Reflections on my recent China trip after 4+ years (alipay etc)

Today I’m writing about my recent trip report to China. My last visit in China was more than 4 years ago.

I was extremely anxious before travelling back to China, mainly because of all the difficulties I had when trying to fix mobile payment app such as alipay etc. It was difficult mainly because I no longer have either China ID card, China mobile number or China bank card, the last two were essential to set it up. The process was more challenging and after all I finally got it set up, it is extremely useful when travelling in China.

Here are some of reflections on my recent China trip:

  • I saw fewer international tourists on arrival at PVG airport, had to wait long for the 144hr visafree transit, tho the process went smoothly when there’re finally a personnel showed up. China is never much of a tourist country after all but it feels now even less of that. FBF5C90A-12A3-4AC2-B937-A565C431D1BE.jpeg

  • Cash is still accepted on physical shops and taxis, but smaller vendors won’t have the change, which makes it hard to get the change at the first place. But the biggest bill is ~$14 (100 yuan) so the worst case is you lose ~$10 if it’s emergency.

  • Mobile payment is so common, phone usage is so crucial that you see chargers everywhere (at train station waiting rooms etc). If live in China, it can be seamless, within one app you get in and out of metro, trains, pay for everything etc. I sometimes feel like a weirdo paying with cash bills. Also I’m still using an old phone with dying battery, cz my phone usage isnt that high living in Europe. It can sometimes feel a bit anxious worrying about phone battery etc especially when I wasn’t so used to it.D557DEA3-5CF4-4C51-BA5E-CE82369CBE4C.jpeg

  • In most physical shops (or scan the vendor QR to pay) you can pay with alipay binding international credit card. But sometimes a verification is needed, I had a few times I need to get my card verified by receiving sms from my number back home or with 2fa device, which is kinda annoying if you don’t have it with you. What I normally did was paying round amount with cash bill and smaller extra amount with alipay, to avoid getting verified again.

  • For the most seamless experience, you’d better set up wechat pay, which allow you to access more local services, like paying directly from a local karaoke booth etc. I failed to get it set up due to all the verifications. Most food delivery app do accept alipay, but only with your China debit card that binds to your alipay account. Luckily I got toucard set up beforehand, so I could enjoy breakfast and late night snacks delivery right in front of apartment doors.

  • If you are not Chinese citizen, the best way to get train tickets/flights/hotels is the site, coz not all hotels can accommodate foreign citizens and the china version train ticket sale app is hard to use unless you have china ID/phone numbers, normally it should be possible to scan your passport to onboard the train, but I failed with mine for some reason, luckily there’s personnel there help unsuccessful scans, so it went smoothly.image.png

Probably not many people are planning to visit China for tourism purpose but in case you are, hope those tips are useful for you.