9 things you need to know before coming to China

1. Visa


Citizens of very few countries in the world don’t require a visa to enter China. In all other cases visa is essential and you can either get it in your local Chinese consulate or via a visa agent. Normal processing time is 3 working days. Price varies from location to location and usually depends on a number of factors such as visa type, number of entries etc. Required documents for a tourist visa: application form, passport, invitation from a Chinese party.

2. Registration with police

This is extremely important! You must register with local police within 24 hours of arrival. If you are staying in a hotel, they will do this procedure for you. If you’ve arranged your accommodation via AirBnb or are staying at a friend’s place, you’ll need to go to your local police station and apply for what’s called ‘Registration of Temporary Residence’. And you need to do it every time you change your address. If you fail to notify the police about your (new) address within the specified time, they might fine you for 2000RMB. Which is quite a lot of money.

3. VPN

You might have probably heard of ‘Great Firewall of China’ and it’s really a thing. Forget about all your favourite social media, streaming services and torrents. Chinese government blocks every second foreign website which in their opinion might be harmful for a sensitive Chinese mind.

If you can’t imagine your life without Facebook and Youtube, though, the solution is there – just download a VPN app and browse whatever you want, whenever you want. There are a few free ones but most of them charge a monthly fee of $5-20 on average. Don’t expect very high speed, though. Even without VPN. Internet in China is… Hmm, not very good.

4. Pollution

Air pollution in China is bad. I mean, real bad. Coming here from New Zealand – a country with probably the cleanest atmosphere in the world, my body went through a massive shock and is still experiencing some after-effects. Clean air is not a thing here. They say that cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou are not that bad compared to Beijing, for example, but for me bad air is bad air. Expect continuous cough, stuffed nose, smog, acidic rains and all other things that come with air pollution. I highly recommend wearing a mask at all times.

5. WeChat

WeChat is a king of social media in China. It’s like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp combined together, but it’s even more than that. You can post your moments, share music, chat to your contacts, make video and audio calls, exchange audio messages, share location with friends, share media files and ridiculous stickers, make payments, get paid etc. etc. Believe me, you’ll forget about Facebook in no time.

6. Banking

Opening an account with a Chinese bank is quite easy. Just bring your passport and fill out an application form at a local branch. You’ll need to have a Chinese phone number so I’d recommend visiting a mobile operator before going to the bank. The largest banks are: Bank of China, ICBC, China Merchant’s bank. 

If you want to send money back home, please keep in mind that the maximun amount you can send per day is US$500. Bank fees are quite high as well, with about US$40 per transfer. Be prepared to spend one or two hours at the bank as most Chinese bank workers have never dealt with international bank transfers before so it’s a quite painful process for them 😊

7. Payments

Having a Chinese bank card gives you access to the two easiest and fastest payment systems in the world (in my opinion): Alipay and WeChat Wallet. Both are operated from within a mobile app, the only thing you need to do to set up an account is to link your bank card and phone number and you’re good to go. 

Forget about credit cards and NFC. Both Alipay and WeChat Wallet can be used to make a purchase at a supermarket, pay for food delivery, buy train/plane tickets, get a manicure or even pay for street food. With WeChat, you can also transfer money to any of your contacts (makes life easier when sharing a bill/expenses/paying for services).

8. Taobao

You’ve probably heard about it. You’ve probably been jealous of not having it in your country. Well, congrats – if you are in China, the door to the number one online shopping platform in the world is now open for you. You can literally buy anything here. To set up an account, you’ll need to have a local Chinese address. Most vendors provide super fast delivery which usually takes 1-2 days. Pure paradise for shopaholics like moi. 

9. Mandarin

You will be able to get away with English in big cities like Shanghai or Shenzhen or Guangzhou, but only for a month or two until you get to the point where you’ll be quite irritated by the fact that you still have to use gestures any time you need something or simply can’t understand what the other person is telling/asking you. It’ll be even more challenging in smaller cities/towns.

So start learning Chinese as soon as possible. Word by word, phrase by phrase. It will make your life easier and your cultural experience more enriching.

That’s all from me for now.

I’ll keep you posted 

xx

Alisha

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