7 Tips to Travel to China This Quarter

My friend MT is visiting Shanghai by the end of Sept. He is very excited about it. It is his first trip to China! He asked what is my suggestion for him to prepare the trip. I do have some tips.

Tip #1: Avoid Travel from Oct 1 to Oct 7.

October 1 to October 7 is the national holiday in China. It is also called Golden Week, because the continous 7 day holiday and good weather bring millions of people to scenaric places, hotels, also trains, airlines, and buses. In short, it is crowded everywhere. People visiting China typically don’t have the constraint of travel only in the 7 days, so avoid it. Also, if possible, avoid the two days before and after the holiday.

Tip #2: Visiting Shanghai? Strongly Suggest to Visit Beijing

For many business travellers to Shanghai, I would suggest to take a weekend to visit Beijing. Shanghai is the largest commercial city in China, but it is not a typical city that represent China. If you want to claim you’ve really been to China, plan a short trip to Beijing, and visit the Forbidden city, visit the Great Wall, and visit some Royal Gardens in Beijing. Even you don’t go to these famous places, to experience the wide streets and the narrow Hutong is a good idea. Just FYI, Beijing is 1400 KM north of Shanghai, and takes 1 and half hours to fly there. Full price ticket is 1130 RMB, and you typically can get ticket at 20% off price. (8 RMB = 1 USD)

Tip #3: Take Taxi!

Don’t bother to look at the transportation options unless you are really travelling with small budget. My point is, taxi is not as expensive as people think. From Pudong Airport to downtown is about 100 – 150 RMB (12 – 20 USD). There are much cheaper options like airport bus (18 RMB), but compared to the 100-150 USD taxi fare from SFO to Silicon Valley, it is not too high. To travel inside the city, taxi is also a handy choice, unless you want to experience Metro. (Disclaimer: I gave tips according to real situations. In this case, it is my friend Martin. You may find it not suitable for you).

Tip #4: Places to See?

Top places in Shanghai you should go are

  • The Bund. Leave it as the last place you go. Bund is much more beautiful and interesting at night (after 7:00 PM when the lights are lit).
  • Yu Garden. I don’t really enjoy Yu Garden, but my friends who visit China for the first time always enjoy themselves so much in the Yu Garden.
  • Cruise on the Huang Pu River. It worth the time and money to have a cruise on the Huang Pu River, especially at night. Typical cruise is about 1 hour.
  • Xuhui District. Spend an afternoon in the small roads in the Xuhui Area – near Hengshan Road, or Hua Shan Road, and relax yourself.

Tip #5: Learn Some Chinese

Although it is not absolutely necessary to know Chinese to visit Shanghai, if you know some very simple Chinese words, it will make you look better and more friendly to local people, so make your trip more enjoyable. My friends who visited China did survive very well without any knowledge of Chinese. I tried to teach them at least these terms:

  • Xie Xie – Thank you
  • Zai Jian – Bye Bye
  • Ni Hao – Hello

Tip #6: Bring the Right Power Adapter

The electricity in Shanghai is 220 V. You may have 110 V adapter. Most laptop, shaver, and mobile have adapter that works from 100 V to 230 V. It won’t be a problem, but the plug specification does present a problem. For example, the plug that works in U.S. typically don’t work in China. Bring a converter that works for China before your trip. I faced the challenge many times when I visit U.S.

Tip #7: Relax and Enjoy the Difference

There are many difference between cities in China and the western cities. You may find the traffic rule different (at least the way people follow the rules), the language is different, and many aspects of everyday life are different. Don’t worry. Just relax. It is not necessary to always figure out which way is right and which way is wrong. Just relax, and enjoy the difference. It is just because of the difference that you travel, isn’t it?

Bonus Tip #8: There is no Direct Flight from Taipei to Shanghai

This is obvious for many people, or useless tip for most people, but it does helped. Keep in mind, don’t expect to fly from Taipei to Shanghai directly after your visit to Taipei. You need to transit at Hong Kong, and it takes up to 5 hours to get to Shanghai. Plan according to it.

Happy travel, and share what you see in Shanghai with the community here.

Update August 31, 2006

Additional tips from my readers.

Tip #9: Ask a friend to buy you a prepaid mobile phone card from China Mobile/China Unicom. Bring your own GSM tri-band mobile phone (you may have to have it “unlocked” before you come), and pop the SIM chip into your phone. I find it incredibly important to have a mobile phone so you can schedule meetings, make dinner plans, etc. Everything is last-minute and fast-paced in China, you want to be reachable on your trip. (Also, if you have a Blackberry, I have found GPRS Blackberry support GREAT in China, just sign up for an international plan before you leave).

Tip #10: Ask a friend to buy a IP Phone Card. International calls are very expensive in China. It seems like IP Phone Card is the cheapest way to go. (Maybe WJS has some more tips).

Tip #11: Bring ATM cards, ideally on multiple networks. My main US bank account is on STAR/PLUS network but not on MAESTRO/CIRRUS network. I was stuck at the Hangzhou airport once with no cash and a useless ATM card…lucky I could get cash advance from my MasterCard! In my experience, Bank of China is on MAESTRO (the symbol that looks like MasterCard). Maybe someone can survey the big ATM networks and tell us travellers which ATM networks are most useful…

Tip #12: Carry more cash than you are used to. In the US, I carry very little cash because I use credit cards all the time. In China, everyone carries a ton of cash and there is a good reason for it. So get a money belt, don’t let yourself be pickpocketed, but also don’t run out of money because you assume that ATMs are everywhere and credit cards are accepted everywhere. (from elliott5)

Tip #13: Check whether the toilet paper is avialable before sit down onto a toilet. It will be very imbarrasing calling for help with your pants down. (from xge)

20 Comments

  1. travelling during a major holiday period in any country is always crowded, congested and busy.

  2. Some great tips! I’m not a China travel expert, but have some suggestions:

    Tip #9: Ask a friend to buy you a prepaid mobile phone card from China Mobile/China Unicom. Bring your own GSM tri-band mobile phone (you may have to have it “unlocked” before you come), and pop the SIM chip into your phone. I find it incredibly important to have a mobile phone so you can schedule meetings, make dinner plans, etc. Everything is last-minute and fast-paced in China, you want to be reachable on your trip. (Also, if you have a Blackberry, I have found GPRS Blackberry support GREAT in China, just sign up for an international plan before you leave).

    Tip #10: Ask a friend to buy a IP Phone Card. International calls are very expensive in China. It seems like IP Phone Card is the cheapest way to go. (Maybe WJS has some more tips).

    Tip #11: Bring ATM cards, ideally on multiple networks. My main US bank account is on STAR/PLUS network but not on MAESTRO/CIRRUS network. I was stuck at the Hangzhou airport once with no cash and a useless ATM card…lucky I could get cash advance from my MasterCard! In my experience, Bank of China is on MAESTRO (the symbol that looks like MasterCard). Maybe someone can survey the big ATM networks and tell us travellers which ATM networks are most useful…

    Tip #12: Carry more cash than you are used to. In the US, I carry very little cash because I use credit cards all the time. In China, everyone carries a ton of cash and there is a good reason for it. So get a money belt, don’t let yourself be pickpocketed, but also don’t run out of money because you assume that ATMs are everywhere and credit cards are accepted everywhere.

  3. FYI…..

    Taxi fair from PUDONG to City Center is not RMB150 anymore. Its gone up to RMB170 after they inrease the milage rate.

    Regarding the xie xie, zai jian and ni hao… i think some of us will pronouce ‘Z’ as in ZOO. Not Z as in ‘Ch’ and some of us pronouce ‘X’ as in Xylophone and not as in ‘Sh’ (hmmmm difficult to explain in words)…. how about attach one or two .WAV file so that readers can download and hear how to pronouce the words correctly? just a suggestion.

    mop

  4. Tip #13: Check whether the toilet paper is avialable before sit down onto a toilet. It will be very imbarrasing calling for help with your pants down.

  5. tip #14, don’t forget the flu-shot and hepatitas-shot before entry to China especially during the coming season.

  6. tip#15, carry about a useful Shanghai map,because it’s not every “guide” who lead you the direction is correct.

  7. By the way, i really agree about tip7 & tip 13:)

  8. Add to tip #15 and this is common to any travel: before going out, mark your hotel on the map and/or have the hotel’s CHINESE name and its district in Chinese on a card or a piece of paper. Even though people could guide you in simple English, proper names do not translate and can cause real confusion.

  9. “Tip #10: Ask a friend to buy a IP Phone Card. International calls are very expensive in China. It seems like IP Phone Card is the cheapest way to go. (Maybe WJS has some more tips).”

    Maybe a little addition to this tip: try to get them at a campus or uni… I got mine from there as well and paid only 25 kuai for a 100 kuai card :)

  10. Skype on a laptop will probably be cheaper than any IP cards.

  11. For the IP card, I would also suggest to get one, of cause I acknowledge that Skype is cheaper if you can find free hotspot.

  12. Himagiri Mukkamala

    September 12, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    You are better of exchanging money in your hotel in Shanghai instead of the American Express counter in the airport in SFO or any other international airport. They charge significant fees and I’ve found the rate to be better at the hotel. You may want to get some currency to ensure you can get to the hotel.

  13. Hi. I will be visiting Shanghai on a (very) short business trip on February 7th. I have a couple of questions:

    1. The Chinese phrases you mentioned seem to be Mandarin. Do people in Shanghai understand Mandarin?

    2. What kind of power connector do I need for my computer?

    Thanks!

    doug

  14. 1. It is for sure. Mandarin is the common language here.

    2. You need 220V adaptor.

  15. Hi! Can you recommend hotel/hostel at less than 50rmb per night? (near the bund and few minutes ayaw from pudong airport) i’ll be coming to shanghai on Mar. 21 till Mar. 24 and i want to fully experience shanghai with-in few days. Hope you can help. Thanks in Advance.

  16. Good Advice, One day I can use it

  17. hi, i speak cantonese not mandarin. i would like info about the new bullet or high speed train from beijing to shanghai. how do i purchase tickets and can i purchase them before i leave usa? i tried to find info on the trin in the website. how long does it take to get to shanghai on a bullet train.

  18. Hi there! I intend to go to China in Sep to take Chinese language lessons. However, many sources have told me that students who are already in China will have no chance to extend their visa before mid-October. If student visas can’t even be extended, will I have any chance to be granted one at all? Or should I opt for a tourist visa?

    For me it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to secure a visa for Sep 08. Has anyone of you applied for a student visa recently?

  19. Hi,

    Planning a trip to Shanghai, do you think I should go Wuzhen instead of Hengdian and Dongyang?

    Appreciate your feedback here.

    Cheers,

    lemon

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