arrivals-airport-china-llw-01China is a unique country with a culture like no other, a deep history, delicious food, and cities that seem to grow more and more every day. Making the decision to move to China is incredibly exciting. However, before arriving in China, there is a lot to think about and plan for. Here are 5 important things to consider before making your big move:

1. Getting There

Flights

Getting to China is not known for being cheap. Depending on where you are coming from, a one way flight can be well over one thousand dollars. However, here are a few things you can do to help you get to China, and still have some money leftover:

  1. Be flexible
    Being flexible with your flight can easily cut your plane price in half. Many airlines have an option for flexible dates, or have a fare calendar that can help show you general flight costs for the entire year. Some of my personal favorite flight engine sites are Skycanner.com and Google Flights.
  2. Fly out during the week
    By avoiding popular flights on the weekends, you can save hundreds of dollars. Often a one or two day difference can make a huge difference in cost.
  3. Don’t buy your ticket a year in advance
    Earlier is not always better when it comes to buying flights. Often that sweet spot for international flights ranges anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Use resources like the Kayak flight predictor to help guide you in making sure you get the best deal out there.

Visas

Getting your visa is one of the most important factors to think about when moving to China. Your country of origin, how long you will be staying in China, and why you will be in China all play important roles. If you are planning on living in China permanently, you will want the D Visa (“China Green Card”), but more likely you’ll be looking to get a Q (family visit), X (study) or Z (work) visa. For more information on visas, please see this guide on Chinese Visas.

2. What to pack

Deciding what to pack for your move to China can be quite overwhelming at times. Of course, what you bring does depend on what part of China you are moving to. You need to look at factors such as climate, culture, and the size of the city or town you will be living in. Although everyone’s packing list will be a little different, here are a few suggestions on things to bring that are important for everyone:

  1. Pepto Bismol and Antibiotics
    Anytime I’m traveling anywhere I bring a few basic drugs and first aid items just in case. One of the items that should always be on your list are medication for stomach problems.China has a fun and amazing food culture. You will likely be trying all kinds of unique dishes that your stomach is not used to. Bringing a basic medicine like Tums, Pepto Bismol, and antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea will become a life saver. The last thing you want to do when you’re not feeling good is to go searching for medicine.
  2. Phrasebook
    Although it is recommended to try and learn some Mandarin before moving to China, sometimes you just need a cheat sheet once in a while. Bringing a phrasebook could become extremely helpful if you find yourself needing directions, or simply ordering food. You can also read through the phrasebook while on long train rides to improve your language vocabulary.
  3. Toiletries
    I often like to purchase toiletries once I arrive to a new place to save room in my luggage. However, I suggest bringing a few basics, as some toiletries are not as easy to find in China. In particular, I recommend bringing your own deodorant, as options can be very limited in parts of China.

For more tips and information on what to pack, check out this guide on What to Bring to China.

3. The Language

In some touristy areas you may find some Chinese who speak English, but the farther you go from these touristy destinations, the less and less English you will hear. If you want to enjoy your experience living in China, it is a very good idea to learn some Mandarin. While there are many dialects within China, which can make things a little challenging at times, if you at least know the basics you should be fine. Here a few of my favorite resources for learning Mandarin:

  1. BBC Chinese
  2. Livemocha
  3. Chinese-Tools

4. The Great Firewall

When moving to China it is important to remember that China has very strict internet censorship that is also referred to as The Great Firewall. Internet usage is still greatly encouraged in China, but huge sites such as Facebook, Google and YouTube are blocked. If you are going to be living in China, it may be beneficial to find a few Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to use on your phone or home computer. These VPNs will allow you to bypass blocks, gain access to Web sites from all around the world, and be able to communicate with family and friends back home with ease.

5. Getting Around

Taking on public transportation can be intimidating and frustrating at times, but also quite the adventure. Each city has its own forms of public transportation; you will need to learn about your city, and what is the most common and efficient method of transportation there. This guide will help educate you on some of the basics of getting around Chinese cities.

However, knowing about the various ways of getting around China is one thing, but actually using them is another. I have found that downloading a few China specific location and transportation apps can be extremely helpful when first arriving in a new city. Here are a few of my favorite apps to use for transportation in China:

  1. Metro China Subway: A guide to the metro subways of China’s most popular cities. It will help guide you on the times and fares of metro systems all over China.
  2. China Trains: This will help guide you on train schedules and how to book your tickets. Trains in China are particularly helpful for traveling longer distances.
  3. Beijing Taxi Guide and Offline Maps: This app is great for those who haven’t quite grasped Mandarin yet. It will pull up cards to translate to taxi drivers where you would like to go, and it has an offline map feature to help you navigate without internet.

If you have any constructive tips, advice or things you wish you knew before you moved here; please share in the comments.

 

Discussion

15
  1. I’m not trying to be mean, but this article offers nothing new. Please write on less obvious topics in the future.

  2. China is a big country, at different places you would face different problems.

    I don’t think things like toiletries are *hard to find*, maybe it is true if you can’t speak mandarin, no en to cn-zh dicts either, don’t have clue about where to find shops or stores. If else, it’s as easy as you find foods and drinks.

    • Profile photo of Ryan McLaughlin

      Go to any massive supermarket in China, attempt to locate deodorant aisle. If you’re looking for a toothbrush, you’re right, but there are some remarkable differences between Western and Chinese personal care departments — things that are easy to find at a small drug store in North America are completely absent from even the largest supermarkets in many cities in China. Antiperspirant or deodorant are the obvious ones, but selection of shaving cream, ladies razors, diverse hair styling products, minor first aid items (Bactine, Vicks Vaporub, non-basic Band-Aids, etc.) are all things that immediately come to mind as slightly difficult to find. If you can get on Taobao or Amazon.cn, they’re available — but Jess is speaking to folks on their way to China, not people established here.

        • You can find dental floss at major supermarkets, such as Oleo, BGH, at Watsons, or at your nearest major joint-venure dental clinic in the major cities on the mainland. Other than that, speak to other foreigners when you arrive and they can advise on where to obtain the floss and other items for daily use. Good to have a mentor/guide when you relocate to any city anywhere in the world.

  3. I find it strange that under toiletries deodorant is mentioned, when one of the most sought after items in China for foreign women is tampons! A wast majority of the Chinese tampons you can find are usually quite strong on the chemicals used to bleach it and easily cause irritation for foreign women not used to a strong dose of chemicals such as bleach in their private areas.

    Not to mention that tampons are quite rare to find unless you’re in a major city, and even then you are probably limited to the cheap low quality chemical riddled ones, not to mention that the variety of sizes are quite limited no matter where you go.

    I suppose it is only natural since a majority of Chinese women use pads, but for those of us that prefer using tampons over pads I recommend bringing some extra to be safe!

  4. Extremely interesting article! People always need some good advises about moving and packing, and especially if is to country like China. There are many of us who never visited the country before, so I am really grateful for the helpful article you provided to us. Best regards

  5. Pingback: life in china: a sextet of unexpected joys

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