China is booming at the moment and an increasing number of foreigners are traveling there, either to enjoy what the country has to offer, find work as an expatriate, or invest in the country’s booming real estate market. But because of the particularities of the country and some of the misconceptions about the local government, going to China may seem daunting to many, especially if it’s your first trip. However, with the proper game plan and preparation, your first trip to China should be all that you expected and more. Let’s take a look at what steps you should take to make sure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
Choose your Destination
China is a vast country and your experience can differ greatly depending on where you decide to go. You can decide to stay within urban centers and still enjoy all the accommodations you enjoy at home or go completely off the beaten path. If you’re only staying for a short period of time and want to get a taste for Chinese city life, then cities like Shanghai, Beijing or fast-growing metropolises like Guangzhou or Shenzhen might be a great idea. But if you want something a little bit more out of the ordinary, you could go for places like Guilin or Xi’an, for instance.
Get your Visa
As a US citizen, you will be required to get a visa before you enter the country. The application fee will be $160 for a basic non-immigrant visa and $190 for a work visa. You’ll also have to provide your round-trip flight itinerary, passport, and a passport picture at your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate. Note that it can take up to two months for the application to be processed, so make sure that everything is correct if you want to eliminate delays and send your application well in advance. A visa handling service could also help you expedite the process and reduce delays.
You should also note that you will be required to provide the address where you’ll be lodged during your trip, so you’ll have to book your accommodation in advance for at least the first three days of your trip.
Start Looking at Insurance
Before you leave, it’s essential that you understand the Chinese healthcare system and that you get solid health insurance coverage. While foreign residents working in the country can now have access to public healthcare in certain circumstances, going for private insurance would be a better choice, especially if you’re coming with your family. For one, depending on where you live, you may not have access to any social security benefits, like in Shanghai, for instance. Many treatments also come with significant co-payments and fees on things like repatriation and evacuation won’t be covered either. So, it is wise that you look at different insurance options beforehand and shop for private coverage instead.
Organize your Money
You should make sure that you understand local prices and get yourself acquainted with the currency before leaving. Also decide if you’ll be using travelers’ checks, cash, an ATM card, or a credit/debit card. You should also ask your bank what type of fees you can expect for withdrawals and see if you can arrange for the fees to be waived or lowered during your trip.
Get to Learn About the Country and Culture
Last, but not least, you should start by immersing yourself into the culture before leaving. Learn a few words before you go and use your visa processing time to practice as much as possible. Get to understand the local food culture as well. And, you also need to start growing a bargaining bone now if you don’t want to end up being slapped with a foreigner tax wherever you go.
As you can see, going to China doesn’t have to be scary after all. If you come prepared, you’ll be able to enjoy the country to the fullest and discover everything China has to offer.