TIPS FOR NEW COMERS BEFORE ARRIVING IN CHINA
You probably heard of the importance of using a VPN when living in China as you still want to be able to use foreign search engines, APPs, medias, social medias, streaming platforms, email providers or work tools.
Free VPN exist but we recommend you to avoid this option because it is important to use a reliable VPN as much for the speed as for the stability. At the end, you pay for what you get.
According to what you can find online these days and people’s habits here in China we would recommend 2VPN only:
- Astrill: fast, very reliable on the long term, used to be the best but pricey
- Thunder VPN by Yves
- Express VPN: fastest, very reliable, lots of users in China, worth the money TBC!!!!!!!!!
- Nord VPN: very cheap but not user friendly
Also, if you prefer to use a different VPN, make sure they offer the “split tunneling” option which lets you choose which websites/APPs need virtual private network (VPN) protection and which can access the internet directly. This is very useful to choose which websites/APP require VPN (most of the foreign websites/APPs) and which ones do not require VPN (probably all the Chinese website/APPs). This option allows you not to constantly turn on/off your VPN according to what you want to have access to (foreign or Chinese websites/APPs).
Once you have chosen your VPN, it is extremely important that you install it on all your devices before going to China because once you are in China, you need to use a VPN to install your VPN on your device.
NordVPN can be ranked among the best one we suggest not to use it now because there are some issues to connect to the servers and it is not user-friendly.
If there’s one APP that you can’t live without in China, it’s WeChat!
What is WeChat?
In a few words, WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video conferencing, video games, mobile payment, sharing of photographs and videos, location sharing and mini programs (sort of APP within the WeChat ecosystem).
WeChat is available in 20 languages.
Sign up for WeChat when you are in China, not before!
When you sign up for WeChat, you must link a mobile number. According to the type of mobile number that you use to sign up, you will be a Weixin user if you use Chinese Mainland mobile numbers or a WeChat user if you use non-Chinese Mainland mobile numbers. If you do not have a Chinese Mainland mobile yet, then do not sign up with non-Chinese Mainland mobile number except if you plan to be in China more than 180 days after you have created your account.
The main reason is that switching between WeChat and Weixin is restricted during the first 180 days after account registration.
Another reason is that you must be a Weixin user in order to use WeChat payment. If you are a WeChat user, you will have to wait 180 days before using Wechat payment in order to switch to Weixin.
Finally, during the process of signing up for WeChat it is easier if you are physically in China because you will require a Weixin user to scan the QR code on the screen using his/her WeChat account. If there is no Weixin users near you to scan the code, there is another solution that is slightly more complicated and not all users can help you. The user must have signed up for WeChat over 6 months ago and can only help a new user once in the last month.
Alipay is now the APP that you can’t live without in China as a new comer, especially if you don’t have WeChat payment!
What is Alipay?
Alipay is a mobile payment APP that can be used to pay in any shop, for utilities, for buses and metro. Within the APP, the user can rent a bike and order a taxi. We recommend you not to use the train and plane services. Alipay is available in English and Chinese. However, the English version is not fully in English. When you click on the category in English, then the next pages are fully in Chinese so they are not useful for foreigners.
- If you download the international version of Alipay, you can sign up with your non-Chinese Mainland mobile number and connect an international bank card to the APP.
- Alipay is only available for 90 days without a Chinese bank account.
- The functions of WeChat Pay and Alipay will change according to the country where you downloaded the APP, since these might have certain limitations.
- When using an international card for payments, your international bank might block the first payment for safety reasons. We recommended you to inform your bank in advance that you will use Alipay for payments when you are in China and to contact your bank again in case the first payment does not go through.
- Even if you do not bind any bank card (international or local) to your Alipay account, you can use the Alipay balance to pay. In order to receive money on Alipay balance, you just need to ask an Alipay user who has a local
Getting a new SIM card number should be your first thing to do when you have just arrived in China. Your mobile number is as important as your passport number. You will use your mobile number to open your bank account and sign up with all the APPs.
In theory, each phone number is only allowed to sign up for one WeChat/Weixin account. But as there are no new mobile number never used by anyone, it is still possible to create
If your current mobile number has no binding relation with any WeChat or Weixin account, it can be used for a new registration. When you apply for a mobile number at China Mobile or China Unicom, you need to make sure they give you a brand new mobile number. You can say to them you want a ‘新卡新号段’. Otherwise they might give you a “recycled” sim card which means used by someone else before and it might have the problem that it is still bound to a previous WeChat account then you can’t use the new sim card to register your WeChat account.
Some banks like Bank of China require a long term visa called “Residence Permit” in order to open a bank account for a foreigner. The temporary Z visa issued for single-entry lasting 30 days is not accepted by Bank of China. We recommend you to open a bank account at ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) the first day you arrive in China so that you can use WeChat/Alipay payment.
When you are at the bank, make sure you get your exact name used to open your bank account written on a piece of paper.
You can show them: “请帮忙打印我的银行开户登记信息，用于微信/支付宝实名登记，谢谢 “Please help to print my bank account opening registration information for WeChat/Alipay real-name registration, thank you”.