So you’ve booked your trip to China… now what!? You can apply the ‘better safe than sorry’ principle to this entire post!
Get your Travel Visa at Least a Month in Advance:
Check the most up-to-date information on the Chinese Embassy website to ensure you completely understand what requirements you need to meet when getting a visa. In some places in China you are able to travel there for 72 hours without needing a visa. We spent over $200 a piece to get our Visa’s, but we now have them for ten years. We were also able to get them same day, instead of having to leave our passports with at the embassy. Neither of us felt comfortable doing that. This option is only available for the 10 year.
For step-by-step instructions on getting your Chinese Tourist Visa from South Korea check out Chinese Tourist Visa from South Korea: Step by step instructions!
Determine how you are getting to the airport:
Camp Humphreys has a bus that goes up to the airport. The Garrison FB Page has information on the available bus schedules.
Take the train from AK Plaza. I always recommend getting train tickets in advance. In Korea they will over book the trains and busses and let so many people on that all of the chairs are taken and they have people unsafely standing in the isles…. So get your ticket here in advance.
Drive and park. If you are leaving from ICN Incheon International Airport and you drive up there and park you will have to pay 9,000 won a day. On their site they have a calculator for the cost.
NOTE: Because of the Chinese Visa restrictions, you will want to make sure that you give yourself plenty of time at the airport. The difference with China than most of the other Pacific countries is that they will usually give you a visa upon landing in that country. China will not… so they will ensure that you have the proper visa documentation before boarding the plane, which will obviously take extra time.
Verify Your Plane Tickets:
I booked my flights through Expedia.com. What you will notice in your confirmation e-mail is that it will say that your ticket has not yet been confirmed.
You will have to ensure that your flights are actually booked! Just to be sure you will want to go to the site of the airline company that your tickets were booked with.
Check the Luggage Policy
As with travel anywhere, you need to review the luggage policy. Sometimes an inexpensive ticket can become wildly expensive if you don’t understand the luggage restrictions. Don’t get caught off guard having to spend $100 extra dollars a person because you are not authorized any baggage. You may be surprised the little amount of items you need when you plan accordingly. Unless you have a hardcore Insta-Stalker, no one is going to know if you wear your jeans twice on a short vacation.
Device Operational Security in China
It is important to consider Operational Security (OpSec) when visiting China. Especially if you are in the military or a government employee or contractor. China is not a “friendly” country like many other countries are… so OpSec is particularly important when traveling there. This should not completely deter you from seeing the world, just ensure that you take the necessary precautions.
Buy a phone charger pack and/or international outlet converters. Using your USB to plug into a device in the hotel room is a very risky choice.
Backup your device before leaving your home country.
Don’t leave your devices unattended. If you are going to take your laptop, you will want to be ready to commit to keeping it on you for your entire trip. Hotel safes are not safe. When the cleaning crew comes to clean your room, it is likely they will leave the door wide open when they are working. If you can survive without a cleaning while you are on Vaca, you should avoid having your room cleaned at all.
If you are living in Korea, you probably already have a VPN, ensure that it is on and engaged during your entire trip. China has a ban on some of your favorite sites, like Facebook, without the VPN you will not be able to use them. With that said, you should avoid using your social media when you travel. It is never smart to inform people that you are not at home. Additionally, you should avoid using a location feature when posting things to social media… this is social media 101! Ensure that all geolocating apps are turned to “only while using,” or the location option is turned off entirely. Make sure that the people you are traveling with understand these requirements, and know that you care even if they don’t and ask them not to tag you in anything that they post while you are currently out of the country.
Don’t log onto the Wifi. Disable your WiFi and your Bluetooth capabilities on your devices. This is a sure way for a hacker to get into your personal information. Your smart watch is connected through bluetooth, so if you don’t need it while you are on your trip, leave it behind. It wont work right without the bluetooth connection anyway. You can purchase a Chinese SIM card at the Airport.
Most smart phones have a “remote wipe” feature, where your device can be completely reset if it is lost or stolen. You usually need to enable this feature prior to use, so ensure that you do so before traveling to China.
Inform your bank that you will be Traveling:
Your bank will shut down your cards if you do not inform them that you will be traveling. To avoid the hassle, just let them know. Also, if you are going to be using cards while you are traveling you should ALWAYS use a credit card verses using a debit card. Debit cards only give you three days to claim a fraudulent charge when a CC will give you up to 60 days. In other words you have more protection when using a credit card.
Get cash: Yuan
The best way to protect your accounts and money is to bring cash. While many of the more upscale restaurants and hotels will take cards, there are still a lot of places in China that you need to use cash. Cash is the best negotiating tool as well. If the sales person is asking for 25 yuan and you only have 20, or that is all you tell them you have… then they will be more likely to sell it to you for 20… right?
Ensure that you have a secure location, on your person, where you can keep your money safe at all times.
DON’T DRINK THE WATER
Just like in South Korea, you should not be drinking the water from the tap. When drinking water you want to make sure that it is from a bottle, even when having water at a restaurant. What we like to do is get to a convenience store as quickly as possible to get a pack of waters. It is important to stay hydrated when traveling, so having access to inexpensive water can be paramount to having a good trip. The hotel may give you one or two free bottles, but you don’t want to have to pay $3 a bottle for the rest of the trip.
Brush your teeth with bottled water.
Bring chewable Imodium and/or Pepto just in case you have a reaction. You can find medications, but you may have to see a doctor or feel very confused at a store. It is best if you bring something that you are familiar with just in case. You don’t want your trip to be ruined by a constant need to go! You will not have a comfy place to go at the wall… or during the 2+hour drive to get there! Better safe than sorry!
Bring TP and Hand Sanitizer
This is another similarity between South Korea and China. In most places in South Korea there is toilet paper, but not everywhere. Even more scarce is the hand soap. The same is true to China. A little pack of tissues fits nicely in your purse, and buying some hand sanitizer if you don’t already have it would be a good idea.
Download Some Apps
Download some travel apps that will download maps that you can use offline. Make sure that you have a translation app. We use Google Translate, it is free and works pretty well. It also lets you use your camera to translate signs. I certainly don’t know how to type Chinese into an app to be translated.
Have a great trip!