Traveling to China requires some preparations beforehand. It is important to get ready both on the business front and on the cultural one. We can help you start by introducing some aspects which will make preparations for the journey easier. What should you remember, what should you pay special attention to, and what should you avoid?
Traveling to China – preparations
Vaccines in China
Depending on where in China you are traveling, you should think about getting vaccinated when planning the journey. Vaccines are not required but are recommended in some cases. If you are only traveling to a big city often visited by tourists, you do not need to bother. However, when you go to the southern or southwestern regions, it is worth considering. It would help if you thought about this at least six weak ahead of the departing time.
Moreover, not all medications are available in China, so you should take them with you. We also recommend bringing the prescription, as it might be needed at the airport.
Money – exchange, cash, WeChat
Currently, the most popular payment method in China is by phone, or more specifically, WeChat. The app is used not only to contact friends but also when shopping or paying for services. You can find QR codes in most stores (even smaller ones). All you need to do to pay is to scan the code.
Credit cards are not used often. Also, not all banks allow using them abroad. If they do, you may be charged a fee. There should be no problems with withdrawals. Keep in mind that while using an ATM in China, take out the cash and then the card. Still, it is always good to check whether hotels and restaurants accept international cards beforehand.
We recommend using the ExamineChina-tested Revolut app. Withdrawals and paying by card are not charged additionally (depending on your plan). Moreover, you can exchange money in seconds without hidden fees.
We also advise having cash on you. Exchanging some currencies might turn out difficult, but it is possible. It is worth contacting a chosen currency exchange office prior and telling how much money you would like to exchange right away. It is easiest to do in big cities or airport exchange offices. You can also exchange a given currency for euros or dollars and then exchange them for yuan after landing in China. You can also exchange money in a Bank of China branch, but it might be troublesome because of long queues and the general lack of English-speaking employees.
If you plan to go to China for a more extended period, consider opening a Chinese bank account.
Traveling to China – Chinese Visa
Visa is required from citizens of the majority of countries. Every country has its specifications and procedures for obtaining a visa, but it is usually done through a Chinese embassy or a consulate.
Everyone applying for a visa needs to fill an application form, on which you have to answer why you want to enter the country and how long you plan to stay. You also need to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry to China, and if required, you will have to provide other necessary documents, depending on the type of stay. To check rules specific to your country, visit this website.
It usually takes about seven business days to obtain the visa.
Types of Chinese visas you can apply for:
- Business – work visit after receiving an invitation (including business meetings, science-technical relations, cultural exchange), courses, training, and internships.
- Student – requires a visa application and an enrollment certificate.
- Work – requires an invitation from a company interested in hiring the applicant.
- Transit – requires a valid visa to the target country and a valid ticket.
Visas can be extended within the People’s Republic of China borders.
SIM Card, Internet, VPN in China
After arriving in China, it is recommended to buy a Chinese SIM card. You can do that already at the airport, and it will make the entire stay easier. To purchase, you will need your passport as you need to register the card. The cheapest ones are 40 yuan.
When organizing the trip, it is good to do some research on how the internet works in China. Wi-Fi is available in nearly every restaurant, shopping center, and hotel (you will likely need to confirm your identity, which can be done using WeChat. Internet in China is much different from the one in every other country. Using Google is almost impossible. Logging into Facebook or checking e-mail on Gmail is also quite problematic.
What to do in this situation? A known method of surpassing the Great Firewall is using VPN (Virtual Private Network). We recommend downloading it before arriving in China. An example of a good VPN is Express VPN. It can be installed on three devices simultaneously and has servers worldwide, including countries near China that can be quickly connected to. Additionally, Express VPN has a one-month trial period and guarantees a money return. VPN needs to be downloaded before landing in China, as the installation is impossible in the country.
Traveling to China: get around China
How to travel around China? There are many options, so below you will find a list of available methods of transport.
Bikes in China
In China, bikes can be found almost everywhere. It is an increasingly popular method of getting around. Tourists can easily rent bikes for an entire day. Rental usually costs about 1 yuan per half an hour. There are many bike lanes in Beijing, which spread all around the city, making it easier for sightseers to reach many places.
Self-service bike renting places became more popular over the last years. As about 30 companies compete on the bike-sharing market, it is easy to find bikes to rent in many spots. Unlike the stations in Europe, you do not need to return the bikes to a particular space. Thanks to a built-in GPS tracker and special apps, the bike can be left anywhere. All you need to do is to lock it.
To rent a bike, you will need a smartphone with an internet connection and a payment method. Obtaining the second one used to be quite problematic for foreigners; however, in 2019, China mobile payment companies started to allow people without a Chinese bank account to pay using WeChat or Alipay. Even though the industry had some difficulties in the past, rent-a-bikes are among the best methods of touring Chinese cities available.
Buses in China
When it comes to moving around the city, buses are also a good option. If you are planning to stay in China for longer, consider getting a special bus pass. It should be used after entering the vehicle. If you are staying for a shorter time, all you need is cash. Every time you enter a bus, use the first door. Next to the driver, there is usually a transparent money box, where you should throw in the due amount. The bus fare is mostly relatively low. In smaller cities such as Kaifeng (Henan province), the fare is 1 yuan, and in bigger ones such as Xi’an, 1.50 yuan. The fare stays the same regardless of the distance traveled.
Subway in Chinese cities
Subways can be found in bigger Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen. It is a good method of traveling through the car jammed cities. Subway tickets are from 1 to 5 yuan depending on the city and where you want to go.
The subway system in Beijing has to over 500 km, and it is used by 10 million people every day. The government had plans to extend it to 999 km before 2021. As of December 2020, it was 727 km long.
Trains in China
Trains are the most popular method of transport in China. Tickets can be acquired both in ticket booths and online. Foreigners need to have a passport to be able to purchase them. The prices vary depending on the type of train and route.
Tourists often choose G class trains (also called the gaotie, 高铁) because of their high speed, reaching 300 km/h. The route from Beijing to Shanghai (1320 km) takes less than 5 hours.
Procedures on train stations resemble those on airports. You will have to show your passport and ticket already at the entrance. You will also need documents to go through the following gates, which lead to the platforms. They are again checked when entering the train and during the journey, so it is good to always have them on you. In some cases, the tickets are also checked when leaving the station.
Taxi in China
Taxis can be found everywhere in China; there are over 60 thousand only in Beijing. The fare depends on the city you are in and will be higher in Beijing or Shanghai. You even get charged by taking one. In Beijing, it is about 10 yuan and less in smaller cities. Then you will be charged with each traveled kilometer (about 2 yuan).
Sometimes the taxi driver gives you the total fare before the drive. Still, in each taxi, there is a taximeter that should always be on.
To catch a cab, often, all you need to do is to raise your hand. However, the language barrier can prove to be problematic; it is rare for the driver to speak English. We recommend preparing the address beforehand, written down in Chinese characters.
Planes in China
There is a well-developed connection grid between bigger cities. Air China is one of the most popular airlines. The prices of flights between cities vary, but usually, it is 260 to 1000 USD.