Traditional dancers welcome Chinese tourists to Cairo, the Egyptian capital, in January. (Photo/Xinhua)
With China lifting more travel restrictions after optimizing its COVID-19 response, many travelers have booked flights for long-awaited overseas trips.
On March 15, the nation began allowing travel agencies and online tourism service providers to offer group tours to a second list of 40 destinations, including France, Greece, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Brazil.
On Feb 6, it announced a pilot program to resume group travel to 20 countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives, Singapore, Egypt, Kenya, Switzerland and New Zealand.
Li Zi, 30, who works for an internet company in Beijing, said: "On the night of Dec 27, I read about the new epidemic control measures due to take effect on Jan 8. I was so excited that I read this short report repeatedly before deciding to plan an overseas trip as soon as possible."
She used to travel overseas with her husband two to three times every year, and the couple visited dozens of countries from 2016 to 2019.
"We traveled around the world for fun. I was curious about everything overseas, and I learned about numerous cultures and traditions in different countries," Li said.
While travel restrictions were in force, Li left Beijing whenever she could, and during the toughest period for COVID-19 in the capital last year, she visited Qingdao, Shandong province, Changbai Mountain, Jilin province, and Hainan province.
"If I didn't arrange a new journey every three months, I had nothing to look forward to. I left Beijing, even at the risk of being quarantined," said Li, who travels to relieve pressure from work.
A few days after the new policies were announced, Li's husband saw return air tickets to Belgium advertised on the internet, costing 7,000 yuan each ($1,012) for departure in three weeks' time.
The couple obtained their visas within a week, although their trip was shortened due to a canceled flight.
Before they left, Li was highly excited but also concerned, as she had not been abroad for three years. She packed many COVID-19 prevention items, including face masks and disinfectants.
"After we landed in Brussels and walked out of the airport, we totally forgot about the risk of infection from COVID-19. It was as though the disease had never happened. No one was coughing, no one wore masks, and no hand sanitizers were in sight," Li said.
The couple's most memorable experience during the trip was a chance encounter with a group of Christians singing songs in front of a Belgian church one night.
"People came together to delight in the sound of music — heralding the return of human connections that had been absent for a long time. We were so touched by the sight of the singers that it brought tears to our eyes," Li said.
She added that she used to spend a lot of time exploring architectural styles in Europe, but during the recent trip, she shifted her focus to local life — observing how residents went about their daily activities.
Li, who plans to visit Turkiye with her husband in May, said: "I travel abroad to immerse myself in diverse cultures, adjust my mindset, and free myself from the pressures of work. A job is a way to earn money, but taking a well-deserved break for enjoyment is just as important."