This is part of our “A Hardware Maker’s Guide to Shenzhen” series. The first post was 26 Things to know before going to Shenzhen.
You know you are going to Shenzhen, now what? Here is the definitive list of things to do to prepare for your adventure!
- Book Flight
- Get Visa
- Prepare an unlocked phone
- International data plan on US phone
- Setup VPN
- Find your ATMs
- Save Metro Maps
- And final necessities
Book a flight to Hong Kong using Google Flights
I highly recommend Google Flights. It has many features to show if you there is a cheaper flight near your search. As an example, the search above shows there is a $75 cheaper option. $703 round trip across the Pacific!
But why Hong Kong? 2 reasons:
- Save $500 – flights to Shenzhen were $500 more expensive
- More people speak English
Once you land in Hong Kong, you’ll just catch a bus or van to one of the crossings into China. Super easy, and I’ll cover that in the next post in this series.
Time to get a VISA
If you live in the US, you’ll have to get a Visa to visit China. You do not need one to go to Hong Kong. There are services that will get this for you, but with a consulate near by, I just went up to San Francisco.
Here is the link to the China Consulate in SF’s paperwork page. Depending upon your situation, you will need different forms. The Visa Application Form must be printed with information typed out (leave intended number of entries blank).
Recently the US & China agreed upon 10 year visas – and that is what you want! Once your number is called, I just told the person I would be going frequently, and she gave me a 10 year – so hopefully this will work for you too.
Bring to the consulate:
- Printed Visa Form
- Your Passport (you will leave this at the Consulate while it is being processed)
- Flight information printed
- Letter from a company or your hotel reservation
- Passport Photos – I just got mine taken at a CVS
- Get up early, arrive an hour before it opens, and get in line.
- Once in, you’ll walk through a metal detector, get a number, and wait.
- Because my trip was in a few days, I had to have mine rushed for the next day. It cost $160 and I got it back the next morning.
Dealing with a Cell Phone in Hong Kong & China
I thought I would be clever, get a T-Mobile SIM card, and have unlimited data in China & Hong Kong – wrong. T-Mobile said I would had to have had an account for months for that to work, and I did not have months. If you are on T-Mobile, sweet! otherwise its time to get creative!
Have an old iPhone? Unlock it!
Once T-Mobile dashed my plan, it was time to get a phone that I could put a Chinese SIM card in. Fortunately, I had an iPhone 5 that was off contract. If you use AT&T, here is the page to unlock your old iPhone. It took a few minutes for it to process.
With an old iPhone, I could install all of the apps I thought I would need, and once in China, just throw a SIM card in and I’d be off and running. For this reason (and for setting up a VPN), I don’t recommend getting a phone in China and setting it up over there.
Give yourself some international data
Most likely you’ll want some data for when you land in Hong Kong. There is free Wifi in the Hong Kong Airport, but once you leave, you’ll still probably want a lifeline to the world. I just got a 120mb international plan from AT&T for $30.
Apps to install on both phones
- Wechat – everyone uses Wechat for talking to friends, groups, businesses, you name it.
- Find My iPhone
- KTdict for English- Mandarin
- Convert – currency conversions
China’s internet is heavily filtered. You will not have access to Facebook, Twitter, Google, Youtube, and many other websites without a VPN.
I just used the $13 ExpressVPN Plan on my computer & iPhone. Install while you are still in the US!
ATMs in China
I bank with Schwab so I looked for banks in the Plus Network. China Merchants is in the network, so that is who I grabbed money from. You’ll want to check with your bank.
Also, VISA has an ATM locator that can show you where ATMs are.
I like to have the metro maps saved in my phones just in case
Hong Kong Metro
Depending where you are, you may not have access to toilet paper, so bring some. Normal toilets in China are holes in the floor (you can Google this if you really want), that may or may not have toilet paper. That is why you should bring your own. In the newly constructed buildings like malls, there are western toilets.
If you have medical needs, you’ll want to bring some extra medicine just in case.
Next in the series will be the things to do once you land. Where are the vans to the border crossings? Which crossing should you take? Where can I get a SIM card in Shenzhen? We’ll cover all of these questions and more, so stay tuned! We’ll see you in Hong Kong!