The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

The First Time in China Guide

Longinus

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 28, 2014
1,057
4,381
1,016
34
Poland / Belgium
In the near future, I'm going to see a trade show (not Canton Fair) in China. It's my first time ever in China and I heard and read a lot of things. Since many forum members have lots of experience visiting this country, it would be nice to sum up all the important stuff.

I want to create a checklist/guide with all the basic info so other members can visit China without any problems.

Pre trip organisation:
  • Bought flight tickets (direct flights) to Shenzhen (check cheapest and best flights with Google Flights).
  • Got international pasport
  • Made appointment with Chinese embassy for visa (got invitation letter from fair organizer).
  • Booked hotels with booking.com

Apps I downloaded:
  • China Trains: wanted to check with Google Maps, but they don't show info. China Trains seems easy to use and you can see what kind of seat type you choose and even book.
  • Metro Man: guide with all the metro info. You can also see how much it costs, but you cannot book.
  • Google Translate: speaks for its own.
  • Translator Foto: just found this one where you can take a photo of weird signs and translate it!
  • WeChat: I use this for communicating with some Chinese people, but they also pay with it.
Questions:
  • I don't see the option to pay on WeChat, does this get visible once I'm in China?
  • Do people still pay a lot with cash in China?
  • I use Android and a lot of Google apps (Gmail, Keep Drive, Maps etc). Since Google is banned in China, I'm not sure which will keep working. Which will definitely stop working? Does anybody know a good VPN to use?
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Joaquim

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Feb 19, 2018
51
165
145
Belgium
Thanks for making this list, this can be really helpful to many of us!

Questions:
  • I don't see the option to pay on WeChat, does this get visible once I'm in China?
Indeed this only works when you download the app in China.

  • Do people still pay a lot with cash in China?
I think it depends on where you want to go, but you'll probably go to a big city. There people paying with cash is becoming an exception.
 

Bon Appetit

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Jan 19, 2018
62
75
128
33
Paris, France
Maybe also inform yourself about travel scams there. Classic one is Taxi, it happens a lot in Beijing, Shanghai so I suppose that Shenzhen will not be an exception.
 

kingj

New Contributor
Feb 22, 2018
4
14
15
29
Vienna
In China, you simply have Baidu instead of Google. 百度手机助手 bai du shou ji zhu shou. There's a chinese version of every western App, from Uber to Paypal.
I've been in Shen Zhen (Hua Qiang North) recently, and my family is there doing business in (Gang Xia North), so feel free to ask me anything.
 

kingj

New Contributor
Feb 22, 2018
4
14
15
29
Vienna
Questions:
  • I don't see the option to pay on WeChat, does this get visible once I'm in China?
  • Do people still pay a lot with cash in China?
  • I use Android and a lot of Google apps (Gmail, Keep Drive, Maps etc). Since Google is banned in China, I'm not sure which will keep working. Which will definitely stop working? Does anybody know a good VPN to use?
[/QUOTE]

The option of Wechat payments is enabled only to Chinese Account (it depends on when you register it), you likely won't be able to fully use it, on western account it appears as "Wallet" under the "Me" tab but it has very limited functionalities (can' top up any money from western cards), it's not related to the location (so it won't "upgrade" when you arrive in China), this was a huge disappointment and discomfort (even for me that i am a oversea born chinese and not having any chinese ID to get chinese phone number and opening a chinese bank account). You still can receive money and spend it, i have took some red bags (hongbao) and even received money from relatives.
The only way to "survive" not having WeChat Pay, is to take cash from ATM, they must be linked to International Circuits like Mastercard,Visa,Maestro (not sure of Amex). Weird thing, i could only take 1000rmb per transaction, above that, it would be denied, be aware of this, may be some anti-moneylaundering issue, also the cash took like this costs extra fees. Otherwise, you have better chance simply by changing money at professional money exchanger like the ones in Airport. (It is also common to find elder people in front of the bank and they offer better rate of exchange, but it would be likely harder to find them in ShenZhen, i used to find them in my hometown, as my little hometown is a city of all migrants, they use to come back to China with plenty of cash etc.. but this is another story).

Paying with Cash in Shen Zhen and they look at you like an Alien, Shen Zhen is the hometown of Wechat, QQ (both of Tencent), and other most of the successful tech startups, they rarely use cash.
(N.d.r: This is even safer for locals, they just need a smartphone to have anything on hand.
My brother has a phone case with the metr card holder, so they can go out without the wallet, they have money, metro and the phone number equals as ID. You can't request a SIM without an ID and they are both bounded togheter, so your SIM is almost "legally authentic" as an official Identity Card in some aspects of the life)

A free and decent VPN is "Turbo VPN" but it's decent only for social media and basic google searches. I tried to work remotely and simply checking Gmail was already terrible (very very slow).
I used a lot trip.com, for pickup drivers from airport to hotel, hotel and almost everything you need to travel.
One of the most weird thing of train tickets bought online is that you have to meet the ticket brooker in front of the train station, they don't have digital tickets (qr code?) or printable tickets, you need the original, so the brooker basically is someone who does the queue for you to buy a ticket and gets the physical ticket to you without any surcharge, instead you get it even cheaper (if i am not mistaken).

Hope it helps, i was there in October of last year
 

kingj

New Contributor
Feb 22, 2018
4
14
15
29
Vienna
Maybe also inform yourself about travel scams there. Classic one is Taxi, it happens a lot in Beijing, Shanghai so I suppose that Shenzhen will not be an exception.
You mean the fake taxi driver that waits you at the exits of Airport and Stations? Yup.. i got into one the first day, i was tired and there was a long queue for buses, so it was worth to pay extra bucks for the service...just afraid of meeting some criminal and weirdos.. the funny thing is that he even had and showed me a badge of the company i was looking for, but when he showed up his car, it was sure for me that this was an illegal driver and/or using the badge out-from-work (as private). I thought to myself:"You can trick me once, maybe twice, but not 3 times" :smuggy: This to confort myself from being tricked. Lesson learnt
 

Walter Hay

Legendary Contributor
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
Speedway Pass
Sep 13, 2014
2,395
9,695
2,203
World citizen

jpn

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
May 6, 2017
124
370
188
Netherlands
I’m in China right now been here 6-7 times (my wife/in-laws are Chinese). Plus I lived here for a while.

Visa
Visa requirements vary per country, but in NL I have to provide:
  • Statement from employer indicating my salary, position and contract type. OR a bank statement showing sufficient funds for my stay in China (100 EUR per day is the minimum usually) OR if you're an entrepreneur a registration with the Chamber of Commerce and something to indicate that your income is sufficient
  • An invitation letter from a person or company in China
    • If the inviter is a natural Chinese person a copy of their Chinese ID, not sure what they require for a company inviting you.
  • A copy of your passport
  • A digitally filled out visa application form printed out and signed.
  • Proof of flight and accommodation for every day in your trip.
Hong Kong / Macao
Important note, if you plan to visit HK or Macao you'll need a multi-entry visa, they are not part of China from a border/customs perspective, so if you leave to HK/Macao then you need a second entry to get back in.

Apps
Google translate will not work. Assume that nothing that works in the West will work in China (not true, but the safest assumption). Drive, gmail, etc. will not work. Unless you have a good VPN, and even then its sluggish. Think of it this way, everything on the internet that is hosted outside of China goes through the great fire wall. This slows everything down to a crawl. So even if it's not blocked, foreign internet services will be annoying to use.

VPN
A good VPN will help, but is not guarantee. I use Express VPN when I travel, works well, plus I run a private VPN server in a Datacenter in NL, which works very well most of the time. Government actively blocks known VPN providers. And don't forget, you cannot get a VPN once in China.

SIM
Get a SIM card when you get here, but they will need to make a copy of your passport and Visa before they sell it to you. Even Chinese citizens need to do that (copy their ID).

WeChat
WeChat pay will only work in China for foreigners. You can link a foreign card now but that didn't work for me in the past (I have a Chinese bank account so everything works fine for me). You can also give someone cash and ask them to transfer money to your WeChat account.

Cash
China is still heavily a cash country, some nearly all places will accept cash. Most older Chinese have a love relationship with cash and carry a lot of it.

Trains & Planes
Train system in China is awesome, but since I don't speak Chinese I've never managed to book a ticket on my own. They need your passport details in order for them to issue a train ticket, none of the machines have English or allow the use of a foreign ID, people at the counters do not speak English. I've always asked my family here for help, but I've had friends who bought tickets online from abroad before they travelled. When you book a train, you usually book a seat at a specific time. But you can change the time once for free. Even after you missed the train. But depending on your budget, domestic flights are also quite cheap (but the bullet trains are awesome in China).

Anyway
Bit of a brain dump here, shoot me a message if you want to know more. I love the country (despite its challenges) but its not always easy for a first-timer. Especially if you haven't travelled to similar countries before.
 
OP
OP
Longinus

Longinus

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 28, 2014
1,057
4,381
1,016
34
Poland / Belgium
A bit worried when I read that Gmail is not gonna work at all. Is a VPN the only solution to solve that?
 

jpn

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
May 6, 2017
124
370
188
Netherlands
A bit worried when I read that Gmail is not gonna work at all. Is a VPN the only solution to solve that?
Honestly, yes. You can not login to the gmail app, or retrieve mail from their servers using Apple Mail.

Bing works. Not sure if Microsoft’s Gmail competitor works.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

jpn

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
May 6, 2017
124
370
188
Netherlands
A bit worried when I read that Gmail is not gonna work at all. Is a VPN the only solution to solve that?
Just checked. I can open live.com, Microsoft’s competitor, in China without VPN. So that could work as an alternative. Or forward mail from gmail there. Otherwise get a few different paid vpn’s so you always have a backup. Most I’ve seen have a monthly pass that you can cancel when you don’t need it anymore.

Other alternative is to get a HK SIM card and roam in China. They usually don’t block anything on those. And you get pretty good rates on roaming. Or use your foreign SIM card, although that might be expensive roaming wise.
 
OP
OP
Longinus

Longinus

Platinum Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 28, 2014
1,057
4,381
1,016
34
Poland / Belgium
Thanks for checking @jpn

I'll bring my laptop too, I've read that Chrome won't be a problem. Hope it stays like this for the coming months.
 

jpn

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
May 6, 2017
124
370
188
Netherlands
Thanks for checking @jpn

I'll bring my laptop too, I've read that Chrome won't be a problem. Hope it stays like this for the coming months.

Chrome works fine. Use it all the time. Only annoying thing is that Google is my default search engine there and that doesn’t work. And bing and Baidu are horrible.
 

kingj

New Contributor
Feb 22, 2018
4
14
15
29
Vienna
Trains & Planes
Train system in China is awesome, but since I don't speak Chinese I've never managed to book a ticket on my own. They need your passport details in order for them to issue a train ticket, none of the machines have English or allow the use of a foreign ID, people at the counters do not speak English. I've always asked my family here for help, but I've had friends who bought tickets online from abroad before they travelled. When you book a train, you usually book a seat at a specific time. But you can change the time once for free. Even after you missed the train. But depending on your budget, domestic flights are also quite cheap (but the bullet trains are awesome in China). The brooker would wait you at the entrance of the train station on the day of the ride
Nice post, hope you having great time in China :)

For Trains, i suggest you to use Trip.com (if you don't want to depend on family nor "bothering" them), it's the western version of ctrip (a sort of "booking.com") and enables you to pay the train tickets by Western Debit/Credit Cards and even Paypal.

AS JPN said, generally you need the ID or passport by hand, curiously, the bullet trains(动车) act as flights, not only you have a fixed seat specified on the ticket, they even check your baggage before boarding on the train and thus you need to be there at least 1-2 hours prior the departure or you won't get on board on time. I've got checked once before entering the Train Station (which really resembles to an Airport) and once before boarding and it was shocking.

Even to ride a Metro, a check of the havings is required, mostly would stop you for a bottle of water,that they would scan quickly with some bluelight machine.
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.


New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Sponsored Offers

Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
-- HALLOWEEN SPECIAL STARTS TODAY! Get any of my courses at Udemy's current best price through Friday! Use code: HALLOWEEN Use any of the links...
Top Bottom