Make sure that your passport has at least one blank visa page and is valid for six months or more. Renewing or obtaining a new passport can take up to four weeks, so be sure to allow enough time for processing. It is possible to shorten the process to two weeks, but you will have to apply in person, keep your fingers crossed, and pay an extra processing fee.
If you hold either a U.S. or EU passport, you will not need a visa to enter Hong Kong for stays under 30 days. You will, however, a visa if you are traveling to mainland China. If you will be entering China more than once on your trip, apply for a multiple-entry visa.
Don't rely on your corporate travel agent to book your route. Do your homework! Choose flights with as few layovers as possible and allow for jet lag when setting your meeting schedule. It is preferable to land in China or Hong Kong in the evening, so you'll have time to squeeze in a little sleep and get acclimated.
Hotels in China tend be clean and comfortable, but they have their challenges. More often than not, communication is difficult no matter how helpful and courteous the staff. Learning a few key words and phrases will go a long way - particularly if your travels take you from the major cities - to ensure that you can acquire the essentials. Choose hotels with workout facilities (the best cure for jet lag) and high-speed Internet.
Avoid checking luggage if at all possible. A quick exit from the airport will mean that you will be able to get your tired self to a hotel (and to bed) much sooner. Pack lightly. Laundry services in most hotels are outstanding and relatively inexpensive so you will only need to pack a couple of pants (or skirts), a few shirts, a sweater, and a jacket or raincoat. The weather differs greatly by region and time of year in China, so bring clothing that can be easily layered.
Protecting your travel gadgets is extremely important so be sure to have the correct converters and adapters for both China and Hong Kong, as they are different. Tip: Adding a handy multi-device charger, will make powering-up more convenient.
Surviving the Flight
It's a long trip no matter how you get there - or from where. These do's and don'ts will make the journey easier:
- Hydrate before and during the flight
- Pack an easily accessible change of clothes and a toiletry kit
- Get up and stretch whenever possible
- Try to sleep
- Drink too much caffeine
- Consume alcohol
- Forget entertainment and/or work for the flight
Tip: If your company didn't spring for business class, work on your resume during the flight.
Hotels and restaurants in the larger cities will accept most major credit cards, but carry two of them (American Express & Visa for example) just to be safe. You should also have cash on hand when you arrive so that you can exchange it for local currency, which you will need for incidentals like cabs and other transportation.
Tip: Money is easily exchanged at the airport and most hotels, but remember that Hong Kong and mainland China have different currencies.
One major plus of a 21-hour flight is the number of airline miles accumulated. These long trips also go a long way towards gaining status on your airline of choice, making upgrades, and ensuring that other bonuses are far more likely. If you aren't part of a rewards program, sign up when you book your flight.
Health and Safety
Be prepared! You may have trouble finding health products in China (unless you can read Chinese), so always travel with a first-aid kit.
- Prescription medications - Take more than you need in case your travel plans change and leave in their original packaging.
- Antibiotics - Ask your GP to prescribe a generic infection-fighting drug (just in case).
- Immodium - Your stomach may not enjoy your culinary adventures as much as you do.
- Ibuprofen - Include an anti-inflammatory for general aches and pains.
- Benadryl - Even if you aren't prone to allergies, take along just in case.
Business travelers will find Hong Kong and the major mainland China cities fairly easy to navigate, even if you are not fluent in the local language. As you leave the major cities, however, you'll find fewer and fewer signs in English or other languages. Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing all have adequate public transportation options, but a cab is still the way to go if your company is picking up the tab.
Tip: Take a business card from the hotel front desk immediately upon arrival. It will have the hotel's address on it in both English and Chinese (essential for complication-free cab rides).