to try this. Particularly, when you fly from overseas to China make sure the airline is informed that you will request a visa on arrival, they then communicate with the Chinese immigration officials. A key stipulation is that this visa can only be obtained if you have onward tickets to a 3rd country within 72 or 144 hours of arrival into China. A 3rd country means a country other than your home country or China, Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan count as 3rd countries in this law.

      If you have queries about this, you can try calling the airport immigration teams on these numbers: https://www.travelchinaguide.com/embassy/visa/free-72hour/faq.htm


    • Do I need travel and medical insurance?

      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. Make sure that your insurance covers you for any activities which you might be doing, such as rock climbing. We cannot make a formal recommendation, but in previous years participants have often opted for Lonely Planet’s recommended provider: Global Nomads.


    • Flight Booking Advice: Direct Flights

      There are lots of low-cost direct flight options available: often you cannot find these on search engines, but you can by checking promotions on airlines' own websites. To ascertain which airlines have direct flights from your preferred airport, you can check the airport on Wikipedia to see a list of all flights operating from there. Those coming to China from the UK should note that there are now direct flights to Beijing from Manchester with Hainan Airlines, very comfortable transfers from Birmingham with Etihad or Emirates and lots of options from London.
      Please check out the following search engines to find the best rates. The top two are Chinese and so are usually the best for China flights:
      • 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.)
      • http://www.trip.com/
      • http://www.momondo.com/
      • https://www.kayak.com/
      • https://www.skyscanner.com/
      • https://www.studentuniverse.co.uk/


    • Flight booking advice: transfer flights

      If you're concerned about the length of the flight to China, it is worth bearing in mind that it is possible to break up a flight into multiple legs by transferring. Those joining us from European countries (including the UK) can split their travel into two roughly six- and seven-hour flights with Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Aeroflot and others; similar transfer options are available from the US.
      For those doing a long-haul flight for the first time, please note that conditions tend to be far better than those found on regional carriers, such as Easyjet/Ryanair in Europe; there is normally better leg-room on larger aircraft, with complimentary baggage, meals, drinks and films included. The only exception to this rule that we are aware of is Ukrainian Airlines—they operate a no-thrills service on the Europe-China route. It is worth bearing in mind that, usually, the more premium the airline, the more likely it is that they haven't sold out their seats and so will have rows and rows of empty seating—so if you're lucky you could be able to get two or more seats to lie down.
      It is also worth considering that you can usually book significant layover durations if you like, to give you time for a rest and to explore a new city. In the past, participants have taken 24 hour layovers in Vienna (Austrian Airlines), Prague (Hainan Airlines), Amsterdam (KLM), Paris (Air France), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Moscow (Aeroflot), Helsinki (Finnair), Warsaw (LOT), Dubai (Emirates) and even Astana and/or Almaty (Kazakh Airlines), lots of other destinations are also available based on how you plan your route.
      If you would like a longer layover, please consider breaking up your journey; it can sometimes be cheaper to make your own way to the first city, such as Paris, and have a return booked from there. *Of course, if you like the sound of this, be sure to check that you don't need a visa for the mid-way destination before booking!
      Please check out the following search engines to find the best rates. The top two are Chinese and so are usually the best for China flights
      • 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.)
      • http://www.trip.com/
      • http://www.momondo.com/
      • https://www.kayak.com/
      • https://www.skyscanner.com/
      • https://www.studentuniverse.com


    • Flights

      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.

      Please also read this FAQ on direct flights to China and this one on flights with layovers. You can also check this FAQ to learn about arrival procedures, and this one to learn about visas.


    • Health

      China has a health system that differs significantly from what you may be used to in the West. While there is huge reform going on in healthcare in China, 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 . 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
      • headaches

      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
      • EpiPens
      • other prescription medication


    • How do you get from the airport to your placement? Are you picked up, or do you make your own way?

      We work with diverse programmes all over China, and the vast majority provide airport pickups. In cases where this isn't possible, there will be a designated staff member at the programme who is in charge of making sure your pickup is co-ordinated in an easy manner.

      Before you come to China, you will be put in touch with your programme coordinator through your interview and will stay in contact with them from your interview until you come out to China. They will provide you with all the information you need, including arrival procedure and airport pickups. Your programme coordinator and the Gotoco office team will support you throughout the process to make sure everything goes smoothly for you.

      Of course, if you prefer to travel around China before your programme begins, then that is fine too (and highly encouraged!). Please just make sure you can meet the programme and the rest of your team at one of the designated pickup locations on the right date.

      For more information on arrival procedures, please read this FAQ on what happens when you arrive at the airport.


    • How much does the visa cost and how does it all work

      Chinese visa costs vary depending on your passport type and the duration of stay and number of entries you may need in China. Some nationalities have their visas for free while others must pay a price. British passports, for example, incur a total cost of £151 but luckily get longer stays/numbers of entries than other European passports, you can read more about pricing at this helpful link

      We usually advise our participants to process their visa application with the help of a local China visa expert agency, this can add to the overall price. For example, our trusted UK agent adds a £15 commission while our North American agents add $30-50. We suggest this because the Chinese visa application is quite a difficult process and working with an agent ensures that you a/obtain the correct and most legally appropriate visa, b/ avoid mistakes on your application which could cost you a penalty charge (sometimes China charges you double price if errors in your application cause you to resubmit your visa application.c/ get treated well, looked after by experts, and charged a fair price

       


    • How much money will I need for the summer?

      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. 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¥30-80
      • 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 £1.10 or US$1.44

      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).

      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.

      Please also read this FAQ on direct flights to China and this one on flights with layovers. You can also check this FAQ to learn about arrival procedures, and this one to learn about visas.


    • Is China safe?

      Participants on our programmes often comment on how much safer China feels than the UK, Canada and the USA. Though people typically have a great time in China, you should still exercise a sensible level of caution and be prepared: be careful and sensible and avoid taking any unnecessary risks. Keep your valuables safe and secure at all times. Raise any concerns about the security of your accommodation with your programme coordinator and contact Gotoco if you need more assistance.

      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 participants over the years, and never yet encountered any major problems.

      Before coming, make sure you have photocopies of your passport information page, visa and travel/health insurance policy. Keep the copies in a different place to the originals so if you lose your bag, you can use them to get a replacement. Foreigners are supposed to carry their passport round with them in China, but we recommend only carrying photocopies of your passport and visa, to reduce the risk of losing these important documents. You can use a driving licence or other national ID for entry into bars, if necessary.

      Be careful crossing roads—there are normally multiple lanes of traffic and cars/bikes/scooters/buses to watch out for. The volume of traffic is generally quite high, but also quite stop-start and motorists are generally ready to slow down for pedestrians and bikes if necessary, but ensure you make eye contact with the driver and are certain they will stop before stepping into the road. Generally it is best to wait until the road is quiet before crossing, as you would at home. Make sure you follow all traffic signals.

      Always be alert and aware that the rules of the road are different to what you’re used to. Use of car horns is very common and can be irritating when you’re not accustomed to it, but it helps to warn others that a vehicle is coming, rather than being used infrequently (as in the UK) as a sign of danger or extreme annoyance.

      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

      • travel advisories of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office accessible here
      • travel warnings section of the U.S. State Department at (202) 647-5225
      • travel advisories of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
      • U.S. Centers for Disease Control at (877) FYI-TRIP or online here


    • Phones

      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. Please talk to your programme about obtaining a sim card on arrival into China.


    • Visas

      Once we have confirmed your offer, we will send you all the information you need for arranging your visa. Our participants 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.

      Please read this FAQ on customs and immigration for more information about visas.


    • What happens when I land at the airport?

      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 your Wechat contact (usually the interviewer) 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

      Arrival

      The first thing you’re likely to notice when you arrive (if like >90% of those that join us, you’re not a Mandarin speaker) is how different the language is from English, and how difficult it can be to understand things once you get out of the airport. It’s quite normal to feel overwhelmed by this, but don’t worry! Follow the instructions given by the school for your airport pick-up or the instructions on how you can make the transit yourself. If you can’t see your meeting group rightaway, stay where you are and call one of the numbers given to you by the school or your Gotoco representative. Most transport hubs/tourist sites have bilingual staff in case you need help, likewise many people in China are able to speak some English in case you need to ask for assistance. Please also read this FAQ on Mandarin.

      If you need to travel from the airport to another location for pick-up, make sure you have clear written instructions in English and Chinese, as well as contact phone numbers. Showing the directions for where you need to go, such as a train station or bus connection, to someone by pointing at the Chinese characters you have written down will help you find your way. Though not everyone speaks English, pointing and miming can still get you a long way.

      Don't forget to keep an eye on your passport and other valuables when leaving the airport and travelling on to your school – with everything else going on, and the fact that you may be tired from the long journey, it can be easy to forget about your valuables. While petty theft is often less prevalent in many parts of China than in the UK or USA, you should always still be very vigilant with all your valuables – especially in transit areas/tourist hubs. It might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with this list of scams that tourists sometimes encounter – http://travelscams.org/asia/common-tourist-scams-china/ transit hubs/ – tourist areas are the usual places where you could encounter these.

      If you have any problems, don’t hesitate to ask for help—contact either the Gotoco team or staff from your school (or both). And if there are problems connecting to a phone network, try looking for somewhere with free wifi or calling options, e.g. in the airport, in cafés, or restaurants.

      Once you arrive on your programme, your school should arrange for you to register your location with the police. This is a normal procedure for all foreigners in China. Speak to your programme coordinators to make sure you have done everything you need to do, and contact Gotoco if you have any concerns.


    • What should I pack?

      Pack for the season as you will be staying with Gotoco anywhere between May and September, although most likely in June, July or August. 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.

      Ask your programme coordinator during or after your interview about whether you will need formal clothes for teaching, sports kit for activities or any particular footwear. Find out from them directly if they have any particular dresscode or rules before you come, and also think about what activities, such as rock climbing, which you might want to organise in your own time.

      Please find out more information here.


    • What vaccinations do I need?

      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. Please consult with a medical professional once you know your location.

      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 (such as 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.


    • What's safe to drink? Information on Water, Tea, Alcohol

      Avoid drinking tap water in almost all locations in China. Bottled water is readily available and you should always make sure you have enough water overnight or if you’re going on activities. This is especially true in rural areas, where shops might close earlier in the evening or you might have to wait for transport into town—stock up on large bottles of water to make sure you always have enough.

      Hot or boiled water is also more common than cold water. Many Chinese people much prefer drinking hot water to cold, claiming health benefits, and you will find that you are often given boiled water in restaurants. This water is fine to drink, but if you feel uncomfortable then bottled water is usually available for purchase. You may also be surprised by the benefits of hot water with lemon and ginger when you’re feeling a bit run down or tired! You might also want to purchase a flask if you would like to save money (and plastic!) by boiling water for your own consumption.

      In terms of other drinks—please enjoy the variety on offer, with many soft drinks being different to what you might be used to at home, although all the regulars like Coca Cola are also available. If you're in Beijing and like fizzy drinks, then make sure you try Arctic Ocean (Běibīngyáng 北冰洋)! Otherwise, all sorts of bottled drinks are available throughout the country; first time visitors usually get excited about the delicious range of flavoured teas, soy milk drinks, 'Bubble Milk Tea', hot tea and, of course, alcoholic beverages.

      If you drink alcohol, then please take note: occasionally venues (usually glitzy nightclubs and bars) might sell adulterated hard spirits, which can give you a bad hangover or make you very inebriated. There have also been stories of people being poisoned by adulterated spirits, so do be careful. However, most locations are perfectly safe, you should just make sure to be careful to always know what you are drinking, as you should anywhere in the world, and always drink in moderation.

      You may also be introduced to Báijiǔ白酒—China's famous rice spirit. It is occasionally referred to as 'white wine' or 'rice wine'. Please drink with moderation, it is stronger than most spirits you are used to! People in China tend to be very hospitable, and in the evenings might treat you to rounds of drinks—be sure to know your limits and drink sensibly.

      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.


    • What's the food like in China?

      Chinese food is delicious and there are usually plenty of delicacies to choose from—spicy and non-spicy, hot and cold, savoury and sweet. Be prepared to try new things, even if you have no idea what they are exactly. The food in China is very different from the dishes you might be used to seeing in Chinese restaurants at home in Europe or North America, so don’t be surprised if the food you’re presented with looks very unfamiliar. It’s all part of the experience and most of the time you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

      If you think you’ll miss English food, maybe bring a couple of things with you from home—Marmite, biscuits, crisps and chocolate all help reduce any cravings for home comforts. Tea is also a good example of something which you can get in China but isn’t quite the same as it is in the UK, so if you’re addicted to English Breakfast Tea maybe consider bringing teabags. There will be plenty of opportunity both to try new foods and to buy things which you recognise from home. Supermarkets contain some interesting surprises and can be fun to explore. The variety of flavours of crisps is particularly impressive, ranging from standard flavours to more diverse ones like yoghurt and cucumber.

      If you are vegetarian or have any food allergies or dietary requirements, you should ask one of your contacts at the school how to communicate this to others. Get your manager to write it down in Chinese and English, and carry it with you at all times.

      If you have a nut allergy, make sure you communicate this clearly before any meals and have it written down to show restaurants. Peanut oil is used quite commonly in China and you must be very careful to avoid it, if you have allergies.

      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.


    • Where and how do I get local currency?

      Credit/Debit Cards and Cash

      While China is miles ahead of most of the world in terms of mobile payments, most places in China do not take credit cards, so you will have to take Renminbi (Chinese currency) wherever you go. There are ATMs where you can take money out, but tell your bank that you are in China and be aware of international fees! Currency cards, such as CaxtonFx, Monzo or from the Post Office (UK), are also a good option to avoid unfavourable exchange rates, and they offer a free online checking account with no fees for international withdraws.

      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.

      Mobile Payments

      China is miles ahead of most countries around the world in terms of mobile payments. Even in small rural villages or up secluded mountains, you can use WeChat or AliPay to pay for goods and services, just by scanning a QR code. However, this requires you, the user, to link your bank account or add money to your account. Some international cards, such as Monzo, can be used on WeChat, but don't bank on it: still follow the guidelines for cards and cash shown above as the payment system will usually require you to have a Chinese bank account.

      Even if you cannot use it for payments, 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 for making friends locally, so we urge you to download it now. Not only is it useful for messaging friends and family, businesses also often give discounts to customers following their WeChat account.

      Find out more about WeChat here. For information on phone and data usage in China, please read this FAQ.


    • Who do I contact once I am in China?

      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.

      For more information on arrival in China and your point of contact, please read these two FAQs on airport arrival and airport pick-ups.


  • Programme General information about our programme types


    • Can I do multiple programmes in a row?

      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.


    • How long do the programmes run for?

      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 for five nights. However, camps can last anything from two weeks to three 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.


    • How many hours will I be scheduled?

      Teaching hours vary depending on your programme.

      On programmes where you are principally teaching in a classroom setting, then you should generally 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.

      On activity-focused summer camps, you may spend longer hours with your students each day, and even share accommodation with them, but you will spend your days leading fun outdoor, sports, arts and crafts, or music activities to help students develop both their English and soft skills.

      Your programme's schedules and expectations will be communicated directly by the programme staff during the selection process, and again before you come to China.


    • How many people will be in my program? Will I get to meet them?

      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.


    • How much choice do I have over location?

      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 for your specific availability will be met as we run a competitive selection process.

      We have projects available on over 70 projects across China. These include programmes in cities such as Qingdao, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Lanzhou and Beijing, as well as more rural programmes in Yangshuo (Guangxi province), across Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. Your exact location will be confirmed once we determine the best project for you, based on your availability, out of the many programmes we work with all over China, and you have interviewed with them. Once we have selected a programme for you, we will send you full details online and give you the opportunity to ask any questions you have. 


    • How old will the local students be?

      The age of the local students will depend on your programme. Students range from 5 to 17 years old while some schools even run adult classes and very few are for students under 5. 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.


    • How will I get to the placement site each day?

      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.


    • When do the programmes run?

      Our programmes run in the Chinese summer holidays between late June and September, ranging from two weeks to three months, with a few programmes starting earlier in May and June. 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 vast majority of programmes run from the end of June to early August, so keeping this period available will give you the best chance of joining the right programme for you.


    • When will I find out where I will spend my summer?

      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 between March and June of the year you are due to come, as this is when our partners finalise their summer programmes. If you have any questions at any stage of the process, please don't hesitate to contact us at recruitment[at]go-to.co.


    • Where will I be living?

      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. Details of your accommodation will be sent to you at the interview stage as exact lodging varies depending on your location.


    • Will I be able to get class credit for this programme?

      Currently, we cannot provide class credit for the programmes. However, we are in discussions with several institutions and aim to offer class credit as soon as possible. Watch this space!


    • Will I be able to learn Mandarin?

      Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese or any Chinese-language dialect) competency is not a requirement for our programmes, but you can learn Mandarin while you are here.

      If you would like Mandarin lessons, make sure you let your programme know before you arrive. The method of learning depends on your level and the exact programme you are on. Most programmes offer more formal lessons twice per week for an hour each time, usually aimed at a beginner's level, as well as the opportunity to learn informally from Chinese teachers, assistants and friends throughout your stay. Lessons and practise usually principally focus on oral and listening skills, but if you would like to learn some writing then let your programme know before you arrive. Some programmes will offer informal opportunities to learn without formal classes, depending on the teaching schedule. Information on how your programme will provide lessons will be provided at the interview stage. If this is very important to you, then make sure you let your programme and us know what you are looking for.

      If you already know some Mandarin, then all of our programmes in China offer you a great opportunity to practise and enhance your language skills. You will have ample time to chat with your fellow teachers and local residents in Mandarin, so do make the most of it! Remember though that your principal purpose is to teach the children English so do make sure you mainly speak English with the students and save your personal language learning for after class. Most programmes will not usually offer more advanced Mandarin reading or writing classes, but if you have particular goals then communicate these before you arrive and your programme coordinator will see what is possible for you.

      If you have never learnt Mandarin before, then, while it can be frustrating at first not to be able to understand a lot of what is being said around you, you will become used to this fairly quickly. Learn the words for ‘hello’ (你好nǐ hǎo), ‘thank you’ (谢谢xìe xìe) and ‘goodbye’ (再见zàijiàn) before you come to get the ball rolling and show your Chinese colleagues and Mandarin teachers that you are keen to learn about the local culture and language. You will probably be surprised at how many words and phrases you come to recognise during your time in China. We will also send you a starter pack with some key phrases before you arrive in China.

      If you would like to start learning before you come to China, then please contact us for more information. There are great apps available to help you start to learn Mandarin, such as Duolingo, and you can often find language partners either on campus or online on sites such as www.italki.com. Please do use all the resources available to you if you are interested in learning the language!

      If you are worried about your language skills, then don't despair: every programme will assign teaching assistants or programme coordinators who can speak English to you, and many people around town can often speak some English. However, please do remember that English is not ubiquitous in China and that you may need to use body language and other communication methods to make your point at times, especially if you travel independently in rural areas—this is part of the fun of travelling! We recommend bringing a simple phrase book with you to help if you decide to explore China on your own. If you are out and about without a bilingual teaching assistant, it is generally also best to look for younger people if you need help in English as they are far more likely to have learnt English at school.


  • TEFL Questions relating to our TEFL certification


    • How does Gotoco's TEFL work?

      Our TEFL is offered in-house. This means we deliver and tailor the training segment to suit the needs of our programmes and our participants. 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 joining programmes 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 overall accrediting body applicable to TEFLs, just a few larger institutions  that provide awards—such as Cambridge (CELTA) and Trinity London (TESOL).


    • What is TEFL?

      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.


    • What is the shortest programme I can take part in and still get the TEFL?

      The TEFL is awarded on the basis of 120 hours of training and practice, which takes into account upwards of 70 hours of 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 (usually 80 hours). The exact amount accounted for will be clarified once the award is offered. In certain cases, on intensive programmes, we are still able to issue a 120-hour award for a 2-week programme.

If you have any questions that aren’t covered in the above FAQs, please tell us your question and email address below. We will post an answer to your question here and also email you to thank you for helping us update the FAQs.