Is it Safe to Travel to Xinjiang? Q&A #2

Xinjiang Q&A, episode 2! Is it safe to travel to Xinjiang? I completely
understand why you’re asking that question. The funny thing is, when I arrived in 2006,
that question wasn’t even relevant. It wasn’t until 2008 coming up to the Olympics and 2009
when we had incidents here in Urumqi that that question became something that was commonly
asked by travelers heading out to this region. So let me go ahead and answer that question
quickly: Is it safe to travel to Xinjiang. YES! Ok…I guess I can’t say that with 100% certainty
and I’m sure there’s some liability involved in there so let me qualify that statement
just a little bit. Over the past 10 years I have not heard of
a single incident where a traveler – whether directly or indirectly – has been involved
and harmed in any of the ethnic conflict that has occurred here in Xinjiang. And that even
includes the Han Chinese tourists. One of the questions I get a lot is: “I look Han
Chinese. Is it safe for me to travel around the southern part of Xinjiang?” And again,
I don’t know of anybody that has been harmed and one little tip for you: smile! It’s surprisingly disarming for people, especially
in southern Xinjiang where people are incredibly friendly and a smile is just one small gesture
that really makes a big difference. So let me walk you through a couple of things
that you’re going to notice differently when traveling here in Xinjiang and things that
you can do in order to make sure that doesn’t hamper or change your plans here as you’re
traveling. The first is this: you’re gonna notice more
military and security personnel here all across the region. Whether that’s at transportation
hubs; whether that’s on the streets; you’re going to see a lot of military. And really,
for the most part, it’s not going to affect you at all. The biggest thing you should remember,
especially if you have a camera, is don’t take a picture of the security and military
personnel. I don’t know any other way to say it. If you want to get your camera confiscated
or if you want to get your memory card wiped, please by all means go ahead and take pictures
of the security but you’re going to notice the moment that your camera even comes near
to them they’re going to notice and they’re going to let you know they’re not happy about
that. The second thing is that you’re going to notice
a lot of metal detectors that you’re going to have to go through. You’re going to notice
a LOT of cameras all over the place and you’re going to notice bag checks everywhere you
go. This is just part of life here in Xinjiang and it’s something you need to get used to. The next thing is security checkpoints. This
is particularly around the southern part of Xinjiang. I remember going from Kashgar on
a bus down to Hotan and probably got stopped and had to leave the bus 6-7 times where everybody
had to exit, show their passports and prove that they were there legally. That’s just
common and again, it’s part of traveling around in the southern part of Xinjiang. My advice to you is this: 1) ALWAYS have your
passport along with you and 2) this is key – have a copy of your passport kept in another
place. So if you have your bag let’s say under the bus, keep your passport on you and keep
a copy of your passport in your bag. That way, if something happens, if you lose your
passport, you have a copy of your passport and – excuse me, let me qualify that – passport
and visa, a copy of your passport and valid visa in another place with you. Next is, you’re going to notice a lot of longer
lines in places like the airport, the train station, the bus station; all of those places
are going to have longer lines. For instance, at the Urumqi International Airport, before
you even get into the airport you have to pass your bags through a scanner and security
check, and that’s not to mention the security that you’re gonna have to go through before
you get to the gate. So expect that what you would normally think the time that you need,
lengthen that by at least 50%-100% more in order to give yourself enough time to get
through the different transportation hubs that you’re going to be going through…excuse
me, going through. The next is that you should expect unexpected
delays and restrictions, ok. Whether that’s flight delays, whether that’s delays due to
security checks; it happens all the time and I have a number of people who tell me “I was
planning to go here…” or they ask me “Is it possible to go to this village” or “Is
it possible to go here”. And my answer is usually the same: “Well, it should be!” Whether
it actually is or not is dependent upon the security official that day or maybe the government
official for that particular region. I can’t tell you for certain that where you want to
go is going to be open for foreigners at the time you want to go, so just, you know, be
flexible about it. That’s one of the two things that I would
really say for those that are thinking and worried about the safety situation here in
Xinjiang. The first is this: use common sense. The biggest thing that you’re gonna have to
really worry about here is pickpockets and that’s the same all over China. That is my
biggest concern here in Xinjiang as regards to safety, not that anything else is going
to happen to me. So use common sense and the second thing is to be flexible. Be flexible with your itinerary; be flexible
with your time, because the more you’re going to be rigid about it the less you’re going
to enjoy your experience here in Xinjiang. Because things happen that are out of your
control, they’re out of my control, they ALWAYS happen, so as long as you expect it, you can
have a good time while you’re here. I’m Josh. This is FarWestChina. If you have
any other questions about traveling in this western region of Xinjiang, look at the rest
of the FAQ videos I have here or, if you don’t find your answer there, email me at [email protected]
That’s all. Peace!


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