If you have more, up to date info on this, mail me (Juliette) through our contact page
Some areas of China are still closed to foreigners. Transit is permitted by bus, train or taxi, but not by bike or on foot. This causes real problems with routes, not least because finding out which areas are closed is difficult. Fines for being caught in a closed area can be as much as 500 Yuan a person, but be sure to bargain as they can usually be reduced (tell the police you haven't got that much with you). I would recommend refusing to pay until they give you a list of where the closed areas in that province are.
We have gathered information about closed areas for Shanxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan and have some info on Inner Mongolia. (See maps below). We hope to make a map for Yunnan after we pass through it. Please be aware that our closed area maps are only as good as the sources we used. Things are changing fast, so if you are really concerned about the issue go and ask the PSB. Still, we hope these will be useful in planning.
1) Web site lists (2001) All provinces
The following pages list the open areas, but finding them on maps is still a tedious business. They are also a bit confusing because they list only the capital of certain sub-provinces, by which they sometimes mean that the whole of that sub-province is open. These lists are published by a Chinese Government website and describe the situation in 2001. Many areas have opened since the list was made, but as yet we have discovered none that have closed since 2001.
Open areas in Chinese characters
Open areas in pinyin
2) PSB offices
Senior PSB officers do know where the closed areas are, at least in their province.
In Datong we managed to obtain a list for Shanxi with a little persistence. We were not permitted to photocopy the list but we were allowed to copy it out by hand! (See below) This list is slightly more up to date than the website versions, but again dates from 2001. Differences between the website listings and the closed areas marked on the Shanxi map below are due to our consulting this PSB list in Datong.
In Xi'an and in Songpan, Officers looked over our maps and pointed out the closed areas. Many areas had opened since 2001, our maps reflect this. This information is only as good as the word of these officers. In Emei Town, they gave us info. by phone with the help of an english speaking student.
We have not mapped or fully investigated closed areas here, but we do know of one that all cyclists riding between Mongolia and China will have to pass through.
Highway 208 is the only paved road running from Erlian (The open Mongolian border town), to Jining (Also open). This runs through a closed area surrounding the town of Toihutche about 55km north of Jining. We were caught and charged 250Y each (they asked for 500Y each but we said we didn't have that much, another couple caught just after us managed to bargain the fine down to 150Y each). Apparently they catch 100 people a year in this area. They tend to wait for you in the town so I would suggest riding through the town after dark, or taking the "Grasslands Road" that runs SE from Saihan Tal to Xianghuang Qi. Nathaly of www.transsiberiancyclechallenge.com went this way and found it to be a sandy track. Alternatively you could take the bus (they routinely take bikes on the roof), or try to hitch a ride on a truck.
List of closed areas from PSB in Datong. We have mapped these as best we can. Click on the map to see a larger version. Areas enclosed by purple lines are closed.
There are two closed areas, bounded by purple lines and one area that the 2001 website has as closed and the PSB officer in Xi'an did not comment on. It is enclosed by a hatched purple line and marked with a question mark below. Check if you want to go through here, it may be open by now. Click map for larger version.
Only 5 areas here closed, according to a PSB officer in Songpan, and another in Emei Town who told us of a closed area near Emei Shan that the Songpan man claimed was open (The moral here is that PSB officers will only tell you about areas that they think you need to know about. They will claim all other areas are open.)
The closed areas are enclosed by purple lines. Click map for larger version.
We were told by an English speaking PSB officer in Kunming that there are no closed areas in Yunnan. Our 2001 list shows a couple but presumably these are now open.
People interested in cycling to Lhasa should read this page: How to Cycle to Lhasa Illegally
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