Setting Up A New Life in Shanghai

Some tips and tricks that will make your transition to Shanghai run much smoother. 

March 11, 2019
• by
Malih Kabbani

First day After a long journey, you will arrive at PVG which is a big airport. There is plenty of places to grab a meal, but most are Chinese based companies and will only accept Chinese RMB or a Chines card. If you don’t have either, you will need to find a currency exchange or an ATM. You can find a currency exchange between the Magelift train and the McDonalds. As for an ATM, I’m not sure. 

 There are several ways to get to where you are staying. You can use the Mageleft train if you’re closer to the city center. If you’re on campus, you can take a train, a taxi, or a DiDi. The subway will cost you about ten RMB (around $1.5); however, I only recommend this if you are traveling light and if you have some experience with subways. The ride will take you a little under two hours and there are three transfers. Everything is in English, so if you plan ahead using Google maps, you should be fine. Alternately, you can get to the campus using DiDi or a taxi, and it will cost you 150-200 RMB (around $25-30). If you take a taxi, have your address written in Chinese because the driver is likely to not speak any English.  

The check-in process will vary from place to place, but at the dorm, you will need to deposit 300 RMB in cash before you can check in. They have an ATM near the dorm if you are short on RMB. If you stay at the Dorm, the payment for the whole semester is due a week and a half after you check in which gives you time to open a bank account and transfer money into it. You will likely pay for your room using WeChat. If you still don’t have a room, check into a hotel or a hostel and try to find something around campus or use the YOGA housing agency website to find housing closer to downtown.

My dorm room

If you arrive in mid-February, Shanghai and the dorms are very cold. In fact, I was in Germany before I arrived, and it was colder in Shanghai due to the strong winds. There is a Walmart a mile from the dorm and an IKEA about four miles away. Both of these are international companies, will help raise the living standards of your room, and best of all will accept US credit cards. In fact, any international company will take your Visa card. If you are told that they can not take your card, insist that it can be done and ask them to try it again in a different way. For the first lesson in China, you will be told you cannot do something if the person does not know how to do it. In other words, they will not admit to not knowing how to do something. Side note, I looked everywhere for index cards and was unable to find them anywhere.

After you settle in, go to the Bank and open an account. I highly recommend CCB or ICBC. I banked with CCB, and they are really good for internationally money transfer/wiring. They will request your school acceptance letter, your passport, your SSN, and a Chinese phone number. This will require a lot of patience. The process will take about an hour or two and will feel as if you are signing away your life. Relax, sign the papers and ask about what you are signing because it is not all in English. You will need about 500 RMB deposit to open the account. If you do not have a Chinese phone number yet, use the number of your dorm but you will need to return with your passport and a new number once you get it. This too will take some time.

You are almost done setting up! You just need to get some money into your account so you can pay for things. You can do this by wire transfer, Western Mutual, an ATM withdrawal, or bringing your cash with you. Wire transfer will take about a week to clear, and you will need to get some information from the Chinese bank like the swift number. Once transferred you will need to go back to the exact branch where you opened the account in order to sign off on the deposit. You can ask the banker to help you download the banks' app and to add your Chinese card to WeChat. If you do it on your own, enter your name in the same way it appears on your Passport (Including all caps). Western Mutual is also another good option.