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60 Essential Things to Know Before You Visit China for Business

Essential Things to Know Before You Visit China for Business

More and more overseas businesses are expanding to China for new opportunities.

Business travels are the direct way to reach your potential customers and partner. But there are quite a few common issues in the China business travels for western businessmen.

After several years China market entry consulting, I’ve compiled some top tips for going to China that many businessmen wish they’d had before landing in China.

Make Your China Business Travel Plan

1. Set Up Business Appointments

It would be quite easy if you only need to finish one single task to meet a certain existing client or visit a specific place.

However, in many cases,  you want to meet some potential customers you’ve never known before, you might visit several cities in your coming trip.

You need to plan your travel well.

  • Collect leads of potential customers or partners.
  • Make self-introduction, explain your business goal,  and propose potential meeting.
  • Providing time slot options.
  • check Coordinate the place, the time and the people for all the meetings.

Normally you need a local representative to help you coordinate all these since setting up meeting appointments in different places will be annoying if you are a total stranger to China.

2. Get Connected through Someone

Chinese don’t like doing business with individuals or companies they don’t know, so working through an intermediary is crucial.

This could be an individual or an organization who can make a formal introduction and vouch for the credibility of you or your company.

Some clients tried to make appointments with key decision makers just through cold calls.

They realized this after many trials.

3. Do Business With Key Decision Makers

You have to impress and do business with decision makers at the very top.

The normal cold call strategy would not work.

Nobody really cares telemarketers.


  • First, it seems you don’t know the Chinese culture.
  • Second, they could not tell whether you are trustworthy.
  • Third, they will doubt your capability.

The wise investment is to find a local partner or agent to help you arrange serious meetings and introduce valuable connections.

4. Meeting Rooms

You can visit the offices of your potential clients, but it takes time for you to move from one place to another.

You need to consider time and distance issues. And traffic jams in rush hours are very common in big cities in China.

Make sure this kind of meetings would not affect your following meetings.

You can also arrange business meetings in your hotel and it will save quite a lot of your time if you have a tight schedule to meet many people, remember to book the meeting rooms in advance.

5. Optimize Your Itinerary

Some typical questions for your China business travel:

  • How long will you stay in China?
  • How many people will you meet up with? 
  • Where will you visit?

Set up realistic goals first, design your itinerary according to the availability of the people you want to meet, prioritize your important meetings.

Try to arrange as more important appointments within limited days and make your travel flexible, so that you may arrange some new meetings when you are here in China.

6. Avoid Traveling on Chinese Holidays

Your business travel will be ruined if you choose to do it in Chinese holidays.

It’s difficult to book tickets and everywhere is crowded.

Many people you want to see may be not at their office.

7. Hire a Local Virtual Assistant

For important China business travels, , you’d better hire a senior Chinese virtual assistant to help you handle a series of jobs like leads creation, making appointments,  booking hotels and planning the itinerary.

You can also hire a senior consultant to work as your local assistant to translate and solve all the possible issues you might meet up with.

Prepare Travel Documents for China

8. Visas for China

Before you visit China, you’ll need to arrange your visa in advance since there are no visas on arrival.

Visas can be applied for in person at the Chinese consulate/embassy or can be ordered via post.

When applying for your visa to China, you’ll need to provide either a letter of invitation from a Chinese friend, relative, or a Chinese company , or provide a detailed itinerary of your intended trip. This includes return flights and confirmed reservations for your hotel bookings.

9. Booking Hotels in China

If you want some flexibility with your itinerary, make use of sites that do not require an upfront payment to make bookings. is a good option that you get free cancellation on most rooms.

Some Chinese websites like C-Trip or eLong require no deposit to book rooms too, and you can cancel without penalty once your visa is approved.

Local Booking sites normally offer better rates than western ones. Be sure to compare them.

10. Travel Insurance for China

Travel insurance is a must for any kind of travels.

There are way too many travel insurance options, buy from big companies and make sure to insure valuable items such as cameras, laptops etc too.

11. Keep Your Passport with You All the Time

You’ll need your passport for showing you identity and use it for booking hotels, tickets etc.

Stay Connected

12. Get a VPN for China

When you visit China, keep in mind that many western websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and most of the Google selection are blocked by the GFW. If you want to access these while you’re visiting China, you’ll need to purchase a VPN.

I personally tried many VPNs, and finally decided to stay with ExpressVPN since it is the most reliable one.

Get ExpressVPN Now

13. Buy a Telecommunication Package

International roaming in China might be quite expensive.

Consult your carriers to buy a dedicated international travel package for China during your travel.

14. Get a local SIM Card in China

China’s local telecommunication rate is far cheaper than international roaming.

China’s major carriers include China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. SIM cards can be purchased at the airport or at most corner stores, and credit is quite affordable.

Most Chinese SIMs are locked to the province in which they are purchased, so you’ll pay roaming charges when texting, calling, or using data outside of this province.

15. Download WeChat

WeChat (WeiXin in Chinese) is first app that I would recommend to download if you want to be connected with China customers.

16. Must Have Apps

Many Chinese apps would make your travel in China easier, like Maps, and Taxi Hailing Apps.

Here is a short but useful list and you can choose what you need to download.

Transit In China

17. Get to the Airport Early

In China, it is a normal practice to get to the airport three hours early for international flights and two hours early for domestic flights.

Traffic jams in peak hours in China big cities are quite serious.

You’d better avoid the rush hours or get to leave for the airport earlier.

18. Expect Delays of Flights

It’s interesting that most flights in China can not leave the airport on time.

But don’t be late to arrive at the airport.

You need to be prepared to wait in the airport, or in the plane, although it won’t be too long for most cases.

19. G-Trains Are Amazing

China’s built a fantastic network of high speed G-trains.

You can travel across the country by trains, and it’s more punctual than flights.

It takes you only about 5 hours from Beijing to Shanghai via G-Train.

Trains rates are quite affordable.

Most new rail station for G-Trains are huge and similar, many of them are far out of the city center.

20. Crowded Subways and Buses in Rush Hours

Subways and Buses are convenient and the fare is really cheap.

But it will be extremely crowded in rush hours.

My suggestion is to avoid peak hours.

21. Taxi Hailing in China

Taxis in China are cheap and plentiful. You can use many apps (WeChat, Alipay, Didi Chuxing, Meituan, etc) to hail a taxi or a sharing car.

Most drivers will not speak English. It’s a good idea to get your destination address written in Chinese by somebody at your hotel.

22. Driving in China

If you are not living here for long, self-driving is not a good idea since it really needs some practices for newbies.

Prepare a China’s local driver’s license or an International driver’s license if you insist.

23. Rent a Bike

Bike sharing is popular in China and you can ride a bike to make your local sightseeing really efficient.

Effective Business Relationship

24. Build Personal Relationships and Win the Trust

Business relationships are built formally after the Chinese get to know you.

Doing business in China is based heavily on personal relationships, which is called Guanxi.

If you are not a friend, you are basically not a trusted business partner.

25. Be Very Patient

Normally it takes a considerable amount of time.

Decisions are unlikely to be made during the meeting.

They may take a long time.

Careful reviews and considerations are necessary.

You need time to find the right influencers and the real decision maker.

You will also need to break through enormous bureaucracy if your client is a big company.

Your Chinese clients, big or small, need time to test you to see whether you are honest and reliable.

26. Do Not Rely Too Much On Contracts

Contracts are important, but do not rely too much on them.

Try to accumulate as little Chinese debt as possible.

Don’t deliver too much before getting paid, or pay too much before getting something delivered.

I always start with discovery contracts as pilot projects for most consulting cases.

Start some trial orders first to see whether it really works.

27. Leave Room for Negotiation

Your starting offer should always leave room for negotiation.

You must be willing to show compromise and ensure Chinese negotiators feel they have gained major concessions.

28. DON’T Assume “Yes” Means Yes

Don’t be pushy.

“We will think about it”, “I will look into it” sometimes means no.

Try to figure out the reason behind the hesitance and try to find an alternative solution.

29. Gifts Are Good, But Do Not Bribe

One-sided gift-giving is awkward and sometimes improper gifts might be even considered as bribery.

It’s best to arrange through your assistant or intermediary to see whether exchanging gifts is a good idea.

30. DON’T Assume “NO” Means NO

Gifts may be refused once, twice or even three times before they are accepted.

This is the Chinese tradition to show the humble attitude to accept any gift.


31. Accept RMB Only

The official currency of China is the yuan.

Normally, Chinese businesses do not accept any other currency, including the US dollar or Hong Kong dollar.

32. Mobile Payment is Popular

WePay and Alipay are increasingly popular in mainland China.

Foreigners can also apply for WePay and Alipay with a local bank account.

It is very convenient, but it needs several days to set it up.

33. Prepare Cash

More and more businesses in China (particularly large hotel chains and upscale restaurants) now accept Visa and Mastercard, but the most widely accepted card scheme is still UnionPay.

For foreign travellers, you’ll still need to pay with cash in most situations.

34. Exchange Currency at ATMs in China

Many Chinese banks do not accept foreign cards.

But you can find larger chains such as HSBC to withdraw Chinese RMB from your bank accounts. In this way, you will get a far better exchange rate than services such as Travelex.

International ATMs are available in all major cities but it will be very hard to find in small cities or rural areas in China.

35. Tell Your Bank About Your China Travel

Before you go to China, make sure your bank knows you’re going to use your credit or debit card over there.

Otherwise, your card might be disabled or your transactions might be cancelled for “unusual transactions”.

Chinese Culture

36. Numbers

Four is an unlucky number because it sounds like the word “death” in mandarin Chinese.

So do not give four of anything.

Six is considered a blessing for smoothness and progress.

Eight is the luckiest number in Chinese culture, so giving eight of something brings luck to the recipient.

37. Cold Water Is Seldom Available

Cold water is seldom available in China since it’s impolite in Chinese culture.

Don’t be frightened if you can only drink hot tea, hot coffee or hot water.

Sometimes, you can get iced coke in foreign invested companies, but that is quite rare in Chinese invested companies.

38. No Tips in China

The Chinese do not tip, and people are not expecting tips.

Tipping is not officially forbidden, but it is not common, most service staff in local hotels, restaurants, and taxis do no expect tips.

Most local restaurants forbid the employees to take tips….

No tipping does not mean you don’t like the service.

Don’t be guilty of this.

Shopping In China

39. Price Bargaining

Do not negotiate price in hotels, chain stores and boutiques.

But you can, and should negotiate the price for anything you want to buy from private vendors.

In these stores or booths, never accept the marked price or first price offered.

It’s always possible to get products for a fraction of the quoted price.

40. Mail Things Home from China

It’s common for many business travelers to buy a lot of things in China.

A good suggestion is to post these products home using China Post’s sea mail.

It will take a little bit long, say, one to two months,  but is a very affordable way.

Manage Your Health

41. Tap Water Is Not Drinkable

For the most part of China, tap water in China is not drinkable.

You can buy bottled water everywhere at a very cheap price.

42. Air Pollution

In many large cities in China, air pollution is a serious problem.

Wear masks on days with hazardous air pollution or do not go out in these days.

43. See A Doctor in China

Chinese public hospitals can be very crowded.​

In most major cities, there are specialized hospitals catering to foreigners living and working in China.

Most doctors can speak English.

44. Medicine at Reasonable Price

You can find both western and eastern medicine at Chinese pharmacies.

And the price is very reasonable.

Business Meals In China

45. Building Your Relationships in Chinese Banquets

Entertaining guests at a Chinese banquet is a very popular and important way to establish the relationship.

Do not discuss specific business issues during the meal.

46. Seat Arrangements

Do not rush to take a seat down.

Wait and the host will arrange the seat for you.

47. No Sales Pitch at the Dinner Table

Do Not open the computer and make sales pitch at the dinner table.

However, It really happens.:)

An American guy put his notebook on the dinner table and made a long sales pitch when all the dishes were ready, turning cold.

This is a true story happened last summer in Quanjude, a famous Beijing duck restaurant.

All the people on the same table are quite embarrassed, not knowing whether they can eat, or not.

So I list this as a separate tip.

48. Share the Food

In most Chinese dinners, dishes are almost always ordered communally and shared.

Ask for a spoon and a fork if you are not good at chopsticks.

49. Try Everything

It is polite to try everything that is offered to you.

If you don’t like it, just try only a little bit.

50. Family Dinners

If you are invited to attend family dinners, consider it a great honor.

And it is the opportunity to establish a personal relationship.

You can get the chance to know the couple, the kids of your Chinese customer.

Many Chinese parents want their children to speak good English.

Don’t be surprised if they ask their children to practice English with you.

51. Drink Some Wine

Drinking is an important part in Chinese entertaining.

If you can, drink some wine, but not too much.

Be prepared with an appropriate toast.

52. Do Not Pour Your Own Drink

It is the responsibility of the host to attend to the guests.

The person seated next to you may pour a drink for you.

You should reciprocate.

53. Do Not Sign any Deal After Drink

Leave these stuff to following days.

54. After-Dinner Entertainment

Like dining together, after-dinner entertainment is an excellent way to build a personal relationship.

55. Don’t Wait For Service in Restaurants

Conventional western service is only in limited number of western restaurants.

In Chinese restaurants, Chinese waiters and waitresses aren’t as proactive as you think.

Don’t be afraid to throw your hands up and call for the service guy (“fuwuyuan” in Chinese) if you want any service.

56. Real Chinese Food

You will discover thousands of dishes you’ve never seen.

And, the Chinese food in China is totally different from the Chinese food in any Chinese restaurant in a western country.

A Diversified And Vast Country

57. Learn Some Chinese

Most Chinese people don’t speak English. It is advisable to write down basic phrases in (Simplified) Chinese, use a help of a friend or a translator.

It will be nice and friendly to start your introduction with some Chinese phrases, like Chinese greetings.

If you are willing to learn a new language, try to pick up phrases and useful words from the locals. Most of them will be eager to help you in learning Chinese, or even their own dialects!

And, not everyone in China speaks Mandarin.

There are many different dialects in China, the most common of which include Mandarin and Cantonese.

58. China is Big

China is vast and huge, geograophically.

You will see different terrains, landscapes.

Chinese People are speaking different dialects in different regions.

59. Understand The Unbalanced China

Well, China is a big country but not well balanced.

Big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen etc, are fully developed with best education, medical resources and job opportunities, while many lower tiers of small to middle cities and rural areas are totally different.

It’s worth your visit if you want to get a more comprehensive picture of real China.

60. Taking photos in China

Finally, Chinese people love to take pictures, not only pictures during travels, but also selfies.

You will get attention as a foreigner in many places, esp. small cities or rural areas.

It will be quite normal if a local Chinese comes up to ask for a picture with you.

If you want to take a picture with other people or a government building, Always ask for permission.

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Best Map App in China That Works

With a good map app in China, you will never get lost.

Here is a list of best map apps that work in China. 

Best Map Apps in China

1. Google Maps 谷歌地图

Google Maps, Best Maps App in China

Google Maps is the best comprehensive maps service throughout China, as it is fully available in English and makes it easy to navigate around even if you don’t speak the language. 

The Power Pack: Google Maps + VPN

As for now, this google-powered service is blocked and cannot work in China without VPN. We recommend you to use Google Maps together with ExpressVPN, the best VPN for China. So you don’t need to bother installing other Map Apps.

2. Autonavi Navigation 高德导航

Autonavi Navigation

Autonavi Navigation is China’s most popular in-car GPS with maps iPhone app. Now it supports English language.

You can download offline map packs by city and province.​

3. Baidu Maps 百度地图

Baidu Maps

Since Google (and therefore Google Maps) is blocked in China, this is the best way to properly navigate around town. However, you need to be able to type in Chinese! The app works the same like Google Maps, which lets you calculate directions. However, Baidu Maps makes it possible to check accurate bus schedules and even shows you prices for taxis!

4. Apple Maps 苹果地图

Apple Maps

Apple Maps in China is becoming solid after IOS 9 released in 2015. And the map data is licensed from AutoNavi.

Now, It's Your Turn.

What's the Best China Map App in Your Eyes?

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Top 20 Must Have Apps in China for Travellers and Expats

Looking for must have apps in China before your plane takes off?

We've rounded the 20+ best apps in China to make your China travel easier.

A simple guide of best apps that work in China for foreign  travelers. 

Best VPN Apps in China

Best VPN Apps for China

Best VPN For China, One Year Plan Strongly Recommended

Some apps don’t work in China since they are blocked by the GFW. It is a must to use Best VPNs for China to access your Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, etc.

I personally tried many other VPNs, and finally decided to stay with ExpressVPN since it is the most reliable one.

  • I can use it on up to 3 different devices at the same time.
  • One VPN client for all your devices.
  • 30-day money back guarantee.

2. Surfshark

Best VPN For China as a Browser Extension

I found this new service and strongly recommend it.

Now I am using Surfshark together with ExpressVPN.

The speed is super fast most of the time.

Sometimes it's even more stable than the latter one.

And it's quite easy to get their online support.

  • Unlimited devices.
  • 30 days refund policy
  • 24/7 live support
  • Good price below market average
  • Easy-to-use applications

Make Mandarin Part of Your Lifestyle

Course: Best Way to Learn Mandarin Chinese

Course: Best Way to Learn Mandarin Chinese

Move From The Classroom Into The Real Mandarin World,

Master Mandarin Through Effective Training Techniques!

Best Language Apps in China

3. Google Translate

Google Translate

While many Google services are blocked, Google Translate is working petty well in China. Thought it is not always 100% accurate, it is useful for looking up how to say simple sentences especially as it shows the Pinyin as well as the characters for Chinese.


Chinese Translation Services

For serious Chinese document translation, You need a human translator, or a professional translation service provider. 1 Minute instant QuoteChinese Translation You Can Count On

  • Fluency: Your customers understand them well
  • Search & Visibility: Your content will rank high and easy to be found
  • Results Oriented: Your content sells and will drive conversions
  • Consistent: Your brand is consistent in different places
  • Communication: We build conversations with customers

Best Social Apps in China

5. Wechat (微信)

This is the top one and recommended for you to get in touch of your local Chinese friends, or other expats in China. Nowadays, weChat ID is more popular than your phone number in China. This Chinese developed app has become one of the world’s most popular mobile messaging and social networking platform.

Send text, voice messages, photos, and make phone and video call to friends no matter where they are, for free. Users can post status and share photos and links on their “moments” timeline, through a feature similar to Instagram and Facebook.

With the huge active user base in China, WeChat has become a marketing platform with all kinds of possibilities. Enterprises are setting up official WeChat accounts to do wechat marketing.

Payoneer China

Scan to Follow SinoStep

6. Weibo 微博

This micro-blogging app is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter and is a good way to keep up to date with what’s going on in China. Since most content is in China, You may need to know some Chinese.

7. QQ


If you have a QQ number, then this official app from Tencent is the best way to use it online. Though Chinese people prefer using wechat now, most of them still use QQ as an alternative social solution and many QQ groups are still very active. People in China normally do not use Skype, WhatsApp, etc.

20 Must Have Apps for Travellers and Expats in China

20 Must Have Apps for Travellers and Expats in China

Best Maps and Navigation Apps in China

8. Google Maps 谷歌地图

Google Maps, Best Maps App in China

Google Maps is the best comprehensive maps service throughout China, as it is fully available in English and makes it easy to navigate around even if you don’t speak the language. As for now, this google-powered service is blocked and cannot work in China without VPN.

Buy a Good VPN

so you don’t need to bother installing other Map Apps.

9. Autonavi Navigation 高德导航

Autonavi Navigation is China’s most popular in-car GPS with maps iPhone app. Now it supports English language.

10. Baidu Maps 百度地图

Baidu Maps

Since Google (and therefore Google Maps) is blocked in China, this is the best way to properly navigate around town. However, you need to be able to type in Chinese! The app works the same like Google Maps, which lets you calculate directions. However, Baidu Maps makes it possible to check accurate bus schedules and even shows you prices for taxis!

11. Apple Maps 苹果地图

Apple Maps

Apple Maps in China is becoming solid after IOS 9 released in 2015. And the map data is licensed from AutoNavi.

Best Transport Apps in China

12. Didi Chuxing 滴滴出行

Didi Chuxing

More widely available with bigger market share. Acquired Uber in 2016 and became stronger. It is integrated in WeChat and you can use WeChat payment to use the app.

13. Shenzhou Car (UCar) 神州专车


The fare is a little bit expensive and there are fewer cars, a car rental company with more standard services. One nice point for foreigners is that Shenzhen supports Paypal.

Uber has been a revelation for many of China’s big cities. Uber drivers in Beijing and Shanghai are generally friendlier than normal taxi drivers, and will be more patient with you (in order to get the 5-star rating following your ride). Payment gets taken off your international card as per usual, it’s very simple and cheaper than using normal taxis.

It had been acquired by Didi in late 2016.

14. Yidao  易道


It was the most cost effective solution before May, 2017. It had been a big financial issue with the company in later 2017.

Best Local Consumer Service Apps In China

15. Dianping 大众点评


Just like Yelp for China. Hundreds of restaurant reviews, including features like showing highly rated restaurants near you. This app offers you a similar service to Yelp! providing you with a range of reviews, descriptions and locations of restaurants, bars, accommodation around China. Dianping also has a feature that show highly rate restaurant around your current location.

Best Entertainment Apps In China

16. Youku 优酷


“Youku” offers you a great selection of Chinese, Korean and foreign dramas, movies and other TV shows for free!

Best Shopping Apps in China

17. Taobao 淘宝


Taobao is one of the largest marketplaces in the world. You can buy anything and everything, from clothes and food to computer, pets and even real helicopters. The best part is that is normally cheaper than in the stores and you will have it shipped straight to your door, sometimes even on the same day you ordered it!

18. Tmall 天猫


Tmall is a trade site based on Tаоbао platform, operating on B2C system (business-to-consumer). Such trade model assumes the seller must be a legal entity (be an organization, an official manufacturer or a registered brand) offering their goods and services to end consumers – individuals. For opening a shop on Tmall, the legal entity needs to provide all appropriate documentations to confirm reliability, genuineness and the real fact of existence of the organization, company, manufacturer or brand. This approach eliminates the risk that an unscrupulous seller with products of dubious quality will trade on Tmall. Taobao guarantees that all goods on Tmall are official and authentic. On each seller’s page, you can see certificates of quality and compliance. Tmall has become one woman’s antidote to crowds, counterfeits and poor-quality products.

Best Travel Apps for China

Hotels in China, Air Flight Tickets For China

19. Agoda


is one of the world’s fastest-growing online hotel platforms. Today, Agoda offers hundreds of thousands of accommodation options around the globe with service and support in over 40 languages. Operations have been set up in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Budapest, and an additional presence can be found in major cities across Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.


a leading online accommodation booking website with properties ranging from international chains and all-inclusive resorts to local favorites and bed & breakfasts, together with all the information needed to book the perfect stay. Special apps for mobile phones and tablets can also be downloaded enabling customers to book on the go with access to 20,000 last minute deals. LP is an affiliate of Expedia, Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE).

Deals of the Day in China

21. Booking

Booking B.V., part of the Priceline Group (Nasdaq: PCLN), owns and operates™, the world leader in booking accommodations online. Each day, over 1,200,000 room nights are reserved on The website and apps attract visitors from both the leisure and business sectors worldwide. Established in 1996, B.V. guarantees the best prices for every type of property, from small, family-run bed and breakfasts to executive apartments and five-star luxury suites. Truly international, is available in more than 40 languages, and offers 1,243,979 active properties in 227 countries and territories.

Now, It's Your Turn.

What Are Your Favorite Apps in China?