China is a unique country with a culture like no other, a deep history,
delicious food, and cities that seem to grow more and more every day.
Making the decision to move to China is incredibly exciting. However,
before arriving in China, there is a lot to think about and plan for.
Here are 5 important things to consider before making your big move:
1. Getting There
Getting to China is not known for being cheap. Depending on where you
are coming from, a one way flight can be well over one thousand
dollars. However, here are a few things you can do to help you get to
China, and still have some money leftover:
Being flexible with your flight can easily cut your plane price
in half. Many airlines have an option for flexible dates, or have a
fare calendar that can help show you general flight costs for the entire
year. Some of my personal favorite flight engine sites are Skycanner.com and Google Flights.
Fly out during the week
By avoiding popular flights on the weekends, you can save
hundreds of dollars. Often a one or two day difference can make a huge
difference in cost.
Don’t buy your ticket a year in advance
Earlier is not always better when it comes to buying flights.
Often that sweet spot for international flights ranges anywhere from 4-8
weeks. Use resources like the Kayak flight predictor to help guide you in making sure you get the best deal out there.
Getting your visa is one of the most important factors to think about
when moving to China. Your country of origin, how long you will be
staying in China, and why you will be in China all play important roles.
If you are planning on living in China permanently, you will want the D
Visa (“China Green Card”), but more likely you’ll be looking to get a Q
(family visit), X (study) or Z (work) visa. For more information on
visas, please see this guide on Chinese Visas.
2. What to pack
Deciding what to pack for your move to China can be quite
overwhelming at times. Of course, what you bring does depend on what
part of China you are moving to. You need to look at factors such as
climate, culture, and the size of the city or town you will be living
in. Although everyone’s packing list will be a little different, here
are a few suggestions on things to bring that are important for
Pepto Bismol and Antibiotics
Anytime I’m traveling anywhere I bring a few basic drugs and first aid
items just in case. One of the items that should always be on your list
are medication for stomach problems.China has a fun and amazing food
culture. You will likely be trying all kinds of unique dishes that your
stomach is not used to. Bringing a basic medicine like Tums, Pepto
Bismol, and antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea will become a life saver. The last thing you want to do when you’re not feeling good is to go searching for medicine.
Although it is recommended to try and learn some Mandarin
before moving to China, sometimes you just need a cheat sheet once in a
while. Bringing a phrasebook could become extremely helpful if you find
yourself needing directions, or simply ordering food. You can also read
through the phrasebook while on long train rides to improve your
I often like to purchase toiletries once I arrive to a new place to save
room in my luggage. However, I suggest bringing a few basics, as some
toiletries are not as easy to find in China. In particular, I recommend
bringing your own deodorant, as options can be very limited in parts of
3. The Language
In some touristy areas you may find some Chinese who speak English,
but the farther you go from these touristy destinations, the less and
less English you will hear. If you want to enjoy your experience living
in China, it is a very good idea to learn some Mandarin. While there are
many dialects within China, which can make things a little challenging
at times, if you at least know the basics you should be fine. Here a few
of my favorite resources for learning Mandarin:
4. The Great Firewall
When moving to China it is important to remember that China has very
strict internet censorship that is also referred to as The Great
Firewall. Internet usage is still greatly encouraged in China, but huge
sites such as Facebook, Google and YouTube are blocked. If you are going
to be living in China, it may be beneficial to find a few Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
to use on your phone or home computer. These VPNs will allow you to
bypass blocks, gain access to Web sites from all around the world, and
be able to communicate with family and friends back home with ease.
5. Getting Around
Taking on public transportation can be intimidating and frustrating
at times, but also quite the adventure. Each city has its own forms of
public transportation; you will need to learn about your city, and what
is the most common and efficient method of transportation there. This
guide will help educate you on some of the basics of getting around Chinese cities.
However, knowing about the various ways of getting around China is
one thing, but actually using them is another. I have found that
downloading a few China specific location and transportation apps can be
extremely helpful when first arriving in a new city. Here are a few of
my favorite apps to use for transportation in China:
Metro China Subway:
A guide to the metro subways of China’s most popular cities. It will
help guide you on the times and fares of metro systems all over China.
This will help guide you on train schedules and how to book your
tickets. Trains in China are particularly helpful for traveling longer
Beijing Taxi Guide and Offline Maps:
This app is great for those who haven’t quite grasped Mandarin yet. It
will pull up cards to translate to taxi drivers where you would like to
go, and it has an offline map feature to help you navigate without