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Travelling to China – what do you need to know?

Feb 5, 2016

As globalisation expands at a staggering rate, economic power is being redistributed, and we’re seeing ‘the rise of the Far East’. China in particular is industrialising and developing into a global economic superpower, with the International Monetary Fund ranking China just behind the US in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and narrowly claiming first place in the world for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity). What this essentially means is that China’s large – and somewhat sudden – economic growth is on the rise, surpassing the long-established business capital of the world in producing the world’s commercial products. We’re beginning to see a trend whereby businesses’ are relocating their headquarters and outsourcing their factories to the Far East, which will inevitably mean a shift in the landscape of business travel.

We’ve compiled a list of handy tips for you to bear in mind when planning your next business trip to China.

1. Passport – In order to travel to mainland China, your passport will need to be valid for at least 6 months prior to your trip. We recommend checking this as soon as you have established your dates for travel, as renewing your passport can take up to 4 weeks. However, if it is a last minute trip, Business Travel Direct can shorten this wait time through our Passport and Visa Consular service partners.

2. Visa Application – If you hold a European or US passport, you will need to apply for a business visa prior to travelling to mainland China. Applications can take up to 1 week to process, or using our specialist visa partner, we can arrange a 1-2 day turnaround. Additionally, there is a wait period in hearing back as to whether your application has been successful, so we do recommend that your visa is your first priority when arranging a business trip to China.

3. Booking – Booking a long-haul flight can be quite complicated, and we would highly recommend calling our travel team directly, rather than booking online. By chatting it through to someone who has experience and expertise in the industry, you’ll ensure you’re getting a flight with as few lay-overs as possible and the right timings to ensure you can acclimatise to the time difference.

4. Meeting Schedule – China is 7 hours ahead of the UK, so it’s wise to consider this when you’re arranging your meetings. If you have early meetings, let your travel consultant know before you book your ticket and they can be sure you land late afternoon or early evening to allow you to catch up on lost time and valuable sleep.

5. Accommodation – In much the same way as booking your flights, it’s wise to book your hotel over the phone with a consultant. Location and amenities can vary between hotels, so it’s best to talk it through with someone before you decide. If you know where your meeting is being held and what airport you’ll be landing in, we can arrange your accommodation to make your journey to and from as seamless as possible.

6. Language – Navigating your way around a foreign country can always be daunting, particularly when communicating with staff or locals is difficult. We always recommend learning a few key phrases or downloading Google Translate to help with your day to day interactions. It may also be beneficial to download TripLingo onto your Smart phone. It’s a great app that will help teach you key phrases and cultural etiquette, and what’s really handy is that it works offline without wireless or 3G access, meaning you can use it during your flight.

7. Packing – The flight time between the UK and mainland China is approximately ten hours. This will inevitably mean you will be jetlagged and tired by the time you land, so try to avoid checking your luggage if possible. If you pack smartly, you may be able to fit everything you need into a carry-on, meaning you’ll be able to leave the airport upon landing almost immediately and head straight to your hotel. The weather in China varies dramatically according to season and region, so be sure to do your research before you decide what clothing to bring. However, we always recommended a fold-up rain coat!

8. Devices – Ensure your devices are fully charged before you get to the airport, as you may be asked to prove that they are in full working order before boarding – this includes phones, tablets, laptops and e-books. We always recommend investing in a power bank, allowing you up to 10 hours extra charge whilst you’re on the go. You can purchase these for as little as £10 and generally they are so small, they can fit into the palm of your hand. You’ll also need to invest in the right adapter for your trip, as you’ll most likely need to charge your devices after the 10 hour flight. To ensure you’re smart with your purchasing, it can often be more cost-effective to purchase a multi-device charger and adapter, so you can have multiple gadgets charging simultaneously.

9. Currency – Major cities in China will most likely accept a form of credit card payment, but we do advise that you bring at least two cards with you should one not be accepted. Prior to your leaving, ensure you have an adequate supply of cash to use for taxis, as that will most likely be your first mode of transport. Leaving a tip in China is not considered a necessity and there are some regions in which locals will simply not accept a tip. It may be worth doing your research to ensure you’re up to date on tipping conventions.

10. Business Etiquette – A respectful culture is deeply rooted in all aspects of Chinese society, particularly business. It is important to remember to have patience, respect your elders, be modest with your accomplishments, and overall, remain polite and well mannered.

  • Punctuality is often appreciated in the business world, so be sure to leave for your meeting in plenty of time.
  • Take into account the language capabilities of your hosts before you arrange your meeting. It may be worth arranging for an interpreter if you feel your business proposition may be lost due to language barriers.
  • As a thoughtful tip, it may be worth bringing a translated copy of your company literature or presentation to your meeting. Your host may speak English perfectly well, but the decision makers of the organisation may not, so it is important to bear them in mind when putting together your proposition.
  • Whilst dress codes can vary from region to region, it is common practise to dress formally when conducting business, as a sign of respect and professionalism.
  • Seniority is highly regarded in Chinese culture, and this remains particularly valid in the business world. When addressing others, be sure to address everyone by their title (Director, Chairman etc) and keep in mind who is the most senior person in the room. When you’re introducing yourself to others or exchanging business cards, it is formality to start with the most senior person in the room and work your way down the hierarchy .