Background: The mobility of female sex workers (FSWs) is a factor in the geographic spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This study describes FSW mobility patterns in a high risk area of China to identify factors associated with increased mobility, and to study the incidence and prevalence of HIV/STIs in this group.Methods: 270 FSWs recruited from a baseline cross-sectional study were invited to participate in a one-year monthly follow-up cohort study in Kaiyuan City, Yunnan Province, China from 2006 to 2007. Laboratory tests were conducted for HIV/STIs at baseline, 6 and 12 months.Results: A total of 117 (43.3%) FSWs moved to another city during the year. Risk factors for increased mobility included being from another city within Yunnan (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] 1.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.09-2.56), being from outside Yunnan (AHR 1.58, 95% CI 1.04-2.54), and working in lower risk entertainment establishments (AHR 1.55, 95% CI 1.03-2.35). HIV-positive subjects, drug users and FSWs in higher risk venue were less likely to change residence, less likely to use condoms with clients, and earned less per client, but had more working locations and more clients each month.Conclusions: The least mobile FSWs were from Kaiyuan, worked in higher risk venues, were more likely to use drugs and be HIV-infected. Because FSWs characteristics differ according to the venue at which they work, future prevention work should tailor programs according to venue with a particular focus on FSWs in higher risk venues.