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December 4, 2019
This post is sponsored by Zocdoc. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Obtaining a Visa
In order to travel to China, you have to have a visa, and it’s not super easy to get. When I went to Australia, I had to fill out a form online and pay $20 to get my visa; when I went to Cuba, I filled out a little card at the gate and got my visa. For China, the process is a bit more complicated. Depending on where you live, you are assigned an embassy to get your visa. As a resident of Georgia, my embassy is in Houston. You’d think living in a city like Atlanta would make it easier, but that’s not the case. But you can’t just get the forms and submit them online. In fact, you can’t even mail them in. Visa forms must be submitted in Houston in person. Yes, you read that right. So if you have a friend in Houston that will go do it for you, great! If not, then you can hire a Visa service to do it for you. And it ain’t cheap.
I went with CIBT because I got a recommendation in a Facebook group. You have to actually mail in your passport, so I definitely wanted to make sure I was working with a reputable company. They made the process a little easier since they sent me a mailing label, all the forms, and let me submit my photo digitally. But that was all extra. All in all, it cost my mom and me over $750 for two Visas. The fee that the embassy charges is $140 per Visa, so everything else was charged by CIBT. We did get a 10-year, multiple entry visa, so at least I don’t have to go through this again. Also, it only took about a week and a half from the time I signed up for the service until I got my visa. Not bad.
As you might have heard, air quality in China is not the greatest. It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re up on your usual vaccines before a trip, but I also wanted to check to see if there’s anything specific I needed to prepare for a trip to China. Since I don’t have a GP that I stick to in Atlanta, I downloaded the Zocdoc app to help me find what I was looking for. This is hands down the easiest way to find & book a doctor’s appointment.
The first step is to choose what kind of doctor you’re looking for. They literally have every single kind, so no matter what you need, you can find it. For my trip, I just chose Primary Care Doctor and then General Consultation. Then I put in my location (home, since I love staying in a one-mile radius, ha!) and the date I could go in. There are lots of available options, even appointments the same day or next day, if you are in hurry! If you have insurance, you can also add that in to you make sure the doctors you find are in your network. You can also use the app to upload a photo of your insurance card so Zocdoc can verify your plan details before you book and automatically send your insurance information to the doctor’s office before your appointment.There were so many options, so I just picked the hottest doctor (totally not kidding, ha!) and booked my appointment right there in Zocdoc app with a few clicks. They also all have reviews, which obviously helped me make my decision too. There’s no way it could have possibly been easier!
Turns out, I was a little out of date with some of my vaccines (oops!), but I got that taken care of. There are no requirements for China, but my new doctor was able to make a few recommendations based on where in China I was going. He actually said I was fine in a city like Beijing and I love that I wasn’t pressured to get a bunch of stuff. I’m super chill when it comes to health stuff, so I didn’t get anything extra.
After browsing the Zocdoc app and seeing so many options, I am totally going to use it for any other specialty doctors I might need. I’m thinking I’ll check out a dermatologist next to get scanned for skin irregularities (I’m in the sun a lot!) and maybe some treatments to improve the texture of the skin on my face. It’s also a great option if you get sick while traveling or need to find a doctor when you’re in an unfamiliar city – a lot better than Google, that’s for sure!
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Connecting to the Internet
China is psycho when it comes to the internet. They block Facebook, Twitter, Google, and more from their internet. I guess they really don’t want people to know what’s going down in the world. But obviously that is not ok with me. Luckily, there is a way around it. You need a VPN, a Virtual Private Network. I used ExpressVPN.
They don’t have Uber in China, but they do have their own version called DiDi. Definitely download this app before you go! It’s so much easier than dealing with taxis (especially since most drivers don’t speak English!) and you don’t have to worry about cash or communicating where to go or anything like that. In the DiDi app, you put in your location like you would in Uber and it will give you an estimated price. You can also choose between pool, express, select and more. There’s also a chat feature that automatically translates everything. Prices are cheaper than taxis too. A 15-minute ride was usually under 15cny, which is about $2.
I wish I knew about this from the second I got to Beijing. We actually ended up getting scammed by a taxi driver, which is very common. You give them cash (usually 100cny) and then they act like it’s too new and too crisp and hand it back to you. In reality, they swapped it out with a fake bill and you’re out however many 100s they do it with. For us it was 3. Ugh!
Cash vs. Credit Cards
Speaking of cash, go ahead and get some Chinese money at the airport or wherever. Most places accept cards, but you can get better deals when you’re negotiating on prices if you can use cash. In Beijing, we could use a card mostly everywhere, but I have heard that some restaurants only take cash, so better to be prepared. Prices are pretty comparable to the US.
After a ton of research, we were fairly prepared for our trip, but I definitely wish I had known about DiDi and the cost of a visa ahead of time!
Is there anything else you’d want to know about preparing for a trip to China?
Photos of me by Bryce France.