Travel to Beijing China

Top 7 Tips For a Business Travel to China (And a Bonus Tip For Vegetarians!)

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Some ground level tips to navigate through the language & technology barriers of China for a Business Travel to China. Useful for a backpacker or a business traveler.

“There are no foreign lands.
It is the traveler only who is foreign”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Taxis zooming past, jazzy public transport, high-speed trains, swanky buses & rapid transit corridors, web of subway. But nothing seems accessible.

China has grown rapidly in technology & infrastructure over the past years. Alongside it has created its parallel universe of home-grown apps, to replace Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Maps, Amazon, Uber etc. None of these are accessible in China !!

1. Print hotel address in Mandarin – BEFORE you start

China taxi-pickup point at Shenzhen. Easy for business travel.
A well managed taxi-pickup point at Shenzhen station. 100% taxis in Shenzhen are electric. (Photo: Arindam)

Airports and stations have well-organized taxi bays and directions for pickup marked in English. But beyond this, English is rarely understood.

Due to network and other issues, sometimes, the Internet may not work immediately when you reach China. Also many sites are blocked in China. So have ‘print’ or ‘screenshot’ of the address BEFORE you start.

Simply show it to the taxi or bus driver and zoom to your destination.

Missing the mandarin address, can cost you a lot of time & money. Be prepared for a misguided city tour with a confused taxi driver. Don’t expect much help from street pedestrians and policemen. People are helpful, but handicapped when it comes to English. Also, translation apps are not very accurate.

Ask your hotel, or check the Hotel App/ website for the Mandarin address before you start for your business travel to China.

Pro Tip:
For most hotels, Tripadvisor has a link “Name/address in local language

    

2. Have sufficient cash with you

China currency money RMB. Cash is important in business travel.
Chinese currency/ money

Cards are not very common. Most places accept cash or Mobile Payment Apps like WeChat Pay or Alipay. But, registration on these payment Apps is not easy for a foreigner.

Local taxis will take cash (or payment Apps). Bigger stores & restaurants can take cards. But places even like McDonalds may refuse cards.

So be prepared with a reasonable amount of cash before you step out of the Airport. An amount you will need in any developed economy to travel by taxi plus some buffer should be fine.

Pro Tip:
Tipping culture is not prevalent in China. Drivers and restaurants do not expect Tip. If you still tip, it may be frowned upon by some, while many will still accept it (mostly places catering to western travelers).

3. Local taxis in China with DiDi App

Didi Taxi App in China - Useful for business travel to China
China has excellent Taxi service. Metered Taxis also operate under Apps (Photo: Arindam Sarkar)

DiDi is similar to Uber. You can call normal yellow-taxi or enlisted private cars (similar to UberX). Almost every local uses this. Yellow taxis go by meter and take cash.

Without this, every taxi you flag-off is either ‘carrying someone’ or ‘called by someone on DiDi App’. No taxi stops for you.

Didi Taxi App in China. Good for business travel
Source: Didi App

There are multiple DiDi App variants. Download the correct one, which is “DiDi – Greater China” App on Android/Apple. Use this in your business travel to show your hosts, how easily you are adapting to China

Pro Tip:
1. If you can link your credit-card to DiDi App, then you can call Express cabs (enlisted private cars) and pay directly from your card. This also helps cashless travel and reimbursements for business travel.
2. You can chat with your driver in the DiDi App, while giving directions. The App auto-translates the chat in real-time.

4. WeChat communication – Must for Business Travel to China

WeChat App - useful for all trips to China - business or backpacking
A taxi driver over a constant voice-chatter on WeChat, using it like a sort of Walkie-Talkie with his friends.

The mega-App Wechat is similar to WhatsApp and much more. It has chatting, calling, conference, social-updates, payments, promotions, bicycle-rentals, e-commerce, food-order, even COVID profiling, all rolled into one. Another relevant feature is its in-app translation.

WeChat is an essential tool here. .For foreigners, registration and authentication can be sometimes tricky. But go to any length to ensure that you have a working WeChat account.

Pro Tip:
For use in a laptop, use “WeChat for PC”. It helps to share files/content directly from your  Laptop to your WeChat contacts & handle WeChat calls from Laptop.

5. Public transport smart card / Metro card in China

subway metro map of Beijing, China. Easy for business travel.
Beijing subway/metro map with 400+ stations (Source : wikipedia.org)

If you spend more time in one city, it’s recommended to purchase a mobility card (transit card/metro card). It works for all buses and subways. Mostly it is available at the airport metro stations, (and will accept cash or Mobile payments, but rarely cards). Airport counters generally have an English speaking person.

Another option is ticket-counter at subway stations. But better to go with a picture of the transport card (or get it written in Mandarin from the hotel), to avoid a lengthy sign-language conversation and still return empty-handed.

Every city has its own transit card.

BRT Bus and public transport in China. Nice for business travel to china
China has excellent public transport (Photo: Arindam)

The transit card works on all buses and BRT corridors for a city.

Pro Tip:
Shenzhen and Hong Kong share common-border with many transit points. So both governments now have a common transit card. A single card has two virtual wallets, one for Shenzhen ‘Tong’ card (Currency: RMB) and another for Hong Kong ‘Octopus’ card (Currency: HKD).

6. Maps & Navigation – Apple maps & Amaps

Google Maps do not work, (not even Offline-download of China region). If it somehow works, the coordinates and landmarks will be hilarious. Your actual location and location on the map may be miles apart on Google Maps. 

This knowledge (of incorrect google-map behavior) is important, as the map may suggest a station across the road, but you are actually in a park far from it. So, use it at your own risk of getting further lost.

For Apple users, apple-maps are reasonably good.

For Android users, a good alternative is Amap. It is not in English. But you can type in English and for common items, it can auto-translate & show the search results, routes, traffic navigation, restaurants etc. 

Amap - Android App. Useful for business travel in China as replacement of google map
Search words like ‘KFC’ etc. and the restaurant icons will pop-up. (Source : Amap App)

7. High-Speed trains in China

Chinese High Speed rail
China has a bigger HSR network than the total of all other countries put together. (Photo: Arindam)

High-Speed Rail (HSR) is an excellent & more relaxed alternative to flights for intercity travel. It is modern, clean, fast and punctual. 

Example:
Shanghai-Beijing distance (about 2-hour flight) is similar to Delhi-Mumbai or Paris-Madrid distance. Has 40+ HSR, every day, for a 5-6 hour journey. 

Ticket purchase can be a hassle for foreigners and counters rarely understand English. Also keep sufficient time to navigate as queues can be long and the stations can be larger than an Olympic stadium.

Beijing south railway station
Beijing South Railway station There are multiple stations in each city. So, reach the correct one. (Photo: Arindam)
Pro Tip:
Some apps/sites like Trip.com make train ticketing easy for foreigners. 
Purchase online on the English interface and (if needed) exchange it for a paper ticket at the station-counter by showing your passport.
Trip.com app for planning your travel in China
Image source: Trip.com App

[Vegetarian Bonus]. Hot food of your choice in China !!

Vegetarian or non-vegetarian food of choice at Hot-Pot restaurant in China
A Hot-Pot restaurant in Fuzhou. A meal similar to a hot-veg-Maggi can be enjoyed always. (Photo: Arindam)

Hot-Pot is a Chinese cooking method, prepared with a simmering pot of soup, containing a choice of ingredients, including various vegetables, meat & spices (self-service selection, and you don’t need to take).

The choice of ingredients is completely up to you. It can be only vegetables, herbs & noodles (for vegetarians). Selective non-vegetarians can add chicken or lamb. Put them in a bowl and pass it on to the chef. Try to indicate a medium level of spices (if you can). If too spicy, just pick some juice or cold drink from the refrigerator. The average cost of a meal is about 3 to 5 USD.

Scam Alert!!!

Chinese tea scam

Generally, China is very safe with negligible street crime, and much less with foreigners. Still scams can dupe you and spoil your business travel to China

A popular scam is the Chinese-tea scam. In popular tourist destinations or markets, an English speaking lady will approach you, claiming that she wants to talk & practice English with you. Meanwhile, some nice Chinese tea will be suggested and you will be guided to a tea-shop.

Once the tea is ordered, you will be presented with an astronomical bill that has to be paid!!

You can read about more scams here.

But still, it’s a lovely, beautiful place with superb technology & infrastructure. A very safe place, with helpful people. Check our other Travel articles & enjoy your trip to China!!

Disclaimer:

Technology & rules of land change rapidly. All efforts are taken to keep the data updated. If we miss anything, do let us know in the feedback below.

Check out some exciting travel articles in the travel category with some excellent travel articles on Vietnam, Croatia, and a Delhi to Kolkata Road trip

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Arijit Ganguly
Arijit Ganguly
2 years ago

That’s quite a lot of detail! Although I’m not sure when someone will be next able to use these tips! We’re looking at 2021, at the least I guess, thanks to Covid19! When was your last visit?

Sud
Sud
2 years ago

interesting tips presented in a concise manner . Will definitely remember to re -read it before my trip

Admin
Admin
2 years ago

Wow!! What a detailed write up with great tips! I don’t know when can we again dream of visiting China, but when we do, this article would be my Bible! Wonderful guidelines, useful information written in a crisp and interesting way! Thanks Arindam for sharing this with us! 🙂

Shikari Shambu
Shikari Shambu
2 years ago

Excellent collection of real-world tips. The ‘pro-tips’ work as a good summary.
The TripAdvisor ‘pro tip’ will be useful in other countries also.
Suggestion:
Some tips on how to make google/fb/twitter etc. work in China can be useful.

Pravesh Tayal
Pravesh Tayal
2 years ago

Great blog for China travel

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