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Arriving in China for the first time

I’ve just arrived in Beijing for my most recent trip to China. It’s always wonderful coming back to China after a few months away and the excitement of being back has inspired me to blog about some of the things to consider when arriving in China for the first time.
Planning your journey

You can check out full details on budgeting, immunization and what to pack on our FAQ page.

I would highly recommend booking a flight which is not only convenient in terms of departure time and travel duration, but also one which lands in China during daylight hours. Onward travel is usually more convenient and better priced in the day time. China is drastically different to the western world and can be overwhelming on arrival. It’s amazing to see all of the new landscapes, huge buildings, millions of people and Mandarin Chinese characters everywhere, which is exciting day or night. China is a very safe country and in this sense it’s not a problem to arrive when it’s dark outside, but if you’re tired it can still be intimidating to arrive somewhere so different.

Big Buildings in Beijing
Big Buildings in Beijing

On the plane

Before you even land in China, the cabin crew on your flight will hand you an “arrival card” which is a yellow and white piece of paper which every ‘foreigner’ needs to complete before passing through Chinese immigration. You’ll need to fill in:

  • Your name, date of birth and passport number
  • Your China Visa number
  • Your flight number
  • Purpose of visit (eg. Tourism)
Big buildings in Chengdu
Big buildings in Chengdu

At the airport

Once you’re through immigration and you’ve got your bag, you’re officially in China! When you exit into the arrivals hall, you’ll probably be approached by people offering a taxi ride. Ignore these people at all costs! They are not licensed taxi drivers and if you don’t speak Chinese, you’re more than likely to pay way over the odds for your fare. Go to the official taxi rank, bus pickup point or metro station, depending on your onward travel plans.

China is different - a giant cabbage in my hotel lobby
China is different – a giant cabbage in my hotel lobby

First impressions

China is BIG! If you arrive in a city like Beijing, Qingdao or Chengdu, you’ll be amazed at the number of huge buildings everywhere.

Taxis drive pretty fast! Roads are slowly becoming more orderly in China, but taxi driver still weave in and out of lanes and you may not necessarily have a safety belt available.

There are characters everywhere! It’s a wonderful feeling being surrounded by such a fundamentally different language! Make sure you’ve got Pleco downloaded to start deciphering the characters!

Now you’re in China, let the adventure begin, it’s one of the coolest countries in the world!

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