You’ve managed to fit your “essentials” into a spacially-limited suitcase, choose a suitable flight, get on it and depart the motherland. After braving the aeroplane grub, ill-mannered passenger etiquette and never-ending journey and perhaps some moron who opens the emergency door for “fresh air”, you’re finally soaring downwards through the smog to touch down in China.
- Alighting the flight
Flying with a cheap airline means that it’s likely to be delayed, so consider this if you have a connecting flight as you won’t get much help or sympathy if you miss it or have to rush like a madwoman. Avoid taking flights within China at around Lunar New Year, which is said to be the biggest annual human migration in the world: this leads to delayed, cancelled, and overbooked flights, not to mention exasperating travel circumstances. You’ll need to prepare a landing card on-board, so make sure you have all your documents to hand, including the address at which you’ll be staying and visa information. Take a deep breath as you step off the plane, and remember that in China, being polite will only get you so far. Queues are a thing of the past.
- Getting out of there
Be ready for a potentially lengthy wait at customs and security. Once you may or may not have collected your baggage, depending on whether amidst the hectic coordination it was put on the same plane as you, check your itinerary (which you have of course already prepared) for instructions to your final destination, or if that is too much hassle and you need a little help, jump in a taxi. The legally licenced ones have lit-up writing on the top, but will still try to defraud you if you take one from the airport arrivals door and look/sound foreign, so it’s best to get away if you can. Have your destination’s address in Chinese handy if you find verbal communication is a barrier, and try not to be too appalled by the appalling driving and simultaneous iPhone use. If you’ve already got an airport pickup organised through a friend or company, props to you.
- Acquiring Funds
One of the first things you’ll need to be doing if you haven’t already is changing money into RMB yuan (remember that Hong Kong has a different currency altogether). This is actually done at a better rate in China than in most other Western countries, so it’s advisable to change just a small amount in your home country for your arrival but take the bulk of your $/£/€ with you. When you get here, whatever you do, DON’T head to the creepiest looking shack with an exchange rate that’s too good to be true; you want real money, so be sensible. Any main Chinese bank is the best place to hand over your cash, and if you’re staying at a decent hotel the receptionist’ll probably do it too, but you’ll need to have your passport to hand for both. In China, they always say cash is king, so to start off you’ll be fine with a few thousand Rambos. You can think about bank accounts later, and even that’s optional.
- The police, in T-minus 24
No matter how jetlagged you are, you MUST register with your local police station within 24 hours, otherwise if you get spot-checked and you haven’t done so you could get yourself in a massive legal pickle. Again, a hotel will do this for you when you check-in but ask just to make sure. If you’re planning for staying for more than 6 months, take your health certificate along to the station too; they need reassurance that you don’t have HIV or yellow fever. (Also, just so you’re aware, if you’re planning on bringing a pet for whatever reason, the poor creature will be held in quarantine for 30 days. The Chinese are wholly unfamiliar with the notion of loving an animal as a family member.)
You’ve made it! Welcome to China. Now have a nap.
Averting a quarter-life crisis, or perhaps in the midst of one, Sally Jensen (22) snuck away to Chengdu, China after studying French at uni. She now works there as an English au pair for reasons she still does not quite comprehend. Half-Peruvian and half-sane, she likes to write drivel atwww.whatsallychengdid.blogspot.com and hopes to one day find a real job of some description. Sporadic tweets (@squouse) and rarer Instagrams (@squousej) are both subject to availability.