Expats FAQ in China

What city are you living in ?


Q: What international banks operate in Shanghai?

A: Right now, there are only two - Citibank and Honking and Shanghai Bank. But with the Chinese government opening up to the World Trade Organization, more retail banks may be expected to open in Shanghai in the near future.

Q: Which bank in Shanghai offers the best foreign exchange rates?

A: All rates with all China banks, domestic or foreign, are the same. It doesn't matter where money is changed. The rates are consistent.

Q: Is it possible for a Shanghai expat to have his salary deposited to an overseas bank of a local bank?

A: Yes. The employer will be required to show proof of IIT reporting as well as payment associated with the remittance, but banks might require these documents a month after as IITs are filed in arrears.

Q: Is language a problem for expats when dealing with banks in China?

A: Generally speaking, it may be a problem but expats can always choose banks that offer an English service option, such as HSBC, Citibank and other international banks. An English-speaking Chinese friend can also help when things get out of hand.

Q: Do expats in China have to open a local bank account?

A: Not necessarily, especially for those who don't plan to stay long in China. Expats can always use their offshore accounts, but transaction fees will be hefty.

Q: Which banks are popular with expats in China?

A: To avoid problems with language and help ease their transition into Chinese life, most expats prefer international banks like Citibank or HSBC, though the required minimum maintaining balance can be hefty. In terms of local banks, the Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China and the Construction Bank of China (CBC) are the most popular, with their extensive network of ATMs in key areas. It also takes much less to open and maintain an account in these local banks.


Q: What business set up is most popular among expats who want to invest in Shanghai?

A: There are many options, but in most cases, expats like to have a joint partnership with an existing company in Shanghai because it lets them cut the red tape that is notoriously part of the Chinese legal process.

Q: Why are there less foreign investments in Shanghai today than before?

A: Chinese policies are usually viewed as too imposing by Westerners and Europeans. The language barrier is also said to be a huge factor behind the lowering number of foreigners setting up businesses in Shanghai. Recent changes to China's visa system (for example, visas of frequently traveling businesspeople can no longer be renewed from Hong Kong) have also contributed to the decline.

Q: How much capital is required to set up a company in Shanghai?

A: Companies are now required to have a minimum of CNY 500,000 in capital, and Chinese law stipulates that any company in Shanghai must be partly owned by a Chinese citizen.

Q: Is it easy to set up a business in China?

A: Not so easy. As always, the language barrier is the most common challenge expat businessmen face in China. A lot of them are said to leave before the expiration of their contracts, and about 60% leave for good in a matter of five years after arrival. Another challenge is the country's recently modified visa system, which no longer allows visa renewals from Hong Kong.

Q: Around how much is necessary to open a business in China?

A: To put up a company in China, a minimum capital of 500,000 RMB is required.

Q: Are there equal business opportunities for males and females in China?

A: In Chinese business environments, women are now enjoying equal rights as men. But due to an ancient Chinese concept, women are still expected to fulfill traditional roles in the family, especially concerning children.


Q: How much does a visit to a Shanghai pediatrician cost?

A: It can be a little hard to find a good pediatrician in Shanghai. Public hospitals are always too crowded with long patient lines, so expats are often trooping to private clinics instead, especially the smaller ones. The cost is anywhere from CNY 300-500, depending on the patient's condition.

Q: How affordable are kids' clothing, toys, and other stuff in Shanghai?

A: Kids' stuff is pretty affordable in Shanghai and they are widely available. Everything can be found in big department stores, Carrefour supermarkets, and even small shops (though prices here are a little higher). It can be hard to find high quality, real leather shoes for kids though, so it's wise to buy at least two pairs at home for each kid before moving.

Q: What are common policies for kids in Shanghai restaurants or diners?

A: One of the things expat parents love about Shanghai is that its restaurants usually have very child-friendly policies. Most food establishments have facilities for kids and the staff is often glad to play with the children while parents have their meals.

Q: Are there public baby facilities (ex. diaper-changing stations in malls} in China?

A: One of the biggest challenges for expats moving to China with kids is the lack of public child facilities. For instance, restaurants rarely have high chairs, and diaper-changing stations are almost unheard of. Public vehicles also don't allow for car seats and most elevators are not suitable for strollers.

Q: Are there public baby facilities (ex. diaper-changing stations in malls} in China?

A: One of the biggest challenges for expats moving to China with kids is the lack of public child facilities. For instance, restaurants rarely have high chairs, and diaper-changing stations are almost unheard of. Public vehicles also don't allow for car seats and most elevators are not suitable for strollers.

Q: Is it easy to hire a nanny in China?

A: Yes, and it's one of the best things about moving to China with kids. Nannies here are called, "ayi," which is similar to "auntie," and are very affordable. Expats in China are known to hire one ayi per child, and another ayi to handle other domestic chores.

Q: Do expat kids from the West get to watch American movies in China?

A: Yes, but supplies will mainly come as cheap pirated DVDs which can be bought from any sidewalk. What expat teenagers might miss in China is their favorite music back home. By Western standards, there's a very small pop culture in this country.

Cost of living

Q: Is Shanghai an expensive city to live in?

A: According to Mercer's list, Shanghai is among the top ten most expensive cities of the world for the year 2014. Expats, however, know that there are real and clear ways to live in the city on a budget, especially in terms of food and even accommodation.

Q: What are some of the best cheap eats in Shanghai?

A: Small mian guan or tan restaurants are great for dinner, where a Chinese meal can cost as little as CNY 20. Mid-range Chinese restaurants would cost around CNY 50 per person, excluding drinks. Restaurants that serve international cuisine are, of course, more expensive, and a service charge is normally added to the bill as tipping waiters is not a common practice in Shanghai.

Q: What is the cost of alcoholic drinks in Shanghai?

A: Alcoholic drinks are particularly expensive in Shanghai's bars and restaurants, especially in upscale establishments. However, bars in the city are known to offer "Happy Hours" and other promotions that allow people to have fun with discounted bills.

Q: How much is a typical bill at a restaurant in China?

A: It depends on the restaurant but, in general, the cost is quite affordable. Breakfast could be as cheap as 10 RMB -30 RMB, lunch at about 15 RMB minimum. A Western lunch usually costs around 80RMB per person, and anything fancy might cost some 600 RMB. A nice Chinese meal can be enjoyed for 35 to 110 RMB, while a typical Western dinner may cost between 100 to 200 RMB.

Q: Are imported goods expensive in China?

A: Imported items are expensive in China, especially cereal which can be exorbitantly priced. Goods which aren't typically Chinese like wine and dairy, are also pricey.

Q: How much do expats usually pay for a house rental in China?

A: Housing costs in China are affordable, even in the major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Monthly rent can be around 3,000 RMB for A 50-square meter apartment although expats are known to allot from 5,000 RMB to 35,000 RMB for their monthly housing costs. A nice 200-square meter apartment in an old building, with 3-4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, may be rented for around RMB 13,000 monthly. A similar property in a newer building may cost at least twice.


Q: How accessible are prescription medicines in Shanghai?

A: Prescription medicines are widely available all over Shanghai and are typically sold alongside traditional Chinese medicines. Expats should make sure that they fully understand the pharmacist's instructions, though drugstores in bigger places like malls or shopping centers will have English-speaking pharmacists.

Q: Do expats encounter issues with drug labels in Shanghai pharmacies?

A: Yes, especially in not so urban areas. Most labels of drugs are in Chinese, so it's definitely helpful for expats to buy medicines with someone who knows how to speak the local language, unless there is an in-house English-speaking pharmacist.

Q: What are the common problems expats face when seeking medical care in Shanghai?

A: The main issue with expats seeking public healthcare in Shanghai is language. Services also tend to be slow and there are always long waiting lines which often encourage people to go to a private hospital or clinic instead.

Q: What can expats expect from an "international wing" in a public hospital in China?

A: Public hospitals in China have "international wings" which kind of bridge the gap between high quality but expensive health care in private hospitals, and cheap but low-quality services in public facilities. In these international wings, healthcare is provided on Western standards. The doctors and facilities are the same, but international wings have shorter waiting lines and better customer care.

Q: What is the health emergency hotline that expats can call in China?

A: China's health emergency hotline is 120. Note that the service may be absent or less reliable in areas outside the city. (Other emergency hotlines are 119 for the fire department and 110 for public security.)

Q: Is language a barrier for expats when buying medicines in China?

A: Yes, it can be a problem because most labels in Chinese pharmacies are in Mandarin or any other local language, even in major cities. It's always best to bring a Chinese friend along when buying medicines in China.


Q: Which areas in Shanghai have the highest number of expat communities?

A: Jing'an District, which is located close to the Jing'an Temple, is an attractive place for expats, with all its modern shopping malls and bars. Farther away from the downtown area is east PuDong. There are lots of villas occupied by expats in the French Concession area, and then there's the Hong Qiao area which also has plenty of villas occupied by foreign nationals. Gubei, a subsection of Hong Qiao, has a large expat community, but apartments are more common here instead of villas.

Q: What costs go with renting a house or apartment in Shanghai?

A: A deposit equivalent to three months' rent is charged by landlords upon signing the contract. Expats who use the services of an agent also pay around 35% of a month's rent to the agent as commission.

Q: Is accommodation in Shanghai usually furnished or unfurnished?

A: Houses and apartments for rent in Shanghai are generally furnished but this part can be tricky because landlords may have different definitions of the word, "furnished." In any case, a "furnished" apartment will always be more expensive.

Q: If housing costs in China are generally cheap, which cities are considered expensive in terms of real estate?

A: Real estate properties in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are the most expensive in China, particularly serviced luxury apartments and villa complexes. Still, the most expensive properties in these cities are relatively cheap compared to those in other key destinations of the world.

Q: Is it a good idea to "homestay" in China?

A: It really depends on the family one homestays with. There are reports about expats being indirectly required to tutor their host families' children. In any case, foreigners must register their address at the local Public Service Bureau upon moving in.

Q: Do house rental contracts in China always have to be in Mandarin?

A: No. A contract can be requested in English, but there will often be two contracts provided- one in Mandarin and another in English. Expats usually have a trusted Chinese friend review a Mandarin contract before signing it. While both are binding, the Chinese version is often favored when a dispute arises.


Q: What sports facilities are available in Shanghai?

A: Shanghai offers facilities for almost all popular sports like soccer or football, American football, tennis, yoga, martial arts and even dragon boat racing.

Q: Does Shanghai have any "green" attractions amidst its rapid urbanization?

A: Yes. The city center is filled with high rise buildings and other signs of modernization, but there are a few forest parks where people like to go for a jog, kite-flying or family picnics. Gongqing National Forest Park, which lies northeast of the city's core, features lots of entertainment options with a scenic backdrop.

Q: Where do people party at night in Shanghai?

A: hen it comes to bars in Shanghai, The Bund is considered a staple. It's a waterfront area that runs along Huangpu River's western shore, and is highly popular among tourists in the city. Vue Bar is a top crowd drawer, located on in the 32nd and 33rd floors of the Hyatt, and so is Bar Rougue.

Q: What time of day is it best to see China's attractions?

A: As the case in most other destinations around the world, attractions in China are most crowded during mid-mornings and mid-afternoons, when bus tours usually drop throngs of tourists. The best time to come is anytime before those peak hours, and preferably with only a few for company.

Q: How do expats order food at a restaurant where the entire menu is in Mandarin (or any Chinese language)?

A: Restaurants in China will always have pictures on their menus, regardless of the language used for descriptions, and expats usually rely on pictures to order. However, if the waiter has offered an English menu, it's best to see both the English and the Chinese menus as restaurants are known to jack up prices for tourists by up to 500%.

Q: How can an expat tell if a Chinese restaurant in China is authentic?

A: This is very simple. A Chinese restaurant in China filled with non-Chinese is most likely not authentic. These restaurants usually cater to group tours and are known to change their recipes to suit foreign tastes.

Looking for a job

Q: What is the process for Shanghai expats who want to switch jobs within the city?

A: It can be a bit difficult to change jobs within China as work permit processing tends to be very complicated. A person will have to go through the entire process all over again when moving from one job to another, even just within the city.

Q: How much do expat English teachers make in Shanghai?

A: It depends on their qualifications and where they teach. A professor who teaches English at a top university will probably get around CNY 7,500 for a ten-month contract with no allowances or bonuses. Ironically, less known universities pay a higher rate. Language schools usually pay a minimum of CNY 10,000 monthly, but working hours are much longer, which means the hourly rate is much lower.

Q: How do people get jobs in Shanghai?

A: In most cases, expats are moved overseas by existing employers in their homeland. Finding a job in Shanghai individually is difficult but highly possible. There are lots of places around the Internet that help bridge Chinese employees and potential expat workers, such as JobChinaNet and ChinaHR.com. The websites of Shanghai's Chambers of Industry and Commerce also post jobs in their classifieds sections from time to time. Obviously, most jobs require knowledge in Mandarin or Shanghainese.

Q: Is health insurance automatically included in an expat’s job contract in China?

A: Health insurance that covers foreign workers in China tends to be expensive, making it best for expats to negotiate this into their job contracts before flying in. Coverage that comes with an employment contract could save an expat at least 1,300 RMB monthly.

Q: Do expats in China usually get hired while they're already in the country, or while they're still in their home countries?

A: It's possible to come to China as a tourist, find a job and process necessary permits and visa changes. However, being hired from within China automatically reduces an expat's salary. Those who are hired from overseas are always paid more.

Q: How in demand are ESL teachers in China?

A: The demand for ESL teachers in China is quite high. In fact, the education sector itself is the country's biggest expat job provider, with 25% of such jobs held by English language teachers. Teaching English used to be a low-paying job in the country until recently, and those who have tertiary education are paid the highest.


Q: Can expats in Shanghai exchange their Chinese Yuan back to their home currencies?

A: No. Expats can exchange their home currencies for the Chinese Yuan, but not vice versa until they leave China. Note that the foreign exchange receipts issued for the Yuan conversion will be required for this.

Q: Are credit cards widely accepted in Shanghai?

A: Credit cards are used in Shanghai but not as much as in the West, Europe or other parts of Asia. Shanghai is still predominantly cash-reliant, and only a handful of hotels and restaurants accept plastic. Many department stores also accept credit cards, but most expats only end up frustrated with the amount of time consumed to complete a single transaction.

Q: Are personal checks issued or accepted in Shanghai?

A: Personal checks are rarely used in Shanghai due to forgery issues. They may be used in business transactions, but the rules are often too long and complicated.

Q: Are ATMs widely available in China?

A: In the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai, ATM availability is not a problem. In less urbanized areas, these machines are usually limited in number. Before traveling outside a key city, it's always wise to stock up on cash.

Q: What's the difference between RMB, Yuan and Kuài?

A: They all mean the same - China's official currency. Yuan or Kuài is simply more of a colloquial term while Renminbi is the term used in formal financial discussions.

Q: How is income tax computed in China?

A: A 3% tax rate applies to people earning lower than 1,500 RMB monthly. Those who are earning more will be taxed progressively, with a maximum of 45% for income above 80,000 RMB. Expats should note that tax laws in China are always changing, and penalties are tough.


Q: How much is a decent salary for a single expat in Shanghai?

A: It depends on the particular person's standard of living because this affects what "decent" is. Generally, expats in Shanghai can make around CNY 30,000 - 35,000 a year and this is considered "decent"" enough. Accommodation takes the biggest chunk of the monthly budget, but for the rest of the expenses like food, utilities, etc., it's easy to make necessary adjustments.

Q: Is it worth shipping old furniture from home to Shanghai?

A: Usually no. Most houses or apartments in Shanghai are furnished, so container shipping is not really recommended. Besides, furniture in the city is cheap so expats would usually rather buy furniture here rather than import their old furniture.

Q: What is the most significant challenge for expats moving to Shanghai?

A: Language is the biggest and most common issue that expats face in Shanghai as they try to get used to living in the city. It can be a problem in various situations, from giving a taxi driver instructions to opening an account in a bank.

Q: Which parts of China have the highest expat populations?

A: Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai have the most number of expats in China. Still, even with the influx of expat workers, Westerners may not find these Chinese cities to be so diverse. It is said that China is one of the most challenging destinations for expats in terms of transition.

Q: What might be considered as the biggest challenge for expats in China?

A: Aside from the huge disparity between Chinese and Western or European cultures, expats in China deal with the language barrier day-to-day. This is by far the biggest challenge for expats in the country.

Q: Which part of China has the most pleasant weather?

A: Central China (very popular among tourists) has the most pleasant weather compared to other parts of the country, where things are more likely to hit extremes. It has precipitation all year round, distinctive seasons and generally warm days and nights through the year. Also some summer monsoons and a little snow in winter.


Q: What types of pet services are available in Shanghai?

A: Shanghai's pet services are many and diverse, from simple dog training to pet exportation to puppy training and even dog spa services. Prices can vary significantly though from one service provider to the next so it's always best to comparison shop.

Q: Are pets sold in Shanghai?

A: Yes, pets are sold at many of Shanghai's local markets and small shops. Dogs, cats and the like are usually sold for below CNY100. Kittens can be as cheap as CNT 20 and puppies are sold everywhere along sidewalks.

Q: What are the regulations for pet shipments to Shanghai?

A: Pets allowed to enter Shanghai are only dogs and cats, and all must have valid rabies and vaccination certificates. Animals will be put under quarantine for 30 days, and as an option, 23 of these days can be spent at the owner's house. Shanghai only allows one pet for each person but expats have been known to "negotiate" around this with the help of pet relocation companies.

Q: Will a person be held legally liable for buying or selling a panda in China?

A: Yes. Pandas are endangered and Chinese laws prohibit their sale. People can call 110 to report the purchase or sale of a panda or any endangered species in China.

Q: Which animals require registration in China?

A: Only dogs must be registered in China (local police) and this must be done no later than one or two months after the animals arrive and pass quarantine.

Q: What is the procedure for bringing pets to China?

A: First off, only expats with residency visas can bring their pets to China. Upon arriving at the airport, customs officials will ask for a vaccination certificate and health certificate. A 280 RMB quarantine fee is paid, though the quarantine will actually take place in the pet owner's home. After a month or two, a customs official will come by to check. If all is well, the pet will be registered with the local police, but only if it's a dog. Only dogs must be registered in China.


Q: What language is used for teaching in Shanghai schools?

A: It depends on the kind of school in Shanghai. Chinese schools exclusively teach in Mandarin. Private schools teach in both English and Mandarin while international schools teach in English and other foreign languages.

Q: How easy or difficult is it to place expat kids in Shanghai schools?

A: It is usually difficult to place children in well-known international schools in Shanghai. Waiting lists are very long, and it often takes months of planning (before relocation) for a child to get a slot. In most cases, expats who bring their kids to Shanghai have made prior arrangements with the school through the help of their Shanghai-based employers.

Q: What is the quality of education offered by international schools in Shanghai?

A: Most international schools in Shanghai are top caliber, and students can get a national high school diploma as well as an international university entrance certificate like the International Baccalaureate. Shanghai has a lot of international schools that cater to a variety of expat communities, including French, German, Singaporean, Anglo-American, Korean, and more.

Q: Where are international schools located in China?

A: There are international schools in all the big and medium-sized cities in China. As expected, Shanghai, Guangzhou and the capital, Beijing, have the largest concentrations.

Q: Is it common for expats to send their children to public schools in China?

A: With China's current economic dominance, more and more expats are sending their children to public schools as they become comfortable about the idea of moving to the country for good. Families may choose to send their kids to public schools to make sure they are well-assimilated while growing up.

Q: Do Chinese schools have language programmes for expat kids?

A: Unfortunately, no. Both public and private Chinese schools do not offer secondary language programs. All subjects are taught in Chinese, except in very few cases where concessions are made for foreign enrollees.


Q: What is Shanghai's shopping capital?

A: Nanjing Street is considered the best commercial street in Shanghai, especially for shoppers. Shanghai also has the largest Apple Store in all of Asia.

Q: Where do expats go for bargain shopping in Shanghai?

A: North Shaanxi Road is the most famous part of Shanghai where people go to find really good yet low-priced footwear. For all else, there's a myriad of bargain retailers all across the city, and expats only have to ask around.

Q: Are their international clothing brands sold in Shanghai?

A: Plenty! Most of Western and European big brands like Gap, Ralph Lauren, etc. are well-represented in Shanghai, though they tend to be more expensive here than in other world-class cities like New York and London. The French Concession is also noted for its long line of independent boutiques that sell various international brands.

Q: Where do expats shop for electronics in China?

A: There are many reliable and competitive electronics malls in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Most expats buy here unless they're up for the markets where prices are a lot cheaper. Wherever they end up buying, technical help is likely to be offered insufficiently if at all.

Q: Is bargaining practiced in Chinese markets?

A: Yes. The rule of thumb for vendors is to sell their wares ten times the original price. That means there's a lot of room for shoppers to haggle. Expats who are unsure about the price of a certain item can always ask local shoppers how much they would pay it.

Q: Are luxury goods that expensive in China?

A: Yes, and this is because of the luxury taxes. Most expats in China would rather go to Hong Kong and shop there. In China though, there are many great buys in pearl, jade, handicraft, silk and even bone porcelain, but shoppers usually have to take a while studying their authenticity before paying.


Q: Is it true that people are not allowed to use the Internet in Shanghai or other parts of China?

A: People in Shanghai or anywhere in China are allowed to use the Internet. However, certain websites might be restricted, including Facebook, YouTube, and major blogging websites like Wordpress and Blogger. In terms of Internet access, there is no problem at all. It's available in private homes and even in business establishments like cafes, restaurants, and hotels.

Q: How do people get 3G access in Shanghai?

A: Shanghai's telecom industry offers 3G technology which usually comes in a card that is plugged into the device thru a USB. It is often cheap and can be purchased with a short-term prepaid plan that gives a local number. Note that expats need to present a passport when signing up. Also, those who want to dial an international number will have to pay a deposit.

Q: How do people access American TV shows in Shanghai?

A: Most people take to file-sharing software as well as VPNs, but there are also many local video sites like Tudou.com and Youku.com which offer entire episodes of TV shows in the US. Although these sites are in Chinese, there's a search function that allows people to look for foreign shows.

Q: Does the government really censor the Internet in China?

A: Not entirely, but most popular websites and services such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are unavailable, unless connected to a VPN. In China, media and communications are closely monitored by the government, and this is one thing most expats have to deal with when transitioning into the Chinese way of life.

Q: Are there English media outlets in China?

A: Yes. The CCTV news channel provides 24-hour news coverage in English and is known for being more liberal than most local channels. There are also English national newspapers like China Times and China Daily and English regional publications such as Shanghai Daily.

Q: How or where can expats get a SIM card when they arrive in China?

A: SIM cards are available everywhere in China, from airport booths to cell phone stores to supermarkets, etc. To buy one, expats need to show a passport and a visa. Also note that SIM cards come with different package options. For example, some charge less for within-city calls, others charge for receiving calls, and so on.


Q: Why are there few expats who own their own vehicles in Shanghai?

A: It's because most foreigners would rather use the city's efficient public transport system instead of drive around the city's normally congested streets. Apparently, taking buses, bullet trains or the subway is the more convenient option not just for expats but even for locals.

Q: What taxi company is most popular with expats in Shanghai?

A: There are lots of taxis in Shanghai, but people generally prefer Dazhong or those that are painted blue or aqua with a phone number displayed on the side. Drivers of these taxis are known to be neat, courteous, and true experts around the Shanghai metropolis. Aside from that, expats like the fact that Dazhong taxis have English-speaking booking staff.

Q: Where and how do people buy subway tickets in Shanghai?

A: There are mainly three types of subway tickets in Shanghai - single journey, public transportation card, or souvenir. Prices range from CNY 2-9, depending on the distance from the start station to the end station, and tickets can be bought either at a ticket booth with an issuing clerk or through self-service ticketing using a ticket machine.

Q: How much of the expat population in China own their own cars?

A: Not a lot. Most expats would rather rely on public transport options, which include bullet trains, bus networks and city subways. Chinese roads can be extremely chaotic, traffic is thick and drivers can be very aggressive. Defensive driving skills are a must for anyone who wants to drive in China.

Q: Are there public road lanes dedicated to cyclists in China?

A: Yes, there are. In some cities, there are even public bike hire programmes which are actually part of their public transport system. However, because of China's chaotic roads, it is a must for cyclists to learn defensive driving, and those who are inexperienced should give it some time before venturing into busy streets.

Q: Is it necessary for expats to get a local driving license in China?

A: China does not recognize international driving permits, so yes, expats need to get a Chinese driving license to be able to drive in the country.


Q: How much does a taxi cost from Pudong International Airport to Shanghai's center?

A: Usually, the bill is around CNY 150 for the 50-minute ride.

Q: What language do people at Shanghai's airports speak?

A: They usually speak Mandarin or Shanghainese, which is the most basic local language in Shanghai.

Q: What health precautions must be taken before traveling to Shanghai?

A: Except for pregnant or breastfeeding women, travelers to Shanghai are recommended to see their doctors three months before their trip to get up to date with their vaccinations for DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus), hepatitis A&B, influenza, Japanese encephalitis, polio and typhoid fever.

Q: Are there direct flights from China to Hong Kong?

A: Yes, but note that these flights, as well as flights to Macau from any mainland Chinese city, are considered international and therefore more expensive. What most expats do to save money is to fly to a nearby city such as Shenzhen and then take the train to cross the border.

Q: What's the safest way of greeting locals in China?

A: A warm, wide smile is usually enough, although locals are always happy to see expats trying to speak to them in Mandarin. Even in stressful situations, Chinese people immediately warm up to expats who are friendly to them.

Q: Is pickpocketing an issue for travelers in China?

A: Pickpocketing happens in China but is not a glaring problem. What travelers should be more wary of are people who suddenly come up to them trying so hard to speak English. Either they are trying to sell something or scam someone (reported to happen more frequently in Shanghai). Most locals are very shy and do not talk to foreigners until spoken to.


Q: How long does it take to process a visa application to China?

A: Visa issuance usually takes four business days from the time of filing, given that all required documents have been submitted. Expedited processing (only for emergency cases) can run from 2-3 business days, or even 24 hours for "rush service," but this entails an additional fee. Visas not claimed after 90 days following the date of issuance will be rendered abandoned and thus invalid.

Q: How long before a planned trip to Shanghai is it best to file a visa application?

A: One month ahead of departure date is the best time to apply. Applying too early may mean that the visa can expire by the time it is needed. If a person applies too late, there may not be sufficient time for claiming the visa.

Q: Are US citizens allowed to apply for a visa before entering a Shanghai port of entry?

A: No. US citizens have to get a visa before they get to Shanghai or any other part of China. Everywhere in the country, there is no such thing as applying for a visa at a port of entry.

Q: Is it true that US expats no longer need to renew their Chinese visas annually?

A: Yes. This is part of an agreement China and the US finalized in November 2014. American expats are now given visas valid for five to ten years, and annual renewals will no longer be necessary.

Q: How long does it take to process a visa to China?

A: Processing time is usually one week, except when there are delays due to requests for additional documentation or a personal interview. It's best to apply at least one month ahead of the planned departure.

Q: Knowing that visa rules change frequently in China, where can expats get the most reliable information on the subject?

A: Expats in China are required to register with a local Public Safety Bureau, which is one of the two most reliable sources of information regarding Chinese visas. The other is a local consulate.