Travelling to China soon? For something a bit different I thought I’d write about my experience visiting China recently because I found it hard to get reliable information from blogs and Trip Advisor.
Considering this exhibition center hosts many expo’s throughout the year, this article will hopefully be helpful for many of you!
Purchase a VPN
In China, you won’t be able to access Facebook, FaceTime, Instagram or YouTube because of the “great firewall”. However, if you have a VPN, you will be able to access any site.
Contrary to what you might read, VPN’s are actually legal for foreigners visiting China. A VPN is an app which you can purchase and it connects to a server in different locations around the world. I chose Express VPN and connected to Hong Kong because it is close to China and gave me a faster connection.
One thing I would say is it does chew through your data and battery on your phone pretty quickly. I’m with Vodafone and have 50GB per month so data wasn’t an issue. I watched several video’s and made hours of video calling over the 10 days I was in China and only used 20GB.
Flights and airports
If you’re heading to Shanghai for an expo, I highly recommend finding a flight that lands at Hongqiao airport rather than Pudong. Hongqiao is where the exhibition centre is and accommodation is usually only 15 minutes from the airport. Pudong is about an hour’s drive. Hongqiao is also the easiest airport I have ever been to (and after flying as an international flight attendant for 7 years, I have seen a few airports in my time!) After stepping off the plane, I went down some escalators, cruised through customs (no queues) and walked 50 metres to collect my bags where there were trolley’s neatly placed at the conveyor belt, ready to go. Organised!
Being a bit of a supplement addict I was concerned that I might be stopped at the x-ray machines but again, I cruised through there and out to where my hotel driver was waiting to pick me up. I think the entire process took about 15 minutes from the time I stepped off the plane.
As an Accor member, I stayed at the Sofitel which is 10 minutes in the car from the expo centre. Walking there would take about an hour according to Google Maps although I found Google Maps hopeless when I ventured out for a walk. It seemed to have no idea where I was and sent me in the wrong direction multiple times.
I did catch a cab a few times and used my translation app to tell the driver where to go but they seemed to be completely confused by the instructions on the app. Apparently the trick is to ask the hotel to write down the address for you on a card so you can show that to the driver.
Luckily our hotel organised a bus to the centre and back every hour.
The Intercontinental Hotel is right next to the expo centre however, there is high security getting into the centre (x-ray machines and body scanning like you would find at an airport) and if you stayed at this hotel you would have this every time you entered the hotel.
The Primus Hotel is an ideal place to stay and is only about a 10-minute walk from the expo centre.
The Cordis Hotel also looked quite nice but is an hour’s walk from the expo centre or a 10-minute drive.
Payment methods in China
At hotels you will be able to use your credit card, however for cabs and purchasing food you will need either cash or WeChat Pay (or Alipay). This is how to get set up with WeChat Pay:
- Go into your contacts in WeChat and search “Wallet”. This will add the wallet to your account.
- Go to “Me” and WeChat Pay will appear.
- Click on the “wallet” then “cards” and add your credit card – this is for ID purposes only.
- Then go to Yayaka to purchase some money (www.yakaya.com)
- You will need to search for Yayaka on WeChat to add Jane as your friend.
- Jane will receive your order on the website and then “gift” you the money which will appear in your wallet.
- When you want to pay for something, click on “Money” to scan the QR code.
You can also pay by scanning the merchant’s QR code – go to “Chats”, click on the + sign in the top right corner and click “scan”.
It sounds complicated but when you get it set up, it’s so easy (just like Apple Pay).
Hairdressers and massages
There is a hairdresser near the Cordis hotel – when you exit the hotel, turn left then left again until you find “Family Mart” and it is right next door – Cafune. I paid 58 RMB (about $15) for a blow-dry and they were amazing!
Massages at the hotels are expensive but the spas are beautiful. I actually had a better massage near the Atour hotel which was 298 RMB (about $60) but the smell of cigarette smoke when I was lying on the massage table was a bit revolting.
I was really nervous before I went on this trip – a new country with different payment methods and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to access stuff on the internet. In the end, I had nothing to worry about – the VPN worked beautifully, I had set up WeChat Pay before I left and downloaded a translation app (you will definitely need this).
I only wish I had this blog article to read prior to my trip so if this helps you, I would love to hear from you.
Enjoy your trip to China!