Hiking in Huangshan National Park | Travel China

Hiking in Huangshan National Park | Travel China

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Mini City Break Away from the City

It’s about time that I posted a little review of time spent hiking in Huangshan National Park in Yunnan province of China. I visited the famous mountain scenes in August of 2017 and had the opportunity to see some incredible views of ‘the sea of clouds‘ or ‘cloud sea‘ as a backdrop to some pretty stunning limestone peaks. Here’s a short round up of how I went about going, what I thought and a few snaps of the beautiful landscapes to be seen there.

If you would like to read more about my time in China or some of the places I visited when I was living and working in Shanghai you can find all of them on my blog. I enjoyed exploring parts of China like Beijing and Suzhou and of course Shanghai!

A number one destination for travellers heading to China is the famous Huangshan mountains or Yellow Mountains as they are also known. You can get a feeling of what to expect by glimpsing traditional Chinese paintings inspired by the sharp, jagged mountain peaks that can be seen in the park. After many years of wanting to experience the culture and history of China, I had to go see some of these for myself!

As I was based in Shanghai I set about finding a way to get myself to these magical mountains away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. I found a local touring and adventure group by the name of M2 Adventure which if you are travelling solo or trying to plan a trip around work in the city, these guys are a great option to look up. They run adventure groups for locals and foreigners in Shanghai and the surrounding areas to hotspot destinations over weekends, holidays or tailor made groups. I wanted to fit a trip in around my work and meet some like minded people at the same time, I saw they were headed to Huangshan and at an affordable price too! I paid around 700RMB for the 2 day hike with accommodation included and dinners. This also included entry to the park, transport, cable car tickets (which I didn’t end up using, so was reimbursed about 80RMB) and M2 team leader guides.

We left at around 7:30pm on the Friday and travelled for about 6 hours to our overnight accommodation at a hotel near to the entrance of The Yellow Mountains. We had breakfast in the morning and stocked up on bottles of water (breakfast included in hotel fee). We then headed for about 4 hours towards the start of our hike. Our coach dropped us off at an entrance to a ‘non touristy’ part of the mountains (less people and slightly harder path to take). The views were stunning and we hiked for the whole day, stopping for lunch and arriving at our hostel at the top at around 6:00pm. It was a long day but the views were worth it, we had a little damp start with clouds obstructing most of the mountains but towards the end of the day we had some spectacular views.

๐Ÿ”

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Those misty clouds โ˜๏ธ๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป#hikingvibes

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๐ŸŒฑ

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Beihai Hotel was our choice of hostel at the top providing hot showers, a place to rest and food to replenish our depleted energy levels; as well as a few Tsingtao beers to boost morale! The next morning we woke up at around 5am to witness one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen so far!! There was a crowd gathered and it was hard to get a god spot so a few of us decided to climb trees, which was definitely worth the extra effort as we managed to watch the sun rays slowly peak over the infamous ‘sea of clouds’ as they slowly floated behind those sharp silhouetted mountain tops.

โ˜€๏ธ

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#tbt to this stunning sunrise ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป#sunrisehike

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We had breakfast and carried on our hike towards the top – yeah we still weren’t right at the top yet! Sunday graced us with sunny skies and humid temperatures in contrast to the previous day. We hiked from 7:00am to 13:00pm where some took a cable to the bottom and others (I was in this group) decided to give it one last push and get right to the top to witness the second largest peaks views in Huangshan and then hike to the bottom by foot.

My legs did not take this decision too well but my eyes got to see some more breathtaking views from the top!

Hiking in Huangshan National Park - Gunns Travels

2 days worth of climbing steps to reach the top was well worth it ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿปfresh air, sunshine and natural beauty #yellowmountains #chinatravel

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#viewsfordays Cloud Sea โ˜๏ธ #mountainscape

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๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป#landscapehunter #viewsfordays

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๐ŸŒฒ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒณ #mountainscape #hikingtrail

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When we finally got to the bottom, we took a short coach ride to our main coach, had some well deserved lunch and then headed back to Shanghai. Arriving in the city at about 7/8:00pm in the evening.

It was just what I needed to revive myself from the city grind and M2 Adventure were super organised, friendly and delivered what they promised and more! Thoroughly recommend them if you’re in or around Shanghai.

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Gunns Travels Update & Current Plans

Gunns Travels Update & Current Plans

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Hello!

It has been a little while since I last gave any kind of update on my current situation in regards to travel; and so I thought that, before I carried on I would give anyone who has followed up to this point an update.

If you haven’t followed up to this point, then I’ll give you a brief catch up: On this site I tell the stories of my travels and give an honest account of the things I have experienced. I have volunteered in Nepal, travelled Australia and talked in depth about my experience as a Team Leader in Ghana with VSO –ย all of this and more you can find on my blog. Most recently I used my TEFL qualification to go and teach English in Shanghai, China. Now we are all up to date, let me tell you how after all that, I ended up back in the UK taking a different path to what I had intended on doing for the next year…

So, I am back in the UK and although I’m not happy about the sudden drop in temperature change, I am happy to be back; but not for the reasons you’d expect.

Coming home is obviously full of nice comforts: foods, family, understanding shop assistants, not getting hit by cars crossing the road…but I am more happy to be back, so I can focus on things that I have more passion for. Don’t get me wrong, teaching English in Shanghai was a fantastic opportunity and I certainly learnt a lot from it. I got to experience daily life in China and be immersed in a culture that I had been long fascinated by – as well as getting to fit as many freshly steamed dumplings into my time as possible! But for me it was never about pursuing a career in teaching, which I came to find was a pretty common thing amongst foreign teachers doing the same.

Let me say first up that living in a different country is hard. I am no stranger to being away from home but this time it was different. I think in the end for me, it was that I had put myself into an environment that I just wouldn’t enjoy living in. It came as no surprise to me that the neon, grey bricked and sky scraping surroundings were going to be something that just didn’t interest me.

The novelty soon wore off for me; I enjoyed seeing it all for the first few weeks and then weeks turned into months and I found that the surroundings were having a direct effect on me. I’m more of a green open space kind of guy. I enjoyed aspects of the job and I loved living the Chinese culture – I was even taking Chinese lessons! The only thing was I knew I didn’t want to pursue teaching as a career and knew there were other passions I had put on hold because I had wanted to see how this experience went. It wasn’t working. I weighed it up and decided that the best thing for me was to head home and ‘re-group’.

Fast forward to now and as I sip my boiling hot coffee trying to ward off the chill of a Friday morning. I feel so much happier knowing that, although I have yet again decided to steer off into a different direction. I am only heading to something more fulfilling – at least that’s my hope.

Right, all sounds great but what’s the actual update? Ok, ok – sometimes I gotta find a creative outlet for writing ya know?

THE PLAN (along with some amendments and minor changes to ‘the plan version 26 original draft’)

My passions have always been surrounded by travel: most notably my volunteering experiences. They have been what have defined me and my goals from the start of this travelling bug or full fledged personality trait as it now has manifested into.

What I have realised is that it is not necessarily ‘travelling‘ that is what I need to feel ‘happy’. It is the sense of personal freedom that comes with something like travelling. I guess it’s more the sense of being able to move around anywhere, anytime without being tied to anything. Which is a pretty common desire for so many people that are pursuing the ‘laptop lifestyle‘ the ‘digital nomads‘ and ‘dreamers‘. This is what I want to create for myself and this blog.

My first point of action is to focus more time on the things that fuel my creativity. I want to dedicate more time to design, drawing and creative outlets. I have begun to try and create habits that help me sustain my ‘creative bank account‘ but as much as I wish it did, currently this doesn’t sustain my ‘financial bank account‘.

I’ve set up my store which sells a variety of unique hand drawn products inspired by my travels that I hope to grow and add to in the next few months!

Gunns Designs Shop More Products

My second motivation is to put more time into my other passion: volunteering. I will be working for Latitude Global Volunteeringย in their digital marketing & design department for the next 3 months! They are a global player in the volunteering sector and here is a little snippet of what they believe in:


Lattitude-Global-Volunteering-jpg-1

“Lattitude Global Volunteering is an international youth development charity.ย  Our mission is to educate and develop young people worldwide by providingย opportunities to volunteer abroad andย to make a positive difference to the lives of others through a distinctive, challenging, structured and supported overseas volunteering experience in a culture and community different from their own.

Through volunteering abroad, we give young people the opportunity to experience the world beyond their community and to truly engage with it.ย  We help to developย young peopleโ€™s awareness and responsibilities towards themselves and others, and equip them with employability and life skills.”


They’re pretty awesome and I’m proud to be working somewhere that I can truly be passionate about!

I’ll also be taking on multiple part time ‘side projects‘ (a fancy way of saying I’ll be taking on retail work *again*, client work and any commissions I can get!) to supplement the time I’m investing into these passions. I say ‘investing‘ because hopefully I’ll see a return on it early next year but if nothing else, I would have focused towards the ‘lifestyle‘ I am striving for.

Lastly, I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has read, supported, bought art, encouraged or endured my constant ‘change of plans’ in the last few years of writing about my travels & creating artwork. I always appreciate every opportunity I have had and I hope to continue to inspire more adventures, creativity and to follow your passion persistently until you create your own reality.

Peace & Love

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China Instagram Highlights

China Instagram Highlights

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As with all my trips I captured a lot of the people, places and moments whilst working in China. There’s nothing I enjoy more than giving others a glimpse into daily life whilst I travel. My chosen platform is always Instagram and with this post I thought I’d round up my favourite posts from my time in China. It was hard to choose a few for this post, so if you want to see more remember to check my Instagram for more! If you’d like to read more about my time in China then read this post on Shanghai and here for Beijing.

The neon lights in East Nanjing make walking around a sightseeing adventure of their own ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป#streetart

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Amazing views seen from The Bund at night. Need to find somewhere high up for the next shot #shanghaicity

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Best part of going somewhere new is going off the beaten track. There are so many little alleys, streets and corners of the city to see #localspot

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Orderly chaos in the backstreets of the city #exploreshanghai #chinagram

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Sitting, waiting and thinking #peopleofshanghai

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#templeart #goldenbuddha

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‘Three’s a crowd’ #shanghai #peopleofshanghai

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#peopleofbeijing #beijing ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ

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The Chinese dragon is a symbol of imperial authority and people rub the dragon heads for luck ๐Ÿ‰ #chineseculture #chinesedragon #beijing

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Hidden places walking through the famous hutongs of the capital ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ #streetshots #chinatravel

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#streettour #peopleofbeijing ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ

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Being in a new place allows you to look at things from different angles. Creativity is contagious, pass it on #nightphoto #chinesestyle

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New post on #Beijing is up on the blog *link in bio* #chinatravel

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Last full week in #Shanghai and I’m making sure I explore as much as possible #cityviews

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2 days worth of climbing steps to reach the top was well worth it ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿปfresh air, sunshine and natural beauty #yellowmountains #chinatravel

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๐Ÿ—บ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป#landscapehunter #viewsfordays

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Exploring Beijing! Forbidden City, The Great Wall and Peking Duck

Exploring Beijing! Forbidden City, The Great Wall and Peking Duck

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A long weekend getaway to Beijing was one of the best few days of my travel experience here in China. I have always wanted to visit this busy, ancient and cultured city. I finally got the chance when I decided to head there for a long weekend break, here’s how and what I did when I visited the Chinese capital.

Forbidden City pt.I – I am still on a high from my #Beijing trip and so grateful to have seen it with my own eyes ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ #chinagram

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I flew using an online travel service Ctrip, a popular all in one flight/train/tour/hotel search engine. Ctrip has it’s own easy to use and efficient app for anyone traveling around Asia. I booked very last minute flights at between 700-800Rmb each way. As I decided to fly incredibly last minute it’s always a gamble as to whether you are able to get the best price but i was pretty happy with what I paid, especially as it’s a popular time to visit!

I also booked my accommodation as I was waiting at the airport to depart, through Ctrip and stayed at The Sanlitun Inn located 10 minutes walk outside of Sanlitun main area and 10 minutes away from line 2 subway stop Dashitiao. I found it had what I needed and I stayed in one of the budget rooms with bed and bathroom for 200rmb per night. It was all I wanted as I didn’t plan to spend much time in the room. I also got A/C which was a plus!

I would always encourage people to ‘plan as they go‘ it’s the best way and comes with less frustration. I’d also say make sure you have an idea of what you want to see from a weekend trip, as you do have to think about the timing. I knew I wanted to see The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, eat Peking Duck and obviously walk The Great Wall! With this in mind, anything else I managed to see and do was a bonus!

I arrived on the Saturday afternoon, checked in and instantly made my way to the Subway to head over to Tienanmen Square. The subway is easy and efficient to use, download this app to make your trip effortless when it comes to getting around the city.

You can also make use of these bike sharing apps Ofo and Mobike for an easy way to get around and see the streets from your bicycle seat.

Day 2 and my first full day of exploring. Sunday I headed out early, around 6:30am to head towards my first checkpoint: The infamous Forbidden City! Getting up at this time also allows you to catch a glimpse of early Beijingers lives. The elderly usually gather to take part in dancing, taichi and games at this time. You’ll see morning commuters and catch an authentic insight into daily life of the people here. I paid 60rmb per person in peak times to enter The Forbidden City but off peak is 30rmb pp. I spent a couple of hours walking around the compound which is huge. You can’t possibly cover all of it in a weekend trip unless you dedicate a huge amount of time, which I didn’t have. I streamlined straight through to the end and made my way up through Zhongshan Park (10rmb per ticket) to get a view of Beijing from above, which if your lucky weather wise, is amazing!

Beijing really helped remind me of why I choose to come and explore China ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป #beijingtrip

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Once I’d taken in the incredible view I headed over towards the Temple of Heaven at subway stop Tiantandongmen . I grabbed some lunch before I entered the park and then made my way to my next checkpoint: The Temple of Heaven – 35rmb entry ticket.

#chinesedesign #chineseart

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The stunning UNESCO world heritage site ‘The Temple of Heaven’ ๐Ÿ™ #templelife #beijingcity

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I finished around mid afternoon so still had plenty if time to fit in some other unplanned things! I enjoyed just walking round parts if the city taking in the atmosphere and sights. In the evening I ventured over to Sanlitun shopping area, an expat hub which had tones of malls, shops and restaurants as well as clubs and bars. My mission though, was Peking Duck. We found a small bar that served roast duck. For half a duck I paid 170 Rmb which is a little pricey but when in Beijing…

P.s. It was definitely worth it!

For my last full day I had planned one thing and one thing only. The Great Wall of China! I had found a tour via another blogger – a private hire car service which you can read more about here. I was short on time and was willing to pay a little more to make sure I got to the wall smoothly and easily. I visited theย Mutianyu section of the Wall, as I wanted a little less of a touristy experience and I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I have done in my travel experiences. It seems to get mixed reviews but I had dreamt of visiting the iconic wall since I even thought about visiting different countries. It’s one of the main things I wanted to make sure I saw during my China adventures and I was left in awe. We headed there early around 7:15am and I was on the wall by 8:30am. Just in time to catch the sun coming up behind the mountains, creating a misty cloud around the wall in the distance. Truly a spectacular sight!

#greatwallofchina #mountainscape

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#greatwallofchina #traveltribe

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We were finished by 12:00pm, I took a toboggan down to the bottom of the wall and headed back to Beijing. I asked if I could be dropped of at Sichahuai and my driver was more than happy to help. As I had only planned one thing on this day, the rest was all unplanned and a bonus!

I explored Beijing’s famous Hutong districts. A collection of very old streets as buildings untouched by modern development as they are located around the centre of the city. Some great photo opportunities and chances to imagine the locals daily life years ago.

I managed to visit Beijing’s drum tower which served as the central time keeping for the citizens back in the day. I paid 20rmb but you can buy a combo ticket for 30rmb to visit the drum as bell towers located opposite each other. They have regular drum performances throughout the day and is definitely worth a visit if your looking for something extra to do during your stay.

The evening I spent eating duck and lots of street food over at Wangfujing and taking some night time snaps.

Walking around the very busy commercial street of Wangfujing in #Beijing taking in the bustling atmosphere #nightphotography

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My last half day to explore and I decided to head to Beihai park to visit the Buddhistย White Dagoba there and experience a little nature before I left. I paid 10rmb for the park ticket and 10rmb to enter the Dagoba. A charming little(well very big) park that offers old temples, traditional architecture, boating, dancing, singing and a huge white Buddhist Dagoba located in the middle of the lake. I also paid 10rmb to ride on one of the ferries one way taking people across to the Island. The perfect way to spend my last few hours.

I caught a flight in the evening back to Shanghai and was left feeling completely in awe of this great city. True, cultured, authentic China that I had always dreamt of seeing. I learnt that the Chinese people love steps, stone and squares!ย If you haven’tย  thought about heading to Beijing, I’d thoroughly recommend it!

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ไฝ ๅฅฝ Nว hวŽo China | Observations, Culture and Reflections

ไฝ ๅฅฝ Nว hวŽo China | Observations, Culture and Reflections

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I have now been in China for almost half a year, which is crazy to think how fast the time has gone. It has been both a fascinating discovery and one of my hardest experiences yet. It’s been up and down throughout my short time here. Things are also about to change again for me. I’ve written down a few of my observations from my daily life living in China and what I have experienced whilst working in the pearl of the orient, Shanghai.

Language

Chinese lessons

Since arriving in China one of the first things that hit me was the obvious language difference. Listening to sounds I’d never heard before. People communicating and not being able to read anything was a new feeling. I’d experienced a different language before sure, but at least it was the same alphabet! This immersion in a new and unfamiliar surrounding meant I had to learn fast. Within a couple of weeks of arriving i’d picked up a few of the basics – if I was pronouncing them correctly is a different thing altogether. I knew I had to be serious about it or not all. Luckily Shanghai is such an international city that there are English translations for most things here and people get by living here for years without having to speak any Chinese. They also have a ‘pinyin’ version of the Chinese characters, which is great! But what’s the point of going to a different country and not giving it a go! I found a Chinese tutor to go alongside my own self teaching schedule and a few months later I feel a little more confident with the basics. I can read some characters which is pretty cool and I’m enjoying getting to grips with it as time goes on.

Tones

If you’ve learnt or are learning Mandarin Chinese, then you’ll know straight away that there are different tones when you speak. It’s like you’re singing and unfortunately for me, I pretty much have one tone when I talk. So, learning the 4 basic tones was difficult. I could be saying the same thing over and over but because I haven’t gone slightly high in my tone or high then low, the word can be misheard or not received at all.

Characters

Learning some of the ancient Chinese characters was always a dream of mine and I can say now I know at least 10 different characters and how to write them. Only another 3000+ to go, small steps! It’s fascinating to see them everywhere and I feel like the smartest person ever when I can identify some of the characters while I’m waiting for the metro! I still have yet to take a calligraphy class to learn the traditional way of painting these characters but I can’t wait to try it out.

Language barriers and understandings

As I’ve experienced before a different language comes with different understandings of words and meanings. I have miscommunications about really small simple things on a daily basis here. Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘how are you?’….which sometimes gets a blank stare but on the whole it’s usually resolved by laughing it off and a smile! If you travel anywhere you’ve always got to be prepared for some sort of language barrier, that’s why I always try to learn the basics. If you make the effort, It shows you care about their culture and language too.

Kids in class teach me

One of the best things about teaching is learning stuff from the kids! Every time we break halfway through class they find it hilarious to teach me some Chinese. They’ll often scribble out a character on the board and I have to remind them that I need to learn baby Chinese first, which they find hilarious and jot down the pinyin version for me. Keep laughing kids, I’m still getting a free Chinese lesson!

Culture

It goes without saying that Chinese culture is both ancient and unique. There really is nothing like it and getting to live and breathe it first hand is a truly an incredible experience. I have always dreamt of seeing the diverse traditions, details and customs that this country holds. I have not been disappointed when it comes to grandure, tastes and festivals. Shanghai is a modern metropolis sandwich with parts of old tradition. I’m looking forward to exploring more of this enormous country!

Late night #streetfood is where it’s at ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป#foodography

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Roads

All I will say is that if you have been to Asia in general you’ll understand why the ‘road system’ (if there is one) is so different to that in the west. Red and green lights have a whole new meaning here. Just get across alive.

Phones

Everyone here is glued to their phone. There is no age limit to it either. You’ll often find the young and elderly both playing their favorite crush games or scrolling through wechat moments in the metro and around the city. In fact, if you just take a trip on the metro and look up around you, you’ll notice everyone will be looking down into their rectangular shaped abyss’ for the entire journey. They’ll still be looking at it as they bump their way out into the doors and up the escalators too.

‘Three’s a crowd’ #shanghai #peopleofshanghai

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Family unit

Having a family is the pinnical of most Chinese peoples goals. They give everything to their children and from what I saw, sometimes over do it! But the intentions are good. It is also normal to send a quarter (sometimes more) of your wages to your parents every month when they are older to care for them. Incorporating the elderly into family life and society is so apparent in China. Something western society could learn so much from. However, there’s always a flip side, this integration into the family unit is usually because the parents are too busy and overworked to care/give attention for their children. I was able to witness that every day when it was the grandparents who dropped off and picked up the students from school.

I have learnt a lot about the country, culture and people in my 6 months I’m China. It’s incredibly different to anything I’ve experienced and if I’m honest I don’t think I was expecting it to be so hard. Who knows how long I’ll be here for and if things will get easier with my lessons and adjustment. All I know is that I am grateful I have had the chance to see parts of China that I had always dreamed of seeing. If you’re interested in heading to Beijing, check out my post here!

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Green Spaces | Shanghai

Green Spaces | Shanghai

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This is a post about the ‘green spaces’ in Shanghai. As someone who is usually surrounded by nature when I travel, living and working in a city is something new to me; so of course I had to search out the little pockets in the city. There are some stunning places to visit and I will continue to update this post with new places I visit in the coming weeks. But I wanted to start with a few spots I have found so far…

Yu Yuan Garden

In the first few weeks of arriving in Shanghai I had to be a full on tourist, so hit all the hot spots in Shanghai! Yu Yuan Garden was one of the first things I visited and I was relieved to find a peaceful spot in amongst the beautiful chaos of the bustling city surroundings.

/ Yu / in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying

“Yu Yuan Garden is a famous classical garden located in Anren Jie, Shanghai. It was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. Yu in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying, and this garden was specially built for Pan’s parents as a place for them to enjoy a tranquil and happy time in their old age.”

Entry cost is 30RMB so about ยฃ3! Super cheap for a great morning or afternoon visit and worthwhile trip.

I thought the gardens were fascinating to walk around and admire the old Chinese architecture. A bit surreal when you look up and notice skyscrapers towering around this tranquil ancient garden. The pond in the centre is filled with golden fish and terrapins for you to relax with. A nice chance to have a little space from the cramped city outside – as long as it is not too busy with tourists or locals! Plan an early visit to get the chance for a little more tranquility.

I’ve always thought Chinese #dragons were pretty awesome ๐Ÿ‰๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ

A post shared by Jack โœˆ๏ธ๐ŸŒŽ๐Ÿ‘Œ (@gunns_travels) on

Finding the little peaceful spots ๐Ÿ™ #positivevibes

A post shared by Jack โœˆ๏ธ๐ŸŒŽ๐Ÿ‘Œ (@gunns_travels) on

I’d definitely recommend a visit to this beautiful garden situated in the city. Once you’re done with the garden there are hundreds of shops, old Chinese style buildings and food stalls for you to grab some delicious Chinese cuisine and souvenirs.

Century Park

Along Line 2 on the Shanghai Metro is the stop for Century Park, a huge green space that has been designated for forest areas and a big lake with a backdrop of the skyscrapers surrounding the park. It costs 10RMB to get into the park for the day. You can grab food at some of the restaurants and cafes found scattered around the park, go on a small boat around the lake, listen to music at an open amphitheater, visit the small amusement park for kids or a spot of fishing.

Make sure you stay up to date by following my social channels โ€“ I upload regularly to Instagram and right now there are some pretty cool shots from my Shanghai so far. Check them out and connect!

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Arriving in Shanghai & starting work at Kid Castle

Arriving in Shanghai & starting work at Kid Castle

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What to expect for the first few weeks in Shanghai working at Kid Castle teaching English.


I made it!

If you read my previous post on what I had to do to get this organised you’ll know it was a pretty drawn out process getting here. So when I finally stepped across that immigration border into Shanghai I was pretty excited and relieved!

Although I will say, there was still a lot more waiting to be done when I crossed to the other side. So let’s begin…

First off, Arrival:

I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t receive any arrival details…the last thing I read was an e-mail from the HR department telling me that the ‘Arrival Team’ would be in touch with details – this was hours before my flight. So I didn’t know what to expect at all. Nevertheless I boarded my Aeroflot flight via Moscow and made my 15 hour journey to Shanghai.

I arrived at the airport and everything was fairly similar to every other airport I have been to. Immigration was nice and quick, I even managed to get in my first ‘Ni hao’ and ‘shi shi’ (No idea if I’m spelling those correctly but Hello & Thank you!)

I exited the airport, desperately looking for something that had the company logo, name, my name or a smile…I noticed a paper sign written in black marker with my first and middle name on it…? Firstly, only my first and middle name? and secondly a piece of paper and marker pen!

I went over to him and tried to ask if he was from Kid Castle but all I got was ‘No English’ – which I of course replied with ‘No Chinese’. Huh. What to do, I stayed calm and followed the guy to a taxi – sounds pretty dodgy so far right – the annoying thing was my trusty phrasebook was buried down into my hand luggage and I had no free hand to fish it out.

Ok, so I got into the taxi, still searching for anything with that colourful Kid Castle logo on it. Nothing. We drove for about an hour and a half. So the drive was pretty long, especially when you’re in silence…

Now I know this all sounds pretty sketchy so far but what I will say is, I was expecting a driver when I landed and to the drivers credit he was pretty helpful.

But Kid Castle arrival team – you gotta work on you’re airport pick up – just a business card or something more ‘official’ would put anyone at ease as soon as they walk out of the airport into a foreign country they’re about to spend at least a year in or at least their full name in a printed word format? Something so simple could have saved the worry and once I had met some of the other foreign teachers they seemed to share the same experience.


The Kid Castle Dormitory:

We finally arrived to the shared accommodation I would be spending my first few weeks in. Kid Castle provide accommodation in a shared apartment with other foreign teachers also arriving at the same time. The accommodation is free for 30 days from the first day you arrive. It is located in South Qilianshan Road which is near metro line 13. The apartment is surrounded by other apartment blocks and is secured with security gates at the front. You’ll get a key to the dorm and a card to enter the gate.

  • Free for 30 days (They deduct 200RMB for utility bills out of your first wage)
  • South Qilianshan
  • Metro Line 13

The dorm was a lot better than I was expecting. Of course everyone has different levels of comfort but for a temporary fix the place was ok. There are 3 bedrooms with bunk beds in them, so you’ll be sharing with another teacher. The beds do have mattresses and there are some pillows but don’t expect luxury – I always carry with me a sleeping bag (I’d recommend bringing one with you.)

There is a separate bedroom for the female teachers with separate bathroom (Although when I was there the females used the other bathroom because of issues with hot water – but this may have been fixed since writing this). The bathroom is an ok size with a western toilet and there is shared living space with sofas, TV, dining table and kitchen. The kitchen has a microwave, oven (although not sure anyone uses this), washing machine, sink and fridge. There is a balcony off of the living room where there is enough space to sit or hang washing out to dry. The apartment is located on the 18th floor, so the view isn’t bad.

You will getย wi-fi and an air con unit for hot/cold air in the living room.


Kid Castle Training:

Within 30 minutes of arriving in the dorm and speaking to a foreign teacher who was already there – which was a nice relief to hear that it was Kid Castle, the same thing happened to him and not to worry – I was met by one of the arrival team members (finally). He took me straight out to go set up my Chinese sim card and register at the police station. I threw my stuff in to a room and did a quick turn around.


Metro Station

We went to the metro which was like 10 minutes away from the dorm – very handy for training! I got a metro card which works the same as an oyster card if you’ve been to London. It’s a cash card that you can re-load money on to. I put 100RMB on it at first which was plenty as most metro journeys cost between 3-6RMB depending on the distance. We went to the office which is at the end of line 13 on Jinyun Road.

The machines don’t take cash so the arrival team member used his bank card to purchase the card and I gave him ย the cash.

The metro card is 20RMB – one time payment

Loading the card I paid 80RMB

Total cost was 100RMB


Sim Card

We went to China Telecom to get a sim card set up. Make sure you take an unlocked phone, as it will make your life so much easier when you go abroad – that’s for any country, not just China!

For China Telecom the package options were (Correct as of March 2017):

76 RMB = 200 mins/800MB

106 RMB = 300 mins/1GB

136 RMB = 500mins/1GB

166 RMB = 500mins/2GB

196 RMB = 500mins/3GB

296 RMB = 1000mins/4GB

396 RMB = 2000mins/6GB

596 RMB = 3000mins/11GB

*They also make you pay a kind of deposit when you purchase a plan; so for example I went for the 166 RMB plan and had to pay an extra 20 RMB up front but they deduct this off your monthly payment. So you get it back eventually. Just bear that cost in mind when you come.*


Police Registration

The police station is a 2 minute walk from the office and they will take you to get this done. It is very straightforward and only takes a few minutes. Just have your passport, visa, work permit and Kid Castle dorm address at hand. Done!

Arrival Bonus/Re-reimbursement

I was lucky enough to receive my 5000RMB flight, medical, visa expenses bonus the day I arrived. They give it to you in cash, however some of the other teachers mentioned they had to wait a couple of days before getting it, but I’m sure if you asked they would get it sorted for you! Everyone seems very friendly and happy to help.

The office is very big and official looking – which is definitely what I needed to see to put me at ease about the company. I met the HR team I had been in contact with, received my dorm key, card and signed the contracts.

Now, usually you would have 2 days of orientation and then go to your school or training school but in my case I arrived a couple of days later so I have to wait until next month for the first 2 days in the office. From what I’ve heard it seems like it is just an introduction to Kid Castle and lesson planning techniques but I’ll give a more detailed overview next post.

They offered me to start the training at the school the following week but I wanted to get stuck in and decided to start the next day! It’s up to you, you can arrive a little earlier in Shanghai as well to get settled in before orientation. They say a week earlier is usually nicer to get your head around the city, culture and metro! But remember the accommodation starts as soon as you arrive – the free 30 days.

Optional Loan

I won’t talk too much on this because I didn’t get one, but it seems that it is quite common among the foreign teachers to take a loan out at Kid Castle. They offer an interest free loan! Up to 10,000RMB which could be a big help for anyone looking at apartments or living costs in the first few months. I mean interest free is pretty good! They do take your passport until it is paid back though – so don’t get any ideas haha. Something to consider if it saves some financial stress for you in the first month or so of arriving.


Arrival Meal

The day I arrived I joined the end of the orientation with the group which saw the HR department take us all out for some traditional Chinese dishes. Food is always great for bonding with new people and getting settled into a new country I find! Kid Castle pay for the meal and we got to try loads of different dishes on a cool spinning table. Noodles, lamb legs, spicy fungi and lots of beers! Gambey! (Cheers!) It’s a great evening that usually spills over into a bar or club where other foreign teachers ho are already in Shanghai show up, so you get a whole new network of friends and colleagues right from the off. You get to ask them loads of questions too!


Training at a Kid Castle school

I’ll start by saying that I’m sure it differs from school to school and trainer to trainer. My experience is based in Chuansha school – the school I’ll be working in eventually. The training lasts a week and mostly consists of observation and a little co-teaching. It’s not particularly thorough but I’m not sure what I was expecting, so for me it was sufficient enough. The main thing is you get to observe the class behaviors to look out for, how to deal with them and get a rough idea of class sizes.

With the kid castle schedule you’ll only ever have a maximum of 14 classes. The rest are office hours; which if you plan effectively you’ll have a lot of free time – however you still have to be in the office. It seems to be common that learning some Mandarin in that spare time is a productive use of it.

Sometimes, if your schedule isn’t fully packed – one teacher I know has 3 classes a week with the rest being office hours! – you maybe asked to sub at other schools. Not common but be aware of it.

That’s it for the first part of working at Kid Castle. My training week is over and I have started teaching my own classes now. Rest assured that everyone is in the same boat to begin with. Even if you have teaching experience, you’re still teaching to kids who don’t understand you most of the time. I’m ready for a major learning curve and ‘learning on the job’ experience. I’m looking forward to getting into it though, getting to know my classes and developing my own style.

Kid Castle seem like a great company to work for, if you don’t have teaching experience, want a pretty relaxed schedule and a decent salary for the work you actually do.

Make sure you stay up to date by following my social channels – I upload regularly to Instagram and right now there are some pretty cool shots from my first few days in Shanghai. Check them out and connect, I love looking at other travel photos too!

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Kid Castle Shanghai

 

 

 

How To Teach Abroad In China | Step-By-Step Guide TEFL English

How To Teach Abroad In China | Step-By-Step Guide TEFL English

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The complete process of thinking, applying &ย securing a job in China teaching English – from what you should consider to obtaining your permit & work visa!

I have taken the steps to teach English abroad in China for 1 year (maybe more!). For the last few months I have been applying, interviewing and getting everything ready for my trip abroad to teach. There has been a lot involved and I wanted to create this guide to help anyone thinking of doing the same thing; or someone who is looking to travel abroad but needs an idea of how to go about doing it.

Taking the time to read through this guide should give you an idea on what to expect, whether it is something you are interested in and the steps you need to take to get that job in China!

Why Teach abroad?

why should you teach abroad?

So a good place to start is establish why you should teach abroad? It is definitely something that took a lot of thinking about for me. It’s not something I wanted to rush into and you should take the time to do as much research as you can, so you can weigh up whether this is something that is a realistic commitment you can make and would like to do.

For a start, it is a great way to earn some money! Unless you are able to live off ‘the zest of life‘ and have no financial commitments you’ll be needing money of some sort to fund whatever it is you want to do. For me I needed to fund travelling and mostly plane tickets!

So I researched lots of ways to make money and then I came across the idea of teaching English abroad. I fitted the necessary requirements to be able to teach as I had also just completed my degree and was fluent inย English; however I wanted to strengthen this and enrolled in an online TEFL course to help my application as well.

It is also a great way to combine travelling with working – a very popular choice amongst people wanting to sustain both lifestyles. You get to work in a brand new place, experience a new culture, travel in your free time and have an amazing experience working in a different place. Pretty great and exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do!


Requirements to English Teach Abroad:
  • Be 18 years old or over
  • Have a degree or qualification in teaching in English (TEFL, TESOL, EFL) – minimum of 120 hours completed
  • Native speaker of English or fluent
  • Have all the necessary requirements to be able to leave your country to work and the time to workย abroad for up to 1 year

Tick all of those? Great! Next up is securing that 120 hours of TEFL/TESOL/EFL teaching. In my case…

How I got My TEFL?

Again I did a lot of research into the best courses, read blog posts and reviews to get a feeling of where to go and what was the best. Much of the courses are similar and all aim to equip you with the minimum 120 hour online certificate that you need to apply for teaching jobs abroad.

The course I did, broke teaching down into sub topics like: lesson planning, psychology and classroom techniques. It also offered mini quizzes in between each section as well as videos to demonstrate the things they were teaching. I really enjoyed the variety of resources used to teach it as it is a lot to digest in one chunk. I completed end of course essays and created my own lesson plans which were marked and given back to me by an examinerย with teaching experience.

It took me about 3 months to complete the 120 hours, as I made sure I did a few hours everyday.

I won’t go into too much detail because I have written up my review of i-i LoveTEFLย over on my previous blog postย here, which you can read to find out if it is something you would like to do as well. But research, research, research! There’s always deals and new courses being released so scout for the best!

teach abroad in china - how to guide

Applying for Your Dream Job to Teach Abroad!

If you have got to this point you must have ticked all the requirement boxes and have your new teaching certificate (TEFL, TESOL, EFL) firmly in hand! Great, now it is time to start applying for teaching opportunities abroad! First decide where you’d like to teach, there are so many places that you can now with your certificate. Popular choices are Korea, Japan and China but you can also go teach in South America and many European countries.

I chose China because it was amongst the top wage earners for teaching English and it is also somewhere I have always wanted to explore and experience.

For applications it’s good to make sure you have these documents ready and scanned in:

  • Passport
  • TEFL or equivalent certificate
  • Degree (if applicable)
  • Resume or CV in word format

I started by checking various job boards for job postings in any area of China but I had in mind 3 or 4 places I wanted to go. These were Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu or Huangzuo because I had already researched a lot about these places and they kept coming up in TEFL reviews online – so I figured that these were popular choices to teach abroad.

I used these job boards:

Teach Away

Teach-English-In-China

English First

Gold Star Recruitment

Disney English

I found that these job boards provided the best results in my case. I received instant feedback from all the job opportunities I applied for and the recruitment people I dealt with were all very helpful and communicated the jobs well. However I found that Gold Star stood out for me in terms of there customer service. It was clear and transparent from day 1 and I received my job posting through them. I was linked to Kid Castle Language School for a job they had teaching English in Shanghai.

Interviewing hints and tips to make sure you get a great job to teach abroad!

teach abroad Interview Hints & Tips

I had a few interviews with different recruiters and companies via phone call orย Skype.

The interviews are fairly brief ranging from about 20-30 minutes. Most of them ask similar things and the recruitersย are mainly just making sure you tick the boxes and are aware of the effects of moving abroad. Once you get through to companies and schools they obviously spend a bit more time having a conversation with you to make sure you suit the role and answer any questions you have left.

There are lots of reviews on the net for you to access about people’s experience with specific recruiters or schools. In my experience I had fairly positive feedback however there was one that I passed on fairly quickly. The recruiter didn’t seem to care about me as a person and just seemed to want to get me out there asap to fill in a number for them. You have to make sure the school is a good fit for you and that you’re not just being fast tracked to make the recruiters numbers look good.


What questions should you be asking?

Here are a few questions to note when going through the interview process – I’d ask as soon as you can, don’t wait to get all the way to the end before you start finding some of these answers out!

  • What is the salary?
  • What are the hours?
  • What age range would I be teaching?
  • Do you have a curriculum?
  • Is there freedom with the curriculum?
  • What office hours are there? What are the classroom hours?
  • Am I entitled to holidays?
  • Do I get sick pay?
  • What accommodation do you provide? if any? (Some schools will provide somewhere for you to stay for the first month while you find somewhere to live)
  • Do you pick-up from the airport?
  • Do you provide training?
  • Do you cover medical, visa and flight costs? (Most places will re-imburse you these expense but make sure you double check! if they don’t find somewhere else as they are probably not a great place to work for!) (Also most schools offer a completionย bonus on completing your 1 year contract!)
  • Do you have an employee handbook copy you can send me or email over?
  • Is there any progression in the role? (If you’re wanting to stay for more than a year it is worth considering)
  • Do you offer health insurance through the company?
  • How long is the probationary period for the job?

What to look out for in contracts:

Like any other job role you want to be looking out for the usual requirements you’d expect to see in the contract, these include:

  • Salary details
  • Probationary period
  • Sick pay
  • Holiday entitlement/pay
  • Hours
  • Bonuses (Completion)
  • Health insurance
  • Dismissal details
  • Start/end dates

You Will Need:

  • Passport photos – I’d recommend getting a bunch of these done, I always have loads spare. You’ll need them for your contract, application forms, medical and visa so stock up!
  • Passport copies
  • TEFL Certificate copies
Passing A Medical Exam for Your Permit & Visa:

teach abroad Interview Hints & Tips-2

Once you have been offered a job you will need to begin the process of applying for permits and your working visa. It’s a little bit of a long process so make sure you factor in the time if your waiting to start the job or finishing one job to go to this one.

I’d say from the point of getting the job it took about 6 months for me to receive paperwork, fill in paperwork, go for medicals, wait for permits and secure visas! Having said that my experience is a little different because I was doing this whilst in Ghana volunteering! So I’d say allow more like 3 months to have everything completed and ready to go comfortably.

For my medical I had a little bit of a nightmare! It was a lot of frustration and trial and error, so having experienced getting one done, I can now save that hassle for you!


Chinese Visa Medical Exam Requirements:

โ€ข General medical examination
โ€ข Chest x-ray
โ€ข Resting ECG (electrocardiogram)
โ€ข Blood group test
โ€ข HIV test
โ€ข Syphilis test

The main thing you want on the form is ‘Fit for work’ + Official stamp + Original test results + a signature from the doctor

You’ll need to go private. It will be way quicker, convenient and guaranteed to pass over in China if you do. They are very strict about their applications, so it’s best to be on the safe side to save yourself time! I tried to go through my GP but 1. The Chinese symbols on the form make GP’s not want to sign their name against it because of being hesitant about the true translation. 2. It would also mean you would be required to have various tests in different clinics and have waiting times for each one. In all, this would be a long drawn out process if you did get a willing GP to do it – however if you had the time I guess you could…

BUT private medical is really the easiest way – expensive but if your company is re-imbursing you anyway then it is worth while doing it. I got my medical done through Harley Health Centreย which cost me ยฃ375 (plus ยฃ10 for them to post the documents recorded to me the next day) which is about the average price for a China Visa Medical. They already had a China Visa medical form printed and the doctor filled all the sections required; they had completedย visa medical forms previously.

“I found the service quick, clear and efficient. I booked for the next day, made my way up to London and was seen/done within about 1 hour 30 minutes in total. I spent 30 minutes having a full medical examination with a doctor who was friendly and quick. I had my vitals checked, blood test, blood pressure, basic eye test and ECG. I was sent 5 minutes down the road to have my Chest X-ray straight after. The whole process was easy and very fast which is what I was looking for. After 1 day the doctor phoned me with the results to explain everything and then sent the documents in the post to me. I received them the following day which was great! I’d highly recommend using them for your China visa medical exam.” – Jack Gunns (Gunnsย Travels)

Foreign Expert Work Permit – What? Why? How?

teach abroad foreign expert work permit and z-visa

“The Work Permit is a legal document from the foreign expert supervision department of the employer. This document means the holder has the legal right to work in China as a foreign expert.”


Your employer should be the one to apply for this for you.ย It takes them a few weeks to do this, and there is no formal tracking for the due-date.ย  However, based off of average processing times + holidays according to my employer having experience with this, theyย expect to have yourย Foreign Expert Work Permit within about 20-30 days.

Once they obtain the permit, it will be another 3-5 days to obtain theย Invitation Letterย (required for the Z Visa).ย  Then theyย can mail overย these 2 documents, and you will bring them to the Chinese Embassy/Consulate to obtain aย Z Visaย (2-5 business days).

 

*As of April 2017 you now also need to get your degree legalised, certified and notarised for your application for working permit in China.*


Invitation Letter

Along with your Foreign Expert Work Permit you’ll need to secure an invitation letter from China as well. The teaching company you apply with should get both the permit and the letter for you; before sending them to the UK so you can obtain your Z-Visa.

An Invitation Letter issued by companies, corporations, institutions or individuals in China. If the invitation letter is issued by an individual in China, the photocopy of the ID of the individual is required.


Securing Your Z-Visa:

Take a breath, you’re almost there!

Obtaining the second part to the visa is going to the Chinese Embassy nearest to you (London Chinese Embassy or The Consulate in Manchester.) For me I went to the Chinese Embassy in Londonย (Central Line to Bank and 5 mins walk to centre)

You Will Need:

  • Passport
  • Visa Application Form
  • Passport Photo
  • Invitation Letter
  • Foreign Expert Work Permit

As well as all of these documents make sure you photocopy all of them once or twice, just to be sure. They will want copies of them for the application and will give the originals back to you. If you are unable to get copies before you go, don’t worry as they have photocopiers at the centre you can use (50p per sheet).


*Here is a link to theย Visa Application Form of the People’s Republic of China(Form V. 2013)ย – that you can download and fill out.*


They also say:

“One of the following documents for those who shall stay for more than 90 days after entry:

(1)ย Foreigners Employment Permit of the People’s Republic ofย Chinaย issued by Chinese government authorities for Human Resources and Social Security, as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities.

(2)ย Permit for Foreign Experts Working inย Chinaย issued by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities.

(3)ย Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of enterprises of foreign countries(regions)ย issued by Chinese authorities of industrial and commercial administration, as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities.

(4)ย An approval document for commercial performancesย issued by the Chinese government authorities for cultural affairs or Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Foreign Affairs Office of provincial governments ofย China.

(5)Letter of Invitation to Foreigners for Offshore Petroleum Operations in Chinaissued byย Chinaย National Offshore Oil Corporation.”

This means your (1) foreign expert work permit!

How To Teach Abroad In China - Visa Fees
Chinese Embassy in London prices correct as of 14/02/2017

 

Service fees of Chinese Visa Application Service Centre:

Standard service: ยฃ66 (including VAT) – the visa will be ready for collection on the fourth working day;

Express service: ยฃ78 (including VAT) –ย Express service: the visa will be ready for collection on the third working day (subject to approval);

Postal service: ยฃ90 (including VAT) –ย Group visa applications require five working days to process. There are no express services for group applications.ย An additional visa fee of ยฃ15 per visa will be charged. (Please note not all nationalities are eligible for express service.)

Total visa charge = (visa fees +service fee) * number of persons in the group | (In my case it’s ยฃ85 + ยฃ66 = ยฃ151 as I required standardย service)

Make sure you book an appointment in advance as you’ll need to secure a booking slot to go and apply for your Z-Visa. They say apply for the visa at least 1 month in advance but do it as soon as you can, I actually booked mine 2 weeks before and willย get my visa back a few days before I am due to fly. But to be on the safe side, give yourself enough time – especially if using the postal service as this could take a few days to get back to you.

If you are collecting the visa from the centre, they will give you a receipt to come back with 3-4 working days after; you will not have to pay until you collect for this option.


When you go to your visa appointment you should have with you:

  • Visa application form (filled out)
  • Valid Passport
  • Invitation Letter
  • Foreign Expert Work Permit
  • Passport Photos
  • + Extra copies of all these documents
  • Method of payment i.e. Debit card or cash (If applying by post, they ONLY accept debit card payment)

Once you have your Z-Visa you are now ready to go and start your new job!

IMPORTANT: Remember to apply for an extension visa when you actually get to China and register at your nearest police station, as the Z Visa is valid for 3 months only!ย 

Bookingย Flights To Your New Job!

teach abroad and book flights to your new job!

There are so many sites you can use to book flights but some brief travel hack flight searching techniques are:

  • Make your browser private or go ‘incognito‘ this makes sureย the sights don’t use cookies to track your searches and movements, resulting in inflated prices because they know what you’re looking for ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Browse a few different sites to get the best deal

I use a mixture of Skyscanner (they let you search ‘whole month’ to find the cheapest day to fly and Kayak which is another great search comparison to find the best money for your budget!

How to teach english abroad in china - sky scanner
How to teach english abroad in china - kayak


Goingย To Teach!

We made it!

Finally after securing all of that we are now heading to China to teach English. From this point I have no idea what to expect, but from the research I’ve done and things I have read, I can certainly say I’m excited to work, live and learn in a completely new exciting place! I’ll continue to help &ย blog about my time in China to help anyone thinking of doing the same!

My aim is to help anyone considering this massive life decision. It really is something to sit and think about, you can see from reading to this point that there is a lot to consider and do. Really weigh up wether it is something you want to do and then get planning with this (I hope) helpful guide!

Remember to read up onย learning some mandarin, brush up on ancient Chinese civilization/history, and/or become knowledgeable about China’s current political affairs. These can all help broaden your understanding of the culture you will soon be immersed in, and allow you to get more out of your time there!

Good Luck with your next steps and whatever you decide to do!

Follow along my journey and get some inspiration from my social channels below ๐Ÿ˜€

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Travel. Create, Be Nice!

If you think this was helpful, please pin the image below and help someone else out who might be considering a move to China!

Teach Abroad How To Guide - Pinterest image

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