Tuesday, November 4, 2014

China Guide Checklist

Currency & Credit Cards
I was only able to withdraw CNY 1,000 at a time. I’m not sure if that’s a Chinese policy or that’s the ATM’s issue with international cards. Remember to call your bank to inform them that you are using your card overseas. I always inform BPI even though I plan to spend in cash all the way. The annoying part here is calling up BPI’s hotline (89-100) and waiting for eternity to talk to a phone banker. It is not in their “regular menu”. I wish that in the future, BPI wil have either 1) more phone bankers to accommodate requests and 2) have the option of setting this online.

Not as cheap as I thought. A very good room in Siem Reap costs $16 for two pax pernight, with breakfast. In China, it costs CNY 180 or $29. And the room is not as nice. Based on Tripadvisor posts, the hostels are not up to par compared to Europe hostels. No breakfast. If yes, then you’re lucky.

Our accommodation in Pingyao
It is actually a good thing that breakfast is not included in the room price. The streets are filled with delicious options. I am not a fan of Chinese food. Probably because it tastes too much like a home-cooked meal. My mom is an awesome cook. I find yang chow, beef & broccoli and other what-nots quite unappetizing. Food was a hit and miss for me. It was an alternate of bland or oily food. OILY. Eeeeeh. We did find some amazing life-changing dumplings though.

Xiao long bao, some type of chao fan and clear soup

Monday, November 3, 2014

China Chronicles: Planning, Budget and Itinerary

I booked the Manila-Shanghai and Beijing-Manila tickets one year before the departure date. These are the most advanced tickets I ever purchased. That’s one year of advanced planning and saving.

When I shared my plans that I will be in China for more than two weeks, most people were baffled: What will I do in China for two weeks? Shanghai and Beijing can be done in a rush for a week. So why spend so much time in one country?

China is a HUGE country.
I was careful drawing those boundaries

A couple of websites that we really helpful for planning
Chroniclesof Marianne. She did a great job of documenting her adventures
Pinoyexchange Beijing Detailed and helpful info for the Beijing Leg
DIY Great Wall (Mutianyu) Super helpful. 

Since we initially had 18 days in China, I chose to copy the China itinerary of The Chronicles of Marianne. I set out itinerary to start in Shanghai, the long train to Taiyuan then to Pingyao, train to Datong then bus to Beijing.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

How To Apply For A Chinese Tourist Visa in the Philippines

Best friends, you travel for them. 
Our trip to Baguio way back in 2012

I traveled to Malaysia last year to visit one of my Amigas working there. Before that trip, I already booked a flight to Shanghai, and a flight out from Beijing. My other Amiga, Sarah, also booked her flights. That’s more than a year in advance purchase! The planned trip has a total of 18 in China, including flight days. I crafted an itinerary for Shanghai-Pingyao-Datong-Beijing.

Applying for a Chinese visa is a straightforward process. Submit all the requirements, and you’ll be granted a visa. You can choose to submit your application via a travel agency, like we did, or go to the Chinese embassy yourself and submit the application. We chose to fork over some money for the travel agency fee instead of going to the embassy ourselves. The visa fee and the processing fee costs Php 2,000. We used Lucky Travel for our China visa.

Visa requirements that I submitted:
  •  Filled-out visa application form with attached photo
  •  Valid passport
  •  Certificate of Employment/Consultancy
  • Bank Certificate with receipt of payment. This costs Php 100 for BPI. Indicate in the BPI application form that the certificate is for China Visa. The teller provided me with another format of the bank certificate reflecting my average daily balance. She said she used the same format for the UK Visa. She said they have another format specifically for China visa but it will take 4-5 banking days to accomplish that. (The bank certificate for UK visa sufficed). I had a Php 100,000 ADB because I had my emergency and travel fund one of my savings account.
  • Bank statements (downloaded from BPI Online)
  • BIR Income Tax Return
  • Roundtrip flight bookings
  • Hostel bookings
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