The People’s Republic of China (PRC), known as China, has increasingly been engaging in the world’s economy. Businessmen from around the world travel to this land to trade and boost their business. Here are a few helpful tips for your business travel to China.
There are many hotels dotting all the major and minor cities of China, ranging from luxurious 5-star hotels to the budget hotels. A wide range of facilities are offered at these places of accommodation. Some of the hotels that you can stay at are:
Ascott Hotel (5-Star)
Wangfujing Grand Hotel (5-Star)
China World Hotel (4-Star)
Hotel Pullman Guangzhou Baiyun Airport (5-Star)
White Swan Hotel (4-Star)
Donlord International Hotel (3-Star)
Crowne Plaza Hotel Shanghai Pudong (5-Star)
Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel (4-Star)
Fairmont Peace Hotel (3-Star)
Grand Park Xian Hotel (4-Star)
Sheraton Xian Hotel (4-Star)
The amenities offered in these hotels in each room (3-Star and above) are:
• Central air-conditioning
• Refrigerator (especially in the 4- and 5-Star hotels)
• Private bathroom with round-the-clock hot water
• Towels, glasses, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bathing soap, shampoo, bath lotion, toilet paper
• Wardrobe with dressing table
• Ceiling and bedside lamps
• 24-hour room service
• Electrical water boiler (if one is not provided, you can request boiled water by room service)
• Business center (fax, Internet facility and telephone service is available)
• Western and Chinese restaurants, bars, coffee shops
• Conference rooms, banqueting halls, multi-function halls, ballrooms
• Beauty parlors, massage rooms
While staying in a hotel, there are a few things to take note of:
• Water: Do not drink tap water from the hotels, as it is not drinkable. An electrical water boiler will be provided for safe-drinking water. If one is not provided, you can request boiled water by room service. Bottled water is also available and can be bought for $0.25 to $0.75 per bottle. Steamed or mineral water is also easily available.
• Laundry Service: Laundry bags are provided in hotel rooms. Clothes given for washing in the morning are usually returned the next day. However, if you need them immediately, extra charge may be incurred. Public laundries are available on the streets.
• Mail Service: Sending mail from your hotel is convenient. Stamps are available at the front desk. To send a postcard, stamps of amount RMB 4.50 to 6 will be needed. For a normal weight letter, stamps worth RMB 6 to 7 are required. You can leave your letters or postcards at reception, who will give them to the postman.
• Electric Current: 220 volt/50 cycles are used throughout the country. So, if your electrical appliances require to be operated at 110 volts, you will need a Converter. Most hotels provide two- and three-phase sockets. You may have to use an adapter as well. If you don’t have one, ask the housekeeper for one.
Communication: Cell Phone, Phone Cards & Long Distance Calling, Internet Access
While on your business tour, it will be necessary to keep in touch with business partners and colleagues back home. In this fast-moving world, staying connected is an easy task. From cell phones and phone cards to the Internet, there are ample options to select from.
• Phone Cards And Long Distance Calling: Most hotels provide the facility of IDD (International Direct Dialing) from the room itself and from phone cards from the post office located in the hotel. Besides this, phone cards, IC and IP being the most popular, are available in newsstands. These cards are available in only particular provinces, so it is recommended that you check that the card has not expired.
IC cards: IC telephones allow you to call home instantly. International calls can be made from IC telephone cards (a product of China Telecom). These cards are quite expensive and are available for more than 10 RMB/M. When purchasing an IC card, you need to use a telephone, which can be found either at a public booth, hotel, airport or restaurant. The card needs to be inserted into the phone. Once inserted, you need to follow the vocal instructions.
IP cards: Companies like China Netcom, China Unicom, China Jitong and China Telecom issue these cards. Calling rates differ from company to company. China Unicom charges an amount of 1.5 RMB/M for calls made to Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, 2.6 RMB/M to Canada and America and 3.6 RMB/M to the rest of the world. The other telecom service providers either charge more or less than China Unicom. To make a call, you can use the telephone in your hotel, though a charge might be issued for using the phone.
Country codes: Listed below are codes for some countries.
USA and Canada: 1
Hong Kong: 852
New Zealand: 64
Making a call: To make an international call, dial the following:
00+country code + regional code + telephone number
• Cell Phones: Both GSM and CDMA networks operate in China, run by China Mobile and China Unicom, respectively. So, you can use either a dual- or tri-band cell phone, or simply use a COSMOTE card. If however, you want to cut costs, you can purchase a GSM SIM card.
You have two options to choose from: Shenzhouxing and Ruyitong, issued by China Mobile and China Unicom, respectively. These are prepaid connections, so there is no need to provide any kind of documents. Charging cards of 50 RMB and 100 RMB are available in newsstands, post offices and stores.
• Internet Access: Some hotels provide Internet access in the rooms, as well as their business center. So staying connected is easy. The other option is visiting a cyber café.
Transportation: Airways, Trains, Taxis, Coaches
Taking your business to the corners of China requires immense travel. There are ample options for transportation to get around the country. From airways and trains to taxis and coaches, China has it all.
• Coach: Coaches are available aplenty. They are clean, air-conditioned and comfortable. The drivers are well-experienced, so you can be assured of a safe journey.
• Train: The best way to experience China and view the countryside is to travel by train. The berths are comfortable for travel. Choose the “soft seats” for traveling short distances and “soft sleepers” for long-distance travel.
The soft sleeper cars comprise four-berths: two upper and two lower berths. Complete bedding is provided. In every soft sleeper car there is a public washroom, though a shower is not available. It is recommended that you carry your own toiletries like face towel, face wash, soap, and toilet paper, among others. A thermos bottle containing hot water is provided to every passenger.
Ensure to book your train ticket 10 days prior to your departure. Getting a ticket, especially during the holidays, can be quite difficult.
Once you have boarded the train, make sure that your ticket is kept safely, because you will need to show it to the ticket-checker on board, as well as at the station of your destination. The conductor will replace your ticket with a “magcard” so as to inform you of your arrival. Ensure to change it back to your ticket on your arrival.
In terms of dining, you can either eat at the dining car, which is adjacent to the soft sleeper car, or simply purchase a boxed meal that is carried in a trolley during meal times and costs approximately USD $2-3 per meal. Chinese cuisine is usually on the menu.
• Taxi: There are innumerable taxis available to take you around, especially if you want to tour the cities on your own. Taxis are brightly colored in yellow, red or green. The fares vary from one city to another, but whichever the city, ensure that the taximeter is being used. This avoids you from getting cheated. Rates of the taxi are usually marked on the window.
In Shanghai, the four prominent taxi companies are Blue’ish Turquoise, Taxis, Blue and Oro Blanco. Besides, after 11 pm, taxi drivers tend to charge more. If your bargaining skills are good, you can ask for a 20% discount, which ultimately ensures that you are paying at the same rate, that is, the amount that is charged before 11 pm.
Take note of the name of the taxi driver and his registration number, which are displayed in the taxi. Also, do not forget to take a receipt as it contains the details of your trip. This receipt allows you to call the taxi company, if you have left your belongings in the taxi, or you need its services again.
The drivers do not speak in English, so make sure that you either have your destination written in Chinese or carry a guide that translates English to Chinese.
• Airway: Traveling by air from one city to another is quick and less exhaustive. Some of the airlines that are operative are China Eastern Airlines, Dragon Air, Air China, Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines.
Embassies and Consulates
While on your business tour, it is a good idea to know the location of your country’s embassy or consulate. The capital of China, Beijing houses foreign embassies, while cities like Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chongqing and Shenyang are home to a number of consulates. To know more about the Chinese consulates and embassies around the world, and foreign consulates and embassies in China, log on to http://www.embassyworld.com.
Renminbi (RMB) is the official currency of China. Yuan, also called “kuai” is the basic unit; 10 jiao or mao equals a single yuan, while 10 fen is equivalent to one jiao. Paper currency is available in one, two, five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 yuan notes, while jiao notes come in the denominations of one, two and five. Fen notes are available too in the denominations of one and two, though they are rarely used. Coins come in one yuan, one and five jiao, and one, two and five fen.
Most luxurious, star hotels accept US dollars, English pounds and Euros. Tipping can also be done using the above mentioned currencies. However, when purchasing from street vendors, convenience stores and department stores, as well as eating out in local restaurants, payments should be made in the local currency. Here are a few more tips related to money.
• Traveler’s checks: Banks and hotels in China accept traveler’s checks. The exchange rate is the same in both places. To change your checks into cash, you need to show your passport. It is recommended that you keep the exchange receipts. This allows you to exchange the cash back into the original currency on your departure from China.
• Credit cards: The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diner’s Card and JCB. You can use your credit card in shopping malls and stores, hotels and restaurants, as well as to purchase tickets. However, the card will not be of much use when you travel to smaller cities and rural areas. You will need to only pay in cash in RMB there. Similarly, some hotels also do not accept payments via credit card. In that case, you will need to go to Bank of China, where you can withdraw cash of a stipulated amount. A charge will be levied for the same.
• ATMs: Bank of China has many ATM outlets in all the major cities. Five-star hotels also have ATM facilities. You can withdraw only a specific amount from an ATM machine on a daily basis and the cash received will be in RMB. Your credit card might not work in them.
• Distinguishing Counterfeit Money: Identifying fake money can be easy if you know what to look for. Money can be distinguished by its watermark, color, texture of paper and Braille dots. RMB notes are difficult to copy owing to their color.
The fake bills are unclear as the images, watermark and colors are not very distinct. They tend to be quite fuzzy. A good way to test if a bill is counterfeit is to look at it under a black light. Here are a few things to take note of:
1. On a $100 bill, the image of the Great Helmsman or model worker (usually present in the old copy) or Maozedong (the new copy) is extremely sharp.
2. The words “WUSHI” or “YIBAI” appear in fluorescent color, though this depends on the denomination.
3. The paper should appear to absorb the black light. If it throws out color, that is, if it looks bright, then it is a counterfeit note.
4. Braille dots are visible on the lower left-hand corner of the front part of a bill. The dots are slightly raised. The bills that do not have these are counterfeit.
To obtain a visa, you can visit the Chinese embassy or consulate in your country. All foreigners entering mainland China are required to have a visa. However, Western nationals need not obtain a visa for visiting Macau and Hong Kong.
If you wish to work and stay in China, or have been assigned to work in the country, you need to apply for an employment visa (Type Z). You will be allowed to make multiple entries into the country, bring reasonable personal and household articles, like video cameras, PC, VCR, among others, which now become duty-free. When this visa expires, you will be able to renew it without much effort.
Trade Shows And Exhibitions
If you are a business firm looking to showcase your products at trade shows and fairs, you need to consult with Customs authorities. The organizer of the exhibition will need an approval in advance from Customs, provide shipping documents as well as the list of articles which will be displayed. Customs will provide the rules and regulations regarding the procedures, as well as hand over the appropriate forms to the organizer. Sometimes a guarantee in the form of a letter or deposit is asked for by Customs. Usually, the goods are exempt from Customs duty if they are re-exported within a period of three months.
Small exhibitions and seminars, which require an area less than 500 square meters, can be organized by a local sponsor, allowed to participate in foreign trade, without prior approval from MOFTEC. Customs will take care of the tariff exemption formalities, depending upon the assurance of re-export that is signed between the foreign trader and the sponsor.
As regards food and beverage exhibitions, the rules for entry of samples are not clearly stated. So, before registering to participate, it is recommended that you contact the exhibition organizers to gain information on your liabilities in regard to entry of samples, as well as expenses that you may incur for participation.
Once the trade event has taken place, the samples that were imported under the temporary “not-for-sale” rule, can be sold. In this case, Customs levies duties on these items.
On your business tour, you can carry samples and advertising material, without having to pay for customs duty and VAT, provided the value of the items do not exceed RMB 200. However, those advertising materials related to electronic products are subject to VAT and customs duty, irrespective of the value of the item.
If you have set up representative offices in China, the office has to submit a written application to the Customs office in the case of importing of personal items or vehicles. Customs will waive any pertinent import license requirements, approving the import of equipment for office-use only.