11 Tips for a Successful Business Trip to China
A multitude of business opportunities exist in China for UK businesses – and as such Chinese cities have become a major destination for all manner of executives, employees and entrepreneurs. If you're planning a business trip there soon, don't slip up on the small things – read our top ten tips for a successful visit to “The Middle Kingdom”.
Passport Make sure your passport has at least one blank page in it to accommodate your visa sticker, and ensure there are six months left before expiry – or you won't be granted a visa, let alone entry. Remember that passport renewals take around three weeks (£72.50), but an express service can get you a passport much sooner. The ‘Premium' service, which involves you travelling to a passport office, takes around 4 hours (£128 for a 32 page passport); the ‘Fast-track' service takes around a week (£103 for a 32 page passport).
Visa While you are permitted entry into Hong Kong for up to 30 days if you hold an EU or US passport, you will need a full visa for entry into mainland China. However, if you are visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Chongqing, Shenyang or Dalian, you will be permitted entry for up to 72 hours without a pre-arranged visa if you hold a UK passport. 51 other nationalities can also enter these cities for the same period.
Flying to China
While a flight with long layovers may cost your business less, it could mean you are very tired when that all-important business meeting takes place. First impressions count, so even if you select an economy seat, pay a little more for modest layover times so you look your best. There are of course many business flights available; more costly, but you will get much better service, more comfortable seats, or even a bed. Business class also makes you feel the part as you arrive in China. Aim for an evening arrival so you get some time to rest before the morning.
While hotel staff members are often very courteous in China, their level of English may be less impressive – especially outside the big cities. Learn a few key words or phrases to make communication easier. A good work out can be ideal for countering jet lag, so choose a hotel with gym facilities. Check your accommodation has high speed internet – a business essential.
Ensure you can make a swift exit from the airport – and a fast entrance to your hotel bed – by taking only hand luggage. Good laundry services are found in most hotels, so you can pack light and wash your clothes as and when required.
Chargers for your devices
Your laptop and mobile are important for most business trips, so plan ahead in order to keep them charged. Bring along the right chargers and converters for China. You can buy these at the airport in the UK before you leave, but it's advisable that you buy these before your departure date. A multi-device charger could be a good option. Dealing with the flight
A long flight can take its toll – but there are a few things you can do to minimise its negative effects. Drink plenty of water before and during the flight (air-conditioning can quickly de-hydrate you). Pack a change of clothes and toiletries – especially important if you are being met at the airport! Exercise and stretch whenever possible, and try to sleep.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine, and indulge in some in-flight entertainment; ideal if you are a little nervous about the business meeting, or about flying. Money
Take along both Mastercard and Visa cards, and carry the local currency (the yuan) so you can get a taxi directly to your hotel without having to find an ATM after your long flight. Note that different currencies are used in Hong Kong (HK dollar) and China, so take the correct one! All major debit and credit cards can be used in Chinese ATMs. Business Travel Insurance
Even the most cautious and well-prepared business traveller can encounter problems such as baggage loss, cancelled flights and theft. Give yourself a safety net and added peace of mind with adequate business travel insurance. Frequent Flyer
Sign up for your airline's frequent flyer programme before you book your flight. Free upgrades and perks such as priority check-ins can make a business trip much more pleasant. And long haul trips can mean big points. Health
While antibiotics, anti-diarrhoea drugs and painkillers are all available in China, communicating with a local chemist may be challenging – so take these commonly-required medicines with you. If you have prescription medication, ask your GP for an additional stock. Check the air pollution reports for your destination city, and buy a face-mask before your arrival if the pollution count is very high. Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai do suffer very poor air quality on occasion. These smogs can also delay aircraft, so stay informed in the 24-48 hours preceding your business trip; you will then be able to tell your associates in China if you are going to be late.