Did you know that doing business with the Chinese involves copious amount of alcohol? Here’s everything you need to know about doing business in Beijing, along with hotels, restaurants and bars recommendations.
Yi Bao (30)
General Manager Greater China at Skyscanner
1. How often do you travel to Beijing and who do you fly with?
We’ve just set up our new office in Beijing so I travel there at least once a month. Singapore Airlines is my favourite but I sometimes go with budget airlines like Jetstar and AirAsia.
2. One thing everyone ought to know about Beijing.
Beijing is an amazing metropolis that combines both modern lifestyle and antique flavours.
3. How quickly can you get a visa?
Citizens of Singapore, Brunei and Japan do not need a visa for a stay up to 15 days. All other nationalities have to apply for a visa in person at the Chinese visa centre, which can take up to a week.
Transit travellers from 45 countries including the UK, the US, Australia and Canada can now stay in both Beijing and Shanghai for 72 hours without a visa. This new visa-free scheme is only for passengers arriving via airports and you are required to produce travel documents detailing an onward destination.
4. Fastest way to get into the city:
The airport express railway train takes you straight into Beijing in 20 minutes for 25RMB (S$5). With five lines covering the majority part of the city, the Beijing Subway system is very efficient and easy to get around withfor getting around, especially if you stay in the CBD area. It’s a flat fee of 2RMB regardless of how many stops or lines you travel.
It’s not easy to get a cab on the street, especially during rush hours. I’ve met taxi drivers who are not willing to drive to busy traffic areas and may refuse to take you on the pretext of shift changing but there are some who are very friendly and inquisitive. Language will be a problem, so make sure to have your destinations printed in Mandarin. Traffic is terrible and seems to be getting worse so no doubt you’ll be caught in a traffic jam. Crazy and careless driving are is common too. I don’t recommend taking offers from scooters as they are mostly illegal, expensive and dangerous.
5. When are the good and bad times to visit Beijing?
Beijing has a really hot summer and cold windy winter. I like autumn from September to November as the leaves are brown and the sky is clear blue and it’s great for walks. Still, many tourists love visiting during winter when it snows to so they can skate on the Houhai Lake and to treat themselves to a big hotpot feast.
6. Hotels you recommend:
Next to the Forbidden City on the north side of Chang’a An Avenue is the renowned Raffles Beijing Hotel (+8610 6526 3388). It’s a fancy luxury hotel with great location and service.
I always stay at the Crowne Plaza (1800 787 1221) as they have good service and nice rooms. I’m not a picky person so once I’ve made my choice, it’s pretty hard for me to switch. Of course, there are plenty of other good hotels like the JW Marriott Hotel Beijing (+8610 5908 6688) and The Ritz- Carlton (+8610 5908 8888).
The Opposite House is a high-end boutique hotel with impeccable service and an art gallery in the atrium.
7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
It varies with the different industries. For our industry, it’s usually casual shirt and jeans but generally, I would say shirt, dress pants and tie. Suits are optional.
8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Chinese business etiquette is held in high regard. When you first make acquaintance with someone, you exchange business cards with both hands. The Chinese do not use first names when greeting each other but tend to address one another with their titles to show respect, especially for those with a high status. There is a Chinese saying that means courtesy requires reciprocity so exchanging of small gifts with your clients is expected with each visit. Suitable gifts include wine and chocolate or a meaningful souvenir from your hometown.
Also make sure you can hold your alcohol well. Be prepared to drink a lot because, to the Chinese, business and drinking goes hand in hand. They tend to make you drink as much as they do to show that you’re trustworthy and reliable.
9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
There are more than eight different cuisines in China and all are represented in Beijing. For formal business meetings, I would go to South Beauty for Sichuan cuisine. Another good restaurant with an extensive menu is Xiao Wang Home (+8610 6594 3602). Both restaurants serve delicious food and are quiet enough for business discussions.
If I’m with my friends or colleagues, we often go to Guijie or Wangfujing Snack Street. Both streets are lined with plenty of restaurants that offers cheaper alternative but it can be quite noisy, especially in the evening. The must-try dish of Beijing is, of course, the Peking duck.
10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
The two popular bar streets to head to after dinner are Sanlitun and Houhai. Sanlitun is located near the embassy area so many expats go there. Loud music, professional DJs, dancers and Jack Daniels are typical. On the other hand, Houhai has a more chilled out vibe, as the bars are located beside a beautiful lake. Music is lighter, rhythms are slower and it’s as good spot for to relaxing with close friends. My favourite bar is HuoTang, just right beside the Yin Ding Bbridge.
11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
Beijing is very safe but pickpocketing does happen at touristy places like the shopping streets in Wangfujing and in Tiananmen Square. Also, I would advise ladies not to not stay up late at the clubs as people do get rowdy after a couple of drinks.
12. You have some spare time, what’s the must-see?
A less touristy place is Qianshi hutong in the Qianmen area. The locals refer to it as money market hutong – it’s also the world’s narrowest hutong at only 40cm wide.
13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
I like to buy jade as gifts for my friends. The Chinese believe wearing jade keeps you healthy and brings you good luck. Porcelain sets are very popular too but they may be too fragile to bring home. You can get these from the shopping streets in Wangfujing. For high-quality silk pyajamas, silk quilts, silk pillows and other interesting items, go to the Silk Street.
14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at Beijing Capital International Airport?
I used to rush to the airport at the last minute but I and have missed a flight due to bad traffic so nowadays I try to leave three hours before. The highway link from the city to the airport can get really congested although check-in and immigration normally take about 30 minutes. Once there, I would head to the Star Alliance lounge to have a beer and use the free Wi-Fi.