A few months ago I met a backpacker in Cambodia, who was traveling the world alone; she soon messaged me (via Facebook) saying she would be visiting Beijing in China soon, and could I help her with her accommodation.
Before doing that, I immediately recommended she download the social media app: WeChat. Not only because many platforms are blocked for use in China (Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and that’s just the beginning), but because it is the queen platform in China. It is the app the Chinese use to do everything, and I mean everything.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, if you are staying for a short period of time or long, for pleasure or business- you need WeChat. It has over one billion monthly active users now.
Here are just a few of the things you can do with WeChat:
Send & receive money (not just within the app, but from/to bank cards)
Search engine (tells you the hot keywords people are searching)
Access apps (without downloading)
Use share bikes
Rail & flight tickets
Company service accounts, subscription accounts
Now you have the only tool you will ever need in China. However China is a big country with 1.4 billion people, 56 ethnic groups and 23 provinces. It has huge cultural differences within itself. Hence before visiting and/or doing business in China, make sure you do some research.
Guangzhou is a well-known trading city, Shenzhen is a high-tech city and Shanghai is a commercial and financial center of China, and that’s without mentioning the capital, Beijing. Knowing the city you are going to visit or do business in, is going to save you time, money and hassle.
For more culture tips, please visit: Five cultural tips for doing business in China
One more thing. Before coming to China, inform your bank you are going abroad, so that they don’t freeze your account. A client of mine came to China and forgot, not realizing this was an issue until she couldn’t get money out of an ATM. She couldn’t buy the materials she planned to (the point of the whole trip) and had to drastically cut down her daily expenses in China as she was staying in a five-star hotel. Major bummer.
Now you have everything you need before entering China. What about when you get there?
Although WeChat is convenient for sharing locations, the language of the map is in Chinese. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case for most maps in China (unless you are using Apple products). But don’t worry, there’s always a solution:
(1) Asking a friend to help or hiring a local interpreter is the most effective way of getting around the city without any problems.
(2) If you have an iPhone (or pad), perfect! Not only do Apple maps works fine in China, they are in English, and accurate to boot, so you can go anywhere without a problem.
(3) If you are visiting the big cities in China, such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai or Beijing. You can simply use the foreign magazine’s generally catered to expats, such as That’s, which will certainly help you to get around the city and find the best places to dine, drink and socialize.
(4) If you are going to be picked up by your supplier or friend(s), here’s how you can send and/or share your location with them through WeChat, so that they know exactly where to find you.
Click the “+” icon within the conversation window, then click “Location”. When you click on “Location”, you have two options: “Send Location” or “Real-Time Location”. The difference is that, by hitting send location, you can send any location in China. With Real-Time Location, it is like live streaming, you can see exactly where you are and where your friend is, so they know where to find you.
This is what it looks like:
Note: Meanwhile, if you have an Apple phone/device, when your friend send you a location, you can redirect it to Apple Maps which is usually how I get around in a strange city as Apple Maps is generally more accurate.
(5) If none of these work, it’s time to go old school: purchase a physical map of the city you are going to visit. It maybe old fashioned, but it works!
Last but not least, it can be useful to carry your passport (or at the minimum a photocopy of it) at all times, in case there are random check-ups. This is rare but it can happen. You wouldn’t want to be caught out on this, as the language barrier could be a real hassle.
Have a wonderful trip to China. If you have tips or questions, you are welcome to leave your comment or send us an email! We will reply you within 24 hours.
Lots of people suggest downloading a VPN before coming to China. This is a piece of software that helps you leap over the Great Firewall of China, i.e. still have access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other websites that are banned in China. However, note the Chinese government is fining people for using it.