Living and Working in Shenzhen

Note: Most of this info comes from Voltera’s experiences, and their internal wiki. If you have questions, or want further info, speak to Alroy Almeida.

Getting a Chinese Visa from in Canada

  • This site walks you through the full process.
  • It’s recommended that you submit your application 1 month before your first expected travel dates.
  • If you are travelling on short-notice, it’s possible to get Express (2-3 day) or Urgent (24-hour) processing times. Costs go up by $100 and $150, respectively, so please try to avoid this.

Things you’ll need when you apply:

  • A passport that’s valid 6 months after your expected travel dates (see Other Notes if you don’t).
  • Printed copy of your completed (on a computer) application.
  • Printed copy of an invitation letter from a Chinese company. For Velocity companies that is most likely HAX, in which case your contact is Qiyu.
  • Photocopy of the picture page of your passport.
  • Proof of your appointment at the Visa Centre (as of late 2015, this is mandatory unless you’re going for Urgent processing).
  • Your OLD Expired Passport (as of late August 10 2016, this is mandatory. If you do not have your old passport, you need to write a letter explaining why you do not have it and it will take more time to process your VISA).

Things that would be helpful to have (but you might not need):

  • Proof that your flights have been booked (especially if applying for an urgent visa).
  • Proof of where you are staying when you arrive. If you don’t know, just book a stay at GDH, and then cancel it.

Other notes:

  • Feel free to ask Pat about this process, since he got his most recently (as of Nov 2015), and has a lot of stories about what not to do.
  • It’s possible to get a Canadian passport renewed in 24 hours. You need proof of your travel plans, and it costs $270. So try to avoid that if you can.
  • Note that your passport number will be different on the new passport, so you may need to get a revised Invitation Letter.

Getting to & from Shenzhen

Cost-wise, flights to SZX are similar to those to HKG, but usually involve a layover in Beijing or Shanghai, and are operated by Chinese airlines which don’t offer quite as great of service. Air Canada runs a direct, 18-hour YYZ-HKG flight daily, and it can be fairly cheap as well.

From SZX, you can take the metro (about 1 hour), or if you have a lot of luggage, try Uber (yes, it works in China), or a marked, official taxi with a meter. In both cases, try showing them the location on a map, or directing them to the Shanghai Hotel, which is one of the oldest in the city (since some cab drivers may not be familiar with Huaquiang Rd station). If you encounter a very friendly person reaching to take your bags to his “taxi”, there is a very strong chance that you will get ripped off. Pat suggests avoiding these guys entirely, but if you must, negotiate the price before letting them take your stuff (yes, I know it’s been a long day and you’re tired), and do not agree to more than 100 RMB.

From HKG, there are several options:

  • Take the metro and train system all the way to the border (even Pat isn’t usually that cheap, since there’s a good chance that you’ll be standing the whole trip, through the border crossing, and on the mainland metro).
  • Take the bus to Huanggang Port border crossing. This is slightly cheaper, and you have a seat for most of it. Based on limited experience, crossing at Huanggang isn’t quite as busy as Louhu. As with the advice about SZX, beware of black cabs (unmetered & unmarked) trying to scam you mercilessly. So far the record is 400 RMB for a ride that normally costs 20.
  • Do not go through Chinese customs, and instead take the ferry to SZX or Shekou port. This is a bit more costly, at 250 RMB, but it’s convenient, since you don’t go through customs once, and your checked bags are loaded onto the boat for you, and you only get them at the port. Again, beware of black cabs.
  • Hire a private car to go directly there. Apparently this is possible, and costs 700 RMB. So not feasible for one person, but much more attractive for 2 or 3. Especially handy because you don’t even need to get out of the vehicle at the border. Your driver will handle everything.

Where to live in Shenzhen

There are a few options here, and the general tradeoff is between cost and location. Starting with those closest to the HAX office:

  • Guangdong Hotel (GDH) - ~6k RMB/month - Right across Shennan Middle Road from the office. Able to book on short-term, for very short durations. It’s what you would expect from a hotel, but a really, really shitty one. And they’re willing to let you stay for longer term (including a full HAX batch). Not recommended.
  • Jie En Building - 4-6k RMB/month - usually referred to simply as Science Museum, since it’s located by the Science Museum metro stop (1 stop away from HAX), at the far end of Songling road. A 15-20 minute walk to the office, if you’d rather not take Metro. These are serviced apartments that are cleaned 1-2 times a week, and have bed linens and towels provided. Includes a basic kitchen, with a microwave, kettle, and can have a hotplate if you ask. Landlord’s QQ is 1919155700, and his English is passable. Able to get studio-style rooms (just a bed, kitchenette & bathroom) or 2BR units with a fairly sparse kitchen/common room.
  • Serviced Apartments around Grand Theater station - 4-5k RMB/month - 1 stop further away, 1 level cheaper. Some of these actually have a fairly nice view, and KK mall is quite nice, as are some of the smaller shops & food stands in the area.
  • Fumin/Futian Checkpoint/Yitian metro stops 2.5-4k RMB/month - Several HAX alum have found very cheap rates in this area for shared accommodations. Pat tried one of these in January for 3.5k / month. Wasn’t a huge fan.

Where to eat in Shenzhen

Around the HAX office

  • Clover - Generic steam tables - 10-25 RMB - 1 block down Zhonghang road - Very cheap, fast and close. Probably not the most healthy, but Alroy allegedly ate it 80% of the time, and didn’t die
  • DX - Dim Sum - 15-40 RMB
  • Gali Gali - Curry - Basement of Century Place - 30-50 RMB
  • Green Tea - General Chinese food - 30-70 RMB - 5th floor of Century Place - Great place to try a lot of traditional Chinese cuisine. Check the bottom of you tea cup, and you might find a little surprise! Also: definitely try out the Bread House!
  • Rainbow grocery store - rice dishes - 6-12 RMB
  • Sambal - Curry - 30-70 RMB - Basement of Century Place - Don’t forget to go on Mondays & get 20% off
  • Street vendors on Zhongang rd - noodles, steam tables - 10-20 RMB
  • Street vendors in Metro shopping area - noodle salad, noodle soup - 10-20 RMB

Other places we recommend

  • NYPD - pizza - ??? RMB per meal - Another pizza joint, which apparently delivers
  • Warehouse pizza - pizza - 70-100 RMB per meal - hop on over to Coco Park (Shopping Park metro stop) if you want some solid ’za. If you’re really brave, get a crew together and try to tackle their extra large