Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Not to Prepare for Two Months in Shenzhen:Dos and Don'ts from a Woman who Was Clueless

1) Do not take a Google Chromebook. (I did.)
2) Do create a Yahoo email address and give it to family, friends, and the airline that will take you to China. Also to any banks whom you might use, or to businesses that you pay online. (I didn't.)
3) Do not expect to use your credit cards easily. Chinese credit cards are linked to UnionPay and yours almost certainly is not. Make sure your hotel will accept a foreign card before you leave or expect to use constantly. (I was lucky. Mine did.)
4) Do bring cash, lots of it. You can carry a small fortune without fear of theft in that city, with reasonable caution recommended. (I did.)
5) Do hunt down maps of Shenzhen before leaving the U.S. because you will find none that you will be able to read within the city. (I didn't.)
6) And DO download as many books as you can. There is one (1) English language bookstore. (Thank you, Eon Books.) (I didn't and therefore learned to read very slowly for two months.)
7) Do put a translation app on your phone and carry a small phrasebook with you in case of emergency. (I used my little phrasebook often.)
8) Do buy the only guidebook available for Shenzhen and download it to your phone or ipad. Yes, you will have to buy it from Amazon and yes it is outdated. But it has parks, museums, streets, and other essentials in Chinese characters, along with the characters for stored-value subway card which you are going to need. (I did that--wish I had also bought the taxi guide to Shenzhen. You probably should.)
9) Do find out where the nearest branch of the Bank of China is in relation to your hotel. That's the only bank where you will be able to use your ATM card. (I didn't and was helped by a very kind brace of bank employees in a smaller bank.)
10) Do make sure you have Hong Kong dollars for an Octopus card when you make your first border crossing. (I didn't.)
11) If you go between November and May, do take sweaters. There is no central heating. A warm coat won't be a bad idea either. (I didn't. Thank you, H&M.)
12) If you are there for Chinese New Year, do not have silly prejudices against shopping malls because they will keep you alive when everything else shuts down. (Without malls, I would have had to buy very small bottles of drinking water from my hotel. And by the way, thank you, Starbucks.)
13) Do accept any and all offers of help from Shenzhen residents. They are the kindest people you may ever meet. (I did.)
!4) Do realize that Whatsapp is a fantastic telephone connection and make sure the people you love best have that app before you leave. (Nope, didn't do that either.)
!5) Do not expect to use Facebook or Gmail unless you find a Hyatt. Do not expect internet service to be anything other than spotty in your hotel unless you are a deluxe traveler.
16) Do use taxis to get to destinations far afield. They're cheap if your hotel staff negotiates the fare for you. Otherwise you'll spend at least 1/3 of your time on the metro. (I did. Great for people watching but those nine subway lines don't go everywhere and so neither did I.)
17) Do not think three months in Beijing is adequate preparation for two months in Shenzhen. (I did.)


Sherry said...

Can't choose just one rating. This is all of them. Sounds very intimidating to me. A good thing you have so much experience in Asia, at least it was some sort of preparation for dealing with all the difficulties. I would have fled home to my bed in utter confusion. Good for you to stick with it and find so much to enjoy. Travel on!

Janet Brown said...

Steep learning curve that first couple of weeks...