China can be an overwhelming place for new visitors. Crowded public spaces, different foods and flavors, new cultural manners, and some chaotic road habits could cause stress to anyone. For business travelers, it’s necessary to focus on meetings and clients without distractions. Fortunately, China has a lot to offer! With a bit of preparation, it can be real easy to navigate! Here are our 3 essential tips for a stress free trip to China!
1. Getting Around
Travelers who have moved around any of China’s major cities will know that driving yourself around is not the most convenient idea. If you’ve got an international driver’s license, you should know that the only recognized permit on China’s roads is their official Chinese license. Getting one is relatively simple, and doesn’t cost much, but isn’t a quick process.
In contrast, the public transport networks are affordable and connect the entire country. China is the world’s most populous country. As such, its public transport infrastructure is admirable. High-speed trains, underground metros, public buses, taxis, and even bicycles are all used regularly by locals and visitors in China’s major cities.
However, keep in mind that public lines and motorways are often crowded during peak hours. Getting in and out of the city center can be challenging. Especially if you’re pressed for time or not familiar with the surroundings. In cities, train and bus stations will have signposts in both English and Chinese. Nevertheless, even the best terminals can be disorienting when hosting large crowds.
Whether it’s your first venture into China or you’re a regular visitor, convenience and peace of mind are high on everyone’s list. If you’re traveling for business, selecting a professional car service is probably the most convenient way to get around. Offering you the flexibility you require when traveling. For instance, if flight plans change, your car service can accommodate your needs and re-arrange your trip accordingly. Meaning, you’re never distracted with unnecessary worries about travel arrangements.
2. Language Doesn’t Have To Be A Barrier
For most, one of the most challenging obstacles in China is the language barrier. The larger tourist areas, particularly in major cities like Beijing, will have staff able to communicate in English. Most taxi drivers, however, won’t be able to speak any English whatsoever. Often, they won’t even stop for foreign passengers, not wishing to deal with someone who isn’t able to speak Mandarin.
Business in China has its own set of language barriers. If you’re an importer manufacturing your products in China, there is a very good chance the staff at the factory handling your goods speaks very little English, if any at all! This can lead to confusion regarding product specifics that every company would rather avoid. To overcome the risk of any vital details being lost in translation, a lot of importers hire bilingual production management teams or professional translators to communicate.
Even those doing business in the corporate sector may find communication obstacles at first. It’s a good idea to learn a few basic phrases and keywords you might use when getting around China or even greeting your business associates in China. Luckily, there are apps for almost everything nowadays. Pleco is a great example of a translator app that can help. It’s free to download and the premium subscription ($14.95) is so advanced it’ll understand Chinese signposts and documents you scan with your camera and translate them for you. You’ll simply have to point your phone camera towards them.
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3. Technology Helps!
For those who’re new to China’s shores, you may be surprised to know just how extensive China’s internet censorship is. There are over sixty internet censorship regulations in place! Prepare accordingly, as you won’t be able to read your Facebook feed or even access your Gmail account without the use of a VPN. That doesn’t mean that every popular app is restricted in China, though. There are still some popular and very useful apps you can use:
WeChat: An amazing 90% of working professionals in China use WeChat, daily. Aside from the usual social networking features, even payments are done through the app In addition, business has quickly adopted using the instant messaging giant as standard practice. So much so, that it’s now common to use the app to scan your counterparts’ QR codes to add them as a contact. For many it’s the preferred method over swapping business cards! Its speed and stability (in China) also mean that WeChat can be used for file transfers and even conference calls for business meetings.
OffMap: Google Maps won’t work thanks to China’s ‘Great Firewall.’ OffMap is an extremely useful alternative for navigating the country. You can download the map of a specific region or the whole country beforehand for only $US 0.99. Even when you don’t have access to the internet, OffMap gathers information using GPS technology and provides you real-time data. It also includes recommendations for restaurants if you aren’t familiar with the surrounding areas.
Virtual Private Network (VPN): As mentioned earlier, if you want to continue using your Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, or Youtube, you’ll need to install a VPN on your phone or device. VPNs are used to bypass China’s internet restrictions. It’s important to note that even with a VPN, the Internet speed in China will be far worse than what you’re probably used to. Android phones are particularly affected in China as most of their main functions are Google-driven. iPhones luckily aren’t as affected.
China has firmly established itself as a global superpower. The amount of business taking place within China’s economy draws millions of visitors each year. The stresses associated with travel in China are well documented and, with a little preparation, can be easily avoided. Utilizing these China travel tips can help you focus on the reason you’re visiting, as opposed to worrying about getting around it.
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