1. Hotel and Flight Booking
All US passport holders need to obtain a Chinese visa to visit mainland China. Flights and hotel(s) information are mandatory on the application. Try to reserve a hotel without cancellation fees so your travel plan can be flexible even after you submitted your visa application. Beijing provides an excellent subway system, and staying nearby a subway station would totally save you time and energy, especially after a long day.
2. Passport and Visa
Start your Chinese visa process as soon as possible. I went through a visa agency because I don't live near a Chinese consulate. This process took me ~2 weeks. For the same amount of money, you can now apply for a 10-year-visa to China! On the application, under Part 2: Travel Information (2.2 Intended number of entries), simply choose Other and write 10-year-visa. Chinese consulate has a strict rule about applicant's photographs, and a simple passport format photo would not be sufficient. I strongly suggest submitting a photo to a Chinese visa agency (with a fee) to lower any unnecessary complications and stress. Chinese visa is costly through a visa agency, but they ensure proper documents are in place to prevent delays. Worth it? Not really, but it is helpful.
3. Apps to Download
Many social media platforms and Google are censored in China. Here is a list of helpful apps:
4. Extensive Research on Visiting Sites & Tour Companies
Extensive research is a must if you plan on exploring the destination on your own - you would learn many interesting facts about the location. In Beijing, several landmarks are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites, so some understanding of its history is beneficial! As for tour companies, find some reputable travel companies and read their online reviews for quality tours.
5. Learn Chopsticks
Many restaurants in Beijing do not provide forks and/or spoons. Feel free to bring your own or just start practicing your chopstick skills.
6. Printed Documents
Print out hotels and flight confirmation pages just in case you have trouble accessing your inbox. Keeping a copy of your passport in your luggage for emergency purpose.
7. Learn Some Bargaining Phrases in Chinese
Bargaining is a must when visiting any Chinese street markets. Before you go, practice a few bargaining phrases to get the most out of it. You don't have to learn numbers in Chinese because most vendors usually use a calculator to show you the price. If, by chance, they want you to put in your offer, make sure to cut their original offer in half. This could be a fun experience if you are determined to get the best deal!
8. Understanding Squat Toilets
Squat toilet is common in China. Make sure you familiarize yourself with it before heading there. Watch a Youtube video or read more about it online.
9. Open-Minded & Adventurous Attitude
Experiencing culture shocks is possible if this is your first time in Asia. There are many lifestyles and cultural differences between the East and West - learn to embrace it. Have an open mind, immerse yourself in the environment, and carry a positive attitude to explore this part of China.
Found these tips helpful? Share the post with your families and friends to ensure they are well-prepared for their trip to Beijing!