For remote workers and digital nomads, China presents an appealing mix of modern city conveniences, affordable living costs and rich cultural experiences. However, its strict internet censorship and firewall make working while traveling in China more challenging.
This comprehensive guide covers key considerations across visa regulations, workspaces, technology, banking, cultural adaptation and more for digital nomads in China. Follow this advice to successfully establish yourself in China for an extended period of work and travel.
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Securing the Right Visa
One of the first steps is sorting out your visa situation properly. Many digital nomads attempt to enter China on a tourist visa, which permits stays of up to 30 days only. Those caught working remote jobs on a tourist visa can face fines, detention or even deportation.
For longer term stays, research visas like the M visa (for commercial business activities), F visa (for exchanges, non-commercial activities) or X1/X2 student visas. The requirements and eligibility for each vary based on your home country. Work with a visa agency specializing in China to ensure you obtain an appropriate visa that legally permits remote work or business activities under its terms.
Finding Suitable Short-Term Accommodations
Major cosmopolitan cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen offer the most options for digital nomad friendly accommodations. These cities have co-living establishments, with amenities like high speed internet, community events and office facilities tailored specifically to location independent professionals. While pricier than other options, they provide turnkey setup.
Otherwise, regular apartment shares and sublets can also be found via websites like Airbnb or listings aimed at expats in China. Explain your remote work needs when searching to find hosts amenable to your lifestyle. For short 1-2 week stays, hostels and budget business hotels also work in a pinch.
Obtaining the Right Technology and Tools
With tools such as Google, Slack, GitHub, Zoom, and Google Play Store blocked in China, dealing with internet censorship is one of the biggest challenges in China. To access essential work tools and infrastructure, investing in a reliable commercial VPN before arriving is strongly advised.
You can find reliable VPNs from online VPN reviews, or doing web search in Chinese with phrases such as “中国VPN推荐“. Free VPNs often lack the speeds or stability required. Configure your computer and mobile devices with the VPN app before leaving your home country to ensure seamless access.
Also have secondary communication methods established, as apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype and regular Gmail are restricted. Options include Telegram, Signal, ProtonMail or old fashioned email.
Finding Suitable Workspaces
While working from cafes or public spaces is common for digital nomads, China often presents challenges like inconsistent Wi-Fi quality, lack of power outlets and noise. Coworking spaces located in major cities offer reliable internet, office infrastructure, and community connections.
Major chains like WeWork or Spaces have outlets in Beijing and Shanghai. Independent coworking spaces like Shanghai Office and The Hive also cater to digital nomads at affordable rates. Ask nomad communities for recommendations of the best spots with fast, stable internet.
Opening a Chinese Bank Account
For paying rent, utilities, transportation and other living expenses in China, having a local bank account makes life much easier compared to relying on cash, foreign cards or international transfers. Ask landlords or new local connections for assistance in opening an account at banks like ICBC, Bank of China or China Construction Bank.
Provide the required identity documents like your passport and local visa. There will likely be a minimum balance requirement and small account fees. Once your account is open, you can link it to WeChat/Alipay to easily pay for things. Withdraw larger amounts of cash at once since daily ATM withdrawal limits are low.
Immersing Yourself in the Local Culture
Living abroad for an extended period provides wonderful opportunities for cultural exchange and growth. Take time to socialize with fellow digital nomads and locals to gain insight into Chinese social norms surrounding appropriate work communication, behavioral etiquette in public/private spaces, local laws and more.
Practice basic Mandarin phrases. Visit cultural sites and different neighborhoods beyond just the downtown districts. Maintain an open attitude toward experiences and conversations that challenge your worldview. The personal growth and relationships built will greatly enrich your time in China.
China presents unique challenges but also amazing opportunities for digital nomads. By securing the right visa, tools and workspaces, adjusting to cultural norms, and connecting with the local community, your time working and living in China will be vibrant, meaningful and productive. Follow these tips to successfully establish yourself as a digital nomad in China.