I have been coming to Shenzhen since 2002. At times living here fulltime, at times for a short-term (few weeks), at times flying halfway around the world for one meeting. I have been all over China but Shenzhen has always been my base. Over that time I have learned a thing or two about traveling in China. Like how the more expensive option doesn’t always equate to better quality, and how the cheaper option is often the more convenient and time-saving option. Here are a few tips.
Ctrip – (Hotel, Flights, Trains)
I discovered Ctrip years ago and it has never let me down.
Confirmation for hotels is in both English and Chinese, which is very handy when checking in. Save a screenshot of your check-in-voucher in case you cannot access internet right away. You can save in both English and Chinese.
Prices are generally quite a bit cheaper than booking through Western websites. But be careful, look for things like “no window”.
Many options for “paying at hotel” and easy to cancel bookings, because we all know that travel plans change on a dime over here, very handy.
If you run into a problem with your hotel check-in (for example) you can call Ctrip and they have bi-lingual people who can help sort it out with the hotel. This has happened to me, as well as needing to change a Chinese flight, it was painless.
Flights internally and between Asia countries are great through Ctrip. Many times finding options that I cannot see on other travel websites.
Trains, to be honest, I have not taken many trains in China, so I am not an authority on this. But I have booked a few successful train trips on Ctrip as recently as 2016 and I had no problems.
I swear that I do not work for Ctrip, I just haven’t found a better personal “travel agent” in China. AGODA is my back up travel assistant
Look for this logo in APP stores.
Getting to Shenzhen Hotel From Shenzhen Airport
Taxi from Shenzhen airport, 2 kinds, Red taxi and Green taxi. Red is for taking you to Shenzhen City, Green is for the rest of Baoan (suburbs of Shenzhen). Luckily I don’t have to take them too much anymore, which I explain below. But here are some general thoughts. Red Taxis are more honest than Green taxis, period. In 15 years, I have been ripped off in a Red taxi about twice. I can’t count how many times from Green taxis have ripped me off (from the airport). The good news, even when you are ripped off it is not like getting ripped off back home as taxis are cheaper, but it is the principle of it.
Guys at the airport saying they are a taxi, just don’t. That should be explanation enough 😉
Metro (Subway). He shoots, he scores! Shenzhen has had a Metro system for years, but just last year the new line 11 opened up. Newer trains and faster trains that connect the airport to all the other Metro lines and just about every corner of Shenzhen. There is even a business class on the airport line, which at less than $5 from the airport to the center of Shenzhen is a nice option. Download the app METROMAN for Shenzhen. I always try to pick flights that allow me to use the subway, the last train is 11 pm from the airport. Price is great as discussed, but more importantly, Shenzhen traffic can be terrible at times (like many cities), so if there is a Metro stop near where you are staying then the Metro can be a great option. Shenzhen Metro is fully bilingual with all announcements in Chinese and English, so be brave and give it a shot. If you are a newbie you might still want to take a taxi, but if you plan on coming more often I suggest booking hotels near subway lines to open up options for yourself. Getting around Shenzhen, or to the ferry port in Shekou or directly to HK is also possible and quite convenient with the Metro. It can get crowded at peak times, like all Metro’s, but I will take that over sitting in Shenzhen traffic any day.
I swear that I don’t work for Shenzhen Metro, I just remember the days without it, those were dark, dark days
Metro Man App Logo
Getting to Shenzhen Hotel From Hong Kong Airport
My preferred method, if I am staying on the West side of Shenzhen, is to take the HK Airport ferry. If you get to immigration you have gone too far, turn around. Signage is pretty good, just look up and look for Ferry Transfer. You never actually enter Hong Kong, you just transfer through. Price is reasonable and there are several different ports in Shenzhen and beyond on offer. Here is a link to all the best HK Airport Ferry info.
If I am staying on the East side of Shenzhen I prefer to take the HK Metro. First, you get on the Airport Express, easy to find at the airport, which connects to the regular HK Metro, which connects to Shenzhen Metro. Here is the link to figure out your best route.
Another option is Minivan that can take you from HK Airport to Shenzhen Airport. Good price, decent service, look for these options as soon as you clear HK customs. Good option if you are staying out in Baoan somewhere on the West side of Shenzhen. Metro, Taxi and personal pick up options are all good from Shenzhen Airport once you get there.
There is always a Hong Kong taxi that can take you to the border, but it gets expensive fast. Although, for short trips within HK, I do recommend jumping in a taxi as walking to HK Subway trains can be a hike.
Shenzhen is a big place but getting around is not bad if you give yourself some options. The one option I always try to give myself is a hotel near a Metro stop. Best way to beat the traffic is to not be in the traffic 😊
Staying At Shenzhen Hotel
Bring instant coffee. All rooms have kettles, but most offer 3-in-1 coffee (not for me) and many times the coffee at Breakfast is terrible, or again 3-in-1. That is why I pack coffee before underwear when traveling to Shenzhen
A lot of beds are rock hard unless you are staying at a 5 star. This is where Ctrip comes in handy, there are loads of comments from Chinese (that you can translate) and Expats on Ctrip hotel reviews. Don’t assume that because you are paying more the bed will be better. Been there, learned that lesson. It can be a problem, so do your homework.
Many rooms don’t have fridges, but there is normally a small store within 50 m or less of the hotel. Cold beverages can be a problem, be prepared.
TP, bring a roll with you, just in case, trust me. Enough said.
WiFi is normally very good at hotels. In 15 years there was only 1 time when I stayed at a hotel and could not get online. So I don’t even really think about it when I book hotels in China, I just assume it will be ok.
Internet access to your preferred websites is a different story. You will have to find a workaround, but I won’t get into that, I am sure you can find options
Most hotels don’t offer Gyms, so if you need a bit of a workout do some jogging or walking and get some exploring in at the same time.
Want to unwind with a little TV before bed? Probably not, unless you bring your own entertainment, most TV is in Chinese with 1 or 2 HK channels that sometimes have English. You might get lucky and have a hotel with movies-on-demand (good prices too), or Western channels, but chances are not high.
If you like to unwind at the end of a long day with a drink, in say a pub, you will probably be disappointed. Futian and Shekou districts in Shenzhen offer Western-style pubs/bars. But many other districts don’t have this option. Chinese prefer to have a social drink over a meal or in a nightclub, not many Pubs around. But that’s ok, you will need your sleep anyway 😊
I love Chinese food, not everyone does, but I do and eat it all the time. That said, I don’t love rice and noodles for breakfast, which, unless you are at a 5 star is generally what is on offer. For me, I combat this problem by buying some fruit for the mornings. You can almost always find someone selling fruit close to your hotel, it is a good option for the mornings.
Just a few things that I have learned over 15 years of coming to Shenzhen. I hope one of my tips helps save the day for you on a trip to Shenzhen 😉