Thursday, 14 October 2010

Preparing for the trip to Beijing: Visa, Money & SIM card

Getting the visa from the Chinese Embassy was really easy. In Bangkok the agent fee for bringing the passports to the Embassy, filling out the application form and collecting the passport after 4 days was just 600 Baht (15 Euro). An Express Visa issued by the Chinese Embassy within 2 days was an extra 800 Baht (20 Euro).

So that's done.

Now, when we will arrive at the airport, I will change some money into the Chinese Currency. But you need to know that with an European Cash card (EC card) you can collect money at every ATM machine in Beijing. Not sure about the American ATM cards, but should be the same easy.

It just costs you the usual fee that you would pay in your hometown when not using the ATM machine of your bank. And of course credit cards are widely accepted. In the markets however, only when you have bigger amounts to pay. Not all boutiques and stands do have the facility and if they go, they like to charge 3-5 % on top for using a credit card. I recommend to have local cash when shopping in the markets. And evey market has several ATM machines to refill your wallet...

What to do when you are running late or got lost? Or book to book a massage or a table at a restaurant? Best thing is to have a Chinese prepaid SIM card to be more independent. Nowadays this is so easy. They sell the SIM cards upon arrival at the airport. So that's what I plan to do.

My friend in Beijing actually told me, he would have a SIM card for me. This is a very, very special and useful welcome service, that everyone who lives abroad in a country where you can buy prepaid phone cards could provide for their visitors. In that way you can make sure your family or friends do not get lost.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Planning a trip to Beijing

It has been two years and two months since we have left Beijing.
I always hesitated to go back.

First of all because I did not want to see my son cry at the airport when we would leave Beijing after a visit.

Now, I have to see my son cry for Germany (every now and then, but getting less) since we moved from Germany to Thailand. Is this then the right time to take him back to Beijing for a visit? Next week ?!

Maybe it will be fine for him.
And how about myself?
How will I feel when I see our old house ? My son's best friend still lives in the house next door ...
How will I feel when I will have to take a taxi and struggle with the driver, instead riding my bike freely or call our friendly driver who always knew the way best and around traffic jams ...

This might sound strange if you have never moved.
Can you imagine to travel back in time but not beiing able to recognize your old life?
I think it never works. Past is past.

But I always wanted to go back one day and see and remember and refresh memories. I also have promised to everyone.

And why not now? I am not getting younger...

As I said, we now live in Bangkok, which is 5 hours flight from Beijing. We are closer to China than the last two years while in Germany. This is one advantage.

Then we have a 10 days school holiday coming up. And every friend in Beijing will be in Beijing because they are all travelling right now during the golden week of October.

The third good reason why to travel to Beijing is a very good friend from Germany who will be in Beijing exactly at the same time. And guess how I met her? Through this blog ! But this is another story.
And she will probably help me to see Beijing through new eyes (and not my old past glasses).

And the fourth - and maybe best reason for my readers - is that finally this blog gets a fresh update !!!

So, this time I am writing as a traveller and not like a resident. First of all, I have to organize a visa. I could ask my travel agent here in Bangkok, the additional fee is reasonable. But maybe it will be interesting to visit the Chinese Embassy in person ?

First thing I noted today:
  • I need a tourist visa, type "L" (the 2 pages application form can be downloaded from the internet)
  • Visa approval (in Bangkok) takes 4 days, express visa will take 2 days (and higher fee).
  • The Embassy is closed this week due to national holidays ...

Tonight, I am sitting in Bangkok planning a trip to Beijing to meet old friends and to shop. No pressure of sightseeing. Maybe the Great Wall of China, my favorite sight, together with my son and his friends.
Despite, I have no ticket and no visa, I am in a good mood. I am convinced, that this is the right time to go back and visit my ex hometown of three years!

PS: I have chosen Thai Airways over Air China.


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