Which cities in China should I avoid?
SPECIAL SITUATION COVID-19
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, various measures are being taken in China, Germany and Europe to contain the disease, which will have a significant impact on travel to and in China. Due to the constantly changing situation, it is advisable to regularly inform yourself about current travel and safety information from the Federal Foreign Office. The COVID leaflet for travelers can also be found here. All of this information is updated regularly and should be checked on a daily basis.
To enter China, a passport with a validity of at least 6 months with a visa is required, which is issued in the representations of China (embassies and consulates).
The Chinese embassy has made a guide for applying for a visa available for download. From December 16, applicants must have their fingerprints taken. The embassy also advises emigrants on questions about legalizations.
The Foreign Office in Berlin provides further information on entry requirements for the PR China, Hong Kong and Macau. In order to avoid trouble when entering the country, the existing customs regulations should be strictly adhered to.
Housing and supply
Living in China's cities has become more and more expensive over time. Generally speaking, foreigners pay more rent than their Chinese neighbors. In cities like Beijing or Shanghai, rents of 10,000 yuan for good apartments are not uncommon. Apart from possible financial restrictions, you are free to choose your place of residence.
If you want to live “really Chinese” outside of the expensive complexes with foreigners' apartments, it is always worthwhile to seek help from Chinese friends or colleagues. These can perhaps mediate an apartment owner or accompany you to a realtor. If you have rented an apartment, you should definitely draw up the rental agreement in Chinese and English. The exact monthly rent must be recorded here and a defect report must be attached. When you have found a new apartment, you have to register with the Chinese police department and present a certificate of employment or study.
There is no need to worry about the supply of everyday goods in China's big cities. In the Chinese supermarkets there is practically everything your heart desires. If you don't want to do without your special organic muesli in China, you can buy imported western products in branches of foreign supermarkets (e.g. Carrefour) in metropolises like Beijing or Shanghai. But if you take the time to study the wide range of Chinese supermarkets carefully, you will discover many previously unknown delicacies.
The colorful and lively Chinese markets, which you can still find in side streets and in the country today, are a special experience. Action must be taken here. While you should bargain harshly on electronics and clothing, especially in cities, the price range for groceries is low. Grocers, especially in rural areas, usually charge foreigners the same prices as their compatriots and get into trouble when they try to bargain. For trading, it is helpful to know the finger signs for numbers.
In rural areas, both the supply and the standard of hotels, restaurants and sanitary facilities can be considerably lower. Anyone who undertakes a trip to remote areas within China should stock up on things in the city that they cannot do without.
Although it is now common practice in the PRC to use the payment function of the ubiquitous and all-powerful APP WeChat to settle bills, there is still cash for the old-fashioned shopper.
The Chinese Renminbi (RMB, "people's currency") is divided into 1 Yuan (also known as Kuai) = 10 Jiao = 100 Fen. Almost all of Chinese cash is in circulation in the form of banknotes. There are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 yuan notes. Older 1 yuan coins, on the other hand, are rarely found. While Jiao still occur in everyday payment transactions, Fen almost only play a role as book money.
Payment transactions in China are unproblematic. If you want to withdraw cash in China, you can do so at one of the many ATMs of the major Chinese banks (Bank of China, China Construction Bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, etc.). For withdrawals with a Maestro / EC card, fees of up to 4 euros apply. When withdrawing with EC cards, it is therefore worth withdrawing larger amounts of cash. At the Bank of China, cash can also be withdrawn using a credit card.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged for Chinese RMB at the current exchange rate at the Bank of China. Travelers checks issued in a foreign currency are also accepted here (e.g. American Express, Citicorp).
If you want to pay by credit card, you can do so in the large hotels, restaurants and department stores of China's metropolises. In smaller shops and restaurants as well as outside of the big cities, however, you have to pay with cash.
It is also possible to open an account with a Chinese bank without any problems. You should make sure that the bank has a comprehensive network of ATMs throughout China and that you can withdraw free of charge nationwide. However, this is the case with the large banks such as the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China, etc.
Anyone who orders on the Internet can pay by bank transfer, PayPal or cash on delivery.
Travel in China
The transport network of the PRC has been massively expanded in the last few decades. New railway lines and motorway sections are constantly being opened. While one has to contend with congested streets and overcrowded public transport in the cities, traveling over longer distances within China has become more and more comfortable over the years.
If you travel in China, you will usually do so by train or plane, in rare cases also by bus. Most large provincial cities, including those in the distant western regions, can be reached in this way. However, if you want to travel to remote rural or impassable regions (desert, high mountains, etc.), you may have to switch to off-road vehicles, pack animals or hiking boots.
With a length of 120,000 km, the Chinese rail network is one of the largest in the world. In recent years, the high-speed network of the Chinese railways in particular has been continuously expanded. A train journey from Beijing to Shanghai now only takes five hours, making it a convenient alternative to traveling by plane. If you want to go on a long train journey, for example from Beijing to Kunming in southwest China, you can book beds in sleeping compartments. Here you can choose between the normal and a more comfortable variant ("hard sleeper" and "soft sleeper"). Timetable information and ticket purchases for train journeys can now be carried out conveniently online.
In China, traveling by air is often the only way to cover long distances quickly. All in all, air traffic is well organized and runs smoothly. Most of the flights are offered by the major Chinese airlines such as Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines or Hainan Airlines. Tickets are easy to get through travel agencies, local agents and, nowadays, mainly through the major online travel agencies in the PRC.
In more rural regions of China, sometimes you can only get around by bus. It is not uncommon for you to be confronted with poor road conditions and old-fashioned vehicles, which means that traveling by bus can be quite uncomfortable by European standards. Since bus journeys are still the cheapest mode of transport, they are mainly used by the Chinese. Anyone who has spent two days in a sleeping bus in China will have experienced a truly Chinese journey. Bus tickets are available from bus stations in every Chinese city.
If you want to drive a car yourself in China, you can obtain a provisional driving license for up to 3 months. Otherwise you need a Chinese driver's license. For this you have to submit an application to the traffic police, as well as a residence permit, your own driver's license and an official translation of the driver's license. In addition, you have to pass a written exam and possibly a practical exam. Then it is important to learn the customs of Chinese car traffic, which are very different from the German ones. If you don't have to transport a lot, an electric bike is a comparatively quick alternative, with which you can avoid many a traffic jam.
Those who have reached their destination can find a place to stay in one of the countless hotels in all price ranges.
There are some online learning programs on the Internet, for example at www.chinaweb.de for the modern high-level language with Chinese characters, pinyin (international transcription) and voice output for self-learning. However, a teacher makes it easier to get started with the foreign language, for example with the "Learn Chinese in China" program with a teacher in one-to-one lessons. Various extensive Chinese dictionaries in English and German can be accessed online.
School and study
There are now international schools and kindergartens in numerous major cities in China. The language of instruction is usually English, although there are also two German schools in Beijing and Shanghai. In other cities such as Suzhou or Qingdao there is also the possibility of completing teaching units in German within the international schools. International schools charge high school fees, sometimes over 1,000 euros per month, which does not yet include meals and special expenses. Many schools also charge high admission fees. Anyone who goes to China with children should therefore ensure that the sending organization pays the school fees.
Anyone studying in China must be enrolled at one of the many Chinese universities and receive a student visa in return. Those who do not have a scholarship from an international study organization (e.g. DAAD) have to pay the tuition fees themselves. These can be over 3,000 euros per year. In the first nationwide online network that connects all universities and research institutes (CERNET - “China Education and Research Network”), Chinese and international students can research information on enrollment formalities, exams and scholarships at Chinese universities.
The Federal Foreign Office provides current safety information. Generally speaking, China is a relatively safe country. However, drug-related crime is increasing due to social differences. Crowds of people, sights, markets and the like magically attract pickpockets. Some districts should be avoided at night. Locals can provide valuable tips on this.
Particular caution is required in road traffic, as the Chinese-style traffic rules are usually not easy to understand for western logicians.
According to European standards, the hygienic conditions in China are certainly still in need of improvement, but compared to many other Asian countries, China is much further ahead. If you stick to a few basic rules, many people survive a stay in China without the slightest stomach upset.
It is advisable to always drink boiled or purchased water. Tap water can contain germs. Furthermore, one should always use disposable chopsticks for eating in restaurants or bring your own chopsticks. Fruit should be eaten peeled and hands should be washed frequently. At the roadside food stalls, care should be taken to ensure that the food is well heated and ice cream should be consumed with caution, as it may have become too warm on the transport routes and during storage. By the way, green tea helps to please the stomach.
Health care is quite good in the larger cities, but it can be poor in the countryside and in remote areas. The costs for medical treatment and medication always have to be paid immediately and can be very high in the metropolises on the east coast. For people who stay longer in China, it may be worthwhile to become a member of a medical organization (e.g. International SOS, Globaldoctor, etc.) which operate hospitals in various Chinese cities equipped according to international standards.
Depending on the travel time, length of stay and activity, various vaccinations are recommended. In general, vaccinations against hepatitis A, diphtheria and tetanus are recommended. For people who are exposed to the simpler inland conditions, vaccinations against hepatitis B, rabies, typhoid or Japanese encephalitis can also be considered.
Telecommunication, internet, mail
In China, almost everyone has a smartphone with which they can either make phone calls, send text messages or emails, shop on the Internet, tweets on Weibo (the Chinese Twitter) or meet friends on Chinese social networks. In recent years, the WeChat software from Tencent, which combines all of the above-mentioned services in one app, has prevailed. The network coverage works almost nationwide, so that you can remain part of the digital community even in remote regions.
In China, using a Chinese cell phone is cheap. The pre-paid SIM cards sold in China can be installed in European devices brought along. SIM cards are available from the Chinese providers China Mobile and Unicom.
Since the whole of China is now carrying the Internet around in their pockets, Internet cafes have also become rarer. Nevertheless, you can still find a way to go stationary on the Internet, be it in one of the noisy online gambling dens. In addition, modern cafes, bars and restaurants in large cities are increasingly offering free WiFi service. However, if you use your own computer or laptop, you should protect yourself well against viruses and Trojans and ensure that your data is backed up carefully.
The Chinese government is also trying to restrict anonymous access to foreign Internet platforms and has instructed China's telecommunications company to completely block connections via VPN clients from 2018.
Even if Chinese life is shifting more and more to the Internet: If you want, you can still send greeting postcards by post.
The country information portal
The contributions in the country information portal (LIPortal) were supervised by proven country experts until December 2020 in order to give an introduction to one of approx. 80 different countries. The LIPortal thus offered an orientation to country information in the WorldWideWeb - many references are still up-to-date.
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